I’m not officialy a social entrepreneur. I aspire to be, but I’m not, yet. As a micro-entrepreneur, it’d be a stretch to suggest otherwise. I do have people that work for me all over the world. And my contribution is to treat them with justice and fairness. To be honorable. Arguably, I’m not changing the world except in a microscopic way.
Still, that microscopy has some value to me. I look at my people as my people. They’re like my family. And what does it matter if it’s a family of one, or two, or twelve? Does it have more or less value?
They’re not a family though, not really. What’s the adage? You can pick your friends, but you’re stuck with your family. Actually, they’re my tribe. People move in and out of the tribe. It’s that way in a internet-connected, globalized world of free assocation. And free association, while it may undermine traditional ties, etc., also offers more opportunity for freedom and justice. At least I think so. So I don’t mind, that people come and go. I don’t want slaves, or people bound to me by caste, and I don’t want to be bound to them, except by feelings of honor and dignity and loyalty.
I met with an old friend last night, and we talked about our old crew. A bunch of young men who could remember a lot of good times together, causing a ruckus, but who aren’t really seeing much of each other anymore. Some of us moved on and made families that took us away, some went to school or pursued careers, others dived into a world of continual amusement. We agreed that we missed it, the good times, our escapades – we were like the Lords of Flatbush – but we also don’t want to stop moving and try to manufacture something that implies we can’t grow any more. If growing means the groups falls apart, then it’s not our tribe. Not really. However sad or painful that may be.
I miss those friends, but I have a mission to carry out, and I’m willing to do it alone if need be. Thing is, I find the relationships with people I employ much more resilient, and often there’s more depth. In truth, you can’t really compare relationships, not if you’re being honest. But I suppose, taken from an aerial view, I still think that a relationship based on exchange of value for value, is the most just, equitable, rational relationship one can have.
One of the reasons I work for myself, and hire others, is that I waited indefinitely for someone like that to come along and hire me, and they never showed up. I was stood up by the culture of work, and I had to remake it, in the form of my own microcosm, so I could breathe free air, and let the emotion of love, the attitude of peace, and the conviction of honor stream forth from the place in me that longs to create and make something. A friend once said that we can either make our lives a sword to attack the evils of the world, and lose our identities in that process, or else begin with ourselves, and create the world as it ought to be, and moving outward from ourselves, include those who want to be freely involved.
I’ve practiced a little tyrrany in my life. I’m a religious person, and religious people become either tyrants, or libertines, or peacemakers. It’s hard being a peacemaker, when you are sure you’re right. It takes time to learn to move beyond tyrrany – it’s too easy for the young chiefs to cry out for sturm and drang, to go on the warpath, to straighten everyone out and keep all the “honor” for oneself. In fact, it was my business that taught me a lot about a tribe founded on justice and peace. People don’t understand – when they mourn the fact that I work on weekends – they don’t get it that I’m just being with my tribe, my people, that it’s good. It’s good work. It’s like being home.
It’s not a community, in the sense that it’s founded on proximity, culture, and so on – it’s something new – it’s something that operates on intangible principles – on virtues. It’s a community of virtue. It’s an atmosphere of taking people in and defending and protecting them, and honoring them for what they contribute to the tribe. A bit like being the silverback gorilla in the forest primeval. I don’t pretend to teach others any pristine truths. I’m just describing something – a kind of place I’ve found.
Of course I tremble at the thought of not being able to keep it together, of not being successful in business. Not mainly because I have to pay my bills. But because, I have to be the grandfather, the patriarch, whose mind generates the basis of income, so the tribe can be sustained. I have to provide the central idea, and do my work to ensure that the harvest comes in. Because I love the tribe. The tribe is one of the reasons I live and flourish emotionally. I belong to it, perhaps far more than it belongs to me. I don’t “own” the business in the traditional sense. And the people don’t just “work for” me. That’s all just paperwork. We are glued together by trading good for good, consistently. And anyone with any experience in that knows that it’s at its best when it’s a trade based on honor. Fools grasp at money without meaning. The business is one of the most meaningful bases of relationships I’ve ever had. I crave my business more than I crave rest. The pull of these relationships is even stronger than what is so often called friendship. Less than family, more than “friend”. I won’t pretend I don’t have personal goals, but I also find the business is a kind of end in itself, because it’s a nursery for meaning – the goal that all humans pursue, even if they run off of cliffs trying to deny it.