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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Joan Melé - Money and Consciousness

I have just watched a marvellous video of Joan Melé, the subdirector of Triodos Bank, an Ethical Bank (YES they exist!) talking in Castellaño about Money and Consciousness.

Joan Melé giving his talk "Dinero y Consciencia"

He begins by saying that it is impossible to come out of this present crisis if we are only going to think about coming out of the crisis. We need a change of paradigm, we need to see that the earth is not just in a crisis, such as climate change, but is in a far far worse state, the world is sick. And we, living together on it, are too.

Joan Melé explains the difference between mechanic and organic systems. He says mechanic systems are a sum of its parts. However organic systems, which we undoubtedly are, are a reflection of the whole. Each cell affects the whole and each cell needs the whole for its existence.

Cancer is a rapid growth of cells, explains Joan (on first name terms now), that have no concept of the whole, that grow at the expense of the other cells around them, and eventually kill the system itself. He then, cleverly, explains how money is working in a cancerous way as someone pays millions for a Picasso painting, with the plans to spend billions on the extension of Camp Nou or how millions are spent on a formula one car or thousands on a piece of jewellery...open the newspapers for more examples…my brain has gone dry.

And then listen to this loveliness! The heart governs the blood flow, that flows through every single cell in our bodies. It goes through a small conical pouch that projects from each atruim of the heart called an “auricle”.  The word stems from "auris", as in "ear"…the heart listens to the body, to the information coming back through the blood and redistributes the blood that goes through every single cell, and prioritises. If you are studying it goes to the head, which I hope is where your blood is now reading this, if you are eating it goes to the stomach, if you are running up the road mine attempts to get into my legs and sprints into to my face cheeks…The heart (with help from the brain) has the global vision of the body and distributes the oxygenated blood, which is life, in function of the necessities. It is not mechanical, pumping uniformly, but listens, responds, modifies.  Banks, in Joan´s idea, should have the mission of circulating the money, the economic blood of our communities, like a heart.  They should connect those who have ideas and are without money, to those with money and without ideas, sending life to where it is needed in each of the cells of the whole. It is the original idea of banking in his opinion. But we don’t seem to allow that. We go for making money from money. But I´m not going to get into that. We all have our opinions about speculating.

The world is sick. The world has cancer. We are all cells in the whole. Are we healthy cells? Erm…what an embarrassing question. But we must answer it.

My dense knowledge of Biology may be summed up in one word…none. But I am trying to think how a body naturally deals with cancer, and anyone who knows, please, I would appreciate, stroke need, your opinion. But logically, there must be an area where there are cells having a ball, multiplying like crazy, celebrating the cell stock market highs, frenzies of cocktail party growth, while around them there must be cells who are still healthy, who are so tempted to get into all that action and multiply, but don´t. Why? How? There must be a wall of healthy cells that are strong enough inside “themselves” to maintain their vision of the whole.

I know, I know, it is just not scientific at all, but how else can it be?

Joan says that we cannot let decisions be made any more by others. He cried a little on the inside with the election based on the hope that Obama is going to save us. We have to save ourselves. Kant said a similar thing, we have to take the responsibility off external authorities and internalise it. We have to raise our consciousness so that we can learn to make decisions.

Are we strong enough to stand up in a sick world, and maintain our principles? Can we be strong healthy cells besides those who are having a good time multiplying endlessly in self glory. Can we be healthy enough with the hope that the present craziness will not spread to every single cell? As we see our environment amusing itself to death, are we strong enough to act differently to our surroundings?  Can we maintain internal strength springing from the sense of life, without falling into the temptation of easy wins at the expense of someone else who we don’t even know (another cell)?  It is so easy just to buy the cheapest, to buy fruit out of season without thinking about the implications, to put our money into high interest rate accounts (did you know 95% of money´s movement (the blood) is pure speculation that doesn´t create wealth?). I guess it´s time that we begin to be aware of what we do everyday.

