Debt is immoral

debt dollars enless circle immoral

Introduction from David Graeber’s book ‘Debt: The First 5000 Years‘ published in 2011. You can download the book for free here.

I worked on World Bank and IMF issues for the Australian Government 1989-1992. I did what I could to promote the undeniable logic of debt forgiveness. David overstates the achievements of the Occupy Movement in forcing the IMF’s hand; that process had began much earlier. But his book and his Introduction are still worth reading. Here’s his Introduction:

TWO YEARS AGO, by a series of strange coincidences, I found myself attending a garden party at Westminster Abbey. I was a bit uncomfortable. It’s not that other guests weren’t pleasant and amicable, and Father Graeme, who had organized the party, was nothing if not a gracious and charming host. But I felt more than a little out of place. At one point, Father Graeme intervened, saying that there was someone by a nearby fountain whom I would certainly want to meet. She turned out to be a trim, well-appointed young woman who, he explained, was an attorney — “but more of the activist kind. She works for a foundation that provides legal support for anti-poverty groups in London. You’ll probably have a lot to talk about.”

We chatted. She told me about her job. I told her I had been involved for many years with the global justice movement — “antiglobalization movement,” as it was usually called in the media. She was curious: she’d of course read a lot about Seattle, Genoa, the tear gas and street battles, but . . . well, had we really accomplished anything by all of that?

“Actually,” I said, “I think it’s kind of amazing how much we did manage to accomplish in those first couple of years.”

“For example?”

“Well, for example, we managed to almost completely destroy the IMF.”

As it happened, she didn’t actually know what the IMF was, so I offered that the International Monetary Fund basically acted as the world’s debt enforcers — “You might say, the high-finance equivalent of the guys who come to break your legs.” I launched into historical background, explaining how, during the ’70s oil crisis, OPEC countries ended up pouring so much of their newfound riches into Western banks that the banks couldn’t figure out where to invest the money; how Citibank and Chase therefore began sending agents around the world trying to convince Third World dictators and politicians to take out loans (at the time, this was called “go-go banking”); how they started out at extremely low rates of interest that almost immediately skyrocketed to 20 percent or so due to tight U.S. money policies in the early ’80s; how, during the ’80s and ’90s, this led to the Third World debt crisis; how the IMF then stepped in to insist that, in order to obtain refinancing, poor countries would be obliged to abandon price supports on basic foodstuffs, or even policies of keeping strategic food reserves, and abandon free health care and free education; how all of this had led to the collapse of all the most basic supports for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. I spoke of poverty, of the looting of public resources, the collapse of societies, endemic violence, malnutrition, hopelessness, and broken lives.

“But what was your position?” the lawyer asked.

“About the IMF? We wanted to abolish it.”

“No, I mean, about the Third World debt.”

“Oh, we wanted to abolish that too. The immediate demand was to stop the IMF from imposing structural adjustment policies, which were doing all the direct damage, but we managed to accomplish that surprisingly quickly. The more long-term aim was debt amnesty. Something along the lines of the biblical Jubilee. As far as we were concerned,” I told her, “thirty years of money flowing from the poorest countries to the richest was quite enough.”

“But,” she objected, as if this were self-evident, “they’d borrowed the money! Surely one has to pay one’s debts.”

It was at this point that I realized this was going to be a very different sort of conversation than I had originally anticipated.

Where to start? I could have begun by explaining how these loans had originally been taken out by unelected dictators who placed most of it directly in their Swiss bank accounts, and ask her to contemplate the justice of insisting that the lenders be repaid, not by the dictator, or even by his cronies, but by literally taking food from the mouths of hungry children. Or to think about how many of these poor countries had actually already paid back what they’d borrowed three or four times now, but that through the miracle of compound interest, it still hadn’t made a significant dent in the principal. I could also observe that there was a difference between refinancing loans, and demanding that in order to obtain refinancing, countries have to follow some orthodox free-market economic policy designed in Washington or Zurich that their citizens had never agreed to and never would, and that it was a bit dishonest to insist that countries adopt democratic constitutions and then also insist that, whoever gets elected, they have no control over their country’s policies anyway. Or that the economic policies imposed by the IMF didn’t even work. But there was a more basic problem: the very assumption that debts have to be repaid.

