Saturday, November 8, 2014

Modern Slavery

"'s a crime."

Modern Slavery

      Today, in math class, I learned how to calculate interest. The instructor presented two formulas  Simple Interest and Accumulated Interest. The titles, however, I think are a bit vague and misleading. So I will rename them as the Usury Formula and the Exploitation Equation.

       Imagine that a friend comes to you, and asks you for help. They need food to feed their family.You may choose to simply share with them, and hope that whatever you can give is enough to satisfy their needs. Or you may use their needs as an opportunity for your own personal gain. To do this, a duration must be determined within which the lender must be compensated in full, and then a rate of increase is applied to the initial borrowed amount.

           Translation: "Yeah buddy I'll help you out, here is a bag of potatoes. Now I will expect from you ten bags of potatoes within the next ten months!" Hopefully the hungry friend has other options and doesn't have to be used in such a way. There is, however, an even less desirable option than being used, and that is being exploited. Imagine this, "Yeah buddy, here are three bags of potatoes. Now I will expect ten bags of potatoes at the end of the year, and thirteen the next year, and sixteen the next year, and then  nineteen the next year! This is casually considered the "cost of borrowing" otherwise known as accumulated (annual) interest.

          This is how banks make money, by using the needs of people to produce a profit. It doesn't have to be this way, the idea of a big safe-house where people may choose to keep their money seems reasonable, it's the interest which is unnecessary; the idea that if one gives they must in addition ensure gain. Where did all of this malicious profiteering come from? Perhaps interest is a relic from ancient times, a bit of medieval methodology menacingly making its way into our minds. What do some of the most hip and popular religions of our era tell us about interest and usury?

           For what its worth, Islam is quite explicit about this issue. Riba, the Arabic word for usury, is considered haraam (sinful/prohibited) in Muslim culture. Here is a quote from the Qu'ran.

 "O those who believe do not eat up Riba, doubled and redoubled."

Surah Aal' e Imran Verse 130

Christianity and Judaism, however, seem to leave a bit of wiggle room on the matter. For the most part the Bible seems to take a firm stance on not accepting or charging interest:

Exodus 22:25 If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a money lender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.
Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

There's a few examples where it seems like interest might be expected and maybe even philanthropic,

Proverbs 28:8 Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
Matthew 25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have recieved what was my own with interest. (in the context of a master speaking to a servant)

The Torah, which is supposedly included in the old testament of the Bible, states that "neshek" the Hebrew word for usury (literal translation meaning 'bite') is among the worst of sins. However, several sources have indicated that Jewish people are only restricted from charging interest on other loans made to other Jewish people. When having a transaction with goyim (non-Jews), interest charge is supposedly permissable (depending on the source this is either frowned upon or considered mandatory) To be clear, I do not wish to cast any of the aforementioned religious institutions in a positive or negative light (they do that among themselves without my help). I only wish to better comprehend their essence and intention regarding society and such.

My intention  is not to spout more of the same elitist theory which often accompanies such remarks about the modern banking system. I reject much of this "1%" theory for it stresses an interdependence between the elite and the "average person", in which the elite rely on the people for labor, and the people rely on the elite for a job. I believe this binary is too generalized and confuses the matter, and in addition, this seemingly interdependent behavior is an illusion. The people don't need the elite. If there was no absurdly imbalanced social system people would simply work for themselves, and the elite would begin to feel calluses on their dainty pampered hands. 

 Until then, I plan to go with the flow. No need to cut against the grain. Banksters aren't evil people, they have just bought into an idea and allowed it to consume them (at an exponentially increasing rate over the next three years. Restrictions may apply, offers may vary). The truth is that there is no body to blame. It is too easy to say that systemic exploitation is the product of some rich fat cats in a distant sky scraper. Capitalist modernity is an idea, which most people seem to be perpetuating by way of their unquestioning compliance, and although ideas are bulletproof, they are not thought proof. We can think for change.

Love love love

Nathan King


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