The attraction to money is the purest form of love, untainted by the more unpleasant side-effects of human interaction such as communication. Have you ever tried fanning yourself with bank notes? Running your hands through a coffer full of coins? In the following essay I, Kaz Brekker, will argue that…

Dream of the Twelfth Labour, 2017

Acrylics on paper, 20 x 20 cm

In my dream I am adolescent Heracles having a prophetic dream about the twelfth labour. In search for the putrid Avernus I travel far south. The further I go the thicker the fog gets but there’s no stench to guide me to the entrance – on the contrary, I’m treated to the most exotic flower fragrance. After a while I spot a source of light in the mist and it soon leads me to a lavender field with a decorated crystal coffer towering above it. Inside the coffer there’s an enormous shriveled corpse – its chest being consumed by smokeless fire in complete silence. I realize this is the entrance to Hades I’ve been after and rejoice. Without delay I shatter the coffer and immediately wake up into the darkness of hell – as a naked youth. I remember a mad woman laughing in front of me. The shock breaks the spell and I wake up again marveling about the idea of unleashing hell upon the world as the only means of entering it.
Extreme poverty in America: read the UN special monitor's report
Philp Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has spent 10 days touring America. This is the introduction to his report
By Philip Alston

I have spent the past two weeks visiting the United States, at the invitation of the federal government, to look at whether the persistence of extreme poverty in America undermines the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens. In my travels through California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington DC I have spoken with dozens of experts and civil society groups, met with senior state and federal government officials and talked with many people who are homeless or living in deep poverty. I am grateful to the Trump administration for facilitating my visit and for its continuing cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council’s accountability mechanisms that apply to all states.

My visit coincides with a dramatic change of direction in US policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty. The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of Americans. The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by Donald Trump and speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes. It is against this background that my report is presented.

The United States is one of the world’s richest and most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.

I have seen and heard a lot over the past two weeks. I met with many people barely surviving on Skid Row in Los Angeles, I witnessed a San Francisco police officer telling a group of homeless people to move on but having no answer when asked where they could move to, I heard how thousands of poor people get minor infraction notices which seem to be intentionally designed to quickly explode into unpayable debt, incarceration, and the replenishment of municipal coffers, I saw sewage-filled yards in states where governments don’t consider sanitation facilities to be their responsibility, I saw people who had lost all of their teeth because adult dental care is not covered by the vast majority of programs available to the very poor, I heard about soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by opioids, and I met with people in Puerto Rico living next to a mountain of completely unprotected coal ash which rains down upon them, bringing illness, disability and death.

Of course, that is not the whole story. I also saw much that is positive. I met with state and especially municipal officials who are determined to improve social protection for the poorest 20% of their communities, I saw an energized civil society in many places, I visited a Catholic Church in San Francisco (St Boniface – the Gubbio Project) that opens its pews to the homeless every day between services, I saw extraordinary resilience and community solidarity in Puerto Rico, I toured an amazing community health initiative in Charleston, West Virginia that serves 21,000 patients with free medical, dental, pharmaceutical and other services, overseen by local volunteer physicians, dentists and others (Health Right), and indigenous communities presenting at a US-Human Rights Network conference in Atlanta lauded Alaska’s advanced health care system for indigenous peoples, designed with direct participation of the target group.

American exceptionalism was a constant theme in my conversations. But instead of realizing its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights. As a result, contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound.

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They were indeed what was known as ‘old money’, which meant that it had been made so long ago that the black deeds which had originally filled the coffers were now historically irrelevant. Funny, that: a brigand for a father was something you kept quiet about, but a slave-taking pirate for a great-great-great-grandfather was something to boast of over the port. Time turned the evil bastards into rogues, and rogue was a word with a twinkle in its eye and nothing to be ashamed of.
—  Terry Pratchett - Making Money

Name: Moneybag

Debut: Super Mario 64

Moneybag is a bag of money.

And look how precious it is! Do I even need to say it? “Eyes-In-A-Void Face” is the name of the game here. I guess I did need to say it. Moneybag deserves your love. Look at it! Look at every image the Mario Wiki has of it! Please!

That was nice, wasn’t it? I think so. But what’s not nice is the tragic tale that comes next… you see, Moneybags debuted in Super Mario 64, and so, they were of course brought back for Super Mario 64 DS. They then reappeared in New Super Mario Bros., which reused many assets from SM64DS…

And then they never came back! They never even got artwork of any kind! And now, this weird Mario enemy is lost forever. Why? Who would do this?!

Name: Coin Coffer

Debut: Super Mario 3D Land

There’s the culprit! Apprehend him! He’s got money, make him pay for his crimes!

…No. This isn’t right. It’s not Coin Coffer’s fault it was created to replace Moneybag. Coin Coffer never did anything wrong. In fact, it did a heck of a lot right! Eyes-In-A-Void EYES? That’s a new one! The frog resemblance is a whole lot of fun, as is the name! A coffer is a container for storing valuables-including money- and Coin Coffer literally coughs up its coins when Ground Pounded!

I guess I can see why the change was made… overall, Coin Coffer is simply a bit more creative, and a bigger bit more silly. But I still love Moneybag, and I always will. I hope Moneybag and Coin Coffer are friends.