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August 2004: Local Social Credit 2002
The following is the text of a memo sent to my fellow Social Credit Secretariat directors, April 11, 2002.
Last meeting's minutes reveal some reservations about my status as an overseas board member. I would argue in my behalf simply that the Secretariat is interested in the implementation of social credit anywhere in the world, not just in the United Kingdom. The Secretariat is interested in social credit in Ohio, so I am not "at a distance" from fields where action can be taken. I am right here, on the spot. As long as you permit me to remain on this board, I intend to be an active member. Since my title is "Historian," I'd like to share this happy thought: LET'S MAKE HISTORY!
This does not mean that I take issue with Frances's emphasis on education, as opposed to "campaigning." Indeed, the prospect of appealing to elected national leaders does not fill me with enthusiasm. There is, however, something else that does, and this is a new idea that I would like to share with you. It is to BUILD A SMALL WORKING MODEL OF REAL SOCIAL CREDIT ON A VERY SIMPLE LEVEL and in this way illustrate its principles to the public. What gives me hope that it is possible to implement real social credit on a simple level is the observation that even a railway ticket is a real, if limited, form of money. If a railway ticket is a real, if limited, form of money, so is any simple credit instrument, like a store coupon. Could we not design a system in which limited credit instruments were subject to a periodic dividend and a compensated price, just as we say money should be in the national economy? . . .
I do not have a scheme in hand, but I believe in principle it should be possible to design one. Douglas adapted social credit to a single industry in the Draft Mining Scheme and for a single province in the case of Alberta. We can learn from these models, as well as from people's experiences with Local Exchange Trading Systems. It could be a municipal initiative, or it could even be a private local initiative not connected with government of any kind. The basic requirement for a unit to be self-financing is that it must have a plus of real credit: it must "pay its own way in the world," produce more values than it consumes. The right kind of credit instrument will make its own way without official state sponsorship. It would perforce exist side by side with the current money system, which it would undermine little by little by virtue of its own natural superiority. In the event it was challenged, we would take the stand that because it lacks official state sponsorship, it is manifestly not money. It is only coupons that happen to be very popular, and you cannot very well outlaw coupons. That is, if you will, the hole in the money monopoly.
I admit I am not 100% sure that such a scheme as I am describing is possible. But if it is possible, all of a sudden social crediters could hope to implement social credit economics on a small scale here and now. It seems, if I may say so, an approach suited to the genius of this movementbuilding a credit system from the bottom upfrom the basics of what credit really israther than appealing to national representatives to create one by law. It would be positive. It would be contracting out by contracting in. It would be an education in credit for both doers and onlookers. And it would be FUN! It would be a lot more fun than just trying to keep the fire from going out entirely while we wait for a day when national governments can be budged. If successful, it would provide an object lesson that would be more educational than all the printed literature in the world and would support the literature by making people want to read it. If successful, it would provide a model that could be replicated ad infinitum and thus become a formidable movement.
As Douglas said, "The best way to chop down a tree is to chop it down."
Kurosawa's No Regrets for Our Youth
No Regrets for Our Youth (1946, 111 minutes) is one of only two Kurosawa films that have a heroine instead of a hero (the other being The Most Beautiful). Like Kurosawa's 1952 masterpiece Ikiru (To Live), this film is about the desire to live, to really live. Besides the subtitled film, I will also sometimes refer to a translation of the script published in Complete Works of Kurosawa (Tokyo: Kinema Jumposha, 1970).
Kyoto 1933, on the eve of the invasion of China. Seven university boys and their law professor's daughter, Yukie (age 20), are enjoying an outing in the woods. Noge and Itokawa cross a stream ahead of Yukie, and both turn and reach out for her. But Noge surpasses Itokawa: he darts into the water, picks her up, and carries her over. This little scene is a foreshadowing of the whole film: Itokawa is afraid of getting his feet wet in life, whereas Noge plunges right in; and it is Noge who carries Yukie till she is ready to take her own plunge and, indeed, to surpass him in living.
