Our relationship with monetary value is far more tenuous than we think. Yes our life is dictated by the cost of everything and yes we value our work, time and skills in terms of what the market will pay for it yet sometimes, sometimes we are confronted with a different proposition, a moment when we are given a choice. And within that moment, however small, we have the opportunity to take control, put ourselves in a position to change things if only for a limited period of time
So what the hell am I talking about? I’m talking about us, you and me not being as subservient to the marketplace as we might think, not as driven downward by pre-determined forces as we might imagine. Sometimes we are foisted into a position of self determination, when one decision can create a change, if albeit a small one. And they should not be taken for granted
I write this after a week of long nights running gigs in a venue I run in Cork City. I have bands playing 4 to 5 nights a week and when booking them I always ask them how much they want to charge at the door. On the night I sit, like a troll guarding the bridge, and take the money. At the end of the night the band gets it all. Ho, hum, so what, I hear you say, that’s how it’s done everywhere, everyday, a simple market transaction; Consumer buys a ticket that is priced according to the market value of the band. But it isn’t. The reality is very different. There is another social relationship that goes on underneath that transaction. The relationship between me – the troll – and the punter coming in for the night
See, every night I give punters a choice. There are 2 prices; a full price and a concession (for unemployed, students and pensioners). When someone arrives at the door looking to pay in I ask them a single question, “Are you working or not working?”
The customer is immediately given two choices; do I tell the truth or do I lie and get a discount (if they’re working that is)?
Lying is easy, all they have to say is, ”I’m not working” or “I’m a student” and they’re through, a little better off, an extra jingle, jangle in their pocket. I don’t check their student ID, proof of unemployment or age, I work on the basis of trust. I look into their eyes, smile, say a few words and take their money.
And you know what? Most people tell the truth, most people give me the full amount, they acknowledge the trust I am empowering them with. They take responsibility for that trust and a social relationship, a space is opened up between us. The benefit of that relationship creates a better gig, a warmer space, a more enjoyable night.
Yes, some people lie. But they’re so transparent, so easy to spot. I let them through anyway. I’d like to think that their lie closes them to the opportunity of possibility, of something else, that their individualistic standpoint, their self – interest prevents them from sharing the moment that we create through mutual trust, a trust that creates that singular night, that makes it special because we, together, make it so. And it does happen like that; great nights are had, people love the venue, bands love the venue, there is a great vibe in that room. And that can only happen through mutual co – operation.
What I’m talking about happens every week in a small venue in Cork. And if it can happen there it can happen anywhere. This is not some abstract theory from a book rather it’s a reality that happens everyday, happens when you make a conscious effort to build social relations that amount to more than the value of labour.
You doubting me?
Let me give you an example. Last Thursday night I was running one of our regular monthly gigs. This particular music night has a suggested donation of €5. No one is under any obligation to pay anything. If you enjoy the gig, or want to support the musicians you put some money into a box.
Two people came in and I, as is my duty as troll, duly explained about the suggested donations box and that they were under no obligation to pay, etc, etc. One of them put in €5 and the other put in €10. How does that make sense? How does that fit in with our fixed notions of consumption, of everything having a monetary value, a price determined by the marketplace? It doesn’t.
Why? Because we’re emotional, creative beings that long for connection.
Why? Because we all understand at some level that leading stressful lives that are consumed by work that we need to do in order to make money to accumulate things, to be a s-u-c-c-e-s-s is ultimately a road to nowhere, a dead end, an illusion. Yes, we need money to survive, yes we live in a world in which food, shelter, heating, water, etc need to be paid for by money however, we need not be so mollified by it, negated by it, creatively crushed by it.
We should not be subservient to a system that keeps us boxed away as a monetary value. We’re much more interesting than that. We can do so much more than that. Life comes only once so we should seek these small moments to stand and take responsibility and realise that we do have choices; if only we look a little harder, a little closer to what’s going on around us
409 total views, 2 today