Archive for lifewithoutmoneybook.blogspot.com
Recently a travelling Australian friend wrote a post simply headed, 'The final days of America'. It characterises a country governed not by people but by money. Here it is (without the extended complaint about American coffee!):
America is a land of beggars. There are the street beggars who approach every few meters rattling a tin under your nose. There are proportionally more of these than in Indian cities like Mumbai. Most, but not all, are black and many are mentally ill. There are also the mentally ill who are too psychotic for begging, yelling indecipherable rants or lurching into traffic. Then there are alcoholics who seek to start an argument over trivia they have dreamt up. Mental illness is more common in prisons than in mental hospitals but most common on the streets.
Then there are the ordinary everyday Americans reduced to beggars. These are the waiting staff, shop assistants, bus drivers who supplement their pathetic pay by reminding you to show your appreciation with a tip. Every shop has a begging bowl placed strategically near the till, and every bus has a tip receiver, and woe betides any who fail to tip a waitress. Tipping became a factor during the 30s depression when people lived entirely from tips. Now it has become institutionalised as employers pay a pittance. President Obama is currently running a campaign, opposed by the Republicans, to increase the basic wage to $10 an hour. [In Australia the minimum wage is $18.70 per hour. Even adjusted for the difference in exchange rates, this makes Australia's basic wage at least 50 per cent more than Obama's ambit claim.] The argument is put that reducing wages will create employment, where already unemployment is chronic.
The point is that 50% of Americans live below the poverty line while the chosen 1–2 per cent live lives of extravagance.
The American dream is so often quoted but the reality is a nightmare. Americans are so indoctrinated with their dream that all can be rich that they do not see the reality of their society. All government spending is seen as seen as bad unless it is the military. It shows itself in poorly maintained infrastructure such as roads and footpaths, many with long wide cracks making cycling all the more dangerous.
All Here in San Francisco pollution is chronic. The smog hangs around until about 10am every day and locals tell me that their window sills are covered with black grime every morning. There is always a haze as bad as Chinese cities. California sees the urgency and has instigated a clean energy program using solar and wind aiming to eliminate all fossil fuel generation.
Public space is shabby and neglected. Public utilities are relics of former glories. But most Americans dare not question the vast military expenditure because, after all, they are the great society, and all others are jealous of their success.
9/11 could have been a wake up call for Americans, arousing them from their dream state. Instead they refused to awake, yielding to the nightmare of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. Killing is so much easier than facing the reality of yourself.
Americans are not happy or friendly. They are geared to a competitive existence where they loudly assert their own rights. They are impatient and speak quickly in short sharp slogans. "You have a good day, now," becomes annoyingly familiar because of its insincerity. Even when a waiter spends time for a chat one suspects he's after a bigger tip. They often have trouble understanding me, and I often have to ask them to repeat before I can translate their rote learned rushed patter. When I tell them I don't want the milk in my coffee to be hot, they invariably reply, "So you want your milk to be really hot?"
And this is the society Tony Abbott [Australia's PM] wants to turn us into!!!
The most recent issue of Capitalism Nature Socialism has a tribute to co-editor of Life Without Money, Frans Timmerman, who also co-authored the introductory and final chapters. Frans died earlier this year after a fifteen month struggle with motor neurone disease. It's available to download free here:
A friend just alerted me to some very interesting passages in the out of print book by journalist Elizabeth Sutherland, The Youngest Revolution: A personal report on Cuba (1969, Pitman). I quote, from pp. 132–134:
In 1967, the youth seemed to be embracing wholeheartedly the idea that in the event of conflict between the goal of a higher standard of living in Cuba and the goal of aiding the world revolutionary struggle, the latter had priority. The idea, furthermore, had old roots, Fidel’s message that “Cuba cannot be Communist until the whole world is Communist” was essentially a modern version of José Martí’s words: “As long as there is one man who sleeps in the mud, there should not be another who sleeps in a bed of gold.”All this, of course, before the great economic debate in the 1970s and entrenchment of state socialism, which requires money by the very nature of the case.
… The young people were surely more selfless and community-oriented than any preceding generation. They were also fascinated by consumer goods. They had money and couldn’t spend it because nothing except necessities could be found in the stores. Also, Cuba was isolated from the world of teen-age goodies; few citizens could travel. When foreign visitors brought that world with them, even a cheap plastic notebook intrigued the kids because it symbolized outside contact. All this was truer of youth in Havana — where the visitors spent most of their time and where there were the most foreign movies and music — than in the rural areas. But still, where would it all lead? The pull of continued scarcity on new ideas had unpredictable force, and the pull of human habit must not be underestimated.
