I’ve noticed a curious thing about people. American people, I should say, because that’s my frame of reference and perhaps the larger culture in the U.S. leads to this behavior more than some other countries. And, in a lot of instances, it seems to be split along gender lines, which means these observations seem to lack any sort of predictive energy outside cis-lines. Then, it’s just an observation. Not a scientific study, though those seem to hold little weight these days when everyone wants to subscribe to his or her own version of reality. And maybe that plays a role, too.
See, we’ve had this friend for years. When we met him, Continue reading
It’s back to school season, but I won’t be heading back into a classroom this year. I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head in connection to that statement, that fact, but I can’t find one that’s regret. Not even a small one, hidden under a pile of the others. Or maybe blown up under one of the eaves of my mind.
I know, in our judgmental, “do it for the kids” society, I sound like a monster. Teachers are supposed to care. They’re supposed to nurture and support and they’re always supposed to want to keep coming back for more. Continue reading
We talk in this country a lot about “pay for performance” like it’s a thing we actually do and like it’s a perfect system.
Mostly, what we do is pay people what they’ll be desperate enough to accept in exchange for their labor, but that’s not completely accurate either.
We act like contracts are a terrific thing for people like basketball players and CEOs, but they’re a terrible, evil thing when they’re for people like teachers and city engineers. Continue reading
I have a lot of travel experiences to share. Lots of pictures, too. But for now, I’m having other thoughts. Thoughts that have been haunting me, enraging me, chasing me since before we left for our road trip. Thoughts made more vivid by the being down the street from the protests in the Texas Capitol, by being from NC and knowing what it means to need to get from one end of it to the other without a lot of money.
You know, I’ve heard all the rhetoric. I’ve heard all the self-righteous platitudes. I’ve heard the Bible-thumping. I’ve heard the junk science. I’ve heard the false narratives. I’ve heard the bullshit of people who want to quote logical fallacy definitions while creating their own.
And you know what? In my opinion, you cannot be anti-choice without being anti-woman. You cannot. You cannot be anti-choice without being anti-baby and downright anti-human. And before you get all frothy, take your rabies medication and try to hear me out.
We humans? We aren’t precious endangered animals. We aren’t the last of our kind unless we decide to start a global nuclear war or some other equally-asinine shit. We aren’t the only tiger left in our habitat. We aren’t among the count-on-one-hand species or even the threatened-but-still-enough-to-make-a-comeback species. We’re everywhere. We’re dirty and messy and we use up a lot of resources. And there’s plenty of us to go around. A few extra babies won’t make or break homo sapiens. Trust me that we’re destroying the planet so fast a few extra babies one way or the other won’t do much.
And in the face of a tide of legislation against the poor, against the environment, against education… We need more poor children without proper medicine or food or a safe place to live? We need more children in foster care? We need more children filling our detention facilities and jails? We need more parents starving to death to keep their kids fed? More schools crumbling from overcrowding and lack? We need more parents foregoing health care to keep their kids from being absorbed into a state system because of some luxury not in the budget — like dental cleanings or a bed? We need more teen mothers?
In the face of a tide of evidence that the planet’s none too thrilled with our kind… In the face of droughts and floods and fires, of wars brought about over resources (and ideology , though that largely seems a mask hiding the greed for the believers of one god or another)…. We need MORE humans? I think not. Time and again genocide has been wrought, largely over resources. Groups grow too hungry, too thirsty, too sick and tired of being sick and tired and kill — their “own kind” or not — just to get a taste of hope.
