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Retribution Against the Financial Elite!

#StrikeDebt: An Emerging Consensus

Posted 1 year ago on June 27, 2012, 12:43 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt

hundreds march dressed as zombies in NYC
Night of the Living Debt

Written by Nicholas Mirzoeff and originally published June 23 & 24 on his blog Occupy 2012

For a long time, Occupy was a combination of radical affect, method and principle. It did not have a central subject. Readers will have noticed that debt has increasingly become a key theme in this project. And now it’s perhaps becoming the theme in OWS as well. A growing consensus is emerging that the next major day of action will be orchestrated around debt. This will be Black Monday, or September 17, Occupy Wall Street Year One.

In a sense, this is overdue. After all, OWS’s own David Graeber is the author the global best-seller Debt. But just as the 2011 protest lagged behind the worst of the bailouts, it’s only now that the full extent of the debt crisis is becoming apparent.

There are three main factors at work here. One is the exemplary resistance in Montreal to the privatization of higher education and the refusal of endebted futures. Here is a direct challenge to the idea that morality means debt. Quebecois consider that they have already paid for education via direct and indirect taxation, one. And, two, they see a moral society as one that educates its citizens as a public good.

Next, and perhaps resulting from this rigor, is the new refusal of student debt that I’m seeing. I’ve met several graduates who are talking about going directly into default from graduation, confronted with apparently long-term unemployment. Many others have moved home with family to a very different future than the one they envisaged when matriculating.

Finally, the macro-economic picture continues to worsen. Spanish banks can’t even calculate how much bailout they need. And this, incidentally, is one of the many reasons why the parallel between family budgets and financial institutions doesn’t work. If the EU came to me with an offer to bailout my debt, I could work it out in about half an hour. Yet giant Spanish institutions with highly qualified staff offered a spread of between 20 and 62 billion euros. So the real amount needed is probably 120 billion.

Major US banks had their credit ratings cut on Thursday so that Citigroup and Bank of America are now two notches above junk bond status. The only upside for their customers is that these banks have so maximized their fees and penalties already that they have run out of room for more.

In his European travels, David Graeber has been saying that the question now is, not if there will be some form of debt abolition, but how it will happen. In Iceland, the state has decided:

to forgive [mortgage] debt exceeding 110 percent of home values.

This forgiveness has affected between 15 and 20% of mortgages to a cost of at least $1.6 billion (in a country where the population is only about 300,000) and has had a dramatic turnaround effect on the economy.

Here banks have moved to a new tactic to their own benefit alone: short-selling, in which a house is not formally foreclosed but the bank accepts a sale at a loss. A striking 233,000 homes were sold this way in the first quarter of this year, a quarter of all such sales. That’s a million people who have had the banks sell their homes for them. Thus the headline-making foreclosure sales are technically down, at just over 20% of the market. Banks still own nearly 700,000 homes and the same number are in some stage of foreclosure: over 5 million more people are confronting homelessness.

The housing crisis is an invisible reason the student debt situation has worsened, I suspect. Parents and other financial supporters no longer have home equity to draw on to sustain ever-rising tuition costs, as universities assumed they did until 2008. That’s me right there.

And next week the Supreme Court is going to overturn health care, which, as flawed as it is, represented at least a chance that medical debt might be contained. In today’s New York Times, a couple with two health insurance policies are reported to have found themselves with a $90,000 bill after a fall led to an unexpected set of surgery and nursing home stays. A consultant reduced the costs by $22,000–but charged 25% of that as a fee.

So when the Montreal solidarity march last night took the theme “Night of the Living Debt,” it really made sense to people. It might as well be zombies spreading the debt crisis because it would be no more out of control than it is now.

Today, a group called “Free Bed-Stuy” had a great Free University-style event in a lovely park in deepest Brooklyn (I forgot to take pictures because I was doing a teach-in). An urban farm next door housed chickens, pigs and vegetable plots: and also a serious sound system that was luckily far enough away from the event that we could hear ourselves talk. No cops. And a comfortable curious crowd, who were eager to hear our ideas about linking debt to prison, slavery and stop-and-frisk. Tomorrow, the fourth Strike Debt assembly in Washington Square Park, 12pm. I’ll report back.


Given Time: Debt and the Impossible

closeup photo of a hand striking a matchbook

“Let us begin by the impossible.”