Actually, the remarkable thing about the statement “one has to pay one’s debts” is that even according to standard economic theory, it isn’t true. A lender is supposed to accept a certain degree of risk. If all loans, no matter how idiotic, were still retrievable — if there were no bankruptcy laws, for instance — the results would be disastrous. What reason would lenders have not to make a stupid loan?

“Well, I know that sounds like common sense,” I said, “but the funny thing is, economically, that’s not how loans are actually supposed to work. Financial institutions are supposed to be ways of directing resources toward profitable investments. If a bank were guaranteed to get its money back, plus interest, no matter what it did, the whole system wouldn’t work. Say I were to walk into the nearest branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland and say ‘You know, I just got a really great tip on the horses. Think you could lend me a couple million quid?’ Obviously they’d just laugh at me. But that’s just because they know if my horse didn’t come in, there’d be no way for them to get the money back. But, imagine there was some law that said they were guaranteed to get their money back no matter what happens, even if that meant, I don’t know, selling my daughter into slavery or harvesting my organs or something. Well, in that case, why not? Why bother waiting for someone to walk in who has a viable plan to set up a laundromat or some such? Basically, that’s the situation the IMF created on a global level — which is how you could have all those banks willing to fork over billions of dollars to a bunch of obvious crooks in the first place.”

I didn’t get quite that far, because at about that point a drunken financier appeared, having noticed that we were talking about money, and began telling funny stories about moral hazard — which somehow, before too long, had morphed into a long and not particularly engrossing account of one of his sexual conquests. I drifted off.


Iranian Hangings

The Great War for Civilisation The Conquest of the Middle East


Even before the war had ended, Iran’s prison population was re-interrogated and divided into those who still recognised the resistance to the Islamic Republic and those who had repented—the tavvab—and between those who prayed and those who refused to pray. At some point, Khomeini ordered that political prisoners should be liquidated en masse. Although this order was kept secret, we know that Ayatollah Montazeri protested vehemently against the massacres, an act that ensured his dismissal as the future Imam. “. . . As to your order to execute the hypocrites in prison,” Montazeri wrote in a private letter to Khomeini, “the nation is prepared to accept the execution if those arrested [are] in relation to recent events [i.e. the Iraqi-backed Mujahedin invasion] . . . But the execution of those already in prison . . . would be interpreted as vindictiveness and revenge.”

In some prisons, inmates were lined up on opposite sides of a corridor, one line to be returned to their cells after “repenting,” the other taken straight to a mass gallows. On 30 July, Revolutionary Guards at Evin began their executions with Mujahid women prisoners. The hangings went on for several days. Male communist prisoners were hanged at the mosque in Evin. “When [they] are taken to the Hosseinieh to be hanged,” an ex-prisoner testified, “some [are] crying, some swearing and all shivering but hiding their shivering. Some smile hopelessly . . . a number of the guards vie with each other to do the hanging so as to score more piety. A few are upset by seeing so many corpses. Some prisoners fight and are savagely beaten. The execution is swift.” The bodies of the hanging men were paraded in front of female prisoners to break their spirit. In Tehran alone, an Iran-based human rights group published the names of 1,345 victims of the “national disaster.”

Exile magazines opposed to the regime would, years later, publish terrifying eyewitness accounts of the prison hangings. Up to 8,000 inmates may have been put to death in the summer of 1988, perhaps 10,000. Secret executions were followed by burials in secret graves. A former female prisoner was to recall how:

One tavvab woman was taken from the block below us to witness the execution of her husband. She had seen the rope on her husband’s neck and another woman who had her chador tied round her neck. She herself was due to be executed but had escaped that fate by being tavvab and surrendering . . . Afterwards she became psychologically unbalanced . . .

