We All Share the Same World

"We all share the same world, and we breathe the same air, and the water we drink must be cycled with care. We are closer together than ever suspected, for all things on earth are interconnected." I wrote those words well over twenty years ago. They were lyrics waiting for a tune. They were part of a musical I hoped one day to see produced. And then lots of other things happened, and I put that project aside.

Sometimes the words to a song have to wait a long time before they find the right music. I became acquainted with Daniel Carter on Hubpages last fall. He was a composer looking for a playwright and lyricist to collaborate on a musical. I sent him an excerpt from my play The Debt Collector, which included the lyrics to "We All Share the Same World." He wrote a beautiful, haunting melody just right for the words. Listen to it yourself, below, as sung by Colleen Dick, (Hot Dorkage on Hubpages). The piano accompaniment is by Anita Hammond, a friend of mine from grad school, who prefers a guitar, but is great on the piano, too. Except for Anita and me, who went to Rice together, the rest of us have never met in person, and it's all thanks to Hubpages and the internet that this collaborative effort came into being.

We All Share the Same World

"We All Share the Same World" is meant to convey two conflicting points of view, and in The Debt Collector it is sung by two characters: Siren and Blood. Siren is a social worker trying to protect the interests of the downtrodden, and Blood is the Debt Collector, a vigilante enforcer of contracts operating outside the law. The beginning of the song expresses Siren's world outlook, and the part starting with "It is true what you say" all the way to the end of the song is Blood's take on the issues.

Below is a synopsis of the play.

A Synopsis of THE DEBT COLLECTOR

I came up with the idea for The Debt Collector while practicing law in Grand Prairie, Texas in the 1980s. Most of my clients were below the poverty line, as was I, for that matter. Many of the cases I regularly took were the sorts of cases other lawyers only accepted pro bono, after they were done with their paying customers whom they billed by the hour. I was paid a flat fee, or when the law allowed, a percentage.

Texas is a debtor state, or it was at the time, which meant that almost everything was exempt. As such, it was impossible to legally collect an unsecured debt. What I saw in my practice was that creditors are not always rich and debtors are not always poor, and the laws that were in effect to protect the "meek" from the "wealthy" in fact operated to protect the shifty from the upright, and to tempt everyone to try to short change everyone else. There was no such thing as debtor prison, except in the case of child support.

In those days, women were encouraged to divorce their husbands and apply for welfare, while AFDC eventually went after the hapless ex-husbands, and garnished their wages or imprisoned them -- not to pay for the children's upkeep, but to reimburse the State for its trouble.

Poor parents who refused to go on the dole were threatened with criminal negligence and the loss of their children. Landlords who offered an inexpensive place to live were prevented from evicting non-paying tenants due to humanitarian considerations. Rental income was considered "unearned" by the IRS and landlords were effectively kept out of the social security game.

In the end, everyone who tried to behave responsibly was thwarted and anyone who wanted to skate by was encouraged, and all in the name of brotherly love, charity and the "best interest of the child."

How much of that is still true today? I don't know. I left it all behind me when I went to grad school in 1991. Many of the details may have changed, but I think that the big picture is probably still the same.

At the time, I felt helpless to change the situation. So I invented the Debt Collector, somebody who could make it all better, because his hands were not tied with red tape.

Today's Market

Does The Debt Collector stand a chance of being produced? It always seemed highly unlikely, back when I first wrote it, and in the decades that followed, but then it never had music before. Daniel Carter has written some amazing compositions to go with my lyrics, each piece different, and each one just right for the words. I'm feeling optimistic.

And even if the dream of producing the musical has to be deferred for yet a while, I feel that this song in particular -- "We All Share the Same World " -- has the potential of transcending the play and making a place for itself among the songs that people sing.


(c) 2010 Aya Katz

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Comments 23 comments

nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana

Something confused me about your hub.

Are you saying that the IRS was oppressing landlords by considering their income unearned? Weren't you just complaining about the fact that AdSense income is earned?