I mean, sure you have asshats like this:
It’s common for birthrates to fall when the economy is bad, but it has been declining for several decades, and experts worry it could impact the future workforce.“This means we will have a smaller population and smaller market compared to other countries, we will be investing less and we won’t be able to outpace and outgrow previous generations’ wealth. Everyone knows buying power isn’t in kids, it’s with older consumers, and if we don’t have a big enough population, the entire economy suffers,” says Steinberg
Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/07/10/raising-baby-just-how-much-does-it-cost/#ixzz2Yxr5WyLp
But, let’s put on our smart-people hats for a moment and realize that we aren’t a factory-based economy anymore. Let’s remember that our farms and industry are highly mechanized. Let’s remember all our neighbors with master’s degrees working as baristas and our middle-management parents and uncles working as cashiers or clerks or at home filling out ten applications a day trying to get a job again. Let’s remember that Fox (yes, that’s what that links to) “news” will also alarm you to “foreigners” taking all the “American” jobs whether on this soil or someone else’s, so I’m not sure how they’re supposed to be credible when it comes to telling women they need to have a litter to sustain future markets. Nevermind that gem coming at the end of an article on the expense of pregnancy and raising children (though, they come to it from a thoroughly upper-middle/upper class mentality. Oh whoa the expense of private tutors and smart phones!
No, at the bottom of the economic rungs — which Fox cohorts would relegate almost all of us to if they could — pregnancy isn’t “inconvenient” for climbing the corporate ladder. It isn’t “expensive” because of IVF treatments or designer c-sections. It’s a matter of life and death in ways most of the talking heads and pundits and politicians can’t comprehend.
I took her to a supermarket
I don’t know why but I had to start it somewhere, so it started there.
I said pretend you’ve got no money, she just laughed and said oh you’re so funny.
I said yeah? Well I can’t see anyone else smiling in here.”
Lyrics, “Common People”
Because yeah, if your job won’t let you do your job because you’re pregnant… If they put you on unpaid leave… If your doctor puts you on bed rest to keep the baby from coming early or to keep you from bleeding to death… If your pregnancy related diabetes medication is too expensive… You could very well starve to death. You could very well die of some preventable complication. You could be forced to give up the children you have because you can’t afford to feed and clothe and shelter them. You may have to move to a shelter. You may have to live on the streets. You may commit petty crimes to get health care (and yes, I’ve had pregnant students do this). There are people for whom $5 is a lot of money, the difference between keeping the heat on in winter or the fan working in summer, the difference between a hot bowl of soup and eating it cold from the can. The difference between walking five miles to work and taking the bus. And those people don’t live in other countries. They live here. And a great many of them were born here. As were their parents.
But when a new mom talked about “why it’s wrong and inhumane to make light of how difficult it is to “just have the baby,” as anti-choice extremists say everyone should have to do,” she was attacked by a dimwitted conservative without a clue. Natasha Chart’s own rebuttal is far more coherent (and less ranty) than I can pull off, but I have no doubt Fiano didn’t read the rebuttal either. Clearly, she’s capable of pulling her head out of her ass long enough to string sentences together, but not long enough for complicated thoughts or ideas. (Yeah, I’m angry.)
Ideas like the fact that notoriously-wealth-leaning publications like the New York Times (which in the past has explained such necessities like finding the right nanny and how to skip lines at amusement parks by hiring the disabled), recently delved into the expense of child birthing in the US.
Then there’s the US News article from last month.
While the law already prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on pregnancy or childbirth, they are not required to grant pregnant women much leeway when it comes to maintaining their health and the health of their babies.
Again, we find that it’s “okay” to force women to give birth, but it’s hard to legislate giving a damn about them — or even the fetus except where we can blame the woman carrying it. I’m not sure which would be more painful, watching one’s health and life fall apart because of being forced to carry an unwanted fetus or watching one’s wholly-desired fetus’s life hang in question because of a lack of access and funds. Either way, what the hell are we doing in this country? Seriously?
Some self-hating woman on Twitter tried to convince me that the fetus is its own person and that the woman is just a goldfish bowl. Yeah, those were her words, her metaphor, though later she tried to back out of her statement. She thinks because the embryo has separate DNA, we should give it a car and let it vote. That a woman, once pregnant, just becomes and empty vessel waiting to expel this fancy creature that apparently is nothing like her in that it holds far more value to those prescribing to this theory. But no, a collection of cells is a collection of cells. Until viable, an embryo, a fetus, that little bean-shaped mass that can’t survive on its own, isn’t a “baby.” It isn’t a “person” anymore than your cancerous tumor (which is also a mass of cells) is. It might have different DNA, but then again, if you tongue-kiss your amore, you’ll probably have some extra DNA swimming around in your mouth. Doesn’t mean you need to keep it and protect it until it can live on its own.
