I watched the newest version of the classic Robin Hood tale over the weekend. In Ridley Scott’s latest adaptation, Russell Crowe starts off as a simple soldier trying to get home, but his noble and honest character puts him in the middle of a struggle between the king and his aristocracy, who are fighting over control of their ample resources (while the peasants starve of course).
Robin Hood taking aim….
While it was a fun movie, its depiction of the Robin Hood myth suggests an individual who is thrust into a battle that he neither sought nor truly cared about (until he realized—SPOILER ALERT—that this same struggle led to the death of his father, and that defeating the king was the only way to protect his new love interest). So in the end, a charismatic individual who had flexed his hero muscles only in the context of unjust battles against innocent Muslims or dwellers of castles needing to be sacked, was suddenly given a cause and became a true hero.
Compare that with a recent modern-day story of Robin Hood, where an individual fights a corrupt system knowing full well that he will bear the wrath of his enemies once the campaign is done. But let’s change the story a bit. Instead of Robin, our protagonist will be named Enric Duran. And instead of Nottingham, he’ll live in the small kingdom of Catalonia, currently part of the larger kingdom of Spain, which itself is part of the relatively benign empire of the European Union. And so the tale begins:
Once upon a time, Enric Duran discovered a secret door into a giant bank vault where he could easily steal hundreds of thousands of Euros, the currency of the time. This vault, called by subjects “the banking system,” was known to be stimulating the consumption of goods by peons in order to increase wealth to the aristocracy. However, as was known across the land, this giant “Ponzi Scheme” (as it was known in the local parlance) was rapidly undermining the Earth’s ecological systems and contributing significantly to the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people (although some court advisors put this number even higher, given that the abacuses of the time made pinpointing the exact number difficult).
So Enric, knowing that sometimes what is just differs from what is legal, opened that secret door. Of course, the door wasn’t exactly unguarded: Enric had to fill out many forms and talk with many “credit agents” to secure passage into the little room where he could withdraw all that money. But Enric played the game, assuming the guise of a computer programmer who was looking to borrow money to start a new business, and promised the credit agents that he would make even more money to put in the bank’s vault. Here, from the archives, is an actual clip of Enric practicing his ruse:
After many encounters and contests, Enric succeeded, extracting more than 600,000 Euros from the banks’ holds. And, like his namesake, he then gave most of the extricated funds to charities of his day, including a strange philosophical movement called “Décroissance” whose believers were trying to bring about the “Degrowth” of the global economy (and also see page 181 of State of the World 2010), which as all subjects knew was a blasphemous wish second to none. In total, these donations came to 492,000 Euros (poor Enric had to subtract legal fees and other expenses—this is a modern version of Robin Hood after all).
Enric, being a bold hero, didn’t want to just quietly oppose the king and his court, but rather to draw additional bandits to his banner. He therefore declared to all the kingdom’s scribes and minstrels that he had just taken a half million Euros from the king, simply by walking in through the unguarded door and putting it all in his pocket, time and again.
Not surprisingly, few scribes were willing to publish that news—fearing the king’s reaction—and few people heard of this noble outlaw’s deeds (though some minstrels sang of his story). Also not surprisingly, Enric was quickly arrested by the kingdom’s guard. However, he evaded authority and fled to Sherwood Forest (conveniently located outside of Spain’s boundaries) to avoid being jailed, being known from then on as “Robin Bank.”
Today, living on the fringes of society—perhaps where the squatters and the ecovillagers dwell—Robin Bank continues to fight the kingdom. Now, of course, he’ll surely find that the door to the kingdom’s coffers is barred, at least to him. However, it might be open to others—including some who may have taken up his cause—such as Friar Tuck, the honey entrepreneur who needs a loan to buy more hives, and Little John, who wants a car loan to buy the Hummer he’s always craved. (Wink.)
Of course, the banks won’t know the truth until it’s too late: that these, too, are outlaws stealing Euros to redistribute to those trying to degrow the economy and create a just and sustainable culture, where basic needs are met and the Earth’s systems aren’t undermined by consumerist impulses. And if the future Friar Tucks and Little Johns succeed? Then perhaps, we’ll live happily ever after.