“Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”
My original plan for 9/11 2011 was to write an update to my personal 9/11 story to mark the 10th Anniversary of one of the defining moments of modern history..
I’m not going to do that.
For the past nine of years, the first five-six of them being able-bodied., I cut myself off from the outside world on every 9/11 anniversary, obsessing over the epic bullet I dodged that day. What I want to say about the aftermath and how much the world has changed for the worst can wait. It really doesn’t need a “special” day to be poignant or relevant. Quite frankly, I’ve had enough of the manufactured 9/11 hysteria heaped upon us with the dawning of each September 1st.
This year I would like to do something to positively engage people from all walks of life and engender compassionate.conversation. The best way to do this is to focus on something that has absolutely nothing to do terrorism, conspiracy theories or reliving every moment of that day as many people are doing online and off. Having said that, how I am tackling my day has everything to do with the privileged Masters of the Universe waging elitist economic wars across the globe on the poor (working or otherwise) and other vulnerable people including those of us with disabilities.
This about-face is a direct result of a direct message I received this morning on Twitter from the team behind “Free Money Day” asking if I would be interested in hosting an event here in Wales. This annual campaign has its inaugural launch on 15 September 2011 People will hand out their own coins, two at a time, asking people to pass one on to someone else at public locations worldwide. My initial response was simply, “I’m disabled and housebound”. Their response was to ask if there was any other way to include me – a first for me, I have to say! And thus began a few hours of dialogue about Virtual Campaigning. During this time I forced myself to roll over and out of the trap that is my bed and “sort myself out”. As always I was sans a Carer or any type of support, swearing through the pain and not caring if any of the disablist neighbours heard me, though it would have been great to have someone here to brainstorm with. It was important to go with the flow, so thus comes this post (which I have worked on now for six+ hours)..
The organisers have a thoughtful and detailed FAQ covering the salient details from how to take part to the philosophy driving the campaign and who they are. What struck me most are these passages from their Philosophy section:
Q. Are you saying money is not important?
In the societies in which many of us now live, money does have roles to play, for everyone. In our current systems, access to money is critical for many to meet their needs for shelter, food, healthcare and transport and to enable people to have a good quality of life. We do not intend to downplay this reality. But the pursuit of ever more money as an end in itself (including spending beyond our means) can be a trap that robs people in other areas of their lives, making it more difficult, not easier, for large numbers of people to access the things they need for a high quality of living. We want to question how it is that so many people end up working too many hours, in too much debt, and how this adversely affects their lives. Our intent is to release the hold money has over us. By giving money away, we ‘interrupt the signal’ of the money program we subconsciously run: Always believing that we never have enough, and that we are afraid of running out of it. In the process, might open up exciting futures beyond the pursuit of more?
Q. Doesn’t giving away money for free encourage reliance on handouts?
The one-off nature of Free Money Day, and the tiny amount of money that each individual receives, make this a symbolic act and a social experiment, not a ‘hand-out’.
This captured my imagination especially as someone who has had a series of dire financial difficulties, including becoming homeless 7 years ago post-redundancy and narrowly avoiding it again in Spring of this year. When comparing both situations, there are key differences:
- In 2004 I wasn’t disabled and the severe clinical depression and IBS that I have lived with since a teenager had yet to be diagnosed.
- In 2004 were no “Friends” willing to lend a helping hand even though many of them could have easily afforded to do so. Quite astonishing given my career in investment banking, surrounded by a lot of people on better-than-average incomes who owned more than one home. I was just another Professional going through a rough patch. Quite frankly, I think my situation was too much a harsh reality that they didn’t want to touch them.
- My housing troubles this past Spring were just the latest after yet another redundancy in 2009, but made even worse because of my disabilities and the hatemongering towards people with disabilities and benefits claimants. Apparently there is no entitlement to a safe, decent roof over your head once the wheel of fortune turns counter-clockwise. We are reminded of this every day ad-nauseum by the general public brainwashed by “scrounger” rhetoric of politicians and media outlets of all persuasions. However, this time I had desperately-needed unexpected help from 3 people who are also on limited incomes. Two of these people are severely disabled themselves – and we only know each other through the UK-based disability campaign, The Broken of Britain. The other friend has a family to support on just one income. What my friends did for me made a difference – especially given everything else I had to contend with related to my physical and mental health concerns and pressing needs .
One of the things “Free Money Day” reminded me of was the reality that it is often those with the least who give the most. The “Big Society” in its purest form is compassion in action towards the lesser fortunate – something that often eludes the powerbroker illuminati ruling the world, tax breaks for doing so notwithstanding. The lesser-privileged will juggle expenses, have a whip-around or do something else equally pragmatic to reach out and help someone else in need. The middle and upper classes increasingly turn a blind eye and utter judgemental platitudes about getting a job, changing one’s lifestyle, lowering one’s standards and relocating to cheaper accommodation and locales (aka ghettos) while they carry on living to work to have that grandiose new house with much more room than is needed or latest model of a gadget they’ve only owned for a year. I don’t begrudge decent people who have earned their wealth through hard work, those who got lucky with a big lottery win or those who were born into privilege. However, I do resent being disrespected and judged adversely for not being able to live up to other people’s consumerist standards.
Paying it Forward – Virtually:
This is how my contribution to / participation in Free Money Day is going to work:
- At 12 Noon GMT I will start tweeting the equivalent of £20, broken down into smaller “notes” and “coinage” amounts to followers selected at random.
- I am asking each of the followers I select
- to Retweet only what I tweet to them
- They “Pay It Forward” by directing the tweet to someone in their own followers list, making the same request of the person they have selected.
- The idea is that we build up a sort of pyramid of Tweeps paying my original tweeted GBP amounts forward
- Please also share this post via social networks using the following shortlink: http://wp.me/p1seqm-ah
- The Twitter hashtag for this event will be #CCFMD
The goal is to Raise awareness and start conversations about the benefits of economies based on sharing, as well as offer a liberating experience that gets us thinking more critically and creatively about our relationship with money and how we could have new types of economic activity.
On a personal note: at the end of the campaign, I will be making a small donation to Brick By Brick London Home Activity Group, the only homeless organisation in London that was able to to help me through my first crisis. Also, at the request of the friends who helped me this past Spring, I had already pledged to “Pay It Forward” and help someone else as and when. This I will also do.
Please follow @freemoneyday and @postgrowth for more further information about Free Money Day and to see what you can do to get involved..
- Positive Money: Free Money Day (positivemoney.org.uk)
- Wealth, Poverty and Compassion: The rich are different from you and me (Economist.com)
- Voluntary Income: Who supports the sector? (charityfacts.com)
- Giving Trends (samaritans.org)
- Why the Rich are Meaner than the Poor (guardian.co.uk)
- America’s Poor are its Most Generous Donors (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Charity (plainislam.com)
- Christian activists challenge economic orthodoxy with anti-poverty resources (Ekklesia.com)
- Poor less likely to give to charity, but donate more of their salary (charitytimes.com)
- Church charity calls for action to close the gap between rich and poor (Ekklesia.com)
- Luck, Duty and Benevolence (ntuac.com – John Robinson’s pages on Ethics)