The sacredness of struggle

When I think of how to describe my “economic ecology”, I think a lot about struggle and how it forms a substantial portion of what I consider my inheritance. But, struggle is not solely negative, it’s indicative in part of strength, resilience and a ferocity of hope.

Common refrains around the expansiveness of measures of wealth often ignore how a rigidly capitalistic society tries, in every way possible, to snuff out wealth that’is not coupled to the almighty dollar. Although my non-economic inheritance, such as a growing up in NOLA with a relatively functioning local government, gaining access to social capital from attending good public schools and the further privilege that afforded, are numerous, I am struck – upon reflection- as to how dependent even those factors were on a larger economic context.
For example, functioning local governments are only possible if they are supported by autonomous national governments – an economic privilege many countries do not have. Or consider my access to good quality public education; although I attended one of the very very few quality public schools in New Orleans, I was only afforded that privilege because of where I lived. Had I lived in another parish – and managed to still meet the academic prerequisites for my high school – I would not have been able to attend.

Other social capital in terms of deeper community bonds, seemed further out of reach, for me as a child. I watched my parents contend with the immigration system which thus bred uncertainty in their lives and eventually seeped into uncertainty and apprehension about their relationships. All of which, at its nexus, is connected to their struggle with their economic lives : the lives that were relegated to them as Africans from the motherland and the ones they strove to create as immigrants in America.

Fast forward to my present day as a “somewhat” adult. I often struggle with delineating my economic life and its role. Most of that struggle I engage in by participating in skilled volunteer work: my way of decoupling labor from its capitalistic quantization as money. This has allowed me to expand my social circle – however in a limited manner. I’m at the economic point in my life where I can decouple parts of my labor from monetary compensation and not feel the burden. And the truth of that is both a privilege and a pain point as I know of many others who are prevented from decoupling their labor. From such a vantage point, it is apparent to me, that the future I want is one where everyone has true agency as to where their labor and time is directed. And that their agency not be so implicitly constrained by their economic realities.

3 thoughts on “The sacredness of struggle

  1. Ajoke – thank you for sharing this background about your upbringing, family and views on money.
    You wrote: “deeper community bonds, seemed further out of reach, for me as a child.” Does this still ring true for you as an adult?

    You mentioned being able to expand your social circle in a “limited manner”. What factors make it limited? Have you identified any barriers that may be standing between you and deeper relationships?

    When you think about your social movement ecology, what relationships would you still like to build?

    What did you learn about yourself while writing this? Are there any areas of your personal economy that you’d like to dig deeper into?

    I’m really glad that you’re able to take part in this workshop. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

    Like

  2. You highlight that zip code plays such a big role in America. Short of policy change, how can we help individually and collectively to level the playing field?

    I love how you describe skilled volunteer work as a “way of decoupling labor from its capitalistic quantization”. Are there other ways we can all live our values in such an actionable manner?

    You painted a great picture of the future – “one where everyone has true agency as to where their labor and time is directed”. What does that look like to you? What do you think is stopping us from getting there?

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Like

  3. “Common refrains around the expansiveness of measures of wealth often ignore how a rigidly capitalistic society tries, in every way possible, to snuff out wealth that’is not coupled to the almighty dollar.”

    This line reminded me.. I was skimming on twitter a few nights ago, and someone posted the question – “what radicalized you?” And someone else responded that while living in public housing, their mother had begun a community garden. The garden supplied fresh produce for residents while teaching young people about gardening. The garden was summarily destroyed — the housing authority ripped out all the plants and poured bleach on the ground, because gardens weren’t allowed.

    – How can we nurture and validate other measures of wealth? What would it look like to give community control to other forms of wealth/resources?
    – When I think of our cities, we measure “success” in terms of economic growth no matter the human or ecological consequences. This growth often snuffs out wealth that is not coupled to money, like displacement of multi-generational residents. What are other measures we could use at the level of our cities?

    “Most of that struggle I engage in by participating in skilled volunteer work: my way of decoupling labor from its capitalistic quantization as money.”

    This line makes me want to confess my own struggle with this. I want to contribute to and be acknowledged in community not for labor that is tied to money. I want to live this out. And on the other hand, I have a desire to be compensated. I have my dad’s words ringing in my head often — that I had been around rich white people too much that I thought it was cute to work and not get paid.

    I have to work a ton to make ends meet but am overall stable. But I have ever looming anxiety about having the ability to retire/what if I get sick? I can get in my head about being a WOC and decoupling my labor from money and who could take advantage of that.

    Are any of these familiar for you? How do you navigate? How do we invite other people into this way of being, if they might also be wrapped up in scarcity thinking or real economic hardship?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: