Curse of Cash review

On its face, The Curse of Cash is an argument for morality: criminals use cash to operate in the shadows, and there’s nothing an honest citizen can’t do with money electronically; therefore ridding our society of physical money would make for a more virtuous, safe, and honest environment. Physical currency was an absolute necessity to simplify a world of barter, but now technology makes it possible for money to be entirely electronic without that bringing disadvantage to any honest person.

Notwithstanding the numerous flaws and fallacies presented as part of that argument, it’s also not the real reason why the author would like to see pesky cash eliminated. The truth is far more insidious, and essentially boils down to this: the existence of cash makes it more difficult to steal on behalf of a government. That’s because currency serves as a backstop for interest rates, to wit: if central bank governors lower interest rates into negative territory — which means that one’s bank balance could shrink over time, even without the application of monthly maintenance fees — then more of us would resort to shoving big bills into our mattresses. Without those big bills, a whole new realm of possible ways to separate individuals from their money becomes possible.

The notion of negative interest rates is novel enough that when first confronted with it, many people don’t even understand the concept. It’s a sweet deal from the perspective of government, though: just like inflation (which is an intentional act, not the mysterious and uncontrollable force it’s presented as in many news reports), negative interest rates allow money to be scooped up without the politics of raising taxes. Negative interest rates, however, are the scalpel to inflation’s chainsaw. What they have in common is that they are tools used to reduce the value of money, which makes it easier to pay back loans for the people who created that money in the first place, who happen to work in government.

Most government spending is paid for not through taxes, but through bonds, which is how governments (and corporations) borrow money. With inflation, the trick is to add more money to the supply, knowing that each dollar will purchase less as a result and thus the dollars used to pay back the loan will actually be cheaper; this is why people who live on borrowed money such as farmers prefer inflation. Negative interest rates, however, remove money from circulation and transfer it back to the government for essentially the same purpose. Both are nothing but sophisticated ways of stealing, but negative interest rates would specifically punish the people who try to save for the future.

don't stealThis entire book uses bait-and-switch, dangling a carrot (the fear of the faceless criminal) to get readers on board before acknowledging the true intent of the cashless strategy proposed, which is stealing more efficiently than any criminal could.

I like cash because it’s how debt-elimination programs work, and because it’s how magic works. I’ve yet to find a viable system for reigning in spending and paying off past debts that doesn’t begin with the participant converting to a cash-heavy or all-cash lifestyle. That’s because bills and coins are tangible reminders of the cost of any purchasing decision, and because there’s a much better chance that cash in one’s pocket is not borrowed, and thus not accumulating interest in favor of a creditor. Debit cards are marginally better than credit cards — if one turns off “overdraft protection,” a fancy term for “borrowing money from the bank,” at least — but I find it’s much easier to spend with the click of a mouse than with the opening of my billfold. Electronic money is always out of sight, and therefore it is out of mind even for a thrifty fellow such as myself.

Magically it works much the same way: a physical talisman is a powerful tool to focus one’s will, and it makes spending money with intent a whole lot easier if one has to physically hand it over. Many people write spells or wishes directly on paper currency. Cutting us off from a physical representation of money is a very effective way to cut us off from any control. It’s downright diabolical.

I now seek hundreds out, because I think normalizing the use of the largest-denominated bill in the American money system is our best defense against these and similar shenanigans. Sooner or later government officials, if faced with a populace of people who prefer cash, will have to reissue some of the larger ones, as well. That, or stop inflating currency, which in case anyone reading this blog doesn’t understand yet is entirely intentional and entirely controllable; inflation is increasing the money supply by issuing more money, and no complicated economic explanation will ever change that.

Do not buy this book. The author should not be rewarded for this diabolical scheme of eirs, which is why I have neither linked to it nor even mentioned the author by name.

