Carolyn Walton Lynch, Founder, Mixolo
On politics, principles, prizes, and the reinvention of everything, including Mixolo...
I’ve fallen short on my commitment to check in monthly from my pod to yours on the state of things. Since the world turned upside down, it's tough to blog about matters that now seem frivolous as I manage mood swings between sorrow, anger, and steely emotional resolve witnessing the mounting loss of life and livelihood due to COVID-19.
Thankfully, more and more people are accepting that any hope of recovery must include the surrender of certain personal liberties when in public out of respect for the health and wellbeing of others.
Aside from a few holdouts, hardliners, and disturbing acts, I’m bent on embracing cautious (maybe delirious) optimism as a coping mechanism. Surrendering to the bad feelings is like stepping in quicksand. If you’re feeling like doing that, please grab on to a helping hand immediately.
I’m sensing new energy as I interact with people (from a distance) who are in solidarity with the positive movements that have sprung up during these difficult times. Each act of giving, sharing, advocating, distancing, even masking, makes others feel seen and dare I say, loved.
History has its eyes on 2020 (credit: Hamilton, the musical). Just because we're knee-deep in it and are growing super tired of words like “unprecedented” doesn’t mean we can’t change course at any time.
I believe we, the people, can work this out (credit, the U.S. Constitution).
Home is where the fight is…
I’ve been weighing the benefits and risks of investing in Mixolo, the remix, in the near future, and what that business model could look like in this new, emerging economy. My gut tells me you’re thinking along those same lines in terms of sustaining your own wellbeing or that of your business or not-for-profit organization.
When one explores the viability of a business venture or any risky pursuit, a major consideration is the political and economic landscape, particularly the wellbeing of its customers and stakeholders.
I’m taking a big leap with the subject matter and betting on the likelihood that you, too, have been engaging in thoughtful deliberations and perhaps difficult conversations on the state of democracy and its rocky relationship with its longtime romantic live-in partner and co-parent, capitalism. Maybe without the metaphor...
America’s favorite couple is currently experiencing trouble at home as the economic divide continues to widen for our collective American family and our extended family abroad.
What will it take to be able to stand upright and grounded in this new world when the head-in-the-sand strategy could be perilous?
Blame it on the Pandemic:
COVID-19 is putting all of the social, political, and economic systems and safety nets we’ve created in our society to the ultimate test. Fiscal cliffs, multi-directional and flattened curves, and plateaus are now part of our everyday vernacular.
The current economic indicators suggest that you or someone you know, a friend, family member, or colleague, could be permanently left out of the prosperity bubble for the first time in this lifetime as a result of the scores of layoffs and business downturns rendering some industries and jobs obsolete.
Those who have been historically been left out of the bubble and forced to create alternative economies and/or live as social outcasts are facing even more dire circumstances for survival.
I think it’s fair to say the pandemic has accelerated the need for a long-overdue reinvention at home.
The technology affair:
From the Downtown Abbey television series, over tea:
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham:
I never take sides in a broken marriage.
Hugh 'Shrimpie' MacClare, Marquess of Flintshire:
Why is that?
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham:
Because however much the couple may strive to be honest, no one is ever in possession of the facts.
We’re not sure exactly when the affair began, but eventually, democracy, our traditional capitalist market economy, and the much younger digital economy became a throuple – without a prenup. You may have witnessed the recent public congressional hearings where the reluctant lovers were talking about breaking up.
Technological innovations were meant to make our lives and work easier and more productive. In our accelerated fourth industrial revolution, expanded opportunity and prosperity were likely the original intent, certainly not exclusion or greed.
Unfortunately, the expected proportional contributions from the explosive growth enjoyed by having a new partner in the house to the public coffers (taxes!) agreed upon (by the people) as a democratic way to re-invest in our republic and its people are being negotiated after the union was consummated. That system of reinvestment was designed to ensure our country’s infrastructure and our workforce could meet the demands of innovation and expansion and foster competition without oppressive barriers to entry.
A zero-sum version of the American dream has evolved where the “spoils” are now being hoarded at the top and frequently invested outside of our capital system.
Is it possible that the gains can continue without such large scale economic pain?
Keeping the family together:
I’m not sure exactly when politics became a dirty word (probably not long after democracy debuted in the Western world). Politics is the science (some say art) of governing. Democratic principles are the basis for American politics. Of course, we’re not a direct democracy; we’re a republic. We have the power to elect representatives who presumably will act in our best interest and for the general welfare.
