Posted by urbansuburbanecoliteracy | Posted in Ecological Sustainability, Economic Sustainabliity, Gardens, Landscaping, Social Sustainability | Posted on 30-10-2011
What patterns did I notice in the landscape trade? For one, I observed an addiction to collecting knowledge. Not wisdom – knowledge. People can stuff their heads full of the stuff and never apply it for beneficial use. Perhaps feeding this addiction makes people feel like they are accomplishing something even when nothing is manifesting for lack of an investment of real sweat and labor. In Los Angeles, the city of projected dreams, tourists and the rich and privileged (or those who are trying to look that way) flock to idealized simulacra of Los Angeles such as City Walk in Universal City and the Beverly Center. There’s a pattern and principle in nature: “There is no such thing as AWAY.” The social fantasies of Los Angeles are propped invisibly upon the backs of low wage laborers that keep the machinery of the illusion working smoothly. Scratch the plasticized & painted veneers of the simulacra, allow the laborers to find new workplaces that respect their dignity and humanity at healtly wages, strip away nature’s “free” subsidies of water and power, and then ask, “What’s left?”
When some people figured out that I know my stuff, they pumped me for information…and pumped….and pumped….and pumped. They wanted the specifics of “what” connected to the precious mechanics of “how”. Depending on the context, sometimes I’d generously go all out because I genuinely wanted to help. It’s fine once in a while and I like being generous, but only up to a point because I can’t pay my bills with raving complements and thanks others gave me for the help they received. In other contexts when it was socially appropriate to communicate it, I let folks know that sustainable gardening and landscaping was what I did as a pro and then I observed that mouths would run on while pocketbooks would slam shut with the resounding finality of a solid-state walk-in safe. For reasons I haven’t figured out, the West L.A. crowd tended to want as much expertise as they could squeeze out but only for the bare minimum they could get away with paying, if not for free. I’m all for helping people get what they want but not at the price of vampiric exploitation – mine or anyone else’s.
“When you’re good at something, you don’t do it for free.” – The Joker (Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight
The annoying and heartbreaking part is that, more often than not, these folks wouldn’t even use the free advice they solicited. What was more astounding is that others wouldn’t even use the advice they DID pay for.
One client in the Big Rock area of Malibu name-dropped and bragged of having hired Rosalind Creasy for a consultation. On the appointed day, Wendy S. and Ms. Creasy went around the property while Rosalind fired off tailored advice off the top of her head. Fast forward 2 to 3 years later when Wendy S. hired me for some specialized labor. As she picked my brains as we made the rounds around the property, I could almost hear her make mental comparisons with Rosalind’s advice. When I gave her the same advice about caring for her forlorn containerized blueberry plants as Rosalind had given her, she piped up to say as much. Do you see the irony yet? Even after consulting with Rosalind Creasy, Wendy S. still hadn’t used the advice she had been given so many years ago. The client’s windswept and neglected plants were no better off for hearing the advice all over again from me for one reason: it was simply and clearly not a priority to implement the expert advice she had sought. I wish that I could say this experience was singularly unique. It’s one thing to negotiate fees because someone genuinely wants your services, respects what you do, and respects your profession as a source of livelihood. It’s another thing to feed off someone else’s life energy as a symbolic parasite when you don’t respect anyone else’s need to make a living.
The client went through the laundry list of tasks she wanted done around the property. In short, she wanted her own private farm & garden worker and at bargain basement wages. Actually, upon reflection what I think she really wanted were the benefits such a worker would confer with all of the romance and bounty that country living on a farm invokes without the hard work, body aches, or the inconvenience of having to get her own hands dirty. When I told her how much it was going to cost at a fair rate, she backpedaled, made excuses for why she couldn’t afford the services, and struggled to save face after I called her on her unrealistic expectations and her hopes to exploit me for cheap, knowledgeable labor. Since this woman wasn’t willing to pay what the job was worth, she was still trying to save face indirectly through an associate long after I dissociated from her.Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it (http://www NULL.addthis NULL.com/bookmark NULL.php),