Moneyless Human #2 - Heidemarie Schwermer
This week we have the second in The Moneyless Humans series, Heidemarie Schwermer, a 68 year old German woman, author of the Das Sterntaler Experiment, founder of the Tauschring, and subject of the movie, Living without Money.
What I adore most about Heidemarie is that she is living proof you don't have to be young male, without children in order to live moneyless (her kids have now grown up though).
Or even Irish (Heidemarie is from Germany) for that matter, though thanks to a collaborative project between Anglo Irish Bank, Allied Irish Bank, Irish politicians, the IMF and a 15 year viral infection of greed amongst the Irish people themselves, the number of people from there now wanting to go moneyless is swiftly increasing. I completely sympathise with everyone there who has been left unemployed with a huge mortgage with negative equity, it's a terrible situation to be in, but I do hope that some positives come from it and that it acts as a stimulus for change there.
Before we go into what Heidemarie had to say for herself about living without money, I thought I'd add a brief excerpt from my book, The Moneyless Man, that introduces her to the reader.
"...in a film about her experiences, Living without Money, she [Heidemarie] explains how she worked for many years as a teacher and psychotherapist in Dortmund. Like most people, she spent most of her time earning money to buy the things she needed – and also things she didn’t really need. As a psychotherapist, she met many people who were depressed and frustrated, over-worked and with very little spare time. Among the unemployed and poor she often found those who thought themselves worthless. I had heard something of Heidemarie before I started my year, through Markus, a friend of mine who spoke German. At the time, her writing was all in her native language, so I wasn’t able to explore her thinking and experiences unless Markus translated. However, as the media has become more intrigued by the concept of a moneyless society, she has tried harder to communicate with the English-speaking world.
Heidemarie started an exchange circle, a Tauschring, through which people with little or no money could trade objects and favours (Gib und Nimm; ‘Give and take’).Through the exchange circle, people came in contact with each other in a new way. They felt useful and worthwhile and appreciated the social aspect of their contact. After a while, Heidemarie decided on an experiment. She gave up her flat, donated her possessions to friends and started a new life based on exchanging favours without using money. At the start, she stayed with friends and acquaintances, took care of their houses when they were away on holiday or traveling and in return received food and a place to live. Over the years, she has inspired exchange circles across Germany.
Heidemarie’s goal was simply to create a ‘greater awareness of the relationship to money and consumption’..."
That's enough from me, here's what Heidemarie had to say about her reasons to live moneyless, her experience of it and a few other thoughts.
I've left what she wrote me almost completely unedited. She isn't fluent in English however, which means she can't always express herself as she'd like to in this language, so please take that into account when you're reading and responding (please address any comments to Heidemarie directly to her in the comments section). I think you'll be able to comprehend most of it (I did change a few words!). And as I said at the beginning of Dan's piece, I don't necessarily agree with everything she says or how she exactly does it (though I do agree with many points). I just feel it is important to show another perspective on it and take from it that which we find useful (which will be different for everyone).
Why do I live without money? by Heidemarie Schwermer
When I was a child there was once a catastrophe: our whole family had to leave our home - a big house with a big garden and a lot of fine inventory - and we were unable to take these things with us. We were refugees in the war! Although I was very young this fact stamped me. I thought about possession and value.
How could it be that a person without possession had no value any more? When I grew up, I thought about the poor people in the world. During my living in South America for one year, I could scarcely believe the poorness with which I was confronted there. There was always the question in my head: what can we do to get a better world, a world with more dignity for each person? I tried three times to get out of the system with these unfortunate structures. But I had to return each time.
It wasn't until 17 years ago! (wow, I was just out of nappies - Ed.) I founded an exchange group in Dortmund and noticed that I needed less and less money. I exchanged most of the things and activities with others without giving money but my skill and knowledge! This experience encouraged me to try to live without money for one year. On the 1st May 1996 I gave away all my possessions, my home and my insurances.
