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It was a fight broke out over apples and oranges which led to the law of One for One. The old saying went “Don’t mix apples and oranges,” as though they were two different things. But really isn’t fruit; apples, oranges, bananas and pears, just fruit?
Anyway Bill and Tom came to blows because Bill looked down on oranges and thought Johnny Appleseed was a “Saint and Prophet.” And all Tom had to defend oranges was Anita Bryant. Bill wanted five oranges for three apples. So Tom socked him one and broke three fingers. This is the time when before this time everyone did their fighting vicariously through Hollywood or video games. When you sock someone in the real world, it hurts.
Anyway this brought up the notion of value. In the New World of Shit Town, we struggle with the very quintessence of civilization. Why is gold more valuable than strawberries?
“It’s just an orange,” said Bill. “My apples are verified Washington Delicious, redder than the sun and tastier than french fries.”
“The root of all evil,” said Tom.
“What?” said Bill.
“The forbidden fruit. The apple. Serpent fruit.”
“What are you talking about?”
And that’s when Tom socked Bill and broke three fingers. Bill had an awful headache afterward, but nothing lasting. All because Bill disrespected the value of an orange.
“What about grapes?” someone asked. “It’s a lot harder to grow grapes than some guy who just went about throwing seeds around and let the indifferent force of nature spin the roulette wheel of evolution. Isn’t organized cultivation something to be valued over happenstance and luck?”
“What about gold?” someone else said. “Anyone can hoe a row of vegetables and sell the excess harvest for some extra cash or get something in exchange, But how about all the industry it takes for men to dig mines and organize the extraction of precious resources. Shouldn’t the man…”
“…or woman,” someone shouted in.
“…or kid,” chimed in another.
“Shouldn’t the man who put up the wealth and took the risk get something for his bother other than an apple for a gold coin?”
“And what’s the value of knowledge or invention,” yelled the local teacher. “Shouldn’t a Tesla who changed the world with his notion of alternating current, get something for single-handed advance of the whole human race?”
“Yeah, and where did that get us,” I said before I knew I even opened my mouth. But that didn’t seem to stop me. “How many great advances did we leap into without looking all in the name of profit? How long did it take Tesla’s “free energy” to be usurped by the Robber Barons? Electricity is more than a light bulb. All the great ingenuity of the 20th Century was sucked up and exploited just as sure as oil in the ground all in the name of how much money fatcats can make and not how wonderful for humankind we no longer have to salt meat because we have refrigerators now.”
“Commie!” yelled Jill, followed by a belly laugh.
“Damn straight,” said Bill, “Johnny Appleseed didn’t want nothing for his trouble. He was no businessman. He did it out of the goodness of his heart and that’s why they’re worth more.”
It looked as though Tom was getting ready for a fisticuffs reboot, when finally The Preacher said something. He wasn’t really a Preacher as much as a pot-head, but heard everything and said little so when he spoke people tended to listen.
“An apple for a root canal seems a fair trade,” he said, “If you don’t factor in dental school and how a fool without training might hatchet-job a root canal.”
There was stunned silence. It was always that way. You had to take a moment to remember what you heard The Preacher say, and then take another moment to remember he was the Preacher so you had to take it seriously. He could also find water with a switch. And, as I say, always had good weed.
“So then,” said Jill, “How do you figure in all the intangibles and variables and all the grey, and come out with an apple by any other name is still worth an apple?”
“Simple,” said the Preacher, “Make it all one.”
Another silence. Make it all one? Like an apple and a diamond are the same? Who is the Commie? But before anyone could find the words to form the question, the Preacher went on.
“We get to decide what we want Shit Town to be. A haven for mutual defense? Or a community. A place where to each his own until we come under attack from marauders or a community?”
“Jesus, he is a commie,” whispered someone close by. Then, “I don’t want to be all the same!” he shouted.”If we all have the same means, then how do we differentiate ourselves? Don’t we have the freedom to live like kings if we can muster the desire and resources?”
“And what if the rest said, ‘No’? No wealth beyond community wealth?” asked the Preacher.
“If I give all my industry to the State, then what do I get in return?”
“Exactly what you would expect from a community,” said the Preacher,” Education, health care, employment and the liberty to explore your vast human potential within very generous bounds. The only law is One for One.”
“You mean All for One and All for One?”
There was a long silence before the Preacher spoke.
“Competition is an addiction. One on One. Hours and hours of one on one in the schoolyard. Friendly competition to be sure, but still we have the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Isn’t the military the addiction to competition taken to nth degree? Hand to hand combat to the death? What a rush.
One for One is different. Because one is you and the other one is the community. You are not in competition with others but in cooperation with the community. And in exchange for your cooperation, you get a life to pursue your individual happiness.
Is Shit Town going to be a Wild West movie town of bar brawls and bordellos or is Shit Town a model for the future? Do we take all the lessons learned and devolve or take a giant leap toward sanity?”
Someone shouted, “I like the bordello idea!”
And then Jill said, “I better get more than an apple for a roll in the hay.”
“It’s up to you,” said the Preacher. “Say there is a great Casino in the sky and all the gods of the all the pantheons are placing their bets on the result of their creation. Pass or fail. Survival or Extinction.”
“Life!” shouted a young girl. “The sins of the parents shouldn’t be revisited upon the children.”
“Hush, now,” said her mother.
“What’s it going to be?” asked the Preacher. “Is Shit Town just another hell hole in the wall with people living in panic and fear? Or is Shit Town the place where the next civilization is born?”
“I’d settle for some indoor plumbing,” said Tom. And then he said, “Ah, hell.” And he poured his basket of oranges on the ground and he said, “Take them, they’re free. But if I don’t get indoor plumbing out of the deal, then all bets are off.”
And then Bill picked up a couple of oranges and threw some apples down. “Nothing is for free,” he said. Bill was no commie. “One for one,” he said.
“One for One,” everyone said. And pretty soon there was all manner of food and stuffs and service cards and even some gold in a big pile on the ground free for anyone to take in return for even the smallest contribution. One guy even stood in the pile and recited Shakespeare and folks just started putting stuff in his pockets. This lasted a day and then fights broke out again over the value differential between an apple and a diamond-tipped, foot-powered, band-saw, but it was a start.
For me, on that day out of the pile I took something the Preacher left – he took an apple and an orange – two beautiful buds of some very fine smoke. And what did I give? Some homemade wooden toys for the kids.
Civilization is not a TV Dinner. It’s a work of art. If you’re lucky. Stroke by stroke over thousands of years. And one of those vibrant, strong strokes of art in the grand masterpiece is a place called Shit Town. It’s a place where we all mean well even if we don’t always get it right.
Because try as we might, apples will never be oranges.
So today in Shit Town we are known for our variety of mixed fruit baskets.