Neoliberalism Follies, Part I: Tragic Interest Rates

Athens_2012

Some graffiti art I spotted in Athens, Greece in June 2012. Insanely high interest rates to service the supposedly risky sovereign debts is the largest part of what brought the country down.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

The topic of interest rates has caused some very spirited discussions for me over the years. I feel very much influenced by the adages of yesteryear about focusing on savings, but this is an era where aggressive and savvy use of credit may be more sensible, particularly if one can lock in loans with interest rates lower than the pace of inflation. In the United States in particular though, I have noticed that for savings, the historically low interest rates we have experienced is the elephant in the room changing the kind of future most people will have, but surprisingly one rarely hears anyone talking about it.

When the ability to accumulate savings or nearly all passive income sources are taken away, it makes for a particularly disenchanted culture. I have saved quite a few bank statements from my past, and I came across one the other day that indicated my general savings account in 2000-2001 bore an interest rate of 2.63 percent. I then shopped my bank’s CD (certificate of deposit, or term deposit) and savings rates and found that a general savings account at my bank cannot be more than 0.05 percent with deposits of even over $100,000USD and a one year certificate of deposit they disclose that the rate is 0.15 percent (I imagine one could find or negotiate 0.6%).

As far back as I can remember, interest rates have fairly consistently fallen in the US, accelerating more rapidly after 2001 and then again in 2008. By 2010, I was in San Francisco for several weeks and getting into an argument with an Australian man in his 50s who kept insisting I move all my assets into high interest savings accounts. At that time, my Kansas-based bank’s interest rates were nearly as paltry as now, but there was a program where one could get 2.5 percent on their checking account if they had their payroll checks direct deposited and had ten monthly bills coming out of the account as automatic payments. At the time, I did only contract work and had no bills that were owing monthly, since I was preparing to move to Canada, thus making me ineligible. A younger Australian traveler pointed out that in the US at that time (and still now), it was better to have cash in hand, but the Australian could not wrap his head around it because a fairly flexible savings account in Australia at that time might still pay 6.5 to 7 percent. Today, in summer 2014, I have looked into the matter further, and the three banks I know of in Australia – National Australia Bank (nab), Commonwealth Bank, and Westpac – advertised no more than 4 percent interest for a one-year commitment. A few years ago, I noticed that the only two stable, advanced economies with robust savings interest rates were South Korea and Australia, as well as the smaller player, New Zealand.

For a time, there was a lucrative if dicey practice called the “carry trade” whereby individuals or entities managed to borrow massive sums at near zero interest rates in Japan, deposit the money in Australia, and then collect the interest as profit at much higher interest, and pay back the loan in Japan. For a time in 2011 and 2012, the Australian dollar was the fourth most traded currency in the world in spite of its relatively isolated position in the world. A combination of events and regulation from Fukushima to advanced nations collectively deciding to crash the Japanese Yen to help their exports most likely spooked this kind of transaction.

Interest and usury as a whole is most likely a drain on societies because that means that there is never enough money in the system to pay off debts, which would invariably cause a crash of one kind or another every few years and make a certain number of parties go bankrupt as a matter of mathematical necessity. That said, these probabilities are still in place, but a reliable means of planning and source of income has been eliminated in Europe, Asia, and North America, and the few places with the advantage still in place are faltering (Australia’s 23-year long recession-free period may be coming to an end now). Rising interest rates, which are expected to be set in motion slowly starting in the fourth quarter of 2014 in much of the world (eyes are most closely aimed at the UK right now, reporting restoration of GDP numbers that are finally matched with Q1 2008) also could cause tremendous problems as a greater share of national budgets would need to go to servicing debts.

Either way, low interest for savings combined with skyrocketing tuition and senior care costs combined with stagnating wages, increased medical costs (in the US), and the near requirement of tech purchases and services is the perfect storm of eroding equity. Even if economic data in the next few years shows robust conditions, the consequences of not being able to save is going to continue to slip by because it is silent and incremental, but the cumulative effects over a generation or more are already catastrophic for most middle-earning households.

The only solutions I have heard of have to do with individuals setting up loan contracts with people they know so that the interest rate being charged is lower for the borrower and higher for the individual lender. I do not know the legalities involved in this kind of transaction. Furthermore, avoiding ownership of property or prolonging the ownership of property and renting out parts of it seems to be the most stable way to recover the investment because rising prices are not guaranteed, and even if one is the beneficiary of that type of capital gain, they need to leave the area upon sale of the property, because other properties will have increased in price, nullifying the advantage.

We may be experiencing a brief abberation in the finance world, but dramatic increases in interest rates are not in the cards for the foreseeable future.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

-for a totally different article and experience, please visit “A Journey Across Time – My Unorthodox Past Life Regression Experience”

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A Journey Across Time – My Unorthodox Past Life Regression Experience

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)31053_552418696929_58802936_32415459_7790255_n

IN SPITE OF YEARS of fairly heavy involvement in spiritual topics, until last night, I had never formally tried to tap into past lives. In 2002 and later on, I had a series of dreams about the early years of National Socialism in Germany and the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht / Reichskristallnacht), and believed that dreams in parable or quite literal placed me in a lifetime in 1930s Third Reich. This was later supported by very strong supporting supernatural events in Germany in 2005 when I visited the country for the first time. However, I tried to suspend these expectations going into my first past life regression.