The questions Joan poses are:

How do we consume? What are the effects of our purchases? Who has made them, how have they been treated, how has the production affected the world?  Has transport and its pollution really been necessary?
Why do we consume? The psychological biggie which needs more than just a ten day silent retreat.
How do we save? And where is that saved money going to? Joan explains his experience of the irony of ironies: Often NGOs are fighting on one side for peace while putting their money in banks who invest in arms.  That more than $1.5 trillion spent on the military worldwide (according to SIPRI figures for 2009) is a very tempting market and has great interest.  And if not war, big companies often squash out the smaller in the "survival of the fittest".  Are your principles and your saving in harmony?
Joan remarks quite simply that money doesn’t just make money, as much as we may try to fool ourselves. Anyone who puts their mind to it will see it is impossible…someone, somewhere loses. Cancer´s temptation has spread.

He too is for the idea that we are human and beings. We have a higher and a lower self. Fear, not exactly of the present but of the present´s future, is making us behave like animals. And as much as we may be told we are animals (it is a great excuse for all kinds of behaviour) Joan persuades us we are not. An animal, such as a lion, is uniform. They all act the same way. Humans do not. But we are competing and living like animals in an absurd survival of the fittest, pissing on the less adapted to survive. Even the survivors aren´t happy. The education system is uniform, offices around the world are impossible to place outside ubiquitous land, we are bashing ourselves into uniformism, else people wouldn´t be so grossed out by my hairy legs. We are not promoting difference (please no-one else grow the hairs out for so long - it is a failed experiment).  We don´t allow ourselves liberty or creativity, which is what gives us our sense of being. We are selling cheap our sense of being a higher entity rather than a mere human animal, just for credit card points.

Ken Robinson on http://www.ted.com/ says Schools Kill Creativity

Ken Robinson, with his fine name, said in his TED talk that someone said: If all insects were to disappear from this planet, within 50 years all life on earth would end.  If human beings were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish. Are we really so cancerous?

With freedom and creativity comes responsibility. We are in a moment of time of the greatest richness in history, it is simply that our heart is not working correctly, we are not distributing the riches to all of the cells. We all know there are people starving while we tuck into our three meals a day.

But, I shout, what can I do? Well, we can stay healthy, and not fall into temptations of the easy something for nothing living. It is not easy to stand erect (so I´m told) when everyone around is laying in hammocks and saying what can I do?

Joan put a good spin on meditation…he says in modern life we are anorexic of internal life. That we need to create space in our lives for silence, to reconnect with ourselves and nature of life. He recaps each night the day he has led, and tries to think of all that he has done, both well and that which was a mistake. He´s not into flagellation, he isn´t out to judge, instead to become aware so that the next day he can try and be better, which he says we will almost certainly fail at! But Rome was not built in one day, a coach potato does not become a marathon runner in one day...

Being on our own in our own silence is not easy. It like being in a big sports hall alone with no where to run. It is a contact with nothingness as the rug is pulled from under our idea of our own existence…but it also starts to bring into focus an idea of the greater picture, of who we are, of where we are, of the importance our relationships with ourselves, with others, and that which what we jointly create (which we each call as we will).
We need to raise our consciousnesses of the whole, and really what a wonderful job. At first so scary, seeing our nothingness, our fragility, our shadows…but if we are strong enough to withstand the real image of ourselves, we can also begin to see beauty too. For there is no light without a shadow and vice versa.

We cannot change the world or politics and really we have absolutely no right to tell people to change, says Joan. We can only change ourselves, and this in itself influences others.  Can we be honest with ourselves and break through the fantasy mirror of our self image, to see how we act? To realise the consequences of our own actions?

Joan, having been a Director of a bank for 30 years, says that most people at the end of the month, now that money is electronic, have no idea how much they have spent nor what they have spent their money on. The credit card monthly slip is always a surprise. I unfortunately belong to this group. I have no idea.

As well as our money, we must be fairly oblivious to our actions and their consequences - they are even more invisible than our shopping…if only we would take some time each day to consider ourselves (latin: con sidus – to be with the constellations) to become aware of what we are doing, how we are acting and the consequences of us simply being. From realising the pollution going into buying a cherry out of season, to sensing the consequences of our words on others, understanding the impact of our work to comprehending our no action...we can become more aware.  We can make ourselves into healthy cells just by sitting down and considering ourselves, by taking responsibility for our actions, and not falling into the tempting trap of thinking that the more we have, and the easier it is, the happier we will be.

And that was based on the first 30 minutes, Joan spoke for an hour an a half. 

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