A fourth Strike Debt Assembly today in New York found itself in a problem that it defined as organizational: what to do next? Or first? Or in what order? If you were there you would have heard people say many things related to time, such as ”Time is of the essence.” Or, ”We have no time.” There was a sense of repetition, we’ve been here before. It was experienced as frustration. I would suggest that it is, as befits an Occupy Theory project. more of a theoretical problem.

Any economy is a distribution and a sharing of what there is, according to the law (nomos) within a household (oikos). In Roman law, the holder of authority is the auctor, precisely the person that decides this distribution. By definition, that person was a patriarch, the male head of the household, whose word controlled animals, slaves, women and children.

There is a certain frustration, then, in giving time to a leaderless association like Occupy that refuses authority and does so in part by refusing to meet inside (oikos) and by challenging the distribution of what there is to be seen and said. This is, then, a gift that cannot make itself present. Or a present, even.

And in the matter of debt, what is taken is also time. Debt is measured in time: a 30-year repayment perhaps, a monthly minimum, a daily calculation of interest. It is circular and it is without end. In my own case, I have come to realize that the debts that I have will be resolved by my own death, the end of my given time. An uninsured chef suffering from leukemia, cited in a Times Op-Ed today, hoped for his own death so as to spare his family debilitating posthumous debt.

So we are faced with an impossible equation: we give time to something that cannot accept it in order to reclaim some of our given time. These are, then, the reasons for the impossible demands of Strike Debt. Debt has to be abolished, not forgiven. For if it is “forgiven,” an obligation remains on those so forgiven to live up to forgiveness. We see intense resistance to such apparently unearned gifts that were part of the formation of the so-called Tea Party, when a white guy from Chicago railed against people of color getting mortgage support. So there is now an automatic mediatization of radical right demands that no time be given to anyone who has not “earned” it.

Yesterday in Bed-Stuy we talked about abolition in terms of the abolition of slavery: how slavery appeared to be essential to the economy right up until the moment of its abolition; how Reconstruction reimagined the place of the public in ways that we still have not lived uo to 150 years later; and how Stop-and-Frisk continues to inscribe certain people as inherently criminal and part of the economy only on sufferance. We reminded each other that, just as enslavement was social death, so too is debt that treats lives as disposable but banks as eternal.

Today I am reminded of the means of “forgiveness” inherent to slavery. When a slaveowner died, he would sometimes free those of the enslaved he liked or had fathered. These emancipated folk had to carry papers at all times to prove that they had been freed, papers that were not always given credit. You do not make demands on systems like this, systems that discount people from their status as people to being chattel or criminal.

You recognize that impossible demands require a given time: a breaking, a fracturing of the normal course of time. It comes when you least expect it, as it did in Tunisia. Or it comes when those who are subsumed into the impossible category of chattel, debtor, criminal, strike that concept and step into a place in which they are not supposed to be. So the enslaved moved themselves from the slave states to the Union and became not free but “contraband,” or stolen property. They had, impossibly, stolen themselves. Impossibly, they had abolished enslavement.

64 Comments

64 Comments


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[-] 4 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Debt is twenty-first century slavery. Abolish it.

[-] 1 points by grapes (2656) 1 year ago

It was much more ancient than that -- cf. usury laws in major religions except Judaism. Fatherly advice from Shakespeare's play: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be - Polonius." The wariness about debts and interest-bearing loans is at least many hundreds of years old. In the old days, they really extracted a pound of flesh for unpaid debts.

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Illegalize credit cards. I mean talk about predatory and usury.

[-] 0 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

The never ending plastic card of debt. Abolish it.

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

I had my 1st and last experience with credit cards at 18.

Cash and carry - thank you very much.

[-] 0 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Sounds like you had a bad first date. Did she break your heart shaped wallet?

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

No no - nothing like that - I saw no reason to have a credit card - figured if I did not have the money up front - that I should work on "that".

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

People used to use layaway and it worked well. No interest, no fees.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Yes - why the hell not. Store puts it on the side and you make payments towards purchase.

People - get back to cash and carry.

Move your accounts to a credit union.

Get out of and away from JPM as they look to be taking a dive real soon.

[-] 1 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Good advice. (yawn) I'm off to bed. Have a gk.

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Dream of a better tomorrow. Good Night.

[-] -3 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

Great, then stop borrowing. Is there something complicated about that?

[-] 4 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Help me understand what makes a man hate another man.

[+] -4 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

Help me understand what makes it so hard for a liberal to reason. If debt is bad, so too is the borrowing part. But that, of course, isn't at all what you have in mind.