I must state that I do not wish to try to influence anyone to believe in past lives, whether they cannot rationalize such a possibility for reasons of a secular outlook or because of limitations and restrictions of a faith doctrine. Furthermore, my previous outlook as well as the results of last night do not mean that the stories are anything more than a fabrication of the human mind. However, I do believe that individuals have lived and experienced exactly what I will describe and the two possibilities that I can personally accept are that they are events I witnessed in other lifetimes, or through the collective consciousness overseen by God, I have been able to experience pieces of these lives that they appear to be my own.

The friend who performed the past life regression is someone I have known for over a decade now and only in the last few years began enhancing her spiritual quest with more so-called New Age tools and methods. She has increasingly demonstrated herself to be credible and sincere in her abilities, and so I wanted for her to facilitate an examination of past lives.

What I experienced far exceeded my expectations and deviated from them as well.

I am not knowledgeable about the process of past life regression though I can attest that there are different ways to approach it and what happened for me is not what I would describe as hypnosis, though there is a meditative state employed whereby one is relaxed and less inhibited, while not needing to induce this state of consciousness chemically. There is no suggestive language or implantation of false memories, but rather opportunities to provide self-directed narrative and perspective. Above all, I was very fortunate to have someone providing the service who has excellent pacing and a non-distracting form of diction.

I WAS GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY to zero in on a life or situation of my choosing and of which would be most important to me. To be delivered to this unknown scene, I was guided through a forest in my imagination and to a house where I was to discover a box that contains an object, not literal, that would be the catalyst to this prior existence. In my case, I found a gold chain with a black or onyx stone in this box which took me to a scene where I heard horse carriages. My guide instructed me to observe my clothing, starting with my shoes, which were pointed-toe shoes that seemed like a court jester’s. Through some questioning, I established that I was in the 1890s and most likely in Belgium, responding to the name Wilhelm. This surprised me because I have traveled to a number of countries, and while I have been to Belgium before, I felt no particular attachment to it to the extent I do Germany, Canada, the UK, the US, or Japan, though I did balk with a fearful reaction when I was invited to camp in the Ardennes region.

In this mid-size town, I felt I was near a university and was waiting for a half-brother. As I was aware of this recollection, I felt anxious, but was reminded by my guide that I was to watch this as though it was a movie, rather than a gripping relapse into the past life, and I was immediately mollified into calm and could watch more objectively. Through a series of indirect questions, it came about that I was wrapping up seminary and was on the road to a career as a theologian. My own mother had died and my father, an upper class, silent pillar of the community type person (but not in the political sphere, most likely medical) had married a prudish woman of a lower caste. There was a half-sister who had died years before who sort of brought about more austere ambience in the household. My marks at university were top-notch and I was delivering sermons with great feedback and had lots of positive recognition, but I was about to break with the order once again and assist this younger half-brother with an elopement. My one unachieved wish at the time was to do mission work around the world.

As is the method with this particular past life regression style, we were to move forward to another pivotal scene and immediately I could see myself in this past lifetime in physical ruin. I was quite healthy with broad muscular stature in my late 20s or early 30s in the previous scene, but was looking into a mirror with ruined teeth, no hair, and a disorderly beard in the next scene. From what I could tell, I had been the sole survivor in the immediate family from World War I and I had barely survived the related famine myself. While I was in a room in a farmhouse at this point, the Flemish house where I had ridden out the war, I did have supporting visuals in mind of the outside world, and the transformation of the civilization was unlike anything I have imagined before or even seen in film. As I said to my guide, “There is absolutely nothing left of the world I knew before.” Somehow, I did have a sense that I would survive still, and that I could somehow turn the situation in my favor. I had lived in Germany from 1906 to 1911, but for some reason had returned to Belgium, and was not formally occupied as a pastor.

Next, I was asked to go forward again, and I was taken to the age of 70. I had the onset of pneumonia that would kill me inside of a year, but I was not fully cognizant of this yet. I was wearing a yellow poncho, so it appeared, which perplexed me because I believed it to be 1936, and I am not sure if nylon-like materials were in use yet (I believe nylon itself was introduced en masse for clothing during World War II). What was I doing? I was waiting outside of a village school for two kids. Grandkids? They felt like this but it was not established until later that they were neighbor children. I took them several days a week until their mother would leave work. I took them to a two-story cob home that I learned I had bought at a firesale price because I knew an old couple who owned it before they died and had some ties to the estate. 5000 units of whatever currency is what I paid (it should have been Belgian francs, which would be about 250 euros, I’ve found, but I feel like they were guilders, which was the Dutch currency). Subsequently, I had rented rooms of the property out to students and had made a modest living through barter and rent income. I was ending this life with gratitude, purpose, and modest means.

