• The Story Behind Bridgedale360


    I just had to leave…


    I had been walking aimlessly, as if my body just carried me along, for what seemed like forever. I still didn't know where I was heading or what was propelling me forwards. Except the reverb of that thought - I had to leave - and a name. Bridgedale360. My fist tightened around the scrap of paper on which it was written. I didn't have to open it, again, to see it. By now the name and the X that marked it on the spidery map was already etched into my mind. Instead, I looked up and wondered whether the turn in the road was starting to look - not exactly, but still - like the curve of one of the lines on the map. Like one of the spider´s legs. All roads lead to Bridgedale360? I first heard about it from a friend a few months ago and then later, overheard it in a bar. Just people talking over loud and dull pop - but I heard it for sure - and then I found this map, or it found me. I had to leave, my heart needed to believe, I had to believe.


    I picked up the pace, my heart beating out a rhythm for my legs to follow, and my right side stung. Exhaustion and fear tugged at me, and perhaps it was regret that made me look back every now and again, but this time I wasn't going to let it get the better of me. Not this time. I threw some of what was left over from my bag of dried fruits into my mouth, hoping it would hush my hunger. My feet yelled out in pain; my new boots had still not been broken in. Instead, the boots seemed bent on breaking me in. Blisters and all. My insides screamed at me in revolt.


    Suddenly I heard voices. I got cautious, a bit afraid, but my curiosity brought me closer. My ears twitched like antennae, trying to figure out where the voices came from. I stood still. There. “Bridgedale360”, I heard it. My heart rattled my ribcage. “Over there, not so far anymore.” I had to get to them. “Wait!” I think I said and cut through the row of trees, hesitantly at first, but then found myself pushing and shoving shrubs aside, until I saw them and they saw me. “Hi,” said the woman, smilingly. I gasped and smiled back and my insides kept quiet, for once.


    We were walking for days, mostly quietly. But there was a sense of unity that I had never felt before. We were all following our dreams somehow, but without really knowing what it was. Layla showed me some pictures of her family, and said that she didn’t know any longer where they were, if they were alive. Could we blame the “system crisis”? But I also felt conscience-stricken, because I saw how privileged I was. Yet, I was unhappy. But happiness does not come with abundance, I learnt it the hard way. I could not imagine myself continuing like before. I desperately needed Bridgedale360 to be more than a silly fairy tale…


    Once we started off together, everything fell into step so to speak. We moved as if we were one, people from the west, people from the east, just people...fleeing the old system and searching for that unknown place. Conversations bubbled up here and there, naturally without any haste, but then we would retreat into a silence again, as we mulled over things we had just heard, and I imagined how life was for them before in the countries where they were coming from, and how much it sounded like my own in some ways; while in others, mine was completely foreign to theirs. I remembered the things I used to enjoy, but that was in the past, I told myself, as I shook off an all too familiar sense of heaviness. Excess does that to you, somehow. But, here on this dirt road to Bridgedale360, I was just like them. Bridgedale360 was and will be the great equalizer for us all.   


    Arriving happened by surprise. We came to a stream and a little further up a girl was playing in the water, singing for herself. We came closer and when she saw us she smiled. “Ahoy there, comrades!”, she said. And she smiled and waved at us. I was surprised by the openness with which she was greeting a bunch of strangers. In the middle of nowhere! But it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, we soon found out. Further up the stream we saw a mill and some mechanism pumping water. And then it all just opened up. Without waiting for us, the girl skipped ahead and we followed, not skipping like her, but feeling a slight hop in our own step. We exchanged glances and before we knew it, buildings and gardens and people working appeared from behind the trees. Everybody stopped to greet if only briefly, and smiled before they got back to doing what they were doing. Cows grazed past us. Even they seemed to smile.


    Our little guide, we could see, had come to a stop before the most impressive of all the buildings that we had passed. A man stood there rubbing his hands and then approached us, as if he couldn´t wait for us to get to where he stood. “Welcome,” he said, while his hands rubbed and patted our weary shoulders, ”first some rest and then I´ll show you around Bridgedale360, ok?”

    • The Bank

      GLOBAL ECONOMY, DEBT, INTEREST-FREE BANKS

      “Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.”

