Friday, 18 February 2011

don't bank on it

My cousin Comar has decided to reinvent himself. This week he receives his last paycheck when he packs in his City recruitment job and starts up a local food business, initially selling from a stall at the top of Ladbroke Grove in London. He has a big, permaculture ethics-based vision and I have no doubt he will end up creating his dream of a network of small local food enterprises.

I was telling him on Google Chat about feelings of outrage against the corporate tax dodgers and the banks (Barclays announced a 30% increase in annual profits to £6 billion this week). He pointed out that the government would not be willing or able to curtail their greed. And that no alternative to capitalism exists for us to segue over to. After batting back and forth the issues he pointed out that the best way forward is to no longer depend on any of these systems. Our job is to create effective alternatives.

Looking back, that seems to have been my life’s mission, to cut loose from The Man and help others to. I get a bit fed up with people who think that change has to come from the top. Change will only come from us, and there’s plenty we can do right now. We can change our bank to an ethical bank like the Cooperative. If we have spare money we can put it in an ethical bank like Triodos. We can change our energy supplier to Good Energy, so that all the electricity we use is from the sun and wind. Those are big, easy wins that also make us collectively more resilient.

The point is, together, we’ve got to get off the global money system as it is. Tony Greenham from the new economics foundation told a group of us in Better Banking group of Transition Town Lewes that the problem with banks is that they have unregulated permission to make money out of debt, which essentially transfers money from the poor to the rich (this great 3-minute cartoon says it all). Plus, banks are reluctant to loan to small businesses because there’s too much risk for relatively low rewards. A local money system, which the TTL group is investigating, would mean that money is lent to known people in known markets, by people who want to support other local people; this is what bank managers used to be for.

The banking system, which was designed to serve us, has completely betrayed us. But we can all choose better futures.

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