We should interact with music and film makers, not with marketing departments and distribution systems.
We should interact with those who actually make our food, rather than the conglomerates through which it is distributed. And food makers should interact with the producers of raw ingredients.
There is too large of a gap between maker and consumer. One that is artificially grown and sustained by middle-men whose aims are to maximise profit at all cost: specifically at the cost of people, their work, and their connections with each other. The space between maker and consumer is profitable, and middle-men have spent a long time driving the two apart in order to maximise it.
We need to reconnect.
Today, however, the middle-men are in a precarious position. They have bet their time and efforts on creating what they perceive to be safe monopolies: all encompassing, hierarchical organisations whose only value lies in the ability to reduce cost through the exploitation of people and resources.
We’re becoming increasingly aware of this, and increasingly starved of the connection between maker and consumer. We’re hungrier than ever for opportunities to reinstate that connection, and slowly but surely, we are developing the means to do so. The gap that the middle-men created is rapidly becoming a vacuum, and external pressure is building to a critical level.
When the vacuum inevitably implodes, a new space will replace it. It won’t be as large nor, thankfully, will it attract or generate the same levels of greed. This new space will be filled by those with visions of a better world. It will be a space in which people build things to support their own visions of a better future – things that facilitate our reconnection. There are examples of this starting to happen right now.
Kickstarter connects people who care about something, with people who make or do that thing. They take a cut – they’re a for-profit organisation – but they aim to take a fair price for their service and, most importantly, they don’t try to muscle in on the maker-consumer relationship. They simply provide the tools to make that connection easier, and enable consumers to support the makers directly.
Sustaination are doing a similar thing for the UK food industry.
You and I have a duty to do what the creators of these networks have done – to consider and refine our ideas about how we want the world to look 5, 10, 30, 100 or 1,000 years from now. We have to consistently push towards that vision, and constantly make and do things that support it. We must teach others about this huge opportunity – particularly children and young people. (We currently teach people how to fill the shoes of the middle-men – or worse: to serve them. This is irresponsible.)
We’re at the beginning of a fundamental shift. This change is going to cause some discomfort and there’s already a huge amount of resistance to it (just watch the large, traditional media businesses thrashing around in this unfamiliar water) but it is inevitable and unstoppable. Let’s not allow ourselves to be drawn into and distracted by the struggle to maintain the crumbling behemoths of the middle-men.
We’re entering a new age of the maker and we can choose to embrace this change – to feel the exhilaration of breaking new ground and contributing to the shape of things to come. We can choose to make the things that support our visions of a better world.
We have an opportunity. Let’s consider it, talk about it, write about it, and most importantly, take it.
This is how we reconnect.
Inspired by Chris Shiflett’s Ideas of March