I suppose the landlords could have gotten around this problem by paying themselves a salary.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nets, I'm not complaining that the IRS was oppressing the landlords by declaring their income unearned. The landlords were often happy about that at the time, because they didn't have to pay a regressive social security tax. (Later, they may have regretted it, when inflation ate into their savings and market fluctuations ate into the value of their real estate, and the thing that they thought was their nest egg entirely evaporated.)

I don't actually want to speak of any of this as "oppression". People had choices. They made their choices, and then they lived with them. This play is about possibly making better choices. But it's always up to the individual. Sometimes the best choice of all is to ignore the government entirely.

The term "unearned income" is irksome, simply as a way to suggest that certain ways of earning money are less legitimate than others.

The social security game is a dirty one, so it's nice to be able to opt out. Having the law treating some people one way and others another way, however, is not okay.


nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana

I don't want to defend silly laws or anything like that, but the IRS would insist it does not treat different people differently. After all, they treat the tenants' rental income as unearned, too.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Nets, for acting as a helpful devil's advocate. Of course, the problem with this version of treating everyone the same is that it might encourage all people to be tenants (if having unearned income is bad) or, alternatively, all people to be landlords (if having unearned income is good.)

But we can't possibly have a world of all tenants or all landlords, so this will mean the destruction of that particular transaction as something that is a viable way of doing business or co-existing.

The problem that much of The Debt Collector addresses is the way in which one side of every contract is made out to be a villainous exploiter, while the other party to the contract is seen as a victim in need of protection. To which Blood replies: "Two sides to every contract, two partners for each dance, a choice that's made deliberately, not left to sloth or chance."


nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana

Aya,

The first two paragraphs of your response are very interesting. I think they deserve further reflection.

It isn't hypothetical that the IRS treats rental income

as unearned. It certainly does that. The IRS does other

things which may distort the rental market, like deductions for mortgage interest and various rules about

depreciation. Municipalities do even more destructive things like the rent controls in places like Berkeley

and New York City.

All of these things are real and affect the rental markets somewhat. Nevertheless, they never seem to

cause ALL people to be tenants or ALL people to be landlords. (As you said in your response

might happen.) Rather a rental market continues to

exist. It is universally impossible to collect

on unsecured debt,

( See here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Debt_Collection_...

)

nevertheless unsecured borrowing and

lending continues and is a huge industry.

Why do you suppose that is?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

I don't know, Nets. Why is that?


nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana

Aya,

Do you really not know?


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

Hi Aya - I'm not familiar with the nitty gritties of debt collection in your country. All I know is that I just listened to a wonderful song that rises above the particular to the universal. The music, the singing and of course, the words - just beautiful! Should I say See you in Broadway? :)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nets, I really don't know, although I can guess. I think it might have something to do with the fact that the lenders are not lending their own money, and they expect to be bailed out every time they go under. But if there is another explanation, I can't possibly think what it could be.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Shalini, thanks for that heartfelt vote of confidence. I'm so glad you liked the song! Colleen has a beautiful voice, Daniel has written a haunting melody, and I really like it, too!


Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 6 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Without getting into the particulars of debt collecting, per se, I see no reason why you cannot be successful. The music and lyrics are beautiful. I can't imagine a hub about your play, and beautiful song, would deteriorate into a political diatribe and lecture about the IRS.

Please.

Namaste Katz.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Deborah! I'm glad you liked the song.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nets, if you have a point to make, why not make it? Do you have an alternative explanation as to why the lending/borrowing market and the rental market continue to function, besides unnatural interference in the market that counters natural risk aversion on the part of investors and property owners? If you do, you could just say so.

There are all sorts of interesting lending scenarios available, such as the Grameen foundation that lends out smalls sums of money to groups of people in developing nations.

I read in Newsweek that they collect 15% interest on loans, which I thought was pretty good, and I was even thinking how much higher it was than the interest I get at the bank. But then I thought about the risk involved!

