10:50 - Well, I have a few minutes it seems, waiting for a "local train" from this station called Cornwall Crossing just a little ways outside Charlottetown - Bigelow has taken More to locate a washroom, the train will not be leaving for a few minutes, and there are some things I wish to get down before I forget them.
It continues to be a most interesting time here - I grow more fond of Bigelow and his "Great Crazy Dream" as he sometimes calls it every time we meet - this idea of creating a society for all people that would be pleasant and safe and nurturing always has seemed like such a far-fetched dream, so many contrary forces lined up against it, so many strong and greedy people who seem to want it all for themselves, leaving the rest in slavery of one type or another - I well remember my good friend Emerson's efforts along these lines, his many utopian friends and fantasies like Brook Farm all fruitless in the end, and the tormented slaves of the plantations and how determined the plantation owners were to keep their way of life intact, refusing to even admit how terrible life was for those they enslaved - but now - well, Bigelow and the rest seem actually to be accomplishing things so many others have only dreamed of, or written fantastical books about. Green Island - the very name seems like to be something you would see enscribed on the gates to Paradise, or at the very least one of the circles of the mirror universe to Dante's seven circles. He has promised to take us to his (or his wife's actually, I suppose! - strange times! - but not objectionable!) farm Greenways later this week, which I very much look forward to. Although it seems that some of these modern Capitalist berserkers are out to destroy that as well - one does despair at times over the future of our planet and society, with so many wanting nothing more than a simple decent life, but the few desiring nothing more than to destroy it all so they may enjoy some childish baubles for a short time.
This morning's encounter with the ruffians at the coffee house, and the chat among us all afterwards, was enlightening in many ways, as was the meeting with Tom Paine - obviously the dream is widespread here, and there seem to be people everywhere very determined to make it a reality, and keep it that way - a worthy endeavour, perhaps the most worthy ever! Independent, strong, intelligent, caring people - a fitting group, these Islanders, both new and old, for this venture. It would appear they are all very close to the "critical mass" point, at which point it will start to move forward and expand of its own volition, if not intentionally derailed - but there do seem to be things happening to try to stop it, however - that MacIrving fellow alluded to such a thing, and this court case that Bigelow keeps mentioning that is coming up in a couple of days involving his lovely wife Brittany seems to be rather serious as well. Perhaps I will learn some more today - we should have lots of time to chat on the train.
At the newspaper office, when Bigelow left to take his phone call, Paine and I agreed that I would make some notes for his newspaper over the next couple of days and our voyage of discovery around Green Island - I took on the task as much for the experience in "filing on the internet" as anything else, although it shouldn't prove much of a burden concerning the writing, as I will mainly "file" parts of my entries here in my journal. Paine was talking about "Walden and Green Island" or something along those lines as a theme - he said he was quite taken by the small journal of my experiences that couple of years, and would be curious to see how the economy of the individual in an isolated forest might compare to a modern society with many people - but I am not sure the metaphor is appropriate - the situations are quite different. It is, however, to be sure, all about "economy", so perhaps there will be an opening there somewhere, a metaphor that will enlighten and entertain at once, which is the true calling of the writer, after all! They do seem to be realising the benefits of "simplify, simplify, simplify" at any rate, which is encouraging - there is little point in a life whose time is spent in acquiring trivialities rather than some more worthwhile objectives, such as some understanding of what one's life is about, and our communities, and having peace and security in that life. I believe it was the Buddha who observed, "I make myself wealthy by making my wants few!" - but I shall have to check on that! - perhaps this internet can help - Bigelow showed us some "program" called GROOGLE or something that he said could find anything at all in seconds. I often wonder just how much of "anything" we really need though - there still seem to be quite a lot of rather pointless distractions here.
I never learned this "typing" business that is necessary to use the "net" as they all refer to it, but Paine assures me Bigelow will be able to connect me with young people almost anywhere who will be happy to help - there is some kind of conscription (not actually enforced by these GRIPP people, as freedom is also very important here, but "strongly" suggested by custom, even such a recent custom - and, for better or worse, custom and peer pressure can be strong motivators - this, at least, appears to be a good cause), apparently, where all young people spend time apprenticing to various enterprises - usually some sort of community work rather than business - for a couple of years sometime in their late teens or early 20s, to gain experience and, more importantly, to take some firm steps in young adulthood in terms of integrating into the community by finding avocations that are necessary that they like to do - no-one should be forced to spend their lives doing things they dislike! Bigelow also mentioned something called a "notebook" computer that he assures me I would find most useful - we shall see. One used to the reflection inherent in composing for the truly written word, the thought required to wield the writing implement, might not find the transition to this computer screen, with its mysterious "memory", so easy. But many things are changed here, and perhaps this will be another. We cannot glue our feet to the ground, if we want to get anywhere!
Ah - More and Bigelow return, and I think the train is about to leave on this new journey. All aboard!!