But youth is life: Itokawa is soon over his crossness, and the eight run up the hill amid dazzling shafts of sunlight, happy to be alive. From the hill they have a marvelous view of their university. Itokawa waxes poetic over this great bastion of freedom but is interrupted by machine-gun fire. War games. Yukie, who is used to the world revolving around her, exclaims how musical the ratatat-tat is and how tiny the soldiers lookuntil she practically trips on one and is struck dumb. He is writhing as if from a cramp. Close up, war does not look so nice.
News headline: Law professor Yagihara (Yukie's father) has been expelled from the university as a dangerous liberal.
At the Yagihara home, Noge is explaining politics to his friends and why he thinks the proposed teachers' strike will fail. Not concealing her boredom with this talk, Yukie pulls Itokawa to the piano. Noge says, "The world you know is limited to this room surrounded by flatterers. . . . Beauty without logic is nothing but bubbles" (or in the translation, "Without truth, all beautiful, interesting things are fictions," which could be called Kurosawa's philosophy of art). As she plays louder to drown him out, he withdraws. Obviously, Noge gets under her skin.
Yukie begs Itokawa to kowtow to her and beg her forgiveness, just to see if he will do it. A close-up of her face turning to stone and then bursting into tears. It was all true, what Noge said: she is surrounded by flatterers.
Newspaper headlines and newsreels: sympathy strikes at other universities, then "Kyoto University Stands Alone," then clashes between striking students and police, then arrests.
Itokawa arrives at the house only after a meeting of the student activists is over. When Yukie tells him her father called off the strike, he is visibly relieved, for he has already caved in to his mother. Noge was not at the meeting either: he has disappeared and is rumored to have joined the Resistance.
1938, Yukie age 25. The Chinese war is on. Yukie is a virtuoso at flower-arranging just as she is at the piano, but it is just a performance, irrelevant to her real feelings. She angrily tears apart a pretty arrangement and makes a true one: three blossoms revolving in a bowllike the three people revolving in her world: Itokawa, Noge, and herself.
She is supposed to marry Itokawa, but she still believes in Noge's passion, and one day Itokawa brings Noge with him. When her knight in shining armor seems a little self-mocking, she can't bear it and takes refuge in her room, coming down only in time to say good-bye. That very night she resolves, against her mother's pleas, to go to Tokyo to seek her fortune. Bursting into tears, she tells her father, "I'm bored. I'm disgusted. I want to start my life over again. . . . Now I feel my life is meaningless. I want to go out in the world and see what it is like to live."
Tokyo 1941, age 28. Yukie runs into Itokawa by chance in the street, and they have dinner. He is married now, to please his mother. He reminisces but shakes his head at their youthful idealism, with the superiority of one older and wiser and disillusioned. His laugh sounds like a squeaky hinge. He has long since ceased to believe in ideals. He spends his life making the best of it, pretending to be happy, believing that is all there is.
Yukie listens sadly to all this but becomes alert when Itokawa mentions that Noge is in Tokyo. He has an office where he publishes, and the authorities have their eye on him: "He is walking on a wall."
Yukie goes to see Noge but changes her mind and flees. We see her outside the office in different weather, but she can't get up the courage to go in. Then coming in himself, he practically runs into her.
Alone in the dark office, they talk. She wants his secret, the secret of living: "I want a job that I can dedicate myself to, body and soul. . . . I want to do something in which I can consume myself. . . . You have a secret, don't you? Tell me. Share it with me. I'm sure it's wonderful. . . . Don't tease me. I was thoughtless before. I made fun of everything. But not now." Noge not answering, Yukie says, "I'm a fool. Suddenly I want a secret. I'm selfish. Forget it." Then she mentions Itokawa's hint. Noge then tells his secret (in the words of the more literal published translation):
N: Suppose if there's a certain man who is watched [by someone] with a gun and if he knows he could hardly escape even by tunneling under the ground. Y: What do you think he would do? N: He would do nothing particular, I suppose. Nobody knows if he's shot tomorrow or only within an hour. He'd rather appear in the sun and run as far as possible
Running in the sun alludes to that day they all ran in the sun.
Overcome with emotion, Yukie runs from the room. She is afraid for him, of course; but the real reason for her emotion is that in realizing she can love, her soul comes back to life after a long dry spell. Long seconds pass as he stands irresolute. Then he runs after her, and they embrace. He says, "I was afraid of this. Our path is so steep." She says, "It's all right. I won't mind." Her eyes shine. They are in it together.
