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Residential Report | Social instincts
Throughout May & June 2022, The third edition of Liquid Dependencies took place as part of Common In: An open manifestation on the intersection of commons and art. In Liquid Dependencies, participants experiment with new forms of care and collectivity. Each session is unique, depending on the players, their characters and on the societal and individual events that happen as time passes. In this report, we will reflect on what kind of society was built on the 19th of June in particular.
Written by Juliette Vandermosten
Edited by Sylvie Vanwijk, @slvi.e
Over a period of 20 years, the members of the ReUnion society have engaged with the idea of “community”with a lot of enthusiasm . They have formed many relationships, followed their instincts and organically created a strong public infrastructure in which all members could explore their talents. The initial lack of intention and organisation, however, slowed down their efforts. Some crises, that could have been avoided, monopolised the residents’ time and resources. This generally joyous but chaotic attitude and the lack of organisation, in the long run, made it difficult for the whole ReUnion Society to deal with crises and achieve their goal of a sustainable caring society. As time passed however, the strength of a community slowly became apparent as the residents always had a thought for others, even in the most difficult moments.
Towards independence and sustainability
The governments’ major decisions over the last 20 years have been geared towards creating a rather individualistic society with little regard for minorities and fragile populations. By offering less social benefits, and cutting down on some major social infrastructures, such as housing for ageing members of the community and joint tax reduction for married couples, it was made clear that stability is no longer provided by the State. The budget allocated to social help has been shifted to the cultural sector. All in all, the State seems to value equality over equity, as shown by the decision to extend voting rights to all, “regardless of age, legal status or citizenship”, while providing no help for the more fragile and unstable residents such as immigrants or working class citizens.
For the members of the ReUnion society, which is made up of a joyous mix of all social statuses, ages and origins, these governmental decisions lead to a common effort to find independence from the state: many residents have decided to learn wealth management, and created their own businesses together in order to share these skills and come to the rescue of those abandoned by the government.
With communal efforts and resilience, the government-forced return to the countryside of elderly resident Aida was the start of one of the biggest projects of the community: the development of sustainable agriculture. Through the creation of a community garden and initiatives such as the “Bicycle Garden” (a company that aims at bringing food overproduction to those in need by by bike ), the whole community has moved towards sustaining itself.
The lack of public care services provided by the government has also logically led to their privatisation. Some residents have chosen to take the matter into their own hands and to make care work their occupation. While these residents claimed they chose this path as a way to give back to the community -and meant it- this still means that care services were not free and thus not accessible to the less privileged.
Strength lies in unity
Despite some initial geographic distance (the residents lived in different cities and worked in a variety of environments), all members of the ReUnion Society were very eager to meet each other. They started to gather over time, slowly following Aida to the countryside and forming households together both as a way to manage finances more easily and to strengthen relationships. This is how Consuelo was able to move in with Robyn after some financial troubles, and how Lilian moved in with Soren when she broke up with her toxic boyfriend. In general, the residents seemed to think that a healthy relational network is more important than wealth, so they managed to keep their finances at a low but sustainable point while spending more time on matters they found more important. This enthusiastic approach to life gave them the opportunity to start taking care of themselves and each other, and allowed them to fill their lives as much as possible with enriching encounters and collaborative projects.
Natalie, 32-52, Physiotherapist - Co-founder of a care work company:
"Sometimes I think my life is stable, but it only takes one event to change everything."
Soren, 20-40, Food delivery worker - Co-founder of a care work company:
"When my grandmother died, I realised how much I relied on her. It is difficult to realise how much you rely on a community.”
Fanny, 45-65, Tomato cultivator - Co-founder "Bicycle Garden" :
“It is quite revealing that we have to give up some of our time to build relationships.”
Consuelo, 29-49, Maintenance worker:
"There is no perfect society. Maybe struggling with others is better than struggling alone."
Aida, 80-90, Recipient of a survivors’ pension:
“I notice I tend to dive deep into already established relationships rather than create new ones.”
Robyn, 35-55, Artist:
"I am able to provide care in alternative ways. But trading favours and helping people starts to feel very opportunistic at one point.”
