The "No Choice" TOES99 LETS Report
Topics: 1) Travel irritants; 2) TOES99; 3) Jubilee 2000 Chain of Debt; 4) Next year; European LETS Tour: Winston Smith in France and Hans Werner in Germany.
JCT: Je demande le pardon des lecteurs francais qui devront attendre que j'ai le temps de traduire mes rapports en francais.
1) TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS The trip almost started with a catastrophe but God's looking out for us. After getting back from Atlantic City, Pauline reminded me that we were leaving at 3:45p.m. and that was the time I kept in mind from then on. We were being picked up around 2:40 and planning to be at the airport at 3:00. For some reason, Pauline got out of her bath at 2p.m. to check the airline we were using and noticed that the departure time was 3:00, not 3:45. Well, the race was on. Our ride just happened to be there 20 minutes early so we made it to the airplane with 5 minutes to spare. But the trip was that close to catastrophe. I don't know what compelled Pauline to check the tickets at the last minute but it saved our bacon. The next irritant happened at Heathrow in London. We arrived at 6:30 and were hoping to be able to have breakfast with Sabine McNeil and John Courtneidge. But we were put on a fast track to the next terminal and did even go through customs. We were forced to stay in the International area and could not check to see if anyone had arrived either in Terminal 3 where we arrived or Terminal 1 where we left. In the few moments we had before boarding, we got in touch with Sabine to apologize and explain the foul-up. She indicated that she'd call John to explain. Sorry for any inconvenience. I guess that we'll be stuck in the international section on the way back so our meeting with Sabine, John and David Williams will now be impossible. Too bad, it would have been a nice highlight both going and returning. Then at Cologne, the third quasi-catastrophe occurs. British Airways lost my briefcase with all my literature, hand-outs, and exhibits and LETS books. I have nothing on paper to use. I had put both briefcases and my baggage carrier into a large plastic bag at the airport and even added a second bag over it for strength. We reported the loss with the baggage claim number and British Airways hoped to get it delivered by tomorrow from wherever it was missed to Cologne. So when British Airways delivered one of my briefcases but not the other or the carrier, I had to wonder what kind of idiot would open the two bags, take them out of the bag looking for the right owner and then not put them back in. Separating the items would have to make them look for 3 times as hard as looking for the owner of the one bag. Then I remembered that the other bag not only had my local currency examples but also had my wad of over $10,000 Abolitionist Party of Canada currency I was going to use to account for my accommodations while in Europe. They must have seen all the new kinds of money and called in the Treasury boys who still don't know what to make of it. Since I cannot fathom how why they would have split up the contents of the bag, I must conclude that someone has held up the other bag. So here I am with very few of my usual tools and the one I most sorely missed was the LETS Diskette which I could always raise when someone was talking about looking for the solution.
2) TOES CONFERENCE June 17: We missed the opening plenary and the first panel but attended the next two panels and the final plenary of day 1. Registration was simple though we had to complete the same information 4 times. It seems that some of their funding is coming from organizations who all want the original signatures to complete their deal, no photocopies. No problem since it helped cover costs. And the price of the panels was extremely reasonable. It was only 15 marks per day or 25 for both days. A mark is worth 55 cents American and 75 cents Canadian. So the registration was only $20 Canadian dollars, about $15 American. Considering the 1997 and 1998 TOES were each over $200, it really was a pleasant improvement. They really managed to make it affordable. There was a big crowd, mostly German students. It really was quite a turn-out event and the organizers are to be commended for their success. I sought out Peter Waldow, the main organizer, and told him I wanted to have a Local Currency panel in one of the empty rooms on the second day. He said the rooms were being used for media interviews but were free in the afternoon and assigned Forum 1 for a 1p.m. LETS presentation.