A few short cuts show how they live, one day, one hour at a time. Noge feels guilty that they have eloped and not told her parents. Yukie says, "No regrets in my life! That's our motto. . . . I've found meaning in my life." Her role is to be his rock. For her own protection, he does not inform her where he goes or what he does.
One day he is very excited and alludes to something big that is going on. (We later learn that it was at attempt to prevent the attack on Pearl Harbor, presumably by warning the United States.) In his joy, he picks up Yukie, and something pokes her. It's a photo of the parents he hasn't seen for ten years. He calls it "my weakness, a weakness in my heart. I'm still scared of my father's scolding. I still fear my mother's tears."
Itokawa has turned his life into a living death to please his mother. Noge has cut his own path but left his parents behind. He regards his feelings for them as a "weakness." He leaves Yukie with the photo in her hand. She will never see him again.
He has been picked up and is to be tried as a spy. She, too, is held and questioned about her husband. Months pass, and she is still incarcerated. Her face is brown, her hair disheveled. The American war begins. Sitting in her cell with a fever, her face is bathed in golden sunlight as she gazes at the sky through the high grate and remembers running through the woods in the sunshine. She has become strangely beautiful, strong, and at peace.
One day she is released to her father, thanks to behind-the-scenes efforts of Itokawa. But then the news comes that Noge has died in prison. She is inconsolable until she realizes what she must do. She is Noge's wife. She will take his ashes to his parents in the country. What he called his "weakness" will become for her the real "secret."
Noge's parents are outcasts. They keep their front door boarded up. Their house is defaced with the scrawl SPY. Digging the grave at night (for they never go out in daylight), mom curses her son. Dad has lost all interest in life, just sits in one spot, staring at the floor.
Yukie begs to stay with them. Sobbing, she says, "I won't go home, I won't!" So next day after sunset, mom takes Yukie to the field, and the hands that once played the piano break the stubborn soil with a forked hoe. The nights pass, and she has to wear bandages on her hands, but she gets stronger.
One morning, against mom's protests, Yukie unboards the front door and treks to town with a basket on her back. Her face is brown, her stride is strong, and her sharp eyes look straight ahead as neighbors stare and children whisper, "Spy!" Returning, she struggles under the weight of the rice seedlings she has purchased. No one offers to help. She stumbles, exhausted. The very trees seem to be laughing when suddenly there is a helping handmom, come out in the daylight for the first time! One person come to life again! The first gate breached!
Together, in the day now, they work the wet paddy and plant it. Yukie pushes herself to the limit, hearing as it were Noge's voice repeating, "No regrets in my life. No regrets whatever." One day mom bursts into a laugh. Yukie looks up, and the whole beautiful field is planted. She collapses.
All this while dad has never left his spot nor spoken a word. But now mom begins to talk to him and try to coax him back to life.
Next morning, Yukie is recuperating in bed when mom bursts in and falls on the floor sobbing hysterically. The neighbors have wrecked their field in the night. We hear a door bangYukie going out. Mom follows. Outside, all is trampled down. Rocks and bottles are strewn everywhere, and homemade signs. Without a word Yukie starts to clean it up, and mom joins her. Then a miracle: mom looks up, and it is dad! "Damn them!" he yells. He rips up a sign, and his hands tremble with rage as he rights two trampled seedlings. Their faces say it all: the wreck of the paddy is nothing compared to the restoration of the man.
Rain. Yukie is cooling her sore, bandaged hands in a stream, when a man asks for Noge's house. It is Itokawa. On the porch of a rustic shrine, they talk. He has come at her parents' instance, to rescue her from her self-imposed penance for Noge's crime. She just gazes back, smiling, radiant, saying not a word. Itokawa is quickly cowed. He says, "You beat me. Your passion for life makes me feel small." When he asks to pay his respects to Noge's grave, she is stern: "No, don't. Maybe I should thank you but I forbid it. Noge wouldn't like to see you either."
1946, war over, age 33. Yukie, on a visit home, is sitting at the piano, playing the university song with one finger. Her mother hopes out loud she'll come back home.
