European LETS Tour Report #6: Belgium & Germany
Topics: 1) Bonn "General Anzeiger article (German); 2) Amsterdam; 3) Antwerp LETS; 4) Hamburg LETS; 5) Nurnberg LETS; 6) Muenster LETS with Zeitung article (German); 7) Translations.
JCT: My presentation is becoming smoother as I go along and I'll publish a recap of the final version in my last reports. The German newspaper articles are not fully translated yet but I'll post the German version now and the translations later. They're almost embarrassingly friendly. JCT: Ma presentation devient de plus en plus clair a mesure que le voyage s'acheve et je publierai la version finale dans mon dernier rapport. Les articles des journaux Allemands ne sont pas tout a fait traduites mais je vais publier les versions allemandes maintenant et les traductions plus tard. Elles sont meme un peu trop flattantes. ---
1) Bonn: General Anzeiger July 3 1999 Die spannenden Abenteuer des Ingenieurs Von Christina Martinstetter
Picture caption: Den Banken und dem Staat hat John Turmel, der derzeit zusammen mit seiner Frau Pauline eine Europareise unternimmt den Kampf angesagt. Foto Max Malsch
BESUCH "Schael-Sick-Tauschring" begrusste einen illustren Gast aus Kanada: John C. Turmel ist der Gruender zahlreicher "Tauschringe" in seinem Heimatland und erzaehlte von seinem wechselvollen Leben
Schwarzrheindorf - "Guerilla-Anwalt", "Blackjack Koenig" oder "Der Welt reichster Armer" sind nur einige der vielen Spitznamen, die John C. "The Engineer" Turmel von den verschiedensten Medien verliehen bekam, Der Kanadier sorgte insbesondere in seinem Heimatland bereits fuer unzaehlige Schlagzeilen. Und immer wieder zeigen Zeitungen und Fernsehen das gleiche Bild: Turmel mit einem weissen Helm, auf dem in grossen Lettern "The Engineer" geschrieben steht, und einer Bibel in der einen sowie einem Streikschild in der anderen Hand, das "Abolish Interest Rates" ("Schafft die Zinsen ab") fordert. Am Mittwoch abend war die schillernde Person zu Gast in Beuel. Den Banken und dem Staat hat der studierte Ingenieur den Kampf angesagt, da diese Institutionen die Menschen durch Zinsen und Steuern in die Verschuldung trieben. Aus diesem Grund ist er auch ein leidenschaftlicher Anhaenger und Gruender von zahlreichen "Local Employment Trading Systems," Kurz LETS, die auch in Deutschland unter dem Namen "Tauschringe" bekannt sind. Diese basieren auf dem Prinzip "Tausche Arbeit gegen Arbeit" und nicht gegen Bezahlung. Bundesweit gibt es davon mittlerweile 229, und immer wieder entstehen neue. Derzeit befinden sich Turmel und seine Frau Pauline auf einer Europareise. Diese fuehrte das originelle Paar jetzt auch auf die Sonnenseite Bonns, um dem erst im Februar gegruendeten "Schael-Sick- Tauschring" einen Besuch abzustatten. Die Stippvisite war zwar kurz, dafuer aber um so informativer und interessanter. Fast drei Stunden lang lauschten etwa 20 "Tauschringler," die sich im Hotel Mertens an der Rheindorfer Strasse versammelt hatten, den Worten ihres illustren Gastes. Mit seiner temperamentvoll und eindringlich vorgetragenen Lebensgeschichte zog Turmel die Zuhoerer sofort in seinen Bann. Denn was der Kanadier erzaehlte, waere unter dem Titel "Die unglaubliche Lebensgeschichte des John C. Turmel" auch ein guter Anwaerter fuer die Bestsellerlisten der Belletristik. Das war jedoch auch Turmel bewusst. Und um seine Glaubwuerdigkeit und die Wahrheit des Berichts der einzelnen Lebensstationen zu unterstreichen, belegte er jede einzelne mit Zeitungsartikeln. Hunderte davon, die Zeitungen aus aller Herren Laender entstammen, hat der Kanadier in einem dicken Band gesammelt. Der traegt den klangvollen Titel: "Die Abenteuer von John "The Engineer" Turmel." Und die waren wirklich spannend: John C. Turmel erblickte am 22. Februar 1951 in Rouyn/Quebec das Licht der Welt. Nach