As of today, and with only five days left, GLBL YOGA has raised a whopping 2% of the total costs needed to secure this year’s event on August 16th in Central Park. So far, out of the total $675,000 pitch only about $14,500 has been generously donated by the public. Despite rally cries from yoga celebrities such as Elena Brower who believe, despite the public’s lack of interest, that the event should still take place, a number of people are asking whether or not the event will happen if the necessary funds are not raised.
We The Babarazzi believe that the GLBL YOGA event taking place, despite an overwhelming disinterest by the public shown through their lack of financial support, would be, to say the least, curious.
We also believe that the GLBL YOGA model is, by its design, determined primarily by self-interest, is antithetical to community building, and dangerous to local yoga studios. Here are a few reasons why:
1. GLBL YOGA’s Future Will Be Determined By People With More Money Than Others
The GLBL YOGA donation system is set up to favor the interests of those people who have more money to spare, making it, by definition, undemocratic and entirely against the “For the people. By the people” ethos it attempts to co-opt.
It’s sometimes hard to tell where GLBL YOGA founders Rob Holzer and Sascha Lewis get their inspiration for throwing large-scale yoga entertainment events. From the looks of it, it appears they take a few cues from celebrity yoga instructors who really do not understand the democratic process and how basing a project on the desires of the people works. As Elena Brower states in her Yoganonymous interview with Jennifer Cusano regarding the supposed reasons for doing the GLBL YOGA project:
“The reason why we’re doing this, and the people with whom we’re doing this, this is for a damn good reason. We are raising money, we are getting people together to celebrate, to be grateful, and there is absolutely nothing that will stop that.” [emphasis mine]
Brower’s unchecked determination is disturbing when placed against a supposedly community-funded project, which, by definition, is to be funded by the community. Traditionally, this means that No funds = No project. One need only consider the community funding website, Kickstarter, which employs an all-or-nothing system with regards to funding projects, a model often invoked in the language of Holzer and Lewis, for an example of how this works. In the Kickstarter model, projects in need of funding must appeal to the masses in order to get the finances needed to succeed. On-deck corporate sponsorship, in place as a safety net in the event that donations come up short, makes for a very disingenuous appeal, and goes against the “make it, or break it” democratic determination required by wanting artists.
In a number of areas, both Holzer and Lewis seem to appreciate this approach in their attempt to appropriate populist language to sell their vision:
“We began our vision for GLBL YOGA from a place of a true movement ‘for the people and by the people’.” (Holzer)
“We wanted to make it for the people, by the people. That’s really the greater message.” (Lewis)
Despite its being made famous in the Gettysburg Address, “For the people. By the people” is the hallmark of what we might call “direct democracy.” One person. One vote. However, when a financial campaign attempts to employ the language of direct democracy, things tend to get ugly. And, this is exactly what is happening with GLBL YOGA.
The GLBL YOGA campaign is set up so that a person votes with his/her dollars. The more dollars given, the better concession you receive, and the more likely the event will take place. Thus, people with more dollars have a more direct say on the outcome of events. By this equation, fewer people who can vote with more money end up determining whether or not the event takes place, setting up a paradigm where people with more money have more say.
This “money matters” approach to public support acts in direct opposition to the ideals of “For the people. By the people” where a person’s income is to have no baring on that person’s influence over decisions made in, for example, government or elsewhere. This is why voting in America is free for all (ideally speaking). The amount of money you have in your pocket has no baring on whether or not you are allowed to pull a lever in a voting booth. At its most pristine, your vote is the same as my vote.
With GLBL YOGA, however, the weight of your vote is determined by the amount of money you bring to the voting booth. While $3.00 will get you registered for the event, $5,000 will make it that much easier for the event to actually happen. If you bring no money to the table, but still want to enjoy some free yoga in Central Park with 15,000 other people, than your future is in the hands of the rich (or corporate sponsors), because the monetary-centric structure of the GLBL YOGA event requires that money, and a great deal of it, be the determining factor.
2. GLBL YOGA is a Form of “Rigged Capitalism”
By holding the GLBL YOGA event despite an overwhelming lack of public support, GLBL YOGA will show that the game was fixed all along.
GLBL YOGA’s “For the people. By the people” ethos acts as a veil for yet another capitalistic venture that uses the facade of “community” and “grass roots organizing” to sell its product. And yet, I hesitate to call GLBL YOGA a truly capitalistic enterprise, as that would infer some standard of equality.
In its strictest and most austere sense, a capitalistic venture must cede to the wishes of the people. That is to say, if no one buys your product, that product does not last. GLBL YOGA, however, with its determination to happen regardless of the people’s interest, behaves more as a fixed market. In effect, it is rigged capitalism. For, while with GLBL YOGA “the people” are given the option to fund the event themselves and thus determine the event’s lifespan, if we are to believe the likes of every entity associated with the event, GLBL YOGA will take place whether people vote with their money or not. Ultimately, there will be no ceding to public interest, since from the beginning the game was already fixed.
Holzer himself states it best:
“If people want something to happen, they will fund it. If not, it doesn’t get funded, or they subject themselves to the corporate sponsorship that traditionally comes with the cost of large-scale events.” [emphasis mine]
This statement, taken from Holzer’s rebuttal to detractors from the event, is a strange one that hides out in the open a very slippery, if not entirely threatening, tone. According to Holzer, unless people fund gigantic entertainment yoga events, they “subject themselves” to the bombardment of corporate branding and goodie-bags. A person would do well to ask, however, “Are there really no other options? (Rainbow Gatherings, gift economies, The Commons, etc.)?”
