Myth, Narrative and History
(For Part 1 see here)
Myth in the Age of Technique
In order to grasp the nature of myth in our current age, we must take account of the advent of a new reality in the way of transacting-in-the-world which now dominates, informs, subordinates and mediates all others: the way of technique/technology. The essential import of this development is that all human engagement with lived experience is exposed to the ‘levelling’ and ‘standardisation’ which is ‘revealed’ through the indifferent and irresistible ‘pull’ of technique into the systems of rationality and efficiency which govern its own inherent logic.
The effect of technique can be seen in the engineering of mythic status for the shibboleths of ‘democracy’ and the ‘free market’. In practice democracy reveals itself to us, the masses, as an encounter with the way of technique whereby the untidy human complexities involved in the expression of political will, conflict and responsibility are reduced to the organised distribution, casting and counting of symbolic ballots. Although the system is imposed on them, the masses have all been methodically preconditioned to clamour for it as an entitlement. It is (technically) the will of the people.
Democracy and the ‘Free’ Market
Just as with the split between history and myth, people are deceived by the outward appearances and rhetoric of democracy and so-called free-market capitalism and fail to see the nature of the beast. In spite of democracy’s roots in Greek culture, the Greeks would recognise nothing that we call democracy today. For the Greeks, democracy was conceived of as the right of a free man to be heard and to exercise some measure of control and authority over his society. He thought that he had a voice; we have a vote. Modern man is reduced to being a faceless integer, allowed merely to cast a single vote for a representative, who is promptly bought up by banks and corporations. We have a highly visible example in the career of an erstwhile prime minister of the UK whose role in politics was merely a single rung on the ladder he was climbing. Politicians, when out of office, move seamlessly into corporate posts for the banks they were working for all along.
So we are bamboozled by the rhetoric into failing to see that we have nothing that can really be called democracy. In reality, the Greeks knew that democracy – people power – always concealed oligarchy – rule by the few. Remarkably the inevitable outcome of democracy has always been that in the end the masses clamour for a dictator to cancel the un-payable debts.
The Technique of Money Creation
Today the mathematical technique of money creation from nothing is at work. And thus an élite have risen from nowhere, people who are the dregs of humanity with little humanity in them, and only the urge to acquire ever more of those ephemeral numbers, which in their case and with indecent haste they turn into solid facts as soon as they can: castles, estates, land, commodities including oil and food, and tangible assets, thus inflating the prices of most things for the rest of us.
Whereas healthy trade can be understood by its simplest component, “mutually agreed trade” (Sūrat an-Nisā’ 4: 29) which is really mutually pleasing and satisfactory trade, modern money creation, currently a hotly disputed issue, can be similarly understood by its simplest component upon which the entire edifice of usury finance rests: the fact that a deposit once made can then be lent against by the invention from nothing of new money – fiat money – and interest charged for that. This is seen most transparently in the original loan made by the then newly formed Bank of England in 1694 to William of Orange. This is from the Bank of England website:
William Paterson proposed a loan of £1,200,000 to the Government. In return the subscribers would be incorporated as the Governor and Company of the Bank of England.
The Royal Charter
The money was raised in a few weeks and the Royal Charter was sealed on 27th July 1694. (http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/about/history/index.htm)
The terms of the loan are interesting and indeed crucial to our understanding: they lent the money to William at 6% interest, or rather they lent it to the nation as the first ‘national debt’ in the world, the nation being saddled with a debt which they would continue to service without repaying. AND, at the same time the Bank was entitled to issue the exact same sum of money in paper money and lend it at 6% interest to the general populace. This money was the first significant paper money of the modern era, discounting the earlier Swedish venture which was a simple war-time expedient or the much earlier Chinese version in mediaeval times. Thus, the debt owed by the government was counted as an asset which could be lent out a second time. Much convoluted reasoning goes to justify this step, but on it the entire edifice of banking in our time is raised. The same money was lent twice!