11:45 - well it's certainly a beautiful place, this Green Island, and a most enjoyable way to observe it, on this modern sort of train - comfortable seats, some with tables, a snack counter in every car, big windows, an outside seating area on the roof for those who like that sort of thing or want to smoke - it seems that they have laws here against smoking in public, enclosed places, which seems to be a bit of a problem for Bigelow - I guess his paradise includes smoking hoho - just joking, he doesn't complain about it much, says he understands. He actually persuaded me to try a small local cigarette this morning with the coffee, which, under the conditions, I agreed to - it seemed quite pleasant, actually, and relaxed me a bit - called a "GIMJY" I think - Green Island MargyJan, or something like that. Seemed to be a popular brand, anyway. I'll have to remember to ask him to get me a packet later - one might be nice of an evening, by the pond at Athenia - he said something about Lucy being in the sky with diamonds some evenings, or something - rather strange, I didn't completely understand. He said something about these cigarettes being illegal in most of the country, and Green Island too, prior to the new government - have to ask him about that. So many laws they seem to have had here! Don't do this, don't do that - but DO this, or behave THAT way - what an annoyance it must have been to anyone with a free heart! Certainly glad nobody asked me to observe such a place - a big headache, I would think. Don't these rulemakers understand that people have to think for themselves, and assume responsibility for their own decisions and lives?
This is a "milk-run" line, as they call it, running rather slow and stopping frequently to let people off almost anywhere they want, quite pleasant if you aren't in too much of a hurry - I have browsed through one of the maps that are available free, along with a lot of other brochures (very civilised train, this, lots of reading material for those who so desire) - it seems they have quite a lot of tourists in the summer here, more each year, coming to see what this Green Island is all about, and put on extra cars and trains as much as their stock allows - there seems to be a main "express line" running from a town called Montague on the east side, through Charlottetown the capital and largest city, to the other large town called Summerside, and then to Alberton on the west, making the whole trip in about 3 hours, with only a few stops, and then a number of smaller branch lines - Souris, Seal Harbour, Tracadie, Rustico, West Cape, and this one on the south shore, the Victoria Run. Very efficient, it seems, for getting around - there are several express trains each way every day, and locals as well. Quite interesting - I hope we have time to see them all!
The engineering seems quite sophisticated, for such a small place, but Bigelow says it is an example of what can be done when "the great human mind" is turned loose, and encouraged, to work for the public weal rather than being monopolised for private greed and accumulation, which tends to be selfish of its accomplishments rather than sharing, desiring to profit from all human service - such a small-minded way of living, yet, unfortunately, so very human. The motive power is apparently electricity, and that electricity comes from a combination of wind power, and tidal power, and something called "solar" power from the sun - we haven't talked about it all in detail yet, nor have I had time to check it all out on this Internet Encyclopedia (that More is quite a case - kept trying to find beautiful girls the other night when we were first finding our way around that www - and as there were so many of them it was hard to get him interested in anything else - "Oh heavens, Thoreau", he said at one point, "we've been writing and reading words and ideas and being serious forever, and quite probably will return to that soon enough - let's have a bit of fun for once!" The rather tasty Green Island Grapes beverage may have had something to do with his rather uncharacteristic lack of control...). Even as I look up from our short stop here in a place called Rice Point I can see a number of the tall, rather beautiful and elegant in an alien sort of way, silver towers, with the huge single blades that are as I watch turning and generating the power that will help power this train to our next stop and everything else here - one of about 30 such "wind farms" scattered around the shores and high hills of Green Island, Bigelow tells me. And the train cars were purchased cheaply from hundreds of available ones scattered around the mainland nearby, remnants of the former Canadian rail system that once spanned the continent, which was largely (and very shortsightedly, it appears, from what Bigelow said - more capitalist greed and stupidity at work - so much easier to ravage and plunder than build things of quality for the future) shut down over the last 20 or so years - they needed quite a bit of work, but with unemployment a perennial problem on the old Island, and a great deal of work needed to establish the things of and for the new, there were lots of willing and intelligent workers available. He mentioned something about a money problem that had to be solved, but didn't explain further - I think he said we would be stopping at some kind of bank later on to get into all that sort of thing.
Oh well - the whistle blows, and we are off again - never could write legibly in a moving vehicle, and the Green Island people don't seem to have solved that problem yet! (although maybe this notebook computer thing.... but really, on a day as fine as this one ought to be chatting with one's friends and watching the world go by anyway ...)
12:40 - another small community called, the sign says, Capelin Cape - such colourful names here, so individualistic. We just passed a most interesting place - Bagger's Bog Blinks, I think it was, something like that - where they play a game called "golf", which seems to involve hitting a little white ball around a whole bunch of grassy fields, periodically "sinking" it in a little hole in a specially manicured section of the course called a "green", of which there are 18, I think Bigelow said, or perhaps 9 for the "short game" - or was it 72? - nooo that's too many! - oh, it was all a bit confusing. The train stopped for a few minutes to let some of these "golfers" off to play a "round" they called it, carrying a bag full of hitting sticks or clubs and other necessary equipment, and pick some others up who had apparently finished their "morning round". The land they use for this activity is certainly beautiful - rolling green hills, hedgerows and small wood lots and many single trees throughout, many species large and small, punctuated by "sand traps" (small areas where there is no grass but sand, and are apparently harder to hit the ball from), and small creeks and ponds here and there (I imagine it is very difficult to hit a ball from the bottom of a stream - I wonder what they do? Must remember to ask Bigelow..), a family of foxes sunbathing in an out-of-the-way area, and the sea in the background, and a lovely salt marsh all along one side with lots of birds flying around and singing (they surely couldn't even find the ball in there, let alone hit it out! - they must be quite good players, I think, to do this - looks interesting - perhaps Bigelow will let us all have a go if we ask him...)
Ooops! here we go again....