Was there anything I wanted to fill in or know? My guide facilitating the regression asked me this. I wanted to account for my almost five years in Germany, so we went there.

I had gone to Germany to do pastoral work only to find that my German language skills were subpar. I went to what I think was Düsseldorf (Düsseldorfer Altstadt), though much of what I knew then would be gone or unrecognizable now after World War II. What I can remember of this period was near penury, living in a studio flat on the fifth floor of a white building, working by kerosene lamp writing pieces for very little money to German newspapers. The writing was religious, as before. I never really made friends in this setting, and though it was not “Prussia” there was this Wagnerian, Bismarck vibe… I’m not qualified to use these terms knowledgeably, but I believe them to describe the severe mood. What took me back to Belgium in 1911 was my sister-in-law dying and they were complete peasants – Bauern, in German, I believe, a word that resonated in German class years ago and I think I used to describe them in this past life.

THIS SATISFIED MY EXPLORATION of that life, and I was asked to go to the next relevant life. To my surprise and also to my guide’s surprise (but she said it is not unheard of for this to happen), I wound up in the future. More than 24 hours later now, I very much mourn not being able to live in this time period now, which I loosely defined as 2140.

I heard two names – Chad and Astrid. I was then able to see myself and I looked similar to my Belgian incarnation, but was this time in my late 30s. The location was the Olympic peninsula in Washington state. My guide pressed me to try to figure out what I was doing in this setting, a misty forest at dusk. Astrid, as I knew her, was a colleague – no – a colleague and common-law wife. My friend facilitating the regression (is it at regression if we go forward in time?) asked me if I know this woman now and I established that it is a woman I know in Berlin now whom I met in Australia in 2008. As I was asked how I felt about this woman, it was just total awe of her brilliance. We were collaborators in every way, totally devoted to ecology as what we would call biologists in the twenty-first century. As I told my guide, it was very hard to describe the political situation and purpose. The Pacific Northwest and coastal fringe of British Columbia had separated from the United States and was some kind of green rogue state that required special permission to live in its territories. I had abandoned a wife and children in the United States and had no remorse, because I saw the kids as a lost cause among the drooling masses. Astrid and I were committed to a politically subversive life and had somehow been part in creating this revolutionary country.

I was asked to zip forward a period and while a year was not defined, I knew I was about 55-years-old. This was in the Seattle area and far less tense times. The US and this fringe country had reconciled and I was waiting for my two boys, now in their 30s, who had forgiven their selfish father. I had a sense of humor about everything. Astrid was long gone, too extreme and devoted to the cause to maintain a relationship with. It was here I could see how society, culture, and environment had evolved and it was pristine and absolutely beautiful! There was no rubbish or discord in the environment to speak of, snow-capped mountains in the distance, and safer nuclear or atomic energy had been harnessed in such a way that no device made any noise or emitted any kind of pollution. My sons were coming in what looked like a 1950s or early 60s silver camper van or caravan, but these were understood to frequently be used as a regular vehicle as well. While Seattle was an important conurbation, it was apparent that the population of this world was radically reduced from what we know now.

The reason this scene was important was that this was meant to be some kind of reconciliation trip that I was looking forward to, as were they, but in the midst of it, it had come about that I had spent too much money on yet another woman and they felt disinherited by this folly. While I can’t and couldn’t visualize the full scenario, it was clear that while I would have communication with the sons, they were not going to allow me to have intimate ties with them anymore and there was nothing I could do to rectify it.

This pulled me forward another couple of decades and we were in approximately 2180, at my age of 79. This time I was in a high-ceiling, open office plan style clinic with glass walls all around. This kind of place is where people went to volunteer themselves for euthanasia. As I described to my guide, the term “suicide” was not really appropriate in this society, and there was not peer pressure to end one’s life, but it was the way most people died. There was nothing physically wrong with me, nor was I depressed or trying to be manipulative. There was (“was” seems like the appropriate term here, though this is meant to be the future) this belief that dictating the time of one’s death was life choosing any other thing that we choose now and setting the terms, while also a means to ascend to lives on higher unknown planets or the universe. It was difficult for me to describe the religious value system of that time period, but it was very outer space oriented, though at no point did I sense the presence of or current communication with extraterrestrials. I had no remorse to die, and I was dying alone, which was also fairly customary for some reason.

What was extremely prevalent in these three scenes from the twenty-second century was the devout individuality and absoluteness of all the personalities I encountered. One might call it hedonistic or highly selfish in today’s terms, though it was extremely liberating and honest and I do mourn that I will not be able to speak so frankly as I “did” in that lifetime during this lifetime in the twenty-first century. It was as though the political situation or atmosphere itself was totally incapable of sustaining any kind of pretense.