Similarly when someone makes a deposit in a bank, that bank counts the deposit as an asset and lends out other money which it creates out of nothing. Thus it both keeps the deposit and lends out other money it invents because of it at the same time. Fractional Reserve Banking results in the person who borrows that second money as often as not transacting with it in such a way that he or the next person in the chain then deposits it in another bank where it is both retained as a deposit and also serves as the basis for another loan. And so on. Ad infinitum.
At each step, the ‘reserve requirement’ is supposed to be respected, i.e. that the bank itself either keeps, or deposits in the central bank, some fraction of the sum, just in case. The Wikipedia article* on Fractional Reserve Banking illustrates this with a case involving 20% reserve, and shows that on that basis an original $100 can be amplified by the banking system to become $500 in all. However, much more revealingly in the article on Reserve Requirements it says “As of 2006 the required reserve ratio in the United States was 10% on transaction deposits and zero on time deposits and all other deposits.” It also notes that “The effect is exponential, because money that is loaned out can be re-deposited; a portion of that money may again be re-loaned, and so on.” And even more devastatingly about the UK, “The Bank of England holds to a voluntary reserve ratio system, with no minimum reserve requirement set. In theory this means that banks could retain zero reserves, effectively allowing an infinite amount of credit money creation. However, the average cash reserve ratio across the entire United Kingdom banking system is higher, with a 3.1% average as of 1998.”
That is the meaning of the earlier mention of ‘exponential’; the smaller the reserve requirement the vaster the amplification of the fresh money created out of nothing by the system, until when there is no reserve requirement, the result is “effectively allowing an infinite amount of credit money creation”. Infinite.
But we could be tricked, as modern critics of banking are, into getting into the nuts and bolts and arguing about the degree and extent of money creation as if it were merely a matter of degree, whereas everything lies in that first step in which something deposited is retained as an asset and then fresh money is invented and lent out at interest. This simple step is the fulcrum around which the machinery of banking revolves. Take it away and the banks collapse. It is the simple license for them to invent money from nothing and lend it to us, and by it, this ‘sect’, as Proudhon called them, have risen from utter obscurity to depose the world’s monarchs and aristocrats, setting in place a machine, the media, to make sure that their story alone is heard, and a political class to run things on their behalf and tax the people in order to service the interest on the debt. And this sect now have a pliant military that imposes their model of the democracy of an indebted and thus enslaved integers-citizenry all around the world with a ruthlessness which Stalin would have envied, in spite of the fact that it is inconceivable to an orderly and logical mind that ‘imposition’ and ‘democracy’ could be united in a single sentence.
And this exponential multiplication of money has naturally a converse which is: exponentially increasing inflation and debts that have reached their breaking point in the impoverishment of countless millions around the world, resulting in their taking to the streets from New York to London, Athens, Cairo and Damascus. But, whereas people in the US and Europe have few delusions about what they are fighting for, the Arabs have successfully been persuaded that it is a political fight against tyranny on behalf of democracy, and purveyors of the myth of al-Ḥusayn have walked straight into this scenario unwittingly. They have made an ‘Islamic’ myth of dubious merit subservient to the dominant myth of the age which itself is merely the mask for a quite concrete theft of resources and subjugation of peoples to exponentially increasing debt. There is clear evidence that with the political movement they are merely unwittingly serving the wider ambitions of global power élites who, through their various bodies to further ‘democracy’ throughout the world, channel funds and training to forces in the Muslim world and elsewhere, perhaps with no other aim than creating instability.
And so we have reached the end of the game. All the old-fashioned socialists have fallen before the irresistible sway of usury capitalism. The old dialectic of east-west, left-right simply does not work any more and people are left without any choice, except that the Occupy Wall Street movement around the world has woken with an almost entirely inarticulate resolve not to succumb. At this moment, things hang in the balance. If we are not merely to be left suspended at the end of history as tiny Davids against the mighty Goliath, then we must retrace our steps in history.
We have seen that pernicious myths have their basis in an emotion-rich religious telling contrary to a drier factual history. For Christianity this was to shape its culture as an ahistorical one based on legend and superstition until at the time of the Renaissance the gap could no longer be concealed and the modern ‘enlightenment’ began, rejecting in its fury not only the Church which had lied so much, but God Himself.
