In the last couple of years our interest for “pay what you want” strategies (PWYW), crowdfunding and open-source philosophies has been growing steadily. I started with funding a significant part of SH.TG.N’s debut on MoonJune Records with a crowdfunding campaign, went on with a lot of reading, and recently Susan and I experimented with donation-based living room concerts with our new project RUNtoSEED. We also placed our own bids on crowdfunding campaigns such as Boyan Slat’s “The Ocean Cleanup”-project which managed to raise over $2M from 38000 funders from 160 countries in 100 days to clean up the ocean.
Not only did we discover new ways to consider a music career, but we were exposed to entirely new ways to look at the world, which would change us forever. But in this article I will focus on one in particular : I’ve become a Vegetarian.
Now what do these things have to do with each other ? Well simply put : consumption. Being busy with price and consumption in a different, more flexible way, I started to take a different look on what I bought. With no obligation to pay and no set price, you start gaining consciousness of what your payment really represents : an endorsement. And that’s what any payment is, really, even with a set price. The real power of the money we spend is there. If I choose to buy something at one store instead of another, I choose to support that one store over the other one.
So that got me thinking, when I buy something, who am I endorsing ? What am I supporting ? Who am I giving a tap on the shoulder saying “keep doing what you do, this is good work!” ? And naturally I realized I had been an accomplice of a whole bunch of practices I obviously couldn’t support. Now of course I knew they existed, and in a lot of cases I knew the products I bought were unethical and sure I tried to buy, like, fair-trade coffee, organic food and avoid Monsanto or such products (these specific causes happen to be more advertised than others). But I didn’t exactly realize how far my endorsement went, or how big my power actually was.
Everyone does the best they can
Let’s cut ourselves some slack for a minute. We are trained to think fatalistically about the world. The old “this is how it is and has always been and you won’t do anything about it” song. We are trained to look at people who want to do otherwise as either disconnected idealists, crazy radicals, or both. I’m no exception. And I must say realizing it doesn’t have to be that way is a long and complicated process. For one, you start asking a lot of questions, lose one’s points of reference, and it might seem like you start saying ‘no’ too often. So I learn to say no with a radiant smile.
Because now I know, when I say no to casual meat-eating, I’m saying no to the current trivialization of massive insensitive killings, to deforestation, to objectification of animals, to global disconnection with the life-and-death cycle, etc. etc. etc. And my little ‘no’ to a little toast with, say, foie-gras on it, is a big ‘yes’ to embracing life, the world, and my own personal power to make it an even better place. Definitely worth a smile.
I’m aware that being 100% coherent is this approach is difficult and I’m absolutely not there yet. While contemplating veganism (animals are mistreated whether it’s for their meat or what they produce), I do not yet feel ready to make the step. I own clothes and electronics that have been partly created by exploited workers (I’m typing on my Apple computer right now). Even parts of my instrument probably have been. But demanding to be entirely coherent from the start is part of what’s been paralyzing me and influencing me to keep my eyes closed. Now each day they open a little more. And that also means more of the world’s beauty to see.
You know in the end all this, including the whole PWYW thing, is nothing but Ghandi’s Satyagraha. Holding on to truth, not to force. So I’ll leave you with that song Susan and I wrote together a few months ago for our project RUNtoSEED, performed live at La Monnaie/De Munt (Belgium’s National Opera House), and called “Satyagraha”. With the whole personal power talk I could have as well picked my song “You’re in Charge” but I’ll let you discover that one on your own on our site.
PS : Just to show that we have more individual power than we tend to think : here’s a PETA report showing that each vegan individually saves the lives of in average 185 (most of them mistreated) animals per year.