Ego death, debt, money, slavery, ecological footprints


Ego death is the process of losing oneself to find oneself.

The Ego death dismantles everything that is trivial and unimportant in life. Experiencing reality outside of the filter of being human puts things into perspective.

Ego death is the experience of a state of being that is free of the attachments used to form the personal identity filters that interpret your day to day experiences. The experience of Ego loss gives you a glimpse at how significant and/or insignificant these attachments are and how they can affect your life. The actual experience sometimes can be terrifying, but retrospective examination of it can increase your understanding of who you are and what you value in this existence.


So, the crisis in Greece rolls along. I hear today that PayPal no longer works there. But that’s just a smallish thing, a marginal thing, compared with what the people in like Yemen have to cope with, and Gaza, Somalia, and countless other places that never get featured in the Western media.


Taking a bit of an overview, what it’s about, is patches of Europe squabbling over money, and how it should be spread about. Or, rather, absence of money.

No, that’s not correct, is it. The word should be ‘debt’. And debt is not the same thing as ‘an absence of money’. You can be without money, and have everything that you need, and be without any debt, in the sense that you don’t owe anybody any money.


Owing somebody money, being in debt, is quite peculiar.

Among good neighbours, if the woman next door runs out of sugar, whatever, she sends the kid over, to borrow half a cupful until next week. It’s just a natural part of natural human interaction amongst people who need to get along, are possibly related, probably know each other throughout their whole lives.


I guess it works well enough, on a village size, or small town, at the tribal level, and so on, but once things get scaled up, and money gets invented, as a medium of exchange, then some problems arise. Because, there’s always someone who contributes nothing, but is always borrowing. And there’s always someone who never returns the favours.

And once you get past a critical number, then there can be anonymity, individuals who nobody really knows, who are passing through or only very distantly related, never to be seen again.


I’m not certain if it’s correct, but I read somewhere, that the Jews began usury, originally, because they were under a religious obligation to lend to anyone who was in need and asked. But the asker might never return, and the loan then be lost, so a qualification was introduced, to permit an interest charge to be added, so as to cover that risk. Which, on the face of it, might seem fair enough.

However, you then got people who set up as full time moneylenders who made their living from the interest charges, and thus the whole system, which was initially based on a benign charitable injunction, was corrupted into a scourge which has afflicted us all ever since, and become a curse for the jews in particular, because christians and moslems were forbidden from practising usury.


Humans are prone to coveting ‘shiny things’. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new coat, or a new horse, or gold necklace for the missus…

And Kings always crave larger Kingdoms. Which need more castles and soldiers. It all needs money, and if you have not got some, then there is temptation to BORROW, and then, there are the moneylenders, the jews, who are always ready to arrange a deal..


But then they have power over you. Called debt. And nobody likes that. Except the jewish moneylenders, of course, who get rich and powerful that way.

All that went on for centuries, of course, and the problems of all this stuff were already fairly well understood way back in the Bronze Age.

The big prize was to get to be the moneylender for the biggest ruler, and where things really took off was in Italy, Venice, Florence, Rome, when the Medicis and Lombardis and whatnot got control over banking for the Pope, the Holy Roman Empire, which had authority all across Europe, to decide which Kings, Dukes, whoever were legitimate and so forth.


So that was the time of Machiavelli. And as I see it, when everything became totally corrupted. I mean, you could commit whatever crime or sin, and then pay some cash to a priest, and you’d be ‘forgiven’, so the richer you were, the badder you could afford to be.

This was so blatantly in contravention of the spirit of the New Testament and elementary common sense, that eventually Martin Luther came up with his manifesto, and found widespread support, and then you get the alternative of Protestantism, which was not sympathetic to the jews – Luther says somewhere they should all be killed and have their houses burned down – and then the Catholics and Protestants fought and killed each other all across Europe for centuries, and in some places, are still doing it.


One advantage the jews had, was speaking yiddish, gave them a semi-secret language by which to transmit information across Europe, and with all the strife and warfare, the bankers were in great demand, because every local warlord was desperate for funds to hire mercenaries, so as to survive, one way or another.