      -Kenneth E. Boulding



      Introduction

      Ivan, consultant at the interest-free bank


      Just so you know, here in Bridgedale360, we have abandoned the previous banking system altogether. So now the bank is not really a bank. For us it’s more like a museum! We set it up to remind ourselves of our heritage and mistakes of the past. After all, in this new town, we’re all refugees of the global financial system! Perhaps it wasn’t that horrible for everyone; some left for other reasons. But many were drowning in debts and mortgages, and even those lucky ones with money in their bank accounts were witnessing how the world around was falling apart and how the old growth-based financial system was destroying people and nature. Maybe it is a bit far-fetched to place the blame on the old banking system for all the misfortune in this world, but indeed, people were put into such a vicious circle of earning, borrowing and paying off debt that they focused their entire lives on money! Let me guide you through “the bank” and make my points clear. It can be illustrated well with some stories that are depicted on the walls. Let’s go inside!


      Story 1. Money is Debt

      A visitor comes to the town and is looking for a place to stay. He goes to a hotel and asks if he could have a look at the room before booking it. The hotel manager asks him to leave the money before the visitor sees the room, adding that she will give the money back if the visitor does not like the room. The visitor leaves the money and goes to see the room. The manager is so sure that the visitor will take the room that as soon as the visitor goes upstairs to see it, she runs across the road with the money and uses it to pay for the food she needs for next week. The shopkeeper then gets the money and uses it to pay for his daughter’s violin lesson. The violin teacher gets the payment, goes to the milkman and spends the money. The milkman then takes the money back to the hotel and makes reservations for his parents, as they are coming to visit next week. The visitor comes back downstairs, says he does not like the room, takes his money off of the counter and leaves with it. Despite the fact that real money has not been left in the town, temporary money (liquidity) allowed for the transactions to take place, creating wealth in the town. In this story money is used for the exchange of goods and services, where they are available for all, and it is good. But in reality, money is not used for exchange but is concentrated in the hands of a few who use it to earn more money through interest rates. It leads to debt of others. If there was an interest rate in the story, it would mean that the visitor coming to the hotel would ask for 20% more money to be returned than what he left, as the price for using his money, and the manager would be in debt. Now imagine that these are not people in a town, but whole countries trading with each other on a global scale. Moreover, in a real economy system, instead of actually paying each other money, they just write out I.O.U’s (I owe you) papers, thus creating a system of debt (capitalist global economy). Moreover, the countries that own the biggest debt (“money”) get to make rules when creating more of it, and they force interest rates on the already poorer countries, putting them in even more debt while making the rich countries richer.


      Story 2. Globalization. Disparity between Global South & North

      Poor Abraham is a Kenyan shoemaker. He makes shoes for a big shoe corporation in Europe run by Jonny. To make shoes, he must borrow money from Jonny’s bank. Jonny lends him the money, but at a 10% interest rate. Jonny’s shoe company then demands so many shoes at such a low cost that Abraham has no choice but to buy the cheapest materials from local polluting factories. He also can’t afford to hire anyone to help him, as he can barely feed his family on top of paying the interest rates for the debt he now owes Jonny.


      This means Jonny gets the shoes and the money from selling them at a high profit as well as the money from the interest. Abraham gets no shoes, no money, no resources, but all the pollution. This leads the whole country to get poorer and poorer, creating conflicts. Abraham and his family are forced to seek out a decent life in the country where his money and resources have gone to. However, Jonny knows that if Abraham leaves, he will lose his cheap labor, so tries to make him stay. Jonny persuades everyone that Abraham will cause problems, bring about violence, conflicts and diseases if he comes to Europe.


      In this story Abraham and Jonny are not individual people but whole countries and governments. Economic relations create the massive disparity between the Global South and North.


      Stay for a while, and you can learn about the different aspects of the current economic system. Economy isn’t easy but neither is it that hard. Stay at least to understand enough to see that before we changed our economy, the system in the old society was unethical, unfair and irrational. It was impossible to continue exponential economic growth on a planet with finite resources, therefore we decided to switch to de-growth initiatives. If you would like to learn how we think about economy here in Bridgedale360 instead, have a look at the Marketplace or the Free store and the Bike Pool.


      Learning Outcomes

      • To understand the basics of how the global economy functions

      • To understand that “money” is debt

      • To grasp the disparity between the global South and North and understand the (socio-economic) roots of the issues of migration of people

      • To develop critical thinking regarding the issues of the global system


    The Free Store and the Bike Pool