Members of Occupy Wall Street — various branches of which have recently been saving families from foreclosure and aiding victims of Hurricane Sandy — have launched a new initiative. Coined the ‘Rolling Jubilee,’ Occupiers are raising money to buy distressed debt from financial firms.
Just to emphasize, Occupy seldom makes headlines with the various projects different Occupy and related groups have continued creating and maintaining. Stopping a home foreclosure at a time is obviously huge “news” for those involved, of course. The efforts related to providing hands-on aid to victims of Sandy have actually gotten some media attention. For example, see Occupy Sandy Volunteer Sounds Alarm on ‘Humanitarian Crisis,’ Near-Complete Absence of Government Aid in Coney Island Projects at HuffPo. For direct information, visit Occupy Sandy, and check InterOccupy for news about the Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort by Conscious Jam and Occupy on November 18.
Now, to The Rolling Jubilee effort. I’m guessing it’s one that won’t get much attention. It should, in my opinion, as should the other efforts be recognized.
From Rolling Jubilee:
A bailout of the people by the people
Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal. Debt resistance is just the beginning. Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits.
The website states that for every $1 donated, $20 in debt is purchased and abolished. In response to the obvious question about whose loans are purchased and abolished:
There is no way to seek out a specific person and buy that person’s defaulted debt. … Anonymous accounts are bundled together and sold as a whole. Before purchasing debt, there is only limited information as to whose debt we are buying. These peculiarities are part of the scandal that we are trying to highlight.
This video provides an overview:
Rolling Jubilee is a project of Debt Strike:
Strike Debt came from a coalition of Occupy groups looking to build popular resistance to the all forms of debt imposed on us by the banks. Debt keeps us isolated, ashamed, and afraid. We are building a movement to challenge this system while creating alternatives and supporting each other.
As of earlier today, Rolling Jubilee had raised $115, 803 to abolish $2,321,077 of debt.
The Jubilee officially kicks off with this Thursday’s The People’s Bailout: A Variety Show and Telethon to Buy and Abolish Debt.
Join Strike Debt for an updated version of an old classic, the telethon, to launch The Rolling Jubilee, a campaign that buys debt for pennies on the dollar and does away with it. Instead of collecting the debt, we will abolish it and help free the debtors! …
It will be a wild night of music, comedy, magic, education, and the unexpected. This fast-moving variety show will mix well-known performers, intellectuals and activists from Strike Debt and Occupy Wall Street.
The People’s Bailout show will include participants beyond NYC. Via InterOccupy:
Occupy Oakland will be participating remotely with Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and other locations in this Thursday’s People’s Bailout. …
The Rolling Jubilee… destigmatises debt by saying, ‘we’re all in this together, we believe your situation is unfair, not shameful, so we’re going to help you out …’.
Finally, back to Charles Eisenstein’s article at The Guardian, “Why Occupy’s Plan To Cancel Consumer Debts Is Brilliant”:
The Rolling Jubilee is a genius move for several reasons. First, debt relief is a transpartisan message that eludes conventional political categorisation. …
But despite its non-threatening appearance, the Rolling Jubilee has significant transformative potential. Two pillars uphold the present debt regime: the moral legitimacy of debt in society’s eyes … and the coercive mechanisms that enforce repayment, such as harassment, seizure of assets, garnishment of wages, denial of employment or housing, and even imprisonment. The Rolling Jubilee erodes both. It destigmatises debt by saying, ‘we’re all in this together, we believe your situation is unfair, not shameful, so we’re going to help you out’. And it lessens the severity of the consequences of default.
For this reason, we might expect lenders to balk at co-operating with the Rolling Jubilee, perhaps by refusing to sell loans to anyone who doesn’t agree to seek collection. So here is a third reason why the idea is so brilliant: if the lenders block debt cancellation even when it comes at no cost to themselves (as they would have sold it at the same price to a collection agency), they appear as a bunch of greedy, vindictive Scrooges. …
Everyday people making ways to help each other: that’s “brilliant.” Not sexy, or likely to create a notable Twitter trend, but maybe that’s part of the reason it’s brilliant – the focus is on real people and their real needs.
(Occupy Rolling Jubilee poster via InterOccupy)