The Full Monty the movie, and the next economy

From Anna Moegerlein, Principal

 

The Full Monty is one of my favourite movies. Recently I stumbled across a chapter by J. K Gibson-Graham (2006) describing the film through the lens of the next economy. It took my appreciation to a whole other level.

 

The Full Monty is set in Sheffield in the England shortly after the closure of the steelworks. A group of unemployed men gather each day at the Job Club. Some are looking for work, others have given up all together. Then a male strip show comes to town and a small group of the local men, led by Gaz, decide to put on their own show to rival the Chippendales.

 

Things don’t go so well initially. There’s an excruciating scene where one man is auditioning for a part in the group. He fumbles, stops halfway and runs out. This is followed by a hilarious scene with an older black man who stuns the group with his charismatic dance moves. The film strikes the perfect balance between funny and sad.

 

What Gibson-Graham so deftly point out is that The Full Monty is a story of economic transition that actually goes well. The central characters give themselves permission to embrace a more flexible male identity (that includes vulnerability and creativity), they’re thoroughly successful in their enterprise and are celebrated by their community.

 

In their book, Gibson-Graham talk about how important identity and agency are to successful economic transition, and specifically to an economy that is more inclusive, more equitable and not dependent on fossil fuels. In fact, they suggest that the task of building this new economy is more about performing different economic identities (identities that moves beyond ‘homo-economicus’ to include work/business that integrates purpose, as well our interdependency with the natural world, among other things), than it is about macro-economic planning. I’d suggest it’s both, but the stories we tell ourselves and our national economic narrative is absolutely putting the brakes on change.

 

Gibson-Graham’s book also reminded me of how important community is to any transition. People need hope, agency and the encouragement of their peers. There’s also that point where you let go, step into the unknown and see what happens.


The stories we tell ourselves

If you have ever dreamt of a society with great wealth, distributed fairly and intended exclusively for the wellbeing of its people then maybe you have dreamt of Europe’s first great civilization – the Minoan empire on the island of Crete, 4600 years ago.

The Minoans created a seafaring empire. Their ships sailed to all points of the Mediterranean peninsula for trade. They built well-developed roads connecting 100 cities across the island of Crete.

For 500+ years they lived in peace. The Minoan capital of Knossos had no defense walls and no army. The capital did not feel threatened by the other cities in their domain, nor any of its citizens. Its rule of law relied upon equitable distribution of wealth and strong, connected leadership.

The Minoan palace was the heart of the city. It had 1,400 rooms, which housed schoolrooms, government services, artist workshops and theatres. Wide corridors and large rooms made space for thousands of citizens to come and go.

Archaeologists found impressive multi-coloured wall paintings depicting day-to-day life and the Minoan’s reverence for nature. People, animals and plants were joyously painted in bright colours. It is also clear from these paintings that women had an important role in all aspects of society; if not higher than men, than certainly equal. They competed on an equal basis to men in the athletic games, even in the most daring events.

 

 

The Minoan civilization came to an end in 1630 BC when a volcano on a neighboring island triggered a tsunami and ash clouds. Archaeologists found that the buildings had fallen outwards as they collapsed, presumably full with water.

Today the Minoan society seems quite remarkable. First that it existed and second that it is so little known. A European civilization that was well off and shared that wealth and power among its citizens, and revered the earth’s living systems? Doesn’t seem possible. But it was, and it lasted for 500 years. 500 years of a different world-view, standing in clear contrast to most, if not all, ancient (and many modern) European civilizations that have sought to accumulate wealth and power. It can’t help but inspire optimism… and we can’t help wondering, what might we begin to build if we truly believed in our own wisdom and generosity?