But I forgot, if one isn’t planning to procreate, one shouldn’t be kissing or having sex. Isn’t that the party line of the prudish and self-righteous? The ones who’ve never done anything wrong in their whole god-fearing lives (well, maybe a little speeding and some molestation down at the church, some ballot fixing, and some money changing, but no “big sins” like sex). It’s really hard for them to comprehend how little choices become big ones. How doing everything right still can cause things to go wrong. How hard living leads to hard lives no matter how much one tries.
They can no more comprehend the woman who implores her husband to “pull out” because they can’t afford another mouth than they can comprehend someone working three jobs and still needing food stamps. It’s hard for them to know the teenager who begs her boyfriend to wear a condom only to have it break. Or the girl too young to fully understand what her period means or why her uncle’s in her bed. Or the thirty-year-old mother of three with the IUD that fails. The woman in the abusive relationship she can’t afford to leave who isn’t allowed the money or time it would take to get to the clinic for the Pill. The forty-year-old who just graduated her eldest and just found out it’s not menopause making her feel that way, but that the risk for birth defects at her age have risen as sharply as the health risks. The woman who wants her baby so badly but suffers a miscarriage and needs one of the procedures commonly called “abortion” to clean out the dead tissue in order to avoid infection so she can try again. And thousands of other women like them, with their own stories, who are now terrified of what their states would have them do with their own bodies.
But my anger has made me wordy, so I’ll leave you with this:
On abortion, I do acknowledge that there is a wide range of personal feelings and moral beliefs about this issue, which will remain divisive. But the two “sides” are asymmetric. Pro-choice covers a whole lot of ground, even leaving room for doubt and uncertainty. Anti-choice is unflinchingly restrictive and punitive.
Here’s the essence of the asymmetry: If we pass pro-choice laws and you don’t want to have an abortion, you never have to have one unless you change your mind for your own personal reasons. You get to live out your personally held beliefs in your life under this legal system.
Trigger warning: Proceed with caution.
The verdict is in for the two Steubenville teens that CNN seems to feel sorry for. Twitter is a mixture of rape apologists and people angry at said apologists. Facebook is probably still all cat pictures or shamrocks and Pinterest, I’m sure, is still largely flowers, baking, and projects even Martha Stewart wouldn’t try. At any rate, here are my two cents:
I’ve spent the past seven years listening to teen girls tell me or tell each other about being raped, molested, or assaulted. It’s so often a gateway to their criminal or drug activity. I’ve also heard too many times about their stripping, hooking, drug use, and older “boyfriends” who are sometimes encouraged to “date” them by their own mothers. This is not technically part of my job description. It falls into that category of being there for the students and trying to find out what’s keeping them from learning and just not interrupting them when they feel compelled to spill their guts instead of answering a multiple choice question. It’s reading their essays and poems. It’s being told in confidence the reason why they really need to graduate early or get a GED or drop out. Teenagers don’t always follow the lines we put in place about who to tell and who to talk to. It’s why we’re all supposed to be on the lookout for signs of abuse. Why teachers have team meetings to discuss at-risk kids. Why we’re sent to professional development courses on dealing with such things.
I’ve spent about five years listening to teenage boys. Teenage boys rarely tell you what they’re going through. Not like girls. Sometimes, they’ll whisper about checking mom for track marks or that dad’s in jail again. Sometimes they’ll scoff about divorce or say they’re bringing home the money for moms (sic) or taking care of siblings. Some of them are rapists. Some of them are victims. Some of them are both. The culture we’ve created is as confusing for them as it is for the girls.
