The Simpsons Gets Political - SE01 E04 - There's No Disgrace Like Home

The Simpsons Gets Political - SE01 E04 - There's No Disgrace Like Home

Script Synopsis: After a disastrous family picnic at Mr Burns mansion. Homer decides its necessary for the family to go to counselling together. He pawns the TV and they head over to Marvin Monroes Family Therapy Centre. A shocking time is had by all.

Realising that his methods aren't working Munroe terminates the therapy session - Homer reminds him that the advert promised results, or double their money back. Meaning the Simpsons get to leave to buy an even better TV - which ultimately brings them all closer together.

Issue raised: The situation where-by the Simpsons find that the only way to afford the family counselling - is to pawn the TV. And the alternative to expensive credit - mutual aid and credit unions. One of which is a theory, the second of which refers to a concrete alternative to legalised loan sharks such as Wonga.

No person, and no family, should ever find itself in the position where it is necessary to pawn their personal possessions to pay for something they consider to be essential.

Pawn shops feed on human desperation, in their traditional form the item that is traded in is put down as collateral on a loan to people with no access to another form of credit. The price paid for the item is often multiples less of what it is actually worth. Otherwise, there would be no business for the pawn broker.

The item in question can either be left at the pawn shop and the loan defaulted on with the only consequence being the loss of the item, or redeemed at a later date for the amount initially given to the original owner of the item plus an amount of interest.

This set up is far more attractive to may in desperate need of money than resorting to a loan shark - whether legal such as Wonga, or illegal such as the ones that will break ya' fingers. That does not mean that it's not a travesty that any of these are necessary.

So, what might be considered an alternative to these forms of credit?

Accepting that a wholesale bringing up of peoples living standards so that it is not possible for a family to find itself in the position that it needs to pawn possessions to pay for essentials(1) is absolutely necessary, if we are to ever claim to live in a humane society.

But, also accepting that short term solutions can be sought to improve the here and now, and that the methods we use to achieve this can offer a glimpse of how we might live in a future society - let's look at a couple of alternatives to the 'pawn shops and loan sharks' model of low-level credit.

Mutual Aid: Theory and practice.

Organisations for mutual aid exist for the provision of many goods and services, not all them monetary. They can be labour and time exchanges, social groups or any other types of exchanges that one might be able to conceptualise.

They will generally function on the principal of need. Which is to say one might give what they can afford and take what they need and they are generally democratic in nature.

How this would work should then become obvious when one thinks of the implications of this. So as an example each month me and ten of my fellow mutual aiders might put in £10 to a pot.

At some point one of the mutual aiders may lose their job and might apply to the rest for the use of the funds - they then make use of the funds in the mutual aid fund whilst they are out of work, returning to paying the £10 when they are employed again.

Each member should in principal be allowed to draw on the fund based on their present need, taking into account the needs of others.

The level of assistance afforded to the person would depend on the size of the fund and the amount that was in it when it became necessary to draw on it. But essentially you see the principal behind it.

The democracy aspect of it would prevent any one person from abusing the fund for their own ends, because they would have no power to misappropriate funds given that they only held 1/10 of the voting rights.

Credit Unions also offer a genuine solution in the here and now to every day lending needs, and they also have the advantage that if you are reading this and have not set up a mutual aid fund like the one described above - they exist and are generally fairly easy to join, as well as to find.

In the UK several organisations interested in an alternative to predatory lenders have been instrumental in their growth since the Great Recession following the crisis of 2007/8. Many of them function of the principal outlined above. All of them however try to offer a genuine ethical and affordable alternative to having to flog your tele'.

Bet Homer wishes he was a member of Springfield Credit Union or Mutual Aid Society - you can find yours here.



(1) It might be a stretch to say the therapy was essential - Homer certainly thought so however.


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