Debt - a global scam

A note from the editor

Dinyar Godrej

Another day older and deeper in debt

I know it makes some people tremendously uncomfortable, but I can’t say it has bothered me much. Often, contrarily, it makes me feel appreciated, gives me a warm glow.

I’m talking about being socially indebted, being on the receiving end of acts of kindness from friends or strangers. Funnily enough, the overriding feelings I get are of being valued and connected, rather than any immediate obligation to repay. I believe these things even out in the end anyway and if it costs me little to help, then I certainly don’t keep score! The reward of helping out is in the doing.

My feelings about my mortgage debt are, sadly, entirely different – not only will the wretched thing haunt me until I am old and grey, it has turned me old and grey already. Such contractual, monetized debts are of a different order, of course; there is no trace of the social about them. And they can hang heavy indeed, especially when one feels tricked or forced into having taken on something unmanageable.

Fifteen years ago, a New Internationalist edition on debt would have been almost entirely on ‘Third World’ debt. Today, debt of all kinds is much more global, but it can be just as extractive and unjust. That still needs to change.

We also carry a report this month on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandit minority, many of whom were driven from their homes when the conflict in the region first began to escalate. In India, rightwingers exploit their example to spout anti-Muslim hatred, while progressive media often remain uneasily silent.

A warm welcome to Eduardo Galeano, the treasured Uruguayan author, whose books have permanent residence in our library. He answers our questions with his usual wit and concision – and, I for one, will greedily devour his views, even on football.

Dinyar Godrej for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

Keynote article.

Besieged: police cordon off the HQ of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, during the anti-capitalist ‘Blockupy’ demonstrations this June.

Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

Debt – a global scam

The standard response to the current financial crisis has been to punish the presumed debtors. Are the creditors blameless, then? asks Dinyar Godrej.

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It’s almost a reflex. Think about debt and we think first about something owed. Then come secondary considerations of whether it ‘should’, ‘ought’ or ‘must’ be paid back, how this should happen, and whether possible.

Large outstanding personal debts – say a mortgage taken out during a housing bubble – can turn even the stoutest of us into ‘quivering insomniac jellies of hopeless indebtedness’ (as Margaret Atwood so accurately puts it). Debt is, we feel, whatever the rights or wrongs, ‘our ow...




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