Coming out of the past life regression, I was instructed that I could remember what I wanted to or what was beneficial to me, and I think I remember nearly everything that appeared before me. I felt extremely refreshed, as though my identity is consistent throughout eternity, and while these two lifetimes explained a lot of my temperament, a million new questions have surfaced that do not necessarily relate to me. What brought about the political fracturing of the United States and Canada, the latter of which seemed to not exist in name any more? What reduced the population so radically? How did such a beautiful, peaceful world, at least in this area, come about after a turbulent period? When I have believed my previous life to be in Germany, and to have so many vivid recollections of there, how did Belgium slip past me, if this story is in any way authentic? The future life scenario feels like recalling the past, though it has not yet occurred in linear time, so is there a script that exists elsewhere in the eyes of God or some higher archive, or is everything occurring simultaneously somehow?

I believe I was very fortunate with the past life regressionist that I worked with, which definitely enhanced the experience. This is something I want to continue doing regularly and I find to be a very valuable investment, because even if it is not an accurate account of actual events, it was like watching the best movie one has ever seen, or a monumental genealogy find.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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What Comes After the Hipster, “New Domesticity” Wave?

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

I am currently reading an advanced uncorrected proof of the non-fiction book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing New Domesticity, which appealed to me because I did not previously think of the DIY and self-sufficient domesticity movements from the angle of a gender issue. While the particular edition I am reading is an advance reader copy and I can’t quote from it, I can say that the book and the topical matters at hand make me wonder what can follow from this… I will leave you to read the book to get more immersed in the possible sexism with aspects of these movements.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/liquidskyarts/8955041998/in/photostream/ From HOMEWARD BOUND: WHY WOMEN ARE EMBRACING THE NEW DOMESTICITY by Emily Matchar

https://www.flickr.com/photos/liquidskyarts/8955041998/in/photostream/ From HOMEWARD BOUND: WHY WOMEN ARE EMBRACING THE NEW DOMESTICITY by Emily Matchar

If decades and time periods could be described thematically, we are then constantly responding to the prevailing spirit of a previous culture and then there is a great deal of overlap. I feel like it is safe to say, for example, that 1945 to 2008 in the US will be defined along the terms of “The Height of Consumerism” where byproducts of World War II were integrated into the economy. However, within that period, there was McCarthyism, expansion of the welfare state for a time, oil shocks in 1973 and 1979, hedonism in the 70s, egoism in the 80s, and so forth. Right now, there are several movements and cultures taking place that are sometimes complimentary and at other times antithetical.

I am late to catch on to many things taking place, and one such thing was the term “hipster.” The first time I heard the word and it resonated enough for me to make a ton of associations with it was as a library science student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada in the spring of 2011. If you were born in the 1970s or 1980s and have spent time in an urban environment, this type of consumer profile and mentality have been inescapable – the flannel clothing and calls to end capitalism prevail among some segments of the population in any conurbation. There is a bit of a tie-in between hipsters and sustainable living with an environmentalist streak, but these terms are not always connected. I first remember seeing hipster dress in the mid-2000s in New York, then there was more of it going on in France with the Bobo (bohemian+bourgeois, identified in the New York Times in 2000) groups. By 2011 in Vancouver, the hipster look and associated culture seemed very tiresome and overplayed in that market, though I expect to find in a few weeks that it is not gone.

As I sit in Topeka, Kansas now three years later however, it could be said that the hipster culture is just getting started here. I see business partners and couples with beards and flannel shirts scoping property to open a new business. To boycott Wal-Mart and stick to it or proclaim an end to the monetary system in favor of socialism is still a major statement (though to call for the end of the Federal Reserve or quote Alex Jones has not been considered off-base for the last five years or so). By the time something reaches the edge of densely populated settlements in a place like here, it usually will not be long before something else gets started in East London and the Paris ghetto arrondissements, where everything culturally relevant except for Crocs springs forth… or will that be the case in an internet era where influence is faster than ever but has the potential to be decentralized?

Is there a crafting bubble? Will an era with very insecure employment still have enough of a population able to purchase the products and produce made at home and by small business?

I actually think that the New Domesticity economy is just getting started. A lot of the pretense and novelty of it will wear off as it becomes integrated into normalcy and more people have to barter in order to offset inflation that will come from quantitative easing. This has happened to some extent but will make strong inroads into our mindset when we have our first tremendous commodities shock sometime by the next US presidential election in 2016. A major supply chain disruption, closed offshore market, drought-induced doubling of the price of grain, or some other cataclysm is very much on the horizon and this will erode the romanticism for many fantasizing about the lifestyle and also the skepticism of factions who see conservation and caution with consumer behavior as flaky. A general agreement on the necessary course of caution and careful measure of resource use will be reached by the majority while we will witness desperate attempts to assert power over resources and infrastructure.

Therefore, I do not see a new movement or counterculture springing from an emphasis in sustainability and a more ethical consumer profile. To survive the prevailing winds, it is a time to diversify and multiply one’s income streams (part steady work, part building skills that can be utilized on the side and with greater emphasis in a situation of reduced circumstances, part commodities or so-called “passive” income) and concentrate on forming discrete networks. The talking heads on television will get more provocative as the audience shrinks while 80% of the population quietly cooperates and moves their transactions into the businesses of people they know.

