A webcomic author/artist named John offered books of his comics via Kickstarter in early 2012. It’s 2014, and John is having a hard time sending books to over a thousand of his fans, who kicked in over $51,000 to get those books. He just announced that he is canceling the project and will not offer refunds:
You could try to obtain refunds through kickstarter or paypal, through your bank or credit card company. You could try to harass me or inconvenience me or tell other people negative things about me or this kickstarter in the hope that this will affect me negatively. Be aware that each attempt to contact me about this book will individually result in the burning of a book until the books are gone.
I am making the loudest sound I know how to make. I know that some people will be personally offended that I am doing this, but I am doing this in large part because our culture has developed in such a way that some of the intelligent, empathetic people who follow me will believe they feel more psychological pain because of books being burnt, their money and my attitude about them than because of the destruction of the natural world, the continuation of classist, racist, abusive patterns of behavior and representation, etc.
So essentially, “yes, what I’m doing is sucky, but not as sucky as these other things” which are, in fact, worse. Is that really raising awareness, or just adding to the amount of suck in the world? It doesn’t matter, anyway; he doesn’t have any of the $51,000 people gave him anymore. He says he is out of money because he refunded orders before Christmas which were 18 months behind schedule, so now he can’t fulfill the rest of the orders.
Then he announces, in an astonishing coincidence that has nothing to do with the fact that he’s spent everyone’s money, that he’s actually very much against the entire idea of exchanging “money” for “goods.” (Or owning property or goods at all. Except for his smartphone and its data plan, which he’s keeping. Like Thoreau!)
And that’s about where his update turns into a rambling, 4500-word screed against capitalism and the acquisition of wealth in general; he doesn’t feel like he should have to pay his landlord because his landlord is rich but also because his landlord didn’t fix the roof or protect him from his violent roommate and also because he’s not supposed to be living there and doesn’t have a lease? I don’t know.
I get the guilt over his privilege: over sleeping in a bed when there are millions of kids in some developing country somewhere sleeping on dirt floors, etc. Or feeling guilty about owning a warm jacket when there are thousands of kids in your own city who shiver on the way to school each morning. I get it.
But collecting $51,000 and promising to give people things for that $51,000, only to announce that you’re broke because you didn’t manage to do the math properly on how much it would cost to give people things? And that it’s not your fault, people should really be upset with capitalism itself, which you are now forsaking, conveniently after you pocketed thousands of dollars of other peoples’ money?
That’s pretty embarrassing.
An addendum presented without comment, via Rusty Foster: