when money is NOT above everything: other ways of working, generating income, and living
“there are other suppliers… other qualities of dough. Everybody must win. Everyone must sell. Everyone must have their space”.
Can we still dream of a more egalitarian and fairer world? Do we want it?
Can we find now, in our current time, concrete examples of people living and working in different settings than corporations and profit-oriented organizations? Do we want to?
Is there something different going on? Or is it all just a utopia portrayed in books and movies?
We live the imperative of winning: always and at any price. Results matter, but not how we get to them. We do not see ourselves as complementary or interdependent. The other human beings have become adversaries, competitors… enemies! Everyone must survive, behave, and thrive according to this logic.
What shocks me most is how many of us consider this kind of mindset, policies, and ways of life to be natural. People aspire to grow more and more within these ready and available ideals of success. Success for whom? At the cost of whom?
Me first. Me second. Me third. But that is not unanimous! Not everyone thinks, feels, and desires to live like this!
I always get confused when I think that we are in the middle of the 21st century, with so much technology, so many resources of all kinds, so many possibilities of making the world a better place for everybody and not just for a tiny group, and we still consider that the ‘standard’ way to work, generate income, find the necessary means to live, is to fit within the model that is the most common: to work in highly hierarchical, utilitarian private companies, where one commands and the others obey, where people are managed by fear of losing their job (and livelihood) the next day.
By the way, how is it possible that, in the same organization, one earns a thousand times more than the other? How can this be supported, applauded, justified, and even desired by so many people? There is no search for egalitarianism, but, on the contrary, a stimulus to the competition.
Or you can struggle to become an entrepreneur, a successful entrepreneur, which is again an option focused on individualism and on winning alone — or almost alone — in this wild world of money and success.
Something that I often think about is: what do we stimulate when we adhere to determined values, practices, and behaviors? What are we signalizing as natural, as positive? What are we (re)producing?
Does anyone want to work based on collaboration, to design and implement policies to distribute wealth more equally inside their organizations and societies?
There are other — not so publicized — ways of living, working, generating income, establishing relationships. Of seeing the world and ourselves.
How, then, is it possible to live, work and generate income in more collective and less hierarchical ways than in traditional companies? How to work in organizations in which income is more equally distributed among all and all? Where decisions are more participatory, and things decided more collectively?
Is there someone building ways of working and generating income collectively supported by values such as solidarity, participation, and equality?
I am sure there are other ways of living and working. How and where can I find them?
I was not always an academic. I started working at the age of 17 and I have had jobs in the financial department of a computer company, investment banking, financial consulting company, language school, and even in the food industry. I have only started a new life and career as an academic when I had just turned 29.
In all these work experiences, I was bothered by things such as treating hierarchy as a supreme and unquestionable value, both openly in a military-based organizational culture where one determines monocratically and the others just obey, and also in several ‘modern’ private companies where supposedly the hierarchy is left behind if relations are apparently horizontal.
What have always shocked me most is how many of us consider these modes of working, living, and being, aiming to grow more and more within this scenario, something natural.
It is rare to perceive incentives to collective mobilization, ways of managing life, and organizations that stimulate values such as cooperation, solidarity, and egalitarianism.
We cannot fail to question and even deconstruct what seems to represent the nature of people and things, including to show that the modes of existence are neither unique nor inevitable.
I did not want to just complain. Denouncing, debating, discussing: all fundamental. But I wanted to go further. I was curious to look for concrete alternatives. Practical possibilities. Concrete experiences. To live. To experiment.
Until 2004, I had never heard of Solidarity Economy, associativism, or even self-management. But there are initiatives in which profit does not seem to be above all. You must pick them up, listen to them. You must live them.
I sometimes think I have had a kind of nomadic life. Since I left Rio de Janeiro for the first time, I have lived in different Brazilian cities such as Porto Alegre, Balneário Camboriú, Itajaí, Criciúma, Itapiranga, Ribeirão Preto. I have also lived in Lisbon, Portugal, and on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: São Miguel island, in the Azores.
I love listening to stories and dreams. I love learning from how people build their existences and what types of values and societies these modes stimulate. It was essential to meet people who, together, fight for other ways of working and being, based on attitudes and values that are more loving and focused on life than those who today seem naturalized to many people, but that have nothing of natural.
I walked through streets and avenues, talked to university professors, civil servants of various levels and institutions, and workers from different NGOs and companies, as well as with lots of ‘anonymous’.
I write stories with narratives linked to what I lived and felt: processes, experiences, experimentations. I have learned a lot. I took many life lessons. During my journeys, I have heard and witnessed something that seems contrary to what many preach and believe:
“there are other suppliers… other qualities of dough. Everybody must win. Everyone must sell. Everyone must have their space”
I tell these and other stories in more detail in my new book “When money is not above everything: other ways of working, generating income, and living”, which you can find here in this link.
If you want to embark in this journey with me, I hope that the book can affect you, raise questions, concerns, actions, and changes, especially in the direction of more just, egalitarian, and supportive worlds.