BTW, I denied the link you posted to that lending organization, because I was afraid that I might be penalized by Hubpages for that link, as being too commercial.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 6 years ago from The Land of Tractors

I enjoyed your song immensely. It reflects a political viewpoint so I understand why you are getting a reaction, but isn't that just a sign that it is doing the work of art? Your talent is formidable and it was enjoyable to glimpse into your collaboration with fellow hubbers. Congrats, and I hope you are finding your bliss with HubPages and the other fascinating and off-the-beaten-path endeavors you are pursuing! Great job and congrats!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Wannabewestern, thanks so much for your comment. I'm glad you like the song! It is one of the great benefits of being on Hubpages to be able to make new friends and to find people we can collaborate with on projects that are near and dear to our heart.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 6 years ago

hi aya. came over from daniel's site. posted a long bravo there about how profound and complex this project is. I think your work reflects in external characters the internal conflict that goes on within us all; what freud referred to as id, ego and superego. I think we'd all like to believe that there is some perfect solution to all our problems that will be fair to everyone all the time; and sadly there isn't - yet, that's exactly as it should be.

(as an aside, the unsecured debtor gets his principle back 10 fold but he applies the payments to interest first so the principle sometimes doesn't get paid in full and as long as he's got 20+ other suckers paying interest he can still make the payment on his sportscar.)

(as another aside, i've always thought that HUD subsidized housing raised rent so high that no one can really afford to rent anymore)

I think wannabwestern is on to something. this is the kind of art that is enightening and freeing and provocative. thank you.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hi, KimH039, thanks for your insightful comment. I do think fairness is possible, but it does not necessarily mean that we all get exactly what we want or that we can eat our cake and have it, too. It's an ideal to strive for, but it doesn't require that all conflicts will automatically be resolved once fairness is achieved. At the end of THE DEBT COLLECTOR, the characters behave more decently toward one another, but they don't turn into angels or reformed characters. There are still underlying conflicts.

You might have a good point there about the mode of operation of a successful unsecured creditor, but it kind of sounds like a pyramid scheme. What if he runs out of suckers? Isn't that when everything collapses?

I'm going to go check out your comment on Daniel's hub, too!


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 6 years ago

lol. i think that's where we are now; at the end of the pyramid scheme and all out of suckers!

a lot of folks get really worked up thinking things should always be fair. It was one of Albert Ellis' favorite irrational beliefs that people have that contributes to anxiety and depression. that's what the song reminded me of at the end. doesn't mean we can't strive for ideals!

can't wait to see more. Thanks.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

KimH039, yes, it does seem that we are approaching the end of the pyramid scheme. As for "fairness", a good part of the problem is that different people have different definitions. Some people see natural disasters, like flood or famine, as unfair, but that would only make sense if we thought someone was responsible for causing them. The kind of fairness that Blood is talking about is with regard to things that we as individuals can control in our dealings with others. The play explores these divergent views on what is fair.

Thanks again for your input. Hopefully we'll get another song demo out sometime in the next few months, and it'll be great to hear your take on it.


Kind Regards profile image

Kind Regards 6 years ago from Missouri Ozarks - Table Rock Lake

Aya Katz, I would love to see your play produced. You'll have to keep me informed if it does make it to the stage. I know there's a couple of playhouses in the Ozarks. I'd have to track down their names, but you likely already know of them. I wish so much I could listen to the song, but I have an older computer and dial-up, so videos don't load for me. I'll listen to it someday. Kind Regards


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Kind Regards, thanks so much for your comment and the heartfelt support. I do hope to see the play produced someday, but it may take quite some time before everything falls into place to make that possible. I'm so sorry that you didn't get to hear the song. I hope you get a chance to do so soon.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Here is a pub about another song from The Debt Collector:

http://www.pubwages.com/01/law-abiding-people-a-so...


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 3 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Here is yet another song from The Debt Collector:

http://www.pubwages.com/28/what-makes-a-welfare-mo...

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