A Crime of Specie

It’s always been interesting to me how something quotidian from another land can take on a quality of wonderment in another. The erasure of that which is day-to-day may be innocent and unlamented at home, yet constitute an act of thoughtless cultural violence in a different country. This was and still is the Crime of the Euro: the introduction in the participating nations in retail commerce of uniform denominations and watered-down “national” paper currency and specie.

Francs and marks and all the rest may be scarcely remembered in their native lands, but the removal from the consciousness of the world of the old nationally -denominated wealth of images and palpable indicia of far-away lands robbed and pauperized us all. Economic necessity has broken an ancient chain of magic and wonder. Dreams and tales for kids of all ages have been hacked to bits in what to me is a cultural crime of immense proportions.

Children of my generation in this country (and I think many others) could hold the coins and bills of the Euro nations in their hands. The shillings and kroner of story books carried us to a lands of present wonder and fantastic history. The denominations with such strange names and idiosyncratic systems ascending value spawned innumerable romantic lives. Pesetas and lire spurred our minds onwards: each of us might one day travel to the lands we so fully imagined. The people we would meet, the site’s we’d see: so many were measured and counted in those colorful and magical bills and coins.

The Euro’s hegemony has also destroyed a critical piece of the mystery of stamp collecting: long gone now are the magic denominations that took millions of wanderers so far, far away, though still at our desks in our bedrooms or sunk deep in the comfy armchair of our mind’s eye. The Euro’s symbol on each brief-mark dampens the mystery of what was far away. The EU has joined the ranks of Napoleon and the Roman emperors, guilty as charged with the extinction of local measures and national coin.

We can still read of the glorious past, but the future beckons in a more colorless way. The Americanization of the world and international branding have impoverished our souls, but the crime of the Euro is more noxious by far. Beggaring our imagination was and remains a capital offense.

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