I Am For
“Why are those people laying in the street? There. The ones that are rubbing their stomachs. The fat ones.”
“They came into the city because their banks ran out of money,” he said. “Only to find that tourists had withdrawn it all. Many of them were farmers retired from their farms. They have to go home empty-handed again.”
“Trash this government! Burn it down!” screamed a megaphone. “They never do anything honest with our money. If they were going to change, they would’ve changed by now! Burn it down!”
“Oh my God!” she said.
“This president! This capital! This leadership has failed us!” A growing group of protesters nodded silently.
“They’re bankers now! They spend all day on MSNBC learning how to speak Banker! Prepping themselves to invest in the stock market with all the money their banker friends have thrown at them! Burn this government down! They print enough money to give to themselves and leave nothing for us! When our fathers come into town to withdraw their pensions, when we’re hurt or when we retire or when we sit unemployed there’s never enough for us! Never enough work! Never enough money! Burn it down and replace these bankers with leaders who will end fiat currency! Leaders who won’t accept money from other countries! Leaders who won’t sell out our futures by selling our businesses, our land and our future to bankers from other parts of the world!”
The silent mass grew larger and gained grumbling voices of agreement.
“Worthless currency this is!” screamed the megaphone as a man held up a fistful of money. “This is what bankers love here in my hand! This plastic paper is worthless! These coins, this metal written in our language, this is worth something more today than it was yesterday! Burn these bankers down!”
“Wow,” she said, “this crowd is getting really excited.”
“Let’s slip into that coffee shop over there,” he said. “I don’t like the way the police are looking at these people. We don’t want to get caught in the middle. This one takes dollars.” The two tourists entered the shop.
“I love the coffee here. It’s a third the price of home just like it was the first time we came,” she said.
“You’re paying tourist prices,” whispered a local man.
“The value of your dollar has gone way up. Whenever you buy a cup of coffee here the owner covers his costs five times over. When you’re local you get it for free,” he whispered, “What do you want?”
“We’re just here visiting. We don’t want any trouble,” she said.
“No, I mean what kind of coffee do you want? Whisper so they don’t hear you speak.”
“Oh. I’ll have an Americano,” she said.
“Pick something else.”
“Okay. I’ll have a double espresso,” she said staring at her boyfriend.
“I’ll have a latte,” he said.
The local man smiled. “Excellent. Be right back.”
He returned with the coffee. “Give me two dollars and we’ll call it even. Let’s go sit outside on the street.”
“His wife…they were never married,” says the local man nodding toward the shopkeeper. “She disappeared before the marriage could take place. Her name was Corazon. She was from across the border just like the barista here. He understands loyalty…faith…looking out for each other. No one looked out for him before. He keeps the dollar price because he knows our money always fails. It’s been declining for decades. The other shops they charge more for tourists in local currency which keeps the locals out. Here locals can get their coffee for free when you pay in dollars – subsidized by the currency conversion. It’s a good place for us to meet and consider and plan what to do when our economy eventually suffers again.”
“Are you part of that group? The ‘burn it down’ people like the guy with the megaphone?” he asked.
“No, I don’t oppose anything. But if you like I’ll tell you what I am for,” said the local man. “It’s better to understand what someone is for. When people are against something in large numbers, something that surrounds them, they will either be crushed into nothing or destroy the boundary between themselves and what seeks to crush them. As they do they create a chaos in the mingling. It happens every few years now. Until a new boundary is restored with all of us inside of it we are headed for chaos.”
“That’s an interesting way to look at it,” she mused. “What are you for?”
“Imagine a world, a nation, a society such as ours. The one you see around you. Within our borders we are full of natural resources, beautiful scenery and patriotic people loyal to each other. Yet increasingly suspicious of our leaders who always seem to run out of money. The faith is being destroyed. The circle that encompassed us all with understanding before now contains a concentric circle of greater and greater margin that divides us from them. Faithlessness, like an earthquake opening an abyss around us, continues to erode our trust. We know we cannot rely on those people to manage our money with integrity, competence or sincerity.”
A crash against the window brings down a rain of glass. “Oh my God!” she yelped. “The protesters are throwing rocks!”
“Hold my hand, Kelly,” said the boyfriend.
“Do you have a car?”
“No, we walked here from the hotel. The one on the other side of the protests.”
“Bring your coffee and come with me. My neighborhood is right around the corner.” The local and his two new friends flee the scene calmly.
“Through this gate here. Down the steps,” he said. “Be careful you don’t slip. It’s a little wet.”
“The walls in this alley are creepy,” she said.
“It’s okay Kelly. Just follow me,” said her boyfriend.
“Don’t worry. We’re almost to the light at the end,” said the local.
“Here. We are there.”
“Oh my God!” she said looking up at the sky. “You can’t even hear the protests from here and everything is so beautiful. All the people…they don’t seem concerned at all about what’s going on on the other side of the wall.”
“They’re all artists of their own kind. I have over twenty neighbors in twelve houses on this street. This one…he has a large garden in the back where he keeps goats and hens and grows many vegetables.”