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Monodeism and polydeism

Deism presumes that the clockwork of the universe was set in motion by a demiurge, who at some point later vacated the premises. Apparently, polydeism is a thing, which is pretty amazing. The notion that a succession of gods have come along, messed around with what passed for the natural order at the time, and then wandered off makes more sense to me than monodeism does, but I still find it kinda depressing. In fact, it depresses me more to think that the universe has been a passing fancy to multiple gods than if it had been just that one time. Is it that boring here?

Accepting the possibility of polydeism also opens new doors. Could it be that some gods just stop by, but others choose to stick around? That’s not an option under monodeism, because it presumes just one deity. There’s nothing in polytheist belief that suggests that all the many gods have much in common with one another, and it stands to reason that some might move in for the long haul once they are born here or happen upon the place. What I’m not sure about is if that would still count as polydeism at all. I think of my ninth-grade social studies teacher’s definition of [mono]deism: “God made the universe, then split.” If it was actually multiple gods, and they split on whether or not to split, does that dilute the -deism part of the word? It certainly doesn’t satisfy people who use deism simply as a way to pay lip service to divine powers while still completely ignoring them, which may have something to do with why it’s not super fashionable to be a polydeist.

There’s a deranged part of my mind that thinks about what this concept means to theological debates within the Pagan and polytheist spheres: were they separate and distinct gods who abandoned the universe, or facets of a single being? On the other hand, maybe these former resident gods were archetypes. Could the universe now be devoid of archetypes? Did those gods all hang out together and bolt when the party was over, or was it a revolving door of holy powers? Revisiting the monist “all gods are one” mindset, could there be a succession of different faces to the same god[s] passing through, giving the polydeist the mistaken impression that there’s been a bunch when it was only a few, or one, deadbeat deity?

Moreover, what if deism is just one more idea which isn’t entirely correct or incorrect? Could it be that some gods have left for parts unknown, but others remain? Perhaps deistic abandonment is inevitable, but still unfolding. How do I know if my gods are going to leave, or when? The very thought could drive some devotees into a bitter form of agnosticism, I’d venture. If we can’t have faith in gods, does the word have any meaning?

If nothing else, a cycle of deism helps me imagine that non-believers such as atheists aren’t precisely wrong, but (like many of the rest of us) simply drawing conclusions based upon only that very small portion of the evidence which is known to human beings. I remain confident that not everything is even knowable to we jelly-brained types, and try mightily not to assume I have a better handle on the big picture than anybody else. I fail in that, regularly, but that’s the fun of being human in the first place. We are a self-centered, arrogant bunch of primates, after all. If some or all of the gods have moved on to better things, I certainly can’t blame them from tiring of our antics.

For me, there is something reassuring about knowing that there’s a lot we don’t know.

Pixylations: a review

Genre: Fiction

Title: Pixylations

Author: Joe Laudati

If you’ve ever passed over a book because it’s about fairies and you’re not really into fairies, I stand with you yet I also stand corrected: my friend Joe Laudati handed me a copy of his book Pixylations, and I am glad to have read it. Yes, I read it out of friendship, but to my delight I enjoyed it as well!

Set in Ireland in a decade not too long before our own, Pixylations is a tale about Faela, a fairy with a solid streak of trickster, and what transpires when she is forced to spend time around a human family to make up for some unfortunate events in which she was thoroughly involved. The human characters inject many of the elements readers desire in a novel, such as romance and miscommunication. (As an aside, I’m now wondering why Apollon is closest to the muses, given the heavy influence Hermes and Aphrodite have in the best fiction.) Faela, as viewpoint character, provides insight into the realms of mortal and fey alike.

Laudati does what any author must when there’s a lot of (often contradictory) source material: he finds a solid thread, and uses it to weave together a fey world that is internally consistent and interesting to read about. It’s a thread tied to plausible human characters, characters who make decisions on insufficient information and with motivations that resonate with what the readers know of them. Some of those characters remind me of ones that crossed the screen during one of my father’s favorite movies, The Quiet Man, but I’m not suggesting that one begot the other. At least to an American such as myself, Ireland is a land full of magic and strong women, which perhaps are not unrelated. Pixylations has both, and if one of those women appears to be a man-hater, well there’s no reason to draw conclusions based on first impressions alone. To do different would be to judge a book by its cover, wouldn’t it?

