I very much enjoyed this TED talk by Amanda Palmer — she puts into practice a spirit of community that we would do well to foster, and which is actually at odds with many people’s attitudes. She’s talking about the music industry specifically but a way of life in general. Rather than trying to think of ways to make people pay for music, putting them in the cattle chute and compelling them to cough up the cash for the industry, she recommends asking and letting them pay, if they can and if they want.
I thought of Greta Christina when I saw that. Recall that when she went in for surgery, she asked for donations to help out…and people who valued her work and appreciated what she brought to the atheist community chipped in and freely gave. That was the work of community. That’s how it ought to work.
Palmer talks about the resentful people who would shout at her “get a job”…and they’re out there. Those are the people who didn’t give, who would bitterly denounce Greta for using money freely given as she saw fit. It’s a peculiar situation where true community is always going to be prone to parasites, but some people get so wrapped up in policing freeloaders that they end up destroying the community they intend to protect.
I think one of the hardest habits for people brought up in a society that dogmatically worships capitalism is to surrender a little bit and just give without expectation of compensation, and without demanding the right to retain control. They’ve rather lost sight of the meaning of the word “give”.
Quick! Let me correct one potential misapprehension in advance! I am not asking you to give to me, I’m not doing an Amanda Palmer move and offering you a flower and a moment of connection for a gift of compensation. I’m one of the lucky ones: I’ve got a secure job, live in an area with a low cost of living, have very good health insurance. I can do this blogging stuff, my own form of giving, without asking you to contribute directly to me. Some of you occasionally give me a small gift when we meet — a bit of squid art, a cupcake, a glass of beer — and that token is more than enough.
If you do feel a compulsion to give, I recommend you pass it on to one of the other bloggers here on FtB who do not have my good fortune of financial security, or alternatively, visit the Foundation Beyond Belief, where you can find plenty of outlets for your compassion.