So, you’ve fallen into the rabbit hole and discovered that the world isn’t what you thought it was. You’ve learned about Bilderberg or JFK or Roswell or fluoride or, as in my case, 9/11 and that knowledge has led you to a place where everything seems dark and wrong. Where are you supposed to go from there?
I can only tell you that I was terrified. Like an ant who suddenly discerns an elephant wandering about but none of his fellow ants will look up; they’re all too busy working, I felt powerless, insignificant and, above all, afraid. I had glimpsed the Shadow Government and maybe it knew what I’d seen; knew what I’d said and to whom I’d been speaking. This fear gripped me through most of ’07 to ’09 and has not really gone away – though I think I manage it better now – and was not helped by the recent accusations made by Mr Snowden.
That fear led to paranoia; I saw agents in every unmarked van and unfamiliar car, looked for bugs, kept my curtains drawn, varied my routine, kept watch for strangers, kept my eye on the shadows, believed nothing and nobody, trawled through media from mainstream to mindless. It was no way to live, which fact I eventually came to realise, but it did (I hope!) teach me to be more observant and less trusting of authority, which are valuable tools in my experiment of freedom.
So, there I was, feeling small and afraid and vulnerable. Outnumbered. Out-gunned. Out-educated. Out-resourced. Outmatched in just about every way. I mean, if the analogy of the “vampire squid” holds true, what can I do? Just one man? Just one voice?
In the darkest times, I often took the Box Set Escape; immersing myself in a television or film series to escape the worries of reality. One of my favourite series is Babylon 5 and one of my favourite episodes from that series is Intersections in Real Time where rebel leader John Sheridan is interrogated by an expert Earthforce inquisitor, masterfully portrayed as little more than a civil servant. The hero Sheridan will not, of course, yield to this tyranny.
At one point the Inquisitor, frustrated, asks mockingly of Sheridan if he really thinks he can win, if he actually thinks he can beat the system. Sheridan’s answer struck a deep chord within me – “Every time I say ‘no’.”
If all I am is one man and all I have is one voice, then I will use that one weapon. I will say “no.”
Passing through that darkness not only changed my perspectives of the world but it also fundamentally altered my perspectives of myself. I hesitate to call it a ‘spiritual awakening’ but that is the closest description I can find. I felt that I was beginning, finally, to get in touch with my own heart, with my own soul – finally getting that Holy Trinity of Heart, Soul and Mind working in a kind of clumsy unison. And I realised that I couldn’t change the world and, more than this, I realised that I didn’t want to. I mean, think of the responsibility – what if you get it wrong? A lot of people could suffer. No, the only world I can change, the only one I have any right or power to change, is my own. I am lucky enough to be unmarried, single and childless and so my experiment in freedom endangers only myself; at least directly.
I call this my ‘experiment in freedom’ because I really don’t know what I’m doing. I might post here in this obscure and unread blog (how did you end up here?) that this means this and that is that but the truth is that I don’t really know how much of what I know is true and how much is bullshit. What I’m doing is my way of finding out.
So I decided to start small and set my sights on the Television License. I don’t remember ever signing a contract where I agreed to pay somebody a fee to watch television. Regardless of the arguments for and against the need for television licenses, those arguments are based on legislative and judicial law. Under Common Law, there is no agreement between the BBC and me, no lawfully binding contract. That being the case, why do I simply have to accept this bill that drops through my letterbox every 12 months demanding payment? Can I say that the request is too expensive and offer a lesser amount, or simply refuse to acknowledge the validity of the bill at all? I decided for the latter.
My challenge to the Television Licensing company (which isn’t the BBC but a profit making company working for the BBC) is to prove that I have to pay what they ask. Show me where I agreed to it. If I haven’t agreed to it, let’s negotiate a fairer deal. The Television Licensing company refused to budge an inch and therefore so did I.
And so I said no, clumsily at first, and from that initial experiment my current method evolved. Let’s say I was to get a letter from the Television Licensing Company today; I would staple my standard ‘Notification of Withholding of Consent’ form, signed and dated, which thanks whomever for providing this document for my inspection but, as there is no pre-existing contract for me to comply and I don’t agree to do so now, I hereby return it for their files. Further, the Notice requests no further communication on the subject and warns of a fee of £100 per letter should this instruction be ignored. Responding, the Notice finishes, will be taken as complete understanding of and agreement to pay this and other relevant fees. Then I post the whole lot back to them, ripped open envelope and all, in an A4 envelope with ‘Postage May be Paid by (then the company name)’ where the stamp should be.
If they write a second letter, I simply get my red Sharpie out and write diagonally and boldly across it: I DO NOT HAVE A CONTRACT WITH YOU. I DO NOT WANT A CONTRACT WITH YOU. A BILL IS ENCLOSED AS PER PROIR NOTIFICATION – PLEASE PAY PROMPTLY TO AVOID LATE PAYMENT FEES. THANK YOU. I enclose a bill for £100 (my bills, which I had printed, contain a warning that any bill remaining unpaid after 28 days will automatically begin to accrue late payment charges in the order of £25 per week per unpaid bill) and post the whole tot back to them as before.
For any other letter now I just repeat Step 2 and gradually up their bill. Those late payment fees soon build up but they’re a pain in the arse to keep track of.
The up-side to this method is that it stalls them indefinitely. They can’t say you’re refusing to reply to their letters and they can’t dispute your claim of a lack of contractual obligation. It takes about three letters using the above method to stop debt collection agencies writing to me.
The Secret of dealing with debt collection agencies is to know one, simple fact: You don’t owe them a penny. They’ve probably purchased your debt or agreed with the initial creditor to take a percentage of whatever they can recover. Either way, the original creditor has sold the debt or otherwise transferred authority over the debt to a third party – a third party you did not agree to, choose or have any obligation to – and has been or agreed to be paid for it. Therefore the creditor has ‘settled’ the debt with somebody else, leaving you free and clear. As soon as debt collection agencies realise that you know this they drop you like a hot potato. The trick is to keep your nerve and ignore all their hypothetical threats and scary projections. It’s all just bluster and blather.
The down-side is that sometimes it never ends. I still get letters from the Television Licensing people but now they’re not addressed to me by name but to ‘The Legal Occupier’ or somesuch similar nonsense. I merely write on the envelope, with my red Sharpie, ‘Nobody at this address of that description’ (I consider myself a peaceful inhabitant, not a legal occupier – a legal occupier sounds like a soldier or an army) and send it back to them with a bill for doing so.
An Inspector called once but I politely told him I didn’t want to talk to him and to contact me in writing if he wanted anything from me. I wouldn’t answer any of his questions and was polite at all times – no shouting, no swearing, no name-calling. Just a polite but firm ‘no’. He went away. The police did not come back and kick my door in. I haven’t been summonsed to court or arrested on the street. Nothing happened, save for the occasional letter that I don’t read. When they write to me by name, I always reply – even if only to say no thanks.
There’s more, of course, much more – but that’s for another time. For now, all you have to know is that it is possible to refuse to play their game.
It is possible to say no.
How many times you can say it in a row – well, that’s the real test, isn’t it?