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THE MONEY QUESTION: When “friends, family, colleagues” pile on — AKA dignity is another word for justice

Last week, I put out an informal call for some short-term financial help to “extended family, friends, colleagues” across the country. I received an “interesting” response from someone in her 60s—in other words, a peer. Basically, it was a “blame the victim” response. 

It made me realize that not everyone has spent ten years studying the U.S. money & banking system (like I have since 2011). Not everyone is aware of the many ways in which our “counting” system is corrupted and manipulated. In other words, most 20th-21st century Americans do not know that The Money Question was a common topic of civic discourse for the first 100+ years of the U.S.

In a nutshell, The Money Question is:
—who creates new U.S. money
—how does it enter the economy
—who decides and by what rules

I’m pretty sure that most U.S. officials, politicians, and voters (a) cannot answer The Money Question correctly and (b) have never thought about the question. That is partly because both the question and possible answers have been intentionally obscured by those who profit from the current private money creation system (set in concrete in 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve system).

Nevertheless, I would have thought that (a) most 60-somethings would have, by now, smelled something rotten in the U.S. political economy, and (b) a math teacher who’s exhibited a lifetime of compassion for people might have had some inkling that, in the U.S. money system, the numbers don’t add up.

This blog documents how I came to study U.S. monetary & banking policy and contains some free spiritual tutelage for other people who might be inclined to “blame the victims” of a corrupt political class. Unfortunately, the corrupt political class is massively aided & abetted by an ignorant electorate — some of whom are lazy, more of whom are overworked. At my age (70), I’m inclined to agree with Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes comic strip) that most ignorance is willful.

The good news is not all of my family, friends, and colleagues have piled on.

PS But if anyone is inclined to compensate me for this tutorial, I would certainly appreciate the support.

A. My plea for help
B. Blame-the-victim response
C. Tutorial on dignity and justice


To: Extended family, friends, and colleagues around the U.S.
Others who know of my intersectional activism and policy work
Hi, all —
I was barely able to pay my bills this month (April) and my immediate financial future is looking murky. If anyone can help me get through these next few months, I would be very grateful.

Your help would keep me going so that I don’t have to disrupt the Food + Farms + Democracy outreach & strategizing that I’ve added to my policy work for the last 15+ years. Any support you can give would also validate my community involvement of 43+ years with a variety of organizations and initiatives: in my hometown (Evanston), the Chicago area, the state of Illinois, the Midwest, and nationally (the U.S.). Because the U.S. is so dominant in the world, by impacting U.S. policy, I believe that I am helping to positively impact policy around the world — and perhaps the lives of real beings, both humans and non-human.

For details of my recent activism and how to follow my work, see the “appendix” to this email.
1. APRIL 2021: Validation by the universe?
— April 6, 2021  EVANSTON, IL: Election Night Dream — Charting a better climate path
— April 22, 2021  LOCAL FOOD, FARMS & JOBS: The 2009 climate plan for Illinois farmers
2. BACKGROUND to my work and request for help
3. BEST WAY to follow my work

I do not have a GoFundMe account or any other electronic site. If you believe in my work and can support it in any way (check or cash), my address is:
Thanks for any help you can provide and thanks for everyone’s good works.I hope you’re all well. 
— Debbie

1. April 2021: Validation by the universe ?
a. The night of our local elections (Evanston, April 6), I had a dream. 
I had fallen asleep after the results were announced, but awakened less than 90 minutes later with a disturbing dream:

Three officials were testifying before Congress. Each one was weeping — sobbing — with deep regret about having put all their climate policy eggs in one basket: renewable energy. They were recognizing too late that they should have been more diversified in their advocacy—energy conservation, local foods, real democracy, monetary reform, mental health, women’s leadership, etc. All the ways that I’ve been advocating for most of my adult life.

I took the dream as a sign that I needed to do more. You can read a recent blog for how the universe gave me direction — the next day and the day after: EVANSTON, IL: Election Night Dream — Charting a better climate path?

b. A farm-based climate plan
Last week, on Earth Day (April 22), like many of you I received numerous announcements from various groups—events, reports, campaigns, etc. One of the announcements knocked my socks off and made me laugh hysterically. The announcement (forwarded to me by a good colleague here in the Chicago area) was from a coalition of 14 Illinois food & farm organizations that had signed onto a March 4 letter to Gov. Pritzker from the American Farmland Trust.

