Thursday, January 8, 2009
Buy Nothing Day? Bank Nothing Day!
When I had an income I used to buy Adbusters magazine. Adbusters is a good magazine, albeit in a oxymoronic fashion. They're anti-corporate, anti-consumerist, and are the chief proponents of 'Buy Nothing Day'. Me, I took this sentiment to heart and made every day Buy Nothing Day, Adbusters included. Do they still exist Adbusters? You'd have to wonder about a product that urges you not to buy any products, theirs included. Perhaps they should have called it 'Buy Nothing Except This Magazine Day', ha ha. But then Adbusters never did have a sense of humour.
Self contradictions aside, their broad point was perfectly valid. Corporations are soulless inhuman entities that will only ever view people in terms of dollars. In many ways, they're just the old company-store gag writ large, and with a marketing division. Fuck the lot of them. If somebody took corporations out the back and shot them, I'd bring the beers.
But corporations aren't intrinsically wicked. There's no reason a corporation couldn't be as good as their marketing says they are. Conceivably they could make good and useful products that make the world a better place; they could make all their staff into shareholders and pay them a decent wage; they could also pay decent prices for any raw materials purchased in the third world; they could... hell I could go on and on describing some fantasy corporation that will never exist. Not in this world. If such a creature did exist, the other corporations would have to kill it if for no other reason than it makes them look bad.
Daydreaming aside, the point I'm getting at is that corporations are not intrinsically wicked in the way that (apropos the last piece) banks are. By banks I mean the banks that we're all forced to use, those based on a system of usury. Usury is their operating system and every aspect of them is built on it. On top of usury's intrinsic wickedness, there's also its undeniable no-future pyramid scam idiocy. Truth be known the former is derived from the latter. It's like how pork is considered wicked on account of its propensity, if stored without refrigeration, to kill people.
So if we object to corporations and can withdraw our custom by way of a Buy Nothing Day, why can't we do the same for banks? Why can't we have a Bank Nothing Day? Well, I'll tell you, because it's actually very simple. It's because this option is a non-option. Or to put it another way, an abject impossibility. When it comes to banks, you can either use them or you can fuck off and die. Banks, which should be merely just another service provider, ain't. They are utterly singular. They are the only service provider that your own government demands you must be a customer of.
Take me for example. I actually did this. I took all my money out of the bank, shut down my accounts, and cut up my credit cards. If you wanted to tell me I'm nuts, I'm not going to argue with you. Hell, I'll agree, I am nuts. It all seemed like a good idea at the time what with me imagining that I'd be spending the rest of my life in a Zen temple. But that didn't work out and here I am back in the white man's world, a mad bastard who refuses to go back to the bank.
Mind you, it's all very well for me, what with being single with no kids. People who do have kids don't have this option open to them. But that's somewhat short-sighted - I don't actually have this option open to me either. My life is precisely as impossible as yours would be. Not having a bank account bars me from just about everything. Working, or more exactly working legally, is impossible. Not only are there very few employers willing to pay cash but the only way to deal with the tax department is via a bank account. Likewise no government monies can be paid or received without a bank account. I have several reasons for refusing to take the government's money but not least amongst them is the fact that they demand I be a bank customer.
It's not just things monetary that one is barred from. I cannot get a driver's license either because I don't have enough ID's. One needs three pieces of identification to get a driver's license and the one that I'm missing is a bank account. They've got it stitched up these fucking banks don't they? My own government acts as their stand-over man insisting I give them my money.
So what's to be done? Apart from following me into oblivion? There's Islamic banking, sure. Good luck with that one. Can a punter walk into an Islamic bank and open an account? Not where I live. What of those non-money exchange systems that one hears of people in country areas using? They have various names - hours, echoes, etc. These are a perfectly brilliant idea and are the living embodiment of non-usurious money. Invariably there is no 'money' as such. They are often merely a 'credit' in a public central register. If one works an hour (say, mowing Mrs. Farquhar's lawn) one is credited with an 'hour'. It's debt free and functions on a simple labour-equals-credit basis. The richest person in town, rather than being an object of envy, would be admired by all on account of the fact that he/she has done the most for the most people.
Otherwise, perhaps people could get together and just make their own bank. Is there any reason why this can't be done? Find a building, renovate it with a big fuck-off safe, and declare yourselves a no-interest, 100% reserve, non-fractional bank. Hell, run it on Islamic principles. The appeal to customers is that unlike every other bank, it cannot collapse and will never have a bank run. The sales pitch to new customers would function as a quick lesson in the history of banking.
Mind you, it occurs to me that the regular bullshit cartel banks would view such a creature as the anti-christ and would do whatever it took to kill it. Perhaps it would be best to keep it low-key, very low-key. Before I ran off to the Zen monastery, I attempted to talk all of my friends into quitting the city and running off to the country to form some variation of commune (not that I care for the word). I failed obviously but had that succeeded a simple let's-keep-it-to-ourselves version of the above private bank would have made a lot of sense. It would have been a variation of 'keeping your money under the bed' albeit with some crazy big bed with a dozen families in it. Don't worry, it's just a metaphor. Actually it would just be a well-hidden safe in which everyone kept their money, and all administered by, I don't know, several senior trustworthy people. Individuals could know how much money they had, and otherwise keep an eye on things, by checking a public computer kept in the lavanderia/meeting house. Well that was my plan anyway. (BTW - the name of this place, had it come off, would have been selflessness. Sigh)
The key to each of the above is people acting in concert. The word 'commonwealth' just popped into my head. It's been abused to the point of death now, but in principle it's a worthy idea. It's meaning now, as in 'The Commonwealth of Australia', is so far departed from its roots that it's laughable. The state owns it, and the state, such as it is, belongs to the bankers. The bankers, sure enough, don't view the word 'common' as meaning 'shared'. They view it as meaning 'of, or belonging to, serfs'. And for them, the punchline to the 'commonwealth' gag is 'all flows to us', ha ha. Well, fuck them. We can steal it back. But only if we can act in concert. Easier said than done, sure enough. The success of the banks and their corporate whores in turning Western society into an atomised, centrifugal collection of self-obsessed greedheads has been almost total.
Without any mechanism by which we can act in concert, we're fucked. We're just a bunch of John Connors hoping we don't fall afoul of Arnie or any of the other terminators. Well not quite. John Connor didn't have the internet (Hollywood hates the internet, doncha know). We have it, but what does that mean? We can communicate sure, but can we act in concert? Nup. We don't have the numbers to do anything global. We could do something if we were local, but we ain't. Never mind, we've found a quiet corner and we can all swap ideas. So enough of me and mine, you tell me yours. Buy Nothing Day is a doddle. How do we do Bank Nothing Day? Over to you...