P296: Pay Attention

Don’t pay money, pay attention.
“None are more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
I realized this morning that I really prefer living as I am right now than living with my past measures of success and progress. I remember a time when I would daydream and make lists about doubling my income, paying off all debts, building a home, traveling to Europe and maybe even having some make-over surgery to look younger. It is the stuff of daydreaming and it is fed by what is held up as the ideal American way of life. (More and more I cringe at the ubiquitous use of American to mean United States – with complete disregard for the other North Americans of Canada and Mexico and utter invisibility of South and Central Americas. Gah) I digress . . .

Let me be clear that I believe my wish lists above were not intrinsically bad. I know for a fact I have missed out in my own development by never traveling abroad. Reading novels only takes one to far off places and cultures in the imagination and it isn’t the same. Hey, but the debts are gone via a bankruptcy almost two decades ago and living without credit cards ever since. I also bought a home and sold it during the housing bubble. I am down to one last bit owed on student loans (currently in forbearance until I hit my retirement Jan. 2010). The home building is not something I would do in the same way I’d imagined years ago and the cosmetic surgery idea is stupid. Okay, that last one is bad, wrong-headed and just plain vanity.

What about doubling my income? The more I learn about money, the less I care about it. One of the very first videos I placed on make-a-(green)plan is Money As Debt posted about a year ago. It is still the best 45 min. tutorial I could recommend for anyone who is confused with the bank bailout just foisted on the US taxpayers. I just don’t want to play (or pay). I essentially want to take my ball and go home.

Did you know the Wizard of Oz is a story of money?

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Chicago, 1900) is a parable about Money Reform and the 1890s Midwestern political movement led by William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925); three times candidate for President of the United States. From 1891-1895 Bryan served in the House of Representatives, where he advocated the coinage of silver at a fixed ratio with gold, in order to break the bankers' monopoly and manipulation of the gold-backed currency. [snip]

L. Frank Baum was editor of a South Dakota newspaper and he wrote the first of his Oz series on Bryan’s second attempt in 1900.

Oz is short for ounce, the measure for gold and silver.

Dorothy, hailing from Kansas, represents the commoner.

The Tin Woodsman is the industrial worker, rusted as solid as the factories shut down in the 1893 depression. The Scarecrow is the farmer who apparently doesn’t have the wit to understand his situation or his political interests. The Cowardly Lion is Bryan himself; who had a loud roar but little political power.

The Good Witches represent the magical potential of the people of the North and the South.

After vanquishing the Wicked Witch of the East (the Eastern bankers) Dorothy frees The Munchkins (the little people). With the witch's silver slippers (the silver standard), Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road (the gold standard) to the Emerald City (Washington), where they meet the Wizard (the President), who appears powerful, but is ultimately revealed as an illusion; the real Wizard being just a little man who pulls levers behind a curtain.

This can be interpreted in two ways: Either, the President himself is really just a little man who pulls levers to sustain an illusion of power, or, the real power of the President rests with the little men behind the curtains who pull the levers and create the illusion.

When the real Wizard is exposed, the now enlightened Scarecrow denounces him. Dorothy drowns the Wicked Witch of the West (the West Coast elite); the water being an allegory for the Midwest drought. The real Wizard flies away in a hot-air balloon, the Scarecrow is left to govern the Emerald City, the Tin Woodsman rules the West, and the Cowardly Lion returns to the forest where he becomes King of the Beasts after vanquishing a giant spider which was devouring the animals in the forest. Dorothy's silver slippers were changed to ruby in the 1939 film.

I included this here because I don't believe it is common knowledge that money is the basis for the story. Yet I don’t want to devote a post to this allegory of what was. I am far more interested in what is going to happen in my life. The reality is still with us that money is no longer attached to value (as with gold or silver coinage). Money is now based on debt and demands perpetual debt and unending growth. This translates into destruction of the planet and slavery of the world’s people. The video on Money as Debt gives guidance to the alternatives to this money economy. I am focused on my own person freedom from debt bondage.

“Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal, that there is no human relation between master and slave.”
Leo Tolstoy

Don’t pay money, pay attention.

There are so many items in our daily lives that can be eliminated. This last year has been so revealing for me to eliminate things to experience what it means. The vast majority of these items eliminated are not really important. I do have to pay attention. I have to be conscious of my laundry, in order to have clean clothes and cloths (for the kitchen, bathroom and general cleaning) because I don’t use paper products. My attention to food supply and food spoilage has been honed without the use of my refrigerator. Notice, I am not saying I need to do a whole lot more than I ever did before. I just need to pay attention, be on top of things and generally more aware.

Again, my caveat is that I am not working outside my home or raising children or living with any other people or pets. My health is good and I live in a mild climate. These two sentences place me in a favored position. Oh yes, and I am white with an education and a small savings account. This is privilege in the United States and not to be taken lightly. Nothing in my life would be as easy without these 3 magically keys – white and educated with savings. My savings are meager, but a buffer and leverage nonetheless.

Since I live in a money economy based on the demand that we all be in perpetual debt, there are many obstacles to living in a sustainable manner. Anyone who blames herself or himself on failing to live sustainably needs to be reminded of this. Only the smallest of incentives have been promoted by the powers that be. Not one government leader in any elected office is talking about consuming less, buying less, or sacrifice. The multinationals have effectively blocked any nationwide switch to fossil fuel alternatives in transportation, energy generation or cradle to cradle manufacturing. Agribusiness has created countless obstacles for a population wanting local, healthy whole food. That same world along with the restaurant industry makes waste a given.
Because of this we have to pay attention and grab opportunities, tips and risks with changing this system. We have to direct our attention to every trip we take and assess its importance or urgency. I have to remember to keep my shopping bag with me and trot my scraps out to the compost or the wormery. I can’t sleep walk through my days as I could before. To save pennies, to save a few kilowatts or a couple of trees I have to pay attention.

When I lived as a corporate drone working 60-80 hour weeks my pay never really compensated me for what I lost. I paid in quality time and my best years lost forever. And that is without even turning my attention to the millions of lives engaged in providing the developed nations the foodstuffs, tech toys, garments, trinkets and packaging to be used for a moment and tossed into a landfill. The system is broken all over the world.

Top Photo credit: Dogbone
Wizard of Oz graphic
Perspective photo

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