Posts Tagged ‘banking’

Reflections on Revolution

In #GlobalRevolution, Athens, Greece on 25 June 2012 at 19:25

Athens, June 25

Dear people,

In Spain the summer marches are getting under way, like last year. Only this time there are just three marches confirmed. The Northwest column from Galicia, the Northeast column from Barcelona and the Southern column from Málaga.

A few weeks ago Mami told me that this spring, leading up to May 15, there have also been various Catalan marches directed to Barcelona. I believe there were four. They entered the city along the river valleys and over the ancient trade routes.

Some of us have left Athens to join the Barcelona column going to Madrid. Again like last year, the columns are expected to arrive at Puerta del Sol on July 23.

Me, I’m still in Athens. You can find me on my rock, growing a beard and contemplating the fact that I know so little. Yet as a longtime revolutionary and veteran of many campaigns, people come to me sometimes and they say: “Oscar, what do you think of all this?” The marches, they mean.

Usually I scratch my beard in a very wise and meaningful manner and I respond something like: “Things are not what they seem…” Or: “Fire, walk with me!” But that is just because I used to watch a lot of Twin Peaks.

In fact, I don’t know. On the one hand, it has been done, and it’s never going to be the way it was the first time. On the other hand, by all means let there be marches. Any initiative is better than no initiative at all, especially now that Spain is in the situation that Greece experienced last year.

Also, a recurrence is a good reason to reflect. When you return to the same places after a year, and you continue to return there, you will be able to see changes. You can detect what’s improving and what isn’t. Most of all you can share your experiences by speaking about what’s happening in other towns, regions and villages.

It’s important to keep making revolution every day, all year round. But if the revolution doesn’t advance to the next level, the popular impulse will fade away. It’s what happened in Greece last year. During the occupation of Syntagma and the massive daily protests outside parliament, the Greeks came very close to toppling the government. They could have done so. But they knew that even if the popular revolt succeeded, the outside world would intervene to reestablish order in one way or another.

If there is still any hope left in Greece now, it’s hope for some kind of divine providence to turn things around sooner or later. But people here don’t seem to believe that they can make a difference themselves any more.

In thinking about the concept of revolution, I’m convinced I’m starting to understand some things. Not yet on a rational level, but more intuitively. Both about people themselves, and about the system that keeps society together.

Sometimes, while contemplating modern society my greatest worry is that this is us. All this mindless exploitation and senseless consumerism is simply what we are. In that case, there is no such thing as revolution. It’s a fairy tale like the ones religions are made of.

Fortunately, there is often someone who reminds me that this isn’t true, not completely. The variety in human forms of organisation is huge, just like the variety of values on which humans have founded their societies in the past.

If modern society is what we are, it’s because it’s us who hold it together, but it hasn’t got anything to do with human nature. It works both ways. We give shape to the system, and in turn it’s the system that shapes our mindset.

The same goes for the crisis. It wasn’t caused only by the banks. It was caused by every one of us. A bank shouldn’t give easy credit to people who can’t afford to pay it back and then sell off that debt to someone else. That’s not fair. But as a client, if you can’t afford it, you have no business taking a loan in the first place!

With this I don’t mean to say that there isn’t something inherently wicked in our current banking system. There is. First because money is created out of debt by private enterprises for the sole purpose of private gain. And secondly because of the phenomenon of interest and inflation.

These two are obviously linked. They serve as an incentive to invest, to make sure money keeps roling. You have little choice, because if you put your money in an old sock, it will lose its value. Interest and inflation are at the core of the Gospel of Economic Growth. In certain societies – most notably in the muslim world – interest is forbidden by law, and money is first of all a public asset.

But the economy is only a part of the story. On a wider scale, before we even start to think about change, let alone revolution, we have to be aware of the fact that we have only recently entered a completely new era. In the last fifty years human society has been subject to change in a way which can only be compared to the agricultural revolution at the basis of civilization, and the industrial revolution, of which it represents the final stage.

What I mean to say is that all throughout known history human society was rooted in the land. City life was only made possible because the majority of people were working the soil, producing more than enough for city dwellers to be sustained.

With the advent of industrial agriculture the ancient link between people and the land was broken. Machines had taken over, life in the city had become the heart of society and the country side was reduced to an appendix of the city itself. Rural life as people had known it throughout the centuries, had ceased to exist.

Today, in a world where population keeps growing exponentially while precious resources are being depleted at ever increasing rates and the climate shows signs of a potentially devastating change, the most important problems are not economical.

A revolution will have to be a change towards sustainability. And as such it will have to include a reevaluation of rural life. Not that people should go back to being farmers, or live together in hippie comunes. I don’t believe in all those things. I see it more like an evolution towards a hybrid of country- and city life. Or, in other words, a redistribution of space.

