Many of us right now are gaining a better understanding of the economy and how destructive it can be, writes Sue Stevenson.
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, the Israelites are instructed to declare a jubilee every 50 years. At this time, all debts everywhere are to be wiped clean.
Such a system would prevent the kind of global financial catastrophe we are now suffering and stressing under. Unfortunately, the greedy sociopaths, those that a debt jubilee would serve to avoid getting a toehold, long ago took over.
Now it's all been about creating billionaires while people sleep on the street. Slanting the system to multinationals. Using Western institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to keep poor countries poor. Creating politicians like ours here in Australia, who resist bailing out the people who need it most because rich people don't like seeing non-rich people get something for "free".
But now the Australian Government is being backed to the wall and will quite possibly be forced to implement even more abhorrent people-saving measures that will continue to assist us instead of the rich.
We say they will possibly be forced to discard austerity, but this is the Australian Government, grossly infected by "Rich Arsehole Syndrome" and the notion that our money is theirs, so who knows how it will play out?
Is the future finally going to be allowed to be born after a centuries-long interregnum? Or is the pantomime villain going to suck up all the falling stocks and grow stronger, as it did in 2008, while people go to the wall in 2020 when they should be home resting or have a home they can rest in?
This is what we need: a freeze on rents and on mortgages, a universal basic income (UBI) and a debt jubilee. And that's just for starters.
The economy is a created thing, a criminally nasty and just plain stupid creation for the wealthy. It is liberating to understand this because that means it can be changed. Maybe one virus will allow us to kill another.
The silver lining of apocalyptic times is that we get to see what previously may have been invisible to many. We have been taught to view people on welfare with contempt. Some of those same people were probably stuck in a line threading down a road waiting to access decimated Centrelink services in a pandemic. So many more people are experiencing the horror that comes from needing social security assistance and being told you will have to wait six weeks. Many people wait months and years for the Disability Support Pension. All because of austerity, the idea that there isn't the money to treat people with humanity.
But those very same politicians find the will to help floundering corporations. The U.S. Federal Reserve has found trillions to bail out big corporations. The money is there. It always has been. It's just all about priorities.
Money is meant to flow and oil our societies. It is meant to be like a public good, weaving individuals and businesses together, allowing sophisticated interactions. Barter is good and wonderful, but money enables what it can't.
Money is meant to engender ease of flourishing. Instead, it's become a tool of the greedy to be privately hoarded into someone's offshore bank account for their own flourishing and greater control over you, me and us.
The financial system talks in weird, incomprehensible language about sums of money that go up and down and how if they go down too much, people need to die. The stock market is where rich people, or people who desire security, buy shares in businesses to fill the gaping holes inside them and to shore themselves up against the system that created the stock market in the first place. It is apparently the entirety of everything, along with the gross domestic product (GDP), which is a number signifying how much extra stuff we've produced to deepen the Earth's groan.
The game is to get GDP as high as possible. Same with the country’s credit rating, which is about how good a prospect Australia is for people to invest in and profit from, but not invest into so we all profit. This is how societies used to work before Margaret Thatcher told us all that societies don't even exist anyway, so knock yourself out sucking the commons up through a straw into your bank account.
The financial system is to do with capitalism and not much to do with you and me as citizens. None of it links up finance with the reality out there or my security in here. Finance reports tell us all these things about money but they never did tell us how finance kills us. Never even give a hint that the industry plays a role in the chaos the news has just reported. You could live your whole life watching news finance reports and never click into understanding the way finance contributes directly to the ongoing ruining of our Earth.
Never once has any finance reporter told me money is invented by banks out of thin air and then our governments borrow from them and then they have to pay the banks back. We have to go into debt to an institution that conjures money out of nowhere. A debt-based economy and profit-expecting businesses mean our economies need to keep growing, which means more stuff produced, more trees cut down, the more we ask of the Earth. Everything has to work triple as hard in service to the beast.
A continually-growing economy means that we cannot lie fallow without it all collapsing. We aren't allowed to rest and heal in peace. Instead, we have to worry about this monster, this cancer. The Earth lies fallow in winter. Why can't we lie fallow in a pandemic? Why must everything revolve around people needing to keep growing their profits?
I don’t know about you, but it took me until I was in my late 30s to even begin to learn about the stupid ways of money and how very rich people have been increasingly co-opting the system since my dead granny's granny was a bairn, thus leading to the mass of greed and selfishness we see today. Books such as Charles Eisenstein’s ‘Sacred Economics’, Ted Trainer’s ‘Simpler Way’ and some of the many organisations around the world, like Positive Money and the Schumacher Institute, shone a bit of light into the fog to understand how the money system contributes directly to the ruining of our planet and to climate change.
Finance is so complicated, so abstract, so bloody boring, it’s no wonder we barely understand it. But we understand this: we can’t afford it now. We need people bailed out before corporations. We need a stimulus, no frills attached. No unspoken whiffs of "you're a lifter" attached.
This is our money. It's not a gift our rich uncle is bestowing upon us. It's ours. If it's invented out of thin air, then whatever debts incurred can be disappeared back to the same place.
Why bail out Qantas first but not us? Maybe what should happen instead is that Qantas should die in the dust and then Australian citizens each put in $2 and buy it for $46 million and run it ourselves as a non-profit, with the excess going to us and to high wages for Qantas workers and to research and development into sustainable air travel.
Or something like that. You get the drift. Companies owned by the people, so the focus is not on making as much profit to shareholders and damn everything else, but on returning fewer profits to the people owning the co-op and paying all the workers excellent wages. Trickle-down.
We don't need this global economy. We need local economies, gift economies, alternative currencies. People will one day look with absolute horror at the steel monster that tormented our days. A monster held in place by our belief. It's time to let go of this psychopathy. It's far too beneath our dignity and our need now to lie fallow in peace.
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