From this time I lived with other people in their houses. I helped them with their jobs and received bed and food.
When the year was over, I could have returned to my old life without difficulties, because my last profession was a psychotherapist and there were enough clients for me. But I didn't want to return into my old life.
I detected a very different life in this year which was so beautiful!
Living without money
Living without money means to discover the flow of life, to put in motion a new liveliness, enter into a new quality of life, which happens through attention, carefulness and vigilance. To awaken to my own person, to my neighbour, to the society and the whole universe signifies a new intensity, a devotion to life.
Instead of running sorrowful after the mammon, putting our focus on the material - the outside things - now there is the main focus to occurrences from inside, to open the heart. Using this way allows you to experience a change of values, a change of paradigm, which we need for all the damage in the world. There is the difference between poor and rich people, the catastrophes in the nature and all the bad things which come from the greediness of money!
Instead money - "gib und nimm" (give and take)
What can I do as a single person to change something in the world? I thought about this nearly my whole life. My result I want to present at this point!
There are four things which are very important in our lives:
1. The contact to myself.
I have to know what is important for me, whom I am, what I really need and what I really like!
2. The contact to the you!
Why don't I like this person? Why this person makes me so angry? What does it reflect to me. What can I learn? Each person is a teacher for me and not an enemy!!!
3. The contact to the society.
It is important that everyone takes care of the environment. We are responsible for the things around us and when we are awake we can handle a lot in the world!
4. The contact to the universe.
If we notice that each of us is a cell in the universe we can change our behaviour with other people and the world. If we can see the world like a whole and us like a part of it we can change our behaviour completely, because we take responsibility for all!
I now feel that my own life is fantastic, I am a happy person who feels a membership to the human beings and a big love for all of them.
Heidemarie Schwermer, January 2011
Next week we'll here from Tomi Astikainen, a Finnish man who decided to give up money in 2010, who lives moneyless on the road, giving us another unique perspective on living without money.
Comment on this Post:
Lesley Roberts comments ...
She's so cool - waiting to see her dvd.....x
CKA Lizzie comments ...
Inspirational words :o) thank you for sharing this with me
That all is so sweet and simple, very well written for someone whose native language is not English and the sense comes over very clearly.
The contact points 1- 4 are great and again simple, starting with an honest appraisal of oneself !
The living without money section is inspirational and I think very similar in heart and spirit to Mark's way of being.
This is a great idea. Seems to me that you are coming from the same (courageous) place in many ways.
Lots of thanks -:)
Trish Young comments ...
"seems to me that you are both coming from the same (courageous) place ".
Forgot to put my name.
Phil Corkery comments ...
A very inspirational and compact description of your journey, it is nice to see that people from all walks of life can live without money!
Thank you for your sympathies for your kin in Ireland, the mood has been very gloomy since the IMF arrived and Brian Cowen seems intent on dragging out his stay in office until he is thrown out by a mob.
Looking forward to reading your book!
Lygeia comments ...
If other people who have money are putting you up in their houses and giving you things, you are not moneyless.
Pritam comments ...
way to go @heidemarie , gonna wait for the dvd to be out. Yet Another Inspiration
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ Phil Corkery - I hope the book is in some way useful, there are a lot of money-saving tips (though admittedly they do come from an ecological rather than a 'frugal' intention) in it so hopefully it'll help you through the IMF years!
kyle comments ...
"Lygeia comments ...
If other people who have money are putting you up in their houses and giving you things, you are not moneyless."
Is it possible for communities, societies, or this world in general, to exist/flourish without using money as a means of exchange? I think this question is central to this whole debate and it is usually carefully avoided by most proponents of the "money-less livers are all freeloaders" argument.
Does money make plants grow? Does money help the sun to shine? Does money create water?
What money has evolved into, or rather what we, the human race, have allowed money to evolve into, is the medium through which the earth's resources are controlled and distributed; and the principal motivating factor that the majority of the population use in order to determine the flow of skills and services.
