Case Study: Can Music Fight Homelessness?


I came across this video yesterday via the Talkbox blog:

The project is called Think Out Loud, and Minneapolis folk musician Tyler Blanski is the brains behind it. The Think Out Loud blog puts forth their mission as follows:

Think Out Loud is bringing together Minnesota businesses, musicians, artists, and non-profits. The goal: raise awareness of and funds for homelessness in Minnesota. The method: create an amazing album of midwestern music and donate one hundred percent of the proceeds to those in need.

Given all of the socio-economic complexities that come with actually fixing homelessness, my inner social critic immediately has this reaction: “That’s great, but how exactly is that money going to actually fix homelessness?” Homelessness is not, in my opinion, a material problem that something like money can fix. However, another part me believes that individual initiative and community cooperation isn’t always about a solution — sometimes it’s about the self-sacrificial action itself.

Blanski talks more about the community focus of his project here, where he says the following:

Think Out Loud isn’t a commercial album. It’s a community creation, entirely sponsored by people like you and me, out of our own pockets…Imagine a Twin Cities where every single person sleeps warm, has meals to eat, and knows someone who cares by name. Imagine how much we can achieve together this year. Think Out Loud is about the power of people like us to do small but extraordinary things. A community where people care about one another.

This is certainly a goal of utopian proportions, and with such a lofty goal, I can’t help but get critical and want to dismiss it as ineffective idealism. But then I have to stop myself — for isn’t true charity about a heart of selflessness that remains determined despite highly unlikely success? I understand that at some point we need to “teach a man to fish,” but if we helped everyone because we knew they would eventually help themselves, wouldn’t charity be a lot easier?

In these instances, I can’t help but wonder if such efforts are more for the benefit of the givers than the getters. Blanski is rallying the community from the ground up. He is living out and creating his own individual vision. He is using his own gifts for something that is worthwhile to him, and in the process he is inspiring others. Like he says in the video, “…I’ve never done this before. It’s a new idea and I’m brainstorming as I go along. It’s a dream…and I hope it works.” He is simply doing what’s on his heart. This is what Radical Individualism is all about: a ground-up, individual initiative to rally the community (in this case, businesses and charities) to do something. The other component is, of course, whether that “something” actually works or not. As of now, I’m not sure we can make an accurate judgment on that.

All I can tell is that Blanski is building on his own ideas and taking an action that involves a bit of risk. He is making himself vulnerable and people are paying attention:

The project started really small with just me and my guitar, and the more people that get on board, it’s slowly becoming its own monster — a beautiful monster. And I’m kind of scared, but really loving it too.

What he’s doing is simply a community experiment. It’s not a “perfect,” well-structured government plan to redistribute wealth by imposing solutions. It is simply a voluntary act that will either succeed or fail at the cost of those involved. Maybe it will work, and maybe it won’t. Either way, there is an individual dream at its core, and other individuals are voluntarily joining him to achieve it. They will reap a reward of some kind, regardless of earthly success.

We need more of this.

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  • http://facebook.com/jurekryan Ryan

    My knee-jerk reaction to the video was to criticize Blanski's efforts to reduce homelessness by raising money – immediately going to the “…just pouring money on the problem won't do anything!” sort of thinking.

    Though I thought more about it and maybe we should encourage him and wish him success? After all, he is an individual acting on his own to be charitable to the homeless. Just because there is a chance that the person receiving charity may squander it doesn't mean we should stop being charitable to them, does it?

    I will say this though. I believe homelessness is the end of a long road of bad decisions, and no one can choose to rise up and improve their situation for the homeless except for themselves. Though, they will certainly need help to rise up and out. I'm not saying all homeless people are willfully choosing that lifestyle, but even if they are… shouldn't we be charitable to them regardless?

  • http://facebook.com/jurekryan Ryan

    My knee-jerk reaction to the video was to criticize Blanski's efforts to reduce homelessness by raising money – immediately going to the “…just pouring money on the problem won't do anything!” sort of thinking.

    Though I thought more about it and maybe we should encourage him and wish him success? After all, he is an individual acting on his own to be charitable to the homeless. Just because there is a chance that the person receiving charity may squander it doesn't mean we should stop being charitable to them, does it?

    I will say this though. I believe homelessness is the end of a long road of bad decisions, and no one can choose to rise up and improve their situation for the homeless except for themselves. Though, they will certainly need help to rise up and out. I'm not saying all homeless people are willfully choosing that lifestyle, but even if they are… shouldn't we be charitable to them regardless?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y2C4TLWBE3WYWHQ5JNL57ETLO4 Paul Adams

    Thanks for sharing information. You are doing very good deed by helping the homeless people. Please keep it up. ..
    online donation