Lilian, 28-48, Hairdresser - Co-founder "Bicycle Garden":
"My life quality doesn't solely rely on financial means. Our safety net and stability can also be built on a community, it doesn't have to happen behind closed doors."
Sylvie, 19-39, Harbour worker - Wealth management consultant:
"If you receive mental support, you'll be able to carry big changes in your life."
Sola, 39-59, Therapist - Personal assistant:
“It is nice to feel that you can have dreams and hopes, that so many things can happen even if you start your life at 40.”
Teo, 52-72, Public servant:
“For a moment I forgot to check on myself, and suddenly everything went down.”
ReUnion Community Well-being Report
Always looking to the future with hope
In the ReUnion society, age is just a number. Every single one of the members retained strong hopes and dreams for their future and that of the community, regardless of their age and life status. Among the many examples, we could cite Aida who at 80 still affirmed that she “looks forward to meeting new people, and maybe even a life partner”, and indeed carried on to form the most relationships and become a cornerstone of the community. Over the years, many residents took the decision to radically change their life path by switching careers or moving to new, remote, places, taking the bet that this new life and the difficulties along the way would make them happier in the end. This turned out to be a successful gamble, as these changes not only allowed the residents to take better care of themselves, but also to take better care of the collective. It was the case for Lilian, for example, who quit her job as a hairdresser to create the “Bicycle Garden” with her friend Fanny, and for Sylvie, who quit her job as a harbour worker to learn skills in wealth management and eventually became a financial consultant. Both Lilian and Sylvie gained more stability and were able to help other residents through their new occupation, which made their decision even more meaningful and rewarding.
This hopeful attitude towards the future also manifested itself in an overall trust in technological - and medical - advances, even though some technologies were looked at with a critical eye, their ethics being debated in exhibitions such as “Bye Bye AI Bias” by local artist Robyn. This general trust had an unexpected effect on the community: it changed the perception of family when Sola gave birth at 54. While raising some initial questions, the decision was unanimously understood, the baby welcomed by the community, and other parents amongst the residents offered to help with the child.
This open-minded attitude towards age also manifested in being comfortable with intergenerational relationships. The bond between Aida (80) and Soren (19) being the most surprising, yet ending up being a strong relationship that evolved to a stage 2. This was only possible in a climate of trust and respect, where prejudices are put aside. The classical dynamics of these relationships however were not much challenged: Aida quickly became a (grand)motherly figure to the other players, and could never break out of this role. She, however, kept thinking about her future as open and full of possibilities. Such a positive attitude, although it allowed her to participate actively in various communal projects, prevented her from properly preparing for the eventuality of her death. When she sadly passed, she had made no arrangements to pass her belongings to her loved ones, nor had she communicated wishes for an eventual funeral.
A society among so many others
As the awareness of technological progress shows, the members of the ReUnion Society are well aware of the world they live in and the many other communities surrounding them. They are very open to welcoming new members, whoever these may be, as long as they are willing to participate in the communal efforts to take care of each other. Teo for example, who arrived as an immigrant trying to support his family, was accompanied during his many administrative struggles by some of the residents. This in turn allowed him to create a strong social network in the community and led him to become an enthusiastic participant in the communal garden. But this commitment to the ReUnion Society didn’t forbid him from seeking another community, a spiritual one, that could help him in other ways.
Similarly, Consuelo and Robyn both met people interested in alternative community lifestyles and decided to go live with them. It didn’t stop them from working on a communal project, namely a freelancer’s union.
Delegate to gain time
Despite all efforts to create a self-sustaining society, balancing care for oneself, for one’s relationships and for the community turned out to be too difficult. Even though the residents were eager to help each other when in trouble, they just couldn't find enough time to do all the things they wished to do. There soon was a tendency to use mutual coins to hire assistants and other helpers. In other words, many residents delegated their work so they could spend more time on personal and communal projects. The necessity to outsource some of the work for the wellbeing of a community raises some questions. Can a society be sustainable by itself? Who are these helpers and what place do they have in this society?