This does not need to be so.
The resources, the skills and the services could all still be available without money.
When humans choose to be motivated by a higher reason, money becomes obsolete.
As far as I can tell (and I am open to being shown otherwise), the "freeloader" argument is just an excuse not to answer the question of whether money can become obsolete when our principal motivation for doing everything is changed.
theborrowers comments ...
To say ‘freeloader’ suggests that the giver is being done out of something and is expecting something in return. Many of us give unreservedly with no want for gain, glory, or self gratification. For some of us giving is just a spontaneous action without thought or analysis. No act of kindness is ever wasted.
paul comments ...
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am truley impressed of what you've achieved so far. Please tell me how you've handled health problems so far. I know there are many alternative treatments which just work as well but if you break a leg or something you have to go to the hospital... Do you have health insurance? Or do you know a doctor who is involved in the "Gib und Nimm - Programm" ?
I totally agree with the 4 points you mention at the end. I think this is the key to a happy and fullfilled life, even more important than letting go of material things. Do you practicise any kind of meditation? Kind regards
Line comments ...
Dear Mark and all of you.
"Living Without Money", the film about Heidemarie Schwermer, recently premiered at Oslo International Film Festival and will be screened at many festivals and events this spring.
We're currently doing crowd-funding for the production and distribution of DVD's through Kickstarter (http://kck.st/guQWRI).
For the entire month of April, 2011, Living Without Money will be available to screen publicly for free!
Let us know if you’re interested in sharing the film and debating the issues. Anyone, Anywhere, Together.
You can find more info at www.livingwithoutmoney.org
Lygeia comments ...
Heidemaire Schwermer is not a freeloader. She has a great idea. However, as I said before, if other people are putting you up in their homes and giving you things from the money economy, you are not truly moneyless.
Being truly moneyless is living off of the land and not using any money at all, spinning your own yarn from sheep and goats and making your own textiles, growing vegetables from saved seeds, animal husbandry, building your own home from trees you have felled yourself.
fran k comments ...
Hi I thought I would put a couple of links of Heidimarie here for people for more information:
Dear Heidemarie, I think what you are doing is good. I am interested in the Tauschring — a sort of swap shop — a place where people can exchange their skills or possessions for other skills and possessions, a money-free zone where a haircut could be rendered in return for car maintenance; a still-functioning but never-used toaster be exchanged for a couple of second-hand cardigans. Called Gib und Nimm, Give and Take.
I am interested to know how this works. Is it sharing or is it exchange. Or is it a mixture of both. Does someone, or people police that people are exchanging, rather than all that being left to trust. The reason why Im interested is because, if it is exchange, then if people take without giving, are they considered to be stealing, and are they excluded? or is it left to trust that it is allright if people take, because you know that people give, and there is always enough?
Also are there many such Gib und Nimm, Give and Take, in Germany?
Are Tauschring and Gib und Nimm two different things, how do they differ and how do they work ? Thankyou. It is interesting that you are associated with a form community sharing, as that is what we could all do with in our lives, and being less dependant on competition and of separation from others, and the weakness of that, and being more dependant on community and the strength of that. Much love and many circles. Frank
Frank comments ...
@Lygeia. You are right, it is like a member of a family who is cared for by others who work for money, or, who is traded with by others who work for money, or, who is fed as a part of some shared work project by others who work for money , or living on a surplus of goods, bought with money, but which have been chucked away, or because 99.9% of food is gotten by money, you are right, no-one but primitive peoples live truly out of money, moneyless. Its just that they haven’t handled the money. Someone else has. But, it is precisely because we live in a total monied society, that anyone you share your free gotten skills with, or barter your free gotten stuff with, will have gained what they have to share or barter by using money . I am interested to know what your point is. What is the reason for you expressing this. Is it to win? Is it to uncover a lie? Because you do win, and it is true what you say. And, it is true what they say, they are not using money! But, the more people who use less money, and the more who take up the ethic of not using money, moneyless living, like these are, then the more possibility there is that more people will do less and less by money and more and more by sharing. It is a richer way of being.