In general, we all have our own very small private space in the city. We work most of our lives to be able to pay for it and call it our own. This space, and often the furniture, is similar to that of other people. Hardly anyone lives in a space that is authentically his own.

All around our little home, life is dictated by the fast pace of the outside world. The thin layer of neighbours, friends and collegues is not enough to divide the two.

A redistribution of space would mean first of all amplifying and personalising the private space and establishing contact with the outdoors. Second of all it would mean the creation of an intermediate community space, where you can be part of a society on a human scale. Then all around this community space, there is the world.

It’s going to take a long time, people. And it’s not going to start here in Greece. Tomorrow morning, at daybreak, I will make another attempt to escape from Athens.

If I’ll make it, you’ll know.


Dancing at the barricades

In Madrid, Spain on 28 July 2011 at 18:39
Dear people,
Yesterday after the police had lifted the siege of parliament, silence fell over Madrid. I couldn’t believe it. Nothing was happening. The acampada at Paseo del Prado was almost abandoned. It was as if the revolution had either ended or gone on holiday.I myself was already making plans to leave the city and look for the revolutionary vibe somewhere else. Because you have to know that sedition is like hard drugs. You get addicted. Once it’s going on, you keep on going indefinitely. But when it’s gone, things around you just seem bleak and miserable.

It’s already late in the evening when I’m walking over Alcalà with comrades Jim and Bob when suddenly, out of the distance comes shouting and singing. “Finally! Protest!” It’s a massive demonstration and it comes our way behind a banner that says: ‘No aggression without reaction!’

At Cibeles. Photo: Bob

Thank heaven, the revolutionary spirit is still alive. We walk along, behind a bagpipes player, singing and dancing and shooting pictures. The day before, we were hundreds at the assembly near the barricades, the same morning the siege was lifted by force, and now we are thousands. “To congress! To congress!”

Just before the march arrives there I run ahead to take a look at the situation, and I’m impressed. The police is prepared for the worst. They are dressed up in full riot gear, looking cool, holding up guns with teargas granates, ready to disperse the crowd if necessary. There’s only one thing that crosses my mind as I run back: batteries. I hope the batteries of Jim’s camera will hold out if things get ugly.

They don’t. We walk around the Neptune fountain and then we storm the barricade, running and yelling. We stop short at the fences, just metres from the police officers, and we start shouting: “No! No! / We are not afraid!”

'Culpables'. Photo: Bob

Photo: Bob

(all videos by Jim)

The rest of the evening is party and dancing. As if the revolution had already triumphed. Everyone is here, the people I know from Madrid, the people I know from the marches, people from other countries that have come to share their experience. Everyone is happy, sharing hugs and kisses in the face of the police officers. Just moments ago they were looking cool and intimidating. Now they only look ridiculous. When the people gather around in Assembly under the statue of Neptune in the middle of the roundabout, they take off their riot gear, and they start to look like real people once again.

Photo: Bob

Photo: Bob

Photo: Jim

Earlier that day, after the lifting of the siege, parliament had gathered and some of the indignados had wanted to present a list of all the problems that afflict the villages they encountered on the marches. Obviously everyone who looked like an indignado was not allowed beyond the blockade, on the grounds of his or her appearance. So three of us dressed up very elegantly, they told police that they were lodging in the Palace Hotel across from Congress, and they got through. They registered at parliament, and through one of the members from the ‘United Left’ who acted as a messenger they were able to present the document to the prime minister. It’s incredible, the things you need to cook up, just to inform the head of government about what’s going on in the country…

Today’s news comes from Spain’s biggest bank, Santander. Under pressure from the 15M movement they have announced that they will give people a break if they lose their job or at least 25 percent of their income. For a period of up to three years they will only need to pay the interest on their mortgage.

It’s a shrewd move to improve their image, an image that got very badly damaged lately. The movement has been preventing evictions on a daily basis in the last few months. But just over a week ago, for the first time, authorities have deployed riot police to prevent people from preventing an eviction. When it turned out that all this demonstration of force was necessary to throw a middle aged unemployed woman and her handicapped son out on to the streets, the mainstream media jumped on it. The bank seriously started to reconsider its public relations policy.

So now people who can’t pay their mortgage will see expenses halved, but the length of the mortgage will be extended. In the end they will end up paying more. Now, it’s very important to realise that they are paying back money that the bank never owned in the first place. When a bank grants you a loan, they don’t open a vault and take out a couple of hundred thousand euro. No, they just add it to their books, they create it out of thin air.

A deal is based on two parties putting up something of their own. You put up thirty years of daily labour to pay for a house. And the bank doesn’t put up anything at all. In the 1960s (citation needed) an American citizen at risk of eviction presented this case to the court saying that his deal with bank was not valid because of the fact that the bank never did own the money it lent to him. The judge ruled in his favour. Mortgage is a pure scam. And any good lawyer will be able to prove that in court.