Panel 2, 2p.m.-4p.m. Pauline went to Forum 2 for "Beyond labour? Perspectives of the developing countries." It seems she felt the same way I did. After almost two hours of gloom and doom scenarios, me she got up, bemoaned everyone being in despair and asked if they hadn't heard about LETS. Many people had and she told them that this was the revolution they were all waiting for and announced that there would be a panel at 1p.m. the next day on Local Currencies. That's one room covered even though the local currency solution is not on the official agenda. The Russian speaker, Boris Ragarlitzsky, mentioned how Russians barter using "Favours" and companies pay people with the products they make so they can peddle them at the market. Over in Forum III, "Regulating the financial markets," the panellists were Suzanne de Brunhoff (France Professor), Jorg Huffschmid (U. of Bremen), Nicole Bullard (Focus in Thailand), and Kevin Watkins (New Economics Foundation UK). Their opening remarks were basically a litany of the world's ills and calls for alternatives to the dictatorship of financial markets. But they didn't offer any alternatives. I was surprised that Watkins from the New Economic Foundation didn't mention LETS since David Boyle gave LETS major play when NEC organized the 1998 Birmingham TOES. At one point to a call for a solution, I shouted "Use LETS." Oh how I wish I'd have had my LETS diskette to able to raise it up every time I heard a speaker talk about their efforts at looking for a new paradigm. They love using that word. The moderator, Martine Metzger, noted that everyone had explained the problems. "Could anyone suggest an alternative paradigm?" More beating around the bush and when they were over, she again asked "But what alternative paradigm is there?" "Wind down the power of the IMF," said one, "make economic decisions more participatory," said another, etc., but never was there any indication of how it should be done. There was no time for questions at the end so I approached each speaker in turn. I had prepared some quite unusual business cards with my name and web site and collages of newspaper headlines on both sides. One side is the cover of gambling headlines from my Adventures Book, the other, a collage of newspaper headlines from articles about LETS and my Guinness World Record efforts to promote LETS. I asked Suzanne de Brunhoff if she'd ever heard of SELs in France. Though she wasn't familiar with them, she had heard of them so I gave her a card and told her "LETS is your alternative paradigm." Then I asked Kevin Watkins and of course he'd heard of LETS. I asked why he didn't mention it when they asking for a new alternative paradigm. When he couldn't answer, I reminded him that LETS was the paradigm they were looking for. Then I asked Nicole Buttard if she'd ever heard of LETS. She said she had two friends in Thailand who were quite enthusiastic about it and she'd pass along my on to them. Finally, Jorg Huffschmid never heard of local currencies even though there are hundreds of Talent systems all around Germany and probably one Bremen. He didn't want to know about it either. Nothing like a guy with a closed mind telling us to keep ours open to new alternatives. Any Talent systems in Bremen, give him a call and tell him what it's all about.
Panel 3 4:30 - 6:30 Pauline went to Forum 2, Ethos, Utopia and labour ideology. She didn't mention anything of interest so it was probably more defining of the problem. I'm sure she'd have told me if someone had mentioned a solution. I went to Forum 3, Regulation of the world economic system - Democratic alternatives to the neo-liberal world order with panellists Candido Grzbowski (ibase Brazil), Susan George (Author France), Michel Chossudovsky (University of Ottawa!), and Jakob von Uexkull (New Economics Foundation). A fellow Canadian sitting behind me was from Nova Scotia and had heard of the Maritime Hours LETS. Susan George said there were thousands of alternative paradigms. Too bad she didn't mention one or two. She also mentioned the need to handle a new kind of development. Michel Chossudovsky sounded like a Noam Chomsky clone explaining how the financial establishment uses war to their advantage such as in Kosovo. Later I mentioned to him that he should have used Chomsky's words about their "manufacturing consent" for the war by continued focus on this one set of victims. Jakob wanted to get rid of the supremacy of money. He wanted enough for all. "Government can create money for its uses but who will do it for the people?" I quipped "LETS can." The moderator, Peter Wahl, said that the new paradigm was not yet clear. It is to me but there was no chance to a quick quip. Boy I missed my silent diskette. Susan George mentioned how they had been successful in their fight against the MAI Multilateral Agreement on Investment. We have our governments' UN declarations on human and economic rights so why would governments line up to sign MAI which subordinates people and nations to corporations? "We need new concrete ideas." Of course, these rights are fictional in the first place. Governments never mind advocating such rights as long as they don't have to find a way of enforcing them. Yet the courts can protect those rights for people with lawyers. Chossudovsky called elected politicians marionettes for the financial and military establishments and told us to "examine politicians who do the opposite of what's good for their people." A lot of good examining them will do if there's no alternative for the voters to choose from. Examining them won't really help at all. This time I got a chance during the question and comment period. I wasn't sure if I'd get the chance. The two previous speakers both delivered long orations. When it seemed like the second fellow was through, I waved my "Stockport" flyer and was acknowledged by the moderator. As I stood, the previous speaker who had the microphone kept going. So I kept standing and waited and waited. I wasn't going to sit down. As he demanded some kind of solution to the problems, I answered "I've got it right here." Then another guy near him got the mike and complained that the speakers were speaking German too fast and the radio translation was terrible. I interjected "it wasn't that bad." Then another guy near them got the mike and made a 4-5 minute speech. Finally, they passed the mike down to me. As it was coming, I kept quipping "now for some good news." I first mentioned that the whole panel had been a despairing message of gloom and doom. So many large problems need to be handled but with no alternatives being offered, pessimism and despair seem the only logical reactions. But there was no reason for such despair and I read them the Stockport "anti-poverty" LETS local currency headline and explained that if the global currency was so terrible, all we had to do was set up our own local one. I couldn't understand why not one of the panellists had mentioned it. Then I put them on the spot. I said that I doubted they had not heard of LETS and asked if any one of them had not heard of LETS. None spoke up. So they all had or didn't' want to admit they hadn't. They just did not see its larger potential to end their quest for the new financial paradigm. Then I mentioned that I was a LETS engineer and had wanted to put a Local Currency Panel on the agenda but the WEED organizers had refused. But now I had been given time at 1p.m. tomorrow to talk about the solution and invited all to come to a pretty happy show. I got a good round of applause and had broken up the crowd a few times with earlier quips so I hope such a interested reaction is an indication that there'll be some who attend this unplanned and unadvertised event.
