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A Radical Story with a Challenge
(in 8 parts)

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    This is a story/challenge in 8 parts. 

  • Two notes before we get into this:

A. I will never name names or give enough detail for any person or business to be identified; and

B. This will not go where you think it’s going to go, and I welcome any & all feedback.

  • The system is broken. Follow me to the end on this.

2. *WHAT DOES $50,000 MEAN TO YOU?*
What does $50,000 mean to you? How you respond to that number says a lot about who you are, what your financial situation is, and how you relate to the world.

  • I talked with a friend recently about their job. They described a successful business run by an out-of-touch boss, for whom they were doing work above & beyond their position just to keep things going. One glaring deficiency was in money management. The boss has unpaid bills months old, despite having plenty of money to cover them. In fact, my friend said the boss has upwards of $50,000 sitting in various accounts, and doesn’t even know or care that it’s there.

  • How does this make you feel? That’s a sum that could drastically change some people’s lives. For others, a five-figure sum is like a hundred-dollar bill. Nice to have, but won't make a huge impact on your financial health. For still others, it’s like a penny. Have it or not, you don’t miss it and wouldn’t care if it was gone. Which group are you in? (And if you're in that last group, call me!)

  • I say again, the system is broken. And we are the system. So we’re broken too.


   At some point in almost everyone’s life, they need financial help. It might be to pay a bar tab, or       for rent, or for unexpected bills (car, house, medical, etc.). We all do our best to take care of         ourselves, but it’s reassuring to know that when times are tough, some person or entity is there to       help.

  • I’m a creative freelancer. Which almost by definition means at some point I’ve been on unemployment. I’m grateful it’s there, even as I look for work that makes it unnecessary. I’ve also borrowed money from friends & family, or asked them to invest in me. These are people who might be marginally better off at that moment, but aren’t so rich that the money is insignificant.

  • And like so many of us in the modern world, I’ve done the Kickstarters and GoFundMes. Which is just another way of asking for money from those very same people. It all seems reasonable. We help each other and end of story, right?

  • Wrong. Last month I was chosen by a recording studio to develop, record & promote my next album. My hope was that their part in the process would be to raise money from people who have it & want to fund the arts. Instead, I was tasked to solicit money from all my “contacts” – i.e. friends & family. People who have supported me in one way or another for years & years. As if they haven't given enough. As if they have it to burn.

  • I’m sure the studio & the people are wonderful. I declined the offer. The system is broken. 


   We’ve been conditioned to “stay in our lane”. When we need money, and let’s say we’ve exhausted all       public/government options, we look for loans or amass major credit debt. When those fail, we               immediately go to people in our peer group. Again, these are people for whom this amount of money         really matters. 

  • Why? Why do we ask for money from people in relatively similar life situations? Partly it’s because those are the people we have access to. But mostly it’s because, like with just about every industry & business, the people with real money have way more than they will ever need, and have no interest in doing anything life-changing with it if it doesn’t involve them, their circle, their business, or at least some hope of ROI. Yet these are the people we should be getting money from

  • Power is hungry. It will take whatever it can. It also shifts. Time was when club owners booking a music act would by default pay that act, then promote that act to get in as many patrons as possible. The musicians' job would be to bring some fans & play great music. Then things shifted. Clubs stopped guaranteeing more than a free beer for pay. They stopped promoting beyond a post or two. They started expecting musicians to do ALL the heavy lifting, to expect next to nothing in return, and to be grateful for the opportunity. As if the joy of doing what you love is pay enough.

  • The system is broken. But we can change it. We can shift it again.

   We’ve been conditioned to believe that our primary day-to-week-to-year value comes from the work we do     & the money we earn. Which is why so many people look down on the underemployed or homeless. They         don’t deserve a good life because they haven’t EARNED IT.

  • But what if we don’t need to earn it? What if just the act of existing and doing our best to be good people is enough? What if work was not measured by how much you make but by how much you love it, and/or what you contribute (tangibly or not) to the betterment of the world? And what if money was just there for you to use – to eat & pay rent & yes even enjoy some finer things.

  • The “work ethic” is bullshit. Examine 1000 people, and you’ll find that the amount of work they do almost never corresponds to the amount of money they make. In fact, the richest people need to do next to nothing to make money, compared to the mass of us who work hard to barely make ends meet – or more often, not. And since the “American dream” is based largely on the work ethic – i.e. social mobility: work hard & you’ll move up in the world, that means that the ”American dream” is bullshit too. 

