Within the framework of adaptation and hyperlocal urbanism enjoyment is one of the three prerequisites for achieving a social order where the residents are motivated in participating social life, production, and management of the localized sustenance systems. The other two are giving and sharing. If the life depicted by hyperlocal urbanism is to come to be, and to be sustained, it must be enjoyable. For many of us, this will require a paradigm shift in what we find enjoyable. We need to treat the subject of enjoyment seriously. Usually, it is our own frame of mind – our own work ethic – that prevents our enjoyment; no matter how rigorously we pursue it, the voice in our minds tells us that our enjoyment is not deserved or earned. This widespread work ethic forces us to see anything but worthwhile production as a waste of time, that spending our time with our neighbors as time not worthwhile, not well-lived; and our community engagement only as an obligation, not as enjoyment. Anything fun is a “guilty pleasure” to be regretted immediately after.
The Protestant work ethic that underlined “guilty pleasure” gave way to the kind of production processes that created capitalism and became wide spread in the West. We rationalized and systematized our activities of production and developed tools to monitor how we use our time at work. Nowadays it is common to work forty to fifty hours a week or more, at a remote work place away from home, with long grueling commutes. We brag about how little sleep we need. Many workers come to feel like they are part of a machine run by a distant authority beyond reach. And for some who worked in large manufacturing factories, this is literally the case, as Charlie Chaplin so eloquently pointed out in his movie Modern Times.
This kind of life is neither balanced nor resilient. It is surely not enjoyable either. If and
when we lose our jobs, suddenly life becomes very difficult. We have put all of our eggs
in one basket, and the fate of our work is controlled by others. Even if we own our own business the fate of the business may depend on larger scale factors that are beyond our control, which was the case for many restaurant owners especially in the early months of the lockdown due to the pandemic. So, how do we increase resilience in our daily lives regarding our work? How do we have energy left over to spend time with our family,
neighbors, and friends, to get involved in local activities and management that affect
enjoyment and quality of life?
The financial meltdown of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic give us some hints. Similar to
our argument for strengthening local economies, one answer is to diversify what we do
and to do it in a way to reduce dependence. Many businesses have already learned the
importance of being small, agile, and maintaining a limited overhead. After the meltdown
of 2008, some large firms shrank, and many small offices were formed by those who had
lost their jobs. We also learned that we could live with working fewer hours, or at a different pace, or doing things we loved. Some started their own businesses on the side, either in the field they had been working in or by diversifying their interests and forming a creative mixture of services. These are important lessons for how we can create a more localized and independent business landscape for the future, as well as how we can put aside more time in order to be a part of local governance. This kind of landscape can create a resilient or lean local economy where the time spent for communal activities can not only be enjoyable but also actually pay back and support the household budget significantly.
The working-from-home is another important transformation we have experienced during
the lockdown. Many of us realized that running business from home is possible. In spite of its disadvantages, it reclaimed time from commuting and provided more autonomy about how we organized our workspace, which enabled us to diversify our work endeavors. This transformation provides important clues about the social order implied by hyperlocal urbanism, where we expect residents to devote time to involvement in local governance and management.
To move our discussion back to the term enjoyment, “the guilty pleasure,” the antithesis
of enjoyment, has another important consequence: it distances us from the decision-making processes that effect our lives; it forces us to act in an anti-democratic way. In his book Terra Madre, Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, states:
"Pleasure is democratic. … Pleasure is democratic because it makes us want to become active players again, even if this only means performing small acts to improve our daily lives. The pleasure of eating is potentially the most immediate and the most accessible pleasure for all of us. And eating pleasurably may be a disruptive political act. Pleasure is not elitist; it is a right that needs to be protected, promoted, and enjoyed by all." (Petrini, C. (2009). Terra Madre: Forging a new global network of sustainable food communities. Chelsea Green Publishing, p.51).
Enjoying pleasures in life, even the simple ones such as eating, is a way of developing
preferences, which is a prerequisite for any democratic debate. Without any preferences
our vote becomes a blind vote. Enjoyment (and having preferences) is not just butter on
the bread, but it is the bread itself. It is not only a healthy way of slowing down, but a civic responsibility for creating a resilient democratic order.
We can find joy in knowing even our crankiest neighbors and see them as assets. This
may soon become a matter of necessity if, and when, we face isolation and desolation in
the age of climate disasters. The ownership and management models we suggest for
adaptation and hyperlocal urbanism provide the framework within which neighbors are
enabled to be assets for each other. But it is up to each of us to see more clearly the
advantages of diversifying our endeavors and our companions and enjoy giving to, as
well as taking from, our communities. It is up to each of us to face the paradigm shift we
need to find enjoyment in all endeavors in our lives.