Against All Odds

Few people know that 97% of our money is created when commercial banks make loans. For every pound in circulation there is a corresponding debt, and interest owed on that debt. The upshot is that there is less money in the world than debt. People everywhere are desperate, and collectively unable, to keep up with interest repayments to the banks. Make no mistake: this is economic enslavement.

Interest has a distorting effect on our morals. It means that money now is worth more than money tomorrow. Whether we like it or not we are compelled to seek short term profit over long term preservation, growth over greenery. Money in its current form turns out to have unsustainability written into the rules which govern how it is allocated. As currency activist Matthew Slater puts it: “It could be that 90% of the population wants a green revolution, but the money won’t allow them to do it. There’s this conflict between what we want, and what money wants.”

So what is to be done?

Well actually there are lots of things we can do. One approach is to try and change government policy. Money is a creature of the state: if you change government monetary policy you solve the problem in one fell swoop.

Enter Luuk de Waal Malefijt. He heads up the Dutch branch of Positive Money, an NGO raising public awareness about the problems inherent in the mainstream monetary system with a view to influencing government policy. He sees 90% of his role as one of education, or rather “an anti-campaign of education” to counter the misinformation pedalled by bankers, politicians and even university professors. Considering money is something we use literally every day the scale of ignorance about how it works is staggering. I have spoken to people who have worked in finance their entire lives who are factually wrong about money creation. [1]

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“With citizens not understanding the difference [between money and debt] they cannot see the root cause of all of our economic troubles. So you could view the current situation as very Orwellian in the sense that two definitions have been obfuscated to the point where we don’t understand what we’re talking about anymore.”

Until politicians and the public understand the problem, a change in government policy will not be forthcoming. Luuk described how this process can work both ways:

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Matthew Slater is not holding his breath: “I’m not so optimistic that the state is something that I can work on, or wants to be influenced by me. I’m more interested in working at the level of individual and collective consciousness. I try to enlighten, inform and wake people up about the nature of money and the behaviour of monetary systems.”

Despite their differences, education is as pivotal to Matthew’s leadership as it is to Luuk’s. And as Fullan points out: “you can’t have a learning society without learning students and you can’t have learning students without learning teachers”.[2] As Luuk said, “leaders figure themselves out and their role on the planet.” This is an ongoing process: a leader must always be growing and learning.  For example, both mentioned that they had learnt to soften their methods of approach when attempting to persuade and inform people about the need for monetary system reform. For Matthew this allowed him to value other people’s work and led to less frustration which, in his own words, has made his work more sustainable.

This frees up more energy to channel into direct action. Rather than waiting for government gears to grind, he designs and implements exchange networks which allow people to exchange value without succumbing to the debt and interest based problems of national currencies. It turns out there are already thousands of these in communities all over the world.

Matthew, who looks more than a little bit like a pirate, lives out of a rucksack containing a laptop and a change of clothes. He has no fixed abode, no bank account and little money: “It’s about writing our own narratives. We have to be much more courageous in living our values and deciding what those values are going to be.”

Matthew’s life is an embodiment of his values, and this gives his leadership credibility, his message gravitas and followers inspiration.

Luuk echoed the importance of leading by example: “Matthew’s answer is exemplary: one person has to make a firm stand….to make an example and stand up for it. And make sure their leadership is very consistent in the movement, always there, always leading, providing the vision and guiding and thereby creating a movement changing one single defined aspect.”

Although both leaders have tangible achievements under their belts, Matthew is “not optimistic about either approach”. Luuk is more positive, albeit in a self-aware way: “You need to be unrealistically optimistic to be able to continue a campaign or fight that is this large. You need to be a true believer, not seated in realism.”

Constructivists argue that reality is socially constructed. If this is true then the conviction to live one’s values and a spoonful of optimism are in themselves enough to change reality.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

 

[1]Image from Positive Money, < http://positivemoney.org/2014/08/7-10-mps-dont-know-creates-money-uk/>, 29/10/16

[2] Fullan, (1993), Change Forces: Probing the Depths of Educational Reform, London: Falmer Press, p.138

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