  • America is not the Land of Equality in any way but aspirational. It runs on a class system. The mass of us is compelled to stay in our lane, to soak our peers – the people who can afford it the least, and leave the upper classes alone to run the world. We deserve better. We deserve our base needs met regardless of the work we do. And we deserve to be paid for doing what we love, and not just be satisfied with the joy. Anyone who tells you that “just loving your job is enough” wants you to overlook how divergent your compensation is from the amount of effort you put in. The idea of work as “family” is another way of de-emphasizing what you get for that work. It’s all designed to keep us complacent, to stop us from asking questions, to convince us that if our work isn’t directly and financially benefiting some person/entity with money/power, then it’s not worth getting paid for it. 

  • It’s all bullshit. The system is broken.

   No. Not anytime soon. But we CAN change it – from within and without. The last two installments will       go over both approaches.

   Change doesn’t usually come from people who don’t need it. The people & entities with money & power       have no reason to want anything to change, other than pure altruism. Which is why most of their           efforts at progress tend to fall flat or get compromised away or take way longer than they should.         Sometimes we get lucky and these powers push forward progress. Usually when this happens it’s because     either A. The issue on the table no longer has an impact on their power/money; or B. They’ve               determined that pushing forward the issue will actually be more profitable and/or more beneficial to       their reputation than blocking or stalling it.

  • So what can we do? We can activate. We can compel progressives with money to support change. I was recently contacted by a well-known activist group to donate money to a very worthy cause. I’ve done this countless times. This time I didn’t. Instead, I wrote them a response saying we need to stop siphoning money from the working class & get progressive billionaires to match or exceed the funds conservatives spend to influence politics & policy with billions of dollars. 

  • We need to demand more accountability, progress and accurate representation from our leaders. I don’t believe in abandoning something of value that doesn’t work. It’s why I can’t stand cynics who say, “both parties are corrupt”. Of course they are. But both parties (and every other ignored party in this two-party system) also have people fighting for what they believe in. Just be careful. While no approach is perfect, and results usually fall below expectations, many people in power are using your anger, disillusionment & disenfranchisement to convince you that they’re fighting for you, when they’re really just fighting for themselves & using you to get what they want. This is not a treatise on tax policy, corporate deregulation, or “fiscal conservatism”, but it’s worth contemplating how all three have shifted the balance of power to the top, even though they were sold as ways to make our lives better. They didn’t, and they never will. 

  • What else can we do? Well, they say change starts local or whatever. So let’s think small. Let’s upend the system by subverting it. Many of us are already doing this. We’re refusing to take jobs that don’t pay us enough, or don’t offer healthcare or sick leave. We’re looking for work that fits our lives & our interests, rather than taking the first thing that comes along just to “make a living”. We ARE LIVING, regardless of what we do, so we shouldn’t have to be forced to “make” it. We’re not dropping out entirely, just long enough and in enough numbers to shift some that power back into our hands, even if slowly & slightly.

  • But there’s an even more radical way.

8.    *GIVE ME $50,000*
   !!!!!got your attention now? Does it make you want to go back and read everything else to see how I       got here?

  • You read that right. If you’re someone for whom $50,000 is about as impactful as $5 is to me, then I’m talking to you. I challenge you to set aside the values we’ve all been spoon fed and just give me the money.

  • I know what you’re thinking: WHY? Why should you just give me $50,000? What’s in it for you? What am I going to do with it? When will you get it back? All the usual questions people ask when someone solicits money.

  • I’ll answer all those questions. But first, some context. Think of me as your closest family, or hell, just another worthy human. Would you ask a family member in dire need what they’re going to do with the money you give them? Would the only way you lend them money be if they laid out an attractive ROI, or at least a payback schedule? Do you ask every homeless person you give money to what they’re going to do with it?

  • My answers are these: WHY? I need it and you don’t. It would make a much bigger difference to me than it ever will to you. WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU? Nothing, other than the satisfaction of transferring money to where it’s actually needed. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH IT? None of your business. Other than assuring you that it will not be used for nefarious purposes or to advocate a cause, I’m not going to tell you what I’ll use it for – other than to LIVE. This is an exchange of energy, in the form of the substitute for value we call “money”. WHEN WILL YOU GET IT BACK? You won’t. Ever. Or if you do it’ll be because I’ve reached a point where that sum also means nothing to me. And even then, do you really need it back?

