So if you look over at Ravenglass Customized you'll see I've been covering Spoonful of Sugar, a merchants' event in Second Life to benefit Medicins san frontieres (MSF or Doctors Without Borders).
MSF is my absolute favorite and first-choice charity for so many reasons -- they are at the front line in Syria and so many other hell-holes; they are the most knowledgeable and most effective and have the least overhead. There's a world of difference between them and the American Cancer Society which spends so much on themselves and has a very high overhead for its own fundraising costs. ACS only gets two out of four stars on Charity Navigator, a well-known monitor of the non-profit sector. By contrast, Doctors without Borders US gets 4 out of 4 stars. This article explains what's wrong with ACS -- money going to central bureaucracies, not local chapters; money going to overhead, not research.
MSF is lean and very mobile and in the worst places in the world. If you want to help Syrian refugees, MSF is where you send your check. I worked with them for years in the NGO working groups at the UN and always found them tip-top. Sometimes I might be critical of specific politics here and there but the point is, they HAVE politics, which is a good thing, which most places feign not to have and actually do have. If some murderous regime is killing too many people -- and killing the MSF workers, too! -- they will leave, considering it futile to go on trying to do anything. They won't stay and suck up to the tyrants and provide R&R for terrorists and thugs.
So the issue isn't the target of the charity -- here, it's as good as it gets in SL, where there is a lot of dubious to mediocre stuff, notably the Relay for Life which I find a waste of time because I don't believe ACS actually helps cancer patients in their communities, they help themselves as the cancer industry. I've written reams on this.
But what struck me about Spoonful of Sugar, as the event is called, is that there are no big designer names. That is, there are fairly big names, and certainly well-known names. There are the stalwarts of every fair and every charity, like Storax. There are designers that I shop at every week at the discount days like Dreamland Designs.
But there's no Fancy Decor, tres blah, paper moon, Tromp de L'oile etc. Not the top of the line.
To be sure, Barnesworth Anubis is in Spoonful of Sugar, as he is in most things like this, and he's probably among the top known.
But if you look at the shopping guide for the latest Arcade, for example, which has the biggest names in the biggest bi-annuual event of the year in SL, you will find NOT A SINGLE ONE is in the list for SoS. That's shocking.
Compare and contrast with the Shopping Guide for SoS.
There you will see all your friends from 50% Tuesday, 30L Saturday, 35L Sunday etc (although not 50L Friday, which is classier).
THAT there are tiers and classes of merchants that divide up by their prices, their snobbiness, their willingness to put out a goddamn freebie when it is even called for at a merchant's anniversary (you know who you are who can't be arsed to do that) -- everyone knows that as most people in SL spend a fair amount of time shopping. To pretend that there aren't these gradations of quality, pricing, fame is just denial and sillyness.
One marker for cheapness is Gor. There's no Gor at MSF -- that's good, because Gor celebrates torture like some of the tyrants whose victims MSF saves practice. I doubt there was any deliberate ban on Gor or BDSM, and there might be a bit that crept in, but it just didn't show up here because it's about a kind of culture. The culture of the low mass market that caters to sex and extremism like BDSM, and then the somewhat more tasteful mass market that is still, well, mass market.
Now why is this?
One reason might be that the people with big names don't need the reputational plus that charity gives, and they also tend to be more the people who make a living in SL, and just can't work for free. Big name famous people in SL are often poor seamstresses in home sweatshops. That's part of it.
As I look at the authors in Arcade, I wonder also if it is that there are a lot of Europeans and Asians in that line-up, and they don't have the same culture of non-profit giving as the US because they don't have the tax-exempt idea. There isn't any tax-exemption in SL because there's no tax except on the online Marketplace, but the point is, it's a culture. Europeans tend to hew to socialism and expect the government to do things. MSF itself is from France originally where the socialism is high, and they may get funding from the government there and other govs but it's a huge costly business, delivering medical care and food, so they have a lot of private funding too.
American culture is very different. The idea that you "give at the office" or give at church or synagogue or mosque or to kids selling candy on the streets or carrying UNICEF trick-or-treat bags -- this is all big here. If you have ever had to raise money for a cause, and I've done a lot of that in my life, you know that it is a fact that this is much, much harder to do in Europe than the US, and nearly impossible to do in Eurasia or Asia.