Healthy debates about social, economic, and cultural rights are essential to our system of governance which occasionally needs tweaking to ensure fair representation and the equitable and humane dissemination of justice.
In the midst of an unparalleled concentration of wealth and power among a few and a shift in political power away from the people, our democratic family is distracted, quarreling, and questioning one another’s loyalties, prizes, and contributions to the household. Polarization of the people is a useful tool for opponents of democracy.
With the revelations of late that implore us to wake up and weigh in (beyond barbs and proclamations on social media), in terms of how we will survive and thrive in our new world economy in a more just and inclusive way, we owe it to ourselves to assert ourselves in the family business.
So, how do we mend a fraught relationship with politics and become more active participants in the democratic process? We’re going to have to get political up in here.
I am getting to the reinvention part soon. Promise.
But first, truth and reconciliation:
With Mixolo, I’ve been on a quest to connect people on common ground FIRST. I’ve been navigating social situations that are uniquely multi-cultural my entire life. I’ve surmised that there are a few things most humans, regardless of how they identify, can agree on.
Which of these statements would you agree with?
I want to live comfortably and have my basic needs met in the intelligent (natural) or human design of my surroundings.
I want to be able to produce or access services and goods that help me keep me safe from harm, avoidable sickness, starvation, or untimely death.
I want to be able to move freely in pursuit of adventurous and enriching activities, including those that promote prosperity.
I want to be purposeful and create and sustain a community that supports my survival and allows me to thrive.
If and when I decide to expand my community through partnership (platonic, professional, or romantic), procreation, or adoption, I also want all of the above for the people I care about.
These are reasonable and universal goals shared by most people with presence of mind since time began for humans, regardless of their identity or persuasion.
Number 4 is where our integrity is tested depending on the belief systems we’ve constructed, often unconsciously, to make sense of the world. Those beliefs sometimes compel us to exclude and objectify others. So much so that we could be easily persuaded by influential leaders to protect our dream and our community from perceived threats to our existence and prosperity by any means necessary.
Another lesson from history: What happens around us eventually happens to us.
COVID-19 is among the most extreme of circumstances that connect us and challenge our belief systems. It's still possible that we can work this out. We have the means and knowledge.
Sadly, the viral transmission of negative, oppositional energy and the exclusion and mistreatment of others gives power to the spread of bad things, leaving everyone’s home vulnerable.
Love it or list it?
The American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was memorialized by the Declaration of Independence but was meant to be attainable through participation in the democratic process as outlined by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.
Unfortunately, since the dream was predicated on preferential access and literal land grabs, any remodel or reinvention may mean compromising on a few square feet in exchange for a bit more feng shui in our respective homes and communities.
The recent interruptions in our economic cycle have erased many of the gains made in certain communities that enjoyed a head start of sorts in the shaping of our democracy and capital markets.
Will property ownership continue to be the driver of power? Our new economy where data “ownership” now dominates is creating trillionaires. Data has become the new capital and, incidentally, another weapon of choice for opponents of democracy.
The selfish focus on winning at the dream is no longer sustainable for anyone, not even the perceived winners.
I believe our house is salvageable and worthy of love. It needs some serious work on the foundation though. If not us, the inhabitants, who?
Truth and reinvention:
When I started Mixolo, I believed my motives were altruistic in my pursuit of opportunity and prosperity. I even fancied myself a “conscious” capitalist. When it seemed that Mixolo could be something, I fell more in love with its potential and less focused on its original purpose.
I bought into the belief that stratospheric wealth is a noble goal and that the people who obtain it must be revered as upstanding citizens that we should all emulate. We tend to excuse the behaviors behind the achievement of mega-success.
I’ve returned to the fundamental principles on which Mixolo was founded: creating an open, flexible, and inclusive community of adventurers, regardless of how one identifies. I’ve also accepted the reality of an economy that has rendered IRL (in-real-life) experiences that involve more than one unrelated stranger a grave health risk and some our beloved public spaces and our hosts obsolete, indefinitely.
I am saddened by the losses Mixolo’s former hosts and partners are experiencing. The prolonged decline of interactions in our beloved public spaces as patrons, spectators, or performers is taking a toll on our vitality and wellness.