The letter sensibly requested Gov. Pritzker to add “regenerative agriculture” and Illinois farmers to Illinois’s climate agenda. What made me laugh was the letter’s assertion that Illinois farms “have yet to be identified as part of the state’s climate strategy” — an assertion that is 100% wrong and 12 years behind the times.

Some of you may remember that in 2007-10, I was a coordinator of a State of Illinois task force — the Illinois Local & Organic, Food & Farm Task Force, created by the Illinois Food, Farms and Jobs Act, authored and sponsored by my State Representative (Julie Hamos). In 2009, the second IFFJA was passed (also unanimously except for 1 vote), adopting our report which included the Illinois Local Food, Farms & Jobs Plan. The Plan included the creation of a permanent body (Local Food, Farms & Jobs Council) to implement and coordinate our plan to re-localize our food & farm system—and to restore our economy, communities, water, and soil.

Needless to say, I had to respond to AFT’s letter to let them know that Illinois has had a farm-based climate plan since 2009. Unfortunately, the “great” recession and political upheaval (including chronic corruption in Illinois) prevented implementation, which is why AFT and the other signatory organizations might not remember the IFFJA plan.

You can read more about my response to AFT and the IFFJA plan in another recent blog: LOCAL FOOD, FARMS & JOBS: The 2009 climate plan for Illinois farmers. The blog includes ways that the IFFJA plan should be updated (to include AFT’s suggestions as well as other tweaks). I believe the Illinois plan would be useful to other states because we included two aspects of a food system not always included in food plans: 
— non-food farm products
— real democracy (principle of subsidiarity)

2. Background to my work & request for help
As most of you know, my 25-year professional gardening career led to my current work on food & farm policy (since 2005). I seemed to be successful at both careers, but in 2007-10, my policy career ran into systemic corruption and confusion called the “great” recession. Many of the Midwest’s food & farm projects had been “funded” by Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme (through one specific foundation). When Madoff’s scheme went pfft in late 2008, so did that foundation — and many Illinois initiatives.

Don’t think I didn’t make note of Bernie Madoff’s recent passing on April 14. But he was just one drop in the ocean of corruption and confusion about our money and banking system, which I have been studying and working on ever since the “great” recession — along with many  people who are also discovering The Money Question and our need to democratize our money. Unfortunately, in 2015 I had to sell my house because there was still no money in the food & farm world.

Ever since, I have continued to participate at a high level on a [mostly] voluntary basis, on a number of issues, at all geographical levels. [For the record, I am continually looking for paid work, but there is still minimal funding in the non-profit world, including food & farm; moreover, my work is extremely intersectional and basic — e.g., Food Systems 101 — for which the philanthropic and intellectual class has great disdain.] 

During the years that I’ve lived on this Earth (since 1951), I hope that you have found me to be a decent relation, friend, colleague, as well as a cutting-edge activist. In short, I hope that I’ve provided some value to the world or, perhaps, to you personally.

My landlord (Bob Fisher, owner of Evanston Lumber) is a caring landlord. I trust that I have been a good tenant and I don’t want to cause Bob any unnecessary aggravation. Bob is very loyal to his community — employees, customers, colleagues, tenants, neighbors, etc. My living situation is a perfect end-of-life one for me—a small coach house with room for my bicycle + cart in the neighborhood that I’ve lived in for 43 years. By helping me age in place, you would also be helping Bob (and his larger community). Living in a lumber yard is a fitting home for the daughter of a homebuilder and two hardware families.

Of course you would also be helping my larger community, which includes Evanston, the Chicago area, Illinois, the Midwest, and my national networks on a variety of issues — and the world in which we live. My current work includes: food & farm, public banking, monetary reform, women’s authority, complete streets (transportation), real democracy, housing for all—not to mention our air, water, soil, and biodiversity.