July 18 Plenary I found Peter Waldow and asked him if he would announce my LETS presentation during the plenary. He said he would not and told me to put notices up on the walls. So I put up three which simply said: "Tired of discussing the problem? Come discuss the solution: LETS Alternative Currency. Forum 1, 1p.m." I even put one at the front of the plenary forum. Elmar Alvater, Professor of Economics at Free University Berlin, was the only speaker for the plenary. He put me to sleep talking about different problems of the financial system. After he had said "we need a better system of finance," I shouted "Use LETS." He said it was "doing fine without the help of engineers. We can't listen to guys they call plumbers. Local currencies are fine to try out at the local level but they have nothing to do with international finance." I thought it was a terrible insult to engineering, especially coming from an economist but I wasn't going to make a scene over it then. I'd catch him later and report it here. After the plenary, a lady behind me said "Our town has a LETS and it doesn't work." I said "Come to my panel to find out how to make it work right." She said "Sorry, I don't like your attitude." I answered "Good. I don't need someone like you who's going to keep doing it wrong just because you don't like my attitude." Then a Lenin clone with a beard started calling me a religious fanatic. I hadn't mentioned religion at all and I could only answer that LETS was software engineering, not religion, though many of us know of its religious anti-interest background.
Panel 1: 10:30-12:30 Yann Moulier Boutang (France) Ariell Salleh (University of Sydney) Detlev Hartmann (Cologne Network "No Man is Illegal")and Nicola Bullard, Focus on the Global Soughh (Thailand) It was Nicola's second panel and I checked to the agenda to find out that Yann Boutang, Madjiguene Cisse, Boris Ragarlitzsky, Farida Akther, Michel Chossudovsky also had two panels. So they really could have filled out the agenda with me and the US speakers that they had successfully dissuaded from coming. Again, it was a litany of griefs about the world currency system with everyone competing to tell us the statistics of how bad things are and everyone calling for the financial system to be changed. My LETS disk would have been bobbing up and down like a yo-yo. Nicola stressed the on-going efforts at "looking for a solution." I really wanted to shout "You've already got LETS, why are you still looking?" but I didn't think it short enough a quip to not interfere with her next point after he breath. This is the criteria I use for defensible quipping technique during debates. I get a sense for the time available when each speaker breathes and make sure that it gets in before they start talking again. Those who didn't hear it do not have their concentration interrupted and those who do hear it know it didn't interrupt the speaker. Sometimes they turn into wonderful zingers my favorite of which I've described in my Ottawa West Federal Election report. So in this case, she was talking too fast and my "Killer Quip" would not fit in. When it was over and everyone was waiting for the first panel to start, I walked around the front of the auditorium asking "Was he putting down engineers?" One guy answered "He sure did." I pointed out "Plumbers are the guys who put man on the moon. What has an economist ever done that was successful?" and continued passing around cards and then followed him outside where I braced him with my rebuttal." He said "There are hundreds of successful economists." I asked him to name a couple and tell me what they'd been successful at. He mentioned that Karl Marx provided a very good understanding of the workings of the capitalistic system. I had to agree that Marx's analysis of the problem was pretty good though he never offered the correct solution and so answered him that "Marx had his chance, and his system broke down." I said "You say LETS is fine to try on a small local database but can't be done on the global database. Why not?" At this point, he started backing away. He said he hadn't said it couldn't work on a large database, he was saying it couldn't work at all." I said there were thousands of systems around the world that were working. He said the present system was also working. I rebutted "You spent your whole speech telling us how it wasn't working and now you argue that it is?" He responded "You say I'm wrong, I say you're wrong." So I said "I bet you 100 Marks that you can't show any flaw in the LETS system," and he retreated from debate.