The girls will tell you about some “slut” who had her first kid at eleven or thirteen or fifteen. They’ll tell you their first kid was their rapist’s. They won’t make the connection. They’ll tell you the “slut” had her second kid a few years later with her boyfriend or at least on purpose. They might tell you the same thing about their second kid. They won’t make the connection. They haven’t read the stats. They haven’t seen the literature. They don’t know about the studies. Even if they’re following the pattern of sleeping around after their own assault, they still let our culture tell them the other girls who do the same thing are sinful or slutty or stupid. Which means, even if not consciously, it’s what they’re telling themselves.
Many of the boys will call any female human they see or interact with a “bitch” or a “ho.” Doubly so if she has sex with them — consensual or otherwise. Well-meaning instructors tell us they have poor boundaries and mommy issues and distrusts of males and all manner of excuses. What I see are kids largely raising themselves and each other who get much of their information on right and wrong from media sources like movies, video games, and songs. (They are not listening to Air Supply.) They’re fighting to be the macho kings their cultural touchstones promise them they can be — football stars and rappers and drug kingpins. They’re fighting to prove they aren’t “pussy” because to be soft or feminine is to be wrong.
The girls meanwhile fight for dominance in their own realm. In their world, they must be hard — able to punch and take one — and sexy — dressed to the nines in booty shorts with pounds of weave on their heads — or sporty and butch in sagging jeans and brand new Nikes with near-shaved heads. They’re flaunting or hiding the only parts of them the boys see. They don’t talk about big dreams. They talk about getting by. They talk about stripping or doing hair. They talk about selling drugs, but they don’t have illusions of making it to the top of the game like the boys. They just want to be able to buy enough Pampers. They watch cartoons and have sex with grown men because to be “childish” is to be sexy, but to be “juvenile” or soft is still wrong. They are equally confused.
The boys who rape aren’t all the same. Some, especially the younger ones with younger victims, still look like victims themselves. Most have been and they’re re-enacting or trying to make sense of what’s been done to them. They know they did something wrong, but they can’t always articulate it. Usually, they don’t — to their teacher anyway– but it’s on their faces. And it’ll follow them around just like it does the girls. Some are more vocal, that females only exist to make them happy, to keep them satisfied. They talk of running trains and assaulting drunken girls as though it is their right. These are the ones our culture created (as opposed to the ones our pedophiles created). These are the ones the apologists stand up for. These are the ones we, as a culture, can stop. (And maybe if we stop enough of them, we’ll decrease the pedophiles while we’re at it.)
It comes down to this: No.
It’s time our fathers and mothers and coaches and rappers and politicians admitted the word exists and it exists for boys, too.
No does not mean “okay, if she or he is drunk.”
No does not mean “okay, if you bought dinner.”
No does not mean “okay, if you’re famous or think you are.”
No does not mean “okay, if she or he is dressed in sexy clothes or dances provocatively.”
No does not mean “okay, if we’re on a date.”
No does not mean “okay.”
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, that most of the homophobic men I’ve met were homophobic because they were afraid gay men would treat them they way they treat women. I mention this because the same idea applies.
If you wouldn’t want a gay man/woman you find unattractive/monkey-wielding a pipe to penetrate your orifices (with a penis, a finger, or said pipe) because you did one too many tequila shots, don’t rape a woman who drank too much.
If you wouldn’t want a gay man/woman you find unattractive/monkey-wielding a pipe to penetrate your orifices (with a penis, a finger, or said pipe) because you agreed to go out (even casually or as friends) with said man/woman/monkey, don’t rape a woman who goes out with you.
If you wouldn’t want a gay man/woman you find unattractive/monkey-wielding a pipe to penetrate your orifices (with a penis, a finger, or said pipe) because he/she/it thinks he/she/it is famous, don’t rape a woman no matter how awesome you think you are.