einer sehr erfolgreichen Schullaufbahn schrieb er sich 1974 auf der "Carleton University" in Ottawa/Ontario. fuer das Fach "Electrical Engineering" ein. Auch dort erwies er sich als "Star" Student. Mit ganz besonderem Interesse und Engagement widmete sich der junge Mann einem Kursus, den Professor Walter Schneider im letzten Semester anbot und der sich "Die Mathematik des Spielens" nannte. "Das war der erste und einzige Kursus seiner Art in ganz Kanada" erzaehlte Turmel. Ich schloss ihn mit der Note "A+" der bestmoeglichen ueberhaupt, ab." Eine Leidenschaft war neugeweckt und veraenderte sein Leben. "Von 1975 bis 1978 wurde ich professioneller Spieler, gleichzeitig Professor Schneiders Lehrassistent", so Turmel. In diesen Jahren unternahm er mehr als 50 viertaegige Exkursionen in die zahlreichen Casinos von Las Vegas." Doch den dortigen Casinos war der Kanadier ein viel zu erfolgreicher Blackjack-Spieler und damit auch ein eher unliebsamer Gast. Turmel erhielt Hausverbot. Eine Zusammenfassung seines weiteren, wechselvollen Lebens bis zum heutigen Tag zu geben, ist schwer. Festzuhalten ist in jedem Fall folgendes: 1976 schloss Turmel sein Studium ab, doch er spielte weiter. Im Jahre 1979 begann er damit, sich als Kandidat fuer das Parlament aufstellen zu lassen. An erster Front, so glaubte der Kanadier, koenne er besser fuer sein grosses Ziel, die Legalisierung des Gluecksspiels, kaempfen. Seine Versuche, zum Abgeordneten eines kommunalen oder nationalen Parlaments gewaehlt zu werden, brachten Turmel zwei Eintraege ins Guinness Buch der Rekorde: An 47 Wahlen nahm der Kanadier bis heute teil. Rekord Nummer zwei: Genauso oft, und damit ist Turmel auch weltweiter Spitzenreiter, hat er auch verloren. Zwei Casinos eroeffnete der Kanadier im Laufe der Jahre. Etliche Male wanderte Turmel wegen seiner Spielleidenschaft ins Gefaengnis. Auch heute noch lebt das Ehepaar von den Gewinnen, die der pfiffige Kopf Turmel beim Blackjack-Spiel erzielt. Darueber hinaus reisen die beiden Kanadier um die ganze Welt und besuchen die Tauschringe und LETS aller Herren Laender. Den Beueler "Tauschringlern" gab "The Engineer" mit auf den Weg: "Bewahrt euch euren Tauschring. Es gibt so viele Gelegenheiten, bei denen er euch helfen kann." Der "Schael-Sick Tauschring" hat das Vereinslokal gewechselt. Die folgenden Treffen finden am Mittwoch, 21 Jul, 1999, 18. August und 8. September, jeweils ab 19Uhr im Hotel Mertens, Rheindorfer Strasse 134 statt. Weitere Informationen erteilt Brigitte Guenther-Sun, unter 0228-479-7345. JCT: See: http://turmelpress.com/bonn99.htm ---
3) Amsterdam July 13 We took a day to visit Amsterdam. We were a little saddened by such a beautiful city being littered with garbage. As we sitting in restaurant, Pauline struck a conversation with a gentleman who joined us for dinner. He asked what she thought of their fair city and when she answered that it was too bad that such a beautiful city had to be so dirty, I knew we'd have to get into LETS to explain why. I mentioned that the only reason Pauline could feel this way was that she was aware of the LETS program which could put the young to work cleaning up cities. Then we got into a whole discussion of how timedollars and LETS could accomplish that. The guy stayed with me all way. When I asked him what he did, he said that he was involved in the justice system dealing with probationers. So naturally, a LETS paid community service program had to interest him. I asked him if he was in the policy or enforcement and when he admitted "some policy," I knew that I might have stumbled onto someone looking for a better way. I find these kinds of coincidences interesting. You never know when someone who might have the power to implement a government sponsored LETS will see it as a way out of his "no money" predicament.
