Culture and community are all we’ve got to shore us up, in the face of precarity

“You’ve changed,” my 9 year old advised me, the other weekend, when I opted not to sleep out in the backyard with him and his dad, but to enjoy the bed to myself. “Covid has changed you. You’re more scared.”

There are many things I could say to my defence. (Also: BED TO MYSELF!!!!! It was glorious. I’ve got no regrets.) And there is also a truth in his words. I have contracted into a much smaller sense of safety, from the pandemic. It has made me think a lot (possibly too much) about the state of the world. And the word that was shared with me, that seems to fit, is “precarity.”

Precarity: the state of being precarious, uncertain (and likely to get worse).

It used to be a word, I think, that really described a particularly vulnerable sub-set of the population, whose lack of secure or regular income adversely affected their psychological wellness and material provisions. But I have been in zoom chats and conversations with people who are University educated, middle class, white-bodied – people who were once beneficiaries of the system and mostly immune from precarity – who are watching rents skyrocket, housing become unaffordable, swathes of their neighbourhood go up in wildfire, their next-door country being invaded… who name this as what they’re feeling… and it’s made me realize, there is no insulation any more in class or race or status or privilege. (You might have the trappings to be able to delude yourself that you’re safer, but the vulnerability of this time is upon us all. And perhaps this is why, those with less “insulation”, ie less ability to ignore the faultlines, are the communities and folk who are most active and responsive at creating better ways.)

So, ya, I guess the kiddo was right… a certain happy-go-lucky lightness of spirit has taken a hit of late. I have to concentrate more on opening to joy, and letting go of worry. Closer to home, in the realm where I can have an impact, I feel concerned about the vulnerability of community – it feels like there are so many pressures on everyone – pandemic isolation, wealth disparity, disintegration of a common story, inflation, anxiety, climate disasters… and it occurred to me that the key protective factors for precarity, are culture and community. Culture is the glue that allows community to be more than just a herd, that protects people from the precarity of these times. And community buffers the more vulnerable members of a population from the predatory forces that see every disaster as an opportunity to amass power and money.

So… the end-run for all of this, is that I am sourcing my joy from things that amplify culture and community, because those things are innately joy-bringing, and have been throughout all time, and across wave upon wave of disaster and tough time… and because those things also generate protection and possibility. Doubly-good.

So this week is a little exploration down this particular path… Hope you’ll come along.

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