Monthly Archives: July 2010

Resolution 2: Pay My Friends and Neighbors

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot. It’s not always easy, as I’m a struggling writer myself, but I always try to buy the art and music and books of, hire, give my time to, and otherwise support my friends and neighbors in their entrepreneurship. I know so many artists, illustrators, graphic designers, musicians, writers and filmmakers. In a perfect world we would mutually support each other, providing both an audience and sharing experience and access, buy everything locally and from small and individual businesses that we can, and bring the hubris of corporate America down a notch or five.

The internet has in many ways made this a lot easier. Having a business online, fed by a website, read and disseminated by friends and readers, is easier than ever, though results are not always concrete. The greater underlying problem is that the corporate ethic wants to turn every interaction in our society into a transaction, and they want to be the ones standing in between us collecting fees. I guess my argument in a way furthers that, turning our friends into buyers of our product. But I want to focus on eliminating unnecessary middlemen, instead using more modest-sized ones like Big Cartel, Etsy, or eBay, to deal more directly with each other, turning our own projects into side jobs (and eventually main gigs), and recycling our goods for a fraction of store prices, keeping things useful and out of landfills.

We should also think of more direct transactions, bartering for time and for skills and using money less if we can. But when it comes to making a living, we can go on supporting multinational corporations that, because of cheap foreign labor and unfair tax advantages are able to undercut the local mom-and-pop, but that leach money from communities and give nothing back. But in that case, we can’t really wonder where all our jobs are going.

I think companies are actually terrified about what would happen if we started talking to our neighbors again, sharing tools, forming co-ops and community gardens, and trading skills. Again, the internet is a huge help here. It is easy and cheap to disseminate information between local groups and people. But considering the universal obsession with monetizing the web, signs point to a future where there is no longer a commons online. Net neutrality issues are the first percolations of coming change.

Corporation, big agra foremost among them, are always putting forth farm bills that will regulate and prohibit households from growing their own food and sharing it with their neighbors. They want to disincentivize cottage businesses. It’s nothing less than a fundamental battle over our rights to make a living without relying on usurous monopolies.

I know I sound like a commie pinko right now, but these are real issues of our times. Knee-jerk reactions about the free market are all working off a 1950s narrative, and the situation is such that, as a country, we are in the midst of a corporate takeover, a hostile one at that.

Diogenes was knee deep in a stream washing vegetables. Coming up to him, Plato said, “My good Diogenes, if you knew how to pay court to kings, you wouldn’t have to wash vegetables.”

“And,” replied Diogenes, “If you knew how to wash vegetables, you wouldn’t have to pay court to kings.”

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. – Rumi