By Ian Cooke-Tapia
Written between June and August 2019
Recently, I was in Belgrade for the Creative Backlash conference; a project between British Council Turkey and Atölye, this conference in part dealt with precarity in the creative industries, especially amongst my kin, the freelance worker, but more specifically about resilience in business and the creative industries. Towards this, Dr Rachel Doern from London Goldmsith College gave a wonderful talk about the different strategies people have to cope with crises, be personal, social or economical. She presented us research done after the 2011 London Riots, framing it in a way that was relatable both to creative entrepreneurs, established businesses, and a whole bunch of new artists. Dr Doern’s study focused on the effects the looting, vandalism and arson had on various business owners in London. From those who had measures in place for crisis (shutters, insurance, etc.) to those who had nothing to help them mitigate a crisis and anyone in-between. Her research showed some enlightening things about the sort of mindset needed to properly contest, survive, and at times even thrive during a crisis.
Positive adaptation, or resilience is, well, I’ll let Wikipedia do the talking here:
When a person is “bombarded by daily stress, it disrupts their internal and external sense of balance, presenting challenges as well as opportunities.” However, the routine stressors of daily life can have positive impacts which promote resilience. It is still unknown what the correct level of stress is for each individual. Some people can handle greater amounts of stress than others. Resilience is the integrated adaptation of physical, mental and spiritual aspects in a set of “good or bad” circumstances, a coherent sense of self that is able to maintain normative developmental tasks that occur at various stages of life. The Children’s Institute of the University of Rochester explains that “resilience research is focused on studying those who engage in life with hope and humor despite devastating losses”. It is important to note that resilience is not only about overcoming a deeply stressful situation, but also coming out of the said situation with “competent functioning”. Resiliency allows a person to rebound from adversity as a strengthened and more resourceful person
It is a difficult question to ask yourself, let alone act upon. It is a maybe, something that might happen, but probably to someone else. Yet, we must always ask – what if everything goes absolutely wrong?
Think of it as operating under Murphy’s Law. And, hey, I’ve quote Murphy’s Law often and… when it was about someone else’s obviously preventable misfortune. Oh. Oh! Okay, I realise that Murphy’s Law popular use dilutes its actual role as a didactic tool. To remind us that, indeed, something will go wrong. Hindsight is 20/20, Foresight sees everything upside down and is colour-blind to boot.
Synchronicity, as a mountain-walking poet I know once said, doesn’t care if it fits your schedule. The very next weekend I was victim of Murphy’s Law. That evening, after me and my partner went to bed, someone got into our house and burglared some items off our hands. One of them being my Surface Pro tablet, a tool I used to increase my productivity and workflow, but that’s neither here nor there.
After my initial panic of someone having stolen my cards (and, guess what, my bank has so much data on my spending habits that they figured that I would never have bought something in a Spar corner shop at 1am), a new panic set in: the data stored within my tablet. Like everyone whose inbox got swamped by GDPR emails, I’ve also grown worried about my data as a valuable resource and security issue. Oh, yeah, it isn’t safe at all in my house, but as soon as I realised that someone out there really had a super easy way to access… well, myself, my life, for this data isn’t just a sliver of who I am, but a near-exact replica of many of my behaviours… Damn, did I panic!
Stored passwords, financial information, website visits, access to emails and many other accounts. And that is just the tip of the data iceberg on that one machine. What does it say of me and my environs that my first thought when someone steals my laptop, is not “oh, arschloch may a pox shrivel your progeny for a million generations”, but “scheisse, they’ve gained access to the fort!”
A couple of weeks on, I am really not bothered by the situation. Horribly inconvenienced, miffed that someone stole something valuable, but in reality, nothing really happened. If anything, I saw an opportunity not just to do something I’ve been putting off for ages, but also to research ways in which this could just not happen to me again. Insurance, registering items with the police, minor security issues within household, data protection… I mean, as a freelancer who depends on these tools and computers to make a living, why the hell haven’t I gone out of my way to ensure that if, say, a fire starts, they will be protected?
Hubris, I guess. It wouldn’t happen to me, I take care of these things! Do I? Man, even after changing all my passwords I bet I still have a million security breaches on my phone alone, let alone my other machines! I should not even be running my computer unless I have a UPS ensuring that no power surges could damage my equipment. They are rare, but they could happen. And what if when they do, it is the one that fries my livelihood?
My eyes have been opened to the possibility of it all going wrong. And I am glad in a weird way that this happened, you know. Like Rebecca mentioned in her lecture, some people adapt positively, seeing new opportunities and learning from disasters, big and small; others are negative adapters, who just… give up, mull or cannot take it. But as positive at adapting I am, I am still a human, and very good at convincing myself that certain type of work can be forever pushed to the future. I mean, do I really need to double my security on ALL of my online accounts?
Do I really need to start registering all of my items with the police database in case, when stolen and then found, they could be identified to me?
That sounds like admin.
And, if this website is any indication, I just want to draw and write, not add yet another bunch of things to do to my to-do list.
Even more so, it has been months since I wrote the lines above. Future Ian is reading what you just read and can convincingly answer that, indeed, I have yet to actually take any actions towards making such things less likely.
There’s a list, though. But unless I schedule it right now it won’t be tackled.
Oh, fuck it, you know what? If I don’t get my ass into gear and create these emergency adaptations, I only have myself to blame when the day a true disaster takes place.
So, if you’re reading this, and you’re in Cardiff, register your goods with the police have a small insurance added on to your freelance expenses, have a UPS separate your machines from the mains, and make sure your passwords can be hidden.
The tools and methods are there… just gotta figure out what they are.
And I have actually selected a day for Resilience-Making on my calendar.