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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Debtor’s Prison of the Mind, pt. 3

The American Way has never been the only way – it’s just taught like it is. Inherent and obvious flaws in American capitalism have bred in the wealthiest 1 percent a paranoid fear of an alternative economic system having any kind of success.

After attempting to stop the Russian Revolution of 1917, this country’s owners decided to do all they could to run Soviet Communism into the ground. This they achieved at the price of decades of single-minded military obsession and worldwide social anxiety. Where there could have been a prosperous truce, we have economic fallout.

The schools of development economics that brought Southeast Asia and Latin America miraculously out of the clutches of American multinationals have been discredited by our economicthinkers. Meaning, of course, that those nations didn’t pay the piper.

Scandinavian and Canadian models of social democracy are ignored completely, as if they were coincidental flukes when individual benefits equaled collective gains. The UN takes heed, however, and rates the standard of living of those countries higher than our own.

Opposing ideas are lies, we are told. There is only free-market capitalism, they wish us to believe. This they say because they tremble in fear of a better world. A world without the cancers of debt and dependence. A world empowered by conscious coexistence and mobilized social capital. A world we can and will bring into being.

In this country, economic policies are totalitarian. Our powers of democracy are unable to resolve this problem at the highest of levels. Capitalism has never been up for a vote. Instead, we have to cultivate the revolution from the ground up. And we’re not talking grassroots. We’re talking tree-roots.

First and foremost, we need community building. Humans united can accomplish exponentially more than alienated loners (also known as “ideal consumers). To build a community, people of both sexes, all ages, all ancestries and faiths must interact with one another and realize what they all have in common: wants and needs.

With a spirit of togetherness and mutual respect, our entire concept of wants and needs will change. Rather than using consumption as a first resort, we instead have the opportunity to cooperate, lend, build, scavenge, reclaim, reuse, refurbish. We can also directly see how our choices can be modulated to maximize social benefits. Overall, this will reduce our dependence on the dollar and increase the purchasing power of kinship. Needless to say, this will also expand potential for effective political agitation.

Seeds for local community building: meet your neighbors, start gardening or composting, volunteer, scope out the local co-ops or cruise by a potluck at the Trilateral or the Domes. You may like it so much you’ll end up living there. Happened to me.

As an extension of community building, the practice of time banking offers to reduce the cost of living through communal provision of services. A time bank is a local registry of good-hearted favors, where talented individuals, as we all are, give hours of charitable work to those in need. By contributing to their fellow beings, people can amasstime dollars which are used in exchange for other services. Put simply, it’s a list of who needs a back scratch and who’s available to scratch it.

Services range from care for children and the elderly, subject-specific education, recycling, carpentry, home repair, transportation, medical services, counseling, advocating for social change, financial advising and the list goes on.

This stands to greatly reduce living costs and would further dislodge consumption as the first resort to get something done. It could also have a substantial impact on Social Security and Medicare – those social concerns politicians inadequately wrangle year after year. Time banks already span the nation, concentrated in low-income areas. A time banking program is actually endorsed by the U.S. government, so it needs only to expand and thrive.

Third, microfinance. Banks usually refuse to offer loans to low-income parties, of course, unless they’re unemployed homebuyers. Also, interest rates for small loans in the developing world can be downright usurious – from 10 percent to 100 percent annually in most African banks. This leads to social stagnation, as no working person, however ambitious, can get a loan, however small. Enter microfinance.

Muhammad Yunus pioneered microfinance in Bangladesh, offering microscopic loans as low as $27 to Bangladeshi workers, relying on goodwill and faith to see those small sums repaid. The cost of the loan to Yunus, he realized, was tiny compared to the impact it could have on a person in need. Yunus turned this idea into the now massive and diversified Grameen Bank and reduced poverty dramatically in Bangladesh, earning him the Nobel Prize in economics. Respect.

Once people have been insulated from the ravages of the dollar, we can start talking about thebig one.

International debt forgiveness. This global economic meltdown has revealed what we already know: the interdependence of all national economies. As nations developed, they necessarily took on foreign debt. Now, those debts are draining GDPs for the benefit of nobody really. Countries should have the courage and intellect to accept those debts for what they were, leverage for modernization and realize that repayment offers less of a reward than a national community that is capable of realizing its full potential. Debt should be stricken from the record.

I’ll leave you with the words of Naomi Klein, unleashed at the 2007 meeting of the American Sociological Association.

“We who say we believe in this other world need to know that we are not losers. We did not lose the battle of ideas. We were not outsmarted, and we were not out-argued. We lost because we were crushed.Understanding this history, understanding that we never lost the battle of ideas, that we only lost a series of dirty wars, is key to building the confidence that we lack, to igniting the passionate intensity that we need.

So light those fires of spirit, o brilliant youths, so that we all may truly know freedom.



CHEYA CARY wants you to take this to heart. Nothing stands in our way but ourselves. To plan an uprising, e-mail cheya.cary@gmail.com.


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