This is the third instalment of LOVE AND WAGE LABOUR IN THE AGE OF CAPITALIST PANDEMIC. These instalments are journal entries entitled with only their date. I wanted to try to document this time, the time of COVID-19. It struck me that I was having conversations with people who were all having unique experiences of this pandemic, and that most of these conversations, like all memories, would fall away. I wanted to document it. These are my experiences only. I hope you find something in them. – Madeleine
‘How lightly we learn to hold hope,
as if it were an animal that could turn around
and bite your hand. And still we carry it
the way another would, carefully,
from one day to the next.’
– Danush Laméris, Insha’Allah
Emotional – things remain open – financial rocks and hard places – holding hope close
I feel emotional. Almost spiritual. France have closed every non-essential business. London remains open, a petri-dish for whatever happens in our bodies to spread itself over us like a blanket of suffocation. Schools remain open, some universities are closing of their own volition. Three friends are self isolating; two of them are colleagues and are being denied sick pay. Here’s the situation: statutory sick pay is £95.00 per week. My rent alone is £150.00 per week. If my workplace (an independent café) closes, or if I have to self isolate, I won’t/can’t pay rent. I have a few options in this scenario.
- Leave for home and refuse to pay rent. I can’t do this to my flatmates. They’re in a better position than me, but it would be a betrayal.
- Stay, and try to find other work. This isn’t really reliable option.
- Go up north with my partner and continue to pay rent down here in London. Ask family for a loan.
- All of us refuse to pay rent. This is the strongest course of action, but if it backfires, we are in debt/being sued.
My only comfort is that I might have a peaceful summer, with clean air, community and a sense of purpose. It’s a selfish dream, to enjoy the effects of an epidemic. It says a lot about the stage of capitalism we find ourselves in – one where some of us might journey into a more peaceful existence when a worldwide crisis ensues. It speaks volumes about our misery, an accepted misery which we allow, as it is the misery of the modality injected into our bloodstream the moment we are born. It’s misery we trudge around with, like plaque on our souls; even when we eat amazing food, or have an extra beautiful orgasm, or walk in the sunshine on the greenest grass, we are hugged by the misery of wage labour. The Sunday blues are no mistake.
This summer, with businesses closed, I could write. Every day. We could grow vegetables, walk in rural areas, take care of little children or dogs whose parents are unwell. We could finally get around to cleaning out our cupboards. We could choose what to do with each day. We could compile resources for those home-bound, become active in delivering food and entertainment to the elderly. I could spend some weeks with my siblings, uninterrupted. As a society we could learn to find value outside of wage labour. We may work only for each other. We could instil in ourselves a sense of purpose in simply existing in time and space. We might stop feeling guilt in the arms of relaxation. Our usefulness can recalibrate.
This, of course, is entirely dependent on whether the government will support us. Whether the state will provide people with money to make up what is lost. It is not a hope I hold high, but it is one I hold dear, for the sake of the people whose lives and homes are at stake in this.