15:00 - well, waiting for the next train, which Stephen says should be along in a few minutes - a most interesting stop at this little town called Victoria though, where we have been the last couple of hours. For the last bit of the way in, the tracks run along the sea for a ways, with the mainland just visible across the sea, and the huge bridge off in the distance that spans that distance. Our train stopped about a mile, we could see as Bigelow explained, from the main Victoria town, and Bigelow suggested we disembark for a visit here and lunch, and then walk for a mile or so into the main town. More was agreeable - the whole area fronted on the sea here - actually the Northumberland Straight, Bigelow informed us, between Green Island and the Canadian mainland - and looked to have quite a lovely beach, with a largish stone building of which the station was a small part, and a few old fishing boats pulled up on the sand creating quite a picturesque effect - I am sure some of my painting friends from Concord or the Cape would have been most happy to spend a summer here with their brushes and easels.
A number of others seemed to have the same idea - several disembarking from the train to join the others milling around, the sound of laughing and happy relaxed chatter mingling with the sound of the waves breaking on the nearby shore, the screeing of the gulls and the invigorating breeze (More wisely used some strings to fasten his hat to his head). There were many tables scattered around the area, with a number of small shops offering food and other things visitors might want. A sign on the old building informed us all that a "Special Seafood Buffet" was served every day from 11:30-14:00; judging by the number of people circling around the buffet tables, it was a popular spot, and Bigelow suggested that we try it.
At the serving tables we made a selection from a great variety of dishes - many colourful and delicious looking salads and soups and fish and lobsters and breads to choose from. As one preferring only a light midday meal I settled for a large bowl of chowder and some bread and tea, although the others had a bit more - the lobsters did look tasty - it all looked tasty! Bigelow paid for us all - must remember to ask him some more about this money thing here, does not do for a grown man to be wandering around penniless, although one should be able to manage if needs be - and we sat a a long communal table with a number of others, both locals and tourists to judge from the dress and appearance and conversation.
As we began eating, one of the others at our table - a young man who had gone some ways towards assuaging his appetite to judge from the scraps on his plate - began a conversation that enlightened me a bit concerning this Green Island money I had been wondering about, and some other things. The young man wore spectacles with red frames that were broken at the nose piece and held together with black tape, and had rather long blond windblown hair sticking out from under what I have learned is called a "baseball" cap and is worn by many people here, sunburned and peeling face and arms marking him as (probably) a tourist, and a khaki-green t-shirt and shorts. He used a type of vernacular and I did not understand all his words, but his meaning seemed clear enough. He had a handful of the Green Island money that he had been examining with interest.
"Man, this is so cool!" he said, waving around a few of the notes, "just like Monopoly money hahahaha!"
Several of the others at the table looked up. One middle-aged lady spoke.
"Why is that, boy? When was the last time you bought a meal like you're eatin there with that there Monopoly money?"
The young man seemed to bristle a bit at being called "boy", but good breeding or something caused him to hold his tongue and he simply answered the question.
"Well - just look at it!" he said, grinning that vacuous grin of so many young, with minds full of emptiness yet certain that emptiness is all there is to know, "It doesn't even look like real Canadian money - it doesn't have the Queen on it, or Prime Ministers, or nothing!"
"Well, boy," replied the lady, looking again at him, "why does Canadian money have the Queen or a Prime Minster on it, and not, oh, the King of Siam?"
"Well, because they are our leaders, our rulers, and the King of Siam isn't!" the boy answered, a surprised look on his face at the question, "We've ALWAYS had a Queen and Prime Minister! - or a King, I guess, sometime in ancient history..."
"Well there you go, then boy," said the lady with a small smile, "since Green Island doesn't have a Queen or Prime Minister, why then, it would be wrong to use money with their pictures on it, don't you think? That really WOULD be like monopoly money, now, using bills with furriners on em eh??hahaha!"
"Ah, don't give me that stuff," the boy said, "you are too part of of Canada - my dad says so. You can't just "quit" Canada, eh? Hahahaha!"
"But whyever not, boy?" replied the lady instantly, "If the people here say they don't want to be part of Canada anymore, isn't that their right? I thought Canada was a "democracy" - doesn't that mean the people are free? You know how Quebec keeps talking about it - well, we did it!"
"Well, democracy - of course it is!" spluttered the boy, already somewhat over his head apparently, probably not well prepared for real discussion by his dad, "But that doesn't mean people do whatever they want - there are still laws, you know! And - and - "
"Ease up on the lad, Ethel," another voice chipped in, belonging to a middle-aged man sitting beside the lady, the face behind the voice smiling as he spoke, "I'm sure he spent his life in Canadian schools and talking to people like his dad, and you know what that means - first class half-assed education memorising a few things while learning how NOT to think and do what others tell you and think what others tell you! Heh heh heh... like it used to be here, if you can remember back that far!" he had sort of a dry laugh. "If you really want to teach the boy, why don't you ask him to think about the money there - where it came from, how much value it has, what it means to everyone here - as opposed to his Canadian money, which he seems to have some rather misguided ideas concerning? Some help in learning to think would probably do him a world of good. What's your name, anyway, lad?" he finished, addressing the boy directly, not unkindly.
"Why - it's Virgil, Sir," answered the boy, "and don't ask - I know it's a bit unusual, but my folks grew up way back in the 1960s, and they said that the night I was conceived they were under the influence of some old singer called Joan Beezel or something like that - "
"That'd be Joan Baez, son," said one of the other people at the table, an oldish chubby man, picking at his lobster, but evidently listening with interest to the exchange, "and they were probably under the influence of something a bit stronger as well, heh heh - and don't sound so disparaging - she was a great, great lady - compared to your modern idols like this Britney Spears and some of the others I've had the misfortune to be exposed to when my kids used to watch American tv, she was a goddess, I kid you not - smart, beautiful - and with brains and a social conscience, if you kids have any idea what THAT means today. I - "
"Hohoho," interrupted another voice, "we all know how you feel about the 60s music, Harvey. Why - didn't you name your own oldest boy Eric after another one of those groups?"
