What does Canadian blues singer, Norine Braun, have in common with an "Occupy" Visa Debit card? You might be scratching your head thinking this sounds incongruous. But, there is a connection between the two. One gives a face to the downhearted by means of lyrics that reach the senses while the other addresses empowering the wallet.
Norine Braun's track "99 percent," on her latest album Conventus, which in Latin means union, is a visual rendering of those affected by the disparity of wealth in today's society. Ironically, she looks like a young Roseanne Barr. And, like Roseanne, Norine has the attention of the working class, the people right next to us. Not a government telling us what to do, but people we trust, look up to, and we measure ourselves.Her bluesy poetic voice pays tribute to the Occupy Movement with lyrics like:
Do we pay for groceries? / Or do we pay the rent? / Scrounging in the garbage / We're the 99 percent / Occupy corruption / Lining up for lunch / Lining up for jobs / Watching our destruction / We won't lose the world to evil / But to those who watch instead.The lyrics ask us to look beyond the music, into our souls, into dreams that have been broken and remove the veils that prevent the eye of the heart from seeing the gap between the haves and the have-nots. But a song alone does not solve the problem: It makes us aware of it.
While Norine "blues-it-out" on her track "99 percent," paying tribute to the OWS, Carne Ross and some other independent diplomats, are about to launch a so-called "Occupy" Visa Debit card to "un-banked" people. You might be thinking -- what the heck is an "un-banked" person? They are individuals who have had enough with the corruptions of mainstream big banking and have veered off to do business with alternative systems. They are also individuals who are labeled as underserved citizens by conventional banks and have become invisible to the mainstream U.S. financial systems, in some measure, forced to participate in informal lending circles. They are the people Norine describes as lining up for jobs. They are the people Norine portrays as having to decide between paying the rent or groceries. According to the FDIC, nearly 28.3 percent of the U.S. population are either underbanked or unbanked.In the words of Benjamin Franklin: "Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on." In other words, money has the ability to reproduce, but only for those who have the means to enter the financial resource pool, not those un-banked people Norine sings about. And in the vertical society, money always stays on the top. In response, Carne Ross and Occupy Money Cooperative have come up with a scheme using the existing card processing network, Visa, which will hopefully reverse the vertical to horizontal. This may sound like double dealing, but Carne explains that the Occupy Visa card is a step into a more transparent financial cooperative. Ross told the LA Review of Books:
"As a group we felt it was more important to do something and actually be helpful to the unbanked, who are the most vulnerable members of our society, rather than twiddling our thumbs waiting for something to come along.Albeit, the venture needs money to operate; Ross hopes to raise $900,000 to launch his project. Only time will tell if this alternative financial cooperative has the power it seeks to manifest. In the meantime -- Norine sings on.
You can stream and download Norine Braun's song "99 percent" on BandCamp.