NEWSFLASH – I was about to post this when I checked the rights for contributors. And this grand idea won’t work. Admins (which is the role with the most access) aren’t allowed to post music and images/video. So the only option open is to add text articles. Which is still great, but the rest would need to be submitted to me and I upload. If anyone wants to do this I’m more than willing. It just eliminates part of what I was trying to create. So I’m pissed off now! Anyway, if you’re bored, keep reading.
Introduction – How Did I Get Here?
Over the years, my distaste and distrust of modern society has increased, roughly in line with my increasing years. Who'd have thought it? There must be a better way, there must be a world where I'm not the outsider. And there is, but only up to a point. And only if I use the outlets I'm allowed to, and I follow the rules. Since I rediscovered independent music and art in late 2013, I've been fortunate enough to meet so many talented and knowledgeable people who thought (roughly) along the same lines as I do, and with hearts as big as an ocean. As I reached my 50's, perhaps I didn't need to become the person I'm expected to. Could I continue to "act my shoe size" without fear of recrimination? Yes, I could, but again, only up to a point, and if I follow the rules.
Like most radical ideas, and there's no doubt that the internet in its purest form is an incredible invention, it was swiftly hijacked by capitalists. Sharing your thoughts and ideas with the world is a great thing to be able to do. To record a song and share it to the world in minutes is amazing. Seeing images from around the world, taken by people I barely know, if at all, is enlightening. But it all comes at a price. Every search we make is recorded and used to show us adverts that are “suitable” for our needs. Want to sell more of your records? Give Facebook some money and they’ll bombard your “target audience” for you. Sharing is caring or put another way - SELL SELL SELL!!! Don’t want to have all those nasty cookies worming their way into your life? No problem, our lords and masters care about us so we can opt out. But you must keep the “necessary” ones. Oh yes. We love you and care about you, but we’re not idiots! We’re not going to completely stop watching and listening to you!
None of this is new of course. Advertising has been shitting in our heads for centuries. In a previous job I had to use demographic profiling as a way of targeting areas of the UK that would benefit the company I worked for the most. (I say “had to” – I had a choice of course. I could have stopped doing the job, but the path I’d chosen to take in life meant I had to work.) The difference now is that it’s all encompassing. We might be sharing some radical view, aimed at like minded people and friends. In the past you could still do that, albeit to potentially fewer people, and you’d be relatively safe in the knowledge that what you shared wasn’t being used by the global decision makers to target you and everyone you were linked with to a “relevant” marketing opportunity based on that view. In the past you could meet with friends and you weren’t tracked along every step, either via GPS or CCTV. And still that’s not enough, as we see the clamour around the world to implement facial recognition (links on that subject here and here).
I’m doing as much research as I can into organisations like the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). I want to leave social media but keep in contact with people. I should add at this point that none of this is a criticism of anyone who happily uses theses systems. The world needs some positivity to counter grumpy old men like me, ying to my anti-social yang! Facebook et al are currently the best we have to share and follow. A valid argument to use could be that staying within these apps is constructive, that “we” can use it to our benefit. And I get that. But then I compare it with the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Mhairi Black. I don’t know either of these people personally but let’s assume for one moment that their intentions are good. They want a better society, they want to help people, they want to improve the world. The path they’ve chosen is via election to their government and to make change from the inside. I’m afraid all I see, or rather hear, from that argument is this extract from So What by Crass, lyrics by Steve Ignorant:-
I'm just a person, a human being. No you're not, you're a part of the machine. You're a part our machine because we want you to be. We've got you now and you'll never be free. We can even have your body after you're dead. We can take the eyes out of your fucking head. Yes we'll take them out, use them again. We can do it you know cos we've got your brain.
If we become part of the machine, then we are ultimately part of the problem. Peaceful tactics don’t work. How do I know? We’ve been trying for centuries. Is your life any better? Is your neighbour’s life any better? Has homelessness vanished? Is starvation something from a bygone age? Can you walk the streets of your country without fear if you’re the “wrong” race or gender? The machine is fucked and it’s fucking us over every day.
So Where Next?
Here’s the bit where I come up with all the answers. Obviously not. I’m not promising a better future. I’m not predicting the fall of capitalism because of a website, poorly put together by a poorly qualified auld man in Scotland. All I want is to help provide an alternative outlet that takes Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr/Pinterest (have I forgotten any?) and provides the same opportunity to share but without the corporate control. Does Vital Things offer the same reach as Instagram? Of course not. I’ve got 72 followers on Instagram, and 5 subscribers on the website. But could it have the same impact? Not on a global scale, it’s foolish to expect that. But it’s not foolish to try. It’s not foolish to want something different. I’ve taken my lead from the likes of Kay Logan and FTO, and from a website based out of Glasgow called Communal Leisure, and as I’m not very good with saying what I’m thinking, I’m unashamedly going to steal parts of the description from the latter’s website (which unfortunately seems to be dormant)
….a space for discussion and sharing of music, art and politics… …We aim to unpack ideas of work, labour, ‘DIY’ culture, and leisure. Our online poster wall primarily features events that are non-profit, free or cheap, politically aware and implicitly or actively working against forms of oppression based on race, gender, sexuality, ability, bodies and class. We have an open collective of people working on both our print and online forms, and are always up for new people getting involved. Everyone is free to add their own event.
I couldn’t (and obviously didn’t) put it better myself. Vital Things will be a website where nobody is in control. I want you to be the contributors. You will have access to the site and can post whatever you want, whenever you want. Although I’ll technically be the owner of the site, I won’t sit and approve everything that comes through, and so long as the general guidelines about oppression are followed, anything goes. If someone wants to make a change to the site, then do it. If you feel something needs to be discussed and agreed before implementing a change, ask the question, make the proposal.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I’m not very good with words. So I apologise if I’ve waffled and not actually said anything in the 1,286 (and counting) words. I hope it makes sense, and I hope that at least some of you will want to become involved. I stress this isn’t about me. I’m not an egomaniac, I’m not a control freak. All I want is to be happy and to be around people I trust and love, and to give a huge FUCK OFF to the system.
The Technical Bits
I would like to give everyone control of the site, so you can post and comment whenever you want to. To do that, I would need an email address so I can allow access. If anyone wants to contribute but doesn’t want to post directly on the site, then you can contact me with the information and I’ll do it for you.