LETS Local Currency presentation. 8 people was a disappointing turnout but one could hardly expect many to deviate from the official agenda and attend something that the organizers had frowned upon and not wanted to offer in the first place. I think they missed a good 2-hour show. At one point, some of Pauline's personal LETS anecdotes seemed appropriate and she took over the talk and handled questions while I left to settle other things. When I came back, there were no more questions and everyone seemed interested in getting involved too. A young African paid us the nicest compliment. He said: "I"m really glad I came to this meeting. Now I can say I got something useful out of this conference." Thank you Abdul. I hope you make use of it.
3) JUBILEE 2000 CHAIN OF DEBTS July 19 I decided to use a sign that would focus on the picture of my arrest at the Toronto IMF World Bank conference with the big picture of my sign "Bankers Starve Third-World Babies." Pauline whipped up a two sided picket sign for me with that message on one side and "Abolish Interest on Debt" on the other while I made some photocopies of the 1982 Toronto Star World Bank story and the Citizen Guinness Record story with picture from my web site. Added to a 5 foot stick and carried by a guy in a suit with a white hard hat, it was certainly geared attract attention. It did. While I walked along the chain of debt, many with their "Drop the Debt for the poorest nations" signs, I'd say "What about us? Dropping the interest on the debt solves it for all of us too." As we went along, Pauline, Cologne LETSer Paula Cremer and her friend Nina approached reporters and gave them out the Arrest-Guinness flyer and several came over to take pictures. And lots of other people asked for pictures and I gave every one of them the web site card. My sign got thumbs up all along the route and people loved the bankers starving babies sign, as usual. After all, these are the people protesting debt repayment taking away from social services. We'd expect them to agree. I had one big impromptu score. AS we followed the Chain of Debt to the end of the route, we ended up at the Jubilee 2000 outdoor festival bandstand with a 10 piece band and thousands of people in attendance. Hundreds of people were in the front dancing away. So they were having fun. I heard the German girl Master of Ceremonies interviewing a British guy about the debt problem and decided I'd try to get a few minutes up on stage to talk about the Germany Talent Tauschring LETS. And it worked. I went to security at the back gate and asked for an organizer. He escorted me to a trailer with five or six people sitting about some computers and I mentioned that I wanted to say a few words about LETS and debt. One guy sort of waved that it couldn't be done but a girl looked at the the flyer and took me out to see the Master of Ceremonies. I explained the flyer and said that I had a short 30 second poem I'd like to do. "I'll pay my tax... but not for interest." She saw no problem in fitting it in, we practiced her translating the poem once and then went on stage. I had my picket sign with me. She introduced me and then did a long introduction in German I didn't understand but I'll be able to ask Heinrich Haussmann who was there from Nurnberg LETS. She asked me why I was here and I mentioned it was to speak of LETS Talent Tauschrings at TOES. Then she asked me why I wore the hard hat with "The Engineer." I answered that since I was not a political candidate from a major party, I had to do something different to point out that I'm a very special kind of engineer, a banking systems engineer. I was surprised that that got a round of applause. They hadn't even heard my proposal yet. They must have been happy to learn that an engineer was looking at banking over the economists' shoulders. Then she let me do my speech where we handed the mike back and forth as she translated. I find it effective to deliver two languages in short bursts. "We're here to abolish the debts of the world's poorest nations." "But what about us poor in the rich nations?" "Debts are no problem without interest." "I'll pay the tax for army and police to handle strife;" "I'll pay the tax for doctors, nurses who protect my life;" "I'll pay the tax for all engaged repairing road and sewer;" "I'll pay the tax for social servants helping out the poor;" "I'll even pay the tax for bureaucrats with no regret;" "But I object to paying tax for any interest on debt." People were hooting and hollering and applauding before she even translated the last line into German. There must have been many who spoke English and also followed the rhyme. As I left the stage, I waved my cap and shouted: "Viva LETS Talent Tauschring." Nurnberg LETSer Heinrich Haussmann was in the crowd and came up after to give me one of their LETS flyers and mention he'd been reading about my trip as part of my German mailing list. We talked about a possible trip to Nurnberg since there are many dates in Germany still free.
