Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Will write for food

I'm just as surprised as you are.
When a person you've never met randomly contacts you via email and offers to give you a motorcycle, I think a perfectly reasonable response is something along the lines of: "You, sir, are full of the horsey poo-poo."

Then, when they do actually give you that motorcycle, well, that... can be a little disconcerting. It's the sort of experience that upsets the balance a little. Having recently had just this experience I find myself feeling happy, but also oh-so-slightly confused by an action that goes against my understanding of How The World Works.

I should back up a bit, though, to return to that pivotal life event I've just glossed over: I have a motorcycle, yo. Remember several months ago, when, after reading a Hunter S. Thompson book, I decided that 18 years after getting my motorcycle license I finally wanted to get a motorcycle? Yeah, well, that finally happened.

All the details of the long and ridiculous journey to get to this point have been documented on my motorcycle blog, but here's what's relevant: as a result of that blog a fella got in touch with me and said that if I did some copy writing work for him he'd get me a bike.

The alarm bells just go off when you read that, don't they? And when I tell you that the dude turned out to be really cool and true to his word, you're still thinking: "No, that can't be right. Chris is leaving something out here."

Nope. Really. That's what happened. It sounds like the sort of badly formed lie my 6-year-old self would compose ("I didn't break your vase, Mom. It was a ninja..."), but it is, in fact, the truth. And it is a truth that kicks at the walls of my reality somewhat because it challenges my understanding of how people work, and how the world works.

Back when I used to teach Welsh, one of the arguments I would offer in favour of learning a new language is that it gives you a chance to see your world in a different way. Discovering and ingraining in yourself the truth that there are an endless number of names for objects as well as ways to describe them helps you to see that your world, your life is not beholden to the structures created by other people.

I used to think this an optimistic message to bring to the economically deprived area in which I taught: the old way of thinking that has you spinning your wheels does not have to be your way.

But, kinda, sorta, it does, doesn't it? The experience of earning a bike in exchange for my skills is a challenge to the standard capitalist structure that rules almost all of our lives. We have grown so comfortable with having money as a middle man between our labour and the goods/services we obtain that we struggle to imagine life functioning without it.

That's the idea at the heart of so many post-apocalyptic films: that without the invisible hand, and especially its structural trappings, everything falls apart.

Certainly, there is a strong argument in favour of such a currency-based system. Without it, one would find it very difficult to move ahead in life. I know now that my writing ability can get me a motorcycle. Presumably it would also be enough to get me fed, maybe clothed and sheltered. But would I ever have a house or land of my own? Wouldn't I always be subject to the indefinite kindness of someone who has more than me –– a king or baron or what have you?

Bartering has its weaknesses. So, I'm happy to keep the money system. But I find it interesting and exciting to realise that there are alternative ways of getting things. Just because I'd usually exchange money for something doesn't mean I can't exchange my abilities. And that gets my mind spinning: What can I accomplish? What could I trade my skills for?

It's just too bad I don't possess more useful skills.