If you wouldn’t want a gay man/woman you find unattractive/monkey-wielding a pipe to penetrate your orifices (with a penis, a finger, or said pipe) because wore a pair of shorts or flip flops or your swimsuit at the pool or took off your shirt to play ball or stepped outside in a tank top, don’t rape a woman no matter what the hell she’s wearing.
And if you do want gay men, women you find unattractive, or pipe-wielding monkeys to get it on with you, you should tell them as much and let them make their own decisions (well, except for the monkey–get help for that).
Note: I work in a non-traditional educational environment.
I grew up surrounded by guns.
I never thought much of them. They were my father’s. I didn’t touch unless invited to do so. It wasn’t an unspoken rule so much as a commandment more fearful than those spouted by the pastor at church.
He wasn’t much of a hunter, though he’d occasionally bring home his friend’s animal carcass flesh, cook it, and get confused when his girls turned their nose up at Bambi being in the spaghetti sauce. (We both ended up vegetarian, but I’m not sure how much of this was chicken and how much was egg – especially since neither of us want to eat those anymore either.)
His arsenal was because he liked guns. He liked to collect the old ones the way I like old books. I don’t read the old books for fear I’ll spill wine on them, accidentally tear one of their delicate pages, or smudge its spine with my greasy human fingers. He never shot the old guns other than to clean them out, make sure all their parts work, replaced the ones that didn’t. He was a Smith by birth and a gunsmith by hobby. Still is.
He likes to buy used guns at yard sales and gun shows and repair them. He’s probably spent close to fifty years around guns, working on guns, talking about gun safety. He still managed to accidentally shoot a hole in the wall of his bedroom trying to take apart a jammed up old rifle. But he lives in a rural area. He had it pointed at the yard and the wife and dog were in the house. No harm, no foul. Except to the drywall. And his pride.
He has a concealed-carry permit. He carries his pistol just about everywhere. It makes him fee safe. Because he used to be a volunteer firefighter. And he used to be a volunteer EMT. And he used to repair telephone lines in dodgy parts of town. Because he lives in a rural area and he’s sometimes had problems, mostly with wild animals threatening him or his pets and his pistol is handier on walks or sitting on the porch than a rifle or shotgun.
When I took the conceal carry class in my state, he insisted I also read more about the consequences of carrying – even though I didn’t actually plan to apply for the license. I own a shotgun. I may purchase a handgun for target practice. Like him, I find that fun. Shooting it outside of a range? I have no plans to do that. I have no desire to do that.
He never has either. He’s a marksman sort of shooter. He likes competition and camaraderie and, now that he’s older, dressing up like an old west cowboy and firing antiques at paper. Growing up, he and the neighbor used to hang out in their sheds and barns reloading rounds, cleaning, discussing like TV dads hung out at sports bars and bowling alleys.
Yeah, we need stricter gun laws.
Do we need them to keep people like my dad from shooting at paper? No. Will they keep people like mass murders from harming our innocent? Maybe not. Do we still need them? Yes.
Because it’s harder for me to go buy decongestant than it is for me to go buy a gun. Why? Do we need to ban decongestant? No. Do we need to acknowledge than some people will misuse it? Probably. Does regulating decongestant stop meth sales and production? No.
So, what’s the point? It makes it harder. It’s another step. Let’s say I lose my job and decide meth sales is the way to make ends meet. I get to the store, ready to spend my last paycheck on a fat pile of cold and flu medication. But they stop me. Could I get some people to buy it for me? Could I drive all around and get it myself? Could I rob the joint? Sure. Could it also buy me the time to decide this is a terrible idea and maybe just pick up an application instead? Yeah.
Let’s say you’re pissed, irate, over the edge crazy-mad at your coworker. He slept with your wife while flunking your daughter and wrecking your sports car by driving it through your favorite bar. Or something. You want him dead. You head to the store to buy a gun. But they make you sign papers. They make you have a license to own it (not just to carry it). You need a license to buy the ammunition. You have to take a class in gun safety and learn how to hold it and all the legal ramifications of firing it outside the range. You have to pass a background check. By the time you’ve done all that, you forgot why you were mad at your coworker. You’ve gotten a new job and a girlfriend and hang out at a trendy new bar closer to her apartment.