Likely those merchants in Arcade would bristle at this notion, but I don't care. I'm a reporter and I'm trying to understand this. Why?
The people in the SoS list are the really hard working people, the ones who produce oceans of new content, some of it recycled full-perm mesh stuff, but who have to sell volume and have high public contact and customer service to succeed. The people selling $2500 or $3000 beds like BellaRose aren't here because they'd have to give away their works for free.
I spent nearly $16 US at this event which is a HUGE amount for me, as I'm usually crawling 30L sales and lesser known gatcha gardens to get a deal. But I bought $750 furniture, which I try to avoid, or $300 furniture which I tried to limit, because "it went to a good cause". 100% of it. That's something!
I think I saw only one or two creators I'd never heard of -- all of the creators were known to me, I've already spent thousands of Lindens with many of them, and will go on spending precisely because they helped out here -- and for me it's mainly about Syria, the most needy.
But where's all those FIC from Arcade and even Collabor88 (except for Barns who is in SoS).
Where's DRD? Didn't they coin money from the Decoc(rate), the Mystery Mansion, the Train, the Magic Shoppe etc? I would think so. God knows I spend on DRD -- it was mainly for their Boho stuff we just bought the latest Decoc(r)ate belatedly at $3000 because I missed the window and I wanted my son to have an easy crate of stuff to just decorate a bunch of lofts with without having to dither as he hardly has any inventory. And I was pretty pleased with it even at that rate.
Where's Trompe? Need I ask?
I tried asking one of the organizers of SoS. Naturally she immediately got her back up and thought I was dissing her merchants by calling them second-tier. But it's not a slight, as I'm low-to-middle brow as most SLers and it's more than fine to appeal to mass taste.
Cureless or even Ariskea or Kalopsia can be acquired tastes. Certainly some things of keke's require an "education". And so on. I buy all those high-end names too, although usually at a discount at a fair, never at full price.
The merchants of Kustom 9, or Secret Affair, or We 3> RP -- where are you? ionic, I alone must keep you in groceries every week with your $85 pulls. Can you care about little Syrian children?
PS kudos for the organizers of SoS for having gachas for $25-30-50. That matters. $70-100 is ridiculous.
But I continued to try to make my case to this organizer. It's not a slight on her merchants -- they are princes and princesses for making in many cases exclusive items just for this event.
To be sure, I have to say I don't think overall this was the best set of stuff -- I felt some of it was recycled, sub-par -- but as I got into it, I'd say it was far better than the Food Fair, which I really panned.
BTW, where's Cheeky Pea at SoS?
This organizer told me they sent out invitations to everyone. Certainly the notices have been around for months everywhere at all kinds of public places and malls and stores. How is it that those two snobs who run the Arcade didn't turn out their list of merchants? Shiny Shabby?
Yes, there are exceptions (Earthstones).
This organizer kept telling me I should focus on the hard work done by these selfless merchants, and the good of the cause. Look, lady, I already do that in real life where it counts. I have been professionally involved for years on these issues. And journalism hurts sometimes -- think of what Trump goes through every day. I'm asking why people won't give to the poor. This is the age-old human question. Jesus said "the poor ye shall always have with you," i.e. don't make a fetish of feeding the poor. Yet...He also fed the poor. So his saying is more about realizing that the human condition is not curable by socialism, which is different than Christianity.
Kustom 9 -- not a single one of those merchants. Like Haikei, Soy, PewPew, Astralia. Maybe my point about "Americans" has some basis?
In any event, it's worth going to, not everything is in the Shopping Guide as you can see from my blog, each merchant has a whole store, not just one item, so you will get a lot out of it even though it's not grade A.
And I am left wondering why the richest and most famous SL merchants aren't helping. You are not required to give to charity. You can be a decent human being and not do this. Perhaps you give in real life or you have other ways of giving -- taking care of your own family so you don't become a burden to others is after all the priority, and all most people can handle.
Still, I feel a let-down. The Arcade with its hundred-odd merchants aren't here, though they probably make more money than anyone in SL in that class of people (merchants of clothes, hair, furniture, houses, etc.) and have the fame to go with it. If they joined, this event would really be put on the map.
Perhaps they can be encouraged to do so next year. The organizer I talked to doesn't want to name and shame but "be positive" like all the girls in SL. OK, well, I'm not like everyone, so I've said my piece.