Freedom’s Phoenix e-Zine: People not Politics

July 16th, 2012

I’m back in the Freedom’s Phoenix E-Zine. This time I’m talking about street activism in their July issue. Check it out.

People not Politics

By: Davi Barker

I have been a street activist longer than I have been a liberty activist. In fact, I was birthed from my mental slumber into activism while begging for change on the street. In 2003 I used to sit on the sidewalk with one palm extended and the other holding a sign which read “Take or Give.” Interestingly it was my observation that many panhandlers would give coins, while shoppers would often take coins. One day a police officer approached me and told me that panhandling was illegal. I calmly informed him that I was not panhandling. That the coins in my hand were not mine, but were left there by other people for someone else to take, and he was free to take them. He then informed me that sitting on the sidewalk was illegal and ordered me to move. I respectfully asked him if he would enforce such an ordinance on a statue of Buddha that was sitting across the street with coins in its hand. He said no. So, I graciously requested that I be given the same religious freedom as the statue, to emulate the prophetic practice of sitting still and keeping quiet. He said he had better things to do than argue the Constitution with me. I thanked him, and invited him to tend to those things. Befuddled, he left me alone, but it got me thinking about money.

In a flash it came to me that money was nothing at all. It was just an intermediate step between goods and services. It could not be eaten like grain. It could not be used in manufacturing like petroleum. It was not backed by gold or silver. There was no material difference between paper notes withdrawn from the ATM and paper notes printed by a counterfeiter. This was some kind of magic, and the public’s pathological belief in that magic. In short, the dollar was a unit of faith, and in reality it had little more in common with actual value than the statue had in common with Buddha. It was just an intermediary.

At that point I had not yet discovered liberty, but I had discovered the issue that would lead me to it: fiat money.

From that moment on I was a street activist. I began approaching people walking downtown, or sitting at cafes offering to show them a magic trick for a dollar. If they gave me the dollar I would hold it up as a prop as I explained the transition from the gold standard, to the silver certificate, to our current faith based paper note. I explained that this was misdirection, smoke and mirrors, which is basic stage magic. I showed them the magic trick. Afterward I asked them, “Is this information worth a dollar to you?” If they said no, I graciously returned the dollar and went on my way. The seed was planted. But if they said yes, I would rip the dollar in half, keep half for myself and give the other half back to them. When they protested I explained that I had not destroyed any value. In fact, I had created value. Because now I could take my half and go on my way, and they could take their half and share this information, which they already said was worth a dollar. See… magic!

Destroying money actually proved to be more profitable than begging for it. I could easily attach half of one bill to another and spend them back into the market. I have since learned that banks take these bills out of circulation because the serial numbers don’t match (which is apparently the source of their magic), so I like to think that I was doing my small part to combat inflation by reducing the money supply. But tearing money in half only satisfied my lust for monetary mayhem for so long. Soon I was burning money, which is less profitable. The dollar is perhaps the perfect conceptual tool. Like a flag it is a potent symbol, but burn a ten dollar flag and people just repeat old arguments about freedom of speech. Burn a one dollar bill and people panic like you’ve set fire to their god. See, the dollar does have an intrinsic value. The entertainment value of shattering someone’s economic illusions.

Although destroying money is a federal crime. Title 18, Section 333 of the US code states, “Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.” Land of the free my ass. Luckily, if they ever come after you you’ve already burned the evidence.

At that time my street activism was more like street theater, but you can’t rail against fiat money for long before you discover Dr. Ron Paul. By 2007 I joined the Tea Party, waving signs, walking districts, and collecting signatures for Ron Paul. That year, on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, hundreds of us gathered at the Federal Reserve building in San Francisco and marched to the bay carrying tea crates labeled with all the State predation we abhorred. Then we chucked them off a peer. (All tethered of course. San Franciscans are nothing if not environmentally friendly.) A revolutionary fervor had seized us. We had stared into the face of the Leviathan and said, “Not one step further! You have trampled on mankind long enough.” It seemed that the tide of authoritarianism had finally reached its high mark and would begin to recede; that the momentum of our movement would soon shake the shackles of the world. I had found a political home among the libertarians.

I quickly learned a major danger of street activism. When I acted alone entertainment was motivation enough, but in a group there is a choir that preaches to itself. This was educational for me. Someone gave me a copy of the Creature from Jekyll Island and all the pieces began to come together. But we were caught in an echo chamber. We hadn’t changed the world as much as changed ourselves. And soon, like the housing market and the dot com boom before it, our enthusiasm bubble burst, and the reality set in that we were not going to see the change we’d been striving for.

Four years later I joined the Occupy Movement. So I took to the streets, back to the San Francisco Federal Reserve building and joined the encampment. My previous activism had landed me a position writing for Silver Circle’s blog, which has become my primary outlet for anti Fed ranting. So, I covered my Occupy experience there.

This time I had no illusions about the success of our efforts. The Occupy Movement was different. Confused and angry. All certainty and no substance. Some activists believe if enough of us stand together the State will have to take notice. Maybe we get this idea from documentaries about the 60s, I’m not sure, but it’s not true. It probably never was. Marches and demonstrations are not truth to power, or democracy in action. They are pressure valves, channeling the frustration of activists into a nice ineffective activity so they can blow off steam. I had given up the fantasy that enthusiasm could change the world, because I had seen the bubble burst before. I wasn’t there to challenge the State. I reverted to an old strategy. I was in the street to talk to the people. I pulled long nights debating property rights with with Marxists, and collaborated with honest money advocates to host educational workshops. I took polls and started conversations with strangers. Because the world doesn’t change during bursts of emotion. It changes in quiet moments in between them.

You’ll never find me chanting or sign waving. My only goal is to get in people’s heads and shatter their illusions. Because at the end of the day liberty will not be granted by the State, it will be achieved in our relationships, one on one, face to face, in the street.

And don’t forget to visit our official website to learn more about the Silver Circle Movie:

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