3) Antwerp LETS July 14 We visited with Robert Siera who is a computer programmer deeply involved with the Antwerp LETS. At the meeting, I spoke 2.5 hours with no need of translation to about 15 people including three from the new Vivant political party. They have one elected member in the Belgium Parliament and I urged them to push all political parties to promote LETS. Belgium just threw out their old government and the new government is a coalition of parties including the Greens. This is important because the Greens are also represented in the German and the Finnish Parliaments. If the Canadian, American, British Greens already endorse LETS, they could be persuaded to promote a national and European LETS more forcefully. With the help of the Greens from other nations, they could champion LETS in the European Parliament for us. One amusing fact is that Robert lives in the suburb of "Mortsel" in Antwerp which in French might be translated into "mort=dead" "sel=LETS." "DeadLets" may be the name but I don't think that will be with Robert working on the job. My presentation was well received and the LETSers and politicians then spent time discussing in Belgian how they could cooperate. Again, Pauline's report will contain much more of the more personal information but Robert was a pleasure to meet. I was speaking to one girl as she was leaving and she told me happily that she'd earned her bicycle and accessories on LETS. I think Rob crystalized perfectly the kind of complementary tag- team Pauline and I represent. He said "You pound, pound, pound it into the brain, Pauline caresses, caresses, caresses it in," with pounding his fist and then caressing hand I am quite aware of Pauline's effect on people. She is a true empath. After 5 minutes with Pauline, you feel like chuckling. After 10, you've been laughing for 4. Usually, on our trips, Pauline does the driving and I do the sleeping and working while on the road. But this trip, we had a standard transmission which Pauline doesn't drive so it fell to me. But this allowed Pauline to stay up late with our hosts and thoroughly charm them by presenting the softer sides of our project. I often wonder if she isn't more effective a speaker than me. I keep presenting the great new technical aspects while she keep presenting the great new social results. I have absolutely no doubt that Pauline in now one of the finest LETS speakers that I know. She can enthrall audiences for hours with the stories of how LETS have helped poor people cope. Something I don't have the time to do. She actually imparts a fervor for the beneficial upgrade to LETS money that I can't seem to do. Sure they were mostly all enthusiastic about the future potential of spending their LETS credits anywhere in the world but stressing how LETS was supporting them right now while they were fighting for the global fix made her pitch uniquely valuable. I really think I'm going to save up to send her on her own speaking tour of Europe again. She's been invited to spend a month in Somali to help them set up some LETSystems, maybe she could get two birds with one stone and do a speaking tour before or after Africa. But I don't apologize if I pound it into people's heads. After all, people are still dying of their debts around the world. But to have someone to skillfully massage the technical message into their social consciousness seems an invaluable trump. I can be as brutal as I want with those who disagree knowing she heals the bruised egos that may result. After all, if you want to argue with the banking systems engineer about the banking system, there's a higher than average probability that you're wrong. So with Pauline to stroke, caress and massage the social implications in, I can pound, pound, pound the technical ones in. Without making enemies. I think that when they finally publish the controversy about holding a dialogue with Turmel in France, we'll see that those we won over to the bigger picture won't be shaken. The controversy about me is taking place on a listserv firstname.lastname@example.org which is only open to French LETSers and to which I may not subscribe. Those French listservs to which access is granted and I can reply, sel-info and saloir, have not carried any of that information. But I know the effect that Pauline's had and doubt that anyone can have found very much to criticize me for her smoothing my cutting edges.