There are other aspects that come into what you say. A his story of peoples who have always been forced to work or die of starvation, the starvation being the motivating force. It is not for nothing that the Diggers of the 1650’s famous song ends with the words, “and they came to cut us down”. All the time in the world people are being cut down for lack of work and lack of money, brought about by the total and utter dispossession of our land. Susan George, or Vandanna Shiva describes it well. This "patriarchal logic of exclusion”, of competition. Also, Genevieve Vaughans expose of the money exchange system and the gift economy, that the lower down one goes in the hierarchy of countries in the world, the more workers there are who get less paid for the same amount of work, or even more hours work, than us in the richer countries, and they are in effect, gifting or giving for free, the majority of their work for free, that they are not paid, as we are to which we in the richer countries benefit from, by having the stuff that they have made at much lower prices, than would have been so, if they had been paid a similar wage to what we are. They are forced to work long hard hours for little or starve, and that is what happens in the world. The people at the bottom, the ½ to 2/3 world have little to live on. Their energies are given free to us . They are more moneyless than us! And in effect most of the money that we have in our rich pockets, is not ours at all, it has come from the stolen energies that they have expended, in providing low priced goods, so that our money goes much much farther than theres, we have gained their money!. That is the Race the Pyramid world that we live in. We live on top of them and they support us. We in the west who are rich have so much are so grossly obese in richness. (but we don’t think we are, we always want more!)
All goods are free, the earth is free! Money is a mechanism of sharing those free goods out amongst us unequally, by competitive exchange, and in the case of water, and food and shelter, the people at the bottom, forced off their land haven’t any while they watch others who have so much. We are trapped by money.
Truth is a good thing, so what is your point?
Sagey comments ...
Thanks for a beautiful peace of writing, fella (referring to your last entry).
Julio Macias comments ...
la verdadera traanquilidad y libertad del ser se puede experimentar, si antes de dormir recuerdas a cuantas personas apoyaste hoy sin esperar nada a cambio. porque al dia siguiente habra nuevas oportunidades de apoyar y sin esperarlo habra alguien que hara lo mismo por ti
Daniel Loureiro comments ...
Thanks again for sharing great persons and ideas like you!
I read your book, thought it was great!
I got in for TEDx Porto! So i hope to meet you there!
Bob comments ...
It is true that Heidemaire still has contact with and receives things from people who
use money, but I think the real revolution is not in the technicalities, but in the
paradigm shift. Being able to say that you technically do not use money, while still
being greedy, is just be missing the point. I think What we really need is a change in
motivation and in priorities and the rest will follow.
Also, IMO, it is quite valid for a "moneyless" person to live off the waste of society.
In fact it could be argued that that approach is more valid than becoming self
sufficient because it can be used to educate people and is helping to reduce waste at
the same time that it exposes a huge problem with the current system. But I think
either approach is valid.
Another point, that I think Frank touched on, is that it seems like every interaction
should be viewed independently. A person may go to the supermarket and buy some food
and then give it away. The fact that they bought the food with money does not in any
way de-value the next free transaction. And so, I do not see that people need to go
back to subsistence farming in order to be moneyless. In fact I think that people do
not really need to be "moneyless" to be uneffected by money. What I mean is that money
can be used to help people. It is possible to give money to people and use it for
sharing, rather than for exploiting people.
Fantastic post Frank. You made some excellent points.
I particularly liked the point you made about workers in poorer countries being forced to "donate" their time and labour rich countries.
I also really resonated with what you said about the whole Earth and all the resources being free and that people have been trapped into an unequal, unethical system of exploitation, through money.