3.  Best way to follow my work is:
—on Twitter
—my website, especially my blogs which cover a wide range of topics

Some highlights are:
—My life-long vision is described in a recent blog: MY AMERICAN DREAM, 1951 — ? 
—My current activities are described on my recently updated webpage, Real Democracy
—My informal (and still open-ended) autobiography, The Money Question, The Democracy Answer (23 pages), describes our collective confusions about money and democracy from a personal and intersectional perspective. 

4. Some specific accomplishments (recent & on-going)
— Co-founder — The Talking Farm (2006, urban farm in Evanston/Skokie)
— Co-founder — Edible Acre at Evanston Township High School (2008, working farm at our local high school)
— Co-author, co-coordinator — Illinois Food, Farms & Jobs Acts (2007-10) 
— Author — “Food Politics Corner” (2021, monthly newsletter section for Wild Onion Market, a co-op in process in Chicago/Evanston)
— Active participant in national and regional food & farm listservs, since 2007 (COMFOOD — Tufts U.; Food Policy Networks — Johns Hopkins; North American Food Systems Network — Cornell; Regeneration Midwest — 12 state coalition)
— Active networker in monetary & banking reform, since 2011: Public Banking Institute, American Monetary Institute, Alliance For Just Money


From someone in my networks:
I didn’t want to just ignore your email. I’m writing to let you know that I love and appreciate you and your contribution to this messed up world. The question of financial support is a tricky one. I do think it’s off that you prioritize your activism INSTEAD of taking care of your own financial needs rather than in addition to them. Sending you money just seems to support this confusion. Sorry. I know this must seem callous. I do care about you and wish you all the best.


1. My note: “Seeking help
I was barely able to pay my bills this month (April) and my immediate financial future is looking murky. If anyone can help me get through these next few months, I would be very grateful.

2. The response from 60+ year old peer: “You’re confused
The question of financial support is a tricky one. I do think it’s off that you prioritize your activism INSTEAD of taking care of your own financial needs rather than in addition to them. Sending you money just seems to support this confusion.

3. My response: “Tutorial 
Thanks for your note.

I can see where you might think that money and finances work the same way as abstract numbers. Most of us do—until we find out otherwise. But the newspaper headlines are filled with people who are making that “otherwise” discovery. I would have thought that a math teacher might have noticed that something hasn’t been adding up in the U.S. money system for a long time—especially for the last 40 years.

You might want to talk to a farmer to see whether the “numbers” have added up for him/her for the last 40+ years. Or you might talk to the grieving family of a farmer (or farm laborer) who committed suicide because they couldn’t make the numbers add up—and thought they were to blame. Or perhaps you know someone who has to work 2-3 jobs to “make ends meet”. Have you ever asked why? why there are so many people like that?

My unfinished biography talks about the difference between numbers and money and why 21st century “numbers” don’t add up if they have a $ in front. The title of the Prologue is “Why isn’t money more like arithmetic?”

Per my personal request for help, I totally understand if anyone who I reached out to (a) isn’t able to help me, or (b) doesn’t want to help me. You didn’t owe me even a response, let alone details. If you would have just said “no” I would have thanked you and moved on. You didn’t need to pile on — especially with untruths. In just two sentences, you made a lot of false assumptions—also surprising for a math teacher.

If you’re interested, the facts are below — not only mine, but for more and more people in the U.S. and the world.
— Debbie

LIFE IN 21ST CENTURY U.S.: Dignity is another word for justice
I chose not to put all the gory details in my email (it being overlong already), but I have shared this information with family before. During the 2007-10 “great” recession, I was CHEATED out of $30,000-50,000 (a conservative estimate) by a number of food “justice” colleagues, in a wide variety of ways. That means that I did a lot of work for which I expected to get paid. But over and over again, colleagues found a way not to pay me (and others). Was that my fault? For the record, I’ve documented some of the details in another section (Getting cheated by “justice” colleagues).

