Hi David,
Craig Sullivan

* — now revised, having time to dwell on it & add more detail — *

Really, really like this follow-through. Thank you so much for putting the time into it.

Starting with a few of the immediate reponses.

  1. Talia seems to be bootstrapping herself just fine. She doesn’t reveal exactly what’s happened, but in her second missive, (An Open Letter To You), it seems prospects are really looking up.

She has created herself a pivot point more powerful than she imagined - but also as powerful as she’s capable of.

What’s more, it makes me think that the internet in general, and Medium in particular amplified her voice in ways that might be a one off - but which might be a precedent for other articulate, underemployed, disenfranchised people. I wonder if this will shake up the internet economy/social economy, given that any minute now someone else can and will do a Talia Jane.

Moreover, what of the people who see themselves as Talia Jane’s self-declared superiors? Those of her peer group who’ve complained bitterly about her ingratitude; about her refusal to respect the servility of her position. Is this evidence of fracture lines between progressive and regressive millennials?

2. Bees. During the cold spell a couple of weeks ago I was talking with the beekeeper at the orchard I help manage about this very thing. Coincidence! Cold bee? Cup it between your palms and breath some warm air onto it. Keep it warm until it starts to buzz about.

3. Your grandad working with ex-cons. Another coincidence. Have been working with ex-cons, people in rehab, with mental health or homelessness issues as part of a semi-structured programme of managing life, wellbeing, or re-integration. So I can see the kinds of changes you refer to.

4. Making your own luck. This one just doesn’t ring true. Maybe we need to agree on the semantics. Working hard, study/learning, making onself helpful doesn’t guarantee anything. If it did, success should be repeating itself with each endeavour. Nor do I see the in extremis, intrinsic or extrinsic conditions that would otherwise explain it away.

I think we are sometimes dependent on being noticed by someone with something to offer, and that there are not enough offers going around. That would be one part of it, and is also why I think mentoring is important. Your grandad, Talia’s grandad.

Tangentially, as a kid, I saw futuristic cartoons that had robots doing all the labour. I read about labour-saving technology. I read Erewhon and reckoned people would garden away their days because robots did all the tedious work. But it’s only now that people are starting to ask about the consequences of robotofication. And a lot of those people are alarmed about the loss of jobs. Jobs are not a be-all and end-all. I can and do keep myself very active without a job per se. But jobs are the basis of the world we live in now, and deserve to be managed on something other than a competitive laissez-faire basis. There’s nowt wrong with cooperatives, collectives, and employee-owned businesses! :)

5. There are mentoring schemes around - I think the Prince’s Trust do some of that, and there are other schemes aimed at over 50s. But I didn’t mean it to be taken quite so literally. I’m looking more for your generalised overview, the abstract theoretical thinking that doesn’t show up at ants-level experience. A bit like when you asked why we aren’t using technology to help address social issues like isolation amongst the solitary elderly.

6. Hostel as equaliser. My first thought was that you’ve described the hostel as a place where people level off. Whatever got them there, wherever they came from, in that place, everyone is in the shit. I want to agree and leave it at that. But I dare not, because there might still be worthwhile distinctions. (I don’t know what those might be. I’ve lived rough - but on the road, as an itinerant/vagrant, in abandoned houses and in the countryside, not in a hostel.)

I know people who have said the same about being in those places, that place. Just the other night I talked with a rough sleeper about getting in touch with an offer of support. She doesn’t use any of the local hostels, so I’m relying on luck to cross paths again.

Funny thing, I never felt trapped by homelessness or poverty, so long as I could keep moving. I only felt trapped when I’d taken on some iron-clad commitments then lost the ability to follow through.

7. At this point I’m wondering what to focus on. We’ve had a bit of conversation, and I reckon we’re largely in agreement, and have a remarkably coincidental(?) worldview. Having set the world to rights, what’s next?

Talia seems to be motoring ahead without having noticed what we’ve been saying, let alone finding anything of import in it. That may pass us by like a speeding coach on the highway.

There will be others in her situation. Are we doing something about that?

There’s the echo-chamber of Medium, which might or might not be marshalled in other ways. There’s an argument to be made again and again about supporting people in difficult situations. Is that a useful focus?

And of course, there’s the garden, and the bees, and approaching Spring. Quite a useful place to be.

Again, thanks!

PS: I’ve made a compilation of other people’s empathic responses. Some of them really nail some of the things you and I have mentioned.

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