4) Hamburg LETS meeting July 15 We got to the Hamburg meeting at 5 minutes late. Birgit Koch had arranged a large room with about 40 Hamburg LETS members. Again, the speech was well received even though many aspects had to be cut short due to the need for translation. Still, when I heard some members explaining some points to the others, it meant that they'd got them and would be able to explain them from then on. As usual, the LETS Smartcard and Email LETS by Internet Service providers are emerging as the most dazzling exhibits. They readily saw all the advantages of a high-velocity paper medium and promoting savings with Consignment stores and Pensioners accounts. But I expanded the notion of saturation triggers. Municipal saturation triggers would be getting the telephone or power companies or municipal government using and accepting LETS. But the notion of the Global saturation trigger of getting our Internet Service Providers to offer email LETS accounts in Hours exploded onto the debate arena. Solving non-skilled members' negative accounts by getting them to host visitors trading accommodations was another big hit. Several LETS Travel networks have been and are being implemented. Now it's just a matter of getting them all onto one database. And as usual, at every presentation, I play the "mort-gage" death-gamble on the Interest Island and the same game on the LETS "Service Charge" Island. Nothing brings home the silliness of interest better and it often leaves people stunned. I could tell that one member couldn't see the difference since the banker on LETS Island was getting paid the same 20% in service charge as the banker on Interest Island had demanded. A couple of guys took over and explained quite forcefully why everyone on Interest Island ended up broke and everyone on LETS Island, including the banker, prospered year after year. See: http://turmelpress.com/bankmath.htm or http://turmelpress.com/t99eu5.htm for French. After the meeting, we went out to a pub with some of the members. A couple of them pulled out copies of the Bonn General Anzeiger article to show me. It was huge and very complimentary. Rheinhold Kisse mentioned that he had organized an inter-LETS trading network for the 10 Hamburg systems. I suggested he take the next step and try organizing the same thing for all of Germany's LETS so we could trade with France's LETS. I realize that these reports may be short but it's basically the same speech over and over again and Pauline's report will be much more substantial. ---
5) Nurnberg LETS July 16 Then we zoomed down to Nurnberg and arrived at the meeting place at exactly the same time as Heinrich Haussmann. They'd arranged a nice supper for about 20 people. Heinrich had been at the Jubilee 2000 festival where I'd ad-libbed my way onto the stage to speak about Tauschrings. He gave us some pictures he'd taken of me on stage which was handy because Pauline isn't sure if her camera had malfunctioned at that point. One key point raised was whether the government would step in to stop LETS once it got really big like the Austrian government had stepped in to stop the local currency experiment after Worgl had eliminated their unemployment problem. Worgl then shared the Great Depression with the rest of world. Unemployment and poverty again arose and the Bank of Austria could report that the elimination of unemployment had been successfully averted. I could only point out that with the governments of Australia, United States and Great Britain making LETS earnings for the poor non- taxable, such support would certainly prevent other governments from opposing a system supported by these large governments. I think LETS is now too well-entrenched for any government to stop it. But I will work on a much more complete listing under the Government Endorsements section. There are so many political parties to list that it's quite a daunting task. Again, we met another Jubilee 2000, Dirk Bruhl. Again I got to point out that if they were successful in their demand to have the banks cancel the debts of 42 Third World countries, then the banks reserves would go down and they'd have to call in 10, 20, 30 times that amount in our loans. All a man has to accept is that forgiving that debt means they'll demand he pay off his mortgage at the same time they demand a whole lot of other people pay off theirs. The banking system as it is now wired up is designed to crash. Forgiving the debt can't happen. The G8 leaders only threw them a small bone this year. This is the reason so many official groups and