Let me admit from the outset, I spent a lot of time pondering whether or not to write this article. In all honesty, I worked myself into a bit of agita—I fear what I am presenting before you is self-serving. I decided to write on regardless for I know that the motivation behind this article impacts many more beyond just the writer. What has occupied my mind for the past 48 hours is the notion of value versus worth. Specifically, what is it about society that makes us value that which is held in esteem by the gentry as we overlook the abundance of talent that is found in our midst because it has not been deemed valuable.
I’m going to be completely transparent here for the sake of my own conscience. The reason I was in angst about writing this article was because the source of my initial consternation was a recommendation by Patreon to look up the profile of someone who is quite famous. Patreon is a crowd-funding website where people who love to empower artists and creative minds converge and become their patrons. A friend from Facebook recommended Patreon when she saw that I was attempting to make the Ghion Journal a website powered by community instead of depending on advertisement dollars.
When I visited Patreon, I fell in love with their idea and the large community of funders and activists who are found at that site. As much as I speak against the excesses of capital gluttony that is killing our planet, I am nevertheless a realist. Let’s be real here, I’m not about to become an “off-the-grid” mountaineer anytime soon. Neither am I about to be a purest living in the streets; I’ve done that once, I have no interest in going back. So I do as we all do, I bend to the system and try my hardest to do right within it. Seeing folks at Patreon empower each other makes me believe that maybe, just maybe, we can redeem this system from within and find a way to build communities inside capitalism instead of bowing to corporations.
But then, two days ago, this fleeting hope of mine was given a setback when I visited the page of the famous person on Patreon who had close to 10,000 patrons. Assuming that each patron was giving a minimum contribution of $1 a month, an already wealthy pundit is making at least $10,000 a month while starving artists are working at Starbucks trying to make ends meet with minimum wage jobs. This is no different than when a superstar gets a free dinner at a restaurant because he is famous while someone who is poor is treated to a “bathroom for paying customers only” sign at that same establishment.
I promise I am not writing this from a position of envy nor do I want the pundit who inspired this article to bear any type of monetary repercussion—which is why I am withholding his name from this article. What gave me consternation was not that he was successful and making a boatload of money on a website dedicated to empowering artists even though this man is part of the uber upper-class. If the rich want to make yet more money, that is their right as long as they do so without hurting others in the process. I don’t want people to get the idea that I am against wealth or that I advocate a life of penury. If people are able to multiply their fortunes without reverting to malicious practices, more power to them.What gave me pause and kind of saddened me was not his success; it was the realization that we, the bottom 99%, are the source of our suffering. We elevate the rich and famous as we step on those who struggle just like us. Before I moved back to the DC area a few months ago, I was working at a Safeway deli in Fort Collins, Colorado. One day, a gentleman walked in dressed to the nines; immediately everyone started to mill around and gathered about to treat him like royalty. When I asked one of my co-workers who this guy was and why he was being treated with such fanfare, my deli counter comrade told me this guy was an influential man who the locals refer to as “the president”.
I jokingly dismissed the affair and made light of what I saw by telling my co-worker “well I can now say I gave bratwurst to Donald Trump”. But in my heart, what I witnessed bothered me. Why do we love to adore those who have money as if they are gods? This feeling of dismay was increased by magnitudes the next day when a homeless man walked in and was treated with contempt. Those who already have everything in life are given even more by society while those who have little to their names are given even more grief by us. This is the reason I was roused into bemusement when I saw a rich guy with nearly 10,000 backers on Patreon while others who paint, write and create in anonymity are continuously overlooked. There is something about the human psyche that makes us give value to that which is valued by the elites in a way that is very unhealthy.
Ponder this. If Oprah tweeted about Serendipity’s Trace or Soul to Soil just once, what took 7 months to sell 300 books would be sold out in an hour. As much as we rage against the powerful and the elites, we still depend on them to tell us what to think and worse yet what to value. This is why Starbucks can charge $6.00 for a cup of coffee and be jammed packed while a coffee shop in Fort Collins by the name of Tia’s Eatery closed her doors even though her coffee, food and service was infinitely better (read Tia’s Choice). We have the power in our hands to empower each other and to retain communal wealth, but we would rather go to Walmart and give power to the corporations who kill this planet for the sake of saving a few cents and convenience. This is the essence of self-nullification.
Think about this for a minute; how many protests is one act of community empowerment worth? How many marches adds up to the power of building up the very neighborhoods we live in? We keep on waiting for programs and politicians to save us; forget about others saving us, we can enrich ourselves if we retain our money and resources where we live at. The choice is this stark: either we shop, eat and do business locally or we will be slaves globally. In this paradigm, it is an imperative to reinvest in our community instead of throwing our pearls before the swine of corporatism. In the same light, stop letting fame and fortune be the determining factors of leaders and instead let us be guided by love and kindness towards each other. Stop looking to carnival barkers to lead us to the promise land, their job is to keep us mired in hopelessness. Let us free and feed ourselves.
When you cry for others, you are really crying for yourself. There is the reason I had deep reservations about writing this article; I am part of the overlooked community of artists and writers I am speaking for in this article. Before I go on, let me clarify one thing. I hope people don’t read from this article any type of bitterness or resentment. In all honesty, I am grateful. It was not too long ago that I was calling mission shelter beds and concretes home. God has rescued me from a dance with indigence few ever escape from and delivered me into abundance of love and meaningfulness. Moreover, it was during my time of distress that I discovered my purpose which led me to writing two books and gave birth to the Ghion Journal. More than 300 people have bought my books. For all of it, the tears and the hardship, I am eternally grateful.
My ire thus is not so much about me as it is about my idealism. I wonder, am I being naive? Is human nature the way that it is and am I just speaking into the wind? Are we fated to follow the cunning as we disregard those who are actually giving? Will this world always be about greed and ego? Is the idea of collective success a quaint fairy tale in a zeitgeist that is all about individual attainment? Am I being foolish by thinking that a media entity can be powered by the people? Should I do what others tell me and open up the website to corporate advertisers so I can accrue the capital to get my message heard? Will doing so destroy the very mission and aim behind this website? Is change even possible? Should I just bend to reality?
Well, this morning I arrived at a solution. A random act of kindness on my way to the store made me forget my momentary ennui. The first was an act of kindness given to me as a simple hello followed by a compliment about my t-shirt made me realize that small gestures added up can be just as valuable as one grand act of benevolence. The second act of kindness was me giving to a homeless man who was in dire straights; it was not the dollar that he valued as much as the fact that I talked to him as a friend. The change, you see, is not an event but a process. We plant seeds and do our part and leave the rest to fate.
So instead of looking into the future and pondering about what is or is not possible, I will just be thankful in the moment. Why care what society values as long as those who know my work value my worth? I am saying to you the reader as well as to myself. The change that we all seek starts from within; if we know our own worth, we would care less about the value society gives us. It is true that this world suffers greatly from idol worshiping and materialism, but gazing into the navel of iniquity is not healthy for the soul. Heal the world by small gestures, be kind to each other, always find reasons to be grateful and the world will change by osmosis. #NeglectedPearls
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~ Harriet Tubman
If you appreciate this write up and the message behind it, share this article on social media and let them know that change is a process that starts from within #NeglectedPearls
Check out this Ghion Cast below and you will realize the reason I started this website and the reason I believe in community empowerment so much
Check out the Ghion Cast below where I share my testimony and how I arrived from a place of hopelessness to a place of purpose. Be the change within and the world will change without.
Check out the Ghion Cast where I discuss how we can all go from Dust to Diamonds and turn our potential into reality of collective success and collective enrichment.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.