(I decided to move this post over from blogger before I permanently shut that blog down and use it just to redirect over here. I liked this post, probably the best of all the ones I wrote over the two years I had that blog, and I decided it was worth keeping. My post about Collectives and how they have been trashed and dragged through the mud was also pretty good, but given I have about thirty more posts to move off of my blog for The Wicked Messenger, frankly, I’ve only enough patience for one post off the Whimsical Trovers, so, here it is. This was originally posted on April 9, 2011. Enjoy.)
See that picture? That’s a portrayal of that little bastard Jason, of Jason and the Argonauts fame, busily doing what the Jason stories were really all about, which was denigrating the old matriarchal system and beliefs which still held sway even in exceedingly patriarchal Greece. Of course, thanks to Medea, Jason got his, but still, she, for some reason, is cast as the “bad guy”, even though he deserved a hell of a lot worse. And this all goes to show I am capable of leading with a major digression, before I ever get off the ground with a regular blog post! Yes! I am that good!
Today I came upon a thread in the Creative Breakroom that sincerely blew my mind. I’m going to link it here, in fact— that’s how mindblowing this thread was. Hang on:
Never mind that I really don’t comprehend the first thing about meta tags or meta data or meta whatever, I really don’t. Never mind that SEO and all of these other games we are endlessly corralled into playing seem to have no effect whatsoever. Never mind that this conversation is just plain disturbing on every level. What I do comprehend is how Big Pictures work. I’m very good at that. And what this conversation reveals, at a very small scale really, is a Big Picture, and that picture is not at all calculated to make me think, for a second, that there is any viable hope for a future in online business.
But that’s not Whimsical! You’re supposed to be upbeat and whimsical!
1) Big corporations are in control of vast swathes of the internet. They basically are less like the occasional toll booth on a superhighway, and more like a switchboard for a subway train.
2) Congress does not want the FCC to have any kind of supervisory capability over the internet switchboard and railway system, they want big corporations to have that kind of power. And by congress, I of course mean the Republican Party and a small cohort of “Democrats” who are really just Republicans. (Have I mentioned I am vexed? When I am vexed I am not at all whimsical, nor interested in being all politically correct. So yeah. REPUBLICANS.)
3) Of course big corporations know this. And they are getting more and more bossy, shall we say, because they know soon they will have the entire joint to their own devices and the only controls they will have to worry about are those imposed by other giant corporations, and this means now is a good time to start fucking around with
WHIMSY! The F word?
4) Meanwhile, regular people and tiny micro businesses are struggling alone online. For the most part completely oblivious to the giant game of Monopoly being waged all around them. And when micro businesses come up against stone walls, they don’t always even know exactly what they are coming up against. It’s easy to blame yourself, for example, for not succeeding, especially when a capitalist society feeds you a steady stream of the lie of personal success, responsibility, equity, and level playing fields. It’s easy to blame yourself for not being able to compete with giant companies, which is kind of a way of blaming other regular people for shopping at those giant companies, and then you have to turn it around on yourself because you probably shop at some of those companies too. But what’s really going on behind the curtain, the real wizard, the real dudes at the switchboard, is actually a lot more insidious and ubiquitous than anyone really can be aware of 24/7.
(Great. Conspiracy theories now.)
5) Actually I don’t buy about 99.9% of conspiracy theories, because they are simply too personal, too clever, and too targeted to explain what is happening on such a wide scale. If you buy the notion that the paranoid and clearly imbalanced CEO of a venue like, say, E—-.com, is madly reading twitter accounts and blogs and forums to create an enemies list and that this is the cause of the problem? I have no doubt this person is imbalanced enough to do those things. But that still isn’t the cause of the problem. The problem is way too big. You’re thinking Mr. Smith, and I’m thinking MATRIX. The Matrix itself.
(AND… now we’ve gone to movie metaphors. Oh boy.)