Yet it was possible and beautiful to feel how human consciousness might be changed. After two months in Cuba, where the only advertisements to be seen or heard were for the Revolution and its values … the sound of that Miami radio station with its long commercial for Jordan’s Furniture Sale seemed to be coming from a very distant and unappealing planet. People could kick the habit of compulsive consumption, you felt, especially if there was nothing to buy — but more important, if there were other things to do which made life seem creative and exciting. To make a call from a public telephone booth without paying anything, as became possible all over Cuba in 1967, shook up your idea that the exchange of money was basic to modern life, and thereby bought into question old ideas about human relations. To see public transport fares going consistently down instead of up — perhaps that’s just too much for an American city-dweller to absorb. For the Cuban citizen, money has come to mean less in a real sense; the visitor, no matter how rich or poor, comes to share this feeling.
A moneyless society was not yet around the corner but it was planned and much discussed. Life already had a quality not to be imagined in capitalist countries — except, perhaps, in the dreams of some of their youth. “Here, you feel like a roll of dollar bills,” said an eighteen year-old American high school student from a small town on his return after a month’s visit to Cuba. “What you are worth depends on how big the roll is. In Cuba, you feel like a human being.”
Pluto Press have just notified us that Life Without Money has just been released in a Korean translation by Booksea Publishing, based in Paju Book City.Booksea Publishing focuses on printing books on liberal arts, history and classical subjects.Paju Book City is just that, a book city, a bit like Hay-on-Wye (UK) but whereas Hay-on-Wye focuses mainly on selling books Paju Book City was established by the government as a cultural centre with a huge concentration of publishers. The city is located around one and a half hours north of Seoul.
Earlier this month the Vanuatu Daily Digest published a ‘thought-provoking statement on Melanesian land’ from the Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance (MILDA), established in 2009, and contributed to a debate on land issues in Islands Business. It throws into sharp relief the way the distinctions between people whose value and god is money and an Indigenous perspective, identity, philosophy and treatment of land.
On behalf of the Melanesian Indigenous Land Defence Alliance (MILDA), we are writing to provide a different view on recent editorials promoting land registration for the Pacific. We wonder who authored this letter and in whose interest it was written? Because for Pacific peoples land isn't just about making money, land is about ensuring Pacific families continue to maintain a high level of self-reliance and to control their own destiny. This includes feeding and housing their families well, as they have been doing for thousands of years, and this is already happening effectively through customary communal systems of land tenure. Land as it exists and functions now already provides for millions of people, so that we have a very low rate of absolute poverty — there’s almost no real hunger or homelessness. In the independent nations of Melanesia (PNG, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu), customary community control of land is enshrined in our Constitutions and we maintain a special relationship with our land that is based on many generations living on and with the land as well as traditionally managing the natural resources.
MILDA is well aware of the history of how land registration has been used over the past few hundred years to alienate land from indigenous peoples around the world, and we are not going to let history repeat itself and fall into that same trap.
MILDA is also mindful of the historical context of how land registration came to Melanesia and the Pacific at different times following first contact with the outside world through to independence and continues to date. Land registration is ostensibly promoted for the same purpose; to free up land for ‘development’ and to parcel it out in the name of individuals, companies and those with hard-cash. But for us, land is held communally for the benefit of all, and remains a central part of our cultural heritage and identity.
Land, particularly in Melanesia, is not a commodity but is an inalienable part of our peoples’ very existence. It has spiritual and historical values and other attributes that economists do not consider in their equations. In almost every part of Melanesia, the fact remains that land is our source of kastom, mana, sustenance and economic empowerment. Even if it doesn’t necessarily pay you in hard cash at the end of every week, although it may, if that is what a family or clan wants from it. Land under traditional tenure in Melanesia remains the largest employer and has sustained us self-reliantly for thousands of years. Land under indigenous control also makes our communities resilient to the upheavals often felt by global markets, and ensures that our children will also have this security …
And from their Lekepa declaration:
The Pacific region should object to any proposals to record land rights and eventually register titles. Such measures may seem innocuous but we know from experience that demarcation and registration propels land into a commercial realm where it can be leased or sold to non-indigenous people — and thereby lost to the community. The option for legitimate developments that will benefit local people to enter into joint ventures with land custodians to gain access to land is a more equitable and sustainable option for the Pacific, rather than the transfer of registered titles.
Holding on to and using our land and waters provides us with healthy diets, rich cultural and spiritual lives and lifestyles We don't want to exchange these for money now — and see our children in urban slums tomorrow. The region needs to take urgent measures to prevent its people from making the same mistakes that have deprived millions of their land and resources all over the world.
The global financial institutions and aid donors see our people in the region engaging in traditional farming, fishing and animal husbandry and think poverty — not self-sufficiency. They perceive our country's low gross domestic product as a 'problem' that must be solved. But there's much more to Melanesia than GDP. A few years ago, Vanuatu, one of the countries in the region with 80 percent of its land under traditional tenure, ranked at the top of the New Economics Foundation's Happy Planet Index, which focuses on life expectancy, experienced wellbeing, and ecological footprint. So truth be told, the rest of the world has much to learn concerning environmental sustainability, well-being and life fulfillment from Melanesia and the Pacific!