Another ex-prisoner wrote of a militant leftist prisoner called Fariba who was taken to a dungeon beneath Dastgerd prison to see her husband. This was Fariba’s description:

What I saw terrified me . . . There in front of me was Massoud, my husband, bent and sickly with eyes that flickered from deep black crypts. I screamed Massoud my darling, and leaped towards him. They held me back . . . A Pasdar warned: “Be silent! You can only look. You can only witness how accounts are settled here—or your place is next to him.” . . . Massoud, hands tied behind his back, noose round his neck, standing on a stool, looked at me with his whole being. A tired look but full of love, full of consciousness, trying to smile. In a weak and exhausted voice he said: “It was so good to see you Fariba!” . . . The voice of the interrogator rose from behind me . . . he said: “If you would be prepared to push the stool away and hang this apostate I will set you free this very second. I promise on my honour!” . . . I looked straight into the interrogator’s eyes and screamed: “Do you have any honour? Fascist! Executioner!” . . . The Pasdars grabbed me. The interrogator pulled out his Colt and shot Massoud. Another Pasdar kicked the stool from under him. Between my distress and my unbelieving eyes Massoud was hanged . . .

There is overwhelming evidence from ex-prisoners that female prisoners who were virgins were raped by their interrogators before execution. Of 1,533 Iranian female prisoners who were hanged or shot in the two decades that followed the 1979 revolution and whose names have been catalogued by a German women’s group—a fraction of the actual number of executed women—163 were twenty-one years old or under, 35 of them pregnant. The youngest was Nafiseh Ashraf Jahani, who was ten years old. Afsaneh Farabi was twelve, three girls were thirteen years old. Akram Islami was seventy. One woman, Aresteh Gholivand, was fifty-six when she was hanged and left six children behind her.

What can one say to the families of these thousands?

PLD Deaf man has no language

notHarmedUsing ASLDeaf

Every year about 50 or 60 healthy New Zealand Deaf children will be diagnosed Persistent Language Delay (PLD). This means they will never acquire language. They are PLD because their Cochlear Implant Program (CIP) has failed.

This true story by New Zealand nurse, Andrea Vause, shows how a PLD person can end up. Andrea learnt NZSL to talk to her Deaf grandson.

Nursing a profoundly Deaf man

It is interesting how life has a way of bringing our experiences together. I have nursed for 30 years and in that time have never worked with a person who is Deaf. Last year, our communicable diseases team received a referral for a middle-aged Deaf man (Mr G) who was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. For obvious reasons I became his case worker and was involved with his care for a year. My personal journey within the Deaf world was continuing and then on a professional level I experienced an insight into how oralism affected the Deaf community.

Mr G presented with weight loss, night sweats, cough and increasing shortness of breath on exertion. His sputum smear was negative but he quickly cultured mycobacterium tuberculosis.

He was born in the north of New Zealand and was the only Deaf child in his family. He attended Kelston School for Deaf Children at a time when the focus was on lip-reading and speech. As a result of that experience, his knowledge of NZSL is limited. He has only some very basic signs, a poor ability to lip read and limited literacy skills. Communication with him included using photos, writing simple words, and gestures. Even with the help of a professional NZSL interpreter, communication was a challenge. This had a significant impact on how his tuberculosis (TB) was managed and resulted in various investigations to exclude the possibility of an underlying carcinoma, which may not have been necessary. Research shows that language, rather than cultural beliefs and practices, are a more significant barrier to accessing health services. (Bowen, S. (2001) Language Barriers in Access to Health Care. Health Canada.)

