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Life under Hyperinflation
October 2, 2008 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Think you've got problems caused by economic meltdown? "Yesterday I had a balance in my account of $2,000 (at old value that is 20 trillion dollars / $20,000,000,000,000.00). This account is dormant, untouched for months. This morning I find I owe the bank $500,000 in service fees for one month’s bank charges to hold my $2,000. This is no joke." This is life in Zimbabwe under hyperinflation.

Half of Zimbabwe is dependent on UN humanitarian aid.

How Zimbabwe lost control of inflation.
posted by contessa (13 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I heard people were using gasoline as currency.
posted by delmoi at 9:59 AM on October 2, 2008


Umm, you do not want to look at the flickr album that is linked on that site.
posted by Craig at 10:08 AM on October 2, 2008


Oh, Craig! I wouldn't have looked if you hadn't have pointed it out. I regret the click now.
The flickr album documents abuse in Zimbabwe - the photos are images of people who have been beaten so much that they're missing chunks of flesh, etc.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 10:12 AM on October 2, 2008


See also AskMe's opinion on how the hyperinflation problem could possibly be solved, and its (controversial) opinion on how you too can become a Zimbabwe billionaire.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:25 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Umm, you do not want to look at the flickr album that is linked on that site.

If you ignore it, it's like it's not even happening!
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:28 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is what happens when you fail to google Ron Paul.
posted by DU at 10:31 AM on October 2, 2008


Umm, you do not want to look at the flickr album that is linked on that site.

I'm not going to be able to get those images out of my head now. To be sure, the economic situation is just one of the many horrors of the brutal Mugabe regime.
posted by contessa at 10:31 AM on October 2, 2008


That was the most hardcore flickr blog widget I've ever seen. And it has a great story behind it.

sorry.
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:34 AM on October 2, 2008


on 1 August 1946, the forint was introduced at a rate of 400 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 or 4×1029 pengő...
posted by Wolfdog at 11:09 AM on October 2, 2008


If you ignore it, it's like it's not even happening!

Nobel Prize for Looking at Pictures
posted by roll truck roll at 12:23 PM on October 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


I was lucky enough to go to Zimbabwe in the summer of 2001-ish, primarily to see Victoria Falls with my family. We had gone to South Africa first, to Cape Town to visit an old friend of my mother. He told us some of the hardships and history of South Africa, but on the whole the places we went weren't too much different from the stable world I knew in California. Add in the Mediterranean climate, and I could be fooled at times I wasn't that far away. The exchange rate in South Africa was favorable for us as visitors from the United States, but never really that foreign.

But Zimbabwe was visibly different. Where South Africa had some large buildings where each room was a different person selling different crafted goods or a unified shop run by white folks charging higher prices, Zimbabwe had people lining any tourist-busy street, each person having an item or two to offer, and at a fraction of the prices we paid in South Africa. Also, we didn't see any children trying to sell things to tourists in South Africa. After hiking up a pretty steep hill from the end of a river rafting trip, there was a little boy who wanted to trade my sister her cheap river-rafting water-shoes for the carved item he had.

I knew Zimbabwe wasn't doing well financially, but I didn't put much mind to it until our tour guide offered to exchange some of our US Dollars for us, telling us the banks had a bad exchange rate. Up to this point, I had never thought of black market money exchanges. Then again, to me, bargaining and haggling for prices is a bit weird to me, too. But this was different. And apparently that was nothing.

We stayed in Zimbabwe for a few days, went rafting on a beautiful river, had touristy fun, and saw Victoria Falls at sunrise. It was beautiful, and we left, back to my little patch of stability.

Now I'm going to buy a soda with a debit card, and feel a little distant from the world.

If you ignore it, it's like it's not even happening!

I'm trying.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:25 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


“This is what happens when you fail to google Ron Paul.”

I know this is a serious topic, but that was pretty funny.

“But Zimbabwe was visibly different.”

Buddy of mine always took ballpoint pens to impoverished areas to give to kids instead of candy. They can sell them or whatever and it doesn’t rot their teeth.
Anyway, he said there’s a stark difference between impoverished areas where kids mob him for stuff and people try to hawk their things and the areas where people don’t have the calories in their diet to even get up and beg. Surreal coming back. And indeed, the problem is staggering. And there’s always violence in such areas. I don’t think anyone has to look at images of brutality to know there’s a problem (given their inclination to help in the first place). On the other hand sometimes one needs that visceral reaction for motivation. But even with the best intent, there are still the callous and brutal blocking the way. Do you kill them? Buy them off? Hope to evade them? Or appeal to their better natures? In the face of that chaos we all tend to lose some of our voice and reason and just say “Fuck, what can I do?”
I really don’t know. The problem is well beyond me. I give to some charities and NGOs and trust in that extension of compassion.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:26 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wrote about Zim here before. Also that MeTa thread linked above is mine, and you can find my flickr album from Zim linked in it as well.

I think I'm tired about it. In general. You're aware of and perhaps even involved in a massive societal problem like that for so long, and nothing ever really changes, and its so far removed from most of the world, and it rarely bubbles up to the surface of the news media. And after a while you just get tired - its the same thing day after day. Nobody really cares enough to levy sanctions, or rally outside the UN, or do whatever they might have in their capacity to help put an end to the suffering. Not even me - even I am complicit in some sense in that flickr album. Even me.

I think you need to take that feeling of tired helplessness, cube it a few times, and you'll have something close to what the residents of Zim feel on a daily basis. Imagine waking up and trying to figure out how you're going to afford to buy food for your family that day. Most of us in the western world have never had that as a waking thought, although a very few of us might have been somewhat close to it in our lives (my parents were of little means when I was young, although I never went hungry). Imagine having that as a waking thought every goddamn day. Imagine that emotional weight.

Zim is a country of very tired people.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:53 AM on October 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


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