A Trip To Wikitopia - a contribution from Richard Greeman

A trip to Wikitopia - Richard Greeman -

Remember that childhood game where one kid starts a story and then the next kids in the circle are supposed to continue it? Well, here goes! Please join in and continue this tale about a visit to a world where the economy is based on human need rather than profit.

Adventure One: Arrival

Imagine you’re a Teen Time Traveler who arrives someplace in Wikitopia – let’s say in the French countryside near Chartres in 2050 . From a distance you can see the famous old Cathedral with its two unmatched spires, then a Medieval-looking street scene and many other things familiar from books and picture postcards. But other things seem strangely unfamiliar. You note your impressions as you explore the environment.[Feel free to start your own new adventure here!]

For example, you notice the quiet, the absence of noisy, smelly vehicles, the friendly unrushed look of the people, their elegant, colorful and original clothes, the wonderful smells in the air of bread baking, the cheerful sight of fresh washing on a line, the doors and windows of the houses left casually open. Odder still, you notice bicycles with white handgrips leaning here and there against trees and walls, unlocked and unattended.

On this summer day the old town appears as spruce and as picturesque as a tourist poster, with open markets on the squares and folks in colorful costumes bustling about with wicker shopping baskets and handcarts. You suppose that some smart Chamber of Commerce has convinced the Mayor to create a pedestrian zone in order to attract wealthy tourists. But where are the all gaudy tourist shops with their plastic Eiffel Towers made in China ? (Feel free to continue to explore, that is to invent, your own city.)

Adventure Two: A Conversation with some children

Hungry, and attracted by the smell of crêpes being made at a market stand, you join a line of giggly children waiting impatiently for their mid-morning snack.

You (or rather your Avatar) immediately become the object of intense curiosity and half-suppressed hilarity. You attempt to save your adult dignity by asking one likely-looking lad what grade he is in. More giggles and looks of amazement.

“But you do go to school, don’t you?” More hilarity. Finally, a tall serious girl calms the others and addresses you as follows:

“Friend from Afar, please don’t take offense. I see you are a stranger here. The children mean you no harm. It’s just that they don’t understand your antique way of speaking. For them, a ‘grade’ is when a bicycle racer goes steep up hill and a ‘school’ is something fish swim in.” Turning to the others, she adds with an uppity smirk “So they laugh like the ignorant ninnies that they are.”

After the ruckus of protruding tongues and rude noises, the tall girl continues unperturbed: “I am called Alice , and I love reading old stories about life on the planet before the Emergence.”

Turning to the others, she explains: “In the olden days, all young people were forced to spend the whole day sitting indoors in rows learning how to take tests. The grownups called this ‘school.’ I suppose this was because all the children were forced to move in groups, all in the same direction like schools of fish. Is that right, Friend from Afar?”

Not wishing to embarras her in front of the others and in any case at a loss for an answer, you nod your head as Alice goes on with her historical explanation.

“At the end of each year, if a young person succeeded in passing her tests she was sent on to another room full of chairs to prepare for even harder tests, and so on year after year. As they grew up, the children would have to study harder and harder, like cyclists racing up a steep hill. I suppose that is why they called them ‘grades,’ right Stranger?”

Nonplussed, you nod agreement.

“In those days, nothing was more important than winning the race. In one story I read, a Japanese boy’s parents made him get up in the dark and study for two hours every morning before going off to school. Then, after school, he had to go to an expensive cram-school and learn more about test-taking until it was dark again. Worse still, bullies picked on him and made his life at school into a Hell.”

“If I lived back then,” said Tim, the likely lad about whose ‘grade’ you had enquired, “I’d of run off and hide in the woods.”

“You couldn’t have,” answered Alice seriously. “In those days they had tough grownups with sticks and guns called ‘police’ who were paid to catch kids who ran away from school. In another old story I read, a boy who kept running away from his school was punished by being taken away from home by the people with sticks and guns and locked up with other ‘bad’ boys in a cold, dirty place where everyone was mean and did horrible things to him… So the young people in schools were scared to swim too far the right or the left and kept moving in the same direction as the others so they could grow up and swim with the adults in great schools called offices. Then, if they continued to swim day after day in the same direction at the same speed or better still faster than the others, they would receive Urines or Dollers for their pains. Indeed,” said Alice , proud of her erudition, “the old word ‘Doller’ is derived from the Latin dolere meaning to suffer pain. What’s it like where you’re from, Friend from Afar?”

(How would you answer that question? This might be a fun place for you to enter the story)

Adventure Three: An Amazing Bike Ride

Eager to explore the environment, you ask where you can rent a bike. The giggling children look at you like you’re a bit addled. Gesturing toward to a bicycle rack on the other side of the square, Tim answers your question: “Just go over there and pick any bike with white handgrips and off you go, Friend! You can leave it wherever you like when you’re done with it.”

