The one thing of which this conference has convinced me is that the credit market may in fact be the downfall of democracy.
To express my thoughts, here’s a question I posed in a plenary session earlier today:
“A few folks have mentioned the need to demonstrate to the global markets that we can restore ourselves to a stable economy. But was a stable or sustainable economy what we even had in the first place? An economy no longer based on what we produce, but on ever-increasing consumer spending fueled by ever-increasing consumer debt of all kinds – which was making a huge amount of money for a small amount of people through usury charged to people who can afford it least (otherwise they wouldn’t need the credit so much) in terms that no one can understand? An economy where we increasingly purchase essential or important goods and services (housing, transportation, education) through a system where we can’t afford them initially and end up paying far more that their real value in financial service charges over the long term? We’re talking about foreclosure, but shouldn’t we be talking about the inevitable collapse of the economic house of cards we built on credit spending?”
We’ve created a class of people (and worse yet, of barely accountable corporate entities with the rights of a person) who are not only rich and powerful, but who can exercise even more control over us and our affairs because we are continually in their debt – and afraid of what they will do to us if we don’t meet their terms. Never mind that the terms are unintelligible, that the contract is overwhelmingly in their favor and construed to keep us in their service; we’ll never protest because the power of correcting or redressing wrongs is almost entirely on their side. And we’ve convinced ourselves (that is, allowed ourselves to be convinced by them) that we need what they offer us in order to live lives of any value.
Enough! How long are we going to sell – or buy – ourselves into slavery? Really, this isn’t just an issue of credit systems, but of the entire system of production and consumption. When we decided to stop making what we use, or knowing who made it or where it came from or what’s in it; when we decided it was easier and cheaper to let someone else manage and truly know our trade, our laws, our “self”-rule, and we stopped caring whether or not we understood what they did; when we chose quantity of everything over quality of anything. I am beginning to abhor the system I live in, and my own role in it.
I want the sustainable life: based on as direct a relationship and understanding of the world and people around me as I can possibly manage. I’m not sure anymore why all these activities and all the busyness of my life right is so important, when it is mostly concerned with keeping up such inequity and degradation. Tell me what is more important that making sure I know those who live with and around me; that I know who grows my food or makes my clothes and tools, and how; that I provide or produce the things that I and others need; that I raise my family and care for my neighbors; that I help us work out our differences and have just and loving dealings with one another? What is my life focused on if not these things? And don’t say serving the Lord wherever I am; these very things are the essence of serving the Lord in practice. And I live a life right now that distracts (if not keeping me outright) from all of them.
This was going to be a post about why I wasn’t going to participate in the credit system anymore besides paying off my existing obligations; but it suddenly became something else. I feel this call again to change my life so radically, much as I felt it last year. But I still want to do this in community – I think I’d have to to make it work – but I don’t know where to find those other people. I sadly think I might have to go from Boston to do it; how far am I willing to go (literally and figuratively) to live this life to which I think I may be called?