The different theories around Deaf education–oral vs NZSL–have had a significant impact on the Deaf community. Oralism was the focus for Deaf education for around a century. Many Deaf people successfully learned spoken language but were still relying on lip reading to hear. Therefore they never had an equal relationship with the people they were conversing with. Mr G never learned to speak or lip read. Because of this unequal relationship, he avoids situations where conversation is required.

Taking a social history is important when working with TB clients because close contacts need to be identified and Mantoux-tested and assessed for any possibility of TB or latent TB. Mr G led a very solitary life, spending many hours wandering around the city during the day and going to the local soup kitchen for his breakfast and evening meals. He lived alone in a small central city flat which was sparsely furnished and he had no contact with his family who live in the north of the country. He was not registered with any primary health care provider and was not known to the access nurse who held clinics at the soup kitchen. Fortunately Mr G had a connection with the Deaf community, occasionally calling at Deaf Aotearoa for a coffee. It was through these visits that his illness was detected and he was eventually referred to a respiratory physician and admitted to hospital. Without this contact I am not sure how he would have accessed the necessary treatment.

Over the year I worked with Mr G, we became familiar with each other’s signing styles. We were able to make ourselves understood and developed a trusting relationship. Without my knowledge and link to the Deaf community, this journey to wellness for him may have been very different.

I have learned so much over the last two years and believe that having this little Deaf boy in our family has been a blessing. We have learned to embrace a new culture which we are all now part of, and have seen life from a different perspective. We have learnt to listen with our eyes and use our visual sense more.

Andrea’s full article is available here.

Should Jacinda Ardern swipe right for Kim Jong-un?


New Zealand is a member of Five Eyes. That gives us huge power in the Five Eyes war machine. New Zealand has much more power than any other nation of similar size. Our new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can use that power for good or for evil.

In the past New Zealand was forced by its people to have a nuclear-free policy. But New Zealand didn’t want to rock the Five Eyes boat.

Jacinda now has a chance to help world peace. I hope she knows how much power she has. I hope she seizes the chance. A former NZ female Prime Minister Helen Clark has shown the way forward for our international policy at the United Nations.

I was a bureaucrat in Australia when we had a similar chance. The Australian Labor party has links to arms dealers. Australia could have done much more for peace via international arms control organisations. But Australia decided to embed itself with the Five Eyes war machine and that continues now.

Jacinda has already swiped right on Donald Trump. She’s talked to him on the phone for five minutes. She should talk to Kim Jong-un for fifteen minutes – using an interpreter needs more time.

Why should Jacinda talk to Kim? It would send a powerful signal to the world that NZ is not happy with Donald. Kim has offered to negotiate with Donald. Donald has refused. That’s crazy. But the arms dealers love the idea.

What should Jacinda say to Kim? She should say that NZ wants to see arms reduction talks started again. She should say we want a nuclear-free world. She should say that she will stop hosting arms sales in New Zealand. She should say that her new industry policy will encourage BECA Engineering to stop supporting the arms dealers.

Swipe right Jacinda and remember that good negotiation means separating the personalities from the issues.

Local politics in NZ – How to respond to Conservatives

I live in one of the most conservative electorates in NZ.

Dont-believe everything you think

In the last few weeks whenever I have spoken at a local meeting (community forum, Residents Associations etc) I have made the point that local politics is not democratic because it uses the First Past the Post vote counting system. I also make the point that local politics is indeed political.

Now the conservatives have started to begin their speeches by saying local politics is not political and that they are here to consult you and do as you ask. AND they are not tied to the platform of any political party. Yeah, right.

So here’s how I’m planning to begin my speeches now:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, you’ve just heard a conservative local politician, [name politician], say three things. 1. He/she is not tied to a political party 2. local politics is not political and 3.  local politics shouldn’t be influenced by national parties. I suspect you don’t really believe those things, otherwise you wouldn’t be here to have your say in our local politics.

