I was at a Quaker conference on Economic Justice, we were sitting in home groups discussing the world’s economic problems when my neighbour turned to me and whispered in my ear: “You realise that the problems we are discussing result from the fact that 97% of all our money is created by private profit-seeking banks as debt.”
I couldn’t take in what he was saying. Money creation had never been mentioned to me before, it had never come up at a Quaker conference on Economic Justice that I had attended. He could see my reaction and said: “You don’t have to believe me, read the ‘The Grip of Death’ by Michael Rowbotham”. I am not much of a reader but after perusing the first chapter, free on the Internet, I was hooked.
It was then that I discovered Positive Money: A group of young people giving their all to researching and raising awareness of the current money system, with well thought-out ideas for establishing a more stable economy. I went to the second annual Positive Money conference, trained as a Positive Money speaker and became a passionate disciple of the monetary reform campaign.
I am not an economist. I’m not good at dealing with stats, graphs and percentages. I am a Quaker. Quakers are well known for their involvement in promoting social justice. I became passionately concerned about the way the present system of money creation flies in the face of the Quaker testimonies to Truth, Peace, Equality, Justice, Simplicity and the Environment.
I was inspired to reach out to those who are unaware of the unjust way in which money is created. I mused on the possibility of being funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) for taking the message to Quaker meetings around the country and having put in an application, to my delight, I was successful.
Over the last 18 months I have done just that. JRCT gave me a grant which enabled me to visit 16 Quaker Area Meetings over a period of 18 months, including North and Mid Wales, Hampstead and North London, Devon and Cornwall and various others in between.
My full workshop runs from 11am to 3.30, with a lunch break in between. I offer a description of the existing money system and the problems it causes in the morning, starting with the first 10 minutes of Paul Grignon’s Money as Debt video in order to introduce an historic perspective. This is followed by members of the group reading of a 10 minute playlet I wrote, offering a child’s perspective on money creation. The morning session finishes with a 20 minute video clip of Ben Dyson describing ‘The Problem’ at an early Positive Money conference. The morning is punctuated by a couple of ‘turn to your neighbour’ slots for folk to hear their own voices. The afternoon takes the form of a 45 minute slide-show illustrating Positive Money’s full proposals. We then break into small groups to address two questions. Firstly, what are the obstacles as individuals and/or groups to get behind monetary reform? Secondly, what are our opportunities to get behind monetary reform?
I always try to remember that I am asking my audience to accept in three hours something that took me six months to understand – that money is created as debt and the wider implications of this fact. I aim to whet the appetite for continued learning and I am sure to leave behind material and suggestions to encourage further research.
Truth is power. I felt more powerful once initiated into the truth behind the nigh-on fraudulent monetary system and the way it contributes to so much instability and injustice in society. To me, it is more important to spread the word about the nature of the problem than be definitive about the solution.
It has not always been easy. As I complete my tour with next week’s presentation, it is difficult to evaluate the true impact. Whilst I’ve probably recruited over 100 new supporters for Positive Money, I have received a smaller response to the questionnaire I send out three months after my visit. Sometimes I think of the tour as a small drop in a very large ocean. However, almost all who did respond have at least raised the topic with family and friends. Most have visited the Positive Money website, read further and watched video clips. Many have written to their MPs. A few have moved their money.
This series of workshops has nevertheless been an opportunity to raise awareness of the wider implications of allowing money to be created as debt and the way this process counters every one of our Quaker testimonies. I think of myself as having sent out money creation awareness tendrils into various communities around the country, with the hope that some at least might feel inspired and impassioned to pick up the baton.
I am pleased to have learned recently that members of the North London meeting I visited are planning a bigger, more centrally placed workshop on the topic in October 2016. Folk in North Wales started an ongoing group after my visit, which has taken a proposal for starting a Quaker Credit Union to the central Quaker decision making committee. There is also a move towards starting a regional Positive Money group in that area. Members of another meeting I visited are keen to take the issue of monetary reform to that same central committee. Maybe I can count the ocean drops as two!
Congratulations to Sue on completing her incredible tour of Quaker meetings. You have done an amazing job on behalf of Positive Money – we cannot thank you enough!