politicians can jump on their bandwagon. You can promote it all you want knowing the repercussions are to great for it to ever be allowed. But focusing on the debt growth, stabilizing the debt growth, before we look into the question of what should forgiven, is the only way to go. Try telling the guy whose car you want to buy on payments that you believe in writing off debts and you might not get the car. Tell him you won't pay interest might still get you the car. So I sincerely hope that all these Jubilee 2000 supporters we met at TOES, ATTAC, many LETS meeting, try to get Jubilee 2000 to focus on the objectionable part of the debt and not the honorable part too. The next day, Heinrich showed us brought us to two booths that the Nurnberg LETS had set up in town to enlist new members. They work on an Hour system and all the volunteers were being paid for their efforts. One girl told me she was a social worker and used to spend time helping people for free but not any more. Now she makes sure to get all her time recorded. And her contribution has increased. Other social service agencies also had booths so I wanted to give Heinrich and example of how would not only spend my time pitching the people walking by of how it could help them but also the other organizations in the area of how it could help them perform their duties. I grabbed a few of their LETS flyers and took Heinrich over to the Youth Support Services booth to explain how LETS could be used by their government department to an enthusiastic young worker. We explained it to him over half an hour and I suggested that they invite Heinrich to do a presentation to their department and left them exchanging phone numbers. So something could come out of that. And he didn't even meet Pauline. We stayed at the home of Marina Danser whose four adult children were now out on their own. She is lively activist who donates generously to finance social projects and worked both of the LETS booths all day. A real live wire. Pauline will report more on her wonderful stories. One interesting thing that Heinrich showed us was a piece of 1931 Depression era German local currency from the town of Ulmer with a demurrage charge like in Worgl. I don't know what happened and perhaps Heinrich can send a to email@example.com about what happened to it. I spent the evening with Mr. Hans Juergen Sauerbrey, who is associated with "Sealand," an old World War II platform erected at sea which was not destroyed after the war with the other such platforms and where a group of squatters took control and managed to get it declared a sovereign territory from where they could operate a pirate radio station. Like an embassy, they also have extra-territorial land near Berlin and Hans was considering setting up their own LETS money system. He told me there were ways to have the US Federal Reserve pay 400% if you put up $10 million. I hope he can't prove it. And I hope that he does set up or join a LETS.
6) Muenster LETS with Zeitung article (German). July 18 JCT: Kay Browatzki organized the translated Muenster LETS meeting. It was attended and well received by a couple of dozen members in a room of a local pub including a very delighted reporter. They didn't print his name but his article:
Muenster Zeitung July 20 MS3 Tauschringe als Alternative (No reporter's name)
John Turmel besuchte LoWi e.V.
Picture Caption: John Turmel protestiert gegen die Macht der Banken und engagiert sich Fuer Tauschringsysteme als alternative Wirtschaftsform.
Muenster (MAF) - "Tauschen statt Zahlen" ist der Leitsatz des LoWi e.V.(-Lokale Wirtschaftsinitiative),des Tauschrings fuer Muenster, der sich im Maerz 1996 gegruendet hat, um "eine neue, gerechte und soziale Form von Arbeit, Handel und Markt" auszuprobieren. Ueber die Entwicklungen und weitreichenden Moeglichkeiten von Tauschringen, auch auf internationaler Ebene, informierte der Kanadier John Turmel, der sich seit 1984 mit diesem Thema befasst. Das Engagement dieser schillernden Persoenlichkeit geht auf das Vorhaben zurueck in Kanada das Gluecksspiel zu legalisieren. Um dies beeinflussen zu koennen, kandidierte der einstige Casino-Besitzer und (bis heute) professionelle Gluecksspieler fuer politische Aemter. Hinzu kam sein Protest gegen die Macht der Banken, die mit Zins und Verschuldung das Wirtschaftssystem bestimmten. Es folgte im Laufe von 20 Jahren die Teilnahme an 47 Wahlen, die er allesamt verlor. Das brachte Turmel nicht nur einen Eintrag ins Guinness Buch der Rekorde, wie er lachend berichtete, sondern auch viele Einsichten in Wirtschaftskreislaeufe.