Y: No. I found my roots in that village. Mother, look at my hands. They don't suit the piano any more. There are many jobs at the village. Their lives, especially the women's, are terrible. I want to help them. That's my lifelong task. I'm a leader of local cultural movement now. M: You were born to suffer. Y: Why? I've never pitied myself. I need no sympathy. Noge used to tell me, "No regrets in my life." I'm glad I can feel it now.
Passing by the old stream, she sees a crop of new, young, hopeful students, singing the university song. On the road, a truck carrying other farmers back to the country picks her up. Nods and smiles from her friends and neighbors.
Noge's way is unadulteratedly political. Under a fascist regime, he heroically represents the opposition press. He is also involved in radical action, including the cloak-and-dagger kind. He will not give up on their youthful dream of a better world. To restless Yukie, this is what she needs. To struggle, to sacrifice, to give one's life, if need be, for freedom. Not to have to die saying she had never known what it was to live. It is what her father taught her, too.
Yet Noge's waysuperior as it is to her life as a spoiled twenty-year-old and superior, too, to her aimless life as a working woman in Tokyois still not integrated. He has not seen his parents in ten years and is afraid to face them.
When Noge dies, some higher voice tells Yukie to complete that circle, to follow that clue, the thing he called his "weakness." And in doing so, she finds she runs up against obstaclesthe evil hearts of the villagers and the crushed spirit of mom and dad. This is fascism! Fascism at the root. And so she doesn't have to go to China (as Noge did) or open an office or study politics or have clandestine meetings. She doesn't have to identify fascism "out there" somewhere to oppose it. Nor does she have to evolve a leftist vision, or any vision, of how society "ought" to be.
She has left all that far behind. God has planted her in the country, and she has only to live the life that comes to her and surrounds herto care for mom and dad, to farm, to love her neighbor, to fight poverty and disease and ignorance and despair. As she tells her mother, "There are many jobs." She has only to do this, and she will be a freedom fightera more effective one than Noge could ever have hoped to be.
Had she looked afar for something to do just because she wanted something to do, it would be the wrong thing. Her life would be divided, as Noge's was. But some deep instinct tells her to look nearby, to let life itself show her a direction, and it comes in the form of something very specific: she will take his ashes home.
She doesn't reason that the peasantry is the nation's agricultural base and therefore the correct place to make a stand. She has left such academic abstractions far behind. She simply goes where she is called, and she finds it leads her to a place where life is simpler. Not better, just simpler. A place where there is no intelligentsia and no press and government is further off. A place down among the roots where good and evil don't have to engage in shadow boxing, because they really meet every day, in the house, on the road, in the field, at the market. A place where good and evil are direct, person to person or person to thing.
In such a place as this, Yukie doesn't have to understand politics. She doesn't have to look for the evil in order to eradicate it. She doesn't have to conceptualize it. Nor does she have to conceive the good in order to build it. She is not a reformer, she is a neighbor. She lives each day by the law of life that is in her. That is the good. And she need not look for evil because if she lives by the law that is in her, the evil that it is her job to conquer will infallibly come to her in the form of obstacles. With the evil that it is not her job to conquer she has no concern. In this way of becoming she is forever young.
Unlike Noge, she doesn't worry about the army, the bureaucracy, and the capitalists. She lives by the law that is in her and clears obstacles as they come. She takes no direction but what life shows her, and so her way is integrated as Noge's was not. And because her way is integrated, her victory counts for more. The winning back to life of one person at a time is a victory that really will remake the world.
We only think Tokyo or Kyoto or New York or Washington is where the action is. We only think Left and Right are important. We only think we need to become "informed" and "politically engaged" and "have an opinion" and talk and talk and talk. The real sphere of action is right at our doorstep. It is in every humble spot, and the humbler the spot, the easier it is to see it. And as Kurosawa's spiritual cousin George MacDonald always tells us, understanding comes through doing.
Kurosawa is not, of course, telling us we have to go to the country. Mother Teresa did the same thing in Calcutta. Wherever life is, there the way is. But Yukie's nature and abilities required her to live simply and close to the bone in order to see clearly. And so God sent her on her calling. What to Noge was a "weakness" becomes for Yukie the real "secret," the key to life and eternal youth.