Why I Hate Crowdfunding

On the Blue Line coming back from the airport at the tail end of the New Orleans Birthday Trip for DMJ, a lanky, bearded young man on the train was stopping by everyone, asking for change. The woman to my left didn’t have change but gave him an apple and some yogurt because that’s what she had. He accepted and continued on to ask me (I actually stopped carrying cash a long time ago — so, no dice), the guy in front of us, the next guy, the next car and back again. He made four passes as far as I could tell, each time stopping in front of the woman who gave him the apple and yogurt, each time seeming to forget that she had given him something not minutes before.

I don’t know this guy’s situation except that he has hit a point in his life where begging on the Blue Line has become a viable option for him. I wonder what choices he made along his path that lead him here? I wonder if, had he known where those choices would lead him, if he would make them again? He’s a white guy, so I know he had better choices than if he were a woman or a person of color or both. In the Universe of almost non-stop telling of and listening to personal stories, what’s his?

It’s easy, in that moment, to recall the early days of my time in Chicago, busking (illegally) on the streets with my trumpet and the hope I could eek out a few bucks to grab something pre packaged to eat and maybe do some laundry and put some gas in my truck. Even then, though, I had a trumpet, clothes, and a fucking truck, didn’t I? Even then, I had a degree in something more pragmatic than a standard liberal arts thing, my health, and family living in the heartland to catch me if things got completely bugshit. Also — white, straight, male.

Easier still is to sit at my desk at the Public Radio Mines and sit in smug judgement of those who are still in that place of desperately trying to make capitalism work for them unsuccessfully, making terrible choices and then having the gall to whine about the consequences of these huge lapses in critical thinking.

Yes. I read the article by the entitled 25-year old as she called out the wildly overpaid CEO of Yelp! and found myself really empathizing with her — lots of dumb, twenty-year old logic cascading into a circumstance that has her eating rice and drinking expensive bourbon while bemoaning how unfair it is that she would actually have to be able to afford her lifestyle before adopting it. Sure — her screed was annoying in that way that Millennials tend to be but her points weren’t necessarily off point. Minimum wage is anything but an actual wage in this country and CEOs DO tend to take advantage of the System in Place to reward themselves at the expense of the very people who make those rewards possible. She made some bad choices and those choices lead her to this uncomfortable place and more choices got her fired from a job she hated to begin with.

I was marginally on her side until I saw the Crowdfunding.

Like Uber and Airbnb, the idea of crowdfunding is fundamentally sound and, in its way, a work around to the traditional approaches to capitalism. Got an idea for a new technology or an artistic product (like an album or a film)? Crowd source the funding in that Kickstarter way and create monetary investors on the down low. Like Uber and Airbnb, however, it is incredibly easy to abuse.

In New Orleans, hungry capitalists have bought up whole neighborhoods in housing only to turn the dwellings into Airbnbs as a way to avoid the health and safety regulations of the hotel industry. There are signs all over the city that declare that homes are NOT Airbnb and a friend of DMJ’s spoke at length at how the practice has practically destroyed certain areas by turning neighborhoods into bizarre hipster tourist areas. Uber, while a super convenient way to get around the city, is just another way to avoid unionizing livery drivers and, as we read almost every other week, lacks any of the necessary safeguards against getting into the car of a predator.

And crowdfunding, while used by families hit by extreme tragedy, situations like the water crisis in Flint, and political causes, is increasingly being used to pay for the bad choices made by people looking for a digital handout. A notable performer in the Live Lit community a few years ago crowdfunded the rent of an office space because he simply couldn’t get any writing done at home. I received an email not long ago from an acquaintance from years ago requesting I help fund his “Dream Vacation” with a link to GoFundMe. And, of course, if you signed a lease on an apartment that was obviously beyond your financial means, wrote a blog post “open letter” complaining about it, got fired, and set up several crowdfunded methods to fund your lack of understanding of consequences, you’re kind of a douchebag, too.

Why? Because there are so many people in genuine need on this planet that the idea of someone using the internet to beg for change to pay for an office space or a vacation or their fucking rent is a slap in the face of people legitimately starving, actually homeless and authentically in dire straits.

Do I have some middle-aged white guy right to tell you what to do with your money or how you get it? Nope. But I do get to tell you you’re a fucking leechy shitpickle stealing the good will of others from people who could use it more than you.


Originally published at www.donhallchicago.com.

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