Actually, judging this book by its cover might not be that terrible an idea. The art, as with all the illustrations, are painstakingly rendered by the author, who is also a really amazing sculptor. (He manifested my dream of a Hestia statue, and while I feel I can judge his writing independent of that relationship, the reader is invited to draw different conclusions that my own.) It appears he captured Faela just after she’s launched herself into the sky, to be carried upon breezes and gossamer wings to her next adventure. The expression on her face evokes the bliss of being a fairy, and similarly Laudati captures the motivations and emotions of each of his characters in the prose between these covers.

Title: Pixylations
Author: Joe Laudati
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1541359277

Spare the religion, neglect the child

I’m very interested in Paganism continuing into the future, but I wonder if the experiences that bring people to Pagan traditions also make it more difficult for them to lead their children along that same path.

baby-20607_1280Most of us did not grow up Pagan. Many first-generation Pagans had some kind of traumatic ending to their religious affiliation of childhood, the kind that makes one rail against authoritarianism and oppression. They (well, we; I fit this description myself) made a choice to be Pagan. I know that does not fit the experience of every single first-generation Pagan, but I would be very surprised if it were not a majority of us.

The traditions we were taught in childhood stay with us. Passing them on, I imagine, can be as automatic as swallowing. For those of us who have picked up the threads to a different set of traditions, passing them on is not reflex. It is a conscious act, one that can require considerably more research or creativity than simply being an eclectic, adult, solitary Pagan might require.

Articulating an adopted tradition clearly enough that a child can understand it is a lot of work. Moreover, many of us who are now Pagans did not like being forced to follow a religion that didn’t feel right. Between those two dynamics, the parental approach which seems most reasonable might be, “I’ll let my children decide for themselves.”

To paraphrase Geddy Lee, if you choose not to decide for them, you still have made a choice. In this case, odds are you’re choosing a non-spiritual life for your offspring. If you do give them a religious upbringing, it could go either way, but I only know what that looks like when it comes to a monotheistic faith. For pan- and polytheists, one might imagine children learning those practices would end up prepdisposed to respecting other religions, and perhaps even the choice to follow no religion at all.

The assumption that religion is an imposition results from specific monotheistic dynamics more than anything else. Christian religions are going to feel more uncomfortable to a young person who is secretly gay, because of the teachings against homosexuality. Likewise, girls might not feel exactly empowered by some of the misogynistic teachings in the Bible.

I need to examine that last bit — about ancient sexism — more closely. Pretty much all ancient societies operated under “might makes right” rules which put women at a serious disadvantage. I practice Hellenic polytheism, and the ancient Greeks relegated women to being seen, not heard; the disparity between men and women was grossly unfair and simply awful. The difference between my ancestral chauvinists and Abrahamic ancestral chauvinists is that no one is claiming that my ancestors’ words are infallible. Like many other Pagans, we would rather practice our religion in modern society, a society where although people don’t always agree on what discrimination looks like, we at least acknowledge that it exists.

Pagans aren’t saddled by ancient words carved in stone. That means that hate isn’t automatically part of the religion. That’s a powerful difference, one that’s overlooked in much anti-religious rhetoric expounded upon by prominent atheists. A closer look often shows their arguments as being against monotheism, because that’s what they feel causes harm. Polytheistic religions are usually dismissed as irrelevant by such thinkers.

Young adults try new things, but my hypothesis is that young adults who never practiced a religion are far less likely to experiment with one. Our children may not continue to practice the exact same Pagan faith as adults; they may not practice a (Pagan) faith at all. That’s okay. They have the tools to evaluate religion and determine its value. If they decide to lead a non-spiritual life, they are making an informed decision, and one which they may reevaluate when they get married, or have children of their own.

Ironically, by “allowing” our children to choose, we strip them of that choice, or at least make it a harder one to make. Personally, I don’t fault my own parents for bringing me up Roman Catholic. Absent that decision, I would not be a priest of Poseidon today.