  • There’s a good chance I will pay some of it forward to someone else who needs it. Because I want to be part of upending the system & creating a wave of change. But the honest truth is money should go where it’s needed more. And I need it more than you do. 

  • If you’re on the other side of this like me, or in any way in need, then consider two things: 

    • How you respond to such an outrageous request says a lot about how you conceptualize & value money. Does asking for it without explanation make you uncomfortable? Do you feel you haven’t already worked hard enough to have a decent & sustainable life? Do you think money holds some special significance or power beyond being a tool for living, and that you haven’t done enough to deserve it? I challenge you to examine your feelings & beliefs around money, and think about changes you can make in your communication & behavior. Like I’m doing here.

    • If you can reconcile your feelings and accept that you are valuable because you are BREATHING AND THAT’S IT, then you should be asking the unnecessarily rich for money too. Pick a random number like I did and go for it.

  • As for the way-more-than-well-off, those of you with an overabundance of liquidity – i.e. if every time you sneeze $50,000 pops out of your ass and falls to the ground without a second thought, then give it to me. Give me $50,000. It’ll mean more to me than it ever will to you. And you’ll thank me for it.

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Why does income inequality – or whatever you want to call what we’re enduring YET AGAIN – matter, possibly more than any other single issue? Why did I write all this, when I should just shut my mouth and release music & podcasts & all that fun, non-controversial stuff? There are two reasons, the second vastly more important than the first.

  • NUMBER ONE: Like so many of us, I’m a struggling artist (or struggling ANYPROFESSIONIST). I devote an inordinate amount of time each week to creating things that – while appreciated and I love you for that – do not make the income proportionate to the work, let alone the quality of the work. So YES I would LOVE it if someone – or several someones – gave me $50,000. If you were offered $50,000, no strings attached, from a reputable source (like, not the mafia or the Koch brothers), wouldn’t you take it too? What would be the downside? It’d be equivalent to winning the lottery or making bank on a game show. Free money. So as jokey as my final plea can be taken, seriously if you’re f*cking rich and not an asshole, GIVE ME $50,000.

  • NUMBER TWO: I care about a lot of things. Education. Gun control. Healthcare. Discrimination against any group. Reproductive & gender freedom. And way more. But for the past decade and probably way longer, every single time I’ve hashed out ANY ISSUE with anyone, or just thought through them myself, they ALL come down to ONE THING: Money.

  • Far too many people with virtually unchecked power & money devote almost all of their time to not just keeping as much of it as possible and damn whoever & whatever else might benefit from even a sliver of it, but actively taking it from those of us who can’t afford it. And no, I’m not talking about taxes. While our system is imperfect and not all our money is used the way we’d like, much of what we pay in taxes goes towards supporting the less fortunate, or keeping up our infrastructure. Taxes aren’t the problem so much as who is taxed at what rate.

  • What I’m talking about is people in power pass laws, deregulate, fund propaganda machines, and generally make every move towards siphoning money from all of us so they can have more of it. They keep us distracted & fighting amongst ourselves while they hoard more & more. And if we haven’t learned by now that better income & jobs DON’T TRICKLE DOWN, then we haven’t been paying attention or are seriously delusional.

  • So the people who would fight for equality in every facet of life – health, wealth, education, social freedoms, you name it – don’t have the power & money & focus to do that. We blame each other for our struggles when we should BLAME THE RICH. Or at least those rich assholes who think the only answer to their future is MORE MORE MORE. And every social and political cause that fights for the love & acceptance of everyone regardless of identity or personal (non-harmful) choices is suppressed because money  & power are hoarded by those who have an active interest in slowly draining & killing us.

  • And THIS is why anyone who says they’re a “social liberal but a fiscal conservative” is a f*cking hypocrite. It’s like saying you care about the garden in your backyard but refuse to waste water on it. If you really care and are a true social liberal, you’d understand that no change is possible without some combination of money & power. And that goes for every cause I’ve mentioned and hundreds more. It’s almost as simple as “put your money where your mouth is.” Don’t fool yourself. Trace ANY social improvement back to its source, and money will be there.

  • So sure, I’d love a nice chunk of cash dropped at my doorstep wrapped in paper with a handwritten heart on it. But wayyy more importantly, we need to drastically & quickly reverse the course we’ve been on for at least 50 years. We need to re-regulate business, reestablish higher tax rates for the well-off & disturbingly rich, and reform how our government operates, so – regardless of what side of any fence you’re on – we can ALL BENEFIT.

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