Saturday, September 15, 2007

Credit Crunch

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

The overspend of the last few years, the enormous debt of the West living way beyond its means, has finally started to come unravelled in the UK.

Of course, as money is entirely a confidence game (in both meanings of the word) 'they' will continue to talk up the situation (to try to avoid further panic) but it sounds less and less convincing all the time.

I don’t write this merely as a hippie anarchist anti-capitalist (whatever that might mean) but as someone who doesn’t even believe in money (or what Robert Anton Wilson calls bio-survival tickets). That doesn’t mean I can survive long without them, of course, but I don’t have to believe in them. Bucky described wealth in terms of the number of future days it would 'buy' you.

"Wealth is our organized capability to cope effectively with the environment in sustaining our healthy regeneration and decreasing both the physical and metaphysical restrictions of the forward days of our lives."

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth - Chapter VI Bucky Fuller

Just before Bob died we invented a currency for him - called 'Patatows, for various obscure reasons to do with Irishness and Joycean puns - RAW patatows, in fact. The most excellent Bobby designed them, and we put some into circulation. They have any value that his fans might give them. [see the RAW Deal blog posting - for other cash whimsy, from Duchamp to Boggs, from Warhol to Emperor Norton]

Ultimately, the bill is not a dollar at all, at most a representation of it. The bill is real, but the dollar itself is an abstraction… just like God. Indeed, it is remarkable how fundamentally modern monetary systems are grafted onto religion. According to Boggs the invention of both money and God date from the same era, and the traces are still visible in our own days. Just think of the double meaning of words like "redeem," or the root of the word "credit"--it is a direct derivative of the Latin word for believing. The side of Dutch coins reads "God Is With Us," while "In God We Trust" is printed on American bills.

BoB (as treasurer) even signed a few rare notes, and auctioned them on eBay (to help pay his rent and medical bills). It doesn’t seem that bizarre to me. I sign photos and trade them for small profit. However, most people seem to believe (even in this day and age when cash hardly comes into most transactions) that money exists in some sense. You might as well try to disillusion them as tell the Judeo-Christian-Muslim lot that not only do they all worship the same book /story, but that God is a concept, by which we measure - pain. My philosophical/religious education (say the word ‘spiritual’ and I reach for my metaphorical revolver) came entirely from teaching tales, folk tales, parables, myths, legends, and all the tools of the storyteller’s trade.

Somewhere in a cave, Ug borrows three rocks…and promises to bring them back later. As Ig has a lot of rocks (and therefore a lot of friends) Ug scratches three slashes in a soft piece of clay, for Ig to keep as a reminder.

Later on, Ig is playing knucklestone with OOg and as he didn’t bring all his rocks with him, trades the little clay tablet for his bet.

And so off it wanders, this little clay promissory note, wandering down the years and across the plains. In the desert it seems high value (no rocks around here, I’ll give you a camel for it!) Eventually, an Eskimo, who needs some rocks to hold down the edge of his tent, tries to cash it in for rocks. No rocks on an iceflow! Ug is long dead, and the rocks have all ground to sand.
We've come to take our rocks back
So this morning, we see the first ‘run on the bank’ at Northern Rock. People queuing around the block, to be handed yet another piece of paper! It would seem laughable if it didn’t seem so serious…not quite hyperinflation yet...(when burning banknotes to keep warm is easier than trying to buy fuel). Bizarrely, you can see pictures of the queues of desperate people on the front of every daily paper in the UK, but their website stays up calmly offering to lend you vast sums of money, that you can pay back over the next 25 years. heh. Magic, or indeed magick. Those 'economists' and market players (a voodoo 'science' at best) continue to try to shore up the levees, or hold the card castle together, but it sounds more and more vacuous to me.

Of course, most people don’t think pension schemes spend all their money on skyscrapers with smoked glass walls, and then go bankrupt. Most people don’t think Insurance firms could just turn around and refuse to pay (Act of God! Oh, you smoke, that invalidates your claim…) or that banks (having lent out over ten times what they actually ‘own’) could go broke.

And then the good news. When we find ourselves up to our knees in flood water (water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink) some guy has invented a portable bottle with an incredibly fine filter, that even stops viruses passing through. I guess you end up with pure water, with no chemicals like chlorine or iodine. They go on sale next week, (Thanks to Keili for that story). LifeSaver Systems.


The Purple Gooroo said...

The Northern Rock reminded me of the "great crash" of 1929 - and the smaller stock market crash in the 80s. It does seem like a ploy to ratchet up everone's fear about their small (and sometimes large) piles of bio-survival tickets.

Nice Lennon quote, by the way :-)

I wanted to buy one of those Patatows from eBay..but I didn't have enough Bank Of England bio-survival tix at the time to "afford" one..ironic.

Toby said...

I passed the one I bought onto someone who would appreciate its value. The only way a worthless piece of paper can appreciate in value, of course!

If you'd like one, I always carry a few forgeries in my wallet (forgeries in the sense that RAW didn't sign them, although I can easily forge his wavery sig of the end days if you'd like.) Actually I carry some from the first batch, which got printed slightly off-centre, so seem slightly less convincing than the ones I made later. Hey Ho.
Or you can go to Bobby's site, download the art work, and make yer own! Why not?

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