I liked very much that it was very clear that Heidemaire was very happy with her choice to live without money and that her life has been much more fulfilling as a result. I think it is a very significant point that people really are trapped by money and what it buys. We expect to live at a certain standard and only expect that standard to get higher, never lower. But living at a lower standard IS really what we (in the Western world) need to do, in order for some of the poorer people to live at a better standard.
I'd like to live in a free World!
Suelo comments ...
I feel deep gratitude that Heidemarie exists, as I do for Mark. Thanks for posting this, Mark.
curbina comments ...
I think that people that is negative about the idea of living moneyless are simply overlooking that the real issue here is not money. Money is just a consequence of the dominance in our current system of social organization of human traits as selfishness and greed, among others. That is what most of us are tired of. And if we start basing our system of social organization in the good human traits, at least on one as simple as caring for others, then money will cease to exist because it will simply not be needed anymore.
That is what Mark, Heidemarie, Daniel and some other brilliant people are trying to do, to point out the basic flaw of our current system, and they are already proposing practical alternatives to solve the basic issue.
Tomi Astikainen comments ...
"It is possible to give money to people and use it for sharing, rather than for exploiting people." someone said. This is a point I hear a lot.
I guess many of us moneyless beings thought like this before understanding how the whole monetary system is deeply corrupted. Thus, the decision to become moneyless is often a statement, a cry for change - away from a debt-based system.
There's nothing wrong in using currencies, but if they are born in a centralized system that forces poor into greater poverty while the rich get richer, then, Houston: we have a problematic system.
fran k comments ...
@Julio. a verdadera traanquilidad y libertad del ser se puede experimentar, si antes de dormir recuerdas a cuantas personas apoyaste hoy sin esperar nada a cambio. porque al dia siguiente habra nuevas oportunidades de apoyar y sin esperarlo habra alguien que hara lo mismo por ti
I translate to:
to true tranquillity and freedom of the being it is possible to be experimented, if before sleeping you remember whichever people you supported today without waiting for nothing in return. because on the following day there are new opportunities to support and without waiting for it there is somebody that does the same by you
To which I reply:
Sí, ése es caliente muy encantador cuidando muy hermoso, y está como: Cuando usted ve algo que necesita fijar o reparar o crear o consolidar, ésa es su propia recompensa.
Which translates to:
Yes, that is very lovely warm caring very beautiful, and is like:
When you see something that needs fixing or mending or creating or nurturing, doing that is its own reward.
"Money is just a consequence of the dominance in our current system of social organization of human traits as selfishness and greed, among others. That is what most of us are tired of. And if we start basing our system of social organization in the good human traits, at least on one as simple as caring for others, then money will cease to exist because it will simply not be needed anymore."
Exactly! Money is just a system. Greed and selfishness are the real problems! And I have seen plenty of "Utopian" communities fall to pieces because of it.
Don't get me wrong, living without money is a HUGE step in the right direction, but I do not think it will solve the spiritual problems we have. I think it is extremely important for us to be committed to living non materialistic lifestyle, which I think will happen naturally if we don't use money, but if we start to get established and begin to prosper (which will of course happen) then we will have to return to the issues of greed and how will we use our wealth.
I'm assuming that as people who would be committed enough to live without money, we would also need to be committed to some kind of guiding principles? Something like "equality" or a need based system based on love and caring, rather than just straight out barter, which is not much different to using money anyway.
I agree that to operate on a large scale we would need to have some kind of system based on rewarding positive human traits, otherwise we will be back in the same old cycle of greed and mistrust.
I have some problems with dropping money completely at the moment. So you could say that I am not a "moneyless being". I'm ok with that.
I am aware that there is a lot of good stuff that would not be being done at the moment if we all stopped using money (or at least it would be 100s if not 1000s of time more difficult).
The main thing I am thinking of at the moment is not being able to transfer wealth (in the form of money) from rich countries to poorer countries.
I guess you could say that the poorer countries may not be as poor if they were not in debt and that is almost certainly true.
