“Here”

I don’t normally post fiction on this blog, but I believe this story falls within the tone and theme of this site.

With love,

Russ

Here

By Russ Towne

An older, distinguished-looking man met me at the boat. He had an honest and friendly face. I guessed he was a senior executive at the company. I grabbed my suitcase and he extended his hand to help me out of the small boat. The invitation said to expect the interview process to be as long as three days and they would provide food and lodging during that time.

“Welcome Ron! I’m Charlie. Was the boat ride okay?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Please come with me. We’ll get you situated.”

I felt like I was in paradise. We walked up a lushly landscaped walkway into the lobby of what appeared to be a high-end private resort hotel. I noticed he treated the resort staffers with respect yet in a friendly, casual manner, and they did the same with him. It appeared everyone was on a first-name basis.

“Are you hungry, Ron?”

I nodded and smiled.

“Good! A delicious banquet awaits us, but first let’s get you to your suite and give you a chance to freshen up after your long flight and boat ride. Then we have a little paperwork…”

Twenty minutes after being shown to my suite, I met Charlie in a quiet lounge. It was tropically-themed and even had some live colorful birds on stands scattered around the room. We sat in a corner, which I assumed was so we could quietly conduct business.

Charlie handed me a single sheet of paper that immediately recognized as a Non-Disclosure Agreement but it was unlike any NDA I’d ever seen before. It wasn’t full of legalese, and essentially said that whatever I experience Here must stay Here and that I must never mention any aspect of my visit Here to anyone who isn’t an employee of Here nor any aspect of any process, system, or operation Here. I thought it was an odd document, especially the way the word “Here” was capitalized, but I consider myself an honest fellow and under the circumstances didn’t see any harm in the terms, so signed and returned it to Charlie.

“Wonderful!” He folded and pocketed the document. “Let’s eat!” he said motioning toward the banquet room. The meal was delicious.

After the feast we adjourned to Charlie’s office. “Are you enjoying your stay so far, Ron?”

“Very much so!”

“Good! I believe you are going to experience many pleasant surprises during your visit. Before I begin asking you questions, I’d like to give you the opportunity to ask whatever you like, so fire away!”

“Thank you, Charlie. I am curious about a number of things. First, where are we?”

Charlie laughed. “Ah one of the hardest questions first! We’re Here.”

“Here?”

“Yes, Here. Here is an island that was bought from a friendly government by a trust that was set up by a couple of multi-billionaires. They left a huge endowment for the trust, and have done something similar in a few other places around the world.”

“Why?”

“The billionaires were as old as they were rich. They were not pleased by the direction the world was headed in, so they devised several social experiments hoping they could foster better ways for people to live and work with each other. Here is one of those experimental communities.”

“Amazing! How come I’ve never heard of Here or any of the other places?”

“It was decided that the experiments must be kept secret. I believe you will soon figure out on your own as to why that is necessary.”

“You use past tense when mentioning the billionaires. Are they dead?”

“Yes. Sadly, they died before seeing any of the communities they envisioned come to fruition.”

“Who were they?”

“I’m sorry, Ron. They wished to remain anonymous and that was a condition of the very generous endowments they created for Here and elsewhere. They didn’t do it for further fame or glory. Here is just one of the seeds they planted in the hope that all of humanity will one day be able to taste new and delicious fruit. The endowments allow for very generous annual budgets for Here.”

“Who runs everything Here?”

“We do.”

“Who’s we? Is there a boss or board of directors?”

“Everyone who chooses to participate in Here has an equal say in every aspect of Here.”

“What? How can that function? Every place needs leaders, Charlie.”

“We’re all leaders Here. We just lead different things. And we’re all followers.”

“Somebody has got to make decisions.”

“We all do, Ron.”

“Huh? HOW?”

“We all own an equal piece in all the assets of the trust and have an equal seay in all decisions via daily votes. We of course don’t all vote our share every time. We vote when an issue is important to us or when we have some knowledge about the question at hand. Each Stakeholder Here can track all issues important to him or her, and if we don’t like the results of a vote, we can have another vote in an attempt to change the result. That way it doesn’t pay for anyone to try to slip in things that could harm us. Our rights are guaranteed by the trust. It is like our Constitution.”

“What kind of government do you have?”

“We the people are the only government we have or need.”

“What about a judicial system?”

“All Stakeholders are the judges and vote the results like juries do elsewhere, but everyone Here can vote in a trial. For that reason, we need no juries.”

“Who makes the laws?”

“The trust by-laws are the only laws needed Here.”

“Those by-laws most be many volumes long.”

“On the contrary, Ron. We really only have one law, and it is sufficient.”

“One law? What single law could possibly be so all-encompassing?”

“Our law is to be kind. You’d be surprised as to the multitude of situations being kind covers.”

“What about disputes between neighbors?”

“They are very rare. When they occur, the parties bring their stories to Stakeholders Here. Everyone interested determines via vote what the kindest approach to handling the issue is, and that is what is done.”

“That must make the lawyers unhappy!”

“We have no lawyers, nor need for them.”

‘What about police? Prisons? Jails? Courts?”

“We have no need for them. If a person is unwilling or unable to be kind, their share in the trust can revoked by a vote of all Stakeholders Here, and since only Stakeholders are able to live on this trust-owned island, they must leave Here and not return.”

