I find myself on a great plain. The sun is going down and it is getting windier and colder by the second. I do have some firewood to help stay warm but if I do not get that fire lit, I and the others I am with may not survive the night. It is extremely cold already and even with all of us grouped side by side, our body temperatures alone will not be enough to keep us from freezing. How can I light a fire in such a strong wind? The others feel that I am the most knowledgeable on how to go about lighting a fire so they have selected me to get it done. I feel responsible to help the others who are with me but how can one person do it alone? What is the point of trying to light that match when I know that the wind will just squelch the match’s ignition the second that it is lit? The weight of the world is on me but there is no way I can see how to overcome this. My insides are in knots. I just want to give up because I don’t want to fail when the stakes are so high. What can one person do when the odds are stacked against them?
I turn to an elder and tell her that she needs to find someone else to try and figure out a way to keep us all warm. I am not skilled at lighting fires so what is the point? The elder reminds me that there is an answer to be found as the group has always survived and has faith that I will figure out a way to save the group from freezing to death. I snap “well, the group can huddle together and hope and pray that each of their bodies will produce enough warmth to keep us all from freezing but there is no way to light a fire in this wind.” Then I think about what I just said. What if everyone huddled together not just to produce warmth but to block the wind which just might just give us enough of a break from the winds power to light the fire?”
We have all been conditioned to think that the only solutions to our problems come from individuals who can solve them. It is the teacher, the scientist, the politician, the leader that will get us out of our dilemma. Since we cannot speak for nor control a group, we forget to think about how groups coming together are what really produce change. Perhaps, this is why we give up trying to improve the world because things seem to be just too intractable to change what seems like the inevitable anyhow. We feel we want a better world but there is just too much inertia to keep one person from making a difference and how can we alone get others interested in starting a change that needs to overcome massive obstacles. While we may complain or abhor that money is only working for the very few, one person alone cannot move mountains. So life goes on as before when there aren’t enough jobs and they don’t pay enough to make ends meet. So life goes on as politics no longer represents the people. The average person feels like they wield an eye-dropper when trying to fill the needed sea change. The answer may be a new corporate structure, the So Corporation.
What if everyone huddled together though? One spark can light a fire that can burn down the old structures. One spark and there will be new energy to consume the old power. That spark can come from just one video or just one email that by going viral can begin to dismantle the unfairness that surrounds us. But how can we make a difference? If each person just passes along one thing that they believe strongly in and the next person does the same….
Of course, any change will still be grueling and exhausting and there will be setbacks but what is the alternative? In the documentary movie “Twenty Feet from Stardom” each backup singer dreams of being an individual star that will define their success. Yet each backup singer finds that by singing backup while just being part of a vocal group, they are transformed by their interaction with the other singers. Just like each of us thinks that success is an individual effort, we forget that success is social. It cannot exist without others working together. It is time to give up the individual success model and embrace success from the group perspective, huddled together to help light the spark.
We all know that crowdsourcing and how the wisdom of crowds can go far beyond an individual’s effort. There are external websites: to help to organize social good; to write software for everyone to use; to have science share their research; to make encyclopedias for all our knowledge; to help businesses to launch a new product or service; to get loans or venture capital by crowdfunding; and to design products and direct marketing. Now it is time for individuals to band together to be the corporate board, to be the employees, to be the consumer, to make the trusted product, to be the responsible management that all together pay fair wages and salaries and offer social responsibility as well.
Currently, there are B Corps who try to provide more than a return for shareholders but work at a sustainable model that creates value for society and the community as well as all stakeholders. Now, what if we could take that standard and apply it to the social effectiveness of crowds, groups, and the Co-Op of the internet variety, where intellectual property meets group ownership?
There have been attempts to try and start businesses online and they have mostly failed. The Occupy Wall Street movement failed (in a sense, since it did create a national diaglogue about income inequality) mainly because leaderlessness led to rudderlessness. The problem for each of these organizational attempts was that “too many chefs” theory; so that what is needed is a social CEO, a corporate webmaster or team, that provides and facilitates an open forum that encourages the wisdom of the crowd but offers enough structure and discipline to keep things progressing. What if there was a structure that cared about its impact on the whole culture while taking advantage of how groups generate more energy than their individual elements? The “So Corp,” as I call it since “So” stands for social, would pay all employees fairly and not overpay their chairman because the employees are the corporate board of directors who would be making those decisions. Since employees don’t want to destroy where and how they live, the So Corp would also have a responsibility to not hurt the environment they work in, to not add poison to our bodies, to improve or not worsen global warming, and to give back to the community. More to the point, this type of corporation will do so not out of some promotional spin but out of concern and care for the common good. In other words, it will be concerned with all of our survival and not just its own. Of course, any change to the current power base will create an uproar and backlash from those who stand to lose most and will resist change. Therefore, the So Corp will have detractors, the ones who will declare “So What,” but the alternative is to keep what we have which we all know is not only dysfunctional but just may take us and the whole system down with it. We could find ourselves in some economic Dr. Strangelove nuclear wasteland. There is a saying that “if you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.”
In Brazil, a young democracy protests that their values are becoming out of whack when futbol (soccer) takes public funds away from what really matters and athletes get paid more than teachers. In other parts of the world, protests abound to overthrow governments and to find a better way to solve each country’s problems. Yet, in the United States complacency abounds. No one seems to connect the consequences of their inactions with their despondency that nothing is getting better. In the 1960’s, the civil rights movement may have been protesting partly because of blacks being denied the right to vote, but what really galvanized the movement was economic inequality and the need for jobs. Yet now, jobs may be central to national exasperation but no one is rallying around the issue in an organized way.
It is time to pick a fight and then get one person to pass along your passion in order to get that person to then pass it along. The point is to get a group which is open and generative and develops change by crowdsourcing. However, the only way to get someone off of their keester is to have them see the consequences of their inaction since showing someone benefits alone does not get things moving. We are all too happy to be distracted by our culture’s toys and activism is no longer part of the American mass culture to try and shake up our world. Even for those who think toward activism, they become despondent and settle for life as it is. Getting one person at a time and passing that along through social media though is something we are used to and something we perceive as easy.
For my “money” the problem lies in the exclusiveness that Capitalism now suffers from. Other problems are more symptomatic that run along that fault line: money corrupting politics, journalism as entertainment, banks negative influence, and so forth. So gather ye around and start a So Corp, a company that feeds off a group dynamic and ownership and is based on a fairness that advances culture while helping to change the concentration of power. Has it become trite to say the answer is “blowin’ in the wind?”