Fifty Billion Dollars
I'm pushing a wheelbarrow. Remembering.
"When I grow up I'm going to have fifty billion dollars."
I was about eight, sitting in the back seat. Daddy was driving. Mama was up front on the right. Susan and I in the back seats.
I can't recall the words of my father's response but something mildly stated along the lines of that not being very realistic. I'll show him, I thought. There had been a few actual billionaires but back then the word was mainly used for hyperbole and Scrooge McDuck. I was a big fan of Scrooge McDuck. And I had big plans. I envisioned a mansion with wide expanse of lawn and an underpass on the long driveway for the dogs to use. There was a wall around the estate with lush greenery obscuring it. Peering way back into memory's vaults, not much about the house, but there are tennis courts to the left, a swimming pool full of friends. Didn't yet have plans for the rest of the fifty billion.
I stayed on that kick for a while, repeating it around my father and waiting to hear if he'd have a modulating response, but eventually that fantasy made way for others. If I was eight, that was 1953. So it was eighty years ago. But all the way from then to now, now in 2033, I've always had fantasy going, more than one - multiple overlapping fantasies. Not just me. Pretty much everyone. And it's not like we've been basically grounded in reality with gentle harmless daydreams floating by to amuse. It's all been fantasy - from harmless to hurtful to disastrous. Some call it lies, say we were living a lie. If so, I'd say living a complex bundle of lies. It was always obvious we realize now but almost all of us existed entirely within that bundle. These days most folks are pretty realistic, at least we think we are. I don't know what is left to hope for that's unrealistic. It crash, thud, banged on our heads. People aren't chasing after the old gold idol. If we hadn't taken all the warnings so damned literally we'd have learned something. Now we're mainly happy to find clean water and enough to eat to stop from aching.
I'm not going on here about spiritual foolery, who am I, is there a god and all that. I'm not saying that everyone's all clear about what's true in that sense. Got no time for that anyway. There were plenty of realistic warnings in holy books and literature. Wasn't it the evil ones who worshiped Mammon, the god of wealth? We didn't realize those stories were about us. We weren't whole cities full of evil people that a super powerful god would punish. We were good people providing for our families, enjoying progress. Now we see that evil just meant mistaken, going after the wrong stuff, and the all-powerful god was a metaphor for the way things even out. Or look at Faust. We didn't see ourselves as like him. He sold his sole to the devil. He should have known better. We sold our future for short term profit. The devil was just us being short sighted. Now we know better. We didn't loose any soul. Just rode high for a while and screwed this place up. But enough. Everyone knows all that now. Started wising up a little late - after the pyramid scheme we thought of as civilization got unfixable.
Still pushing that wheelbarrow thinking more.
When I was in my thirties I was still showing off that I could open beer bottles with my teeth. That was before the bottles were usually twist off. Then one day I did it and broke a tooth in half. Instantly I realized what a stupid idiot I'd been. That's what happened to all the leaders and followers, experts and believers, to all of us, when everything we'd been doing backfired. Up to then it had been grow this, grow that, grow everything forever. All anyone complained about was that use of word grow. Well, there were a few here and there complaining and using words like unsustainable but they were largely ignored.
Another block to go.
I was in Indonesia in 2014. Their money had shrunk in value over the years so that a US dollar was worth about 12,000 rupiah. We'd get a million or two rupiah at a time from the ATMs. A million was like $80. Billions weren't that big a deal in the business world. There were lots of billionaires and some trillionaires there before that word was even in my English dictionary. I was reminded of that a couple of years ago when the US dollar hit that sort of value. That's when they printed up the last of the bills with all those zeros. I remember photos of people dealing with runaway inflation in Germany after WWI. Never thought I'd be in that picture.
It's not really a wheelbarrow. It's called a garden cart. Has two wheels and a rectangular bin. It doesn't have a heavy load, just some bulky bags. I'm pushing all the money I got in the world. Gonna buy a loaf of bread. When it's gone I'll scrounge for more. That won't be for a couple of days.
Daddy, I did it. I told you. It's not unrealistic anymore. Today I'm worth fifty billion dollars.
Posted 8-10-14 and written the day before.