‘Same shit, different day’ I saw written on a badge attached to another passenger’s bag. I was joining a SriLankan Airlines flight from Colombo to Chennai.
Just five days later I was back home in London.
Little was I to know how life would become so incredibly different, not at all the ‘same shit.’
I’m Maisie, a freelance reporter covering just about anything and everything. I’d just been in South India and Sri Lanka for the U.K. Guardian newspaper, researching for travel articles.
My antennae were twitching, something was happening, I could feel it in the air.
It was an astonishing day that no one could have predicted. It would take some time to sink in but it would set us all reeling.
As a reporter my approach is to search things out, get under the skin, help give people a voice I love to challenge the established order, so here’s my take on it.
Over the last few years we’ve become more familiar with the idea of constant change and unpredictability with one crisis after another. Today’s change was a different order of magnitude and was, in my view, positive. Not what we’d come to expect at all. It all began with something that seemed quite simple. The impact would be profound.
It was an ordinary workday morning. The kids were up, rushing around as usual, then off to cycle to school on an organised cycle ‘train’. Simon, my husband, had already left for work at the bank.
I was due to do desk work, search the net and cover a slowly evolving story about corrupt politicians. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
That afternoon there was an announcement via the net, on the radio and on TV. For some time now politicians in Finland and other countries have been toying with the idea of providing every citizen with a minimum weekly payment regardless of their personal situation or work. It’s called all sorts of things but usually Universal Basic Income / UBI or Guaranteed Basic Income. Many countries had experimented, but not implemented it on any scale.
The announcement pointed out that we in the UK, in the fourth biggest economy in the world, was to introduce this very idea with immediate effect.
Fascinating. We’d had no prior knowledge that this was actually planned. No discussions or announcements from the Government, nothing.
I checked with my contacts. They didn’t believe this was coming from the UK Government. How was this possible? Maybe it was a hoax.
The online communities, the cyber street corners, the dialogue of the ether, woke up. It was startling. It was almost as if all the lights in a major metropolis had been switched on. But it also, instantly, reached out to the suburbs, the villages, the farms.
Pretty quickly it was apparent that it had spread throughout the net. We often could see and track videos, memes, chat going viral with the latest news but this was different. It seemed to permeate every cyber street corner and the scale was enormous.
It wasn’t just in the UK.
The very same policy of a flat income regardless of need, employment, whatever, was available to everyone throughout Europe and north America. It was incredibly consistent.
Hang on a minute, there’s more coming in via the net.
It was also the hot topic throughout South East Asia, Japan, and South Korea. This was astonishing.
I just might be going out on a limb here but I reckon politicians are renowned the world over for their selfishness and short term thinking. They represent acute levels of disorganisation and seem to be completely unable to create effective sustainable partnerships. They just can’t keep secrets.
So what is this and how could it happen? Coordinated action, at the same instant, through half the economies in the world. This is incredible, I’d never experienced anything like it.
I wanted to know more. I was on the hunt.
I checked with my most trusted colleagues from around the world. I delved deeper into my own very informal, alternative online community networks that I built, slowly and carefully over the years to help me put stories together and to ensure they stood up.
Exactly the same announcement was made in Russia, China, and North Korea. The same everywhere. A direct payment in the local currency.
Astounding. How? Who? What would this mean? Could it be true. I checked my bank account.There was a payment into my account exactly as announced.
I hadn’t noticed the time passing in all the excitement. The kids were back after a day at school. Simon would be early tonight and would be back home an hour later.
We’re quite a liberal family. We work from home whenever we can. We get great support from Simon’s mother whenever I had to go away on an investigation. We were trying to achieve a decent work life balance.
So it might be earth shattering news but boundaries are boundaries. It was time for me to leave the work alone, put away the computer and switch on quality time for the kids.
“Hi, guys, how was today?”
“The usual stuff, but science was the best, really cool looking at our bodies. Did you know that we have more than one brain?” Rowan had a clear leaning to the technical side of things.
“Three in fact, obviously not exactly the same but they help us control our body in completely different ways. We spent ages on the gut, it affects absolutely everything and some scientists say it’s just as important as the brain in our head. How cool is that?” Rowan was clearly enthusiastic.
“Does that affect what we should eat?” I was concerned, this might lead to more lectures at meal times.
“More than that, what we eat, how we live, the stress we feel.”
“We’re putting together a show of dance, music and skits.” Joe was altogether different and very artistic.
“When will the show be? we’d love to the there. What are you doing?”
“I’ll know next week”
That is so good. Too many schools have let that sort of activity go and focussed too much on academic subjects. I’m so pleased that we’ve found a school that keeps it up and of course manages to keep both of you very interested. and enthusiastic.
“Do you have much homework this evening? OK to fit it in after dinner? I’ve prepared that cheesy rice, cauliflower thing.”
“Yep”, suspiciously in unison.
“Great, lets grab a snack and take Sally for a walk.”
We live in the suburbs. Way back it was a village but it had now been taken over by the big smoke of London. We have a great park nearby and the canal and its wonderful tow path. Sally expects a walk after school, in fact she’ll peacefully growl and stare if we don’t, at exactly 4.00.
As we walk there is something in the air. I must be imagining it, but people do seem to have a skip in their step, a smile on their face, Oh my God they’re even greeting each other.
Surely it’s not down to that announcement?
It would have a dramatic impact for millions of people, not least those families experiencing real poverty.
Later, after dinner, the kids had said goodnight and retreated to their rooms. Simon and I got a little time together to discuss the strange events of the day. He’s a banker and so will have solid insights into what’s happened today.
“So what’s your take on all this?”
Note: revised on 28th August 2019