“Without order, nothing exists. Without chaos, nothing evolves.” A lyric
from one a hip-hop group called Jedi Mind Tricks, never popular or mainstream,
but part of an underground movement in the late 90’s, that has lasting impact
on the underground scene today. Do yourself a favor and check them out if you have a streaming service at your disposal…
When I first heard that lyric, it stuck with me on a purely artistic level… of course you need chaos in art- that’s what jazz did for hip hop, or Dr. J did for freedom of individual expression in a buttoned up type of basketball played in the 70’s, or young designers that take
risks with fashion choices and create international trends.
But in our social constructs that relate to money changing hands or
disruption of systems designed to work without trying- our prompt this week
challenges us to think about what would it take to move shared
ownership from marginal to normal. There are so many ways I think
about that question. Are we discussing normal for the mainstream in power?
Normal for the marginalized who sit outside of that mainstream? Normal for the
advocates who believe you must convince the powers that be of a value proposition
to have compassion for the marginalized?
Either/Or thinking is not really my style, so I personally feel that shared
ownership can be normalized with marginalized communities, advocates, and
organizers if we understand the difference between advocacy and organizing. The
organizing should inform how folks with access to traditional power move and
use their influence, while organizers of cooperative movements we speak of are
creating models that show the value proposition for marginalized communities
and allies to move together and work together. Unfortunately, in many cases,
there has not been an easy path to finding out what folks in the margins have
in common other than lack of access to whatever we define our mainstream
systems to be. It creates what I call the “siloification” of America.
Fighting for the same crumbs leads to animosity and distrust of systems and
others that operate within it. We are tribal in our natures…when resources
appear finite- we cling to them and are more apt to align to whatever method
takes care of us or the tribe you claim.
Shared ownership as normal practice might be achieved by the models we
create. Staying on this music theme, I cannot help but think about how tech
impacted that industry. Before the early 2000’s it was not common to find an
artist from a disadvantaged background demanding ownership of the art they
created. The model was simple: poor starving artist signs with label
“x”, gets a check in transactions for a limited amount of time. The
big labels had the resources to promote and distribute the music on a national
and global scale. Many people have fond memories of Motown Records in Detroit,
where many Black artists were showcased and revered by millions for their
artistry and style, not realizing that many of these folks died without a dime
to leave to their families or still needing to work in their late 70’s and 80’s
as they were taken advantage of by Berry Gordy, a Black entrepreneur who
learned early on how to take advantage of the lack of access these kids had to
Once the internet allowed easier access to the art, many artists began to
rely on their most transferable skills and creating ownership principles.
Negotiating distribution deals and owning the publishing to their art- the
dynamics changed in such a way artist could ban together and create independent
labels to take advantage of a new normal. It took models that survived and
failed at different rates to change how things were done.
These stories are more relevant than ever today. The pandemic is going to
have some long lasting costs to our society, but can also serve as an
inflection point for many people that no longer want to be subject to the
employee working at the mercy of institution or other owners, no longer feeling
safe with safety net programs from government that aren’t always accessible to
the entire population.
In 2008 during the housing crisis, I felt less optimistic that I do now
about organized change from the margins. Probably because I was working in a
financial institution and I saw so much rapid loss and heard so many sad
stories. The government stepped in with corporate bailouts and made these
promises to the common Joe whether it was Dodd–Frank Act or Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau… the organization I worked for was instrumental in forming these magical band-aids returning some capital to folks, but over time, those protections have subsided, especially under the current administration. New tax codes benefit the wealthy more than the marginalized,creating this divide we still see today.
Today I feel more optimistic about eventual solutions to the structural economy because many of our industries and businesses have been forced to re-think how to conduct business as normal- nontraditional leaders are popping up all over the country to combat injustice in all forms, as
well as this sense of great change possible with a large transferring of wealth
from generation to generation. I’m not sure I have a clear answer to how WE
create a different type of normal after saying of this all out loud, but know
where I’m supposed to be right now- doing all I can to building a healthy
community-whether it is preventive or wellness services, or some type of
community planning that involves these ideas of economic collaboration for