Issue 20: Negotiating the Trust
Do we trust in people or corporations pretending to be people?
Petal had been briefly in the Peace Corps in Malawi, fighting disease, poverty, and hunger. After her stint, she had come back to Denver which was now filled with the no-keys, the unregistered families who were dying without health care, enmeshed in poverty without access to the Internet or credit or jobs, and starving without credit. Although she had been planning to return sometime to Africa, she knew Denver, in the good old US of A, needed her help more than those far-off lands did.
For being cut off from the net is like being cut off from air. Our economy works on a basic level of trust—you work, you get paid in credits, and you take those to the grocery store, who accepts them in exchange for food. But this is only inside the net, inside the world of electronic bank transfers. Outside of these walls, you can not get money for work or for selling your prized possessions or even your children when you get that desperate —no one will give you the credit that is all stores will accept. Even if you could get paid “under the table, no one will know you exist, as you can not advertise your services. Even if you tell someone in person that you could do the work, no one will dare hire you without checking your registration status. For you might be a terrorist without an ID. Or you might be an illegal, hiding out from the terror in your own country.
At any rate, without that ID, no one will trust you enough to feed you. Petal saw this and joined the underground economy, jestingly called the “Helping Hands Company, although nobody kept any books or records. The whole basis was trust. As all corporate books were audited to ensure that every employee was a tax-paying, registered citizen, Helping Hands could not actually pay the illegals. Rather, the company operated on a strictly barter, no-cash system. If you wanted a tailor made suit, you would buy quadruple the amount of cloth and materials needed, drop it off on Tuesday, and pick up your suit on Friday. If you did not feel like cooking, you just arranged to have triple the amount of food sent over and then your meals would be delivered to your door. Builders found that if they left double the amount of materials needed and instructions, the foundation would be poured overnight or the cabinet made.
Helping Hands was just part of the underground movement, and of course, it was never enough. Medicines for simple things like bronchitis or giardia or even a cast for a broken leg were nearly impossible, and the illegals just got used to their families dying of diabetes or heart attacks, for what else could be done? And how can you find shelter from the storms? Who will take you in without credit or credentials?