Charity is the new Patreon

This blog started 15 years ago with little fanfare, a lot of confusion, and entirely too much navel-gazing. It lived on LiveJournal because I wasn’t ready to commit to hosting my own blog, and that’s where all my friends were. Like most LiveJournals of the day, it was almost entirely too much oversharing of what I had for dinner, how much I had to drink at last night’s party, and ego-stroking grandstanding. But I’m better now.

About 6 or 7 years ago I switched focus to technology and craftiness — to “maker” projects. You could occasionally see a glimpse of something personal, but Twitter became the outlet for day-to-day mundane details. There was never anything overtly personal or political on the blog.

So I guess that’s changing. At least for this post. We now have this trumpster fire lined up to be the next president. We’re starting to emerge from the haze of disorientation and shock, filled with grief and anger, with two questions on our collective mind. “How did this happen? What do I do?”

I don’t pretend to know how it happened, but David Wong at Cracked put forth a pretty good theory that pulls analogies from Hunger Games, Star Wars, and Braveheart. It’s the country vs. the city. Us city folks are weird and foreign, and our culture is infiltrating the rural areas. If you’re from a blue-colored county, rewatch Hunger Games, but don’t put yourself in Katniss’ shoes. You’re from Capital City, with your bizarre haircut and over-the-top fashion. Your weird music and fringe religions threaten to engulf the country. I mean, they’re teaching yoga and meditation to small children! What’s next? Satanism??? Everyone nostalgia for the past, not everyone is ready to embrace change — especially when it is forced upon them.

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We all know that the president-elect is a baffoon. Like most narcissists, he won’t be able to focus on any one thing for very long. But he’s putting people in place. His proposed cabinet of flunkies is much more devious and much more focused, ready to dismantle (or at least under-fund) environmental regulations, banking regulations, healthcare, and foreign relations. Those are starting to look like the real deal, thanks to the republican majorities in the House and Senate.

We must fight back.

I do have some solid thoughts on what to do. But it first starts with a question: are you privileged? Privilege comes with certain luxuries. Someone who has two part-time jobs with an Uber gig on the side may not have a lot of resources after food, rent, and car payment. If that describes you, just keep doing what you’re doing. We’ll help you get through this, but you need to remember to take care of yourself and those around you. In fact that part applies to everyone. Take care of your friends, family, and neighbors, especially if they’re a minority — a person of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, or otherwise queer.

For a lot of other people, you have the privilege of time or the privilege of money. Unless you’re the 1%, you probably do not have both time and money. You might be a college student, scraping by on loans, grants, or trust fund payouts. You might be an office worker, working late, in fear of your job, but using your nice paycheck to have take-out, groceries, and Amazon Prime orders delivered because you flat-out don’t have the time to go shopping after work. Or maybe you’re somewhere in-between.

If you’re one of the more-time-than-money people, I’m not sure that I have a solid recommendation for you beyond: volunteer. There are local organizations that fight for social justice and civil rights. They need your help, whether it’s something high-profile like protesting or lower-profile like stuffing envelopes or calling businesses and asking for donations. You or your friends might know more about your local groups and how to find them than I. Maybe someone can chime in with a comment or tweet that I can echo here.

If you’re one of the more-money-than-time people, let’s talk. The more-time-than-money folks need some of your financial resources.

1. Do you donate to your favorite NPR show or station?

2. Do you support your favorite artists through Patreon or Kickstarter?

3. Do you give monthly donations to a charity?

If either of the first two are yes, but the third is no, I have one question for you: why? For me, the first two were easy. It’s media. It’s entertainment. I get direct perceived value from shows, music, games and want to pay back the creators. Once a service like Patreon or Kickstarter has my account info, contributing to someone is two clicks. I don’t even have to pull out my wallet. There’s significantly more friction when giving to charity. First, you need to find one (or more). Are they good? What is their administrative overhead? How do you even research that stuff? Then you find the site, sign up for billing, sometimes pick a gift, and deal with years and years of semi-spammy requests for more money. Hey Patreon: if you’re reading this, maybe work something out with a few charities? Then feature them prominently on the homepage?

So what am I doing, personally? Most years I give a little to the EFF at the end of the year — enough to get some stickers. Some years I forget. But that changed this week. I’ve picked four charities. I’m doing the equivalent of buying each a cup of coffee each month. That’s $20 total, an amount I’ve heard referred to as Yuppie Food Stamps, since it’s the smallest denomination you can get from an ATM. I encourage you to do the same. Jezebel has a good list of charities you can help. I picked the EFF, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Trans Lifeline, but I encourage you to pick your own. Set it up as recurring so that you don’t forget.

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How did I pick these four? EFF was simple. I’ve contributed to them before, have been following them for a decade, and see that they’ve done a demonstrably great job at fighting for our digital and online rights. With the FBI trying to strongarm manufacturers into putting golden backdoors into phones and tablets, that will become increasingly important in the next administration. The others? They’re orgs that I know do a good job. Overall, I picked two that I consider more “attack” aligned and two that lean a little more protective. The EFF and ACLU are, quite frankly, lawyers. They help protect, create, and change legislation that improved the quality of life for all Americans. While I know that Planned Parenthood also has lawyers, I see them primarily as accessible healthcare, including providing services that are not otherwise available in conservative communities. Trans Lifeline is a helpline for some of the folks who not only will be some of the most persecuted and marginalized, but who — in some states — already are. People who are harassed, bullied, and legally prevented from using the correct restroom, and who may need someone to talk to, especially when bathed in the dark stress of the coming years.

Second, I’ve set up reminders. At 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and annually, I’m going to revisit my donations. If I find I’m in a situation where I don’t notice the $20/month, maybe I bump that up. If it’s starting to hurt, maybe I bump it down. If there are other places that could use my money, maybe I shift things around.

We live in a capitalist society and, frankly, money talks. We may not have as much money as Trump — well, actually, maybe we do if you count the whole bankruptcy and tax thing. We may not have as much money as Trump’s constituents and lobbyists, but we have focus and a desire to make the world a better place. Let’s do that together.

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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he’s working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

One thought on “Charity is the new Patreon”

  1. Great post. We live in interesting (“interesting”) times. I never thought Brexit would happen, let alone Trump, but here we are. Once powerful nations adrift from our more sensible brethren. I look forward to reading more posts.

    Also, I’m glad it’s not just me that does that with the EFF stickers!

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