Discover more from JASPER, a black pansy mag
Money money money moneé
on breaking the money-talk taboo and basking in community
Hey hey, my friends and readers!
How much you making these days, hm? I kid. Don’t answer that! You know we don’t talk about money, and we definitely don’t talk about how much (or little) of it we have.
Except for right now. Today we’re staring Mean Green right in the coin, and we better not fold. There’s too much that must be said that isn’t.
Because we don’t talk about money. We simply take meager bites into our everything-on-a-bagel-level existentialism until we ever-so-politely implode.(In the privacy of our own minds, of course.)
But why not talk about it? Why not commiserate, connect, vent? No? Could prompt legitimate equity. (For example, study shows that more openness helps close the gender pay gap.)
I know, I know. Cue shame, classism, embarrassment. But even in spaces we trust, though—Nothing? And I don’t mean the positively toxic prosperity gospel touted all up and through social media, promising wealth to all who believe! Believe!
No. I’m talking about speaking about the thing capitalism tells us is important in a way that, momentarily, defangs it. Talking about the state of our economy in a way that points to its issues, not what we all fear are our own personal failings.
Now. I’ve said before here at JASPER we don’t do heavy. But as you’ll find in some of my other posts, we most definitely go deep.
So, today we’re gonna trek through a field of hope and hope we don’t step on no shit on our journey. We’ll talk about the state of things (a skösh), and how we all might be doing (everyone okay?), then close it out with other kinds of wealth and community.
Of course we’ll flow from an anticapitalist lens, so if you’re a capitalist babe, you might hate it here. Fair warning.
Alright. Housekeeping complete.
Let’s talk paper.
Breath. These next few sentences are some of the moniest you’ll read today. Don’t worry, gets better from here.
***also definitely skip this part if you need to by scrolling down to SEGA workers.
As many of you know:
SAG-AFTRA just (rightfully) joined WGA in a strike that essentially shuts down Hollywood. This is the first time both groups have striked at the same time since the 60s.
The media industry has cut more jobs in 2023 than ever before. Tech ain’t doing too hot either.
Amazon workers have been protesting against inhumane working conditions due to greedy-ass higher-ups.
Global warming, inflation, and justified protest against the strains of capitalism have once-financially comfortable folks in the U.S. pinching pennies. Those of us already struggling are strained simply to stay housed.
And all of this is happening because of, say it with me, capitalism.
Babes. I must say it. It’s looking a lot like 2007 in this bitch. It is.
Now, I’m not saying we’re in a recession (low-key, a depression), but the way capitalism is set up? Well, I think recessions are just a part of the game. Like financial expert Dr. Adam Hayes expressed:
Recessions are periods of negative economic performance, usually following a period of above-average growth. For the time being, given existing monetary institutions, recessions are inevitable.
But then I look at the SEGA workers, who just formed the largest multi-department video game union in the US. And I witness local mutual aid funds help keep people in my community housed. I find community gardens feeding families and my very own friends uplifting my work in ways that have become tangible for me (thank you again!).
In these many tumultuous months, I’ve somehow puttered along, fueled by haggard hope but mostly by community.
That’s why the rest of this post will focus on other kinds of wealth. The anticapitalist kind.
One of the most beautiful examples of wealth I’ve witnessed lately comes from a local grassroots community exchange called BarterUp901.
With frequent in-person events and monthly, barter-only marketplaces, BarterUp901 imagines a post-capitalist future that centers community, art, and belonging, demanding each of its supporters ask themselves, “How can I be of service?”
The group was created by several dope young Black and brown people but includes every sort of person in loving community. It’s astounding to watch everyone come together, offering food, haircuts, clothes, books, and all sorts of services in such enhancing ways.
Their popular Discord allows cities across the US to build a digital community and barter among themselves. And they’re growing beyond my hometown to cities like Santa Barbara. Another’s on its way in New York City.
At one of their markets recently, I was able to barter some herbs from SageRoses in exchange for an IG post, which I gladly obliged.