“Does that happen often?”

“Thankfully, it is very rare. We attempt to be very careful as to those who are invited to come Here, and when people come they nearly always want to stay.”

“So losing one’s stake Here is a little like being stripped of one’s citizenship?”

“Something like that. But it’s not the reason people are kind Here. They’re kind because they’re surrounded by kindness. It’s a way of life. A natural reaction to kindness is to be kind. It’s a virtuous circle.”

“That makes sense!”

“We think so.”

“What do politicians do here, Charlie?”

“We have no politicians.”

“That sounds wonderful!”

“We’ve found that politicians tend to be counterproductive to what the people want.”

“What about medical care?”

“We have some of the best medical outcomes of anywhere in the world.”

“That must hugely expensive.”

“All basic healthcare is free Here. We’ve found it is better for Stakeholders Here to help people stay healthy than constantly be trying to cure preventable and very expensive-to-treat diseases.”

“So Here must be one of those places where to become a member you’ve got to give up all your worldly possessions, right?”

“Just the opposite, Ron. We neither want nor need your money. If you decide to join us you’ll be able to do whatever you want with your assets. Some people leave them in investments elsewhere just in case their stay Here doesn’t suit them. Others give all their assets away. Others bring their assets but quickly find they are worthless Here.”

“Worthless, Charlie? How can that be?”

“We have no currency, in the normal sense, nor need of one. We all have a decent house to live in.”

“But what happens if someone wants more? A bigger, fancier house and nicer furniture? How can one earn such things?”

“Well first, with our basic food, clothing, medical, education, and housing needs covered at such nice levels, many people are perfectly satisfied with them.”

“But you haven’t answered my question, Charlie.”

“Patience, my friend. I was just getting to that part. People can certainly obtain such things Here, but they don’t “earn” them in the normal sense. They are indirectly given to them.”

“There you go again, evading my question.”

“Not at all, for you see, every person Here is given a thousand Appreciation Credits per year to use however they want, except on themselves and their immediate family.”

“Except…?”

“Yes. Stakeholders Here find others who are especially kind, pleasant, cheerful, productive, helpful, conscientious, diligent, etc, and reward them with Appreciation Credits. In that way, the people Here who are the most beneficial and appreciated are also rewarded for their extra efforts.”

“Wow! I could see how that could incentivize people who want more than the basics. Is my suite an example of basic living accommodations?”

“Yes. The basic standard of living is very high Here. No one lives in poverty.”

“So from what I’ve seen of the basics so far they do indeed appear to be quite nice. Can the Appreciation Credits one receives from others Here be used for sending children to college?”

“That’s not necessary. Quality education is free Here. We all win when everyone’s potential is unleashed by a high quality education. But educations are earned Here. One’s quality of education is in direct relation to one’s effort and demonstrated results. It isn’t a free ride.”

“Speaking of free rides, how do you handle freeloaders Here, Charlie?”

“That’s simple. We have none. To take without giving would be unkind and as I mentioned earlier one must be kind to remain a stakeholder Here. Everyone is free to pursue their passions so long as their passions don’t harm others and do contribute Here in some way. We’ve found that when people do what they love, they do it eagerly and tend to do it well. Nearly all people, if given the choice of doing what they love that is also beneficial to others, or doing nothing and sitting at home, will ultimately do what they love. We help them find ways to do what they love that will also help Here.

“But what about jobs that are so boring or dirty that no one wants to do them?”

“Excellent question! We’ve been able to automate a lot of them. For the rest, many people help out with the worst tasks to lighten the load of such jobs. Additionally people who choose to do those jobs and do them well and cheerfully tend to get rewarded very well in Appreciation Credits by everyone else. For example, janitors, busboys, dishwashers, and the like are often some of the best “compensated” folks Here.”

“No wonder they all seem so happy, Charlie.”

“Being respected, valued, and compensated for a job well done can go a long way toward happiness.”

“What about taxes? Let me guess, you don’t need them Here, right?”

“Right. And each Stakeholder gets to vote on how the money from the endowment is spent each year. We add up the votes for the various potential budget items and prorate expenditures based on the votes, so we never go over budget, and every Stakeholder knows their votes truly count Here. In fact we not only don’t go over budget, we often have a sizable surplus. Many Stakeholders vote to hold back some of their spending proration for reserves in case in some future years something may come up that would require more than the endowment payout for that year. We want to ensure we always have enough for a given year because we cannot touch the principal in the trust, only the annual payout amounts.

“It’s clear no one is forced to come. Can anyone leave at any time?”

“Of course! By the way, I’ll bet you’ve figured out by now why we try to keep Here a secret.”

“You probably don’t want to be overrun by tens of thousands of people trying to immediately move Here, right.”

Charlie smiled and nodded. “Exactly!”

“So how does one get invited to become a Stakeholder?”

“We watch for people who are especially kind, help others, and have skills we need. People like you, Ron. Are you interested?”

“I’ve never been more interested in anything in my life. How soon can I start?”

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About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 4 young grandsons. I manage a wealth management firm I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of 23 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and enjoying our small redwood grove and fern garden.
This entry was posted in Abundance, Community, Connection/Connecting, Contentment, My Beliefs, Optimism, Short Stories, Teamwork, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Here”

  1. This is a delightful read. Sigh. If only we had a Here and people learned to be more kind. ❤

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