Disclaimer: this post may be a bit cringey because it’s about privilege and how I experience it. Talking about privilege is a tricky thing, and a bit uncomfortable for all parties involved — at least when they are self aware, and I try to be that. In general I try to recognize how privileged I am, which in most respects just means I’m lucky. I don’t buy into the biased capitalist story that makes privilege — or its proxy, success — a manifestation of willpower or specialness. Having said that, I apologize if I miss the mark and end up sounding out-of-touch, here and elsewhere.
Staying in hotels is really a pretty good way of life. But in many ways it’s also a terrible thing, because it means that yet another activity that is reserved only for those with spare money is great — and that’s pretty much a constant in capitalist society. Money is a way of making sure your experiences are as good as they can be, which is essentially what all living beings care about the most. Sometimes “as good as they can be” means “it’s unlikely something will eat or kill you tomorrow” and sometimes it means “you’re in a place where you’re relaxed and you can do pretty much what you want, and tomorrow things will revert to a known-good state — don’t worry about the bed or tidying up, that stuff just happens”.
Of course in reality that stuff doesn’t “just happen” — we all know it, but it’s easy not to think about it at times, in particular when you’re travelling and focusing on the great things around you. A maid, very often underpaid — in the sense not paid enough to be able to afford the same lifestyle you’re experiencing, perhaps ever — does it for you. This is again capitalist society at its purest. The maid provides a service that is very much at the core of the value that hotels give, and yet who gets most of the money you give to hotels? The company that owns the hotel, and not the maid; the owner of the real estate, which is in a way the means of production, and not the workers that are onsite — maids, clerks, sometimes waiters and cooks. What the hotel machine (the building, and the people that work in it) produces is the experience of being in a hotel.
Today we walked through Málaga with a friend, we drank coffee, we ate well. L. worked on a university task for a while. I took a nap. I thought I would write if I had the time, and now I’m doing it. It’s a pretty good way of life. I’d like everybody to be able to have it if they want it.
How to get there? A just society could get there by way of automation; even without perfect automation, if a (big) hotel could work with only very few human employees organizing the work of hundreds of robots, it would probably be a fairer arrangement for the people involved. But what would the maids and the clerks, or the people that would have ended up as maids and clerks, do? Many of the people that seem to oppose the idea of the universal basic income think that people would be bored with their free time, even if a dystopia in which people whose jobs have been automated away just starve is avoided. I like to think instead that such people would, in a sense, stop to exist in a different way; freed from the burden of poverty, most people would be willing and able to pursue other pursuits, and that those would further the quality of life of humankind further. What of the all the potential thinkers and creators that are current maids and clerks? Or the unemployed due to lack of skills that society both considers crucial and failed to give them through education?