Money and value: the greatest concensual mass hallucination?

This article came across my tweet feed today, about the HSBC being under investigation for possible money laundering and other monetary woes. Needless to say, I was not shocked that this had been happening. What’s that you say? “Not shocked???!!!” Well, no. Not really.Okay, maybe a little bit. Outraged, most certainly, but not shocked. Disappointed, oh you bet, but not shocked.

Now, I am not about to go into the legal ins and outs, or the moral implications of taking money from known terrorist groups, suffice to say I think it stinks that one corporation will accept profit from sources that are murky at best (because yes, banks actually profit from the money that is being held in trust. They don’t just do it out of the goodness of their hearts – there’s something in it for them).

What I am about to go on about is the fact that this is a large bank, with ties all over the world. Most of us have either had ties with HSBC, or have ties with a company that does. What happens if this bank gets more than a little slap across the wrist? Well, apparently this sort of a thing is nothing new for the bank, who has ties to the cartels of Mexico, and has done for quite some time.

So, the ramifications of HSBC being prosecuted?

Not much really. Well, that is if you consider that this could go one of two ways. Either, those responsible get jailed and “shockwaves” go through the banking “community”, in which case, new people get employed in their positions and they either run the bank ethically and we all live in sunshine and happiness, or they go back and run the bank in exactly the same ways albeit a little more sneakily, in which case the same old cycle starts again. OR the whole bank gets fined a ludicrous amount of money. This, as an option, can one of two ways. Either the amount they are fined is equal to or less than the annual profit of the bank. If this is the case, then they pay the money, shareholders get angry, some jumping ship but ultimately they see the profit the company can make as what they’ll get on their ROI in the next financial year and so stay. On the other hand, the fines will amount to more than the annual projected profit. The shareholders will try to jump ship, but won’t be able to because the assets of the company will be frozen as it goes into administration, and one of the worlds banking giants falls.

And if all the cards come crashing down…?

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. Or even the second. But it would be felt harder and further than any previous financial crisis. Why do I think this? American banks, from which the 2007-2012 crisis originated, had ties overseas. These were not so heavily intertwined with average Australians. HSBC is one of the largest lending banks across the world, with “…around 7,500 offices in over 80 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, North and Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. With assets of US$2,556 billion as at 31 December 2011…” Now do we see where this is heading?

I am not proposing that we step away from prosecuting these banks, or making them accountable for their interactions. What I propose is something entirely more radical and, potentially more anarchical (at least in the early days). How about we enact a shift in perceived value? It’s an odd concept, and some watching this video may not understand how it can work in the financial world. I am going to let you in on a little secret that few people have actually ever spoken: Money has no real value. Think about it. It’s little pieces of printed paper or alloyed metal stamped with images. In itself, there is no value, until we perceive it has value. The perceived value of money is, perhaps, one of the greatest ‘consensual mass hallucinations‘ we have in this world today.

And, with that, I will let you think about how you perceive the value of the things in your life.

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Privilege – Is it still a Thing?

General Broadcast Warning: This post contains some material unsuitable for people who are not aware of the following: A) I am bisexual; B) I am opinionated; and c) I have a child. Right. Carry on.

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No auto-fill was harmed in the making of this screen-capture from today.

I was given this link about Google and what is being termed the ‘Bisexual Problem’ today. I must say, as I was reading it, I was struck by a couple of things.

Firstly, I find it very odd that in a world aiming for an end to discrimination of all groups of people, the black and white lines seem to have been made even more apparent.

It is a fairly constant peeve amongst those of the bisexual orientation that you’re not liked by anyone. So many people misconstrue what it means to be bisexual. The usual misconceptions that I have personally encountered are, as follows:

  1. “You’re not really bi. You just don’t know what you want.”
    Ummmm, no, I’m fairly certain I DO know what I want. I want a nice life, a happy family and someone to love and be loved by. I am just more flexible than most as to where I look for all of that.
  2. 2) “You’re just greedy.”
    Well, this may be true. You put a tub of ice cream in front of me, it’s going to disappear. However, when it comes to who is included in my life, I am very discerning. Even more so when it comes to who I let into my heart. So, no, I don’t think I am greedy.
  3. “You’re just a lesbian in denial.”
    No. Just. No. I am in denial about many things. I deny that I have uni assignments due over the horizon all the time. In the case of my sexuality, I am very certain that I have it right.
  4. “It’s okay. You’re just experimenting.”
    Again, no. I am past my wild, impetuous teens and early twenties. I have experimented and found a formula that works.
  5. “If you’re with a boy one month and a girl the next, your kid is going to grow up with one hell of a complex.”
    Before you ask, yes, I have been told this. I have no doubt they were well-meaning intentions that precipitated this, but I couldn’t help but shake my head. If I stayed with one partner for all eternity and was unhappy, surely that would set a poor example for my kid. If I was changing up my boyfriend (or girlfriend, for that matter) every month, not only would I be concerned about my mental health, but I’d be concerned for my kids. However, I am not one for changing my partner at a whim. I also like to think I keep my kid away from the details of my romantic life until it is at such a point that I feel comfortable in inviting that new person into our home. It’s called discretion and respect for my kid.