[-] 3 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Throughout history, practices that enslave others have been found unjust and abolished. Time marches on.

[+] -5 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

So does the borrowing. Borrowing is just,, but so is default. The liberal head. Ban debt (the repayment part because the borrowing part is fun).

[-] 3 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Are you claiming we have a perfect, Utopian society with no injustices? Are you implying that my liberal head can't see this perfect, just society? Do you have a special pair of magical conservative glasses to help you see it?

[-] -3 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

No, I'm pointing out how liberals love debt, just not the repayment part. Borrowing is liberation and even a civil rights issue. Repayment is slavery and wrong.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (20500) 1 year ago

No, liberals like to earn the fair value of their labor so they don't have to go into debt to live in the first place. You guys are the ones who love debt. You love to keep all the profits for yourselves and pay unfairly low wages that force people into debt so that you can then exploit them once again with usury interest.

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Okay, so you are not crazy, you agree our society is not perfect. What injustices do you see?

[-] -3 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

We have plenty of injustices in the world. We also have some utterly clueless people that have little understanding of economics and a huge sense of entitement and being victims.

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

You mean like the same clueless people who opposed slavery. Yep, slaves had a huge sense of entitlement and being victims.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Yeah - I mean what were they thinking? Now everyone would like a taste of equality fair treatment justice.

No wonder the greedy corrupt criminals are upset.

[-] 1 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

The only other explanation is millions and millions of people are all suffering a mass psychic phenomenon of being victimized at the same time. What are the odds of that occurring? Astronomical?

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

It is what happens when you let someone else tell you what is right what is wrong what direction the sun will rise from in the morning.


[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (3625) 3 minutes ago

We have a very screwed up country. ↥twinkle ↧stinkle permalink

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Yep - get the herbal prisoners out and put real criminals in. Though they would likely have to segregate the wallstreet criminals. Wouldn't want them to screw up the rest of the prison population.

I could do with a little appetite support as well as pain relief besides.

Prohibition never helped anyone besides criminal enterprise and police budgets anyway.


[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (3625) 0 minutes ago

We should legalize marijuana first - release some people from our crowded jails and prepare a little room for 'em. ↥twinkle ↧stinkle permalink

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

We have a very screwed up country.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Madoff makeovers for the Wallstreet criminals.


[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (3625) 0 minutes ago

Nothing deranged about wanting some justice. ↥twinkle ↧stinkle permalink


Yep - no wonder why the greedy corrupt criminals are upset.

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

We should legalize marijuana first - release some people from our crowded jails and prepare a little room for 'em.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

I have heard of that - mass hysteria - only I think that is only supposed to happen as a result of mistaken terror/rage/fear that is transferred to the people immediately surrounding a deranged person.

Nothing deranged about wanting to be free to live a life.

Huh.

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Nothing deranged about wanting some justice.

[-] -2 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

No, I mean grown ups that think government makes things free and that disavow any responsibility for the things they sign if what they signed turns out later to not be such a great idea.

Debt has a downside. Adults should know that.

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

Everything has a downside when your getting victimized. Even a child knows that.

[-] -1 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

Now if more of our grown ups can know that it really isn't always someone else's fault or someone else's responsibility we'll be better off.

[-] 1 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 1 year ago

And yet here you are, faulting us. I love hypocrites.

[-] 0 points by JS93 (-321) 1 year ago

by JIFFYSQUID92 (-13) from Portland, OR 1 hour ago

"Oh really! Libs love debt! Then why is it Cons who always run it through the ceiling?! Raygun spent more than all previous POTUSes and transformed US from a Creditor to a Debtor nation!! Cheney & W's "Dark" spending and Laissez Faire regime crashed our economy, and no one living will see it "repaid"!! What you should be "pointing out" is how drunk Cons get drinking their own bathwater!!"

[-] 0 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

We we a Democrat administration and he passed a huge new entitlement program.

[-] 0 points by JS93 (-321) 1 year ago

Don't bother me with stupid Con replies.

[Removed]

[-] 0 points by JS93 (-321) 1 year ago

Yes! Desperation! "Is there something complicated about that?"