Unlike [name politician] I am proud to stand up honestly and say, of course local politics is political. And, I’m proud to say that the integrity and ideals of the Green Party, to which I belong, do not change depending on what meeting we’re at. We will always work for the good of the community at local level or at national level. So until [name the politician] stops saying that she/he is not political, I’m afraid I’ll make this little speech each time. Now onto the issues for this meeting …”

Does TVNZ CEO Kevin Kenrick go off half-cocked?

In May 2012 TVNZ got a new CEO Kevin Kenrick. He had been CEO of the Travel House.

In September 2017 he wrote to Deaf Action NZ with a very poor excuse as to why he refused to have a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter on Election Debate broadcasts. Logistics, he said. Here, have some captions, he said.

Here’s what a few Deaf Action people had to say about it. I’ve chosen not to put in the more colourful expressions.

Clearly he does not “respect the status of sign language as an official language of New Zealand” as his actions show he does not. Also he talks about the filming of the debate being too hard to add interpreter because of zoom in etc so I am sure he does not understand how this system could work. Interpreter can be added from other location. Has anyone explained it to him? He probably thinks the interpreter needs to stand next to the debaters like in earthquake announcements. Has this been explained to him?

What a load of crap! It’s pure laziness! Think about it – live feed for sports use multiple cameras with ease! A live debate is no different.

Seems why Hearing people had paid the Tax to cover as TV News and Sports with the voices they hearing can hear it’s not fair for Deaf people had paid the Tax should BE FAIR to put on TV News and Sports etc

Maybe he’s never seen a split screen or boxes on screen for interpreters. Who is this guy?

Here’s the offensive letter from Kevin Kenrick:

I’m aware you’ve been in regular contact with TVNZ about the debates’ accessibility for sign language users and I commend you for coming up with a sign language solution using Facebook.

We’ve considered your request. We’ve advised you that we’re committed to captioning all four of TVNZ’s live debates. We’ve also explained why we’re not incorporating sign language in the live debates.

I was sitting in the studio as the debate went to air. Between the live audience, the debate participants and the operational staff and equipment required to produce the programme, I can tell you first hand there’s a phenomenal amount of work behind the scenes to pull this programme together.

For the record, I’m happy to repeat TVNZ’s position on this matter:

We respect the status of sign language as an official language of New Zealand.

We recognise that around 20,000 New Zealanders use sign language and would prefer to see an interpreter rather than on screen captions. We have focused on captioning as a viable solution to meet the needs of the greatest number of deaf and hearing impaired viewers, which number in the hundreds of thousands.

Unfortunately, for logistical reasons, we are not set up to accommodate an interpreter in our live news presentation so sign language won’t be incorporated into the televised debates. Live TV debates are highly dynamic. There are quick fire exchanges, split second shifts between close-ups and wide shots of the participants and people talk over one another. We are not set up to introduce sign language interpreters into an already complex broadcast environment.

Kind regards


Kevin Kenrick
Chief Executive Officer”



I’m sharing this facebook post by Charlie Ainsworth because it needs to be said again and again.

What is needed is “Succession Planning” ie A SIGN LANGUAGE AND WRITTEN agreement for how and WHEN a hearie will hand over their job to a Deafie. Deaf Boards should insist on it too.

Time for a bit more DEAF PRIDE (and I’m a hearie – LOL)!


Charlie Ainsworth updated his status.

I was notified that a couple of people were upset of my status regarding employed hearing people in deaf settings. I was quite sympathetic about the situation. However, after gathering my thoughts and a few hours, my perpetual anger insides me built up. This was to be my personal notes to prepare myself for any rebuttal. Just in case. But, I’ve determined that this should be out in the open, supposing there are many who received similar reaction as I did.

Let’s be clear about two things here:

1. My anger is not your regular hateful anger. It is a reserved and rightful anger that any member of a minority group holds against the world. My anger is what drives me as a deaf person and it helps me see this privileged thing clearly. It is an angry feeling that deserves to be shouted over the rooftops of the world. An anger that must be heard is different than the anger that is harmful.