In other words, you had time to chill.
But, you say, you’re not going to jump through those hoops. You’re a criminal and they do what they want. They do now. There’s no difference. So why bother? Why make it harder for Mr. and Ms. Responsible? Because if you have to be licensed to own a gun, to buy ammo, and you have to re-certify your license ever five years or so by taking a refresher class in gun laws and safety, you know you’re not part of the problem. (I picked five years because that’s how often teachers in this state have to re-certify and if I have to take classes and prove I still know how to explain vocabulary and multiplication, then I don’t see how expecting someone to do the same to walk around with a loaded weapon (even if they’re just walking around the stall at the range) is a terrible idea.) Eventually, the number of illegal guns will decline. It would take a while. Perhaps years. (I know, Americans aren’t good at “patience.”)
Because you remember how I said my dad got a gun at a yard sale? One that was jammed? One he shot a hole in a wall with? Because that gun shouldn’t have been allowed to be sold at a yard sale. Yard sales are for old Air Supply tapes and Members Only jackets, not deadly weapons. If someone less experienced had bought that gun, he/she could have shot a spouse, a kid, an innocent neighbor. If someone with neighbors, someone with kids…That could have gone differently.
I need a license to drive my car. It’s big (compared to a human) and it’s dangerous when used improperly. I had to take a class. I have to follow rules. I have to renew the license. I have to carry insurance. I have to have a title showing I bought it from somewhere – even if it was my cousin and I paid him a dollar (note: where do I find such a cousin?). If it turns out there’s a problem, like my cousin stole the car from his neighbor, his dad, the mall parking lot, he either won’t have a title to give me (red flag not to buy) or what he’ll give me is a forgery, which can be tracked back to him).
You have a gun? Sure. Where’s your license? The title? This thing came from a reputable seller, not some kid on the corner, right? You have a permit to purchase ammo? Sure. No, sir, I can’t sell you rounds for a gun you don’t legally own. No, sir, I can’t sell you 100,000 rounds at one time. No, sir, there’s no reason for you to need an automatic weapon or an assault rifle. If you think you need one of those to hunt deer or wild boar or pheasant, you’re not a very good hunter and should probably stay indoors for the safety of all involved.
I know there’s no getting all the guns off the streets in the US. We aren’t England or Canada. Taking up arms is coded into our cultural history. The vast numbers out in the wild today are just too great and the culture that protects them and the economy that profits from them is enormous as well. It’s like putting toothpaste back in the tube only large scale: like trying to get everyone to put their toothpaste back it the tube – and trying to get Crest and Colgate to back your efforts.
Would more licensing help? Yes. Would it solve the problem? No. Would it make a dent in the problem? Possibly not for ten, fifteen, twenty years. Long enough for it to become normal like car licensing. Long enough for it to be accepted, for the kinks to get worked out, for it to become part of the culture.
Will it solve the vast mental health problems in this country? No.
That’s another system. Another massive problem. Our jails are full of mentally ill people who can’t afford their medication, don’t take their medication because they don’t like the side effects, can’t get access to their medication, have been prescribed medications that counteract one another or that don’t work as promised. Our psychiatric hospitals are full of people with similar problems who either make a little more money or committed slightly less heinous crimes or who voluntarily show up for help.
We, as a nation, are stressed out, stretched thin, overwhelmed, and overburdened much of the time. Our returning soldiers are often ticking time bombs. But so are our fire fighters and bridge tenders and single parents who are a missed paycheck away from homelessness.
Licensing guns won’t solve that problem. That problem requires both economic reform that ensures all that “trickle down” money eventually trickles down instead of overseas, that keeps those at the top from skimming off everything but the rat feces in the bottom of the pot, and medical/mental health reform that gets people the help they need (and doesn’t always just hand them a pill and send them on their way) no matter how much money they have, that supports families struggling with children affected by mental illness rather than shunning them or abandoning them or blaming them.