[-] 3 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

I like the idea. Abolish the debt! It is 21st century indentured servitude. Banks should except the loss as punishment for their crimes. Or their patriotic duty to lift us out of the economic crash they created! Free college as well! Make big business pay for that as well they benefit most from an educated populous.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

We need to forgive much debt as it was artificially created. We also need to write off all of the toxic derivatives that are still on the market due to criminal practices by Wallstreet dealing with unsophisticated/uneducated investors - return their investments and erase false value investments from existence - start back at a real zero point.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

From your lips to policy gods ears

[-] 2 points by krmlei (103) from New York, NY 1 year ago

This action seem to be more of that Austrian Economics being snuck into the OWS movement again. Sneeky sneeky!

[-] 2 points by krmlei (103) from New York, NY 1 year ago

Down the path of the EU, the obvious next conclusion will be against all debt for stimulating the economy or for education and health care, then calling for more austerity measures, tightening of all credit sources for the poor and middle classes, etc.. But when it happens, well you asked for it, didn't you?

The country needs to use debt to invest in the future. And so do we. What we should be against is unfair lending practices, not debt

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 1 year ago

Well, SCOTUS did not overturn healthcare reform (although that still doesn't give me the warm and fuzzy when it comes to trusting our government, call me a cynic), and some of us knew our banking and debt system was fucked up long before October 2011 (or whenever this consensus emerged). But let's have a group think festival anyway. Debt sucks, okay, now what? We can dust off some 19th century ideas, forgive debt (okay great), no more money (ummm, sure you thought this one through), labor theory of value (fuck marginal utility), I want a voucher for every hour I work, hmmm, sketchy. Who will administrate this grand voucher scheme? Hopefully someone who took a few math classes (but fuck smart people). Let's make everyone smart (so there's no envy or distrust), hmmm, I agree (but that might take around a decade or so, oooo, I must be an elitist :)).

[-] 1 points by audacesiuvat (2) 1 year ago

Read David Graeber's 'Debt: the First 5000 Years' (mentioned in the article). He covers all the issues you bring up in detail. Best book I've ever read.

One important point is that debt forgiveness has happened repeatedly throughout history. The monetization of the concept of debt has a long history of growing completely out of control and blowing up societies. Forgiveness has often served as a safety valve.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 1 year ago

Sure, we should forgive a good portion of our debt, college (at least public university) should be free, we should move away from reliance on debt as a society (in a more general sense), but that wasn't what I was getting at.

[-] 2 points by jph (2652) 1 year ago

The shift from society working together to benefit itself as a whole,. to the few manipulating culture to get more for themselves, at the expense of the whole society,. is a sad and pathetic cultural reality. It will be undone.

[-] 2 points by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA 1 year ago

I fully support this action.

[-] 1 points by abusalman (47) 1 year ago

The issue is the interest on the debt. Paying back the principle on your debt is a business and personal obligation, but the interest percentages and fractional banking principles of modern fiat money, and the banker control of financial sectors through interest debt slavery and manipulations and their modern appendages of swaps and derivative, etc , these are the issues. See for instance: A news report by Bloomberg Markets Magazine details trillions of dollars in secret federal loans made to the big banks during the 2008 financial crisis, a process that helped them rake in billions of dollars in undisclosed profits. Here, some key numbers that illuminate the Federal Reserve's "breathtaking"$7.7 trillion bank bailout: http://theweek.com/article/index/221883/the-federal-reserves-breathtaking-77-trillion-bank-bailout And See Destructive Power of the Financial Markets http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,781590,00.html The Dumbest Idea In The World Maximizing Shareholder Value http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/11/28/maximizing-shareholder-value-the-dumbest-idea-in-the-world/ And Hedge Hogs; Gold Man’s Sacks; “financial terrorist attacks;” and the Obama sellout: http://abusalmandeyauddeeneberle.wordpress.com/hedge-hogs-gold-man%E2%80%99s-sacks-%E2%80%9Cfinancial-terrorist-attacks%E2%80%9D-and-the-obama-sellout/ SUPER COMMITTEE BIG BANK ROBBERY and “this sucker” going down http://abusalmandeyauddeeneberle.wordpress.com/super-committee-big-bank-robbery-and-this-sucker-going-down/ Terrorism by Economic Collapse, debt bondage, money as debt on interest, etc http://terrorismbreedsterrorism.wordpress.com/terrorism-topics/terrorism-by-economic-collapse/ Derivatives ‘Mother of All Bubbles’ exploding http://inlightofrecentevents.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/derivatives-%E2%80%98mother-of-all-bubbles%E2%80%99-exploding/ Super rich 1% vs 99 %; Terrorism Cycle: Guillotines: Occupy “ALL” streets
http://inlightofrecentevents.wordpress.com/derivatives-%E2%80%98mother-of-all-bubbles%E2%80%99-exploding/ NEWS – Collapse by (interest on debt), (biodiversity loss), greed, etc http://abusalmandeyauddeeneberle.wordpress.com/news-collapse-by-interest-on-debt-biodiversity-loss-greed-etc/

[-] 1 points by krmlei (103) from New York, NY 1 year ago

Sounds good in theory, but in practice, how will the poor and middleclass compete with the rich?