Seiner Ansicht nach fuehren Zinsen und Hypotheken nur dazu, dass Reiche immer reicher und Arme immer aermer werden. "Ich weigere mich, Steuern fuer Schuldzinsen zu bezahlen." Mit Beispielen aus Bibel und Historie unterstrich der Kanadier temperamentvoll, das solcher "Wucher" nur zu verurteilen sei. Die einzige moegliche (zinsfreie) Alternative: "Local exchange and trading systems," wie die Tauschringe im angloamerikanischen Raum heissen. Diese Initiativen sind auf lokaler Ebene inzwischen mit grossem Erfolg weltweit verbreitet, sei es als organisierte Nachbarschaftshilfe oder als groesserer Zusammenschluss, an denen sich auch die Kommune beteiligt und wo sogar eigenes "Tauschgeld" kursiert. Die englische Stadt Bradford bekam fuer ein derartiges Projekt gar EU- Mittel bewilligt. Turmel riet zur Nachahmung und legte gleich das Antragsformular vor. In den USA werden Tauschringe sehr viel ernster genommen. Viele soziale Probleme liessen sich entschaerfen, Arbeitslose mit einbinden und vieles andere mehr. Nun sei es an der Zeit, das Ganze international, zum Wohl auch fuer die Dritte Welt, zu vernetzen. Eine elektronische Zahlweise und der Einsatz des Internets werde bald erprobt. Vielversprechende Aussichten, wie Turmel findet. Voller Enthusiasmus wuenschte er den Muensteranern eine gute Entwicklung ihrer Initiative. Turmel im Internet: http://turmelpress.com Kontakt zu loWi e.V.: montags 16-18 Uhr, mittwochs 17-19 Uhr, Umweltzentrum, Scharnhorststrasse 57, tel 532171. Treffen jeden ersten Freitag im Monat um 12 Uhr in der Blechtrommel.
JCT: I'll publish the English versions as soon as I get them. The story of how the sick pensioner benefits from LETS is really getting better. Also we had all these new exhibits from the France LETS to show them. They had all the same problems of small systems LETS and I've learned to soothe those who fear losing their local connections to a larger system. I explain that though they can now trade outside of their circle, they can still issue their own circle's directory and keep their local connections strong that way. It seemed to quell many doubts. The Noticeboard stays as local as they like it but they can send checks anywhere in the world if they want and collect from anywhere too. Again, we stayed with Hans Werner in Warendorf who showed me a 50 talent note he had created with a picture of the LETS member. Just like the LETS from California. Pictures on the checks. Even the banks don't have this kind of sophistication yet. We discussed the fact that the Greens were part of the Government and how to get them promoting LETS more prominently. It's another coalition government and getting multi-party support is working in other countries where politicians see the results of LETS first-hand, why not everywhere they get to see the same results? Looks like they're going to turfed out for the old government having failed to solve the money problems they others couldn't solve previously. LETS could give them a needed boost. The next day, he got an accordion from a cousin and accompanied me on his guitar while we played songs for several hours. The next day, we left for our Nordic tour through Denmark, Sweden and Finland which will be in my next LETS tour report #7. There have been so many flashbacks of interesting things that I had not included in my previous reports that I'll be posting some extra reports with those extra comments.
7) Translation As for translations into other languages, the presentation is being transcribed in French and Finnish from tapes with the Finnish into English, maybe the French too since it was a debate rather than a structured argument. As for the quality of my French being joked about as bad "translation software," I didn't have access to my mother, Therese, a former translator and perfectionist and had to do my best. It's the reason I haven't transcribed the other reports into French. I'm always embarassed at the number of corrections she finds though I still find it hard to believe that the message still isn't very clear. Of course, these are getting the masculine and feminine gender of neutral objects often wrong and all the attendant accords of adjectives but the words are mostly spelled right and in the right order. And the tape will show whether deficiencies in my command of the language would necessitate a translator. But, after I'd pointed out that almost everyone I met in Europe spoke pretty great English including many French and then asked Mom to start translating my reports into French, she suggested that she didn't have to since those who spoke English could explain it to those who don't. So, though I'd love to be able to offer my French readers translations of past and upcoming articles, it won't be possible. As I've offered to translators in Austria and Finnland, I would owe anyone who will translate into French, German, Finnish, Italian, Swedish, etc, two (2) Hours per hour as an expense against my Engineer's Statement of Account for providing the world with LETS. Or you can use them for accommodations in Canada until the statement is someday settled. So if you would like to translate some my past reports or any other web site materials for me, I'll see that someday you'll be credited for those Hours if not by the Government, then by me or any LETS group I'm associated with.
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