And a few weeks ago, after going to a meeting and becoming a “Barter Buddy,” myself, I was asked to read some poems aloud at one of their marketplaces. In return, their patrons paid me in audible appreciation, newsletter follows, and other various expressions of care.
The venue, the mic from which I spoke, the time and energy the audience shared, were all offered out of care for this collective thing we all agreed to. So naturally, gratitude enveloped the space like a hug, and it felt special.
Now don’t you dare let your mind wander to that insidious aside. Don’t! I do not condone work in exchange for “exposure.”
This was not that. But if your mind did go there, I get it.
I think when viewing these sorts of exchanges through capitalism, it’s difficult to imagine how enriching the wealth of community can actually be. Because exchange within the confines of capitalism demands loss. Someone must always lose. Whether it’s you or the someones under the someones making the new thing you carry.
No wonder so many of us out here are feeling depleted.
In anticapitalist exchanges, though? Everyone involved gains something. If not a new shirt or shoes, or that used book you’ve been seeking, you gain knowledge, social connection, genuine respect, or care.
But they require a shift in thinking. You must offer what you can and let others know what reciprocity looks like to you. Which means you first have to figure that out for yourself. And in so doing, you’re reminded of the irrelevancy of money in and of itself.
Money ain’t nothing but paper which we’ve all agreed to value. And if this is true, what if we placed value on other things? What if all our needs could be met without even so much as one wallet opening?
Would not so many of us struggling right now find refuge? This is a dream so many of us share, but before BarterUp, I hadn’t realized the tangible ways it could actually exist now.
How liberating to know that we, the people, can do more of this right now. Especially amid this collective though siloed struggle in this late phase of capitalism.
And so I come to you humbly. Not always happily, but hopeful. Because me and my neighbors are rebelling in the best way. The way that centers love and respect.
I know BarterUp isn’t the only of its kind, but if no one exists in your town, what sorts of wealth around you can spark a similar something into being?
It’s ugly out there, but every single one of us here is beautiful. I’m constantly wondering how we can make this ugly world look a little more like us.
Speaking of money (or the lack thereof), I wrote a free and very unserious post for the humor site The Stopgap recently. I learned about them fromand quickly pitched my most random, most silly idea.
Like they say on their website, “This is strictly for fun. The Stopgap is not a business. We aren’t paying ourselves or anybody else.”
It was delightful to pen a wildly bizarre bit of nonsense in the name of creativity alone.
So if you like absolutely ridiculous write-ups featuring time travelers from the year 2182, check out my AMA.
Writer’s note: I play both the time traveler and the interrogators.
Now, as we close out my end of this convo I’d like to leave you with a poem. It’s a sort of affirmation, if you will, that I’ve been saying quite a lot lately. Maybe it’ll hit for you, too.
Poem for the starving artist
Like my Ideas
Like my Obsessions
My Money ready
My money ready
(Hopefully) Useful Ideas for folks with social, physical, mental, temporal, and/or financial wealth:
Check out the BarterUp Discord. This is good for those in need and those who have something to give, as the group facilitates online barter services. You can also help organize your own in-person marketplace there.
Offer up your time to mentor/mentee programs to help make sure these kids are alright. I’m at Sam & Devorah Foundation for Trans Youth, myself.
Listen to Bad With Money with Gabe Dunn. Remembered this while writing. It’s a great resource for people who are, well, bad with money.
If y’all both have the time and/or energy, talk about money and jobs with your friends. Commiserate. Vent. Let’s break this capitalistic rule that brings shame to financial struggle.
*ALSO: Know of any groups like BarterUp? Let the people know below!
This one was a doozy, I know. Obviously, there is much more that could be said about capitalism and money, but for time’s sake, I’m leaving it here.
If this didn’t quite hit for you, let me know. I am not above criticism. If I succeeded in digging deep while also delivering hope and/or joy, won’t you kindly “like” to let others know.
Either way I wanna hear your thoughts. This is a safe space. Let’s talk.
Have a ~prosperous~ couple of weeks, y’all.
Till we meet again…
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