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11.28.2011

"Talking about Money" by Tom Flanagan

As we continue our focus on financial systems, we might agree that our currencies are a symbol of our confidence – and perhaps our covenant – with our institutions of governance. In this sense, the value of our currencies cannot help but reflect the health of our confidence in our institutions of governance. If we have little or no confidence in our institutions of governance, then our currency loses value. It seems fair to say that there is a national and international preoccupation with protecting currency from devaluation. Devalued currency means that those who carry debt or those who hold cash will both hold less following a devaluation. Such a situation is worrisome because lenders recognize that when a loss of confidence in governance institutions drives down the value of currency, foreign lenders will insist on higher interests rates … which means fewer lent dollars and thinner banking margins for domestic financial institutions.

On the other side of the coin, so to speak, citizens wonder if making the world safer for financial institutions does make for a better world – locally as well as globally. Is the world more stable because fiscal interdependence requires greater global cooperation? This isn’t clear on Main Street. Multinational corporations are in it for the money, of course. The banks are with the corporations. The money comes from siphoning from a flow of value that extends from global producers to global consumers (including recyclers). Who siphons how much money and why? Where is the trust? In God, yes, of course. But while the currency is in play here on earth, where do we invest trust in our fiscal and governing institutions? Can we trust our earthly institutions to make decisions that will reflect divine justice? If not, then we have come to the heart of a really huge problem.

Political traditions which mask collective governance as a sporting event guarantee significant segments of our society will lose while others will be given unearned opportunities to win. How can we possibly trust such a governance system? How can we possibly dedicate ourselves to a covenant of interdependence with such systems?

The temples of the governance systems of the Western World are besieged. Locally, we see an emergence of tribal presence … even among the traditionally non-indigenous peoples. Are we cycling? Are we gathering the forces of our oceans of humanity back into earlier depths before the rising tide of a tsunami washes away the institutions which have betrayed us?

If a sacred storm is brewing – if indeed the global climate of trust is changing – now may be the very best time to turn to indigenous communities to rediscover the essential practices for sustainable governance. Ancient Athens struggled with this. Their concern was for the risks of corruption when mortals held high elected office for “too long.” Their concern was that professional leaders could become targets for special interests and could knowingly or unwittingly become agents of corruption.

We are living in world where special interests have anointed multinational corporations – beholding to no one nation or no inclusive community of humanity. We have anointed theses entities as living beings – creating life in a fashion previously only allowed of our Gods. Have we gone too far? Can we at least symbolically step back and rescind corporate personhood? Will this take us along a path where the power of corporate interests to beguile or to corrupt individuals in high office will recede?

Occupy Wall Street is a movement with the trappings of a religious pilgrimage. It is a prayer. It is a soft voice speaking in words of the heart. The state cannot and will not hear these words if the state lacks a heart that listens to its people. We must expect the state to be confused by the moment. There are good people in governance institutions who feel the pain in the streets. They may have been prisoners within the ship of State unable to individually act in ways that would be most meaningful to the people of the world. They may not have had access to the levers of power in their institutions. So, if we appeal to them for help, we need to help them understand what we might recognize as being of genuine help.

We can all pull ourselves together in a campaign for people of the world if we deny corporations the right of speaking as a citizen of the world – if we deny corporations the power for speaking in place of others. If we look, we may find that this is one principle that is central to indigenous democracies.

As we talk about money, then, it is important to talk about the covenant with the people that we must insist upon from our institutions of governance. We must be for life – for god-given live – and thereby against corporate personhood. If not, than the only value that our currencies will have is the value that hollow corporations concede to breath into it. People will have no reason to trust in money. People will have no reason to defend the full value of our currencies. We cannot value currency if we do not first value the authentic life that breathes the same air that we do. We cannot value currency if we devalue the prayers of Occupy Wall Street.


Short Biography of  (Thomas Flanagan, Ph.D., MBA)

Tom is president of the Institute for 21st Century Agoras. He is also founder and director of the SouthCoast Community Collaborative Design Studio in Southeastern Massachusetts. He is a board member and officer of the corporation of the Barrington Public Library, and has serveed on the Barrington School Board, the New Bedford Economic Development Council, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Alumni Council, and the Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution and Public Collaboration,

Tom’s background includes a doctorate in neurobiology with research, publications and patents from work he has led within academic and corporate R&D groups. His management training from MIT’s Sloan School focused on partnership development. He has worked in many highly innovative technical teams, and has founded and led non-profit and for profit ventures. He has taught university students in business management, engineering, chemistry and biology, and he has pioneered an international online course in Democracy and Sustainability. 

Tom’s recent management work has focused on university-industry-government linkages related to sustainable, technology-based regional economic development. His current design mission is tobring democratic design practices that have been validated in many organizations into broad civic use throughout the greater New Bedford area.

More information about the Institute for 21st Century Agoras http://www.globalagoras.org/

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