There’s that wonderful reference somewhere of a church in central Europe, where there’s a plaque on the wall, where the congregation thank their Lord for making them all Protestants. And beside it hangs another, dated a few years later, thanking another Lord for making them all Catholic again. And then a third, reversing the position… and so on…


And of course, on each occasion, countless soldiers died, villages were burned, peasants murdered, women raped, the land laid waste…

It was a feudal soceity. The Lord owned the land, and all upon it, including the human beings. By permission of whoever was above him, a King or Emperor, or the Pope. And provided he had enough armed men to hold onto it, when some rival came along and tried to take it by force.


And then comes capitalism, which replaced feudalism.

If you read what Jesus teaches in the New Testament, and various Apocrypha, and what various saintly folk have had to say, it seems fairly clear, the basic idea is that you should care for everyone. You distribute whatever food, or other goods that there are, amongst everyone, so that all have what they need, nobody is excluded. Sort of fundamental morality, justice and compassion.

But this changed, with Calvin and other folks, in the Protestant ethic, who got the idea that there are the deserving and the undeserving, and if you are very rich and prosperous, then that must be because God must be especially approving of you and what you do.


Which, to my mind, resembles that earlier corruption of the jewish injunction to give to those who are in need, that happened when interest on loans began to be charged.

Because suddenly, in a complete reversal of what Jesus says in the New Testament, you get a sort of ‘greed is good’ ethos. Well, it’s understandable, isn’t it, when all of Europe is being ravaged by insane violence, mercenary armies that are not even loyal any more to any cause or leader, but just roam across the countryside devouring whatever they need to survive, pillaging and looting at will, because no organised force can prevent them.


Plague, famine, terror, it must have seemed that anybody, anywhere, who seemed to be doing alright, must be especially favoured by God, in some way.

There was this very interesting article posted about a week ago.

I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won’t believe the questions I got about slavery.


It’s illustrative of numerous aspects of contemporary US culture, education and attitudes. However, for me, there’s some glaring omission.

If you look back at the feudal societies and that system, somebody has to do the work.

What I mean by that, somebody has to do hard physical muscular labour, every day, for many hours.

Because that is what permits the survival and functioning of the entire system.

There are other, alternative, systems, of course, hunting and gathering, and herding flocks of sheep or goats or cattle or camels or whatever, but we’re talking about historical Europe.


People don’t very much like doing hard physical work for extended periods, unless it is of their own volition, for their own benefit, where they see some clear reward, and enjoy themselves.

The only reason that there is the ‘plantation as museum’, with the guide taking tourists around, and making the stupid remarks, is because of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism, and fossil fuels. Instead of human and animal muscle power to keep everyone fed and clothed, the slaves have been replaced by machines.


The moneylenders discovered many centuries ago, that there was a way by which they could escape from the drudgery of having to spend all day laundering clothes by hand, digging trenches, chopping wood, carrying heavy burdens on their backs.

If you lend out money, and then people have to repay you, with added interest, then you have an income, for doing nothing, other than keeping a record of who owes you how much, and when they are due to make the payments. And of course, you need to retain a few hefty fierce looking fellows to go round and call upon anyone who is slow in making their payments, and seizing some goods in lieu when necessary.


What’s even better, if you are the guy who lends the money to the King, or similar powerful ruler, and you have control of the accounts, the books, the treasury, and understand how money works, and how interest works, and the King doesn’t – and why would he ? Most of them were busy practising bashing other guys off horses with lances and cudgels, or shagging their mistresses, or away travelling around feasting at the expense of their Nobles, some were just children, or mentally deficient – then you can have all the power of running the show, because if you control the MONEY, then you control everything else.


So bankers have known for many centuries, how all this stuff works. How wealth is extracted from the soil, by the labour of men and oxen, harvesting crops, and from the ground, by the labour of miners extracting ore, and imported from abroad, by ships and sailors and merchants who need funds to buy their wares, and so on.

And that the easiest and surest way to be rich and have a long and comfortable life, is not to have to do physical work, and not to be a King, who has to lead armies, and risk being deposed. It’s to handle gold and silver, and sign contracts and loan agreements.

Because, if you have money, then you can make money. That’s the essence of capitalism. Your money does the work, not you.


