Lately work has been quiet and I mean really quiet. It isn’t uncommon for workers here to do a shift and go home without having had one job and with zero dollars in hand. I work in a brothel, shifts are 8hrs long but you only get paid when you have a job (60% of the booking fee). When it is busy this works out well and you can make far more in a shift than you would working in another industry where you were paid an hourly rate. But when things are dead like they are now you can spend 8hrs of your day sitting around, unable to do anything that you could be doing if you weren’t at work, only to go home with less than minimum wage (if you divide your earnings by the hours you were at work). Yesterday I made a grand total of $65. As frustrating as it was to make so little, I at least made something, when I went home 2 of the 4 of us that were on still had not had any jobs.
I really need to start travelling for work, the industry is just too dead here, largely down to people just not having much of a disposable income. Currently travelling for work isn’t something I can do easily as I have sole care of my child, which means lately things have been really tight with money. I’ve had to borrow money, I’ve had to decide which bills I can pay and which I can put off, even if it means having no phone or internet (so far my internet has been slowed but not cut off, yet). The country may have avoided being in recession but it makes little difference to those of us who are feeling the financial crunch and struggling.
I hate not having money, I hate it in a way that is hard to understand if you have never experienced not having a home to go to or not having food to eat. It scares me, it makes me feel sick in my stomach when I check my bank account and see nothing but at dollar or two (if that). Because of this I come across as more materialistic and money focussed than many an anarchist but while society is too fractured to offer real community support to those of us in need I will do whatever I can (within reason) to avoid being in need. For this same reason I can never understand why anyone would want to be poor. Some people who have made the choice to turn their backs on large incomes seem to wear their more humble finances as a badge of pride. I feel no pride in not being able to provide the things I wish I could for my child, only anger at the inequality of society and shame (which is me internalising that anger). I also know I have no one to rely on but myself. I have had amazing friends help out but they are rarely in any better financial position than I am. Likewise with my family.
We really do need more grassroots initiatives like food not bombs. Running a kitchen may not be as exciting at shouting through a loudspeaker at a rally but supporting the community is one of the most radical things you can do. We need to build grassroots, non hierarchical connections that will not only challenge the capitalist model but give support and strength to those of us who are hurting under capitalism.
Trying to access state based support or even support from most charities is an exercise in humiliation. Recently, due to a combination of having been sick and not earning much on the days I had been able to work, I attempted to access some sort of financial or charitable support, only to find out I couldn’t jump through all the hoops that stood between me and any form of help. To add to my financial woes I’d filled a form to get rent assistance out wrong and had had that payment cut, it wasn’t much money but it was the difference between having the money to scrape by till I was back at work or not. Unfortunately because I had no money through my own fault (or mistake, as I didn’t intend to fill the form out wrong) I was not eligible for any financial assistance or a referral to a charity that could give me a food voucher. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t my daughter’s fault but that she too would pay the price for my mistake, all that mattered was that I was responsible for my own financial woes and so not deserving of anything but contempt. Fortunately for me I was able to borrow enough money to last me until this week but it shouldn’t be like this. When people are struggling they should not have to prove themselves worthy of receiving help to access basic rights such as food and shelter. Every human is worthy of such things.
This is why we need to offer anarchist alternatives, not only does it prove that anarchist modes of organising do work and do address injustices but without grassroots initiatives people will continue to fall through the gaping gaps in the state based safety net. I am lucky, I didn’t fall through the gaps, because ultimately I still have the support and options to get by but many people don’t even have this.
I have to give a call out to one community who do support and solidarity so well it is almost an art. I have had so much support from other sex workers, from offers of places to stay if I go to a city to work, to help minding my daughter while I am working, lifts to work (because I often hitch now that I’m not earning enough to justify a taxi) and an ear to listen to my problems. All of this means so much, and is something I have never experienced so strongly outside of the sex work community.