Also if poorer countries focussed on growing food instead of cash crops that would help too.
I just know that a lot of people would not be able to live and help in the Third World if they did not have that lifeline to the West.
How do you prepose we interact with other countries as moneyless people. Certainly if we have enough resources we could build a ship and transport food to where it's needed. Not a bad idea actually, especially if it's been rescued from supermarket bins! :0)
a comment on your post:
"not being able to transfer wealth (in the form of money) from rich countries to poorer countries."
If we did not have a money and wealth system, these countries would not be "poor."
It is our system that bleeds them dry, you mention about them growing crops, these people were growing their own crops, or travellling to areas and moving on to allow renewal when they had taken what they needed, then allowing the natural crops to regrow for many years prior to western "civilisation."
If an area cannot support humans, they move on, it is westerners who have prevented them moving on with their systems of borders, and control.
It is westerners they are growing tobacco, heroin and other mono culture crops for, forsaking their own crops because they have been lied to and believe they cannot function without the money and support from the west.
Tobacco for instance is grown in areas of forest where there is not enough nutrients for it, so the companies supply, at a reduced cost ofcourse, fertilisers to grow the tobacco, pay a pittance for the crop, the land is poisoned from the sprays to control the effects of mono crops, then when the land is drained of nutrients and cannot support any more tobacco another section of the forest is cut down, and the story goes on.
These people are trapped, just as we are, believing they cannot survive without this money.
In response to your quote, "I just know that a lot of people would not be able to live and help in the Third World if they did not have that lifeline to the West."
I believe what the so called third world needs is not western influence, but western withdrawal.
Rex comments ...
Thanks for these comments, your actions and awareness.
kyle comments ...
I agree with the comments about the need to tackle greed, rather than focusing purely on the money issue. At the same time, I do believe that the existence of the money system is a reflection of mankind's greed and, probably more accurately, general distrust.
If all money is wiped out, and people haven't learned to share selflessly, you have the same problem existing within a different paradigm. Responsible, fair use of resources, together with a motivational structure that favours those who seek to improve the quality of life around them (to whatever extent they are physically, mentally, or spiritually able), seems like a good way forward.
Ant comments ...
All men are created equal (but some will become different). I'm pragmatic, realistic, frugal. We all know that living without money is impossible, that is, even living out of bartering and "trading" of knowledge in exchange for survival benefits, it could somehow be intended as "money" under a different name.
I'm not discussing the plague of (real) money affecting all of us, the poor and the rich, the rise and the fall, as a crippled system we are part of. Many of us are enough illuminated to see the helpless destruction of our hosting planet and, for my part, I'm trying as hard as possible to save resources - another synonym of money.
We love to think of ourselves as evolute animals but the animal world involves a simple rule: the stronger eventually wins, whereas "stronger" means those individuals who have developed a strategy through which they can have an easier, longer, better life for themselves or to guarantee a progeny. Individuals can only be divided into two categories: winners and losers. Within a family, group, colony, tribe, society. The real point here is hierarchy and the principle of "living without money" should rather focus around self-sustaining without relying on others. A hermit on a remote island, that is. Neither master nor slave.
Any need to receive something from others is synonym of "money". I'm committed to help others, hence "money" is involved even in the most noble form of philanthropy.
A suggestion to Heidemarie is to change her philosophy name into a more appropriate "Refusing money".
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Very Strange... comments ...
So when you visit living without money you can only access the DVD by buying it or visiting a screening.
How about putting it up on the internet for free if it has such significant importance in advancing mankind?
Spending money to learn about living without money is pointless.
Esca comments ...
I appreciate her reflection about "How to be useful" or "To life in an efficient way" (the last 4 points in gib und nimm).
Moreover, her implication and lifestyle are admirable achievements.
I ask me if that way of life is sustainable for everybody ? (handicap, healt condition,...)
Does it need to change necessarily our standart of life?
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