All of this began in England, three or four hundred years ago, for one reason and another. Russia was still feudal a century ago, some parts of the world still remain pastoral or hunting and gathering.

On a small scale, capitalism may seem quite benign, sort of like slash and burn farming in a forest, if a few people do it, it scarcely noticeable, but scaled up, the forest disappears.


Humans are clever monkeys. In the coffee shoppes of London, some guy notices, they overhear the exuberant boasting about the enormous profits. ‘I could do that too’.

So it soon catches on and spreads. You get people together, they all put in a small amount, it adds up to a big amount, buy a ship, hire a captain, send it to Africa, swap some slaves for glass beads and mirrors, ship them to the Indies, sell them for gold…

Make the Company Limited Liability, so if it all goes wrong, the investors are not ruined, take out insurance, so if it sinks, you get your money back…. and away we go, set up a Stock Exchange to sell the shares to others, for a profit, as a sort of casino… great fun !

Money for nothing, chicks for free… Build an Empire.


Of course, only a tiny percentage of the population benefit from this trick. Most people lose out.


If we go back to the beginning, the christian fraternity thing, good neighbours, where you share what you have and ensure that everyone is taken care of, well, we’ve moved a long way, because capitalism does not care about ‘everyone’.

So, there’s a push back, from all the exploited and dispossessed.

At least, under feudalism, there was some sense of obligation, that the Lord had a duty of care toward that which he owned. I mean, it was basic common sense, that the Lord would look after his possessions, human and other, in his own interests.


But under capitalism, this doesn’t apply. The investors never see what they invest in. They just buy some shares and then receive their dividend in their bank account. So, they do not face the crew on the ship, or the starving people on the plantation, or whatever. The feudal Lord has an interest in keeping his lands in good order, in the hope he can pass them on to his progeny. The capitalist machine has no such incentive. The only incentive is profit, so whatever the resource is, it gets mined, exploited to destruction, until it ceases to exist, and cannot provide any further profit.

The Russian serfs were not free, they belonged to the estate that they lived on. Some were treated better than others, depending on the family that owned the land. I’d hate to give an impression that everything was wonderful, but my impression is that much of it WAS wonderful, their clothes, their religion, their festivals, their culture. They had no education, so they knew no different. If you contrast that with TRUE capitalist slavery, as practised by the British in their colonies in the Indies, where the Africans were worked to death, and lived on average for three years, as an expendable component of a machine.


But I digress…

There was push back, and the various anti slavery and Marxist and left wing movements have been arguing and analysing for a couple of hundred years now.

However, from my perspective, from an ecological perspective, they have been missing the point.

Just as this present struggle in Greece, in Europe, is about how the money gets shared, and the Occupy Movement, in the USA, was about how the money gets shared, this is really all quite irrelevant, when the biosphere is collapsing all around us, and we are facing extinction, as a species.


Economics has never yet been aligned with ecology. All human wealth comes, originally, from nature. Everything.

There’s a good paper about this here

In this presentation I want to advance four propositions that may be controversial:

  • That biodiversity is the planet’s most valuable resource. It is also its most abused and threatened.
  • That the biodiversity collapse we are witnessing today—the greatest mass extinction of species for 65 million years—is the most fundamental aspect of the whole environmental crisis.
  • That most left environmentalists—including Marxist and socialist environmentalists—have failed to adequately recognise or address it.
  • That this represents a serious failing in the overall approach of the left, including the Marxist left, to the environmental crisis.


You know, there are about 50,000 refugees in Greece, detained in rather wretched conditions, and the rest of the European countries are saying ‘Sorry, we can’t help, your problem, we don’t want them. It is not a shared responsibility’.

And most of these people have come from North Africa, from countries that are wrecked and trashed and in turmoil, because NATO, the USA, France, Britain, Italy, Israel, have devastated them, and caused chaos, and now take no responsibility for what they did. Many also come from Syria, Iraq, where Kurds, all kinds of minorities, Christians, Mandeans, Yezidis, etc, get massacred by IS which is backed and supported by the US, UK, Israel, Saudi, Qatar.


People come all the way from sub-Saharan Africa, because it’s not possible to live where they are because of war and chaos created by the USA, and climate change, created by the industrialised countries. Those people, thousands of whom die on their journeys, don’t leave their homes for some frivolous reason, they leave out of desperation, in the hope of prolonging their lives.