But what if the Matrix was not an electronic world made of circuits and impulses and ideas, all rendered into human terms? What if the Matrix was more like… smoke? That is what we are dealing with online.
Also this is where the notion “Ignorance is Bliss” comes from. In case you were wondering.
So now what? There’s a mighty big problem here. It isn’t something you can actually game, overcome, or fix. Giant corporations do not have the interests of individuals at heart— they have their OWN interests at heart. And even if the argument could be made (try it. I dare you.) that corporations are made up of individuals, the fact is corporations are organisms unto themselves. A corporation is a singular entity. It has its own agenda, growth pattern, and diet. And since corporations are all products of capitalism, it is worth noting: capitalism has a single unsustainable ideology which will eventually destroy… well, capitalism, and incidentally probably take the planet out with it, and all of us, but anyway, Capitalism has exactly one ideological motive, and that is GROWTH. Growth at all costs. Growth regardless of logic, sustainability, morality. And, as the great Edward Abbey once remarked, “Growth for Growth’s sake is the ideology of a Cancer Cell.”
I’m kind of from the school of thought that doesn’t think ignorance is bliss. I’m also kind of inclined to see giant odds and want to fight them. I’m not interested in “working with” a system that, in fact, doesn’t work with anyone. You can’t work with something that basically goes against your own interest. It makes no sense. People try it all the time. I’ve been called “idealistic” for prefering to remain outside of evil systems, but I think anyone who believes you can work within those systems and remain unbesmirched by them are the real idealists. Or, maybe, just totally in denial and kidding themselves.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the venture capitalists are talking about their various acquisitions. They are talking about you, and all of us, as if we aren’t there. We approach the markets from a genuine place, the real Sacred Space of the Ancient Marketplace. They approach the markets like Jason approaches the Fates. They think they can mock it, steal its eye, bargain with it, manipulate it. Here’s a taste, by the way, of some of the conversation:
Yes, the ones who do not make things are going to manipulate how things are made. So, for those of us who don’t like being manipulated, and who really aren’t impressed with the fake marketplace and prefer the reality of the space where I make something, you think it’s cool, you buy it, period— what do we do with these people?
You can play their game, I suppose. It won’t make you successful. It will make them very successful. Look at E—-.com. They’ve done very well for themselves. No one with their items actually posted on E—- is doing so well. No one who wasn’t rich walking through that door is rich now. You can pull the viewing lens way back now, and realize E—- and Fred Wilson are just a tiny part of the larger problem. You can realize that we all have to deal with one major issue— Google, which dwarfs E—-, and their deep pockets, which dwarfs the single venture capitalist handily. How do you play Google’s game? And should you? And does it make a difference?
Vexed as I am, I have to say writing this makes me feel a lot better, all of a sudden. I realize that there is surely a way of finding the original sacred space of the genuine Marketplace. Because I still make cool stuff, and people still want to buy cool stuff. How do we hook up? There are ways. The internet is full of them. The question I still have, and I’ll still be working on for some time to come, I’d imagine, is how to bypass all the bullshit and get back to the basics. No blackouts, no manipulation, no front page chicanery, no being forced to compete with factories in China, no venture capitalists trying to make money off of what I do, no invasion of privacy, no being frozen out because I don’t play the reindeer game. That’s the challenge I perceive.
And now that I’ve gotten past all the rest of it, looked at it, realized it holds no interest for me, and really doesn’t benefit me one iota, the challenge looks… weirdly simple. Just… how do we get that space back? It used to exist online, I remember it well. Before eB— and other venues took over entirely. It was good too. It was much better than now. Not only could you find the most amazing things, you could get your hands on those things, and talk to artists, and learn, and it was all good. So it seems to me working out how to get back to that basic transaction is the important thing, and how to keep from getting steamrollered by all of these cancerous growths who want to control the transaction. Two issues, entertwined. Very interesting. Yes. I’m still vexed. But I look at that picture up there, and while I find what it represents vexing, I do remember, and repeat.