“Transitioned”

In limbo between an old, dying economic model and some nebulous future one, how do we prepare ourselves for what comes next?

Hugh MacLeod makes money drawing silly pictures

A few days ago I posted a link to my Facebook page that prompted a few enraged replies, which I guess was just what I was looking for. (I was pissed off, and I wanted company.)

I’d been reading a blog that morning by one of those Internet polemicists who makes a living by disseminating the kind of preposterous vitriol that I usually ignore. But this one touched a nerve: the blogger asserted that journalist Lara Logan (who was sexually assaulted while covering the Tahrir Square protests) got what she deserved. Here’s an excerpt:

So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows…This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled…

How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the ‘liberation.’

Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdilllullah [praise allah].”

I could easily blast out 2,000 epithet-laced words about the fact that 1. taking glee in the attack and rape of a journalist doing her job in a dangerous place and 2. dismissing all Muslims as “animals” and “savages” is making the world a worse place for everyone. But I don’t think I really need to bother. All that’s pretty clear, except to a few cranks.

Instead, I’m curious about why I paid attention in the first place. Why even engage? The only answer I can come up with is that it galls me that someone can successfully trade in ideas that are not only repulsive, but aren’t even well argued or phrased. They are merely polemical, and littered with facile, ad hominem insults. How can the marketplace select and reward a product of such profoundly low quality?

Business writers like Seth Godin assure us that if we work hard and make an amazing, authentic product, the market will reward us (even if we initially give our product away). Hugh MacLeod urges us to “join the overextended class,” meaning dive into the work you love and make your own 24-7 creative job.

I want to! Conceptually, I love the message. The recession is teaching us that stability and security can be illusory. Many of the institutions we used to rely on to employ us and keep us fed are crumbling. Who wouldn’t want to step outside of those soul-crushing institutions and live by our own wits and creativity?

It’s no simple matter. And it’s discouraging to look around and see people (like the aforementioned blogger) successfully selling worthless crap, ideas not worth sharing, a product that’s in no way amazing or authentic. However. I don’t have time to be discouraged. I need to be inspired.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we all make a living (or barely scrape by) in an economy that’s not only in recession, but for a lot of us, changing irrevocably. I’m working on a radio series called “Transitioned” for Nashville Public Radio about just that, interviewing people whose lives have been transformed by an economy in flux. Smart, creative people who are finding ways to improvise in an economic climate that isn’t amply rewarding their talents right now.

I want to hear those stories, to learn how people are struggling to find their place in the marketplace in this strange time, a sort of limbo between the old economy that’s dead or dying and a new one that hasn’t emerged yet. Maybe if we get a conversation going, we can help each other figure out what comes next, and what we ought to do about it. A few of you posted your ideas and frustrations on Facebook, and it was enlightening. Thank you for that.

I’d love to hear more. I’m listening. Let’s talk.

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