American: Hi, neighbor! I see you are going fishing today. If you catch an extra fish, I would love to join you for a fish fry!
Neighbor: Pay me twenty dollars.
Neighbor’s father: Great job, son; great job monetizing that conversation.
American: What is wrong with you people?
Neighbor’s father: He has to learn to monetize or he’ll have to live off the state—or die. I’m proud of him for monetizing his fishing.
American: How will we be neighbors if there is only money between us?
Neighbor’s father: We live next door, so we are neighbors.
American: I hope the owners of your house monetize your house out from under you and your rental payments are so high that you, one, bankrupt and then, two, move to a trailer park.
Soon afterward, the American’s truck is stuck in the mud and he calls upon the neighbor again.
American: Hey, neighbor! I could use some help getting out of this mud; my truck is two-wheel drive.
Neighbor: Pay me twenty dollars.
American: Can you at least recommend a local tow service?
Neighbor: Pay me twenty dollars.
American: How about YOU pay me twenty dollars to not burn down your house so you are forced to move away?
The American searches for a local tow service.
American, on phone: Hi, I need a tow. How much do you charge?
Tow man: Twenty dollars.
American: Okay, that sounds too good to be true. Can I pay cash?
Tow man: Sure thing, jimbo. See you in twenty minutes.
American: That also sounds too good to be true. I can’t wait.
The tow man arrives, tows the truck out of the mud, and prepares a bill.
Tow man: Here is your bill for one-hundred and fifty dollars.
American: Didn’t we just discuss a bill of twenty dollars over the phone?
Tow man: Give this to your insurance and you’ll get some money back.
American: You lied to my face; and, to pay this bill, I’ll have to go into town to the bank and then come to your offices, so I’ll waste a halfday of work.
Tow man: Yes, that’s right; I can’t accept payments online; you could write a check and mail it to my offices, though.
American: I don’t have checks; who has checks?
Tow man: None of my customers have checks. They just come by the office during lunch or after work.
American: You lied to my face!
Tow man: No; we didn’t have a written agreement when we talked over the phone, so I didn’t lie or break any contract.
American: Wow, that’s noble of you; of course, we needed a written contract beforehand. How naive of me!
And so the American leaves the country and travels in Europe where things are much the same, but different. After some years, he meets a European who asks him a question:
European: Do you believe in the American dream?
American: There is no dream.
European: I hear about it often: freedom, justice, pursuit of happiness. That kind of thing.
American: There is only money. There is the dream of making a lot of money, but that’s all.
European: Surely there are ideals to which all Americans strive?
American: Once, long ago, there was freedom, justice, pursuit of happiness, and citizenship, but now there is only a bottom line. Every interaction must be monetized for survival. No one is a neighbor in America except for small groups of people in conservative enclaves like the Amish, perhaps, who will help one another without an insurance company acting as middleman.
European: One would think Americans would be good at removing the middleman.
American: In one way, the whole of American culture is based on an expensive middleman: insurance. Unless you are part of a religious community that forbids insurance, it is the one enormous necessary middleman.
European: I don’t know anything about the religious sects in American; sounds like a small village based on a religion.
American: For the most part, America is a land of customers and insurance; and, to “make it,” to survive, one must fight to monetize everything, or fall back on a government institution, or die. Americans have only the three options: monetize, visit the food bank, or die. So, Americans are deep red, deep blue, or a pale green.
European: So, you are an expat?
American: Who can be an expat when Facebook is required of all business owners?
European: One can delete the account? Use a different platform?
American: Yes, but one can’t escape the global economy and it isn’t particularly an American economy except that America was the first to prototype and export the economic model.
European: And what does Europe offer you? What do you hope to find in Europe?
American: A village.
European: What about a village interests you? The backbiting? The vicious gossip? Or the incompetent work of one’s neighbors, which forces you to import labor from another city or even another country at great expense, which undermines the purpose of living in a village in the first place?
European: No, but really, tell me what you desire in a village.
American: A village is where a larger group comes together to cooperate. They support one another; the public-private binary disappears. They go to the commons together and harvest the food for the season. The harvest is a festival of many days. The festival is a lesson in social cooperation. Paying high taxes makes sense when your taxes paid for this particular road and this particular public library that you use daily.
European: Don’t forget “The tragedy of the commons,” which is why the commons don’t exist any longer.
American: Yes, that’s true. And the thieves pot where we pool all the money and suddenly it disappears. But, still, immediately after the Great War, Europe went back to a pre-modern system. Not completely, but in some ways. Most of that has now been destroyed through consumer culture, but money still isn’t the only social value and the countries in Europe are small enough that they are like America states in size, but with individual language, which is culture really, and this helps them hold together—at least until the rest of the old people die.
European: Let’s give the coronavirus a few more months.
American: Could just be the European architecture inspiring me to rosy-eyed dreams, but there are some European pre-Modern processes that even McAmerica hasn’t been able to replace. Modern industrialism, historically speaking, enters an indigenous society and replaces human cooperation with a machine that can accomplish the same work, but without human cooperation. So, for example, a festival of making saki, rami, wine, acorn flour, or any life-giving product, can be made more quickly by an individual with a machine, but what is lost is the more important process of making a village: human cooperation.
European: Doesn’t that make a person free? I assume a man with a machine is free.
American: That’s the dream, but look at the reality. None of us can make everything alone. We can make some things alone, but not all of it, so we are not free. And, some of us really struggle and require the state to step in to help. The individual can’t accomplish the work of a village single-handedly. An individual can survive alone, but a village could do more than survive: a village could thrive. A village could grow wealthy and remain healthy. The process of monetizing every social interaction pushes more and more people to the government for help. The government in America is attempting to do the work of yesteryear’s village.
European: Do you think Europeans are better at cooperation?
American: They speak more languages, or they each have their own language within their own country, which is a difficulty for McAmerica to immediately erode, but that isn’t cooperation. Modern processes continue to destroy human cooperation and Europe will continue to evolve closer to the McAmerica model of customers and insurance; in Europe the terms will be a state who ensures the welfare of the customer.
European: So, your next trip will be to the stars where you’ll be an ex-earthling?
American: Yes, that is the plan; that or I’ll build a barometric chamber on the ocean floor to increase my longevity and crawl out of the ocean only after a few hundred years have passed.
European: I hope you take a lot of books with you. And some beers.
American: I plan to write my own books and brew my own beers of course.
European: But, you’ll know the ending before you finish reading the story!
American: That’s where the beer will help.
European: Your barometric chamber home on the ocean floor will be covered in microplastics.
American: That’s true; that is why I was considering moving to a new planet.
European: So, you don’t want a village at all; a village would, presumably, come together to solve the microplastic problem—or some other problem—of which you could be a part, but instead you want to escape alone; so, you are even more American than most. You talk about cooperation, but you are isolating yourself until you have only one or two social interactions, which are monetized, presumably. Oh, and you have no neighbors.
The European pauses to consider.
European: You are honest but still American.
American: I never said I wanted to abandon my country. An expat just lives outside of the country.
European: One of America’s many exports, I’m sure.