It is said that our children and grandchildren will be paying out these bailout and stimulus debts, but they could also simply be declared into non-existence. They are only as real as the story we agree on that contains them. Our grandchildren will pay them only if the story, the system of meanings, that defines those debts still exists. ‘ (Sacred economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition’, Charles Eisenstein)
(From # 4 [4 January 2013]
I watched as the Jesus Army paper plane caught a breeze and landed…right in front of the offices of Northern Rock, just behind me. This took my breath away. We were in the process of negociating a ‘short sale’ of our family home with them (where your property is in negative equity and the sale will mean you owe the mortgage company money afterwards, in our case £30k). It had been a hellish year financially, the pinnacle of which had been realizing that we had to either short sell or walk away from our house – our absolute (but illusory) symbol of security – and had ended up in a repossession proceeding that summer. We were later able to short sale it rather than have it go to auction, limiting the total debt owed, but the dealings with NR to enable this to happen had been katfka-esque to say the least.
However, I had at that point started to feel relief at the prospect of NOT being the joint owner of an asset mainly owned by a bank which itself was in meltdown and moved through the terror and shame of losing something that had been bought partly with money gifted to me through my mother’s inheritance.The turning point had been sitting in the county court and having what amounted to a philosophical conversation with the judge and the NR lawyer -who were really quite helpful and just human beings in fact – about why 85% of people don’t turn up for repossession hearings when in most cases they could be helped to find solutions to staying in their homes. Shame was brought up as the main reason. I could understand this and something in me began to get both detached and interested in the subject. The notion of failure attached to not being able to afford the roof over our heads and this being public was one we had been painfully immersed in. Somehow we had moved through this and realized that we weren’t our house, or our broken credit rating, and that the most liberating thing would be to get rid of both. And that it was all a kind of absurd game, a story, the plotline of which we had to start to rewrite.
So, emboldened by my previous encounters, I was ready to go and have some kind of playful discussion in the Northern Rock offices right there when I noticed they were closed as it was the weekend. Shame. So I wrote them a letter, thanking them for the opportunity they had given me to liberate myself from my deep fear of debt, authority and institutional norms around finance and to move onto new horizons. For good measure, I enclosed 20p, as a symbolic gift in recognition of the financial contract with them that we had broken, and because I wanted to keep the gift going. I finished the letter with ‘Our contract with you will soon be at an end’ .Which isn’t technically true, as we are still paying them a small amount towards the shortfall owed, which, like most debts these days owed by millions, based on notional number trails on a computer, will never fully be repaid….