money, yes it's one of my favourite subjects. As a staunch anti-capitalist i seem to spend a lot of hours thinking about money: where it's coming from, where it's going to, who's money it is, how i can get them to give it to me, what im willing to do for that money.....and how much safer i feel when i am holding onto some of the nice folding stuff.
I'm certainly one of those people who tends to say 'fuck money' and roll my eyes, or possibly 'i hate money' - because i don't have any - yet there was certainly a moment last week when i had one hell of a good run and was holding more cash in my hands than i had seen in a long time when i felt a surge of relaxation (yay! i know how to pay the rent!) and i though 'lovely money!!'.
of course that was very morally uncouth of me because we all know that good activists live on fresh air and good deeds.
now here's the funny thing, because there is this common idea that activism should always be done for free ....but what that usually ends up to mean in practice is that individuals PAY money to do their activism. It's something i can tend to get a bit pissy about, as all around me i see so many people struggling to survive and at the same time doing so much 'free' activism that their own ability to earn the basic money to live on is affected.
its something that in queer beograd we started to talk about a lot, especially over the past couple of years when we were forced to look at how to make our work sustainable. you can only spend so much of your time running away from fascists, working, organising, taking risks, before the wear and tear starts to show. we began to look at this from a very basic level: how do we eat, pay the rent and bills and also manage to maintain our health? Because for many of us we work so long and at such an edge that this really begins to have a heavy impact.
in the collective we began to ask some very big questions about how 'activism' functions, how burn out occurs and how this culture of having to work extremely hard for no money - and for most of us for many years - is a very strange phenomena. One which in many ways ignores the basic facts of our lives.
of course no one is going to pay you to organise the revolution, for myself i would say i have been working as an artist/activist for around 20 years now (at least) spending thousands and thousands of pounds/dollars/euros which i have earned in shitty jobs - and also giving up on having any better job - because i love and am solidly committed to creative rabble rousing.
when i began with queer beograd the first few times i went to serbia i would give up my job and the place i had to live, as there was no way for me to travel there, do activism and pay the rent at the same time. each time i returned to london i would be homeless and unemployed and begin from square one again. its certainly a way to get into a lot of debt i can tell you that. >insert sad theme music<
but from a certain point with our collective we decided that we would try to treat each other better than this, to work with fundraising and funding applications (which also involve a lot of 'free' work) to make sure that we were not all the time putting ourselves into this base line poverty of financial precarity. and for myself i also started to ask that when i toured with shows, when i did workshops, when i worked....(unless i was helping some one to raise funds) to be PAID or just to have my costs covered. travel,food and shelter please!
to me its a important political issue. and i realise there may be cries of indignation but i do find it very strange to create a template for 'radicalism' based in the idea that because we don't like capitalism then people who do activism should bloody well shut up about how difficult it is to balance that precarity.
if we want to build a different society then why deny there is a cost involved?
if we value the work of those who build new structures, then why can we not also build new structures which support of that work?
(i do realise this is a bit of a mystical rant but ive had several situations lately where the glamour of activism and art has been so blindingly glorious, i just had to get it off my chest.)