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Eden Revisited

The Road to Resilience

Economics as it has come to be studied has got to be one of the most stultifying subjects known to man.  Within the first three equations, my mind starts to wander and the soft murmurs of slumber begin to crowd out my consciousness.  Yet, as time goes by, the ideas and considerations revolving around how we distribute goods and services in a complex society captivates me more and more.  On the one hand, you have resources that need to be grown, dug up, found, processed, transported, transformed.   You have the tools, machines, buildings, and other wherewithal that you need to do these tasks, and, lastly, you have the human labor with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform these tasks.  On the other hand, you have the consumers of these products and the question of how to distribute these products among them. On the day before the crash of 1929 and the day after, it seems to me that all of the above elements were in place, and yet, the world had completely changed.  How can that be?  It seems like the study of economics has to do with rationalizing and quantifying the phantasm that breathes life into that whole system.  That system is what we have come to call Capitalism.

In musing on this the other day, I started reimagining the myth of our original fall from grace:  being banished from the Garden of Eden.  The original story we all know is that God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of one forbidden tree (the tree of the knowledge of goodness and evil), that the Devil tempted Eve and she tempted Adam, that they ate the fruit, and we got the boot.  That story has never made any real sense to me.  I agree that the result was inevitable: that we had to go from innocence to knowledge and that meant that we were responsible for ourselves for better or for worse.  What never made any sense was how it all came down.  

Here is my version:  The fact is, God never forbade the eating of fruit from the famous tree.  We did that, or, in my version, since it was a manly thing to do, Adam did that.  And it was a good business decision too, the first one in fact.  Adam saw that a particular tree was favored by many of those who lived in Eden (We all know that there were more of us there).  In his great wisdom, he conceived of the possibility of personally controlling access to that tree.  He didn’t know it, but he had just created the concept of private property.  In struggling with the problem of how to do this, he conceived of the idea of a wall.  He built one around his tree and he saw that it was good.  When the first person came by looking for fruit from “his” tree, Adam said, “This is my tree and if you gather fruit from it for me, you can have some for yourself.”  And so, the first job was created.  Others of the same mind as Adam saw and understood what he was doing and, before long, all the trees and other sources of good things were appropriated by those prone to taking, and, from then on, we, owners and workers alike, lived by the sweat of our brows.  So, you see, we never were banished from the Garden.  What happened was that those who were so inclined simply seized all its assets!

Actually, not all its assets were seized.  Some, like air and water, simply couldn’t be boxed up and put on the shelf.  Land, by its sheer vastness, could not be appropriated in its entirety, the seas even less so.  Roads and other common grounds were also better left in the public sphere.  Tasks like raising families and managing the home are still largely outside the commercial realm, although childcare is swiftly becoming a lucrative commercial activity.
Next Saturday you get the opportunity to experience a market outside the commercial realm!  The First Vashon fixit Café will be your opportunity to get an appliance, lamp, chair, piece of clothing, or just about anything you can carry (except gasoline engines or anything that leaks fluids) fixed—for free!  You get to keep using your item instead of adding more toxic trash to the landfill.  Local fixers will take on anything.  There are no guarantees, but there is a 70% success rate at similar events in the county.  Fixers need only a good challenge, some coffee, treats and good cheer.  This is something that the regular money economy simply can’t do.  Come experience it with your broken item or fixing prowess.  Saturday, Mar. 18, 10am-2pm, at the Penny Farcy Building across from the Fire Station in town.  For more, see or Vashon Fix-it Café on Facebook.