The man with the lobster half-turned to address the new speaker at the other end and side of the table, pointing with a lobster claw he had been eviscerating, "That's right, Blue Phil, you know it. 'There is a house, in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun.....' - ever hear that, boy? Greatest damn song ever! - and nobody but nobody could sing better than the great Eric Burden!"
The youngster named Virgil was looking a bit dizzy when the first lady named Ethel broke in again. "Land sakes alive, as my old ma used to say, you men are getting this poor boy all confused! And all I wanted to do was to help him understand that Green Island Money is a lot more real, for ordinary people like we are, and him too, I expect, than that Canadian money, so let's get back on track - heavens, Phil, you haven't even had any beers yet today, so don't start with the 60s spiel! But I'm sure young Virgil here is pretty confused about our money, and with some call for it - you all don't seem to remember very well, but until a few years ago we all felt the same way here, at least most of us! Ain't that right now, Will?" she said, turning to the man beside her, evidently her husband.
"Well - yes, Ethel, I guess it's so," answered Will, with a small frown that quickly turned to a small smile, "First the Rustico Dollars, and then the Green Island Money, and all the screaming about it from the mainland and the old banks and the Colonial and the rest - funny, isn't it, how quickly you get used to something new, especially when it is so good, and brings such good things! You see, boy," he continued, turning to Virgil, "that Canadian money doesn't really belong to you - it belongs to the banks, and you only rent it - while this Green Island money that you think so amusing really belongs to We the People of Green Island! Meaning, for starters, there's NEVER enough Canadian money for what you need, but there's ALWAYS enough of OUR money for what WE need - the banks are so upset because they don't get the rent from us like they do from you, but hell - that's THEIR problem, not ours hahahaha!"
"Whoa now," said Virgil, "that's the craziest thing you said yet. What do you mean, my Canadian money is only "rented" money? And by the way, I should tell you that my major at the University of Toronto is Economics, so I'm pretty much up on this stuff," he finished, with a small smirky sort of grin, an exalted upper Canadian university student talking to the cabbage waggoners sort of smirk. Which had an effect he perhaps hadn't expected - the gulf between hubris and hard ground has ever been great.
"Is that so boy? Well, that's too bad - just means you've got more stuff to unlearn before your real eddy-cation starts - them mainstream economics people all ought to be locked up for spreading fairy tales among the innocent population - and they cause a huge amount of damage with that crap too - and you would be a perfect walking example, by the sounds of you. Here, let me try to explain it simply, son. Your Canadian government borrows almost all of the money it needs that it doesn't collect in taxes or whatever from private banks, and has to pay interest on it every year - and when you borrow something, you don't really own it, right? You have to give it back someday - and with interest at that! How fast will the bank take back your folks' home if they miss even one payment? And the "interest" you pay every year is the same as having to pay rent on a rented car or house or whatever - which is what I mean. And something like 90% of all the money in circulation in Canada is borrowed money - the government doesn't own your money - your Canadian banks do, and it all has to be returned to them someday. Now, I know they don't teach that in your schools either, which is why you're having trouble believing it - but if you have any knowledge of your government and its finances - which again you are not taught in school so few people do - you will see that what I say is true."
"Well, no they haven't taught us that idea exactly, or perspective I guess you might say, in 101 or even 201 or 1 or 2 anything else. Meaning I think you're crazy still, because you aren't really trying to say a Canadian university wouldn't teach us what we need to know, are you? - but let's say for the sake of argument, as one of my profs likes to say, for a minute that what you say is true - how then is this Green Island stuff better?"
"Why, We the People of Green Island own our money supply - we don't borrow it from private banks, we print it ourselves, or the Governing Council authorises its printing to be more accurate, or a lot of it is, as is your money, just bits and bytes of computer data shifted around from one account to another, after deciding how much we need each year to provide the necessary means of exchange for our citizens, or to hire people to do the work we need done - look at the railway behind you, there, lad that you rode in on this morning! - the banks would have laughed us out the door if we wanted a "loan" to do that, and we couldn't have afforded the interest - but we used out money creation power to pay workers and suppliers on PEI, and wheeled and dealed with what Canadian currency we did have and keep getting when people visit, and built it - and it belongs to the people of Green Island, not the damn banks too! And when we do it that way, we do not have to pay the banks interest on OUR money every year - so we all have more of it, and have to work less for it, since we are working for ourselves, and not the banks. You may have noticed we have next to zero unemployment, and all of the necessary work is getting done - very much unlike your Toronto or Ontario, right? Where there are many people unemployed, and many jobs that need doing - but the government says it has no money - now what kind of nonsense is that, boy?!?!"
"Yea, I remember some stuff about that," answered Virgil, a little sort of teenage "I know it all" sneer on his face, "but governments that go around printing money just destroy the value of their currency by printing too much of it, and causing inflation or something like that - pretty basic 101 stuff..."
"Ho ho ho!" laughed Will, not in an unfriendly way, "Yes, pretty basic BS 101! - and that is certainly what they teach you all in your schools - but look around! Does what you see look like a destroyed economy? How long have you been on Green Island, boy?" asked Will.
