Friday, June 27, 2014

Micro Madness as The Indie

by Pasckie Pascua
editor, The Indie 

I AM a ferocious adherent of anything micro. Two continuing brainstorms of my life: The Traveling Bonfires and The Indie are micro madnesses.

       For better accentuation, when “micro” comes to mind, think Grameen Bank, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning microfinance organization and community development bank founded in Bangladesh. Or think Kerala, India. The state's vaunted democratic socialist welfare economy, based mainly on its decentralized governance, makes this south-west Indian region's Human Development Index (HDI) as the highest in the country. HDI is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers of human development.
       Or think Singapore, a tiny country that grew from being a relatively underdeveloped colonial outpost to one of the most developed nations in the world—despite its small population, limited land space and lack of natural resources. Singapore's only natural resources, as its former leader Lee Kuan Yew once boasted, are its people and their strong work ethic.
       These blueprints of development hinge on thinking small and aiming big. Concepts that saw its birthing in small pockets of ideas that eventually blossomed in and around its peripheries and evolved into powerhouses. In other words, these concepts weren't reliant on gargantuan corporate bankrolls, huge institutional funding, or federal/national financial subsidy. Responsibilities are devolved to micro units in the community, a decentralized machine that essentially relies on people-power.

I'D like to define my initiatives as “micro” pursuits of happiness. Realizable, practical attempts at serving a vision-mission. “Big profit” is yet to evolve into graspable reality—but then, are we striving to be a member of Forces 500? That'd be wild, right? We may not skyrocket to a Singapore-styled “economic tiger” prosperity but at least, we aren't sinking on a pile of liabilities or credit quicksand that could have spelled the outright demise of our low-key party.
       We frantically journeyed in the last 15 years since I left New York City in 1999 and relocated The Indie and the Traveling Bonfires to Asheville, yet we are still alive. Poor but at least still dancing. We kept on zipping along, exploring and rediscovering ourselves in many places: Baltimore, Washington DC, NY/NJ, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Manila (Philippines, where these twin vision-mission was born). And now, add Athens in Georgia...
       Yet still, Asheville remains as our home. Many have packed up and gone, and never been back again. In between our many sojourns—the longest in Los Angeles from 2007 to 2009—we've managed to stick to our “micro” ambitions, pulling back and slowing down, as smart-sense arises.
       For many instances, well-meaning friends and believers offered to merge us under umbrella management for better profit. Each time, I rejected the idea. What is the point of building something cool out of sheer fun and village-level sublimity if I will just end up selling my brainstorm to a larger outfit like a startup? What is the point of lounging afront a beautiful Southern California sunset, an ice-cold Corona on hand, but detached from the ethereal gruffness of co-existing with the earth's breathing murk? Yes, I do prefer murk and mud than the fine, white sands of Ibiza.

MICRO magic.
       It is not about how much awesome resources or how stout our bank account was. It's how we creatively use those meager resources and baseline budget that matter. It's not how many well-schooled staff or enlightened workers who hopped in the train, it's how we utilize and maximize potentials into concrete output that matter.
       I don't believe in huge print run that gets wasted away in a whiplash of larger print runs. Instead we believe in spreading out The Indie, like how we spread ourselves out in the community. Two club gigs a week, two 8-hour park concerts a month, monthly drives up north and elsewhere—were understatements. Bottomline, wherever we crashland, we carry our vision-mission with us, and the entrepreneurial wisdom of our advertisers, donors and supporters. We consistently organize and produce public concerts, fundraisers for the needy, little events like lecture series, filmshowings, art exhibitions, and poetry readings—and each time we face a crowd, we share them the good news about those who support us via ad placements, donations, and hugs.

I DON'T believe in monstrous capital investments that eventually lose touch of the micro consumers out there. By sticking to my micro target, I tend to feel my audience—on an intimate, breathing way. Yes, a digital Indie is, of course, part of our near-term plan, but only when our editorial thrust travels beyond the peripheries of our twin communities, Asheville and Athens. The Indie and Traveling Bonfires have built a big, potent network coast to coast and beyond the mainland that a steady stream of culturally diverse minds always find home on our couches.
       I look at these branstorms as micro projects in each locality with one macro objective that guide us. That overlying macro goal is the fire that drive people in each locality to work as individual units. But I digress... Just think Grameen Bank, think Kerala.
       Think Indie. I'd like to carry this sweet lunacy as a reminder that, yes—when we think small and aim big, we'll get it. 

[PUBLISHED in The Indie, a community paper based in Asheville, North Carolina. July 2014 issue.] 

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