And yet, the countries of the north, USA and Europe, persist with the policies that cause this appalling suffering and mayhem.

Well, I know, the actual populations don’t have much say, the politicians are corrupt, the whole set up is a fucking insane travesty… sigh…


But even if it could be set right and made perfect…. we are still fucked…

We are used to hearing that if everyone lived in the same way as North Americans or Australians, we would need four or five planet Earths to sustain us.

This sort of analysis is known as the “ecological footprint” and shows that even the so-called “green” western European nations, with their more progressive approaches to renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transport, would require more than three planets.

How can we live within the means of our planet? When we delve seriously into this question it becomes clear that almost all environmental literature grossly underestimates what is needed for our civilisation to become sustainable.

Only the brave should read on.

The ‘ecological footprint’ analysis


I still think that one should drop out, in so far as that is possible, as a matter of ethics, as a moral statement, as a matter of conscience. Every dollar bill, every pound coin, is dripping with human blood. The Empire, which mints the money, is built on war and killing, and most of those who die are innocent, and never had any choice in the matter. So you either approve, and accept, and collaborate, or else you do whatever you can to distance yourself and resist. Or else, how do you sleep at night ?


These currencies have been weaponised, particularly the dollar, they are tools of warfare.

You know, in India, Pakistan, probably other places where there is bonded labour, poor families of very simple folk in dire straits get exploited by moneylenders who charge exorbitant compound interest, and take a family member as bonded labour as surety. Sometime whole families have to sell themselves into slavery. And then the interest rate is so high, that however much they pay, it never seems to reduce what they owe. Much like what the IMF has done to Greece, which, despite six years of catastrophic economic austerity, is worse off than at the start, whilst the fucking IMF has made billions of dollars of profit, on money which the bankers essentially create out of thin air.


This is one of the great marvels of banking. The creation of money from nothing. As Henry Ford said ‘If the American people ever understood banking, there’d be a revolution the next morning’. Of course, they never will, they are far too dumbed down, and even if it was explained to them in children’s language, they’d deny it.

I mean, such people want to be slaves, and like being in their cages, and when you open the cage door, they sit there, bewildered. They’ve been told all their lives that a good person has to work hard for their money, or else they don’t deserve it, so how can it make sense that other people can make money from nothing at all ?

Finding any sort of viable way forward is tremendously difficult. Impossible, probably.

This is quite interesting.

The transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer has always fascinated me. The ability to plant, cultivate and harvest crops stands alongside the emergence of self-awareness, control of fire, the wheel, and the development of mathematics and written language as one of humanity’s transformational events. We became something different once we began to farm.

I have found something like that taking place in me. For a variety of reasons – partly financial, partly intellectual – I have approached my land with tools that, for the most part, would have been available in 1014: scythes, sickles and mattocks recognisable from paintings and tapestries of 11th-century farms. How long would I last if thrust back by time machine or a collapse of the sort popular in apocalypse porn?

Calling my 35 acres a farm is misleading, though not so misleading as calling myself a farmer, something I never do. My neighbours are real farmers: they make their living through agriculture. Their fields and pastures are large and orderly, cultivated and fertilised, tended by workers and machines. My fields, tended only by me, are disorderly, improvised, often overgrown. Yet without saying so aloud, I have, over the past couple of years, come to think of myself more and more constantly as a farmer; as a sort of farmer anyway. An 11th-century (or so) sort of farmer, actually, although I am well aware of how little I would have in common with the real thing, and how poorly my skills would prepare me to live in that time.

I arrived in the 11th century through circumstances in my life and career. Purchased in the mid-1990s as a weekend and summer home, a getaway, part of the farm’s attraction was the old barn, already half-converted into living quarters. The downstairs had electricity, running water from a good well, a water heater, a tub and a toilet, a septic system. There was a range in the kitchen. The place had a phone line, which meant that we had dial-up internet (virtually the only option at the time). The nearest town, Rocky Mount, with just over 4,000 people, was 15 miles away. On clear nights with the lights turned low, the stars came out nearly as brilliantly as they would have a thousand years before.

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