Some throw the money out the windows, others set it on fire to get into space. And this week, the state even offered to ‘scratch’ its rise to fortune. at the mercy of global warming. Money rules the world, it is well known. But not in a small corner of the Eastern Townships, where old rebels give life to a world without money, a kind of snub to the beard of big capital. Welcome to Utopia.
A discreet poster, planted across a gravel path, appears at the bend of a small road in Sainte-Cécile-de-Whitton, in the Eastern Townships. “Be careful, from this point you leave Dystopia and enter Utopia. Welcome ! »Trumpets the sign to visitors.
Utopia? It is the name of the small “trade” created a few years ago by Gilles Bernier and Lois Devereaux, a free store where money has no smell and even less color. In this paradise of donation and barter, neither dough nor sorrel are welcome.
No question of extending a twenty to leave with finds under the arm. “Some come with empty hands, others who leave with full hands. There is no obligation. None ”, insists Gilles Bernier, founder of Utopia and troublemaker assumed by overconsumption.
Children of Expo 67, the utopian and his beauty have decided to lead by example by putting their anti-consumerist ideals to the test. At Utopia, anyone can drop off objects and other unused trinkets or leave with one or more items, as long as they leave their wallet securely in their pocket.
“This morning, 17 people came. Only one had things to give. The others all took objects. For me, they are all good customers! “
The reverse of the coin
To reverse the steam of a system that runs empty, to prolong the life of objects demoted by the fashion of the day, to sow the idea of a world where the gift and the exchange are worth their weight in gold, it is the credo of these two sixty-year-old beatniks who open the doors of their concentrate of utopia to a background of reggae music every Saturday.
Under Che’s eye, the bulk of the jackpot to give is piled up in their anti-shop. Coffee machine, paintings, porcelain, vases, lamps vintage and other trinkets are offered on the fly, not to the highest bidder.
Some objects display “barter”: a rare snag in the ideal of complete free access, established to prevent tricksters from passing their coins on Kijiji and other cybermarkets. ” It’s already arrived ; it breaks our whole philosophy. So for a few specific items, people are instead offered to barter something of the same value in exchange. There is no gain to be made here, ”smiles Gilles.
That day, a food processor, a small espresso machine and a lamp with a scalloped shade that the props designer would not have denied. The little life were among the candidates for barter.
Everything is to be taken for whoever wants it, even a portrait of Christ seeming to implore heaven to fall on a convert. “That people pay for something that has been given annoys me. Here, generosity goes all the way and benefits 100% to the person who receives it. In fact, people give more knowing that no one will make any money with their donations. My salary is fun, ”insists the retired teacher who reigns over Utopia.
It does not have a price
On Saturday, new visitors auscultate the merchandise with a timid eye. In one corner, a fallen Christmas tree and mismatched plates and glasses are offered as pasture. After beating around the bush, some people are quietly asking the owner’s ear for the price. “Free! Take what you want, ”insists our antifric guru, leaving the onlooker a bit incredulous.
It is because we do not fall so quickly into utopia, even if only for a few minutes. Hard, hard to stifle reflexes buried under the cortex from diapers. Everything has to be paid for, small pleasures as well as big ones. “It sure confuses the first time,” he said. We are conditioned to pay for everything. For others, it is pride that works them; if they don’t pay, they feel like they’re less than nothing. “
Sweet irony: this little haunt of free admission to all winds thrives two stone’s throw from Lac-Mégantic, where the drifts of the market have allowed a train stuffed with oil to wipe the heart of everyone off the map in a flash. a community. We would become utopians for less than that.
People give more knowing that no one will make money with their donation. My salary is fun.
“It started with a simple garage sale in Nantes, the village next door. Our table was called “Good Riddance” and everything was free, explains Lois, the bubbly co-founder of Utopia. It made people in such a good mood that we decided to do it again every year. “
By dint of success, the couple ended up repeating the tradition every summer Saturday, and camping their plot of utopia on their plot of land. “It becomes a party when there are a lot of people, laughs Gilles, distributing tomato plants to whoever wants it. The greatest pleasure is the one we give to people. “
The idea did not come out of nowhere. The first free stores flourished after the recession of 2009, especially in Latin America where these big-hearted bazaars were called “ freebies “,” Free fairs “. The idea is to invite people to get rid of the superfluous to benefit those who are in dire need. The model has since spread to Europe and flourished in several municipalities in Belgium and France, from Paris to Marseille, via Toulouse.
Stock per ton
Before leaving to return to “dystopia”, our two disciples of Bob Marley urge us to leave with an object, just to honor the surrounding karma. The photographer will inherit a home-knitted rasta wig, and I, a small watering can abandoned a few days earlier by Mr.me Bertrand, a faithful who has just set foot in the store. “This is the ultimate gift. See who is benefiting from your generosity. This is the kind of virtuous circle that we want to create ”, welcomes our utopian.
If a fraction of the annual 722 kilograms thrown away per person were recycled, reused or donated in this way, a beginning of utopia would be possible, Lois thinks. Some 50,000 tons of various objects and furniture were abandoned as wrecks on the sidewalks of Montreal on 1is last july. More than 210,000 tonnes of “bulky” (large objects) are thrown in the garbage in Quebec, 138% more than 10 years ago. No wonder Canadians (after Americans) are the world champions in the production of waste per head of pipe. Extract, use, throw away. And once more.
The idealists of Sainte-Cécile-de-Whitton are well aware that they are just a drop in the face of the turbulent ocean of planetary overconsumption. “It’s true that we’re just a grain of sand,” Gilles says, winking sideways. But sometimes it takes just a little grain to make a whole mechanism squeak. “
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