What in the world is going on? I won’t tell you. I’ve been out of easy communication for days, thanks to a trip to resort in Canada: Hollyhock. Just by chance I’m up here, out of the way, while enormous waves are tumbling through the financial world. Ironically, the visit is to coordinate and learn from as diverse a crowd as is practical. Even amongst veterans of the World Bank, financial institutions, wealth managers, investors, entrepreneurs, and advocates of alternative economies, no one knows exactly what’s going on. Ignorance is common.
These are not ignorant people. They are brilliant, educated, motivated, and passionate about finding sustainable solutions to many aspects of this world. The majority are not the money types. The majority are artists, philosophers, teachers, healers, and philanthropists. After listening to many of them, I think we may understand art and spirituality better than we understand money and the economy.
Money was invented to make life easier. Barter came first, but it has lots of limitations if more than two people or more than two villages are involved. Money was tangible, exchangeable, and non-perishable. Money was very handy for trading between farmers, craftsfolk, and service providers. The local doctor wants to be paid in something more than only chickens.
Debt was also invented to make life easier. It enabled larger projects for businesses and better homes and education for people. My mortgage is why I have a house.
One of the topics we discussed was the nature of currency and debt and how that all plays into our lives. it is a diverse group and multi-national so the distinctions between capitalism, marxism, democracy, aristocracy and a few other -cracies made for a fascinating discussion. There were some intriguing combinations present. If nothing else, I enjoyed the notion of the marxist-entrepreneur. One person even pointed out the fact that the pyramids and cathedrals were funded by economies that worked with perishable currency. I’ll take his word for it, but despite the resulting impressive infrastructure, I’m not interested in societies ruled by pharaohs or kings.
Everyone that talked started their discourse with the variations on the same caveat, “Well, I don’t understand everything that’s going on, but I can tell you about this . . . ” Ego or not, impressive credentials or not, wealthy or not, no one felt comfortable claiming sufficient comprehensive knowledge of how money, debt, economics, and governmental policy are entwined. It was also obvious that these folks were smarter than the average legislator or senator. If such a group of experts can’t claim expertise, then what chance is there for solutions to come from government?
The first session pointed a lot of blame outside the room. Government, financial institutions, cabals, conspirators, and vague references to “them” were easy targets. It was their fault.
An unrelated session talked about people who stood up in situations that seemed hopeless and futile with too few resources and too little expertise, yet they succeeded. They succeeded because they took personal responsibility.
We had a second session. Placing blame got nothing done, except to raise the anxiety level. We decided to get positive and get responsible. What could we do? Did anyone have first hand experience implementing at least partial solutions.?
The ignorance was gone. The energy came back. Solutions ranged from using subtle pressure to swing corporate policies, down through mid-level socially responsible venture capitalism, down to community currencies and cooperative exchanges, down to the power of individual introspection into personal values and actions.
I’ve blogged about some of the direct actions I’ve taken. As time allows I’ll blog about the others.
The key was that while no one can understand or therefore explain the current crisis, all of us can do something that makes the situation better. If you earn money, if you spend money, if you maintain a household, if you have a job, you can affect change. Look to those changes that are in, and especially along the borders of, your comfort zone. Courageous types can go beyond, but their courage also means that they have fluid definitions of comfort.
On a personal level, I recommend going back to the roots of financial responsibility that I listed in my book,
“Invest for the future. Pay yourself first. Diversify. Think long term. Get started now. Don’t spend more than you make. Put some away for a rainy day. Don’t try to get rich quick. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”
When I feel that the world is out of control, I remind myself that, whether that is true or not, I always have some part of my life that I can control; and then I find ways to empower myself from within that.
Amidst my financial turmoil, which has little to do with global economics, I know that by living frugally and my understanding my skills, talent and experience, I can make many good things possible. There are no guarantees, and that goes both ways. There are no guarantees that the crisis will be catastrophic, despite what the media portrays. There are no guarantees that our current institutions and their solutions will survive or prove to be fruitful. And I find it fascinating and unfortunate that it is common for people to be ignorant of the power they possess, yet personal action has the surest guarantee of all the options.