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#9 The home goes brrrr...
Part 1: The home as a literal production frontier
I originally intended to write this as an intro to the closely related New Old Home project that I contributed to with 17 other collaborators, the ideas of which inspired the below. This will now be a short series on the New Old Home.
There’s a peculiar house in my gentrified neighborhood where modern homes and crumbling ones co-exist. It has a sign board in front that reads WONG LONG FASHION DESIGN LLC. A friend told me that the other day she always wanted to check it out but was not sure what to expect while walking into a house that’s also a shop. I wonder if this house is the caricature for what a lot of houses would like now that more of our work and production has moved to our homes.
And I don’t mean just work that you do on your computers, although that will make most of it. I mean local department stores and even small scale manufacturing. This is not an alien thing in India where I’m originally from. Kudumbashree is an organization in Kerala, India that is a co-operative for self employed women. The co-op helps women set-up small businesses or join one. If Stripe’s goal is “Increase the GDP of the internet”, Kudumbashree’s goal is “Increase the GDP of every woman in Kerala”. Every year during the festive season women from Kudumbashree go door to door selling soaps, jam, wine and even household cleaning equipment that they produced at home. Some of them are such “regulars” that my mom often gives them money for the products without actually purchasing anything. I recently learnt that Amazon India now lists products from Kudumbashree - that’s a long way that the org has come from producing things on a small scale.
Masks are the gateway drug
Sure it would innocently start with making masks at home on a small scale, probably alone in a dark room, to pay off debts or just because of an urge to contribute in some way. Perhaps some of these women would find similar people on Facebook groups or Discord and spin up little co-ops in their neighborhood.
The primary impediment to this in America is that the zombie brain of American culture defaults to personal freedom over any kind of collective responsibility. Collaborating with people you don’t know and don't necessarily have the same background or opinions with is really hard. An acute crisis that renders half the population unemployed or on the brink can make this a necessity more than a choice.
May be this would also lead to more real bets on diversity because of a conscious choice to collaborate with other people even though its hard. After all, there’s no longer a shortage of masks but people are still making them and selling them.