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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sharing Economy My Ass (Part #1)

Lyft, Uber and Air BnB are some of the biggest and most notable names in the business of sharing. I agree that they are opening up money making opportunities to thousands of people, and every day they are adding on new members willing to share what they own with the world through a company that has an app.

The companies that are leading the way in this new sharing economy have hit at a very interesting time. These days people want to, as well as want others to, get paid well, feel elite or special, engage in technology and save money. Each one of these traits can be seen individually and traced back to how society views and judges itself.

For example the "People want to be paid well" idea, which seems innocent until we look further into that: What does being paid well mean? $10/hr or $15/hr, those both sound great but one is 50% more than the other, how is that a way having a wage argument? When we look to paying the lowest earning people more, how do we then adjust the people above? It is not that I do not want a living wage for everyone, I do, it is just not that most direct conversation to be having. It is the conversation to reduce the top earners take home, and here I am speaking about the .01% of the population in the United States, we need to engage. When our argument for years is that we want a $10/hr minimum, by the time we get it there $10/hr won't hold as much value in it as we expected it to. Then the fight will immediately start over again for a new minimum. By fighting over and over for higher and higher dollar amounts that argument can, and will, become described as greedy, by the people who are the greediest.

Our culture is ripe with greed and we are okay with it, because we all want a deal and to have more money. This is cultural, and it may exist all around the world but here in the United Stated it is special. So special in fact that we torture our children so that might have an edge on making more than another child. We are competitive not collaborative, which can only be detrimental. I see people in the search for money turning on their neighbors which is a horrible reality, "just doing my job" is not an adequate response to the question "Is this right?" or "Am I happy with myself?"

In Chicago we have common citizens give parking tickets to other citizens. That sort of practice doesn't support a tight-knit community. Nevertheless it is done and only to help one company make a lot of money while those giving tickets make an hourly. To further complicate things, and I do not know their pay structure but, they also may get quantity bonuses. If that is true, and I do not see why it wouldn't be, a person giving tickets would then pit their needs and fears against their neighbor. The argument of "well they parked illegally" wouldn't stand too long when you look to people who receive erroneous tickets. How is making money more important than integrity? This I may never understand but I would venture to say it is because as a society we reiterate that it is more important in almost every interaction we have.

The idea of feeling elite and special, well Andy Warhol was speaking about that 50 years ago and that train has never slowed. Social media and the idea that "viral" content is important somehow has just added fuel to that fire. Today we see journalists like Anthony Ponce here in Chicago grab his Lyft credentials to drive people around and interview them for the shameless "Backseat Rider", further marketing our culture and devaluing life as something that can be summed up. Not that what he is engaging in is bad or good, it just seems more like one person using others to feel fulfilled. I think connecting with others is honest and healthy, but doing that with a microphone between the connecting parties may very well taint that. I have been making portraits of people for 15 years connecting with them but it is a personal not a public connection and the portrait, upon completion, is given to that sitter. This sort of connection is about the connection, I am taught and I learn, that is not to say that Anthony doesn't' but there is a bit of this elitism and specialness question arising in his work.

There is obviously a lot to look at to see how we got here and to look at it honestly without all the assumptions that we all take for granted within our society. First off which is more dangerous, success or failure? Success, for all it has to offer, does not always lead us to see the moral high ground. even the greatest people in our culture can be traced back to making deals, cheating, using their influences to be in a position of abusing their power, we are human so that is okay, but it is not okay for everyone. That is what I mean about taking in the whole, the big picture. And that picture is BIG and getting BIGGER all the time.

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