The major outlier that throws everything off is that people will continue to need to invest in technology (mobile platforms mainly) in order to carry out a lot of their affairs and be perceived as relevant players. There is nothing to suggest that there is or will be any significant resistance to automation and the transhumanist movement. This is the major schism in our present situation which will mean that capital will continue to concentrate in a very pronounced way to Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston, Singapore, suburban New York, and other Knowledge Economy sites and go mostly untaxed into coffers in the Caribbean, Bermuda, the Isle of Man and other such places. This widening gap will result in largely separate lives experienced by these different worlds and less interaction between them, so both can exist simultaneously and uninterrupted, but will not necessarily coexist.

What have I left out? Please continue the discussion with generational differences, dropping labor participation rates, functional (il)literacy, or whatever you see fit.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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11 Reasons Why ANTONIA’S LINE Helps Shatter Patriarchy

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

See what happens when one woman upends the social order of a small Dutch village.

I have recommended the film Antonia’s Line frequently. It is easily my favorite and the one that opens the most doors into what is possible. Beware there are many spoilers here.

Antonia (played by Willeke van Ammelrooy) brings her daughter to her to the village she grew up in, initially to say good-bye to her dying mother who spews out religious dogma and nonsense on her deathbed, but with the backdrop of World War II having just finished. With the former matriarch safely tucked away in the graveyard, Antonia’s brand of independence and revolutionary openness swiftly breaks down centuries old roles and expectations.

1.  Antonia attracts a widower with five sons. In short order, he proposes marriage to her because his sons need a mother. “But I don’t need your sons,” she replies. “You don’t?” he asks her, stunned. She sets the terms that she will offer meals, milk, and vegetables for things she can’t do herself. “But I already have those things.” A relationship comes about later, but it is not one that leaves her in a position to be chattel.

2.  Antonia’s daughter wants to have a baby, but has no compulsion to marry or maintain a relationship. Antonia spells out the hardships to her, finally insisting that the one condition is that the father of the child must not be one of the villagers. She takes her to the nearest city to a center for fallen women. A plucky, enthusiastic woman who loves being pregnant helps Danielle conceive with a relative of hers. Initially, the religious order of the town shame Antonia and Danielle out of the church, but a combination of blackmail and exposing clerical predilections get the family in good graces with the church again.

3.  A rapist from a wealthy landowning family casts a pall over the village in a couple of different instances over a long period of time. This is the only crime that is reciprocated with violence in Antonia’s culture because it is the ultimate expression of domination. Mob rule and promises of eternal curses give those around him the courage to serve out justice.

4.  One of the victims of the rapist is his mentally handicapped sister Deedee. She and a man with a similar state of mind find each other as they gravitate toward and eventually work for Antonia’s farm. They conceive a child, marry, and do not face harassment or threats to be sterilized by the community, because their value and attributes are recognized and cherished.

5.  Danielle’s daughter Therese is a child prodigy who seems to have infinite intelligence at the expense of expected feminine behavior. She becomes attached to the village hermit (Crooked Finger) who is a devout nihilist, explaining to her how nothing exists. She forms a strong psychic bond to him and no one interferes in the process of knowledge transfer the bizarre bachelor imparts to Therese.

6.  Feminism is varied and misunderstood, but in the case of this story seems to entail accommodating all types of people and finding the cadence of life cycles and emotions. When the nihilist’s life ends, the whole of the village senses it and comes running in their collective concern.

7.  The plucky woman from the city comes to Antonia’s home with her two children, presumably with resources or other forms of luck having run out. She and the children are downcast until Antonia welcomes them to the outdoor dinner table where her growing community are seated. The village priest who has recently left the post simply because his zeal for life is too great is in thrall with this woman in her pregnant state and they go on to happily have a dozen more children together.

8.  When the woman dies in childbirth later on, her husband and the progeny leave to devote their lives to social work in the city.

9.  Therese experiments sexually with the intellectuals at university and finds them highly egocentric and boring, so she returns to a childhood friend who is not her intellectual equal. She becomes pregnant, and the dozens children and other affiliates of Antonia’s circle have open debate as to whether she should or should not have the child. To the great offense of the nihilist, she has the baby, in part because she knows how much it means to her lover who accepts her totally. He is the primary caregiver for their daughter, giving Therese clearance to be intellectually productive.

10. Sarah, the daughter of Therese, is a contemplative young writer who also giggles when she sees the colorful ghosts of those who have died in the village. She comforts the villagers of the generations that have been present from the beginning of Antonia and Danielle’s arrival by observing their gifts. She writes a poem about all the gifted women around her but featuring Deedee, the mentally handicapped acquired family member, which provokes Deedee to speak the first and only time in the film.