So where am I heading with all of this? The stigma held against bisexual people is NOT lowering. It is remaining constant, if not increasing. It is there from straight people and from gay, transgender and transsexual people. It is everywhere. Think about it. An actor comes out as gay, no biggie. An actor comes out as bi, and suddenly everyone has “been with” them and it’s more of a storm than if a straight person simply said, “I kissed a girl and I liked it…”

Secondly, the article struck me as strange for using the term “monosexual privilege” (while citing Shiri Eisner). I was left asking myself is “Privilege even a THING???”

See, to me, we are too busy attempting to come up with rational, NICE (read: vaguely academic) terms for all kinds of bigotry and nastiness. Privilege is just one of those all-encompassing prefixes to otherwise not-so-nice occurrence of life, namely people openly displaying their conscious or sub-conscious prejudices. Male privilege, speaking from a stand point of a male in society unaware of female issues. White middle-class female privilege, speaking from a stand point of a white female with no understanding or awareness of lower-class issues. The list goes on, and you can use for every stand point. If you say anything that might be offensive to one or more groups of people, you are speaking from a stand-point of privilege. It is simply another term for speaking from the situated self.

I guess, with all of this, I am attempting to get people to think about what it is they’re saying before it leaves their mouth. I am asking Google to show the way in actual tolerance and acceptance, by reviewing their embargo on auto-fill of “bisexual” as they said they would. It isn’t a “bug”, it’s prejudice plain and simple. You’re speaking, through your inaction, from a place of “multi-faceted, technological giant corporate” privilege… Oh goodness! Now I’m talking like one of “them”!

Queensland Government Moves to Change Surrogacy Laws.

It has been in the news for a little while, precipitating some fairly heated arguments across many a facebook and twitter account. If you haven’t heard, now that they’ve scrapped the Civil Union for same-sex couples and downgraded it to Registering a Relationship, the Queensland Government has amended the Surrogacy laws to disallow same-sex couples, those in a de facto relationship of less than two years, or a single person access to “…altruistic surrogacy…” options.

There are those in support of the move, stating it, like the removal of adoption rights for same sex couples, is for the benefit of the children that they are not brought up in unstable conditions (Shelton, 2009 & Lawson, 2008). A few sources of this side of the argument provide little more than anecdotal references to “studies”, with no real referencing to back them up. In any other kind of argument this would be laughed at passed over, yet it is allowed to continue!

De facto couples are also banned from accessing surrogacy as an option if they have been together for less than two years. There are some fears that other rights extended to de facto couples may also be next to be amended, such as inheritance rights.

Are you a single person? You’re also out of luck, with this amendment also barring you from access to non-financial surrogacy. As financial surrogacy is illegal by both old and new forms of the law, there’s no alternate route either.

If you are involved in surrogacy for one of the banned groups of people, you could face up to three years in jail.

There are some in the legal field who suggest that these changes may breach federal discrimination laws. I wonder if there is a QC who would offer pro bono services to fight this claim should it arise?

ImageThose who have acted as surrogates in the past have written to their local members of parliament (see the image to the left), saying they oppose the changes. Keeping in mind that these women do not receive payment for their services, there is no financial reward to be gained from more people having access to surrogacy. They truly believe that everyone should have the ability to bring up a child and, if they cannot do so themselves, everyone should be able to have access to assistance.

So why am I writing about this? Why does it bother me? I’m not living in Queensland, or one of the banned groups of people. I’m not currently considering being a surrogate, though I have been approached on this matter.

I am writing about this to bring attention to the incredible injustice of it all. These laws, in my opinion and the opinions of many others, fly in the face of all that those working for anti-discrimination laws have achieved. I implore each and every one of you to send a letter, email, postcard, etc to your local member (if you’re in Queensland), or to any member of Parliament or the Senate in either your own state or the federal level.

Marriage Equality – Weighing on the argument.

