I’m one of the lucky ones. I can continue to work from home through this crisis, so there’s no huge stressful financial component to this for me, not yet anyway. Being stuck at home, restricted movement, it all sucks. But I don’t have that crushing feeling in my chest that I had when I was unemployed, when I was vulnerable and the Department of Social Protection ceased my benefits. That’s not a story I’m willing to tell. I could lay out the simple facts of it, but it doesn’t capture the existential terror of feeling that you are outside society, without prospects, without allies, without value.
I never fully recovered from that. It was over five years ago, but I am still feeling the emotional aftershocks of experiencing how easy it is to fall between the cracks and disappear completely. I have been self-isolating already for years, because the person I used to be was completely destroyed by the experience of adapting to corporate slavery after the ordeal of unemployment.
A slave, that’s really how I see myself. That’s really how I see the world. We are all slaves under a broken economic system and a legal system so steeped in corruption that the wealthy have for centuries made the rules in their own favour. We haven’t really moved on from feudal times, not that much. We serfs just have more things to distract us. I know I’m not going to change the world with an expletive-laden rant, so thank fucking God for all those fucking distractions.
Day one of lockdown, I did something I had been meaning to do for a while. I created a Patreon account and started contributing money to some of the creators whose work I value. I’m not being too extravagant, I need to save for my future. I’ve got a kid on the way. But I can spare some money for the musicians, comedians, podcasters, and creators who continue to enrich my life.
All in, I’m only spending like €20 a month on Patreon. It’s not going to break me, but it will make a big difference to them, especially since I intend to continue it indefinitely. I sent €250 to a friend of mine living in the US who couldn’t afford groceries or toilet paper. I sent €100 to another friend living locally whose livelihood is badly affected. I buy albums from local musicians on Bandcamp (#FairTradeForMusic).
What else can I do? In the coming months, I hope to support local businesses as they reopen. I want to buy local goods and support my community – more than I did before. I was lazy. I was inattentive. I was resigned to the way things were. It doesn’t have to be that way. I want this crisis to inspire me to believe in a better world. I hope others will feel the same, and regard their spending power for what it is – the power to reshape the world. What you choose to consume and spend money on shapes the world around you.
For the people now facing unemployment and uncertainty about the future, it’s much worse than it was for me. At least I theoretically had the hope of finding a job. With everything shut down, the people who have nothing now must be feeling unbearable levels of anxiety and panic. The crisis brings it all into sharp relief. We are in this together, and we need to look after each other.