11. Finally, Antonia foresees her own death and informs Sarah that it is coming, as she had promised she would do. She is not the victim of an illness or accident, but in a nurturing environment where one is not preoccupied with competition, conforming to others’ expectations, and not anticipating violence, oftentimes the rhythms of life can be detected in this manner. She, like others in her created community before her who do not die of accidents, is surrounded by family who will be hurt by her passing, but all of whom gain something different and positive from the experience.

In Antonia’s circle, someone can choose to never have children, they can choose to have a child every year if they want, they can devote their life to philosophy, and generally be left to do what they do best without interference… leading to actual maximum productivity. In an environment not driven by exploitation and warfare, life springs from all encounters.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

Roger Ebert’s review: www.rogerebert.com/reviews/antonias-line-1996

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#1 Record or #1 Single?

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

I have been a big fan of Kylie Minogue for roughly ten years and even more, I love to see music charts, analytics, and to break down what may have gone right or awry with marketing of any number of things. Minogue, the Australian who has had something like forty Top Ten hits in the UK, this week failed to continue that streak with her lead single “Into the Blue” from twelfth studio album Kiss Me Once. The single debuted at Number 12 on the Official Singles Chart Top 100. Meanwhile, on the albums chart, the record, which was released one week after the single was officially released (though it has been widely available online since late January), looks poised to reach Number 2, according to The Official Charts Company. Expected to reach Number 1 is George Michael.

I argue that whoever is topping the singles charts has a more youth-focused audience base and may be reaching more people in the here-and-now, whereas established artists who are not really reaching critical mass can still top the album chart due to preferences in purchasing behavior. Physical singles are harder to find or produced only rarely, a shift in the music industry that briefly displaced the UK as the world’s third largest music market (behind the US and Japan) and put Germany ahead for one year as that country lagged behind adopting digital downloads.

The even bigger hallmark of a veteran artist is to make the most impressive numbers on tour. In the US, at this point, most teenagers do not know who Madonna is, but she had far away and the most successful tour in terms of revenue in 2012 an was the highest earning celebrity in 2013. Bruce Springsteen is, who came in at second on the touring circuit in 2012, is also unknown to tweens and teens.

Perhaps these component charts are indicative of life stages – 99 cent song downloads for the 25-and-younger crowd, a record for the 18 to 45 demographic, and a $300/£200+ concert experience for Babyboomers and further aided by the so-called “pink pound.”

Which chart would you rather top? With your potential body of work, which #1 would make you feel most validated?

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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2014: The Year of Self-Assuredness

026John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

Competition for my attention has been such that I have not been able to write as frequently as I wish, but once per annum I do like to do a forecast of a major theme and minor themes that my tarot cards indicate will be prominent in the ensuing year. The world is such a vast place that I can only presume that the predictions are primarily relevant to who may read the contents and I am certain that events are skewed by an Anglo-American bias or relevance to readers in North America and Western Europe as they, and expats from those areas, who constitute the lion’s share of the readership. I have attempted to mitigate this emphasis as there are readers in upwards of 60 countries that visit this website each year.

2012 was, in my predictions, experience, and observation, “The Year of the Opiates” whereby there was optimistic spin in the media to keep attention directed at economic recovery and preventing any comprehensive regime change from occurring in the face of serious unrest in the Middle East – essentially a systematic effort of preventing contagion or disruption of the status quo in developed countries. 2013 was “The Year of Deconstruction” where norms were upended and corruption had fewer and fewer places to hide. The way I have summed up 2013 is that it is like a Berlin Wall is falling down every day. Many would argue that there was a palpable shift sometime around 2000 to 2001 that ushered in an unsettled period that has never really gone away, but by 2013 this has become normalized and yet were just beginning to understand the full nature of how we are all implicated and impacted.

I will re-use some of the questions from 2013, but one of them, “Are our assets safe?” does not seem to be a front page question this year. I can’t say I had a premonition about the banking situation in Cyprus, but I have been aware that raiding of accounts is a matter at hand. For 2014, I am concerned about actual or simulated cyber attacks being staged against accounts and will ask the relevance of this question.

As always, I say a prayer and ask for benevolent thoughts and influences as the preface to my queries. My primary aim is more refined now in that I want people to be able to navigate globalization and to optimize their local situation in the most seamless way possible, avoiding turbulence primarily coming from asset-stripping mechanisms our current economies foster.

What is the overall, prevailing experience many people in the world will have this year?

PAST, PRESENT: Both Justice and The Fool are reversed in this stage of our query. We are in a very litigious mindset coming into 2014. There are not quick solutions to moral or legislative issues and there will be a lot of conclusions arrived at, then reversed, then analyzed again. People are not too sure of what they actually believe. Many more people are capable of thinking in terms of moral relativism (I do not claim to know that topic inside and out but that is a term that sprung to mind). Furthermore, the opposite force at work here is that people are trying to maintain a sense of normality that they have known during the entire Post-War period from 1945, but it continues to buckle under the pressure of spiritual interests.