"Well - about 2 days, I guess - I just came on the Wood Islands ferry a couple of days ago, then to Montague and Charlottetown yesterday..."
"Well, that's a good start," said Will, "now, tell me what signs of an economy destroyed by inflation you've seen here, after over 3 years of the Green Island government printing Green Island Money? Closed factories and high unemployment like I mentioned a minute ago, homeless people, high crime rates, food banks, people leaving for better places, for sale signs on houses and boarded-up businesses, all that kind of thing?"
"Well - " answered Virgil, frowning a bit as he thought, "well - no, I haven't seen any of that stuff at all - things actually seem pretty good here, the people seem happy, I haven't seen any crime or obvious signs of poor people, everyone seems to be working like you said, it certainly seems prosperous enough - but hey, this is the tourist season, and there's lots of people like me bringing our real money here to give you a boost...."
"Hohohoho!! That's good, Virg," the big man called Harvey joined in with a laugh, having finished his lobster at last, "at least you're observing things a bit! - but look what's in your hands, and what you paid with the lobster you ate with! But you see, we don't really have any 'poor folk' here anymore, although if you know anything about Canada, you'll know that this used to be one of the poorest provinces - and you'll know too that poverty is a major cause of crime, although that's something else they don't like to talk about much, given the extent to which the government allows and even encourages poverty for various reasons, such as to keep a large pool of desperate workers available for sweat shops of various types. But now here on Green Island, why, everybody's got a job, and what's more we only have to work about half as much as we used to, to have a decent life! And it's all because of Green Island Money! Believe me, lad, there was a lot of scepticism when that new government started talking about this, and doing it, and a lot of people trained in the same kinds of universities you're in now saying the same kinds of things you're saying - but on the other hand everyone was a bit desperate too, the financial situation was so bad. So that Bigelow fellow and the rest got their way and started the printing presses and bank deposits - and now a few years later, well - we've all got some Green Money in our pockets, and we're are all happy that they did!"
I looked around when the man mentioned Bigelow, but apparently noone at the table recognised him - he had said that most Government Council representatives were low-profile people outside of their own districts, as the whole government was not any longer based on "personality cults", as he called them, wherein a few well-known people ran the government, and got in the newspapers every day and on the television for the mass of less-educated people - very much demagoguery stuff, as near as I could make out - and from what I had seen and read, the people had paid the price as well. Bigelow was observing the conversation with interest, but apparently had decided to keep out of it. Which said a lot for the crazy dream of he and some others - many others, it appeared, were now just as involved in it as the original dreamers, which said a lot for its chances of success, it seemed to me.
"I still don't get it," the boy named Virgil was saying, "it's pretty fishy so there must be something you're not telling me - if you could make a great society just by printing your own money, everyone would do it!"
"Ho ho ho!! It ain't US that ain't telling you stuff boy! It's your own government and universities! If everyone knew about it, there would certainly be some pressure, I would think, on many governments to have more of it done," said Will, "Look at yourself, a perfect example - 20 years of Upper Canada and American tv and Upper Canada education and newspapers - and you had no idea about this, and still don't believe it when you're in the middle of the evidence of your own eyes! And that is the problem - your schools and newspapers and tvs and everyone teaches that what we are doing here cannot be done. And why? Well - just look at how much money the banks are making from their Canadian dollars! - last count I saw - get a grip on something here, boy, this is a biggie - the Canadian banks had collected over a TRILLION dollars in interest during the last 25 years or so - a Trillion dollars, also during which time the government was cutting back all kinds of social programs, and infrastructure development, and telling the people of Canada they "had no money" for such things - but a Trillion dollars of tax money - money the Canadians paid to the government for the things the government was saying they couldn't afford!!! - was turned straight over to the banks during those years! - And the banks, and some other wealthy "investors", own the newspapers so the newspapers won't talk about it, and they bribe the politicians so the politicians don't talk about it, and they influence the hiring of university teachers so they don't give out any bad ideas in university economics courses - and that's the key, of course - it would be hard to stop people from talking about something they wanted to talk about, but if you are never taught about this in school, except when they tell you it cannot be done so there is no point in talking about it - and your "news" papers and politicians never bring it up - why, nobody thinks to talk about it, in that mad rush you all live in on the mainland, jobs and malls and tv and daycare and traffic jams and no time to think about any of it!"
Virgil thought for a second. "Well," he said shortly, "all that sure sounds like those "conspiracy theories" the papers keep talking about - and we all know they're just nonsense..."
"Ha ha ha ha!!!" there was a wave of laughter around the table, as if this was a subject they'd talked about before.
"Exactly, exactly!" and suchlike was chorused, and then "But you just decide what you're going to believe, young lad - some "theories" they teach you in school - or the evidence of your own eyes - and then maybe tonight or later on your travels you ask yourself exactly WHO is promulgating the real "conspiracy theory" - and who is telling the truth!! C'mon darling," said Will to Ethel, "We got to head up the Work Credits Committee this afternoon, so we better get ready. Say, son, you might find that interesting if you don't have other plans - why, you could even help out a bit, if you liked - earn a few Green Island Dollars yourself! - it's a good feeling, you know, helping your community and making some money for doing it! What'dya say?"
