Day 194: A word from our sponsors.

Originally scheduled for Wednesday, July 13.

The Book was — ostensibly, anyway — sponsored by Stockham Management Consultants, Inc. I’m not sure what to do with that, having so recently badmouthed life coaches.

I’m ambivalent about sponsorship. Not the part where money is given by one party (usually a corporation) to another party — hell, I’d love a corporate sponsor — but the part where only certain such givings of money count as ‘sponsorship’.

Racecar drivers are covered in corporate logos (well, their cars and uniforms are, anyway); we know who the sponsors are. There are images of politicians similarly covered in logos; this is clever, and useful if it gets people thinking about politicians as more indebted to their corporate sponsors than to their constituents. Its usefulness is limited, though, because it reinforces the belief that sponsorship is unidirectional.

Or, rather, the idea of sponsorship itself reinforces the belief that economic transactions are somehow simple and straightforward; furthermore, the sponsoring of things by corporations works to justify and naturalize the consolidation of money and power in the hands of corporations and a certain elite class of individuals.

Obviously, though, the money used to sponsor things comes from somewhere, and at least some of it comes from us, the majority of Americans who are not ridiculously wealthy. Most corporations sponsor a NASCAR team; lots of folk buy things from corporations; therefore, lots of folk sponsor NASCAR teams — and then pay for the privilege of watching them race, if you’re into that kind of thing —— but even that is an excessively simplified account of the flow of the monies involved. I’m not an economist, though, so it’ll have to do.

I think the point I’m driving at is this: the practice of sponsorship allows average consumers to ignore the socio-political implications of their spending. Corporations have enough money to be sponsors — enough money, that is, for the deployment of it to ‘mean something’ — whereas the average consumer never deploys ‘mean something’ money.

Except that every cent counts. All money ‘means something’. And people are starting to realize it: look at Kickstarter, TopatoCo, etsy — and a bunch of other sites I don’t know — that are designed to bypass ‘the way business is done’ and connect producers and consumers more directly, so that money spent ‘means more’. The emphasis on buying locally comes from the same place.

It’s so easy, though, to ‘buy locally’ or ‘support the artist’ and then feel smug and self-righteous, like one has done one’s duty, and like one doesn’t have to think about what one is supporting when one fills up one’s SUV with 93 octane gas and then drives it half a mile to sit in a drive-thru and buy coffee at a corporately-owned coffeeshop.

Real responsibility — fiscal and otherwise — requires thought, work, compromise, and sacrifice, and people don’t like to have to do those things on a daily basis, as a way of life — because easy is, well, easier.


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