To Hell with the Economy

For several months now, they’ve been telling us that the economy is in crisis. You know who I mean: the politicians, the media pundits, the economic “experts”. I’m not really sure what they’re talking. As far as I could tell, it’s always in crisis. That seems to be its normal way of operating. And usually that works fine for those up at the top. It’s the rest of us who deal with the consequences

Well, this time it’s a bit different. It seems some of the big boys have taken a plunge, and they’re scared. So out come the politicians and their media cronies calling on “everyone” to sacrifice to save the collapsing economy. Everyone, that is, except the CEOs of the banks and corporations caught in the plunge. For them, it’s bailouts, or as the silver-tongued hero of the hour, Mr. Obama, prefers to put it, “stimulation packages”. After all, in our politically correct era, we need to show some sensitivity to these victims of their own sleazy practices and stupidity…

But, you know, I say, TO HELL WITH THE ECONOMY! I don’t really buy the predictions of those who say it’s on the verge of collapse. An economy in which crisis is the normal way of functioning doesn’t fall quite that easily But when you see the big boys running scared, you know that it’s tottering like a dizzy drunk who has had one too many… And that, my friends, is the time to push. Because it ain’t gonna fall if it ain’t pushed.

But why would I want it to fall? Because I, for one, am sick and tired of the involuntary sacrifices it imposes on me daily, having to pay in time and money just to get by… And now Obama has the audacity to ask me to voluntarily sacrifice because some big shots screwed up? Not a chance!

Think about it: the politicians and the pundits tell us that this economy is “free enterprise”. But tell me, where’s the freedom when nothing is free, and so you’re forced to sell your life away to get the money to get the things you think you need or want? Where’s the freedom when you have no time or energy left over to actually create some portion of your life as your own? Where’s the freedom when you’re forced to divide your life into portions just to pretend that some bit of it is still your own? And where’s the freedom when those who are enterprising enough to find their own ways to get or create what they need or want for their lives without selling the time of their life away have to face the threat of fines or prison for having the enterprise to act on their own terms? And as to the enterprise of this economy? Just look at how fast Mr. and Ms. Moneybags go running to Big Daddy government for a handout the moment they screw up. And to think, these are the same corporate executives who complain about their tax dollars going to “welfare bums” and who’ll claim that enterprise means self-reliance, not infantile dependence on the governmental teat… Well, so much for their enterprise.

So, yeah, I want this absurd farce to fall, and although I won’t offer any recipes for how to bring it down, there is one aspect of this reality that I think offers a key for imaginative exploration along these lines: this economy goes on existing only because our daily, unthinking, habitual activities keep it going. We assume that it is natural, inevitable, and so go on doing what makes it inevitable. Well, I think it’s time to pull the rug out from under it.

This is why I got a kick out of hearing that some surrealists in Spain expressed the same sentiment last November by publicly burning money (and dancing in the streets) in Madrid. A purely symbolic act? Of course, but since money has become the sacred symbol of the highest values of society, this action carries the force of blasphemy. And with this force it can spark the imagination, leading to explorations of how to practically refuse and attack the economic blackmail.

But the very nature of the current so-called crisis has reminded me of some ideas a few wild-eyed dreamers were discussing already twenty to thirty years ago. It seems that one of the main causes behind the current economic crisis lies in the sleazy housing loan and mortgage policies that have been the norm for the past few years, and this reminded me of the Permanent Universal Rent Strike that a few of us discussed back in the 1980s. The idea is very simple. Everyone would stop paying their rent, mortgage, property taxes, whatever money those in power claim we owe them if we want to have a place to live. In other words, a universal refusal of one of the more important blackmails imposed by governments, banks and landlords.

It was around the same time that I came across the writings of a fellow who had decided, in the mid-1970s, that he was no longer willing to live as a slave to money and the system that requires it. As he began to recreate nis own life on these terms, he also proposed a utopian practice that he thought individuals could begin right away. Though he called it the “Priceless Economic System”, it was not at all a system and was anti-ecconomic. But it was priceless in all the best senses of the word. Again the idea is simple. He argued that if everyone were to start sharing their skills, knowledge and creations with each other for free, there would be no need for anyone to live as a slave to money or a job. Once again the idea was to refuse to pay the black mail imposed by the economic and political institutions that rule us.

I already said that I wasn’t offering any recipes, and I didn’t bring these ideas up as proposals for actions. First of all, because free-spirited individuals are rightly suspicious of any such proposal that comes from a stranger, since they are quite capable of coming up with ideas of their own in discussions with those they know and trust. Besides, projects like the Permanent Universal Rent Strike and the Priceless Economic System would only begin to effect the economy if a large portion of the population decided to take part. And that ain’t likely to happen any time soon. And if it did, you can bet your sweet ass that those who profit from this economy and those who rule this society wouldn’t just sit there watching; they’d do eerything in their power to keep things as they are.

So why do I bring up these ideas at all? Because they clearly point out that the economy and the ruling order of which it is a central part are not the natural order of things, but exist only through our continuing habitual participation. Because they express a daring and playful capacity to see and think and dream beyond what is, and perhaps this can spark more imaginative discussions from which bold ideas and creativve actions can grow.

The economy, which has been the misery of so many for so long, is staggering. Most likely, it will right itself soon. But for the moment, an opportunity has opened to push it. So why not take advantage of this opportunity? Finding ways to withdraw support, to stop paying the blackmail, is essential, but not enough. There is also much that has to be destroyed, taken apart so it can’t be used again by anyone who may want to rule others. Each of us who wants to play this game will figure out what it means for her or himself, learning to interweave with others’ actions and ideas. But I’m sure it will include laughter and anger, poetry and violence, and dancing in the streets around bonfires of burning money.