One thing that all humans living in urban areas have in common is the hunt for money – we don’t have enough, we need more, because it will buy us the things we need to survive, and many things we definitely don’t need, and perhaps also happiness.
But in simpler, less consumerist communities I have observed some signs of the old bartering system.
The village in which my parents reside is a perfect example – your neighbour grows figs and gives you some for free, in return you make some jam and share it with them. It’s very cute and helpful, and everyone can survive this way.
But it got me thinking, if we were truly to burn all our money and collectively start bartering in modern life, how would we work things out?
Issues arise with very basic things, for instance, is a cookie worth more than an apple because more physical labour and ingredients went into a cookie? Or should the intangible things, like time, care and love be considered when valuing an apple?
Also, could we only swap food for food, or could we swap a tub of sour cream for multi purpose cleaner?
How much is a pair of jeans worth in, say, eggs? 50? 80?
How would we go about technology? I mean sure, an iPhone must be worth thousands of eggs, but not everyone can offer that. Perhaps one could offer a mixed bag of things, like a couple of pairs of jeans, a bit of sour cream and some completed pinterest crafts.
Perhaps it is simply a utopian idea that’s never going to work in the world we have created. But nevertheless, the other day I gave it a try.
After buying a second-hand microwave from this lovely young lady in my suburb, she also offered me other household items as she was moving overseas and needed to get rid of things.
I replied that I could definitely use them but I didn’t have the money to pay for anything else. So instead, we made a different arrangement.
She donated these things to me, and I baked banana bread for her very last breakfast as I assumed her kitchen would be completely empty after packing and moving everything out. I also wrote her a nice note to express my gratitude, and paid her with that.
She loved it, and we had a very nice goodbye despite being complete strangers.
So perhaps, dearest reader, bartering can make a comeback from time to time, even in the great metropolis.