Like myself with Mixolo, many of the founders/leaders of these organizations that pursued the dream in a bubble trusting primarily in capital are now shouldering all of the risks of the downturn. Many of us were conditioned to believe that we and our capital investors, if we're lucky to have them, are the masterminds and the deserving recipients behind the big rewards the dream promises.
Perhaps a little family counseling is in order? A little behavioral therapy for the dominant, “paternal” personality of capitalism, some confidence-boosting exercises for democracy so its owners (we) are motivated to participate, and throuple’s mediation with the trillionaire digital owners who now profit from using our personal data (property) we unwittingly gave away for free. Reminder: Mixolo does NOT share your data. Curiously, that stance is an impediment to scaling Mixolo in the digital economy.
I believe that we can achieve more of what we want for ourselves and our loved ones without harm to others simply by participating by embracing democracy as it was meant to be employed: to bring about a more equitable and peaceful existence. A perfect union may be more of a continuum, not a destination.
We, the people, have the power to influence the economic decisions that affect our households and, inevitably, the wider community. We can vote but we can also act. I’m talking about a revolution.
Industrial Revolution No. 5 - Democracy at Work:
There are other ways to increase opportunities for wider participation in the risks and rewards that come with the pursuit of prosperity beyond, not necessarily, instead of, the traditional methods of capitalization and ownership. One way is through the inclusion, rather than the exclusion, of:
· Labor (employees, suppliers, partners) and
· Patronage (customers, constituents - people who need and want what an organization is offering).
Economic democracy is inclusive, not exclusive, and considers the needs and contributions of the entire "invested" community. Employee-owned companies, like the uber-successful Publix grocery chain, worker-owned cooperatives, farm and food-related, like Equal Exchange, and community homesteads have been operating using alternative economic models for centuries. Winner take (or lose) all is not the only form of capitalism.
Traditional capital equity holders’ interests are not typically aligned with the wellbeing of the local community or society at large. Many of us choose to ignore the methods by which our dividends are delivered in our investment portfolios only to lament the demise of local restaurants, farmers, or retail stores that are being shuttered at record rates.
Envision your favorite restaurant group being run by a dynamic chef, renowned for their enormous wealth and success, only to lose it all to an unknown virus, having no choice but to close their restaurants, lay off hundreds of employees, and close the doors to their loyal customers. Could they have mitigated the damage to their workplace and the wellbeing of their community through contributions other than traditional capital?
Forming hyperlocal cooperative organizations can promote business ownership, boost labor (jobs!) opportunities, and serve patrons from the community who have already have a critical stake in an operation and its continuation. You can think of it as balancing a traditional investment portfolio. Distributing risks and rewards across a broader population is another form of democracy and is inherently a more community-minded capitalism.
Mixolo, the remix:
Future plans for Mixolo will focus on creating a working democracy. Mixolo wants to meet the social and economic needs and goals of its potential stakeholders - our members (team Mixolo!), hosts (creatives and venues), future employees, partners, and stockholders.
Navigating the arts, dining, and entertainment space in the Mixolo journey, I was surprised by the lack of interaction and trust many organizations had with their employees, patrons, or constituents. Some viewed them as separate, and often competing, entities - interchangeable cogs or seat fillers, not actual "investors." I've referred to this mentality as customer-in, customer-out.
The status quo is to secure large investors, sponsorships, or donors, rather than cultivating relationships with their invested community and loyal stakeholders.
In past posts, I've alluded to our marketplace of events and experiences as "democratized," particularly when we began encouraging hosts to list and host inclusive Mixolo-themed events and experiences in our app.
Mixolo 2.0 will be an open platform no longer restricted to professional organizers and hosts, but to all who believe in our mission and its potential to expand our understanding of community. Members will be able to list experiences as well!
Any further expansion of the Mixolo way of engaging with others will be at the hyperlocal level and based on a more equitable relationship that includes all of our stakeholders and considers the contributions and wellbeing of occupants of the entire Mixolo house.
If you’ve been interested enough to read this entire post (thank you!) and you’d like to learn more about successful cooperative efforts throughout history as well as instances of revival in our new economy, please take our quick survey. Tell us what you’d like to see for Mixolo 2.0. We'll be sharing valuable resources over the next few months to help you explore ways you can invest in your community and the businesses and organizations you want to see make it to the other side of COVID-19.