Farewell, Our Wherewithal

After shrinking the government “to the size of a chipmunk and garrotting it in a birdbath,” as an experimental reactionary economist once famously put it, the next challenge for my country’s wealthy was how to destroy money itself. They owned all of it; they’d worked hard to hoard it, like toy houses in a children’s real-estate game; wasn’t it theirs to destroy, if they so chose?

The favorite pastime for the richest rich became a showy and audacious fiscal suicide. A grand, public shooting of oneself in one’s diamond-clad foot; in a word, autodissolution. They’d convert their wealth to cash, pile it in the public square, and torch it. Turn it to gold, take it to sea, dump it. Creativity scored points among their class: sell all property, holdings, assets, cars; buy out the entire printed currency of a small, obscure nation; fly all those bills out over the ocean in their one last private jet; blow up the jet; film the explosion from their one last yacht; torch the yacht; escape in a cheap dinghy with the film canister.

It was all over so quickly! Which, I suppose, is easy when one percent of the people own ninety-nine percent of the money. Or whatever it was. The cliquishness of the no-longer-rich continued after their self-destruction; their avant-garde got new digs in elite shantytowns, in the ruins of public parks, under bridges.

As a cleaner of the undersides of bridges, I know this last group well. My work was once my job, but now it is my hobby, something I still consider to be my civic duty, even though there’s no longer any civitas to speak of, not as we once knew it. The under-bridge rich love me, but treat me like the hired help, or like they remember treating hired help. “You missed a spot,” they say. “You incompetent wretch!” “I don’t report to you,” I reply. “Don’t forget I chose this,” they say. “Chose it!” They cross their arms in a huff, scratch their new boils. “I didn’t,” I say.