I saw a sort of light appear in the lad's eyes, and he smiled almost immediately, as he wiped his mouth with a serviette and looked over at Will. "Yea," he said, "I think I might like that!" and he pulled his cap off his head, brushed back his hair as he got to his feet, and pulled the cap back on. With a smile. Although the people at the table had certainly given the lad a lesson, it had all been done in a most friendly way, and I could see he appreciated that spirit of sharing as much as, perhaps more than, the actual teaching. He joined the others as they left the table, heading for the large red stone building nearby we had seen on the way in.
In a minute or two there were only the three of us left at the table. Bigelow picked up a large tea pot and swirled it around - there was some left and, after getting agreement from a questioning raise of his eyebrows, he shared it out among the three of us.
"Well," said More after a minute, "that was quite a delicious meal! - and quite an interesting conversation to go along with it."
"Well," Bigelow replied, smiling, "I am glad you enjoyed it all - we've always been known for seafood here. As for the conversation, it was somewhat fortuitous, as we will be visiting a bank later today - or, since we seem to be running a bit late, perhaps in the morning - but it is common to hear interesting conversations anywhere you park yourself for awhile these days - the people are all pretty engaged in their communities, and always talking about community things - "real" community things, that is, such as what they will tell their government to be doing (which is a great deal more interesting than reading in the papers what the government is telling YOU to do!), or how they are going to deal with this problem and that - we are seeing what can happen when We the People actually run their community, rather than an Elite, who run things for their own benefit. I can tell you, I don't know what it was like where you came from, but for the longest time here, people tended to avoid talking about the "real" issues of the day, and stuck to more non-controversial things - sports was always a popular one, or the weather, or the famous people they watched on the television, or the television shows. But rarely before would you hear people talking - and knowledgeably at that! - about how the Canadian money supply functioned! - or any other serious matters like that. An interesting thing to explore someday, although certainly less urgent now that it is not the case anymore, but I have talked with others, and there is some feeling that people living in a restrictive, propaganda-controlled society, while perhaps feeling uncomfortable inside, are reluctant to talk about it with their friends or acquaintances because they feel it will expose some faults of their own inside or something, or they fear that their life is a bubble and if they start poking around they might explode it and who knows what problems will emerge - and they fear their ability to deal with such problems. But talk for another time!
"Look now," he continued, "as Will said, this afternoon they're having a Selection Meeting for Victoria - I wasn't aware of this, but you might find that interesting if you'd like to take some time for a look, as it is one of the newer and most interesting democratic initiatives we are trying out here - we still have some bugs to iron out, but the idea seems sound. What do you think? We're already behind schedule, but another hour won't make much difference - what we're going to see will still be there whenever we get there!"
"Well," I replied, "I am interested in most things - but tell me what it is first, this Selection meeting, why don't you?"
"Oh, of course," laughed Bigelow, "I get so carried away sometimes I forget you haven't yet seen everything! Well, what we are doing here today is the latest round of what we call Work Credit Selection. Everyone gets a vote, and we assign credits for the various types of government work or community jobs that the government pays for - how many Green Island Dollars will be paid for various types of work. Look, why don't we go over first, and I can show you and you can talk to some others - that will help you understand."
More and I agreed that this seemed like a good chance to observe an interesting process, and we rose from the able, More patting his satisfied tummy and loosening his belt a notch with a chuckle. We strolled across the field, where a small corps of young people were laughing as they cleaned up the debris from the lunch meal, to the side of the large stone building where we could now see a bunch of people were lining up at a door at the side, with a big sign over it proclaiming "Work Credit Selection". We walked alongside the line to the door, and entered the room. There were a number of tables set up, with people behind them and stacks of papers on them; there were also a number of unstaffed tables along the back wall with stacks of papers and brochures on them. All around the room were small groups of people looking at papers and engaged in lively conversation. More spotted Virgil and one or two of the others setting up a table, and led us over to join them.
The lady named Ethel looked up and smiled. "Why, I believe we ate at the same table as you folks! Come to make your selections, have you?"
"Well, actually we're not from around here," Bigelow replied with a smile, "I was just showing my friends around the Island, and it's only by chance we stopped for lunch and I remembered that the Selection would be happening this week when I heard you talking and saw the voting building set up. Anyway, I thought they might be interested, so I've brought them in for a look."
Will chipped in, "Well folks - everyone welcome to have a looksee! Now if you'll excuse us, the sooner we get at this the sooner we get done! Say," he said, stopping for a moment and looking closely at Bigelow, "you do look familiar, though - have we met?"
Ethel took a closer look too - "Why - I do believe, Harvey, it's Stephen Bigelow! Is that really you?" she finished, looking at Bigelow.
Bigelow gave a sort of embarrassed laugh. "Well," he said, "I guess you've caught me! I prefer to travel incognito, but people do recognize me sometimes."
Harvey raised his hands and called out, "Hey folks! If I can have just a second of your time! - look who's here - it's Stephen Bigelow!"
As he finished speaking, I could see heads turning and the chatter level went up considerably in the room, as people started moving towards us, smiling and reaching out to shake hands with Bigelow. More and I stepped back, watching with interest as Bigelow greeted them all, smiling and sharing some words with them for a few minutes, before they drifted back to their previous activities.
We stood unobtrusively behind the desk where Ethel and Will were explaining the process to the young man called Virgil.
