It is time for a new economic system—the “I Care” economy. The post industrial US economy, and the Great Recessionary loss of jobs, puts intense pressure on the demand to achieve high performance and access social capital or other assets, in order to maintain a stable, healthy, and high-capacity quality of life. In other words, more of us are competing for fewer opportunities in a work-for-hire society.
The “I Care” economy, that contemporary artist Jan Veroert describes, exposes its wings through the exhaustion of the old high performance paradigm economy. It is the intersection of the gift economy—of honor through generosity and integrity—and flexible high performance. An “I Care” economy creates a spectrum of solutions from businesses that pursue an environmental and social benefit over and above the bottom line. It offers institutions to communities in the forms of mutual support, social capital or commonly held assets and cosmology—the tribe, the village, the commune, the coop.
Verwoert explores the question of performing in society as performers and as workers, workers who perform and vice versa. He echoes the ethos of Richard Florida’s veritable “creative class.” In the post-mass production, flexible economy, the creative workers are also “the job slaves,” consistently negotiating ways to support the work that we want to do with the work we feel we have to do.
Verwoert explores the modes by which creative class performers define the “terms” of our own agency, presumably to perform productively, and “defy the social pressure to perform.” His discourse meanders through the valiance of saying “I can’t,” that is, the ethos of “latency”.
Latency in the garden is the fallow time in nature, whenever one thing is absorbed into another, the caterpillar asleep in its cocoon slowly eating itself alive.
My desire for personal latency is also part of a pastoral landscape. It melts away days in green backdrops, lush and thick with fruit.
It sees no work attached to this abundance, only the ever-giving harvest. It is my lost life in the tropics, only a dream can reimagine.
The time of the memory at work, as Verwoert remarks, can interrupt “the homogenous pace of high performance culture.”
In this pastoral latency of mine, the garden is edible artwork; I am cocooning in my sustainable eden, fruit and nonfruit bearing flowers all around.
Snapped back to reality, this landscape of the garden takes shape only in fleeting forms of spare time and, presently, another volunteer day. It’s the day after my birthday, and I feel particularly inspired to head out into a brisk morning.
Weeks have passed since my last garden visit. The fall weighs down on the eastern seaboard, leaves leaning quickly into sunset. The earth turns fallow. Gardens are laid down in their beds, blankets are being tucked around them in layers of old vine and fallen fruits no longer fit to consume.
I encounter the SEEDS community garden in its commitment to autumn. Rows have of old okra have been pulled, and unwanted eggplant lay on the ground, awaiting fate in the compost. I followed the directions of a 16 year-old young man, who instructed me to weed out rows. I settle into a squat, and so begins my earth meditation.
For three hours, I focused my mind hands and back on spotting and snagging small shoots of plants from between onion stalks, pulling up old spinach vine, and shaking loose monkey grass roots.
By hour 2, I noted Mr. Duprey talking to a program coordinator. After all the children from had left the field, I stayed behind pulling weeds, becoming engrossed, mechanized, one’d.
Mr. Duprey walked over with a warm greeting, and bent down to help with the weeding. Our conversation meandered into his joy in sharing the abundance of vegetables he usually has from his garden with his daughter, neighbors and friends. He beamed at the thought of his daughter’s son eating pureed vegetables from his garden as a baby, such that at age 7 he was still a vegetable lover.
I mentioned my grandfather, who at 78 was just a few years older than Mr. Duprey, had suffered a stroke and was still recovering. I’d urged him to eat plenty of fresh vegetables; Mr. Duprey agreed. He felt he’d been able to minimize his prescriptions by eating so much fresh food. He wryly criticized his own wife who wouldn’t be swayed by his healthy, fresh food ways.
We remarked at how wonderful it was that a garden could bring so many different people together, three year olds and moms, teenagers from different neighborhoods, all different ethnicities. I rode home with a bag full of turnip greens, a score from Mr. Duprey. Mr. Duprey washed and ate the turnip for lunch on his way out.
It was a beautiful day for the New Economy. We All Cared enough to be there, to give our gifts, to extend our social capitals, no twelve point agenda necessary. The Earth commanded our attention, and we gave it freely.
 Verwoert, Jan. “Exhaustion et Exuberance.” A pamphlet for the exhibition Yes No and Other Optoins. Sheffield 2008. 102.