I'm always asked how collective sufficiency in small neighbourhoods networked into bioregions can really be scaled up to succeed globally. There are many ways to address this question but I find many people are overawed by size: bigger is better. Certainly this is a characteristic of power in capitalism.
The Spring issue of Pulse, the journal of the bioregionalism promoter Planet Drum Foundation based in San Francisco contains an illuminating article by Kirkpatrick Sale that draws from his contribution to Rethinking the American Union (Lingsto, D, ed., Pelican 2012). Sale directs the Middlebury Institute for the Study of Separatism, Secession and Self-Determination and has written many books, including the 1980 classic Human Scale.
Given current technological and socio-political conditions, Sale concludes that the optimum size of a state is between 3,000,000 and 5,000,000 people living on 35,000 square miles. He reveals that small nations monopolise the Sustainable Society Foundation's top ten in 2011. Seventeen of the world's richest nations occupy fewer than 10,000 square miles. Eighteen of the top 20 countries measured in terms of their GDP have fewer than 5,000,000 residents (seven of them fewer than 1,000,000).
These figures are presented as evidence of Sale's thrust: devolution, dissolution and secession is the way to go.
My questions centre on the possibilities and viability for semi-autonomous development of such regions. How far do these states self-provision or do they rely on cheap imports? How much does their success rely on domination in terms of trade and so on. Still, really interesting figures you'd have to concede.
According to this account of developments in Kurdistan, 'Socialism, gender equality and social-ecology in the mountains of Kurdistan', the Kurdistan Freedom Movement (PKK) is substituting women's empowerment and ecologically sustainable livelihoods for money, i.e. the system of production for trade, referred to as the Union of Communities of Kurdistan (KCK).Here's an extract:
The concept of money is internally redundant within the KCK system implemented in the mountains of Kurdistan. The economic needs of the inhabitants of the KCK system are internally supplied through a communal management of resources. Although money is utilised in economic dealings with external systems, internally the concept of money is inconceivable. No person or community within the KCK system feels the need to build a surplus of goods or resources. Surpluses are constantly redistributed, therefore, viably consumed. Reminiscent of pre-hierarchical and pre-exploitative societies, the KCK system adopts a culture of gifting, rather than a culture of exchange. The communal organisation of agriculture ensures a self-sufficient production and consumption of resources, therefore, deeming surplus, exchange value and the commodification of goods irrelevant.Whoopee! Read the whole article here.
You can join a 'gift economy' platform 'Impossible' co-founded by Lily Cole and Kwame Ferreira here.They want to disrupt monetary exchange with altruistic reciprocity so money is ranked along with violence and sexual conduct as no-nos at the site. Sounds great, but I have visited Impossible a few times and found the offers and requests disappointing. I think this proves that Impossible is simply 'gift exchange' not really a 'gift economy' where production is part of a gifting or non-monetary system too.
On the up side at least it's a useful experiment and the platform is open source and self-managing, following Wikipedia.
Take a look at the article 'In each other we trust: Coining alternatives to capitalism', which appeared a few weeks back in ROAR Magazine, prompted by the MoneyLab Conference in Amsterdam during March.Here is an extract to whet your appetite:
With panel discussions on “the monetization of everything”, “dismantling global finance”, “beyond Bitcoin”, “a critique of crowdfunding” and “designing alternatives”, the organizers of the conference set the tone right: in a world dominated by finance, a thoroughly indebted world in which money has effectively assumed the function of a universal signifier under which all aspects of social and natural life are rapidly becoming subsumed, we desperately need to start exploring radical alternatives to the capitalist money-form — not because alternative currencies are somehow a panacea, but because the state and the banks clearly aren’t going to do it for us. Despite major technological advances made in recent years, right-libertarian innovations like Bitcoin just won’t cut it. And so there is an urgent need to dissect, discuss and discover new ways of valuing work, time, nature, community and the fruits of our collective labor.
Ariel Salleh's 'A Vernacular Response to Barkin's Review of Life Without Money' has just appeared online at the Capitalism Nature Socialism journal site. Indicating that Barkin has only superficially read the book, Salleh takes him to task for neglecting some key points made and, instead, for charging us for ignoring them!Specifically, Salleh writes:
while the book’s editors provide an eloquent essay on 'Use Value and Non-market Socialism' as a basis for overturning capitalism, the review sidelines this theoretical project with a claim that it is 'focused on small scale change'.Furthermore, with respect to her own chapter in Life Without Money, Salleh shows that:
Far from 'integrating' the local into the global [as Barkin suggests is necessary], the argument is about severing the capitalist system at its irrational epistemic roots. To this end, constructs from 'sustainability science' and 'ecological economics' are analysed and exposed as incoherent.