First, whether you identify as a Maker or not, take five minutes to read this article.
OK, welcome back. Briefly, what Chachra explains is that we lionize Makers above others at our collective peril. She makes several other points which I heartily agree with, but you read it so you know what they are. It’s a fabulous essay, and I have only a bit of further commentary.
I don’t consider myself a Maker—I’d rather be a supporter. Writing for this blog constitutes the only Making I enjoy, and it’s definitely an occasional activity. You might also notice that most of my posts are about encouraging critical thought and compassion. I prefer to spend the rest of my time supporting my friends and family and reading about humanity. As with Chachra, this is not to demean Making as an activity, but to recognize the value of the alternatives. I’m done feeling inferior because I don’t generally like putting more stuff out into the world.
I wonder if our prejudice towards Makers even extends to how we view nature. Culturally, we love bees and spiders.1 We hate roaches and flies. The former group makes honey and webs. The latter consume decaying matter. That’s just as valuable, isn’t it? But it’s harder to appreciate the removal or avoidance of bad than the creation of good.2
I wonder also whether other cultures share this prejudice. It could be a marker of our current consumer culture that seeks materiality, fame, and pleasure in all things.3
As I have Arendt on my mind, I think, if I’m reading her right, Making falls under what she calls Work. It results in durable products, but it’s distinct from Labor (like farming and cooking) which addresses necessities that everyone has to do at least a little. And importantly, it’s not Action, which is the true act of creating something new. I’m obviously novice with Arendt and political theory, but the point is that Making is not the only or highest activity. Hope for the future doesn’t lie in Making—it lies in Action.
So let’s today resolve to do more for others. (Even to Act, per Arendt.) Let’s continue to make if that’s what we’re into. But let’s also teach, coach, mentor, advocate, fix, criticize, treat, listen, and enable. Let’s look for the people who are already doing these things and recognize them, materially if possible. Let’s celebrate those humble acts by humble actors who don’t even know they deserve it.
OK, maybe not all of us and not all spiders, but Charlotte’s Web counts for something, no? ↩
Thought experiment: if roaches ate bedbugs, the most reviled members of the class Insecta, would we like them more? ↩
Aspersions on the man who popularized the principle of delighting users. Delight saps our attention and doesn’t belong with tools. Show me a delightful hammer or screwdriver. Show me a delightful microwave. Any delight should come from achieving the goal that the tool assists. It should not be a feature to bring users back to the tool without a goal. That form of delight is addiction and harms us. ↩