Debt. A four letter word, experienced by many as a dirty word.
Based on Latin debitum= something owed, also ‘away from having.’
There are many faces of debt. The most prevalent in today’s world is to be in debt financially. To owe money. Our monetary system is built on debt. If we all paid off our debts completely, then the system would collapse. Therefore it is critical that the masters of the system keep generating debt, usually by methods of seduction and spin to keep people consuming and borrowing. Inbuilt into this system is a propagation of shame. Being in debt financially will only work the way it does by exploiting the shame of being in debt. (No longer having shame around debt and you become free of it on an emotional level, and once this happens the physical freedom doesn’t take long to catch up.)
We also have debt in other dimensions. If someone offers us support at a critical time, we feel indebted to that person. Anything for which we are grateful for involves a debt…of gratitude.
In exploring business as unusual accounting mechanisms, like integral accounting, we can include in this the integral accounting of debt. I may hold debt to commodities that are in my life. For example I may be indebted to the vast intelligence and input from hundreds of thousands of people allowing me to type these words into a lap top to be distributed over the internet. Which is very amazing. Or to be able to get a cold drink from my fridge. To call you from a devise that is in my pocket.
I may be indebted to my community and the customs of the world I live in. And indeed I am. I am a woman living in Australia. I can go to school, receive an education, get a career, and/or have children. I can choose my spiritual path, or not have one. I don’t worry about being bombed, or going hungry, or not getting support if I am sick, with or without insurance.
I am indeed indebted to the millions of wonderful poets, artists, writers, painters, philosophers, scientists, healers, trades people (alive or dead)…who have brought their knowledge and expertise to my world and from whom I am mostly able to access all this knowledge for free.
I am indebted to the technology that keeps my life in some order, from traffic lights, to mobile phones, to radio, TV, computers, even the technology of the written and spoken word…to technology of quality food production, health systems….
I am indebted to the earth, sky, sun, stars…for clean air, being able to swim in a clean ocean, walk bare feet on solid ground. To being born with vibrant health and a strong gene pool. For the wonderful and amazing friends and family, the rich pool of global support and love.
When we look at debt from the integral lens, our monetary debt experience pales in significance. We are all in debt. Every single human born. We all owe.
If we really adopted this attitude as part of business as unusual it would become clear that our very nature of existence means we owe. This is neither good nor bad. It just is.
We owe to the earth, to nature, to all people and animals who have walked before us. We owe to our ancestors, to people we have never met or will never meet.
Part of the purpose of business is to enable the giving back. To repay, in part, the debt we owe.
Responsible business and responsible economy (Economy from Greek oikonomia ‘household management’) has at its foundation the recognition that we are in debt to all of the above and more. As a business practice we ensure that we do not add to the debt by harming the environment or communities; destroying any opportunities for learning and knowledge transfer, or diminishing the possibility of well being of all. Book burning by a Fascist regime is no less abhorrent than screwing the environment with any form of pollution, or not allowing access to health care. These activities only add to the debt.