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Pennies a day will keep the bill man away

Updated on June 10, 2010

Many people save pennies, but they can legally be used as a form of protest.

One of the protests described in the Bible, is the overturning of the money changer's tables in the temple by Jesus.
One of the protests described in the Bible, is the overturning of the money changer's tables in the temple by Jesus.
Jesus was one among many thousands crucified for crimes against Rome, which included acts that were seen as insurrectionary against imperialist Rome that was in occupation of Israel in his day.
Jesus was one among many thousands crucified for crimes against Rome, which included acts that were seen as insurrectionary against imperialist Rome that was in occupation of Israel in his day.
This commemorative Roman frieze shows the Roman sacking or the Jerusalem temple during the sacking of Israel, showing that the acts of Jesus was a common sentiment in those days.
This commemorative Roman frieze shows the Roman sacking or the Jerusalem temple during the sacking of Israel, showing that the acts of Jesus was a common sentiment in those days.
Pennies accumulate rapidly and many people either throw then away, roll them up for the bank, or use them in a peaceful form of protest.
Pennies accumulate rapidly and many people either throw then away, roll them up for the bank, or use them in a peaceful form of protest.
Many times, at least in Vancouver, people have paid transit fares entirely by pennies.
Many times, at least in Vancouver, people have paid transit fares entirely by pennies.
The usual way that many deal with excess pennies is with the bank teller.
The usual way that many deal with excess pennies is with the bank teller.

Paying in pennies as a form of protest

Over the centuries people have developed many ways to protest injustice. Many of these ways earned the protester torture and death. We can even look to the Bible to find how the protester is dealt with. One of these is the central figure of the New Testament is none other than Jesus Christ who was sentenced to death by crucifixion as a result of the failed insurrection in the temple against usury of the money changers and against Jewish collaboration with the brutal Roman imperialist regime. Today we get the watered down version with Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers. As one reads through the Gospel, we also see an escalation of antisemitism while the brutal Pilate gets more and more wishy washy. But historically, there were many attempts at insurrection and some 70 groups engaged in underground war against the tyranny of the day while Jesus lived. Among them were the Sicari that was alleged to have been headed by Judas Iscariot. The Roman answer was brutal and was effected either by punishing offenders with slavery on a war trireme, death in Circus Maximus in the coliseum games and crucifixion. Yet this did not stop protest and Israel ultimately paid the full price in total destruction and Diaspora with the final collapse at Masada in 70 AD. Jesus is reported to have predicted the downfall of Israel within the lives of those alive at that time. And so it came to pass!


Since then protest against unfair practice and monetary chicanery has continued to this day. Among these protests was the Magna Carta; the forerunner to charters such as the US Constitution and the bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of rights, both of which tell us that we should be protected against unreasonable search and seizure. Unreasonable seizure should include the loss of income through money manipulation that leads to the twin evils of inflation and devaluation. Today, as of October 2006, the central thesis of the Magna Carta; Habeas Corpus that gives us the right to a hearing before being charged by the king and government, has been eliminated by former President George W. Bush. This makes anyone a target of state repression in the land of the brave and free.


Thus, finding safe ways to protest injustice has become and alternative. Paying the sum of a bill in the form of pennies serves to draw attention to the fact that what used to literally cost pennies, now costs a king's ransom for some who are financially challenged. In the recent past, paying in pennies has been used when transit fares went up and protesting riders paid their fare in pennies. This has happened numerous times in Vancouver BC and likely in other cities in Canada and the US. This did not stop increases and some people were squeezed out of riding transit altogether. Paying in pennies is a demonstration against inflation and devaluation; especially in the face of rumors about the elimination of the penny from currency. This in itself should tell us a lot about devaluation. Consider that during the great depression many people were sent to work camps and received 20 cents a day as wages for a 12 or 14 hour day. A protest grew out of this and for some, the rate went up to 50 cents a day. We see a similar thing playing out in China today.


Some people save pennies that they get in change for a variety of purposes such a protest. One of these is to make up several pounds of 50 cent penny rolls that can be taken to the bank or used to pay the hydro bill, the phone bill, and the grocer, bills from the bank or whoever is demanding payment. Some folks don't even bother to roll them and will climb onto a bus and deposit the fare penny by penny until the $2.50 to $5.25 fare is paid. In automated systems, this does not work as payment centers that are machines won't even accept any denomination below a nickel, but where a driver is involved, this causes a delay in service as everyone has to wait while the penny by penny fare is paid in full. If it is not, the driver is faced with a choice that can include involving the police. In Vancouver BC, the transit system has its own police and they are equipped with the controversial taser as well as traditional side arms. There have even been ten taser incidents on the transit system including one on a rider with valid fare. By now everyone is familiar with the taser and the 48 taser related deaths in Canada since their inception.


Pennies a day keeping the bill collector away does work, but could it also mean something like other jingles that have been sung to us. One of the most popular is "for the price of a cup of coffee" is spouted as an encouragement to buy into contracts or support some charity. With all those cups of coffee for this and that soon amounts to gallons of coffee or a heaping helping of pennies.


There was a day in the Wehrmacht Republic in Germany during the period of war reparations enacted under the Versailles Treaty prior to Hitler's take over when the German people suffered stagflation. Workers had to be paid every hour and then be allowed to run out with the equivalent of billions of dollars to buy a loaf of bread before the price doubled again. This went on until the Reich-mark was essentially worthless. People starved en-masse in what was once an industrial giant in Europe. Paying in pennies also serves as both a remembrance and a reminder of just how awful the effects of inflation and devaluation can become. This is the central problem with printed or minted script used as a universal commodity that can be easily generated into vast quantities producing a large and increasing proportion of fictitious value and conversely, the ever shrinking real value. As the full bill is paid in pennies, no crime has been committed, unless inconveniencing others is somehow turned into a crime in the future. Given the trend, that is quite possible. But until then, this is a form of protest that should ring true and remind people of what we have lost and what we are now losing with massive bailouts and the newest jingle, "Inflation can be a good thing". Hogwash! Inflation served as the tripwire to WWII and death by weapons of mass destruction.


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