How About “Myself”? I Make Myself

The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Debbie Chachra on The Atlantic

(after slyly noting that it was Ayn Rand who called work that needed to be repeated daily “worthless”–work like baking bread or bathing the children–then delineating how this shakes down in the modern world. “I am not a maker. In a framing and value system [ ] about creating artifacts, specifically ones you can sell, I am a less valuable human.” <– where the “I” in that sentence is educators, caregivers, people who work to reform systems).

I’d never consider myself a maker–part of why I was a philosophy major was the aphorism that philosophy bakes no bread. I’ve always been interested in the work of context-creation but also in the idea that systems of unseen need to be carefully constructed before the desirable tangibles can result from human endeavor. Even bread needs a worldview in which it can be made.

This seems to me to be the heart of the distinction Chachra draws in her essay when she rejects the “Maker” label for the work she does–as a teacher–designing the the learning experience and its materials. It is work to analyze, to critique, to construct systems of thinking. To guide people through an understanding of the world, what’s wrong in it, and how proposed changes might effect (both positively and negatively) people.

I read the Atlantic article more or less at the same time I saw criticism of a recent political appointee for having said that nonprofits are just noisy, just means to get pay salaries so people can yell about poor people.[fn1] I take this to mean nonprofits are the worst sort of corruption, the type that funnels money to lazy people so they can draw salaries without contributing value, without making things.

That’s the danger of fetishizing makers and it’s much broader than the myopia of Northern California and its tech industry.

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[fn1] I don’t have a good source for the appointee’s statement that nonprofits (specifically those designed to advocate for the poor) are a drain on societal resources and completely useless or I would be directly attributing the hateful and ignorant sentiment to a specific person.

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