How the money is made, or where it comes from is of little interest to us, just place it in our hand and its ‘home sweet home.” But the five dollar bill which is our lowest value paper bill has been to places that would make us shudder if only we knew. Paper money is made when engravers cut bill designs on a steel plate. The bill design goes to a printing plate on a printing press to be printed on special paper and that is how the journey of a five-dollar bill crisp and pure like a virgin without blemish begins but it does not stay unblemished for long.
Let us follow this brand new fiver the bank teller paid out to a customer who is one of the many who are passionate radio protesters but never show up for a street protest. The radio protester kept sniffing the smell of newness of the five dollar bill all the way to a fried chicken shop leaving family to “Pray for real nutritious food, God is good.” The chicken shop owner with that five-dollar bill buys fish from a passing vendor who jams the fiver into a tin can picked up from a stinky blocked gutter in Roseau where it had been deliberately discarded by an uncaring passerby.
The fiver is now covered with fish scales and smelly water but ends up in the hands of the bread shop sales clerk where the fishmonger buys her bread. The bread shop owner is a fanatical supporter of a political party and makes a donation. The party secretary simply hands the bill to a bothersome supporter with too many children who needs it to buy milk at the supermarket. The supermarket cashier shoves it in among the other fivers in the cash register which have come in from all and sundry sick or healthy et al, and then gives it out as part of a transaction to a civil servant who should be at work but slipped away to buy another bottle of the finest champagne she cannot afford for her friend’s birthday party. The civil servant spends it in the rich man’s store to buy something she does not need and the rich man hands it to his son for pocket change who promptly buys drugs with it from a dealer who loses it somewhere.
A stray dog finds it however and the mangy starving ‘man’s best friend’ drools over it moving aside as an unseeing shoe steps on it leaving traces of street dirt, then the sharp eye of a street beggar saves the face of the Queen from the walking sneakers and slippers everybody uses nowadays. The beggar who though a few moments past was sorrowfully asking for a ‘coin to buy a bread’ now with ‘ the dirty fiver in hand’ heads for the rum shop to buy a drink.
The life of the poor and outcast who drown their sorrows in drink, is fertile ground for those who wish to exploit them whilst hardship wreaks havoc on them. When they find themselves enriched by a five dollar bill they feel that they have arrived and will spend it with an air of making a statement to all those who have been putting them down.
This is an attitude that makes every rum shop owner happy and every politician with money feel some joy because vote buying becomes so cheap and easy. This rum shop owner takes the bill, lodges it among others in the bank, and the five dollar bill, crushed, filthy, soiled and perhaps even a “little drunk” (HA HA) is counted in by the expensively dressed bank teller who is so happy for being chosen for the job but whose perfumed fingers are already turning black from the corruption of the dirty money bills.
In a way money is a great unifier, for we are all united in purpose with a passion for finding it wherever it may take us and as fast as we possibly can. It has not however been called the “Root of all evil” for nothing, because it uses people and turns the minds of even the most mild into cauldrons of conflict and ferment. Money they say is like seawater, the more you drink the thirstier you get.
The honest pastor becomes a seeker of expensive birthday gifts from his congregation, the accountant steals from his employer, the merchant overprices his goods and the politician cannot believe how lucky God has made him or her to be in control of the treasury.
When people cannot find employment and that precious five dollar bill becomes more and more out of reach then the breakdown begins- of mind, soul and body and of course principles. In our Caribbean all the governments are talking about youth indiscipline but if we continue to hear of large numbers of dollar bills covertly moving through high places and sudden wealth to those in higher places, then the moral authority to correct disappears and though people generally do what those in authority tell them to, they also follow what those in authority seem to get away with, be it right or wrong and that five dollar bill may go to places that not only make us shudder but will collapse our principles as well.
As you read another five dollar bill is getting ready to leave the bank on its journey.