I walked towards the shared workspace I paid for by the hour. There was a networking market going on - people were swapping ideas in the street and talking. I ran into some people I know and arranged to meet them for an (illegal) drink. At the networking market I also met a woman I’d seen before and we arranged to go for a coffee later in the week. The morning at work was boring but at lunch I went over to see some old people I befriended. Their network is small and they need contacts, so one of them had even baked me a pie. It tasted great. They told me about a conference in Florence they went to 50 years ago. It sounded intriguing and I thought we should do things like that today.
I switched on my device and networked online with friends. Some of them were planning two weeks on the beach in Antarctica at the new Sun Coast resort down there. I thought “what the hell” and booked myself a ticket. My device buzzed. It was my mother. She said she’d been opportunistic and called at my flat to see if I was there. I laughed and said people don’t do that any more. I was secretly glad it wasn’t yesterday when I stayed in. I reached for my secret stash of cigarettes again.
Thinking about the past again, I just couldn't shake the thought that people used to share things for free. For nothing. I mean, I just couldn’t understand why people were giving each other ideas without expecting some sort of compensation. Nowadays you can really use the extra few pounds you make when you log them in the general database. I mean if they get certified as novel and genuine of course. And what about tips for a job opening, or a good flat for rent! All of these now get auctioned on the general market place. Weren’t people seeing the value in all of that before? Even love and understanding, imagine! Of course, few people are able to pay off the coins they owe their parents for the validated attention they’d received these days - but then, most parents die before they can fully claim the debt. But love… Sometimes I dream what it would be like if it was free, like what these old people talked about. They said, fifty years ago they contemplated what they then called the “opportunistic city”. They said it used to be dystopian. It’s funny - “opportunistic” can have negative connotations, like you’re using people. Maybe I am. But to me it seems like sharing and networking can be positive things that add to the city.
Whenever I make a purchase, I vote for the kind of system and workmanship I want to see in the world. An urban café refurbished with recycled local materials exists because I go there to buy the coffee and meet my friends who believe, just like me, that this place is worthy to exist. Because it gives us hope, it allows us to create our own world, one of responsibility towards our planet and the environment. It’s a good cause to fund and together we are making it possible.
I tried to fund a different cause before, but it failed dramatically. There were just not enough people who’d really care about how they spent their money. I believe spending is deeply connected to the way we shape our daily environments. I know some people do it because it is kind of fashionable, or because they fancy the latest organic diet. Surely it’s a reason for some, but seeing more young people critically dealing with their role as consumers, approaching it as a direct way to produce value, really gives me hope.
I think redefining value in a non-monetary sense is one of the most important things one can do. I often recall the words one Marxist professor from my university used to say, that we first need to change the social relations within capitalism itself, not just make the tiny decisions which make us feel better, but decide what brings value to our lives and the environments we cannot live without. Like the one where my friend Dolan comes with his violin at night to play his heart out till 3am with two bottles of wine… because the ecology of sharing the time of our lives and spending it together as our main currency is what makes it worth it to be alive.