When dealing in the world of large-scale money-making entertainment yoga events there really are no other options, for these juggernauts tend to happen whether you like it or not. Because, ultimately, honoring the wishes of “the people” is only a by-product of the project. If people do not fund the project, corporations will stand in and fill the sizable gaps, because furthering the image of the event-as-brand is what is most important. Not the people.
But, perhaps people, despite attending the events, are not taken with these types of media spotlights enough to want to financially support them. As Holzer states:
“Firstly, we might raise a whole lot more than the cost of the event itself through our Indiegogo campaign which would be wonderful. Then again, we might not, and that means people don’t want this company crowd-funded and we go back to the drawing board.”
Since GLBL YOGA has only receieved 2% of the funding needed from public donations, perhaps the drawing board is closer than one might expect. Or, perhaps people just don’t want this company, period, as is evident in the fact that previous GLBL YOGA events in the form of Yoga at the Great Lawn have been criticized since day one:
“We remember the negative reactions the community had to corporate sponsorship in the first Y@GL event and when building the GLBL YOGA brand, we looked for ways to minimize this distracting intrusion.”
Putting “distractions” such as informed public critique aside, if people are complaining about the events regardless of who ends up funding them, perhaps the issue isn’t so much about the money, but rather about the events themselves and what they represent. Maybe the harsh criticism is really an attack on the symbol of such bloated and hyperbolic festivities and what this symbol might do to real community growth in the future.
From my perspective, “crowd funding” is not the issue here, but rather the fluffy distraction. Holzer makes quite a bit of the potential fears people have of crowd-funded projects. As does co-founder, Sasha Lewis, in his interview with Well+Good NYC:
“Anytime you do something new and challenging, there’s going to be questioning. It’s healthy and important and is part of the way to evolve as a society.”
I don’t mean to speculate, but could it be that Holzer and Lewis are hanging out with corporate sponsors too much? As stated in our GLBL YOGA Response, community-funded projects are not new, and I find it hard to believe that modern people “fear” giving money to a worthy cause. In 2009 a whopping $303.75 billion dollars was given to charitable causes throughout the US, down three percent from the previous year’s $315.08 billion. Set against those kinds of numbers, Holzer and Lewis’ inference that fear is keeping people from supporting the event comes across as both arrogant and delusional.
3. GLBL YOGA Events Could Harm Local Studios
On the day of the event, GLBL YOGA has the potential of siphoning upwards of $300,000 out of local NYC yoga studios.
Who will really pay on August 16th when GLBL YOGA offers yet another free mega entertainment yoga event in Central Park? According to Lewis, despite GLBL YOGA’s mammoth intentions, there is no desire to become a replacement for what already is:
“We’re in no way trying to replace the intimate yoga experience, whether that’s your personal practice, in a small studio, or even at a festival.”
I don’t know about you, but I know few people who practice yoga more than once a day. As such, those who would normally practice at their local studio on the day of the event, will rather keep their dollars and attend the free event, which, if the organizers get as many people as they would like to see, will siphon upwards of $300,000 out of NYC yoga studios and be rerouted via financial vacuum effect into the event itself including the pockets of the celebrity instructors who are being paid to teach.
However, if all goes well for GLBL YOGA, it will not stop there:
“Our goal is to get 100,000 people practicing yoga at the same time, and we believe that has an incredibly powerful potential to impact the world in a positive way, through the force and energy that comes from doing yoga.”
Looking at a $15 per-class average, GLBL YOGA’s dreams include draining local yoga studios of at least $1.5 million dollars in a single day just to break a few records and hopefully convert the already-converted to what? Practice yoga a little more?!
As Holzer and Lewis have stated in their promotion of the event, the hope is to eventually take the GLBL YOGA model, well, global. And yet, it seems obvious to wonder what effect a stream of coordinated mega-sized “free” yoga events occurring around the world would have on local studios in the shadow of their vicinity?
Mega-sized “free” yoga events happening across the globe have the potential of draining millions of dollars out of yoga studios that have an already hard enough time paying the rent. And, for what reason? While estimates vary greatly, I would venture to say that more than 100,000 people already practice yoga at roughly the same time every day in the US and around the world. The only real benefit to bringing such a large number of people into one space to practice would be to create a media sensation benefiting first and foremost the organizers and the celebrity yoga instructors present, while simultaneously kicking local yoga studios in the financial yoni.
Make no mistake, GLBL YOGA and other large-scale yoga events serve primarily to promote themselves by using the facade of community and health to further entrench their brands into the already super-saturated yoga market. The fact that the bar is being raised to such heights, proves that yoga as commerce is on the verge of “jumping the shark,” (if it hasn’t done so already), which may immediately precede its steady decline.
Branding ventures such as GLBL YOGA invent a lack where comfortably decentralized communities already thrive without the over-arching and determining influence of commercial interests. Like their punk predecessors, local yoga communities thrive on word of mouth, accessibility, and humility. Large-scale commercial yoga ventures need to invent holes in this dynamic form of rhizomatic networking in order to fill the one in their pockets, and do so by attempting to take advantage of a perceived community vacancy.
Just think about it….
Manufacturing a need where there is none? Now, where have we seen this before?