First, a little preface to this mini-rant. A friend is engaged to his boyfriend, and is living in Queensland. For those who do not know Queensland over-turned a rather progressive ruling for Australia when it decided to not allow same-sex couples a civil union (not quite a marriage, but close) but, rather, allow them to register their relationship, and then endangered their right to surrogate assistance. Now, all I have been seeing amid all of this, is the very loud religious overtones shining through. However, I am able to cut through this and see the issue for what it is. I think parties on both sides of the fight need to see this for what it is: A fight for civil rights, not religious ones. I hold my own belief system and sexuality. I do not understand why I should be forced to adhere to another person’s belief teachings or have one relationship model elevated to a higher status than mine simply because it is their model of choice. As a friend commented once:
‘…if you dont [sic] want to love Jesus, then don’t. If you don’t want to marry a man, then don’t! But how can you tell someone else they can’t because you think so?
‘It’s basically like me going up to you and saying “I don’t think it’s right to cross your legs when you sit down, because of the personal beliefs I hold. Therefore, you are not allowed to do it!”‘
I know this is a rather hot topic for some, but please if you comment bear in mind the feelings of others.

 

ImageMarriage equality is NOT a religious issue. I’m sorry, but it really isn’t. We had an institute of marriage well before the Church came along. Various cultures had their own ideas on what constituted marriage, and allowed people to freely enter into what would have been recognised as a marriage in this day and age. There was little stigma regarding differing approaches to marriage as well, with one type of marriage only being observed for thirteen moons, with the particulars being revisited and discussed amongst the married parties at that point to see if they wanted to continue or dissolve the union.
Going even further back, the ancient Egyptians had secular and sacred marriages, both of which were held in the same level of respect as one another. The secular marriage had a few more legal assurances to both parties (in particular, that the female was assured of leaving the union upon dissolution with exactly what she entered it, plus half of whatever the pair accrued).
The native Americans had their own traditions, different for each tribe.
I could go on to describe each tradition across the world. In all of these cases, though it may have been something of an anomaly, same sex couples were recognised. They held the same level of respected union as opposite-sex couples, were afforded the same level of legal or community assistance, and were not necessarily barred from the union of marriage unless there were other circumstances in the way (children from a previous union, disputes of property ownership, etc).
What we see now is a world-wide community wherein a religious order has become so heavily integrated into the political system that people find it hard to separate one from the other. Our societal compass has become so heavily directed by the moral teachings of one group of people that there is no room in some people’s minds to any other kind of system.
For those who say marriage is a sacred institute, I could not agree more. Marriage is, indeed, a sacred thing. Love is the highest sacred calling we humans have.
Jesus preached love for our fellow man. Not love until it makes us feel strange, not conditional love, but love across the board, without borders and selfless.
In all of native, or nature-worshipping traditions, love for the world and one another was the over-riding premise to morality.
In Islam, love of Allah and one another is what drives morality.
How then, can we see not allowing two people, regardless of their sexuality or displayed gender (because don’t get me started on non-binary gender in this issue), share and commit to love as following our moral compass?

 

Want to know more about this issue? These are some links for the Marriage Equality argument in Australia. Not in Australia? Please feel free to post your own links in the comments below. On the other side of the argument, please feel free to discuss this issue as well. A well-rounded discussion involves two sides, and I would appreciate your side of the discussion. Do keep things civil though, please.

Australia Marriage Equality

Equal Love

Parliament Information on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012

Surcharge for Debit or Credit Cards? Why?!

With the world becoming increasingly automated and payments online becoming the norm, the option to pay bills without the use of a credit card or a debit card is becoming harder and harder. At least, if you want to maintain control over exactly when your bills are being paid out of your account.

Sure, you can set up direct deposits, if you know you’ll always have the right amount of money in your account when the company decides to ask for it. With so many more people living hand to mouth these days, that is becoming harder for some people. Also, given that some of the charges for keeping a credit card are increasing, having one of those and then having your salary paid into that account is harder as well. It seems, at least amongst younger people, that a debit card and a savings accounts are the only mean of paying bills that they have.

Why then do some companies still insist on having a surcharge on payments made via credit card or debit card?! Is it really that much more work for them to process the payment? Do they get charged for such payments at their end? How can they justify these extra charges?

I tried to find the Australian charges for retailers on credit card and debit card payments and came up with nothing. Which is unfortunate, because I think consumers would really like to know what is involved in a retailer accepting such payments. I know I for one would like to know whether an online business is screwing me over. If they only get charged x percentage of the transaction to accommodate that method of payment, why are they charging me three or four times that amount? I think everyone would benefit from a more transparent economic system… Well, except the major banks and credit companies… But surely they get enough as it is?

Oh dear, I think my “socialist” roots re showing again, better go and cover up that red.