Perhaps the greatest mistake of the present age lies in mistaking signifiers for signifieds.

The error is to mistake business, money and property (signifiers) as real things (signifieds). Examples of real things are love, health and dignity.

For some reason, it’s become taboo to talk openly about the pursuit of love, health and dignity. So instead, we sidestep them and use the dull, bleached-out euphemisms of business, money and property.

Love, health and dignity are what I imagine we set out for on Day 1. Money and whatnot are simultaneously ways of getting there and ways of clouding the issue. We’ve confused means as ends. We’ve confused real fruits with the transactional heat generated in picking them.

Instead of direct and joyous sensual pleasures, we’re left with the somber and indirect systems of professionalism and careerism.

Who could possibly give a toss about a made-up thing like career when nature–nature!–gives us peaches?

The world of signifiers–of business, money and property–causes problems. It makes us value competition instead of cooperation. It makes us lust after pointless geegaws and totemic things, insatiably.

To confuse a signifier with a signified is like confusing a desktop icon with the actual program it represents; or confusing a passport stamp with the actual pleasure of going somewhere.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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