“My neighbor here is a carpenter. He built all the mailboxes for us and keeps everything in good repair.” They walk on.
“We have a doctor whose wife is a nurse. They tend to the older people – the parents of some of my neighbors. Throw your coffees here in this box. One of the children will come and pick it up. They keep the street clean a few times a day.”
“Lemonade! Get your lemonade! Fresh lemonade!” barked a boy.
The local man holds up three fingers. “His father has fruit trees in his garden. Do you like lemonade sour or sweet?”
“Sweet,” she said. They picked up their lemonades. “Thank you.”
“Thanks,” said her boyfriend.
“This neighbor is an exporter. His family left him an inheritance of land outside the city where he grows sugar cane and a factory that produces clothing and an olive orchard.”
“May we have some olives too please?” he asks the boy.
“Thank you,” said the boyfriend.
“Thanks,” she said. “Wow, this lemonade is really good.”
“The water for the lemonade runs straight off the mountain in a little stream. It flows, even in winter, right behind our street and into the city water supply. We get it before it’s chlorinated. My house is just up ahead past the windmills.”
“Wow, those are really fancy.”
“My neighbor is an engineer and a pilot. He crafted them out of old plane parts. They generate our electricity for the street.”
“What did you pay that boy with?” asked Kelly. “It didn’t look like coins.”
“Here. Take a look,” said the local man.
“What are these things?” she asked.
“They look like gold drops,” said her boyfriend.
“Take a guess. I’ll give you a hint. They are from my neighbor’s olive orchard.”
“Gold olive pits?”
“How much is the gold worth?” she asked.
“Not much. My neighbor is a painter. Every month…well, you’ll see. I’ll tell you more inside,” he said while opening the door to his home.
“Wow, your house is very modern and warm inside,” she said.
“Hang your coats here,” he said while pulling a box from the closet. “This is my chest of gold.”
“Wow, you have thousands!” she said with wild eyes. “You must be rich!”
“Except for one thing,” said the boyfriend. “You said the gold wasn’t worth much. And why is it on olive pits?”
“All of us on this street…we were once poor like the protesters are today,” said the local. “One day my neighbor with the olive orchards called a meeting. Everyone came to my home here and talked about what to do. Everything my neighbors and I do complements each other. I write poetry, stories and political understandings. Then I print off a little magazine for my neighbors and sell it out in the square. Some days a neighbor’s children sell it for me. Like today.” He smiled as he opened the window.
“I don’t like to be among the protest mobs. It ruins my perspective while I write stories. They infect my ideas with emotions of distress,” he said sadly.
“There was no distress at our meeting. We all decided we no longer allowed distress in our lives. The struggle and distress had affected every one of us and we had simply had enough. So we decided unanimously that we would create our own society. On our street, my neighbor’s and my own skill provide enough talent and service and goods to keep us all safe and happy. So we bartered for a while. But some people were too old to work or not skilled in what we needed or unhappy in what they could provide. Bartering became unfair quickly to those with nothing to share. They grew uneasy and once again in distress.”
The couple sipped their lemonade attentively.
“At the time, our government had halted welfare payments. The older people had nothing and some of my neighbors provided them with the things they needed as charity. However, they then had less to barter as a result and less to sell in the square. It pulled all of us down. So we came up with another solution.” The local man held up an olive before taking a bite.
“My neighbor brought 2000 olive pits from his orchard. My other neighbor – the painter – he dipped each one in gold paint and sealed them. We had another meeting. At this meeting every person on our street old enough to work, whether they worked or not, was given fifty of these gold pits. Once we had distributed 1000 of them it left us with 1000 more for the next month.”
The two munched on their olives.
“This worked much better than bartering. We decided that our work of an hour should cost whatever we choose and in a month or two we came to an understanding of what our work was worth. Someone who is highly skilled like the carpenter would work for you for five or six gold olive pits. I pay the children that sell my magazine one olive pit per hour and they keep a small percentage of the money from the square that they make for me. Every month everyone had another fifty pits to spend among us. In a short time, some of my neighbors’ parents were able to save their state welfare payments in full and survived entirely from the food and services on our street. They began a small bank, like an international bank, to trade our local currency for gold olive pits. They keep track of an exchange rate between what people earn now in our country’s money and what vegetables and carpentry and lemonade are worth in olive pits on our street. They keep a small percentage of olive pits as payment for trading their welfare currency to use in the square for people that choose to do so. They prefer the olive pits.”
“Cool,” she said.
“There were still some people with nothing to do,” he continued. “Once they were cared for they found that they had much free time and much boredom with nothing to fill that time. Some of them got jobs in the square. Yet their money and their savings from work continued to be worth less and less every month as the fraud of our government and pessimism within our country increased. Business owners fearful of a collapse raised prices in order to save more for the future. Then they priced their products in your dollars to avoid the collapse in value of our currency. Fewer and fewer stores were left selling food that we wanted to buy, priced for our citizens to afford. Our government paid no attention to any of these problems. They simply talked about the free market and loans from other nations as the solution. Meanwhile, available shops dwindled for local currency holders. In order to compete with the others now selling their products in dollars – and whose profits had raised the rents of the buildings in which these shops were located – they in turn had to raise their prices in our nation’s currency even as the value of an hour of an average worker’s time at work decreased!” He spat an olive pit out the window and placed another olive in his mouth.