Passing through the suburbs, you notice the absence of sprawl, above all the lack of advertising. You pass through an arch and suddenly you’re out in the country. Behind you, the silhouette of the town under its Cathedral recededs. Before you, the vista of the vast fertile prairie of the Bauce evoked by the Christian poet Charles Péguy in his pious pilgrimage across France’s rich wheat fields to Our Lady of Chartres.

But something seems different. The odor of the fields. The look of the plants!

“Oh my God and Holy Shit ! that’s fucking marijuana growing!” Acres and acres of it. You stumble out into a field, crumble a bud into your hand, roll a joint and light up. YAAASSS ! A hit, a palpable hit as you buddy Hamlet always used to say.

Just at that moment, a tall, lanky peasant emerges from a nearby field, stops, turns and stares at you. Suddenly, you realize you’re doing something illegal. Actually at least three things — trespassing, stealing, smoking dope, and being an undocumented alien! You’re feeling more and more nervous as he slowly ambles over and looks you up and down.

“Bonjour,” you say in your best high school French, remembering to add the necessary “Monsieur” to show respect and appear respectable.

This polite greeting brings of sparks of mirth to the tall man’s crinkly blue eyes. “Humble Salutations, My Lord,” he replies in English, sketching a bow. “But would it be permitted to ask if you are not a stranger here?”

“You see, French people haven’t called each other “Monsieur” since olden times, before ranks were done away with during the Emergence. Now we’re all equal, and folks just call each other ‘Friend.’”

“N’est-ce pas, Ami?” he adds with a friendly grin.

By now you are nearly convinced that you won’t be busted. You stop imagining yourself busted, humiliated, fingerprinted, roughed up and thrown into prison among violent angry men, both guards and other prisoners free to commit violence on your young ass with impunity. Your heart beat slows as these familiar fears receed like dark clouds fleeing before the sunshine emanating from your new ‘friend.’

“Ami,” you reply, “Thee remind me of how the old Quakers used to talk. And do people now everywhere use the familiar tu to each other like the Quakers with their ‘Thee?’

“Tu apprends vite” (“Thee are a quick learner”), he nods with an approving smile.

By now you are totally at ease. And so you are not totally surprised when the dude takes out a pouch and some papers asks you if you wouldn’t prefer to smoke “du vrai shit?”

As he rolls you a joint, he explains to you that the hemp in these fields is not being grown for smoking, but for biomass. He tells you it’s easy to cultivate because it grows so rapidly, is so hardy, requires so few inputs, and is easy on the soil. Plus, it has so many marvelous uses.

“These here are big, hardy, fast-growing plants but their buds – adequate for propagation — are rather small as you can see and don’t contain much THC… We grow a much stronger Herb year-round in greenhouses for smoking and medicinal purposes,” he concludes, proffering you a neatly-made joint.

“What about all those wonderful uses, Ami?” you ask politely, before politely accepting the gift, politely lighting up and taking your first hit off an apparently legal spif.

As you listen wide-eyed, the dude lays out before you a whole new world of Better Living (not “Through Chemistry” as the du Pont Corporation used to advertize) but through Nature’s Miracle, the hemp plant.

“Funny you should mention du Pont, he says. “Did you know that it was the du Pont de Nemours Corporation that promoted the first ban on marijuana in the 1930’s so as wipe out hemp cultivation and create a vast monopoly market for Nylon, du Pont’s new petroleum-based, polluting, chemical substitute for hemp rope. Now here we a century later, the planet out of oil and what do we use to fuel up our few remaining combustion-powered machines and vehicles? Hemp! Hemp distilled into enthanol.” And with a grand gesture, “this hemp right here in our fields!”

As you gaze up at the sky through the tops of the waving rows of hemp plants (somehow you suddenly find yourself lying comfortably on your back on the edge of the field), you hear your new Friend proclaim, as if inspired, that “the whole cycle has turned around.” And indeed, from your point of view everything else seems to be turning around your head as you lie on your back with your eyes focused on the circling tops of the plants.

… As you tune back in to your new Friend, you hear his voice going on to explain to you that hemp is also used in every kind of packaging, a cheap clean substitute for all those ever-present, expensive, polluting, un-recyclable plastic wrappings made from petroleum.

Hemp is also the principle fiber in the paper we use. Because it grows so fast, it provides us many more reams per acre than do more slow-growing trees. In any case, we need all the trees we can grow both for wood, to provide habitat for billions of living things and to fight global warming by sucking up carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen.”

At this point the dude sees that you are obviously nodding off, and tells you to enjoy your nap. In any case, he has to go back to tending the field. As he leaves, he tells you his name is Michel but he’s also ‘Mika’ in his band, where he sings, plays the guitar and writes. As he goes back to work he invites you to a concert he and his group are putting on that night in Chartres .

Now it’s your turn to continue the story. Why not show up at Mika’s concert? Or begin another adventure among the Utopians.
Richard

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