Occupy Heart 11/15: Jubilee – the heart of debt forgiveness

The Rolling Jubilee officially launches today.

"This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. "

2500-3500 years ago, Jubilee was declared every 50 years, that a person's property was to be restored within the Land of Israel.

3pm PT | 6pm ET | 10pm GMT

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The result was the restoration of sovereignty through cancellation of debt and peonage.  Today's launch of the Rolling Jubilee raises money to purchase and strike out medical debt, because medical debt it is often imposed on people who find themselves cornered between their basic well-being and runaway privatization of the health "care" business. 

62% of all bankruptcies result from medical illness. It is not uncommon for someone to enter a hospital via the emergency room as a relatively solvent person with "normal" debt, only to emerge with debt they cannot remotely cover in their lifetime. On today's call, Occupy Cafe steward Heather Tischbein will share just such a story. 

Questions for this conversation:

  • Think of a time when you incurred a debt you couldn't repay (monetary or otherwise).  How did it feel to be in that position?
  • The Rolling Jubilee process randomly forgives peoples' debts.  How do you feel about a process that might free some people from the financial consequences of their actions?
  • Think of a debt, monetary or otherwise, owed to you.  How might it feel to forgive it?

Join us on this discussion thread and on the call

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At first blush... haven't considered this before.... it seems like a fine idea but doubt whether the financials powers that be would adopt. Seems in accord with Eisenstein's views in Sacred Economics.
Until that gets read, discussed, adopted,see no possibility of debt forgiveness occurring. The context for it just isn't present.

Suspect that a new economic system will only occur After The Crash Harvey


I was hoping that I'd be present for this important call, but gut problems are driving me back to bed (on a sunny Portland day!).

When I first heard about the Jubilee, my first thought was, "This is such a brilliant idea, I wish I had thought of it!"  

Focusing on medical debt (instead of generalized consumer debt) strikes the right note...

However: I think that it is important to recognize that ALL DEBT involves a dance between two actors... and that it is important to build responsibility into any and every system.  ALL OF US CREATE AND MAINTAIN THIS SYSTEM -- WE CAN NEVER CHANGE IT UNTIL WE RECOGNIZE THAT FACT.  I have a share of responsibility for the debt that I accrue, even in situations that are heavy-handed.

For example:  Knowing the high cost of medical care, I have scheduled medical procedures in Third World countries, where the care is BETTER and CHEAPER than in the US.  (That's right:  not "as good as", but actually superior to the US medical system).  I also take responsibility for finding natural (and cheap) alternatives to what the doctors prescribe.  (For example: Garlic to balance my blood pressure: prescription garlic = $200/month.  Garlic supplements at health food store (SAME THING!!) = $12/mo.  A clove of raw, fresh garlic every day = $4/month.)

But: I cannot tell you the number of people who refuse to think for themselves, who blindly follow "doctors orders", even when the doctor orders them into bankruptcy.  

What responsibility do we as a society have to bail out people who will not take responsibility for themselves?  



In what ways are the 1% in our debt?  Can we forgive them?  And how does forgiving debt figure into a world where assets are even more maldistributed than liabilities?

Scribing the harvest from today's call:

  • From a spiritual perspective, there is no such thing as debt.  Culture wants conformity and uses debt and punishment as an artificial tool to get it, e.g. "I have to keep my word or answer to the judge"
    • We're all interconnected, and that means the suffering of one of us is the suffering of all.  The system needs to be responsible for the health of its parts.  AND we are also responsible for ourselves.  It's not either/or.
    • Nonexistence of debt correlates to the existence of God
  • Buying into a system that thrives on debt is our own choice--we can do it differently.  I've never used a credit card or taken out a mortgage.  Bought a car with cash.
  • Appreciation to Heather for her story, and empathy for her, as well as to Mushin for his.
    • Her story brought me to a fragile place, where I see how much I do need community
  • Being a 100% disabled Vet... Gained an appreciation for the VA--the most cost effective health care system in  the US is  provided by the gov't.  State of the art care.  And it's "single payer."  Why can't we do that for everyone in this country?
Are you asking what I owe the 1%? Or are you asking what the 1% owe me? Ben, are we not, you and I, IN the 1%... of the wealthiest in the world... just by being Americans in the middle class? After all, 40% of the world lives on less than 4$ a day.

It seems strange to me that I can't quite get the reason for the existence of this '1 and 99' dichotomy ... unless it is to create a background distinction between two political parties... the P's being the 1% and the D's the 99%. Nah, that's probably not it.

A larger question: Is this dichotomy really useful to bring us all together?... or does it tend to separate us?

Thanks for the joke...

Reminds me of a saying from South Africa during the Apartheid days:

A black African, remarking how few whites rule them, encourages others to join him.  "There are so many of us, if we all just SPIT, we would drown the whites!"

To which someone replies, "Yes, but when the white man comes, our mouths all go dry..."

It's not even a matter of "ganging up"... if we all just DID SOMETHING ELSE, the existing system would simply GO AWAY.  This is the lesson and the power of the "Velvet Revolution" of Czechoslovakia -- which for some reason few people other to understand...

Jerry, you get points for joke-telling...



We framed this conversation in terms of "forgiveness," but Strike Debt organizers apparently don't want to use that term to describe the Jubilee, according to this report from Yes! Magazine:

[Strike Debt organizer Yates] McKee emphasizes that the campaign is not about charity, but "solidarity and mutual aid." Nor is the campaign calling for debt "forgiveness," which reinforces the notion that debtors are guilty of moral failures. Instead, it encourages debt resistance. After all, "We're calling for this to be a political act of economic non-compliance,” he told me. “We are intentionally withdrawing our consent from this system."

Actually, the predatory lending was and is done almost entirely outside of programs with government guarantees. New Century and Countrywide's subprime heists, for example. Or payday loans and credit card debt at usurious rates (rates the government used to limit to much lower levels).
Ben, you wrote this. "Instead, it encourages debt resistance."

It seems that one of the most basic laws of human interaction comes down to these simple words, "There ain't no free lunch."

Resisting a debt seems, at its most basic, the repudiation of one's word. And, if we do not have a society that HONORS ONE'S WORD AS ONE'S SELF... then we have not a society but merely a non-trusting unreliable gangland of opportunists.

It seems to me that existing debt is... and ought to be... a NON-issue for outsiders. Debt is best to remain, given the primacy of individual choice, an issue between the parties of the agreement-freely-chosen.


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