On the Occupy Wall Street Protests...
For several years now I have commented on the unhealthy state of our economic (& political) systems. However, I have not rested on the assumption that 'naming' what is unhealthy is enough. During the last several years I have immersed myself into exploring what can be possible positive options for us to extend into, individually and collectively. This includes very practical ways as well as in our attitudes, beliefs and general consciousness.
I heart-fully agree that we have some major and fundamental flaws in our current economic system. I also am a big advocate of bringing more awareness to these flaws and the consequent inequalities that it contributes to on a global basis. I personally consider that we need to have some major overhauls to our financial and global trade system and agreements.
However, I am not a supporter of simply saying 'down with Wall Street, the big Banks and the Politicians' and essentially complaining about the banking system and big business as if it is some entity in its own right. I don't see this as being helpful for constructive changes. Instead, lets be agents of change and support the transformation of these organisations into healthier action.
Protesting can have its place to bring about awareness – yes I do agree with this. But I do not see it as a helpful end in itself – in fact taken to extremes I see it being more destructive than helpful. Trying to build healthy oriented institutions in the midst of civil unrest is much harder than making constructive changes while communications and basic systems are in place. (I have personal experience of this having worked now in Nepal the last ten years, amidst civil unrest and currently still unresolved political systems) I am not saying to not protest – simply, please, be aware of the bigger picture and what is contributing, or not, to it. Personally, I consider many other ways as being a lot more effective and constructive. To continue the constructive point of view I make these suggestions:
Where and how we put and use our own money DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
1. We have power with how we choose to spend and use our own funds – choose to have your banking in ethical & sustainable banking that is community responsible. For example, I have my banking with Triodos bank (www.triodos.com) and GLS bank (www.gls.de) and am currently changing over my Australian funds to Mecu Bank (www.bankmecu.com.au). There are many more healthily oriented sustainable banks and savings & credit cooperatives around the world – for more healthy banking options here is a list below, although there are many more that I have not listed here, at least this can be a starting point:
1. Triodos Bank, Zeist, The Netherlands (also based in the UK, Belgium, Germany and Spain)
2. Co-operative Bank, United Kingdom
3. Reliance Bank, United Kingdom
4. ShoreBank, USA
5. RSF Social Finance, San Francisco and New York, USA
6. Cultura Bank, Norway
7. GLS bank, Germany
8. EthikBank, Germany
9. MagNet Community Bank, Hungary
10. JAK members bank, Sweden, interest-free bank
11. Citizens Bank, Canada
12. Crédit coopératif and NEF, France
13. The Alternative Bank Schweiz, Switzerland
14. Banca Etica, Italy
15. Umweltbank, Germany
16. BankMecu, Australia
2. The big corporations exist because we have supported them to exist. They do not exist because a small percentage simply created them – we have all contributed and are still contributing! Another way to make a difference is to look at your consumption – what do you buy, and do you choose to buy 'cheap' from the bigger corporations? It can help the whole system to be more conscious of what and where you buy – if there is not demand, there will not be supply. Additionally, we can be constructive as consumers in their transformation into more responsible product and service providers.
This short animated video gives a great insight to 'stuff' we buy and the consequences:
3. There are different business models that are newly in existence that can address some of the inherent problems of the current capitalistic orientation. Check out the 'Social Business' model advocated and implemented by Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace prize winner 2006). This model can bring about some healthy and constructive changes, especially to essential services that deal with our basic survival needs. I am actively involved in social businesses, both investing in and initiating them. As I believe this can support healthy infrastructure of both energy, financial and service flows in communities.
We can each be agents of change by talking about, advocating and initiating these ideas – in our workplaces, over coffee in staff-rooms, integrating additional material into our classes (for teachers/professors).
4. We vote for our politicians and they make the policies that affect our economic situation – we can make different choices and consequently demand more transparency in our political leaders. In world affairs of trade, food availability is affected strongly by the bigger global political players – especially from our 'A' class countries, giving us the luxury of full supermarkets containing a wide variety of choice, yet leaving developing countries in states of famine or high inflation making essential food costs exorbitant.
In general, if we consider the basic premise that we are all interrelated, every human being, animal, plant – entire environment – then it can be much easier to consider a bigger picture that can be fundamentally healthier and compassionate. I will write more on this soon!
For now, I wish you well in exploring healthier banking and business systems,
With love, Kira