The second factor at the present is people noting the absurdity of their life situation. Some interpretations of The Fool in reverse take it as a warning against enticing offers, and this is a persistent threat in life, but I am pulling a feeling of farce. Many more people at the moment are questioning “How did I get here? Why am I doing what I’m doing? Everything that happens is a constructed reality.”

FUTURE/2014: Seven of Pentacles indicates people taking stock of their lives and seeing their achievements. Things are not so bad after all, and many people will realize they have accumulated more than they thought they did in recent years. Pentacles generally indicates work, assets and property, skill, and anything associated with money or success. In the seventh card, one objective is clearer and is obvious by bigger size. This is the year people want to move on and step boldly into the future and have some idea as to what can achieve this. This card is not a passive, lucky card however – it is one where the word is required to back it up. In the coming months, something of a majority of people will see their hard work paying off.

Nine of Cups in reverse comes in to say what the actual Tarotimageresults will be for the year, as felt by a “majority” and this warns of gluttony and too much consumption or vanity. Thus, a continuation of a bubble building in many segments of the world population is expected and this is not the year of the next crash (bear in mind I am not referring to the BRICS countries and emerging market countries which have suffered from the US and EU pushing inflation their way). As there is always a counterculture, a large minority of people will be more sensitive to these consumption patterns and will continue to build up their resources in such a way to avoid the next battery of social and economic problems. We may start seeing the return of religious or spiritual cults, which have been relatively quiet since the late 1990s.

2013 was a year marked with violent incidents of a cruel nature, such as the Boston marathon explosions, two incidents in Washington, and the slaying of a soldier in London. Are these events to escalate in 2014? How will violence be curtailed?

FUTURE: The Wheel of Fortune denotes how unpredictable life is and some degree of fatalism in one’s expectations. This card offers the advice of telling people to go about their business and to try to realize that there is a larger picture and meaning to their misfortunes that ultimately contributes to knowledge accumulation and enhanced life experience, even in horrifying circumstances. I will add to this that there is no wasteDogmatic and fear-based propaganda continues to unravel, hence the wheel. The seeds for real reform are planted but not yet harvested.067

The next card seems appropriate, the Page of Pentacles lands to usher in a very powerful combination of youthful exuberance and fiscal success. Youth leadership is stepping up and, as I have said before, the generation that is entering adulthood now is very, very good. The Page of Pentacles has a feathered cap and looks at a large Pentacle, combining wisdom, a plucky spirit, and a firm resolve.

In the context of this question, there will be more incidents of random terrorism, shootings, and so forth, but they are going to weigh less heavily on us because we can see that they are not necessarily evidence of a society in decline. Furthermore, as the youth start to tilt our reality to one more grounded in reasonable tolerance of others and less competition associated with all the “-isms” (nationalism, sexism, ageism, etc.), there is less harassment and violence to be expected in the sum total (in other words, high profile incidents will happen but they do not reflect the consistent decline in violence overall).

Legislation will most likely not be a part of the reduction of violence, it appears to be happening in response to social changes.

What traits or steps to be taken are the most life-enhancing ones particular to 2014 given economic and social changes in the Western world?

FUTURE: For this question, Nine of Swords and Nine of Pentacles appeared. Nine in tarot represents completion as well as beginnings and the triumvirates we know (mind, body, soul, etc.). This is a time to bask in the light of all that is already good. I have always said that wherever you are in the world is never worse than the second best place for you. Again, there is a lot of youthful energy infused into this year and you will see a lot of people giddy with their purchases, counting their blessings, shaking off fear, and letting go of some responsibility to entrust to junior members of groups.

WAR

The one persistent thorn of a very big nature that bothers me is the buildup of defense systems in the Pacific. In the last days of 2011, it was announced that the US would be sending thousands of troops to Australia quietly each year for the next five years. Meanwhile, there are frequent references to the “pivot to the Pacific,” and there have been more disputes between South Korea, China, and Japan over territorial waters and islands. I absolutely cannot express unfiltered conjecture here but I advise everyone to think very critically of what they are informed of on this front in the coming years. There will be false representations of what is happening and the parties responsible will not necessarily be who or nations that they are proclaimed to be. Your discernment and objections are of the greatest importance in the safety of others.

Will there be any worldwide conflicts this year that lead to a large-scale war situation?

FUTURE: The Lovers appears in reverse. Harmonious relations are tested and rhetoric is not romantic and cooperative. As it stands now, China and the US could not exist without the other but this is starting to shift as both countries are less dependent on each other. Turf and procedures are being sorted out and neither party is certain how to go about this, not to mention the thousands of industrial players and political factions that do not agree on what is effective.

Six of Swords also appears in reverse. This card depicts a journey by water and this literally means hostile waters in this particular case, which is more than coincidental. It also means that so far in 2014 this is mainly a war of rhetoric rather than actual combat, but the stage is set. There is a lot of obstinance at work from all factions.