“As our currency declined, the government halted some services. There was no more trash collection. Police and firemen were laid off. Hot water, and then any water at all, was rationed. Then available only a few hours per day. The people on my street again came to my house and we had another meeting.” He spat a pit out the window.
“News of our street’s calm surrounded by the chaos of our nation’s collapse began to spread to other neighborhoods. Other streets in the area wondered what we had done to keep everyone happy while the nation around us crumbled. Not only did we have no struggle for basic needs, but many of my neighbors were happier than ever to have found a sense of certainty that they were provided for. That allowed them to attempt new talents with the time that their lack of struggling afforded them. We had so much gold pit money left every month that one of them decided to create his own casino!” He chuckled while displaying a wooden casino chip with a green number painted on it.
“He dealt blackjack for the neighbors who chose to gamble with each other for fun. He was an enterprising young man. Like every astute casino owner, he held a large amount of gold pits in his cashbox at month’s end.”
“He was the first to suggest that we share our neighborhood idea with the other neighborhoods and start a simple tax system so that some of the people looking for work could be paid from these taxes to perform services in our neighborhood that the government had halted such as trash collection and policing.”
“Some of the sidewalks in our neighborhood were cracked and stairs along the walk were crumbling. There was a stone mason in the neighborhood next to ours. We decided to attempt this boy’s plan and elected a manager for the services from our group. Then we employed the mason and others from his street to fix our community sidewalks, patrol them, carry water from the stream and to help with picking fruits and vegetables from the expanding gardens. They were all paid in olive pits from our taxes and also received fifty gold pits each month as we all did.” He spat out another pit.
“A neighbor of the stone mason from another town lived on that street only a few days a month. Few people knew him or what he did for a living. He did not contribute directly to our little society. Yet somehow he appeared at the casino on nights when he was in the neighborhood with hundreds and hundreds of gold olive pits. Our new policeman inquired to the elderly international bankers if he had traded his other currency for our neighborhood gold pits. None of them had ever seen or done business with the man. On further inspection, the gold of his pits wore off easily under hot water. He had counterfeited our neighborhood currency and was quickly admonished by our policeman. We held another meeting.” He crumpled his lemonade cup and threw a perfect arc into the box on the street outside his window.
“Everyone was disgruntled. Prior to this event our faith in each other had been unbreakable. Now, without a group of people who could all understand why we created this gold pit money in the first place, someone had decided to take advantage of others through counterfeiting. Our small community was at risk of falling apart as the faith we held in our olive pit currency was called into question. The painter took all of our cash boxes and identified the fake gold pits without the proper sealant on the paint. Then we closed our system to anyone new and continued as before.”
The tourist pair took turns tossing their crumpled cups at the box on the street through the window. Hers veered off course. Luckily, his tapped hers and both landed safely in the box.
“At our next meeting faith was restored. One of the men who had gambled all of his olive pit savings away had no money to pay the taxes for our neighborhood services. He raised a point at this meeting. Why did we have to pay taxes when we were all granted as much olive currency as we needed to afford the necessities of life and a little bit more? All of that money came from the pieces of the olives that were discarded as worthless. We made them worth something because we all agreed they were worth our faith in each other and each other’s work. Why couldn’t we simply agree that our manager, who managed our neighborhood services, be granted an account every month with enough olive pits to pay those wishing to be employed for neighborhood services. We all agreed. We didn’t need taxes at all as long as we all agreed that the services provided were in the best interest of our neighborhood. We would conduct ourselves with sincerity and faith in each other to avoid any recurrence of the pessimism that resulted during the counterfeiting scandal.” He paused, then continued with a smile, “Tax collection was ended.”
“Hooray!” yelped Kelly with a raised fist.
“Our neighborhood and the one next to it continued to function and keep us all free of struggle with gold pits and the faith we have in each other’s’ talents and the intention we all held to share them in order to maintain our lives with consistency.”
“That gave us firm trust in our futures, personally and collectively, and the time to consider what else we would each do with our lives. It has been working for us now for several years.”
“Well it’s a hell of a thing you’ve done here,” said the boyfriend.
“Bradley, we need to go and pack our things from the hotel. Our plane leaves in a few hours.”
They shook hands with the local. “Thank you for your hospitality.”
“Of course. Let me show you another path to your hotel to get around the gridlock of the protests. Follow me here through this gate.”
“Resistance is feudal,” Bradley whispered as Kelly elbowed him in reply.
“Follow the path along the water and it will take you back to the other side of the square over a small bridge. Take these gold olive pits with you. It will remind you of the story that you can tell when you get back home.”
“Thank you so much!” said Kelly.
“Thank you. Thank you for everything,” Bradley said while shaking his hand.
“Oh my God!” she uttered. “I forgot to ask! What’s your name?”
“It’s not important,” said the local man. “Share a safe trip back home.”