"So you see, Virg," Will was saying, holding a document and pointing to various places on it as he spoke, "this is the basic idea. The government - that is, the administrative committee that represents the people and take their direction in ALL things from us - have a lot of things that need doing for the common good, things that really need the kind of organization over a wide area that small communities can't really organize - things like a health care system, or supplying power and water, building and maintaining roads, a police service, and other things like that. There are also a lot of things that need doing around a community to keep it looking good - shovelling snow, mowing grass, lifeguards at the city pools or the beaches, cleaning public toilets, maintaining public places in general, all that stuff. And as well as the skilled jobs, there's always lots of people around looking for a bit of casual work. But how much do we pay them all? This is public money, so we have to pay what the people want to pay them or, in the case of professionals like doctors, have some standards to negotiate with. And how do we decide that in a democracy? Well - we let the people speak - "
"And abide by their will, Will! Abide by their will!" chirped in Ethel, "Don't forget that!! Remember how it used to be in our fair "democracy"? We used to speak a lot - and then the government people went and did whatever the sweet Molly H they wanted to, more often in direct opposition to what most of us wanted - you remember the seatbelt fracas way back in the 80s now, or that "free trade" stuff, or the endless times they voted themselves huge pay increases a few weeks after an election when most of us were wondering what they were doing to deserve it! I wonder that we ever put up with it as long as we did!"
"Ho ho! Of course, that's important too!"
"Well - about that, what about you people here, and the government MPs or whatever you call them? Do you decide their pay this way too?" asked Virgil.
"Well, of course! But I have to say also, which you might find surprising, that most of our representatives don't take any pay for what they do! - they consider it both a duty and an honour to be allowed to speak for the people in their area, and don't want any pay for it! There are, you see, no "career politicians" on Green Island - at least working for the government anymore hohoho! - there are still quite a gang of them hanging around the edges, looking to get their old jobs back - but that's a topic for another day, and we have work to do here today! The full-time administrative staff - the bureaucrats, I guess you could call them, although that word became a bit disrespectful, and we have nothing but the greatest respect for the people we have doing that necessary work here! - get a normal pay, of course - but that is work that is often in the nature of a career, while our representatives rarely serve for more than a year or so - it's something of an honour for them, but also there are always new people coming up through the local meetings with good ideas and the desire to share them, who get a turn as well.
"Anyways, you see here, we have a Work Credit Ballot, that all the citizens in the area get, and there are a list of all the government jobs, and a question at the top - "What pay do you think is fair for the following jobs? That is - if YOU were doing this job, what would you think a fair pay would be. (And remember - as the taxpayer, YOU will be paying for it too!)"
"Wow!" said Virgil, reading the question twice, then smiling, "That sure spells it out from both sides! If I put down I want fifty bucks an hour for cleaning the city toilets - I also say that I would be willing to pay that as a taxpayer! Hahaha! It's like a truth and dare game, in some ways! What a great idea!"
"Yep," said Will, "we find it works pretty good too. There's some don't think so well, a few scamps puts down big numbers, and a few wee tiny numbers, but we find the average works out to something very few people disagree with - just like it ought to in a democracy. And we always have corrections to make - if we vote say that people who clean toilets will only get say ten Greens an hour, and nobody signs up to clean the toilets! - why then, it isn't long that the offer goes up, and people trade their distaste for the job for the fact that they have to work fewer hours to support themselves."
"Well, sure," answered Virgil, "but just being a bit more serious, is it really fair to pay people lots of money to clean toilets?"
"Well, whyever not?" Ethel chimed in, "What you have to try to understand, Virg, is that we're trying to move away from a class society to a more or less class-LESS society. And that means we don't have big important people like politicians and bankers at the top of the class order who lord it over everyone else and never do any real work at all, and poor slave-like people cleaning toilets at the bottom who never have a chance to experience some of the good things in life that only money can buy. If a job is worth doing, then it has its own value, and the people doing the job should be paid accordingly - and nobody should be made to do unpleasant jobs because they will starve or freeze in the winter if they don't. It works out pretty well, our system here - you see, cleaning toilets is, admittedly, not something many people want to do - but to compensate for that, the way we do things here is not by forcing poor people to clean toilets to get money to eat, but by making the remuneration large enough that people are happy to do it! You'll see later - but where the lowest wage for a number of things like mowing lawns or shovelling snow is ten bucks an hour, the toilet cleaners are usually closer to twenty bucks an hour - and we usually have a bit of a waiting list of people willing to take their turn doing it - for a lot of people who are working on their own lives and living simply, a day's work a week cleaning toilets gives them the money they need to survive, and the time they need to live as they want!"
"Hmmm..." reflected Virgil, "Seems too good to be true - a day's work a week for a decent living? - and like another of my teachers says a lot - things that seem too good to be true usually are. What's the catch here?"
"Well, the catch, Irv," said Harvey, who had been listening in as he prepared his paperwork sitting at the table, "isn't here, but in that other place across the sea where YOU come from - where you've been brought up in a system that tends to push as much wealth as possible to the top of the pile, and leave all the worker ants working as much as possible to create more and more wealth to push to the top, on and on and over and over. The people running that system don't WANT you to know about systems like Green Island, that work FOR the people and not the small elite at the top. So you get all this talk about things too good to be true, and no such thing as a free lunch, and all that - I'd like to know what's wrong with a free lunch, myself - why the good wife Gracy and I give out all kinds of free lunches, and it ain't brought us nought but good feelings and thanks yet. Hmmphh. Not to mention a lot of weeding in our garden by grateful people who don't HAVE to week the garden, but really want to do something to help out! hahahaha!!"
"Well sure, I don't mean that, though," said Virgil, "but what about the money? Where does all the money come from to pay for all this?"