Though neither of these cards refer to commerce in any way, invariably people with investments in these territories have to consider long-term disruption. Though there is a strong presence of international trade, there is actually a quiet tilt toward regional or continental trade. Eventually each continent will mostly be self-sufficient through a combination of evolution and necessity with the US, Germany, and China being the main hubs (they actually already are but that has not been recognized yet for political reasons. Russia is the wild card that will eventually operate like a Nordic social democracy).

CONCLUSION

This a year of strong performance and enhanced self-esteem at the individual level. There is not going to be a feeling of “all our problems are solved” and from the legislative perspective, this is a heavy period of combative back-and-forth disputes, but the people will rise above it and buck centralized power by frequently ignoring it. While personal investments in more environmentally friendly products and practices will continue to move forward, this is more of a year of advancements of the Self. We can laugh at ourselves and yield more power to new players.

See both the positive and negative words associated with “Self-assuredness” at merriam-webster.com

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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Unleashing the Velocity of Money

026John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

I recently read a pre-release manuscript that has since been published. Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity is easily the best book I have read this year. Financial systems and currencies are not new topical areas for me but I was pleasantly surprised and then outraged with what I learned from some case studies in this new release by Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne. Many of you reading are already familiar with the Chiemgauer, Brixton pound, and other alternative, local currencies in operation right now in the US, Germany, UK, and elsewhere. We are also regularly informed that a solution to long-term economic stagnation is to go back to gold-backed currency and that devaluation is primarily attributed to the floating currency policies initiated in the 1960s and 70s. However, these authors convincingly argue otherwise with both startling historical precedents and emergent strategies taking place in the present day.

The crux of the argument of the book is that local currencies have far greater velocity or turnover than national currencies. The key factor that seems to underpin a successful operation, in addition to mutual trust, is a slight demurrage fee, meaning in this case that the currency must lose a small portion of its value in 30 to 90 days in order to encourage movement, which is the essential factor in wealth creation (or sensation).

The most sensational and disturbing portion of the book is worth outlining – the authors cite a case I had never heard of. In the 1920s and 30s, the German-speaking world was economically decimated through both losing World War I and the reparation debts that famously created nightmarish inflation in the Weimar Republic era. At this time, inflation was so intense that people were paid twice daily and had to scramble to the Lebensmittelgeschäft (grocery store) while prices skyrocketed. What is not known is that many German and Austrian towns developed their own currencies to avoid business closures and to meet their municipal budgets.

In the case of Wörgl, Austria, in the Tyrolean Alps, in 1932, a situation developed that was later called “Miracle of Wörgl” (chronicled in the book in pages 177-8 and reiterated here). Facing 30% unemployment and an inability to meet payroll for the employees of the city, the town’s mayor, Michael Unterguggenberger, employed an economic theory of Silvio Gesell of “Freigeld” (free money), issuing labor certificates. The result was more powerful than the creators probably imagined or intended. Within a couple of months, the town was the only one in Austria with full employment and they encountered the peculiar situation of people paying their taxes early. “[W]hen people ran out of places to spend their local currency, they would pay their taxes early, resulting in a huge increase in the town’s revenues” (pg. 178). The town carried out all of their intended projects, but also built additional houses, a reservoir, a ski jump, and a bridge which still stands today. It was estimated that this money circulated 12-14 times more than Austrian money and the situation drew so much attention that it brought about a special visit from the French Prime Minister, Edouard Dalladier. However, the Austrian Central Bank shut down the operation one year later and within a couple of months the town faced 30% unemployment again.

The most terrifying thing about this and other less notable experiments is that there may be a connection to their failure and the rise of fascism. Cooperative currencies were in use in Germany and Austria primarily from the 1924 to 1930, according to Lietaer and Dunne, and during this time the support and representation for the National Socialists fell from 6.6% to 2.6% in Germany. When alternative currencies were outlawed , employment increased by 500% in three years and the percentage of seats for the Nazi Party went from 18.3% in 1930 to 43.9% by 1933, the year that Hitler consolidated power.

Most hauntingly perhaps, as I learned here, the plaque at the bridge proclaims “This bridge was built with our own Free Money.”013

There are other examples in the book of Switzerland having an inter-business currency that helped them stave off instability in the 2008-present crisis, particularly when the Swiss franc overheated in 2011, and then also an alternative banking system in Sweden whereby an operation somewhat similar to a credit union run by volunteers charges low or no interest, but requires loan seekers to hold deposits for several years before partaking in a mortgage of 15 years, and then having to keep the title to the house in the “bank” a further 12 years (thus funding other mortgage seekers), before being able to pull out the money, and thus having a huge savings package available.

One possible ideal scenario they advocate is a situation whereby several currencies are used for different functions. There could be a global reference currency, three main international currencies, scores of national currencies, dozens of regional currencies, even more local cooperative currencies, and a wide range of functional currencies dependent upon how the funds are to be used (199).

The message here is one which I try to drive home but where the authors have succinctly backed up through empirical evidence. Value and unlimited potential are literally omnipresent and centralization – mechanisms which pull money to one administrative location and then try to divvy it out – is not the way to handle our collective wealth-producing capacities.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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