It appears we are living at the dawn of a new era. Throughout our culture we see signs of change, progress, and evolution. A "Creative Class" is on the rise that — with the help of the Internet and other related technologies — will reportedly transform our entire socio-economic system.
And yet, at the same time, something is amiss. Much of this so-called Creative Class can only prosper by finding work within the current corporate infrastructure, resulting in very little actual creativity or innovation. The very ones who might create the necessary change in society must expend their time and energy worrying about "making a living." Those who can keep a job have to sacrifice ideas that contradict the wishes of bosses and the company's stockholders.
For those who have been diagnosed "abnormal" by our society, this problem is especially prevalent. Such people are variably labeled anti-social, eccentric, introverted, highly sensitive, ADD, bipolar, neuro-atypical, differently abled, gifted, or one of many other similar terms that have a derogatory effect. The trouble is that the only people who ever made any worthwhile changes in this world belonged to one of these categories.
The most creative visionaries often cannot function adequately in modern society. This makes it extremely hard to avoid unemployment, let alone to feed and shelter oneself. But admit that you feel this way, and you're instantly labeled lazy, arrogant, elitist, etc. We're evidently not ready to admit on a mass scale that the current definition of a "normal" human being is not only imaginary, but impossible.
It is time that we break out of this double-bind. One idea how to do that has sat dormant in the cultural underground for the last few decades. In 1969, R. Buckminster Fuller (a.k.a. Bucky Fuller) published his short volume, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. As Fuller writes:
"…we must give each human who is or becomes unemployed a life fellowship in research and development or in just simple thinking. Man must be able to dare to think truthfully and to act accordingly without fear of losing his franchise to live. […] For every 100,000 employed in research and development, or just plain thinking, one probably will make a breakthrough that will more than pay for the other 99,999 fellowships."
This will never be possible in a purely capitalistic system that runs according to the tenets of selfishness and greed — or the misapplied motto "survival of the fittest." The Internet has allowed for certain non-traditional funding platforms, but the most popular ones are oriented around funding creative projects — not funding a creative life. And taking out any kind of loan seems dangerous when there's no way to be sure about the possibility of paying it back.
For some of us, a "job" or a "career" is not the answer. For some, it's time to admit: "What I really need is help FUNDING MY EXISTENCE." Fuller also used the term "mind fellowships." His purpose was very clear:
"Through the universal research and development fellowships, we're going to start emancipating humanity from being muscle and reflex machines. We're going to give everybody a chance to develop their most powerful mental and intuitive faculties. […] What we want everybody to do is to think clearly."
With this spirit in mind, let's give birth to an online community designed to provide existential funding to the people who need it. Recipients will have to demonstrate what value they have contributed to society in the form of ideas, projects, art, innovation, social movements, etc. Donors will be able to choose which individuals interest them the most.
We've spent enough time talking about futuristic visions of society. Some feel an urgent drive to manifest it in reality. It is time to enable those people by funding their existence, allowing them to worry about more pressing matters — like changing the world.
Image by Shirley Two Feathers, courtesy of Creative Commons license.