Suppose you had a special place to call your very own. A realm where you were accountable to no one, where you could say and do anything you please, or say and do nothing. A universe whose events center on you, recorded for posterity by endless photo-ops that dazzle an adoring public. A garden kept green by showers of money falling constantly, just for you. A domain where you alone define reality and dissent is unthinkable.
Let’s call it DebLand.
Let’s locate DebLand in the far northwest corner of a large, old Midwestern city. In the real world such a location would have age-related infrastructure problems. Its business districts would be crumbling and its tax base eroding as revenue-producing retail shops were replaced by nonprofits, social service agencies, and service businesses exempt from sales and/or property taxes. Its businesses would demand special concessions on taxes and licensing, especially if the business owners themselves were responsible for damaging commerce and affecting profitability.
In the real world, property owners would be overburdened by taxes and fees. The area would be transitioning from a stable, middle-class American community to a neighborhood with a large population of new immigrants, mostly poorer, many less educated, who find stability by recreating the cultures and traditions of their home countries. The downside of multiculturalism would be evident: ethnic rivalries, attempts by the largest minority to dominate and control other groups, religious and cultural misunderstandings, and the struggle of its newest residents to gain a foothold while long-established residents resist and resent the eradication of an orderly and peaceful way of life.
Real-world concerns don’t intrude in DebLand. What the queen chooses not to see does not exist. Here, all is well.
DebLand is a magical world of streets teeming with shoppers who come from all over the world to buy phone cards and cucumbers. The stretch of Devon affectionately known as the Pigeon Promenade attracts hordes of awed tourists. Historians, anthropologists, and students are drawn to the many vacant lots, visualizing the land as Native Americans must have seen it, digging through layers of garbage for artifacts of lost civilizations. Visitors enjoy a snack while reading the newspapers and comics papering the doors and windows of the many empty storefronts. Traffic gridlock allows time to admire the architecture of vacant buildings unencumbered by commerce or signs of life. Newcomers learn to play a local game, “What Business Is This?,” by taking turns guessing which of the many signs above storefront doors is the right one.
DebLand is shared with a part-time king. The queen’s money showers water his garden, too. Donors seed those money clouds directly, indirectly, and sometimes even through a higher power (known as The Mayor). Money buys influence, and lots of money buys lots of influence. The money goes around and around, from The Mayor to the king to the queen to The Mayor to the queen to the king to The Mayor to the queen, with lots of stops in between for minor royalty like unions, real estate developers, business owners, influence peddlers, and other politicians. The original donors become untraceable but are always known to those who need to know. Anyone who’d describe this as almost another form of money laundering would be wrong. People without gardens are always critical.
The queen’s weekly address to her people is a litany of her accomplishments, complete with smiling photographs showing her at her ceremonial best. Carefully orchestrated events that create photo-ops and goodwill are the queen’s specialty, and she never hesitates to credit herself for all the wonders of the realm.
To journey through DebLand is to be dazzled, dazed, and occasionally dumbfounded.
Just keep reminding yourself that it’s all fake.
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