4) NEXT YEAR So there's another TOES at an end. And it's the second time the Banking Systems Engineer was kept off the agenda monopolized by experts and Phds in Money Mismanagement philosophizing for us. Here are a bunch of egg-head philosophers who know everything there is to know about how bad things are with the system, asking themselves how to cope with a malfunctioning currency system when the better system has not only been staring them in the face, but has already been endorsed by most of them already. They just don't see its significance yet. If they are aware of the success of LETS, as last year's TOES agenda pointed out, why haven't they gone to pick up some software on the Internet and helped people use it? Show them how to use it? They don't even talk about it. Philosophers is all they are. Not an engineer among them. And now the first time, even the topic of LETS local currency has been excluded too. Well, this is the last time LETS is kept off the TOES agenda. And if I have any success, it might even be on the plenary next year if they have two categories on the agenda: A) Discussion of the problems, B) Discussion of solution. From now on, I'll use a new picket sign for these kinds of anti- poverty meetings which will read "Use LETS interest-free software." Or "We already have LETS. Why are you still looking?" It's better than my diskette. It's time for The Engineer to beat up on the Egg-Heads getting in the way of discussion of the solution. I'm not going sit by quietly while they dance around the solution any longer. Next year, they're going to see "Use LETS" every time one of them tells us how important it is to keep looking for the new solution, paradigm, or way. I didn't raise LETS enough this time but I will from now on. I must admit that I am flattered that Pauline and I were the only two delegates to this year's TOES who raised the LETS solution. I think it's quite a distinction and I intend to play upon it during my upcoming European LETS tour.
5) EUROPE TOUR: JCT: In my last post, I mentioned I posted my European itinerary after the TOES conference. Since then, July 9 has been booked in Bordeaux by one of France's most experienced LETSers, Winston Smith. He has done so much for France LETS that meeting him was always one of the priorities on my agenda. I'm also pleased to find out that I'm going to be getting to meet one of Germany's prime LETSers, Hans Werner. Anyone who visits his their sites from my http://turmelpress.com/urlsnat.htm has to appreciate the effort that went into their contributions. So I consider getting to meet these two "parents" of their nations' respective LETSystems a great thrill. I've also had an invitation to visit Finland which would be nice as part of my Nordic LETS tour to Denmark, Sweden, and perhaps Norway. I'd like to make it. Itinerary as of June 22 1999:
1999 EUROPEAN LETS-SEL TOUR ITINERARY
(s) <-- Speaking - Discours (?) <-- Visit probable
JUNE 17-19: (s) Cologne DE: TOES conference 20: (s) Cologne DE:email@example.com Marina Carboga 21: (s) Ahrweiler DE: firstname.lastname@example.org (Paul R. Imbusch) 22: (s) Mainz DE: email@example.com (Erik Murmann) 23: (s) Begijnendijk BE: firstname.lastname@example.org ("Geysen Dirk") 24-26: (s) Paris FR: email@example.com (Valerie Peugeot) 27: FREE-LIBRE (if on route - si en route) 28: (?) Hamburg 29: FREE-LIBRE (if on route - si en route) 30: (s) Bonn DE: SUN.firstname.lastname@example.org Brigitte Gunther
JULY 1: (s) Braunau AT: email@example.com (Gottfried Freudmann) 2: FREE-LIBRE (if on route - si en route) 3-4: (s) Dordogne FR: Archissi24@aol.com (Daniel Delarasse) 5: (s) Ste Foy la Grande FR: MHSautet@aol.com (Marie Helene Sautet) 6: (?) Libourne: firstname.lastname@example.org (Thierry Mattio) 7-8: FREE-LIBRE (France) 9: (s) Bordeaux FR: email@example.com (Winston Smith) 10-11: FREE-LIBRE (France) 12: (?) Thiviers FR 13: FREE-LIBRE (France - Belgium) 14: (s) Antwerp BE: Robrecht.Siera@advalvas.be (Rob Siera) 15: (s) Hamburg DE: firstname.lastname@example.org (Birgit Koch) 16: (?) Nurnberg email@example.com (Heinrich Haussmann) 17: (s) Styria AT: firstname.lastname@example.org (Oswin Soritz)
POSSIBLE: July 18-26: (?) Viborg, DK: email@example.com (Anne en Carsten) (?) Stockholm SE: firstname.lastname@example.org (Maria Lovfors) (?) Skene, SE: email@example.com (Bo Ljungqvist) (?) Vaasa West, FI: firstname.lastname@example.org (Salla Laurilehto) (?) Nurnberg DE: email@example.com (Heinrich Haussmann) (?) Warendorf DE: firstname.lastname@example.org (Hans Joachim Werner)
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