Means to an end

<p>Tonight, here in the small town of Lewes, in the UK, we will see the launch of a complementary currency called the Lewes Pound.<br id="sq1e1" /> <br id="sq1e2" /> This isn't the first complementary currency, nor will it be the last. But it's interesting in several ways. <br id="yc3j" /> <br id="yc3j0" /> Firstly, it's attracted an enormous amount of TV and press coverage, including the BBC and CNN who sent film crews. <br id="yc3j1" /> <br id="yc3j2" /> OK, maybe CNN liked the link to Lewes as an early home of Tom Paine, the English radical who many believe influenced both the American and French revolutions. There's always been something a little radical about Lewes - no coincidence perhaps that it is one of the leaders in the <a href="http://transitiontowns.org">Transition Town</a> movement.<br id="h475" /> <br id="yc3j3" /> Secondly, I think the launch has also surprised some of the local businesses in town. As you'd expect with something like this, there's a lot of scepticism. But a small voluntary team has got about 70 or 80 companies behind the scheme. The launch party has had to move venue to accomodate a larger than expected audience. <br id="foca" /> <br id="njft" /> The timing is great from a news point of view, of course. With the credit crunch in full swing, and recession on the way, if not already here, what better time for a story about local citizens taking things into their own hands? The media like few things better than a David vs. Goliath story. From the point of view of raising awareness the project is already a success.<br id="vd-e" /> <br id="vd-e0" /> Complementary currencies have a long and worthy history. According to the Lewes Pound <a href="http://thelewespound.org">website</a>, they have economic, environmental and social benefits. Money spent locally stays in the community instead of disappearing off to a distant corporation. Supporting local businesses and goods reduces the need for transport and minimises our carbon footprint. Spending money in local outlets strengthens relationships between local shopkeepers and the community.<br id="n7xx" /> <br id="n7xx0" /> But really this is an educational project. How many people ever think about where their money comes from? Or where it goes? Where they spend it? Where they get it (the bank, dummy)? How it comes into existence and who creates it? And who owns that right?<br id="h5l2" /> <br id="h5l20" /> Starting to look into it, most of us have discovered that there are a number of myths about money and banking and the financial system that aren't quite true. I won't even try to change your mind - but I would suggest keeping it open and doing a little research on the internet. There are now a vast array of good sources of information about how our financial system actually works. (You could do worse than start with <a href="http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/">nef</a>.)<br id="s03i" /> <br id="s03i0" /> Does any of this matter? Isn't money simply a tool to pay for what we want, whether it be the latest consumer item or the good feeling that comes from a donation to a worthwhile cause? Every business, even a social business, uses money to pay wages, for premises and the marketing bill. It pays for nearly everything we need, to do what we want do.<br id="k9r_0" /> &nbsp;<br id="qthi0" /> But there are countless ways to see money. Some of us see money as positive. Some negative. Some may see it in a more neutral way.<br id="qn34" /> <br id="qn340" /> <a href="http://www.alastairmcintosh.com/">Alastair McIntosh</a> in Soil and Soul writes brilliantly about a local economy of mutuality, reciprocity and exchange. Cash requires another layer of faith and changes the basic balance that exists in simpler societies.</p>
<p id="empd3" style="margin-bottom: 0cm"><a href="http://www.transaction.net/press/interviews/lietaer0497.html">Bernard Lietaer</a>, an expert on complementary currencies, has been interviewed about scarcity, greed and hoarding and has been heard to relate money to Jung's Great Mother archetype.</p>
<p id="oc21" style="margin-bottom: 0cm">So money is not a simple issue. There are layers upon layer of meaning around it. And how we see and understand something clearly affects how we relate to it.</p>
<p id="wvnr" style="margin-bottom: 0cm">Anything that helps us rethink our relationship with money, might help us return it to it's proper place. So I send hearty congratulations to the Lewes Pound team.</p>