The gods work in mysterious ways.

When words matter

The article I wrote about Pagan copyright violations was complicated.  For one, the laws themselves are complicated.  For another, many people (Pagan and not) believe they understand those laws, when mostly all they understand is what other people have told them.  That can lead to people with good intentions violating laws or harming other people.  Yuck.

What I cannot understand is the way people dig in, and really fight for the right to make infinite copies of works others created, even after authors patiently explain how these actions bring harm.  That’s why I felt it was important to capture some of those sentiments.  This is not evidence that Paganism is fracturing and falling apart (if it ever was together), because this is not a Pagan issue at all.  21st-century people seem to feel thoroughly entitled to get it all for free, and when the legitimate channels of free information bore them, they will go to incredible lengths to justify this theft.

Wiccan and, I am certain, other Pagan ethics are quickly tossed aside in favor of having another book for free.  I’m not claiming the moral high ground here; I downloaded some music before the turn of the century that I shouldn’t have, and I do understand the allure, but the magnitude of the problem is mind-blowing.  The cognitive disconnect is such that I am sure someone is downloading Pagan Ethics as you read this.  Considering that the group owner was not only unapologetic, but openly admitting he’d put the content someplace where it again could be illegally downloaded, is evidence of a problem which isn’t just him, or that one group, or people who follow a Pagan or polytheist religion.  It’s all of us, and something has to change or art itself may be relegated to something people only do as a hobby.

There are some who believe they are sticking it to the man, or believe that all information should be free, or down with government.  I get that, I really do.  I wonder how many female/gay/trans/minority/disabled authors feels empowered by their actions?  Is it possible that theft is simply theft, and shouldn’t be used as a form of activism any more than rioting should, because it’s impossible to predict who will be harmed?

Perhaps we need to find a way to return to patronage of the arts.  I know that Patreon is out there, but I’ve avoided it simply because it carries with it an expectation to perform like a circus animal, generating content to keep the patrons happy.  That’s not how art is created, and I don’t think it’s how patronage works best.  I’ve been researching a book on Pagans and money for five years and it could be another five before I get it written.  It would be far longer if I had to stop to provide proof-of-life content; I’d have to work on posts and fresh content instead of reading and taking notes on what I’d like to say.  It seems to work for some folks, but I am not sure it’s for me.

Updates on my many gods project

The summer solstice, deadline for litanies to many gods, slipped by without me being able to acknowledge it.  I had just returned from Free Spirit Gathering, for one, and it always takes me a few days to settle back into a routine after a trip.  This is also a busy time of year for me ritually, with an ancestor pilgrimage and the festival of lilies, and the Vigil for the Bulls coming up; why I selected this particular due date is beyond me.

litany-300x235Nevertheless, the submission period is now closed.  There was a flurry of submissions at the beginning, and quickly realized how bloody much work I have bitten off.  I am going to have to write a prayer for each of the gods named, and for some of them that’s going to require education.

What needs to be done soon is the selection of a winner.  I have a post half-written about the divination systems I use and what I might do to determine which of them to use to divine that winner, but it’s languished for over the month for want of my attention.  Since time is the overall theme here, my plan is to take the time to go to meeting for worship and open myself to the gods for an answer.  It’s the most direct form of divination out there.

Yule be sorry

Christmas_with_the_Yule_Log,_Illustrated_London_News,_23_Dec_1848What curious news stories emerge from the Pagan and polytheist communities, such as the notion of trademarking Yule.  I came away from writing that with the impression that there was indeed a villain in that story, but that I may not have spoken to em directly.  To be fair, that feeling is almost always intensified when I interview attorneys, since they are trained to speak out of both sides of their mouths.  (That’s not a disparagement; more like an acknowledgment.)

I wonder if online selling has made it harder to promote a product without it appearing to be a shameless copy of someone else’s work.  That isn’t to say that I believe that’s what is happening here; only the Shadow knows.