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Short Story: "A Hard Box to Think Outside Of" (13th in a series)

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[Author's Note: This installment (written 1/17/08) in the series is written in the form of a blog post by the character John Frachetti. Previously, he used the den of activism fostered by the employees of the FW Diner as protection from the authorities. But because his presence became known, he went back underground, and left this blog entry.]

If you're a regular reader -- especially if you've followed me from the now-expunged spot where my blog used to appear -- then you know I've got a pretty good imagination. Before the gang of 9 upheld the Federal Court ruling giving corporations full rights of citizenship, I'd sketched out how a corporate incarceration might go down. What I hadn't counted on was the whiplash-inducing turnabout that Fremont-Wayfarer's court ordered unionized workforce pulled when its criminal CEO flew the idea of capitalizing on the whole prison thing with a campy makeover of the FW Diners. But hey, if that's what it takes to launch a chain of private-property dens of activism, I'm all for it.

Anyway, I've been gnawing at a question someone threw at me the other night, and I'm embarrassed to say I haven't got the first clue of an answer. Normally, I can just pull at a loose thread somewhere and weave a whole fabric of supposition from it. You know, step inside the fantasy and catch a glimpse of the implications you can only see while you're there. But this... I'm stumped. So here's the deal. If someone out there can pry out a handhold on this quandary, I'll see what I can do with it. Maybe together we can find an answer before the bottom falls out of this Ponzi scheme of an economic system and it's moot.

The question arose in the midst of a discussion we were having about what might happen if there was a flash mortgage strike -- if a lot of people suddenly decided to stop feeding the bankers' recursive debt monster that's bankrupting the planet and cut off its air supply. Considering that the whole economy is riding on fabricated wealth that the biggest renderfarm on the planet couldn't breathe life into, puncturing the predatory beast would at least put it out of its misery. Sure, it would be traumatic, with dollars going worthless and all the companies that cocoon us with food, fun and flash out of action, but there doesn't seem to be any other way to keep the lunatics who have taken control of things from turning the whole planet into a prison camp to protect their bottom line.

We all agreed that the fantasy we're trapped in has to end, and that chaos would follow. But that left us staring at a huge problem: survival. If the dollar's house of debt cards is going to collapse around our ears, how can we prepare? I mean, assuming that you're not contributing to the mess by scribbling IOUs with plastic and magstripes, and actually have something that supposedly represents your time and energy in a mattress or an account somewhere, is there something useful you can do with it?

I usually go at this sort of challenge by imagining what it might be like to be in the situation, so I reeled out a scenario about some guy lucking into the digs of one of the dirtbags who greased the slides as part of a foreclosure lottery. I even suggested how Los Angeles might try to float their own scrip after the dollar goes toes up. And it was perking along pretty nicely, too. But then that biting question came up. How could we prepare? What should we do? Is there something we ought to do with the money we have before it's worthless?

We tossed around a number of possibilities, but none of them seemed very promising.

Staying close to the problem, someone posed the idea of stockpiling food, non-perishable stuff that you could string along on while figuring out what to do when it ran out. But if you've got enough tucked back to do that, it'd pretty much dictate that you've got to stay close enough to the stash to fall back on it, even if you're making forays into the hinterlands. Sounds like slow death for the urban lot.

Okay, so what about the possibility of growing and raising your own food? The folks most likely to be able to make a go at this would be the ones still close enough to having already done it that they can pick up the pieces after the corporations who run huge mechanized farms crumble and abandon them. There are some family farms left out there, and a lot of them have been working together to compete against those corporate ghost farms, but the bulk of what used to be the farming community have gone urban to escape the debt trap used to shut them down in the first place. And those that are still farming can expect to be visited by increasingly desperate escapees from the cities. So maybe they could enlist those folks into helping take over abandoned corporate megafarms. There's lots of story ideas down that alley, but I'm not so sure it's a viable answer.

But wait, someone else called out. What about putting that money into gold or diamonds or something. When we generalized that into the idea of hoarding physical stuff with some intrinsic value, it became pretty obvious that what value those things have is purely a matter of what someone's willing to pay for them. Unless it's actually useful for something, that value is more fantasy than anything else. Which turned the suggestion into amassing stuff that would be valuable once the proverbial fan got crudded up. Only, what would that be?

Then there's real estate. Ignoring the fact that mortgages, which are financed by make-believe money created on a tally sheet, are the foundation of the debt pyramid, some people actually own their own property outright. Now, you'd think they'd be safe, wouldn't you? And they might well be, but there is the possibility of the government swiping that land in what they call a taking. If the only way to make ends meet is by stealing, not many of us would balk at the thought, and the same probably goes for the government we thought we'd established to protect us. But could they? I mean, with the infrastructure in shambles, would any government have its act enough together to pull this kind of thing off? They'd be certain to run into some stiff opposition from the landowner, probably at the point of an unregistered gun. Under the circumstances, I doubt the government, or what might be left of it, could pose much of a threat, but you never know. You have to ask yourself if you're certain enough about it to put what money you can raise without incurring any debt into real estate that you can buy outright?

Before we'd even finished framing the question, our attempt at economic piety ambushed us. The price of land has gotten so ridiculous the only way buy any is with debt. I suppose you could tell yourself you'd never have to make good on that debt, so why not take advantage of the situation, but if the collapse turns into a slow-motion train wreck, you'd just manage to strangle yourself in the process. If you've already got some free and clear, hold onto it, by all means, but buying any is a bigger non-starter than the idea that any junta that's taken power by nefarious means will ever relinquish it easily.

All of which puts us right back where we started, asking ourselves what to do. Got any ideas?

-- The Bank Shot Blogger

(This is the 13th story in a series that started with "Logical Conclusion/Full Circle".)

 

Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)
 

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