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Residential Report | Carefully Close
On May 22th, 2022, the second session of the Dutch Liquid Dependencies took place at Framer Framed Amsterdam as part of the Common In Festival. The residential report summarizes what happened and our collective reflections.
Written by Johannes Equizi, @johannes_equizi
Edited by Sylvie Van Wijk and Yin Aiwen
25 Years connected and disconnected
From 2023 to 2048 the ReUnion society, a variegated community composed mainly of young middle class young and immigrant working class people, developed a sophisticated network of relationships that permitted them to cope with challenges of life. Even if the community presented wide differences and divisions, it established several constellations of caring relations which reflected the attentive attitude towards members that found themselves in harder financial and sentimental times.
A gap between government and community
The conditions of this societal development must be traced back from the initial situation which was relatively positive. The average age of the population was 36 years old and throughout the next 25 years there has been no dramatic societal events affecting the general feeling. The government, seemingly self-critical and with liberal and progressive visions, ratified measures operating both on a highly personal level as much as on a systemic one. Educational reforms and gender neutral toilets have been implemented; adoption policies have become less strict; reduction of tax contributions for freelancers and global minimum corporate tax came into force.
However, a gap emerged between the community's culture and the government. It seems that such practical policies set in place didn't really reflect the ideology and values of the residents and of the government itself. A question that comes to mind is whether these measures have been adopted to represent the actual societal needs and mind-set or as a performative response to other agendas, for example international benefits.
On a personal level, several changes in life have occurred to the ReUnion's members, ranging from those who shared issues with visa and families abroad over those who experienced divorces and secret love stories to those who won the lottery, bought a boat or achieved a Phd and remarkable promotions. In response to this societal effervescence, it is relevant to highlight how the society managed to adopt a comprehensive and resilient attitude which generated an optimistic participation. However, in light of the occupation, the age and the financial situation of the residents, it should not be forgotten how these could have affected the preexisting possibility of choice to cope to the personal events and the type of caring relationships established.
The ReUnion society was mainly composed of a group of working class immigrants and of wealthy young middle class people. Throughout the years the economic and social wealth of these groups remained quite static and only a few residents encountered significant shifts in their social positions.
Between the immigrant group and the rest of the society few strong bonds and solidarity were created, while within the two parts interactions were more present, especially involving emotional support for personal issues in the later decades. The disparity of the living and working conditions between the residents generated relationships built upon different factors. While the immigrant group faced major difficulties in finding a secure professional and social position, the rest of the community, entangled between full-time remunerative occupations and affective engagements, struggled with having enough available time. In most of the cases, time was quickly gained back through purchases in the market using financial tokens. But, when this option wasn't strong enough, it caused the development of physical and mental issues in some individuals. Only then did they seek support from other residents to overcome the situation.
The wealthy part of the society chose not to use the Mutual coin - especially in the first 10 years - as there was an abundance of Financial coins to cope with the initial challenges. This reflects the society’s socio-economic ideology and configuration: the intention of prioritizing the consumption of financial resources penalized the maturation of a caring economy whose coins became stocked away as mere private goods.
S., 45 - 70 year old, warehouse worker, online maintenance service:
In general I don't really care for others around me. I also feel that the society around me is not the one I wanted.
Martin, 37 - 62 year old, accountant, freelancer work:
Maybe I will work less in the future as I won the lottery and have more money; maybe I will use it to do something nice, to give something back to society.
Johnny, 32 - 57 year old, househusband, music channel:
I paid for a personal assistant so finally I have time to go on the boat with Jeff.
With Tia? I am in a conversation with her to come closer together again.
Tia, 30 - 55 year old, sex worker, family tutor:
I revealed my previous profession as sex worker to my family in my homeland; they were understanding and reacted positively. I chose to cut out some old friendships from that field but now I struggle with the new carrier.
Maly, 40 -65 year old, lawyer:
I had difficulties with keeping that image of a successful lawyer while on the other side maintaining intimate partner relationships.
Kris, 19 - 29 year old, harbour worker, (left the community):
I don't know anyone yet and don't know how to meet new people but I would love to do that.
Veronica, 15 - 40 year old, student, Phd position:
So far I have only had one relationship so I want to start building new ones. But I feel I don't have time to work on my relational health.
Vega, 68 - 93 year old, retired employee:
My life had ups and downs but everything went well. I was surrounded by a lot of people taking care of me but as well I was taking a lot of care for others.
Jeff, 29 - 54 year old, influencer:
I am still thinking on how to improve; I am willing to do something with others, maybe a collective project? I have to say that my influencer career was helpful to connect with others.
ReUnion Community Well-being Report
While the government adopted progressive policies, on a practical level it became visible that the society wasn't on the same page and didn't share its values. Such a gap created a somewhat artificial perception of the reforms adopted while the actual social relations remained within a conservative pattern, especially towards women and immigrant’s conditions.
Together on paper
In 25 years on one side a group of well-off individuals managed to grow their businesses and establish reciprocal relationships while beside them, on the other side, a group of immigrant workers, - S. in warehouse, Una in a cheese factory, Kris in a harbour and Tia as sex worker - struggled continuously with their survival and social acceptance. In some ways, even if this disadvantaged group shared similar issues and backgrounds, they didn't succeed in creating and maintaining stable relationships; the common conditions didn't lead to a collaboration and some even had to move to other places as they couldn't situate themselves within the society. Only Maly, a lawyer whose family moved in seven generations ago, managed to facilitate the integration of the new residents, but mainly on a "paper" level.
