Can Debt Spark A Revolution?

Via the Nation, David Graeber on rebellion against indebtedness:

The rise of [Occupy Wall Street] allowed us to start seeing the system for what it is: an enormous engine of debt extraction. Debt is how the rich extract wealth from the rest of us, at home and abroad. Internally, it has become a matter of manipulating the country’s legal structure to ensure that more and more people fall deeper and deeper into debt.

Financialization, securitization and militarization are all different aspects of the same process. And the endless multiplication, in cities across America, of gleaming bank offices—
spotless stores selling nothing while armed security guards stand by—is just the most immediate and visceral symbol for what we, as a nation, have become.

As I write, roughly three out of four Americans are in some form of debt, and a whopping one in seven is being pursued by debt collectors. There’s no way to know just what percentage of the average household’s income is now directly expropriated by the financial services industry in the form of interest payments, fees and penalties…[data] suggests it is somewhere between 15 and 20 percent. “Financialization,” then, is not just the manipulation of money. Ultimately, it’s the ability to manipulate state power to extract a portion of other people’s incomes. Wall Street and Washington, in other words, have become one.

Most revolutions, revolts and insurrections in world history have revolved, at least to some degree, around debt, from the uprisings that created the Greek democracies to the American Revolution—or pretty much any other anticolonial revolt. We may be standing on the brink of a similar juncture. Yet history shows it’s notoriously difficult to assemble debtors into a coherent movement; indebtedness is isolating by nature, and the very feelings of anxiety and humiliation it sparks have made it a potent ideological tool.

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  • Tchoutoye

    For a revolution to happen you need to have a substantial part of the military and police force on your side. I don’t see that happening in modern day U.S., especially with weapon systems becoming increasingly automated.

    • BuzzCoastin

      there is another weapon or two at the disposal of the sheeple
      work strikes, civil disobedience & voting
      though it’s not very likely sheeple will bother rebelling at all

      the rest of us could simply drop out of the system
      and even form a federation of our own
      not a government but servicement

      I’ve done step one and am hoping step two comes to fruition before I die

    • BuzzCoastin

      there is another weapon or two at the disposal of the sheeple
      work strikes, civil disobedience & voting
      though it’s not very likely sheeple will bother rebelling at all

      the rest of us could simply drop out of the system
      and even form a federation of our own
      not a government but servicement

      I’ve done step one and am hoping step two comes to fruition before I die

  • todd southern

    Lost causes are still worth fighting for. To give into tyranny just because you lack technology lacks the power of innovation. Revolutionaries seldom had power and might on their side, otherwise it would not have been a revolution. Once an idea takes hold of an oppressed collective psyche then things start to happen.

    Cue Gil Scott-Heron…

  • robertpinkerton

    When I was fifteen, fifty-three years ago, an aunt went up for a real-estate license. Out of curiosity, I read her study materials, and received alienating shocks from them, first over the insecurity of land tenure* and second over the concept of debt and compound interest, often amounting to more than half-again the purchase price. These shocks shaped my life. Simply, they made me a renter rather than (The greater fool of a ) buyer. They further made me endure changes in the shape of my life made by paying only cash or doing without, and never having incurred obligation to pay out even so little as a penny of interest. (To my way of thinking, you can exactly picture paying interest out, by conjuring a mental picture of a banknote in the flame of a cigarette lighter.) I acknowledge without shame that I hate nothing less than the very idea/institution of consumer credit, with an unconditional, cold, hard hatred.

    (* I anticipated the SCOTUS Kelo decision of 2005, in 1959, not on any extravagant claim of “prophecy” or precognition, but rather on a straight reading of the study material for the real-estate license. One does not take the parcel of land outright, but rather leases it from the State; if you think you do not rent “your[?]” land, try not paying real-estate taxes [label-swindlese for that category of rent].)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=742104313 Adam Goodwin

      The laws associated with property and usury are enforceable only when a critical mass of people believe them to have power and act accordingly–i.e. obey like fucking sheeple. That’s the problem with words written down on paper–our schools teach us to cede our decision-making to those words and we stop making decisions that concern our lives. The rub is, though, that it only works _because_ we have the ability to make those decisions at the outset. The ‘law’ uses our own agency against us by convincing us that we _ought_ to obey. The system changes fundamentally when that critical mass of people stop believing that those laws have power. When that happens is anyone’s guess, but I’m guessing it’s getting closer. Confidence is the central banking ponzi scheme is eroding everyday the debt ‘crisis’ continues. Those that realize they have their own agency and act accordingly (in disregard of said property and usury laws) will come out on top, imo.

    • BuzzCoastin

      the scam of home ownership is a hard one to go against
      it has yet to occur to most people that they are being scammed
      it is the cornerstone of the ‘Merkin Dream
      debt, taxes and government control all depend on it

    • BuzzCoastin

      the scam of home ownership is a hard one to go against
      it has yet to occur to most people that they are being scammed
      it is the cornerstone of the ‘Merkin Dream
      debt, taxes and government control all depend on it

  • Roger McDuff

    It depends what you mean by debt. I have a lot, but I own almost nothing. And I don’t give a fuck about my debt, so it’s really not weighing too heavily on me.

  • Roger McDuff

    I’ve thought often, how little money matters. It doesn’t exist, and neither does “property.” America (or other countries) can disappear overnight, and when they do, who’s going to honor the ownership claims of the former government? The one that replaces it? Very unlikely.

    If I “own” my house and my country ceases to exist, so do the rights to my stuff and land, unless I can physically defend it. And if I can physically defend mine and my neighbors’, it’s all mine.