What I know won’t solve the problem is arming teachers. Holy Jack Weasels is that not the answer!
There’s been a lot of rabble-rousing on the internet the past week about fake reviews, paid reviews, sock-puppet shenanigans, and other unethical behavior.
All that? I lack the time today to cover this in depth and people more eloquent than me have tackled it already. So, I’ll just stick to this blog and this little mouse’s hovel of the internet.
Reviews here might be for books I bought, books I was given, or books I got through Net Galley. How I got my hands on it doesn’t affect what I say about it. No one pays me for the opinions on this blog. And I don’t review things I haven’t read.
That said, I try not to bash books here. Yes, I’m snarky, bitchy, cantankerous, and cranky in general, but not about books. If it wasn’t my thing, I’ll say so — and explain why so you can still decide if it’s for you. (We all like different things and that’s great!) If I hated it so much my only opinions are of the vitriolic type, I just won’t mention it. You’ll never know unless you know me personally and we run out of other things to say — or you ask me directly offline.
Because of all the things I lack, a strong filter seems to be the thing that most hampers me socially. Sorry.
That said, enough of this. I have books to read, stories to write, and a lot of hummus to eat.
Optimism is not my standard setting. Cynicism, realism, pessimism, depression, avoidance, angry ranting — those are my normal thought spaces. So, stick with me here. I’m trying.
See, we all know the economy sucks. Okay, maybe Ann Romney doesn’t know what it’s like to be one of “you people,” but most of us have looked around and noticed we’re spending more for the same or less. We’re getting pay decreases instead of raises even though we’re working just as hard or harder. We’re unemployed, underemployed, or caught in that space where we’re lucky to have a job we hate as much as we do. We’re cutting back and still falling behind. Corporate profits go up, employment figures and wages stagnate and stumble.
And yet, I’ve been noticing another trend. I’ve been noticing people using the internet to band together, to help each other, and to circumvent the banks and corporations that have been robbing us blind.
Last year, I remember reading an article in Fast Company about the rise of the sharing economy. A few years before that, I’d heard of a couple switching houses with another in Europe for a year. The idea of loaning things one had to neighbors who didn’t was once common, but as communities grew and neighbors became strangers, the practice largely stopped. There’s something that feels ironic about the rise of the “community killing” “faceless” internet reviving that tradition of lending the guy down the street a hammer and sharing a car with a woman across town. (While we’re talking about sharing, let’s not forget the ultimate in sharing: the public library system, which lets you borrow knowledge, entertainment and computers for the low low cost of nothing (well, except taxes, but you gotta pay those anyway).)
Almost everyone by now has heard of eBay and Craigslist and maybe even Freecycle, whereby you can get other people’s cast offs for little or no money. Bricks-and-mortar-wise, thrift stores ranging from old standbys like the Salvation Army and Goodwill to newer (Out of the Closet) or local charities like Poverello and to even chain outlets like Plato’s Closet also let you pick up things you want or need at a fraction of the new cost. Granted, we’ve also seen such a rise in donations that places like the Salvation Army end up turning a lot of our donations to rags or bulk shipping them to developing nations, so maybe before we buy — even used — we should think about needs versus wants, but that’s a matter for another day. Speaking of needs/wants, though, let’s not forget books and remember that, even for those of us with shiny e-readers, best sellers and popular works especially are often cheaper at used book stores than as digital files. (I know, I know, money from authors…it’s a balance, people.)
There’s two paths or heads or waterparks — whatever — to this concept.
One is funding through sites like Kiva.org where money gets lent, in increments of $25, to businesses and individuals around the world. By harnessing the bank accounts, compassion, and business sense of individual people, farmers can get feed for livestock Peru, caterers in Los Angeles can expand, seamstresses Ecuador can get material… And I think those three elements are key. When banks make loans, they don’t see people; they see numbers. And people can choose to lend on Kiva in the same fashion — picking prospects likely to repay — but since it’s a small expenditure on the part of the lender, it makes it easier to lend because you think Emilio deserves the chance to expand his crops or Lisa could do something special if she could buy more parts.