2. The status I am referring to is: “#hearingprivilege is having a job that a deaf person should have regardless of how fluent you are in sign language. Some examples: head of a performing arts department at a deaf school, a human resources employee at a deaf school, a teacher who we await their much needed reitrement at a deaf school, an Artistic Director at a dying deaf theatre company, ASL instructors, director of accessibility that focuses on deaf accessibility, and so on.

My status is easily interpreted as a call to replace the employees (nation-wide) with deaf employees. While I strongly believe in a high percentage of deaf employees in a deaf setting, I am not trying to push the hearing employees away. The purpose of the hashtag is to simply point out that you, a hearing employee, are privileged. I have friends who are hearing and works with me and I would consider them as a major contributing figure to the deaf community. However, my status is to remind you that you are actively obstructing the pathway of a deaf person from succeeding in that particular field – regardless of your fluency in sign language or knowledge of the deaf culture.

The statement that often accompany this message is that they have their hand tied for the hearing applicant is much more qualified than any other deaf applicant of the position. If this is wholly true, then my rebuttal would be difficult but we must remember that this is a result of a systematic oppression that has gone on for so long now. We must take accountability and perhaps install a system where we can ensure that the position will eventually go to a deaf person.

Yes, the position fully belongs to a deaf person because:

1. Deaf people have to work so hard to achieve the position you are in. Deaf people struggle to find employment because of their disability. Deaf people struggle to achieve in an academic setting that would serve the degree and education required for such positions. Don’t forget that our choices in schools are rather limited and we constantly find our intelligence being questioned by those institutions. This causes the “but, the hearing applicant is more qualified” excuse to be almost true. Almost.

2. Deaf people have hard time finding a suitable and/or comfortable employment settings. Most of deaf people, myself including, would do anything to avoid working in a full hearing environment because of the painful experience we have. A hearing person often takes the wonderful opportunity to work at a place where the deaf person can communicate in their language intellectually and without interruption.

In addition, the “more-qualified” excuse only further our problems that have became our norm. We are restricting the possibilities and opportunities to create a brand new generation of empowered deaf people and yet more intelligent group. If a hearing person must be selected, then we must see that we have a system that would ensure a future deaf person would receive that job.

In order to understand what you’ve read is to understand what privilege is and that there is no such thing as reverse discrimination. I can sympathize with the difficulty of understanding what exactly a privilege is. I used to be the same – I remember boldly disagreeing with white privilege and sexism publicly. I was fortunate enough to be at Gallaudet University when this conversation took the campus by a storm.

No, you didn’t choose to be a hearing person just as I didn’t choose to be a white person. No, your functioning ears doesn’t automatically make you an audist just as being a man doesn’t automatically enable me to be a sexist. We, however, are greatly privileged in this shitty system. I, as a white straight man, have far more access to education, a livable wage, safety, and respect than women, the LGBTQIA community, and people of color. In response, I am constantly checking my privilege and I participate, passively, in the conversation. This way, I can empower those who are oppressed and help create a better future for them.

Being offended to my status is but a first step for you to check your privilege and to do as I do as a white man. If you must accuse my status as a some kind of reverse discrimination then you have a lot of things to learn. By using reverse discrimination, you are a great part of the problem. The so-called reverse discrimination is only to redress the majority into a false illusion of an oppressed group. You have the slightest idea of what we feel and experience every single day in our lives.

To avoid further interpretations of my status: the reaction I received was very small and rather thought-provoking. This is simply what every hearing person should know.

In conclusion, I ask the deaf people who may have received the similar reaction as I did – don’t be sympathetic. Don’t say they are right. Don’t submit to the “more-qualified” statement as I did today. It is our job to remain steadfast in our positions and maybe, just maybe we will one day see deaf people getting the job position they wholly deserve.

I cannot find a better reference than Captain America’s line in the Civil War comic series:

“When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world— ‘No, you move.'”

Public, sharable