by Karina Lutz
Of alternative currencies, crypto is the best known. Systems with no gold or paper or matter of any sort toconcretize or even symbolize them, each has a floating exchange rate with paper monies. They are relatively unregulated, and decentralized. The software to encrypt, “blockchain,” requires extraordinary amounts of electronic calculation; to mint each imaginary coin importunes this world’s very concrete data centers and fossilized energy production. Is crypto simply a plaything for casino capitalists, who can afford to lose as much as they might gain? Or an experiment to move beyond money issued as debt? Was it designed for black markets, organized crime, and money launderers? Or is it the future of money—so get in now or be left behind?
Bitcoin begat two children:
Lifecoin and Frivolitycoin.
On the other extreme, the greens of Ithaca, N.Y., Great Barrington, Mass., and other towns have developed alternative paper currencies. These hyperlocal currencies resist the grasp of globalism and encourage money flows to stay within communities, intending to reduce poverty and to support small business and local supply chains, reducing the transportation of goods and thereby climate pollution.
Lifecoin was immediately whisked
to neonatal care at the university hospital,
where those who had been studying predictive ecology,
environmental externalities, and sacred economics
could observe and marvel and hope
their good intention did no harm
for Lifecoin were to be measured in quantum.
Time banks or time exchanges are another effort at building a sustainable economic system. Time banking takes bartering up a few notches, by allowing a member of a group to give services to another member, who gives to yet another in the group, using an hourly based point system to make sure the barters balance out.
Lifecoin could not be measured as debt,
only paid to future generations
by way of restoring habitat.
Everyone agreed to take equal shares of Lifecoin, too,
as long as the wealthy would be allowed to exchange
their collapsing dollars for Frivolities.
The Dalai Lama had his watchface replaced with an icon of Lifecoin.
The Trump family papered their walls with Frivolities,
and no one cared.
In a time bank, if I cut hair, and you cut lawns, and my lawn is shaggy but you are bald, we can still barter, but through the group. You would cut my lawn, I would cut someone else’s hair, and the former longhair might fix your bike, or you could select a service from anyone who has offered a service on the time bank network. Time banks assume the radical notion that each person’s hour is worth the same as anyone else’s.
Lifecoin was to be used for food, shelter, clothing,
and other basic human needs.
Frivcoin was allowed to go off on its prodigal way
as long as the new currencies were never exchanged.
Frivcoin was declared not legal tender
for water, air, land, or space,
to use them for goods or as dumps.
The two trends in alternative currency move in opposite directions—one working to build a life-sustaining culture and the other further untethering casino capitalism from any basis in the realities of labor and materials, human needs, or the limits to growth.
Over time, many holders of great apparent wealth in Friv
became jealous, but none so fiercely as Art
and her children: Haughty and Grunge.
“Why are we deigned ‘frivolous,’” they barked,
“when we are the meaning of life?
“We are as much the relation of generations
as reproduction is!”
Mainstream currencies need no help further untethering. As a normal-appearing banker recently told a retiree: “the dollar has nowhere to go; it will be replaced within your lifetime.” He is young, and wears a suit, and sits behind a polished cherrywood desk.
Art’s first son, Naughty, born out of wedlock,
was not asked his opinion
of what is life-giving and what is frivolous.
Too bad, because he knew all the ways of hackers
and slackers and black marketeers
and could have been well-employed
Karina Lutz organized to secure passage of renewable energy legislation, thwart a proposed megaport, and restore wetlands. She helped launch a nonprofit green power company and a permaculture intentional community. With an BA from UCLA and an MSJ from Northwestern, she worked as an editor, reporter, and in nonprofit communications. Her books are Post-Catholic Midrashim and Preliminary Visions, and her bibliography is at https://karinalutz.wordpress.com/karina-lutzs-poetry-published-elsewhere/.