I invite you to imagine this. One day you travel to an Island, “The Island of Amazonia” where the entire population is trying to sell you their story, be it fact or fiction. They may even have a few stories for sale. Some will be short whilst others will be long. Some will be funny whilst others will be sad. Although every story will be different, everyone will have a story to sell.
You don’t know most of the inhabitants or heard of their stories. You’ll only have heard of the celebrities, those whose stories are well-known outside of the Island. Chances are, you have come to see the celebrities and buy their stories. Unlike other nations, the celebrities on this Island are not hard to find. As soon as you get off the plane you will be greeted by the them. Like everyone else on the Island, they will tell you a brief introduction about themselves and hope you’ll buy their work before you leave. The celebrities are the most important source of income for the Island’s government; outsiders know their work and are far more likely to purchase their work than the work of the inhabitants further away on the Island. If they do buy their work, the government will take anything from 30% to 70% of the fee in taxation.
Without the celebrities, the Island would be very poor. Therefore, the celebrities are always in the airport, because they make the most money for the government. The celebrities often change and occasionally someone from the further reaches of the Island would be invited into the airport to sell their work after rising to fame. This was rare as it required visitors to leave the airport to discover them, a similarly rare occurrence.
There are millions of visitors to this Island every day and without visitors, the Island would soon decay and cease to exist. The living population of the Island is a little over five million. Not all visitors come to the Island to sponsor an inhabitant, many come merely to sample some of the inhabitant’s stories before leaving again on the plane. Visitors don’t give their money out easily; the natives know this all too well. Most know you will probably not make it out of the airport before returning home. For most visitors, there is no need to explore the rest of the Island, it is a barren yet densely populated place. The visitors know the best stories are often found conveniently in the airport which is why those far away can remain idle for days, months, even years; without ever meeting a visitor.
There are ways for desperate inhabitants to make it inside the airport, or at least closer to its shiny polished floors and neatly dressed inhabitants. It requires money, something which those outside the airport rarely have in abundance. For a price, anyone can buy their way into the airport. The government accepts bribes to allow you in─ if you pay for your stay. This will guarantee people to hear your pitch, it does not, by any means, guarantee any buyers of your work. Being closer to the airport or even getting to the very epicentre of its thriving heart still won’t make you a celebrity and you’ll probably stick out like a sore thumb for the duration of your stay.
You’ve come to see the celebrities. Everyone else is a mere distraction and unless their plea is something special, you will keep walking past them and forget them in an instant. The celebrities are the wealthy few and many arrive with the sole intention of purchasing stories from them and leaving on the plane immediately after. It is unlikely you will ever see the vast majority of people or hear their pleas, even if you devoted your life to it. Few travel to the Island and sponsor those without endorsements, from previous travellers. If a traveller likes an inhabitant they can endorse them, thus, you─ are a very special guest and you can help them get closer to the airport, but you won’t. You’ve come to see the celebrities.
No one is born on the Island. Nor does anyone move here on a whim. It can take years of planning and hard work to reach the Island. It is a strange place if you make it, there are few children and no pets. Most inhabitants are older than forty and your work must first be approved by the government before you’re allowed take up residency on the Island. This isn’t the hard part; nor is the hard part making the work you’ll be selling. The hardest part is selling. The Island is only a few years old but is growing day by day, people arrive with such smiles on their faces, such hope, such blissful unawareness to what life on the Island is really like for most. Sometimes I want to tell them to turn back, but it’s too late. Once you make it to the Island, you’ll never leave. You can, but you won’t. You’ve spent too long trying to make it here to ever even consider leaving.
Many of the inhabitants on the Island are dead. Nonetheless, the government will still want your sales, unless they’ve been dead for a very long time, then they’ll probably just give out their work for free. One of the perks of going to the Island is this illusion of immortality. No one truly dies on the Island; your stories sell long after death. If the Island remains, so will you, forever bound to sell and be sold to the Island’s constant stream of visitors. Of course, if you never received many sponsorships in life, it’s unlikely you’ll receive many when you die.
I know this Island well, because I myself, am an inhabitant. In a favela of hundreds of thousands far away from the rich airport capital, I see little to no visitors. I dream of getting closer to the capital but it’s impossible to get past the strict border patrols set out by the government to allow the highest grossing inhabitants more accessible access to the visitors. Life is never easy on the favelas on the western side of the Island., hundreds of miles away from the affluent east. I only moved to the Island six months ago, after two years of hard work, and already I’ve begun to question why I ever bothered coming to the Island. Then I remember that I didn’t come to the Island to make money, I came to share my story. Every now and then I like to go out and offer my story for free to tourists who sometimes take me up on the offer. The government doesn’t like this. They rely on tax income to fund the airport, to keep making it bigger and to keep making their own pockets deeper. Thus, I only give out my story free for one or two days every couple of months.
I’ve seen people spend their whole lives trying to become an inhabitant. Rarely hearing or seeing anything other than the celebrities who adorn magazine covers and television screen, thus having a contorted view of the Island. They don’t hear how some might go their whole life on the Island without making a single penny. If you want to move to the Island, you should be prepared for that.
The government here isn’t made up of politicians but businessmen. There are no planes to this Island. There is no physical airport. The favela I live in is not one of poverty but one of forlornness and disappointment densely populated by storytellers. Of course, this Island isn’t a real country but it does, however, exist. Anyone with a smartphone can travel there. To the Island, the Island of The Amazon Kindle Store.