Freedom From Money

Entry by: jaguar

4th April 2017
In the beginning, the new beginning not any of those old false starts, it started with freedom from money. That was Bill's big idea. Fate had given Bill everything it could – intelligence, wince-inducing wealth, honour – those close to him claim he was witty and kind too. But the main thing Fate gave Bill was infinite power. Somewhere in his thirtieth year on the planet he got to rise to the relative heavens but without all the messy crucifixion stuff Jesus endured.

People got fed up with nationalism, capitalism, communism, totalitarianism and pretty much all other isms except prisms which clearly aren't the same thing at all. The people rose up as one and overthrew all the horrors they’d been kowtowing to for centuries. The Church, politicians and the state, the purse-liners, the experts, the wealth managers were all exiled to a place Bill called Messyattainier. We believe it was jointly ruled by Vlad and Donald but nobody was terribly interested in it once the wall was built to keep them there.

Meanwhile Bill rose up on the shoulders of the uprising people. Somewhere on social media it was decided that we’d always been dictated to by money worship so we'd let the most successful of the money worshippers (and the only half-nice one to be frank) have a crack at making things better for the rest of us.

Bill had a good track record for the role. He’d made more money than almost every other millionaire put together by the time he was twenty-five. Since then he’d practised trying to rid the world of inequality. What we liked was that he’d done that by giving his money to the most helpless, the resource poorest, the utterly hopeless. Bill had put his money where his mouth was big time.

So Bill became leader of the unified world a year after Brexit which was a welcome poke in the eye for Nigel Farage. Bill set his world targets, common goals for five, ten and a hundred years. No starvation, resource sharing, protection of other species, population growth control, an average higher quality of life for everyone except the Messyattainierans. Plus he had a department that worked solely on finding the meaning of life. Then he got rid of money like he'd promised.

No more coins weighing you down, no notes, no cards, no statements, no concept of what something cost. What did we use instead? Minutes - you paid for something with shavings of your day, if you wanted something you worked the cost off on the spot. There were people stuck day and night working in Mercedes garages for three years for a shiny bright car. Their health was so shot they couldn’t get in or out of the car by the time they got it. Then Bill banned cars too to stop people being so silly about possessions.

We went everywhere on reggae buses like they have in Barbados, upbeat music blaring out. You had to volunteer to keep society going – you could drive buses, maintain things or build or grow stuff to get your living allowance. A lot of the things we used to regard as daily necessities became occasional treats – the BBC, newspapers, buying coffee, watching films at home, holidays. We found it very funny that those who’d had better lives found it hardest while those of us at the bottom of the pile couldn’t believe our luck. The first had become last and the last first as either the Bible or Bob Dylan predicted – I get all that folklore stuff muddled up.

There were more uprisings, of course there were, the rich had lost their way of life. The funny thing was rich, cultivated people aren’t half as good as uprisings as poor, desperate ones. Then Bill got firm in his putdowns, almost dictatorial but we, the majority, knew he was crushing the previously favoured few for our sake. We roared with delight as the old Etonians were carted off. Then Bill decided to change privilege at source so he reallocated all the housing and places at the better schools. There was a rough fit between the multi-childrened and the bigger houses but it was otherwise a lottery.

After five years Bill said communities weren't reforming the way he’d hoped so he got rid of the time-based barter system and replaced it with a measure of how many people you made smile a day. So the more miserable and irritating amongst us had to be very kind to compensate, whereas the quick-witted could get away with murder. That suited me, I’d always been quick with a quip and I’d learnt early on that charm is all about the interest you show in the other person.

Suddenly I was what used to be called wealthy. You know what? I didn’t really like it. It made me nervous remembering what happened to the old rich, how many of them had been sent to Messyattainier, how you could never come back from there. I started checking myself for signs of greed, made sure I didn’t make more people smile than I needed for my upkeep. I even gave some of my smiles away to starving people who’d been grumpy all their lives and couldn’t change now.

Then Bill started talking about what would happen to his world when he was no longer here to protect it. He started asking those closest to him if he’d got it all wrong and human nature would defeat him in the end. They gave us devices to wear that measured our impulses and those devices showed that we were only good-natured 48% of the time. Our baser instincts were still at the fore. Bill said we might as well start bashing each other over the heads with clubs again, we’d progressed so little from cavemen.

There were rumours about people summoned to see Bill but I never thought I’d be amongst them. When it came it wasn’t so much a summons as being bundled into an empty reggae bus by men who looked like Cold War spies. I was so nervous I giggled at every instruction making them frown more. They were lucky to hold the sort of job that meant they weren’t paid in smiles as they had the opposite effect on me. One of the spies started the bus up and we lurched off.

‘Where are you taking me?’ My voice was freshly-minted squeak.

‘You, Gary Holborough, will have the honour of meeting with Bill.’

‘Me? Why would Bill want to meet me?’

The non-driving spy shrugged as if he neither knew nor cared. That was a pretty long journey, let me tell you. After eternity we pulled up outside a 1930’s semi-detached in an area I believe used to be Slough. The spies indicated I should get out with very eloquent hand gestures. ‘Ring the bell – he's expecting you.’

Bill sat at an ordinary dining table in an ordinary house. He got up as I entered, extinguishing a cigarette. He coughed. ‘Why do my people keep consuming this rubbish?’ He gestured at the table that was covered with alcohol bottles, bags of white powder and tablets. ‘I’ve tried everything here and it’s all horrible. Tell me why they do this to themselves, Gary?’

I thought very hard as this was my chance to impress a man who claimed he had no confidantes, no favourites. Why was I bothering if it wouldn’t benefit me? I glanced instinctively at the dip on my impulse monitor and, with a supernatural effort, managed to think myself into wanting to help humanity. ‘They use it to reassure themselves they still have free will.’

His head jerked towards the ceiling and he made a sound that I finally identified as a laugh, not a bark. ‘That old chestnut! Moral liberty. They hurt themselves to prove they’re free to. Do you really believe that rubbish?’

I know he was the leader of the entire world, placed there by his goodness and everything but I can’t bear being patronized. ‘You’re not God,’ I said, ‘you can’t be sure it’s rubbish.’

‘I’m not God, no. But I’m about as close to it as a human will ever get. Right now, Gary, I know exactly how God must have felt when he looked at what he’d created.’

‘How’s that?’

‘It’s time for a cull.’

I shivered although it was quite warm in the dining room. 'A cull? Does that mean sending more people to Messyattainier?'

'Messyattainier?', he shook his head at me, I made it up.'

I nodded enthusiastically, we all know he created the name. 'I know - it'a great name.'

'I made the place up, not the name. It doesn't exist.' He smiled and it was like watching an animal bare its teeth.

'What happened to the people who were sent there?' I knew really but asking delayed the inevitable.

'There's only one wall no human can cross.' He raised his eyebrows at me. 'You know, don't you, it's for the good of us all, the majority.'

I nodded although what I suddenly knew was the opposite. Sometimes doing what the majority want isn't for its good at all. Bill sat at the table and I sat opposite him. I slipped the revolver out and calculated the exact angle I'd need to fire as Bill's eyes widened. As I pulled the trigger I watched the impulse monitor swing between good and bad. I closed my eyes so I'd never know the monitor's verdict as my bullet found its target.