I’ll start. As much big shit as I talk, I’m imperfect routinely and repeatedly. I am typing this on a plastic ThinkPad most likely made in some pretty inhospitable conditions compared to the ones in which I sit typing. I could list the litany of transgressions along these lines that I experience — nay, demand — daily, but that’s pretty well-tread ground.
I want to skip past the disillusioning part and sort of focus on ways in which I have tried to have an impact in the ways that I’ve thought I could and possibly think “out loud” about other future opportunities that might appeal to me and fit within my parameters of acceptability.
First of all, I recently turned down a job doing infrastructure software at …ok so now I’m gun-shy… Do I name names? What are the risks? What are the benefits? OH SHIT LOOK WHO’S DOING CAPITALIST CALCULATIONS NOW. OK, fuck it. It was HBO. The job duties *sounded* awesome and the guy I would’ve been reporting to seemed totally competent and with vision. At the end of the day, though, helping HBO is helping The Borg. And I just don’t want to help The Borg. I firmly believe that the concentration of wealth is what makes possible things like drone warfare and holocausts. Moreover, I partially believe big companies intentionally hire talented people deliberately to keep them from being competition.
I felt good turning it down, and I want to remember this as a little thing I’ve done to forgo some of the privilege that has adverse cultural consequences……….in my own culture; I have no doubt the production of sneakers I’ve worn and tossed out have wrought suffering _somewhere_. But I know that what we have can’t / won’t / shouldn’t last, and so I am not about to go become a henchman for the status quo. But I really could’ve seen that one going either way.
Additionally, beyond turning down jobs for the mainstream media (and never even considering working for something like a weapons or surveillance or spam company), I also try to contribute my time and resources to things I believe in: a political action committee that’s working to get a constitutional amendment to prohibit corporate money from entering elections, a free and open source computer operating system, an independent music distribution platform, and ….god, a bunch of other things that aren’t occurring to me right now.
In so many ways, I’m so wrong. I own an iphone and pay AT&T $100+ per month; I should stop…and pay some ohter huge corporation. Same with Internet. I pay a lot of money to live in a pretty crumby apartment because I just *have* to live by the fancy grocery store, where I spend a lot of money, too. I’m not proud of these things, but they’re true.
At the same time, however, I wear primarily shoes from a vegan shoe company (despite eating meat and feeding it to my dog), I try to eat at what appear to be locally-owned restaurants, I try to support independent journalism outfits even when I don’t agree with all of their politics or marketing tactics, and I often embark on unprofitable business ventures, employing various artisans and professionals along the way. Not to mention all the self-employed therapists I’ve probably sent on vacation at this point.
I believe that idols and sacred cows are made for destroying and slaughtering, respectively, and that people on an individual and small group level, not institutions, are our best hope for the future. I believe that, in the words of Jeff Ott, “The only ones who know the truth are under fourteen / they play in a band in a garage in the middle of Missouri / they don’t really know how to play / but they’ve got some songs, and they’ve got a lot to say / they sing about how racism sucks / and the police are fucked.”
I believe that the only reasonable benefit of privilege is to share and expand privilege. Moreover, …recently someone said to me that I talk like I’m experiencing/expressing “survivor’s guilt,” which I read about and sort of dismissed. Then another person said the same thing in a different context, and I sort of understand. I talk like I don’t deserve to have a comfortable life because someone, somewhere is suffering, and that is potentially impairing my ability to fulfill what I consider my obligation to expand the wealth of knowledge and compassion in my community and society to the maximum extent possible.