In direct response to your email…
With this single sentence, you seem to be making some assumptions: “I do think it’s off that you prioritize your activism INSTEAD of taking care of your own financial needs rather than in addition to them.” (your capital letters)

The assumptions (all false) are:
1. That I was not trying to find income all this time — and that I’m not still trying. 
2. That I’m asking for a lot of money for an indefinite period of time. You might go back and read the second sentence of my email.
3. That because someone doesn’t pay me, my work is not valuable, even necessary and timely. Mothers? Caregivers? Mother Earth?

This second sentence combined with the first exposes additional assumptions and suggests that the confusion is not mine: “Sending you money just seems to support this confusion.”

The additional assumptions (also false) are:
4. That there’s no such thing as “philanthropy” or “emergency assistance” or “mutual aid”.
5. That our “civilization” isn’t rigged in multiple ways — ways that I and many other people — probably including yourself — are working to (a) uncover, (b) share, and (c) change. Racism, sexism, classism, fatphobia, antisemitism, islamophobia, anti-Asian hate, homophobia, outright corruption, etc.?
6. That the period of our lifetimes—1950s-2020s—have been non-stop economic progress for everyone or even a majority of U.S. people.
7. That there aren’t many people now experiencing new or additional financial stress due to (a) 4 years of Trump, (b) a year-long pandemic, (c) more and more billionaires gaming the system, etc., (d) extreme weather incidents, not to mention the general increased social trauma from (e) police killing citizens, (f) an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, (g) an epidemic of lies and disinformation, etc., etc.
8. That I am in the habit of asking for financial help—and that people have regularly provided financial help to me. 
9. That I haven’t lived a pretty thrifty life for all of my 70 years.

Getting cheated by “justice” colleagues
During the 2007-10 “great” recession, I was CHEATED out of $30,000-50,000 by a number of food “justice” colleagues, in a wide variety of ways. The reason that the amount is indefinite is because in a number of cases we were in the process of writing grants, planning projects, etc., etc., for which a dollar amount had not yet been decided or agreed on.

In one case, the chairman of a 2-year state task force that I co-founded and co-coordinated promised to talk to some foundations for funding the coordinator positions for the second year. Unfortunately, he was very neglectful and missed the grant deadline for an almost guaranteed grant. (He proved to be neglectful in other ways, as well, but I did not know that initially.) We believe the grant would have been similar to the first-year grant, $25,000 (but I can’t say for sure).

Trying to figure out what I’d done wrong in all those cases nearly drove me insane. Until I realized that I hadn’t done anything wrong. During my 25-year gardening career I had no such problems with clients. I made a proposal. If they accepted it they paid me a deposit, I did the work, I sent the final bill, they paid the bill. No problems.

But as soon as I entered the non-profit world, populated by academics, consultants, thought “leaders”, etc. — all sorts of bad behavior popped up — turf wars, back-stabbing, stealing ideas. This only got exacerbated by the recession, causing even worse behavior: writing a grant with two others and then two of us getting cut out of the grant by the third, promise after promise of payment for my information (connections, ideas, etc.) without any follow-through, discussing a possible Chicago-based event with a new colleague—all the while she’s planning a Chicago event on her own (without telling us). (And yes, one of the groups that cheated me — a program at a local university — got cheated, too.) The worst was that no one would talk with me about our agreements — including the university program that were themselves cheated! 

That was a clue that something deeper was going on, which led me to study our money & banking system. This led me to a whole new group of people and groups who are doing the same thing, with much progress — public banking, basic income, nationalizing the Federal Reserve, participatory budgeting, student debt cancellation, etc.

Do you want more examples of how “intellectual” colleagues have cheated me? I could give you one from last week! I Tweeted about it, if you’re inclined to read a short thread.

Final note
In 2007-10 or 2011 when I was truly losing my sanity, I wonder what family and friends would have said had I committed suicide. I’m pretty sure most people’s first thought would have been, why didn’t she ask for help. Well, here it is 2021 and I’ve been working things out the best I could in those ten years—with much success on many levels. Now I am asking for very specific, short-term help. Your response was to pile on with unsolicited, uninformed bullshit.

The good news, from my perspective and from the society-at-large perspective, is that other people have responded much more kindly, respectfully, and with way more maturity.