"Well, like we were saying at lunch, Virgil, or somewheres along about that time," answered Will, "on an ongoing basis, our government accountants are monitoring the finances of the province through various means, from a pretty sophisticated computer system to talking with our bankers to daily feet on the ground work to listening to our newspaper columnists - "
" - and you gotta watch some of the nutbars in that crazy Colonial too, I'll tell ya, tryin to set us all back a hunderd years - man, talk about anti-progress and wantin to keep us all in the dark ages!" came a voice from somewhere, to a chorus of laughter and "yea!"s and whatnot...
" - yea - anyway, along the ways there they all figure out about how much new money we're going to be needing - we got a pretty smart bunch of people working for US, you see, not the Elite - and how much we need to recirculate what we got already, and we set a tax policy and a printing policy that sort of balance themselves out to avoid that crazy inflation stuff your profs at Toronto are so worried about - but you see, it isn't really a problem here, because most of the reason for inflation is high interest rates and the constant shovelling of that money you all work with to the top of the pile, that famous vacuum cleaner sound - that means you constantly need more and more and more just to keep business and living going - but if you take that huge constant drain out of the financial equations of We the REAL People and OUR society and communities, why, it's all a great deal easier to deal with. It's like most things in our society, Virg, you see - if we actually organize things for the benefit of We The People, they can be made to work pretty good for all of us - but when you add another layer on top of that, that says we all are really working for They the Elite, who expect lives of luxury for no work at all, but we have to PRETEND we're working for We the People - why, it gets real complicated like all lies are, and there's so much confusion and disconnects in it all, it just turns into a big mess. Sort of like, you know, throwing an invisible fox into the chicken barn or something. Just don't do, you see, if you want to keep order."
"Ayup," came another voice - there were a lot of people gathered around now, taking part in the conversation with Virg, "and the way the taxes work, why we all pay about 10% anymore, and that's plenty for everything."
"Ten percent taxes!" said Virgil, stopping what he was doing and looking up, "Why, that's impossible! With consumption taxes and income taxes and everything, my dad figures he pays somewhere between 40 and 50% every year - and he works every day as well, and a lot of Saturdays, and Mom has a part-time job at the library as well! There HAS to be something screwy going on here!"
Another chorus of laughter before someone replied. "It ain't here that's screwy, boy - it's the way of life the rest of y'all are living that's screwy. We know - we used to be there too - but here is a lot better place to be, boy. Just look around - just look around."
Another chorus of agreement, and Ethel spoke again. "Listen, Virgil and everyone, this here's a real interesting talk we're all having, but we got work to do today too, you know. Now Virg, I'm sure that any number of these fine folks would be glad to take you home afterwards for a longer chat over supper, but I think we got quite a lineup of folks who wants to do their civic duty today and then get back to their real lives, and I think we're getting paid to help em do just that, so let's get at it, ok?"
A general chorus of laughter and agreement greeted her words, and we saw Will taking Virgil by the arm, talking in his ear as he led the lad to a table and sat them down together.
The voting process was getting under way, with people having talked enough and wanting to get on with the process, which was partly talk and partly ballots, so Bigelow suggested we get out of the way, and maybe carry on with our planned excursion. We went outside the hall, and Bigelow led us down a path to the seashore itself, which was sublimely beautiful that day, with the sea breeze and the gulls and the waves, as we walked the half mile or so to the little town of Victoria, which was laid out in a small square, about 3 blocks on a side, with a large pier reaching out into the Northumberland Straight with many of the Cape Cod-style lobster boats tied up alongside, and a few sailing vessels as well. Bigelow suggested we forego a walk through the town, lovely though it appeared to be, as he expected the next train to be along soon, and we would be going through the middle of the town and have a chance to observe it then - since we had eaten so recently, there was no need to take a tea or coffee break or anything, and he said that we could probably get to our next destination - a school, he said - in time to have enough time to spend there to be useful, if we did not linger here any longer.
So here we sit at the station waiting for the next train. More appears to be dozing after his large lunch, Bigelow is talking on one of those little pocket devices he calls a portable phone, and I think it is time for me to stop writing and talk to someone in this town - there is a most interesting looking man coiling some rope beside a sailing vessel with tall masts on the pier, which comes to shore just across the street from this lovely little station we sit at, and the train is not yet in sight, and I will have a few minutes warning as it will stop at the Capelin Cove place where we ate, which I can see down the shore - so perhaps I can take a short stroll out along the pier on this beautiful afternoon for a few moments and he can tell me about the fish around here.
"Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." Indeed. It seems that at this Green Island, they have sorted that problem out quite well.
15.40 I had but a minute with the white-haired old man on the pier, but he seemed to understand well what was happening on his Island, and said he was happy that people were finally catching up with the old folk. His name was LeClair, I think, and he told me, after I expressed my approval of the way the Green Island money seemed to work to create freedom for the people rather than slavery, as money seemed to work in most places - "Yes, Mr. Thoreau," he said, straightening up with a hand on his back and a twinkle in his eye, pulling the cap off his head and wiping his brow, "it's what I've been trying to tell the young 'uns for years when they ask me how much money I make at my work. For you see, I tell them, it's not money I make, lad, it's boats! Ho ho ho!!".
And I think that's what they're trying to do here - it's not money they're making, although that's all most people think about anymore when they talk about the Green Island Money is the process - but what they're really making, is a community and a life, with the money as nothing more than a tool, a tool which they control. And that job is, or ought to be, far, far more important.