What are the alternatives for people without money to aquire money to invest and make money?

What will be the incentive for someone to give money to someone who doesn't have money unless it is in the money lender's interest (and so he asks for "interest?")

When there were no money lenders, most people were serfs. I'd hate to go back to the middle ages. What we need is FAIR money lending. When smart people use DEBT, it is called LEVERAGE.

Debt should be leverage and not slavery. So if there are laws to make fair lending practices, I could support that.

[-] 2 points by krmlei (103) from New York, NY 1 year ago

I guess it might be too much to ask people to help St. Marks Bookshop qualify for a business loan since DEBT is such a natsty word around here.

But if anyone wants to help a cultural icon of the east village, nyc:

http://evgrieve.com/2012/06/another-way-to-help-st-marks-bookshop.html

[-] -2 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

What you really need is a law to make borrowers something above stupid. Good luck with that.

[-] -2 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 1 year ago

It's a little unnerving to see somebody posting as "OccupyWallSt" in the first person.

[-] 1 points by zoe (67) 1 year ago

Sorry to unnerve; we're just republishing an occupier's blog post :)

[+] -4 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

Those poor suffering Canadians. Can there be a God that would let that go on? Middle class kids having to protest for more subsidy. It's just wrong. LOL

[-] 3 points by jph (2652) 1 year ago

Choose to not be a dip-sht.

[+] -4 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

Choose to deal with reality. It simply isn't possible for the middle class to continue to pile subsidies upon itself.

[-] 4 points by jph (2652) 1 year ago

Yeah? Where is this happening? What we see is many cuts in programs of social uplift, and austerity for everyone but the 1%. It is the greedy few that takes subsidies from the rest of us,. not the other way around. The economy is supposed to provide for, and aid, all of society not just the greedy few at the expense of the many,. this is why we are about to remake it,. the 1% have simply taken too much for too long and now they are about to loose most of what they have taken.

[+] -5 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

What austerity? Spending continues to climb. Government employment cuts are due to rising costs/employeeand that's just the crowding out to be expected by run-away benefits.

The middle class can pad the poor, but not itself. The money simply doesn't exist to plow enttlement that deep into the bulk of the population.

[-] 4 points by jph (2652) 1 year ago

You are confused about entitlement and austerity,. it is the 1% that feel entitled to use austerity to take more for themselves.

When our economy is constantly and continuously shifting wealth from the many to the few, it has ceased to be useful to society,. it has become a tool of the greedy 0.01% used to take, take, take.

See this thread; http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-most-important-question-not-being-asked-what-i/

"The economy its there to serve the fundamental needs of society, which include prosperity, stability, and contentment."

[-] -3 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

Their is no austerity. Spending continues to rise.

[-] 2 points by jph (2652) 1 year ago

Spending on WARS and the POLICE STATE,. as well as corporate welfare, and bankster bailouts,. all "spending" is not created equal! The majority of people are experiencing austerity now, as cuts to programs and services are ramping up, taxes rise on the majority, and get lower for the super greedy, at the same time as the programs of social uplift are dwindling. Most of the rising spending goes right to the bankster 1% as interest on "debt" that should never have been taken to begin with,. we can have debt free money, if we want it!

But you know this, and are just talking sht right?

[-] -3 points by ChoicesMatter2 (-42) 1 year ago

There is no asterity. Programs are being crowded out by Medicaid and benefits. Medicaid now eats over 20% of the average state's budget. Obamacare sticking just promises this will head a lot higher.

Benefits for employees also continue to ramp. Stockton California now pays over $150k fully loaded for a fireman and San Jose pays over $140k per city employee. So services are being shorted so nut job things like Chicago sending three employees out on truck with one of them forbidden by union rules from doing anything but driving can continue. Chicago teachers are also threatening a strike if they can't get a 30% raise. That means lay offs and worse schools. Even Rahm Emanual knows better and think about what that says. I don't see war spending as a big line item for any of the states or cities.

There is no austerity, just waste, mismanagement and corruption.