A Safety Net
From Words
posted on June 11th, 2016

By any normal (first world) measure, I’ve had a rough couple of days on the road. Nothing disastrous but a pile of small things going wrong, with outcomes leaving me somewhere between mildly inconvenienced and quite vulnerable…

Yet I’ve felt basically fine about it the whole time. Apart from missing Rifa I’m enjoying this mini-tour a lot. So I was pondering why. Why aren’t this weekend’s cock-ups and acts of god adding a weight of stress as they would’ve most definitely done in the past? Sadly – inevitably – one big answer is money. For almost the first time in my working life I went on tour with a reasonable cashflow buffer. 

For example, when I rocked up late night to a Nottinghamshire pub B&B at 11:45pm and they’d already shut up shop and nobody would let me in (yeah I’d flagged ‘late check-in’ on LateRooms but they’d wrongly enabled it on their profile), I barely even got annoyed, just went online, found a chain hotel instead. Doesn’t sound like much – but not so long ago, simply via cashflow (and I guess tech not being as immensely useful as it is today) that might’ve meant a pile of stress, worrying about if they took payment etc. – perhaps sleeping in the car.

For example, driving to do a workshop at a (fairly major) folk festival that was so decimated by the storm, it looked close to being abandoned – and certainly the workshop wasn’t a goer in any real sense. In that instance, I didn’t suddenly have to worry about not getting a fee (it came under the auspices of my residency) and I wasn’t relying on camping on-site that night.

What’s my point? Just, sitting here in a Preston shopping centre surrounded by people who’d give anything for the freedom I enjoy, it brings vividly home something I know but maybe take for granted: that (yeah) of course being financially rich doesn’t make people happy but – crucially – if you take away the fear / precariousness at the bottom end and provide enough stability (not luxury), you immediately, drastically increase people’s happiness. (This is not just my anecdotal bs, we know full well it’s statistically proven too.) All it takes is enough of a buffer to cover the unexpected shite in life. This is also why the creeping precariat model (seen everywhere from zero hours contracts, to short termism, to the freelancer explosion) is so malevolent without proper welfare support. This is why I’d build a post-capitalist iteration of distribution that relieves everyone – yeah, everyone, however lazy or weird they may appear to other people – of the burden of accruing resources to survive. Everyone – just everyone – should have roof, warmth, clothing, food, clean water, education, and (yes, as important) modern communication tools. It’s ‘capitalism afterwards’. Only once we’ve pulled everybody up to third or fourth level Mazlow, can fatcats get as filthy rich as they like.

Easy to write it! Right now, I feel that difference acutely.

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