‘It was wise to give up,’ Charlie continues. ‘With the inherent risk, every time I stole something it was like rolling the dice, really a form of gambling, so I had a pretty good run.. Towards the end, people asked me, as I was asking myself, if I wanted to go bigger. I could have. Upscale, invest money, rob banks.. but that was a lot of investment, and I decided that was not the direction that I wanted to go.
If something went missing in my area people began to assume that I did it. As it was – I figured it out one day – if I divided the number of items I was stealing, say, by the number of hours in a day, I was effectively making at least one dollar every 90 seconds. I effectively retired in my 20s. Not by stealing money, just by retrieving things for others.’
How do you feel about property now? Should we still have individual property, is it critically important?
‘I’m not really attached to money or items. Could I live without my computer? No. Without my phone? Yes. But mainly I’m attached to my computer because of all the ideas I’ve written down, the artwork, the concepts that are on it.
My point of view has evolved..from when I was young. [Looking at] ex-smokers or ex-alcoholics, they are the biggest “smoking is bad” or “alcoholism is bad”, the same with migrants: some migrants will suggest that migrants are the biggest problem in society. Being an ex-thief, I’m not very “you must be protective of your things”.. it’s the connections between people that have more value, your evolution as a person, the advancement of society and how we all function together as a collective. That’s far more important than: “I have stuff.”
I think we distract ourselves with stuff too much these days. There’s too much focus on consumerism. My father had the view that those with the most toys wins, but wins what? Wins how? I disagree with that view. I think it’s destructive to society and the world around you to have that view. “I have the most toys therefore I’m the best regardless of the fact that all of you are worse off. Whatever, I don’t care.” It’s not helpful. It’s not assisting growth in any way, shape, or form.
Everything that exists in nature is in a constant state of growth or decay, whether it’s suns, or plants, species, whatever.. except for some human concepts like God. God is an unchanging thing that can’t work because it doesn’t work the way anything else in nature works. I’m not saying that any particular belief system is wrong but that everything natural in our world is changing. ‘”My stuff is good” can’t work because it doesn’t work the way anything else in nature works.
I think that the way we relate to objects should be more organic in that way. Yes, things come into your life and leave your life, and accept that. Rather than just go: I need to gather more stuff.
If I have something that’s beneficial to other people, I’ll often just give it away. For example, if I have friends or flatmates that are short on money..I’ll just lend them some money. But when I lend money, it’s not money I need.. if it doesn’t come back then I know that’s a risk I’m taking.
Ideas are valuable, but like money has no value if it’s stagnant, if you have an idea and keep it to yourself, you may as well not come up with the idea. What’s the point? it’s not doing anything. If you share it, you might connect it with somebody elses ideas and we end up advancing.’
Do people have the right to cause indirect harm by hoarding? Should we have a society where people are able to hoard stuff for themselves?
‘Yes. If everybody was very giving and outgoing with everything, that [would] become a weakness. The same if everybody was selfish and greedy. You need a balance. We need different types of people.
As has been covered in many books and graphic novels, if everybody is the same, then everybody has the same advantages, but everybody has the same weaknesses. If everybody is the same, you only need one event to wipe out everyone. You need variety to give strength to the species.
One of the things I like about Australia is that we’re a multicultural society. Having people from different backgrounds gives us different perspectives, which gives us different answers to any problems which come up. I see that as Australia’s strength. [Migrants wanting to change things] is a good thing, because it means we’re [being inclusive] of different perspectives.
You’ll find with my views that there’s a time and place for everything. That [something is] not necessarily wrong.. where it’s right. There is too much focus on might is right, those with the most toys wins and that’s been used an excuse for the Reaginist type capitalism to support the super-wealthy, at the expense of everybody else. We need some people like that. Should we all be like that? No. But we need some people with that kind of drive.’
I read that when Donald Trump was building his empire, his big trick wasn’t his ability to make awesome deals, it was in manipulating local councils, influencing them to muscle people out of properties using eminent domain so that he could then buy them and then raze properties, or do whatever he had to in order to build one of his casinos.
Is there ever a situation where eminent domain is valid? Should government have the power to say: you know what, we need to take your stuff because the bigger picture is more important?
‘Well, yes. There is a need for governments and councils and so forth to make judgement for the benefit of the people. The example you gave of Trump is not for the benefit of the people. It’s for the benefit of one person and his corporate greed.
Am I upset for Trump doing that? No. Because he was following on the idea of capitalism…operating within that sort of objective. The council was the one at fault, their job was to look after the people to protect them from predators. Trump was doing his job.
It is a good example of how our..capitalist..model needs to change. Looking at it a different way, if you changed the way governments worked with people, would that scenario have come up? Possibly. There’s always going to be corruption..somewhere, but you can minimize the effects. If you can reduce the avenues and opportunities for corruption to gain a foothold then you’ll reduce the effect of that corruption on society.’
Obviously you’re very big on the importance of human and civil rights e.g. everyone should be able to take on opportunities and hopefully the means to take up those opportunities, for the betterment of society. But it’s implicit that as a basic unit of society, the individual is critically important. If we don’t protect individuals, then what’s the point? So can a person ethically be sacrificed, their property taken, their choice devalued..?
‘You’re talking about the offset of the individual versus the collective. This is one of the big issues that have been discussed for decades, at least, if not centuries, and this is brought up a lot in capitalism versus communism.
Communism is about the collective and the sacrifice of the individual versus capitalism where the rights of the individual are seen as more important than the health of the state and community. What I want to see [is a situation] where both have the opportunity to grow. You’re not sacrificing one or the other, and I believe it is possible.’
A balancing act...
Not even a balancing act. I don’t see why it should be seen as a competition. I’m not saying we need to sacrifice individual rights so that society gets better. I’m not saying we should all move to communism. I don’t see how that’s going to work. You start sacrificing individuals, you end up with mess just the other way.
Where the actions and the rights of the individual can support the community and the greater good, the actions and the rights of the community can support the individual. They can both be held aloft. This isn’t a black or white, they don’t have to be opposites, they both can be supported.
..With what I’m proposing, there’s nothing stopping individuals and their successes. It’s just your motivations and your successes. The drive of the individual pays back to the community. So by your drive, by your actions, you support the community, and the community supports you.’
People go: “Oh! You’re sacrificing the individual for the collective!”, well no! It doesn’t have to be.. it can be each person working together, gaining more..’
I just want to clarify that, these aren’t necessarily my objections, I’m more predicting the kind of knee-jerk responses you might get from readers, coming from certain preconceived ideas or from association with various political groups. I’m considering what ideas are they going to have in response, and what are their questions going to be.
‘You’ll get a lot of people like that when we present these ideas, as I did when I was first exposed to these ideas. “Oh my god, this is never going to work!” It’s too dreamy, or it’s too left-wing, or it’s too communist.. something like that.
“Capitalism has broken it’s restraints and is running amok. That being said, it’s not a monster that needs to be killed, it needs to be tamed. But that in itself isn’t the solution, we need more.”
All I ask you to do is think about it. Think about how it ties in together, think about the reactions to the changes [to be covered soon], think about whether it would be better or worse, and why, in comparison with our present system. What you will find, as I did, is that the present system is not only inefficient, it is failing to the point where it’s basically already failed. We just don’t know it. We are at a stage where we need to change how we do things. We’ve gone from feudalism and so forth.. we need one of those changes again. We’re at that level, we just don’t want to admit it. Capitalism has broken it’s restraints and is running amok. That being said, it’s not a monster that needs to be killed, it needs to be tamed. But that in itself isn’t the solution, we need more.’