Put Your Money Where Your Mind Is
Avoiding Egger’s The Circle, Supporting Art Communities and Being a Patreon Patron
We live in a society where technology is reaching further into our every move daily. We pay to listen to music we like (according to one algorithm or another) but do not own. We keep text once inked so freshly that it stuck to our fingers in clean glass cases connected to everywhere.
We are paying for so much and yet, at the same time galleries and newspapers are closing shop, every visual artist I know is reiterating “no, working for exposure isn’t going to pay my bills, or my loans.” We pay to stream movies in the privacy of our homes and many of our children know nothing of live productions of theater or music, it is out of their purview entirely. We cut funding for arts programs in schools and so even small pageantry there lessens. We pay to have our groceries delivered so that we don’t have to go to the store and have even less expectation of knowing our grocers than in my childhood with massive supermarkets. It makes me recall my botany professor who met a group of kids who when asked where food comes from said, HEB (one of the largest Texas grocers) when he was hoping they might answer “a farm” or “the ground.”
In preparation for the film premiere of David Egger’s novel “The Circle” I read the book, in utter awe and horror. It’s good will leading to exponentially wider and broader consequences is harrowing. Halfway through the novel I began reading “Overconnected” by longtime Intel engineer, , who argues that the internet is driven constantly to over-connecting by depending on positive feedback loops. These loops can be used for good purposes, one might argue that the positive feedback loop led to GMO crops saving India from famine, but one could as easily argue that the same feedback loop has forced local farmers into using GMO products in order to compete with megafarms. The more complex a system the more vulnerable to disastrous issues a system can suffer.
The Circle has many ideas but one in the novel and hinted at heavily in the previews is the premise that constant surveillance which people voluntarily opt into helps people live their best lives.
In The Circle the idea is that we have the technology and so we use it. But the question perhaps among the most uncomfortable is how much longer until that is our answer? We do indeed have the surveillance at our fingertips — we have in the country that created the Internet a world leader (though I tend to cringe at the term) who thinks nothing of letting full wrath out on the basis of nothing but a whim. The technology and money both exist — we only need the technocrat. We only need the shark and the waters seem to be full of them.
Another show provided that in its origins of the novel before arriving on screens. Gaiman’s “The Kid” in his now television series adapted book American Gods — is that technocrat. More digitally coded than he is made of DNA it would seem. All tied and made of numbers what could be more powerful than currency? If we are bur the current of our net worth then we need nothing but positive feedback loops to surge our power again and again.
Something I still have to believe is grounding and will bring us down to our earthly origins is art. Maria Popova hosted The Universe in Verse as a celebration of poetry and science. She says they are both founded in wonder at nature and all it offers us. The Romantic in me was stunned by this and yet, I fully intend to weave this capital t Truth into my life. I intend to extend my patronage to things that leave me awestruck. I will keep giving artists my currency of hope that they may keep creating.
Supporting what feeds our minds is so necessary. We recognize this enough to put ourselves in debt to institutions of higher education and yet, not to smaller moments that enrich us there. The threats to the NEA are near constant and they are threats to artists who ready get overlooked. The painter isn’t as useful today as the graphic designer. The writer not as important as the marketer — but we need all of these things. There’s a resurgence in paying for news subscriptions, it needs to happen now outside past industry leaders and in the lives of musicians, writers, sculptors and more.
We are dealing with cavernous and almost carnivorous spaces on the Internet. Look no farther than The Circle for a metaphor of the shark we’re so dazzled by. So here is my proposal — keep up constant crowdfunding. Help ACLU fight injustice year round. Send Planned Parenthood money when they are not begging. And use Patreon for the artists you love. It’s the sort of internet community we are always claiming can thrive — so we should make it so.
Patreon is ultimately just another company — but for me it is possible to liken it to a private library serving the public. The idea is potent enough to change the way we think of currency and of art as work that is a labor not only of love but of life giving levels. Life giving not just for the soul, but for the mouths of your children, the gas in your car and the roof over your head.
Putting ones money where your mind is — wrapped up in ideas others filter towards you, this is an expression of faith. It urges us to fund the small things we lean on for more joy in this world. This essay has been bubbling for sometime but finally came to fruition due to my older sister’s supporting Hypable writers (fandom of the unabashed sort) via their new Patreon.
I want to see more artists reading poems about science to crowded halls. I want to know we originate pressed tightly beside moshing throngs of concert goers. I think the way we keep onward when technology is pulling us apart is by threading ourselves together on its tethers.
There is an audacious element to purchasing an album when you only know one song. It can be argued a waste for its nostalgic sense of ownership. We can hear all the songs for a fee — why repeat the ones we know? Because they feed the meaning of human gratitude. Lin Manuel Miranda has given us many wisdoms and aphorisms to be mindful of, and one is that mixtapes in their age did not allow for skipping, they demanded a curated listening. I believe in the album that is curated by the artist. Streaming and album-owning seem so exclusive as they compete for funds, but we can have both the analog option LP even and the digital. It takes some forethought to see what they each bring.
I exist in this varied globalized capitalist system — I want it to be one where artists do, too. I want to pay taxes to the NEA, I should keep buying albums, I will make more Patreon pledges. We’re a complicated economic system — so lets support our convictions.