In fact, the incessant use of third parties questions the limits of this caring society as a whole. The need for self care has been acknowledged, as well as this of caring for others. But what does it mean if this “other” does not include the people outside their specific community? No discussion was held concerning the care for the helpers and how to unload some work upon them while still ensuring they too have the time and space to take care of themselves and the people in their lives.
While finances didn't matter much when hiring helpers, as they were all paid with mutual coins, it still raises the question of the residents’ relationship with wealth. Robyn and Consuelo, for example, were able to hire a cleaner for their house, while they moved in together precisely because of financial troubles. This decision, normally reserved for a privileged minority, shows how the ReUnion fund can break some class barriers. However, over time, the mutual coin was used less and less as a way of showing care and more and more as a banal alternative to the financial coin. Which raises the question: can an alternative currency such as the one proposed by the ReUnion Fund escape a capitalistic fate? Or will it inevitably become somewhat instrumentalised by a privileged few?
Community Well-being Assessment
Public Infrastructure Development (with emphasis on care support) (30%)
Public infrastructures turned out to be a central space in the community through the development of a communal garden. This spontaneous space started as an individual project, from Fanny’s desire to develop her passion for gardening, and organically evolved into a multicultural centre where agriculture, art and care came together. It was the starting point of many relationships and allowed several residents to find new interests. Fanny, thanks to this project, was one of the residents with the most relationships.
Private infrastructures, though less communal, still emerged a lot and were often created in a collaborative and caring spirit, the founders taking a great interest in shaping their businesses in a way that would benefit the community. Even though the project has not been realised yet, some members of this collaborative-thinking entrepreneurial spirited society began working on a communal project; a freelancer’s union. This is a project that makes sense with the society’s general wish for more independence from the government, and would thus benefit many of its residents. Even though working class residents have struggled a bit more to find stability, in the end they were not at too much of a disadvantage, with the exception of Teo: his immigrant status brought many frustrations his way. He faced administrative struggles, and felt pressure both to become an active part of the community and to support his family.
These efforts towards a mutually caring society through both public and private infrastructure are therefore rated at 80.
Relationship Maturity (30%).
The constant desire from all residents to meet new people led to a strong web of relationships, but many of them stayed unregistered for a long time. Indeed, a shift was observed over time in the way relationships were formed. At first, the possibility to officially register their mutually caring relationships felt intriguing, interesting, but not essential. There was of course a rush to the relationship consulate in 2023 to restore the data lost from a cyber attack, but during the following years the residents took the time to really get to know each other and explore these connections before visiting the consulate.
Over time however, the residents started to use more mutual coins, even preferring them to financial coins, and the benefits from registering a relationship became more and more apparent. Registering relationships started to seem essential when the idea of a communal project was announced. At this moment, many long-term relationships finally became official, and the encounters started to feel a little bit less spontaneous and a bit more purposeful.
That being said, many relationships changed the lives of those involved. Soren and Natalie, despite never registering, created a business together and helped each other in this difficult life-changing process. Robyn welcomed Consuelo into her home when she was in trouble, forming a caring household. Aida brought many community members with her to the countryside and changed their whole perception of the community, helping them realise how important it had become in their lives.
Even though the act of registering started to feel a bit calculated in the last years, these relationships were still genuine. Therefore, the relationship maturity is rated at 85.
The feeling of player participation in the game (40%).
The general feeling after 20 years in the ReUnion society was very well summed up by Consuelo when she said that “There is no perfect society. Maybe struggling with others is better than struggling alone."
The players were very positive, they appreciated their time in the community and the different relationships they had explored. They felt a bit frustrated however by the lack of time to explore everything and to do everything, and felt like their life status was really fragile, as any event can completely throw them off course.
This was however only a frustration and none of the players ever felt desperate or deeply sad, the difficulties they encountered actually highlighted the importance of a good social safety net. Mutual care and the support not only of individuals but also of a community helped them overcome many of these difficulties, and showed how strong a collective can be to achieve meaningful projects.
All in all, nothing felt particularly spectacular, it was a pleasant 20 years with common ups and downs, but it still sparked an awareness of the strength of care in a community. Therefore and because the players were all very involved in the game while finding it difficult to balance personal health, relational health and communal health, the feeling of player participation is rated at 75.