I’m a millennial, so I have a fair amount of anxiety about the financial reality I will be living into in adulthood. (“The systems are failing us!” I often yelp at my fiancé or friends or anyone engaged in current-events conversation with me.)
One of the things that helps me is remembering that art can save us. Matthew Arnold says it best, as engraved on The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: “Art still has truth, take refuge there.”
Another helpful tactic is remembering that we have a public option. You probably think about health insurance when you hear the phrase, but it’s a cornerstone of our public policy. State parks, city pools, libraries, highways and public schools are all examples of the public option.
I’ve been thinking about this lately in light of what’s not working for everyone. Today (and tomorrow!) is a made-up holiday for the biggest American retailer. Its warehouse employees wear adult diapers so we can get our guaranteed two-day delivery. The behemoth didn’t pay a dollar in federal income tax last year. Workers are striking to protest low wages. We love the convenience of shiny new industry disruptions (Lyft, Postmates, Instagram), but we’d be wise to remember who they (mostly) serve: Big Profit.
The public option gives me hope because institutions like libraries and parks and the Postal Service keep me connected to other people and my community without causing harm. I mailed some hand-written notes and bought two sheets of Sesame Street stamps today instead of shopping online. It feels good to acknowledge how our tax dollars contribute to our civic wellbeing.
As Austin Kleon writes, “I think of the public library as one of the last spaces in this country where you can go and feel like a real citizen. You’re not being sold anything. You’re welcome to be who you are, or work on becoming what you want to be. The library is there for you.”
I’m also drawn lately to Jenn Armbrust’s envisioning of the feminine economy. In fact, it’s what inspired me to launch this very blog a few years ago — the title of this post and several others come from her Proposals for the Feminine Economy. Her rainbow wheel of feminine principles highlights traits that I feel when I’m exploring a library branch or sitting in a park with friends: ease, connecting with nature, intimacy.
Like Jenn says, if we want to keep joyful, communal things accessible to everyone, we need to support them with our time and money and voice. Pay the fees (unless your library is like mine and recently removed late fines, which makes them an even better institution). Show up. Share the places you respect with people you love.