THE THIRD World Flea Market was a beehive of activity. Bamgambi from Gambia went over to Ahmed the oil merchant with his tin can. "May I have a quart of oil?"
"Of course my friend," said Ahmed, "That will be $10 in gold."
Bamgambi searched his pockets. "Last week it was $7."
"Ah," said Ahmed, "That was last week. But this week we have had to raise the prices because the First World is trying to take advantage of us."
"But I am of the Third World," Bamgambi said. "I can't afford to even pay $7 a quart."
"Well, you can blame it on the greedy Western merchants who are driving up the price every day. We Third World merchants have to stick together or the imperialists will have us by the throats."
"Excuse me Ahmed, I don't mean to be rude, but it seems to me that you have us by the throat. If you and I belong to the same world, why can't you sell me your oil at a more reasonable price?"
"Have you gone mad, Bamgambi? Do you realize that the colonialist power brokers would love that? If we charged you a lower price than we charged the West, they would look at you as a second-class citizen from the Third World. The only way you can get any respect is to pay the same price for oil as the major industrial dealers."
"I see your point, Ahmed, and forgive me for questioning your logic, but we are running out of gold very fast, and pretty soon we will be unable to buy even one cup of oil. Without oil, won't the industrial dealers think even less of us?"
"Bamgambi, all the oil merchants are aware of the hardship our prices are causing to our brothers in the Third World. We have agonized over it at length."
"And what conclusion did you come to?"
"We shouldn't put a cut-rate price on our friendship. If we charged you less than we did a Swede, you would think we were patronizing you. The fact that we make everyone pay the same shows we respect you as much as we do a West German imperialist."
"You are very kind to think of us as equals. But that doesn't seem to solve the problem of how we can pay for your oil. Perhaps since we are of the same world you could give me credit until I can get on my feet."
"Now you have made me angry, Bamgambi. You think just because we are both brothers of the Third World, that you can take advantage of our friendship? We have a strict cash and carry policy. Now do you want a quart of oil or don't you?"
Bamgambi handed Ahmad his last 10 dollars in gold. "What choice do I have?"
"Here is your oil, if you come back tomorrow bring $12 in gold."
"You mean you're raising the price tomorrow?"
"We have to eat too."
Bamgambi picked up his quart of oil and started to walk away from the stall.
Ahmed said, "Are you coming to the meeting tonight?"
"What meeting?" Bamgambi asked.
"We're having a rally to protest the exploitation of the Third World people by the racist, money-grabbing industrial merchants who are holding all of us in economic bondage. Your support means a lot to us."