The other path or waterpark is through sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Kickstarter claims to focus specifically on the arts, but they also have raised huge sums for inventors, especially those with iIdeas. Books, comics, games, movies, music, even a flour mill have been funded this way. It’s rather incredible to think that little people, the 99%, have made dreams happen through spare change and big hearts and we’ve been doing it by the hundreds.
Indiegogo takes the idea one step further by allowing campaigns to fund charities as well. While Kickstarter requires some sort of finished product that backers are essentially pre-ordering, Indiegogo allows a daughter to raise enough money to pay off the lien on her father’s house, a library get cooled off, animals to get help, and a musician to maybe get to the school of her dreams, and oh yeah, art.
Not to mention, Feeding Kate.
People Helping…People? Weird, right?
Maybe we really are on the verge of something special. Maybe we’re starting to realize we can help each other in small ways, banding together to do great things, instead of relying on big systems to look down and care enough not to step on us. Maybe we really are learning to pay it forward, to consider karma, to act a little more like Sabrina Ogden.
Maybe I’m just having a momentary lapse of sanity.
Look, I’m not an expert. I don’t claim to be. I do know this:
- If you walk into a cocktail party wearing a sandwich board and walking up to strangers telling them to buy things while handing out flyers, you will not be invited back. You will likely be barred from said party circuit and shunned by the party goers when in the community. You know, for being an over-zealous crazy person.
- If you go to a cocktail party and use the guest book to start emailing all the party goers later about your latest product, you will be shunned, blocked, and ignored.
- If you go over to someone’s house and plant big signs advertising your latest thing, expect said person to chase you off his or her lawn, with a hose if you’re lucky.
Which brings us to social media. Don’t “friend” people just to spam them. If they like you, they might buy your book, try your brownies, look into your schnauzer-cleaning service. If they like your book, your brownies, or how shiny their schnauzer looks, they’ll probably tell other people they think would enjoy books, brownies and shiny schnauzers. They also might not. Or they might hate your book, brownies, and shiny schnauzers. (Right about now I’m wondering why I picked the work “schnauzer” to type over and over.)
If you start following someone on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, follow their Tumblr, Instagram, Pintrest, etc., feel free to interact with them like you would at a party. Talk about things that interest you both. Perhaps make witty comments if banter is his/her thing. Weather. Politics if it can be kept civil. Discuss books (or movies or TV shows you like).
Also, post things about your interests (not your “products”), your hobbies, your oddball observations, your obsessions (unless creepy and you know darn well when you’re being creepy). Don’t do this as a “strategy” because that comes off as needy and desperate and fake. If you occasionally mention that you also make schnauzers shiny, great. But if every message you send out into the world looks like this:
OMG Your #SCHNAUZER could be #clean and #shiny. Ask me how. #LOL http://www.shinyschnauzersofdoomareawesomesauce.com #puppies #dogs #dieofcute
Well, then, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Does that look even remotely interesting to you? Would you click it if it weren’t yours? Be honest. Your eyes would glaze over it the way you glaze over all those Refi Now banner ads with the blinking dancing people.
If you’re messaging horror-fan atheist strangers with:
Hey, here’s a link to my Christfic romance new book! You should totally buy it because my editor thinks it’s great! http://selfpublishedstuffforkindle.com
You’re the equivalent of the flyer in my mailbox trying to sell me a roasted ham (I’m a vegetarian). (The same works in reverse. Selling the Catholic Harlequin reader your drug-snorting take on HP Lovecraft might not work well either.)
And even if you’re trying to sell your romance book to romance readers or your schnauzer cleaning service to a guy with a half dozen schnauzers, if your introduction to yourself is: BUY BUY BUY, you’re still the used-car salesman on the “no money down!” lot.