OK! Enough wit’ da sex, already!

If you are going to talk about contentious issues, it is always good to start out with one sure to create a buzz and Me Too, Sex, gender politics and personal outrage is, perhaps, the top pop-issue of today (and yesterday and tomorrow). Sexual politics is an easy fire-starter for one’s hair, ya know?

But as good as sex is to get everyone’s attention, let’s be honest – sex is mostly just personally important but it is not as important as climate change, species extinction, micro-plastics and all the other mundane but still lethal threats we all are now facing. I mean, I really should be talking about Gaia, shouldn’t I?

But I will, instead, raise a different and currently (for me) topical issue: let’s go with the economy one more time – but this time, the micro-economy of a small village or loose gathering of neighbours, or just a gaggle of individuals spread out over a large space. In other words, I am talking about here.

I have an old boat. Good hull. Up on the hard. A neighbour asks, “Hey! Wanna talk about that ol’ boat ya got?” I say, “No need to talk. You want it? It’s yours.” “Just like that?” “Yep. I’ll tell the dozens of others who wanted to talk about it that I have given it away!” “How many others?” “None.”

A lot of hard bargaining around here.

Mind you, that kinda barter-gifting-favour-exchange thing is not universal. Young people charge money for their services. Old people generally do not (but then again, old people usually don’t work too long or hard). And old people prefer to deal in favours or exchanges more than cash, as a rule.

It is not that old people are richer or are more or less generous, it is just that young people have children and kids need cash. The going rate for unskilled labour is about $25.00 an hour. If muscles are gonna ache and the body is going to sweat, the price goes up to $30.00 an hour. Skilled labour is generally done on a contracted price. Newbies who come in and say, “Well, I can’t really estimate the time it will take but I charge $30.00 an hour” rarely get the job. Folks out here are cash-strapped and so they can’t take the risk of an un-bloody-guessable non-estimate.

All that sounds reasonable enough but some folks are better workers than others and so even the ‘general labour rate’ is still hard to peg. Some people work like Trojans, others stand around a lot and do not work hard at all. Both use up time……at $30.00 an hour. So, the local labour pool is a crapshoot. The cost-estimate of getting anything done is nebulous at best. The only thing that is generally always acceptable is free. There are attendant strings, obligations and expectations but they are always more than reasonable. Free+ is a good system.

The labour pool is also small. Out of say 250 folks out here, maybe 25 of them occasionally look for work in the area. Which translates into, “Well, I can get to it in week maybe. When do ya need it? I have to fix a bearing on the machine first. You know, the main one on the swing arm? And Barb wants to go to town soon, too. But, if ya need anything picked up in town, we can do that.”

What does that non-answer actually mean? No idea. He’s busy? Not interested? Barb doesn’t drive? Is it a way of bargaining? Is it avoidance? The usual best answer to that is, “Hey, thanks for the pick-up offer. I’ll get back to you.” (Note that the original topic – work – has been left untouched, unresolved and, for the foreseeable future, undone).

Free old guys and their piles of junk are the best. “Ya wanna get a new roof on J’s place? Aw’right. Let’s go!”

“I have to get in a few roof panels first.”

“Hell, if she isn’t fussy about the colour, I have some in the back she can have!”

“Alright then, let’s get ‘er done!”

Our economy is hard to actually get a handle on out here. As are the people. And it has a bit of a generation gap, too. The market is small, the labour pool is smaller and the discretionary cash-pool is even smaller yet. Attention spans? Non existent. Doing business out here is not at all like doing business in the city….but, somehow it is better. It’s more personal. It builds community. It helps people. But it truly is on the micro-nano-scale of an African village…..and, I swear…half the folks speak a form of business-Swahili and change the topic until, maybe, sometime in the future (could be years) when they bump into you on a trail and say, “Hey? You still interested in fixing that bearing on the swing arm for me?”

6 thoughts on “OK! Enough wit’ da sex, already!

    • Good question. Of the 25 willing to work, half are young women and maybe 3 are older women. All do a good job. Of the remaining ten, they are young men who often share the work with wives and girlfriends. But the bulls do the heavy lifting. The women are helpers. Same pay rate, tho. Except R, J, L and S. They are equal to any task. J, L and S can start and can work alone. And they do. KT virtually ran her entire tourist op alone. R&L are 100% partners in a similar operation.. Totally equal.
      R is a very skilled woodworker.. She and another woman could charge way more anywhere but there’s no money here. Wages are much the same – no gender difference for equal work. Highest paid worker is likely the female teacher.
      Most overpaid….the female nurses. Differences amongst us all? Negligible except the nurses. They are less useful but paid by government..
      There is more work for women. And they get all the jobs….unless it is chainsaws, trucks, mills and heavy lifting and that is often taken on by partnership teams.of male and female paid equally. Yes, we have a few pedestal princesses but not many.
      That help?

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  1. Damn, I could actually run a small business over there fixing things left and right :-). At least for the coming 10 years or so…by then, my muscles and bones will get too old to do heavy lifting probably. Paygrade is OK to me….or throw in a salmon, some prawns, a good scotch from time to time. To be honest, I think it is the best form of economy where you live, and maybe the world would be a better place if economy was more like that everywhere (but that is not going to happen). I have seen this way of economy on a much smaller scale in small villages here like 30 years ago. Then it was limited to neighbours helping each other out, doing chores together that were too heavy for 1 guy or woman. In the evening, “salary” for the job was payed almost every time by throwing in a good BBQ, inviting the rest of the neighbours, wifes/husbands/kids. I remember even one time when I was paid with a haircut late in the evening near the woodfire….untill the battery of the electrical shaver was dead and I was left with half my hair cut

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    • I like it, too. We cannot have folks be ‘out of pocket’ if they use gasoline or bring parts or materials, so money, money, money is almost always present at some level but, typically, labour is free to be exchanged for some more of the same some other day. Somebody not capable of exchanging labour will still go the extra mile with a salmon or something. It’s good for the seniors, not so good for the young people. The under 40’s live with at least one foot in the modern world and they need cash-paying jobs.

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    • Ya got me to thinking about my reference to princesses…..I will venture that we have maybe two or three at any one time. Mind you, many start out with matching Gore-tex, make-up, jewelry and ‘cute’ shoes with fluffy hair. Kinda fun, actually…..but, within a year, the bangles are gone, the make-up is much, much less, the cute shoes are now gumboots and the fluffy hair has somehow flattened out. The Gore-tex has holes and stains. Three years in, the princess has been grounded and the ‘real face’ shows up. Can’t think of a real face I haven’t liked.

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