This past week, I have watched the world as I know it begin to disintegrate around me: my parents’ respective places of work have closed temporarily, friends have lost jobs or can’t go back to university, both my parents have gotten ill, and we are now self-isolating at home, meaning I am taking unpaid time off work, and doing a lot of cooking and cleaning. Events, talks and exhibitions that I was going to go to have been cancelled, galleries are temporarily closing, I’ve stopped my flat search to move out, and I’m not sure I have a job to go back to in 2 weeks. There are no more oats in Sainsbury’s, which is a shame because I have porridge everyday for breakfast, and my dad has started taking photos of his bedroom wall. My mum now occupies our spare room, and all day she is on skype calls to colleagues and students, trying to work out how to asses performing arts students online (your guess is as good as mine but I think there will be a lot of monologues filmed on iPhones). The only thing that hasn’t changed is my cats’ perception of the world and my chronic back pain. And there is still some Alpro yoghurt in the fridge from February that no one wants to throw out (tb to more simpler times).
Whilst a lot of us are working from home, or not at all, some people in our society are working harder than ever, like doctors, carers, therapists, pharmacists, delivery and supermarket workers. Only late last year did was Ken Loach’s film Sorry we missed you release in UK cinemas, depicting the hardships of working as a self–employed delivery driver after their family was struggling after the 2008 financial crash. However, supermarkets are under such pressure for home deliveries, that they have had to temporarily stop taking orders. I know of plenty of people who have ordered books and games to occupy themselves during a period of social distancing and / or self-isolation. Perhaps now, our government might realise the importance that each individual plays in our society, and rather than paying people according to their perceived ‘importance’, which usually has to do with what qualifications they have or how much money they bring to the economy, we might understand that those working in care and service industries provide a very vital role in our society, who are truly the ‘the fat cats of the affect economy’ (p38). Where economics can fail us, we can be rich in love and care.
I have seen a surge in local aid groups, providing support in places where the government has failed to do so, filling in the gaps as ‘what we can no longer get from the state, the party, the union, the boss, we ask for from one another’ (p17). We are forced to rely on one another’s kindness and generosity, whether that is offering to walk a dog or buy groceries for a neighbour who is self-isolating, or sending money via patreon to a performer or DJ who has lost their freelance work for the next coming months. When our societies infrastructure starts to break down because we are all stuck inside, with increasingly little money to spend in order to fund the entertainment, arts and hospitality industries, ‘love becomes a society without the state’ (p29). We already rely on familial bonds to support us, borrowing money from friends and family on the basis of mutual trust, and this love, in turn, allows us to function in the mechanics of capitalism (p19), by providing us with the energy, support, and funds, to continue the ‘daily grind’. Our economy (and the government) relies on the fact that we make it across in one peace, with plenty of support and love from those around us, in order to return to some sort of ‘normal’ on the other side. ‘Even If this means the eventual and complete death of economics, only to be replaced by love, the transition might be bumpy at first but it won’t be such a bad thing in the long run’ (p23). It is true that whilst we are suspended in a state of uncertainty, and as we care for one another, especially those that will struggle to make a living, that we can carry this forward with us into a new normal that we will create.
Is it Love? Brian Kuan Wood, 2014, What’s love (or care, intimacy, warmth, affection) got to do with it? e-flux journal, 2017, Sternberg press, Berlin.