‘When ritual is embedded in a story that people believe, they act accordingly, playing out the roles the story assigns to them and responding to the reality the story establishes’ (Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein)
Searching for material on the connection between sin and debt and drawn once more to using public ritual in my work, with a link to the idea of money as an unreality, and the concept around the story around debt as a dark fairytale ready for the flames of an imaginary hell – I found the perfect book. Margaret Atwood’s “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of wealth’, where she masterfully explores ‘debt as a human construct – thus as an imaginative construct- and how this construct mirrors and magnifies both voracious human desire and ferocious human fear’.
Debt as sin, debt as a figment of our collective imagination, debt as inherent in human patterning, debt as plot, the shadow side and a host of references to the myths through human history that draw apon these threads. Perfect.
A number of other books have been published recently including the brilliant Charles Eisensteins ‘Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition’, which I am just reading now, and before that ‘Debt: The First 5,000 Years’ by David Graeber (of Occupy Wall Street, talking here online). From these there is much to underpin the themes of the project and that at the time in 2011 were being activated in my own life.
And now for the Debtors Anonymous section of the blog, where, by request, and not so anonymously, I get my own story out of the way so we can move onto broader issues but also to show you the emotional footnotes of a page of the Book of Debts that was burned in Liverpool.
Back then, I had gotten into the position of using of credit as an income supplement, not only to support our own unsustainable lifestyle as a growing family in an unaffordable house, but to support others close to me, in particular my own brother. At a crucial moment following our mother’s death he had loaned us money to cover a deferred ‘education’ loan that actually turned out to be a high -interest bank loan+PPI agreement (before Lloyds were called to account and Debt Charities were up and running) and they started to collect – at the rate of £1000 a month. This almost as much money as we were earning at the time but, not knowing our rights we thought we had not choice but to pay it. We were also still living beyond our means -on credit – when my brother arrived for the collection of the debt owed a year earlier than agreed, having rapidly spent up all his inheritance and in need of a place to stay and financial support while he ‘sold’ his flat (which was later repossessed for lack of payments, taking with it a large amount of equity which had constituted his payback and future egg-nest). He then pushed the limits of what we were able to pay back so far that we literally went broke. And I allowed this to happen.
Six months later he moved to France without keeping his agreement to take over the loans I had signed on, (though there were were a few initial attempts..) leaving me/us in legal possession of a number of his debts to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds, including a rather expensive car that he was driving, seriously in arrears on payments and in my name. To cut it short, the compound interest on his debts + our own led to a disastrous spiral of events which ended up stripping us of most of what we owned materially, destroying any access to credit and creating huge amounts of anxiety, shame (doh, I did WHAT?!) intermittent depression and a sense of betrayal, vulnerability and disbelief.
But there is a thin silver lining to every dark threatening cloud.