However, something unique had already happened but had been hidden from the people by first the Church and then later the Bank: the last prophet of Allah, Muḥammad, peace be upon him, alone among all the prophets and messengers of Allah was born in the full light of history. His singular mark is that rather than disciples he had companions. His every doing and saying was impressed vividly on their memories and transmitted by them to the following generation and they have come down to us in such a fashion that we can have no doubt as to their authenticity. Often multiple reports of the same event which could not possibly have been colluded upon, the very discrepancies in which show beyond doubt that they have not been fabricated, for only criminals have their alibis absolutely pat. None of the fabulous and superstitious elements of rabbinical Judaism or Biblical Christianity, except for a few peripheral narrations of doubtful authenticity, which is only to be expected wherever human transmission occurs, and which were long ago identified and weeded out.
At the core there is something even more stunning: a body of practice which was taken on entirely by the people of his city, Madinah. That practice, the ‘amal of the people of Madinah, straddles acts of worship such as the regular salat performed five times a day, and the zakat charitable tax taken from the wealthy by the leader and his trained and authorised collectors, taken in gold, silver, crops and livestock and given to the eight categories eligible to receive it, pre-eminently the needy and the bereft. That practice also extends into monitoring the market and purifying it from usury, engrossing, forestalling, undercutting, price-fixing and other evils, and making available to the people currencies that cannot be manipulated by the ruthless, always one of the core duties of rule. It is impossible on such a basis to erect constitutional democracy or the banking that it conceals, even ‘Islamic’ banking, the deadly Trojan Horse inside the Muslim community today.
The biography of the Messenger himself, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, although devoid of superstitious elements and fully acknowledging his human-ness, yet amply reflects the word of his companion, the poet Hassan ibn Thabit, who said:
مُحَمَّدٌ بَشَرٌ وَلَيْسَ كَالْبَشَرِ بَلْ هُوَ يَاقُوتَةٌ وَالنَّاسُ كَالْحَجَرِ
Muhammad is a human being but not like other human beings.
Rather he is a flawless diamond and mankind are like stones.
Its essence is that it is the clear historic record of the last prophet in which in every single utterance and event, no matter how apparently trivial, there is clear evidence of a momentous life illuminated by direct light from the Divine at every instant. Thus, it has the primordial nature of myth while being deeply rooted in authenticated historical narrative, and the Muslims have constantly drawn upon it from the moment of its appearance to the present day, whether in their family lives, the mosque, the market or in statecraft. It is the model for individuals and societies to live in this world with all our human fallibilities and failings and yet do so in the presence of Allah. A statement about such a one is an implicit statement about everyone. That Muḥammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, could live his life in the home, mosque, marketplace and battlefield, knowing his Lord, undistracted by the affairs of life while yet fully engaged in them, means that this is the potential of human beings who submit to their Lord through the lived example of Muhammad and his companions. Wherever and whenever access to this possibility is cut off, the doors to technique, pseudo-democracy and usury finance are thrown open and the degradation of humanity, for Muslims and everyone else alike, is the inevitable result. But when genuine Islam appears as a lived reality, nothing inimical to natural wellbeing can withstand it. It is this central primordial telling of the life of Muḥammad, peace be upon him, which is the universal resource for which the Muslims remain answerable and of which they are the custodians. In his practice and that of the inhabitants of his illuminated city are to be found, accessible and uncompromised, the instruments which reveal both the figments and the essential truths inherent in every enduring myth – time and again they have shattered the sway of misguidance and oppression, and they will prove once again to be the nemesis of illusion in this, the age of technique.
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My thanks to Hajj Uthman Ibrahim-Morrison for his work on Part 2 both in its opening and conclusion and for the suggestion that led to the writing of this section.
I have cited Wikipedia as it is simply the most conservative possible statement I have ever heard of this aspect of money creation and probably reflects the fact that Wikipedia items of critical importance to vested interests are watched vigilantly lest inconvenient matters get into them.
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