Reasons for this social situation, namely disinterest and isolation, might be traced back both to the impossibility of using the many Personal Tokens offered by the government (since relationships were not registered) and to the stigmatization of their identity and social position by the rest of the residents. For many immigrants the process of integration took a very long time and effort, especially in the moment when a person abandons a previous unpopular occupation and its social environment to move to a better one with the danger of losing the social safety net and encountering disapproval. In the case of Tia, sex worker until the age of 40, it took more than 10 years to find stability as a family tutor.
Women's respect? Not there yet
In some cases, despite women residents forming the majority of society, their condition also turned out to be precarious. While on a legal level, there seems to be gender equality, in practice this equality translates to inequality. Difference demarcates the division of labor; domestic labor is still primarily carried out by women. Another reflection of the conservative social context is the seeming impossibility of the community’s relationships to move from a heterosexual bind, still entrapped in its old clichés.
The relationship between Johnny and Tia often followed such patterns: with the attempt of leaving the sex worker field and finding a more stable one, Tia ended up being delegated to look after 4 children and the house. With time their relationship started to fade but never reached an end, as entrapped in the promises of a future reconciliation.
Another episode is the one which occurred in Vega's life, an elderly woman who experienced domestic violence at the age of 73. This event had a huge impact on her mental health and for a long time she didn't trust people around her. Only when she started gardening together with Martin, she gained back some confidence.
It has been noticed that between the members of the ReUnion society many acts of care have been shared but they remained on a dimension detached from the monetary system.
It is therefore relevant to investigate how the residents perceived and made use of the Personal Tokens and the Mutual Coins.
Caring actions detached from their economy
During the first decades most of the transactions with the market - made to buy goods and services to cope with life's events - were paid through Financial coins. Also in the following decades most of the transactions happened similarly, as though there was a general reluctance in using the Mutual Coins. The question that comes to mind is how many of these have been actually formed, despite the presence of several registered long-term relationships.
As the 29 years old influencer Jeff declared, "I would first spend the Financial Coins as I have an abundance of them before using the others, which are actually more valuable". Surprisingly also S., who often struggled in her life with jobs, time and money, made use of them in a similar way.
This bold statement opens up a lot of interpretations. First it reveals a freedom of choice which permits prioritizing the use of Financial coins due to the wealthy occupation; a privilege shared by many other residents but not by all. This approach exalts on one hand the value of the Personal Tokens by representing the unique value of the individual and therefore its preservation and accumulation. But on the other hand, this type of use prevents the growth of a caring economy, as Mutual Coins would be less and more limited in use. What are the residents' reasons for this reluctance in the creation and use of Mutual Coins?
Caring relationships have been constantly created throughout the community's existence, both registered and informal ones. Only a few of them shared an emotional investment which reached stage 2 in the case of S. - Maly and Martin - Vega and stage 3 between Jeff and Martin. However they also kept excluding the monetary channels and therefore the government.
An archipelago of relationships
By considering the constellation of relationships between the individuals, it seems that there was any interest in creating a strong network of caring economy. The ReUnion society instead of working as a synergic organism, it rather assumed the form of scattered clusters of relationships. Sometimes they were circumstantial, not very deep and with a general lack of awareness of the developments of the others' relationships. Could these aforementioned distances between the individuals be present because of their different occupations, backgrounds and ideologies?
Martin, a 37 years old accountant, since 2023 had in mind to point at a collective project but the societal developments and the availability of Mutual coins kept it as an utopia. The lack of collective visions and goals characterized these decades, as if each person had to first prioritize the satisfaction of their own agenda and of their closest surroundings.
Community Well-being Assessment
Public Infrastructure Development (with emphasis on care support) (30%)
Throughout the community's existence there have been no notable infrastructural developments. The residents seemed more focused on solving personal struggles and the idea of a collective project or fund didn't take over. Several services have been shared between the residents especially in terms of small assistance but not on a larger scale. Moreover the government didn't encounter large scale events that required the adoption of incisive structural measures; the ones adopted only partially helped to level the inequalities between the residents. The development of such public infrastructure is therefore rated at 70.
Relationship Maturity (30%)
Considering the complex diversity of backgrounds and developments of the members, the society succeeded in creating several relationships, 9 registered and 4 not. Beside the few relations with 2 and 3 stages, the majority of relationships seemed polite but quite circumstantial. Moreover a few didn't facilitate a consistent societal involvement as in the case of Una, Kris and Veronica. Rather than a proper network, the mutual caring relations seemed to happen because of imminent personal crises without carrying a longer future perspective; they were prioritizing a personal dimension rather than a collective one. The overall maturity is rated at 60.
The feeling of player participation in the game (40%)
During the reflection moment the members of the society seemed positive and present but with a thin shade of confusion on their faces. The game contained several disconnections - between the resident's groups, the government policies and the society's mindset, the care relationships and the monetary system - and these somehow affected the members' experiences. Overall fortunately their lives unfolded without societal crises and deaths but they seemed either distracted in understanding these discrepancies or living unaware of their presence.
Some residents remarked on the way relationships were created throughout the decades, moving from an initial narrative focus to a more transactional one. This aspect clearly remarks a contemporary difficulty of individuals in recognizing, evaluating and distinguishing monetary and economical logics from the acts of care within the foundations of social relationships. The overall rate of player's involvement is 70.
Overall score of community happiness: 67