It’s time to divest

On post-secondary institutions divesting from war and us divesting from celebrity culture


Divesting, technically, refers to the act of selling off assets or investments. In the business world, divesting is often done for strategic reasons such as streamlining operations, reducing debt, or focusing on different areas of business. Divesting can also be a response to a changing world: market conditions, regulatory requirements, or shifts in strategy.

You’ve probably heard a fair bit about divesting lately.

If you’re paying attention to the encampments happening right now at post-secondary institutions across the planet, one of the main demands being asked of those institutions is to divest from companies that are profiting from the genocide in Palestine. If you’re new to the idea of divesting, this just means that these institutions have money (tuition money paid by students) invested in companies that manufacture products like jet planes that drop bombs or even the bombs themselves, but also Israeli companies that are involved in activities that contribute to the occupation of Palestine.

If you are surprised to hear that so many post-secondary institutions are invested in companies that make bombs or pieces of bombs, hold onto your hats, because it is also true that most banks and investment firms also invest in these types of companies.

Because they are profitable. Because war is profitable.

In a reasonable reality, the call to divest from these companies should not be difficult to answer. There are other ways that these institutions could invest money that is entrusted to them, but most choose to ignore public outcry. The story has been much the same with banks investing in the oil and gas industries.

In this unreasonable reality, it’s too profitable to divest, and that’s all capitalist industries care about. They’re accountable to shareholders and ethical decisions go out the window. Ethics never even really enters the room.

There are other ways that we can divest from harmful institutions. I’ve referred to it as “opting out” before, but opting out often implies “checking out,” as in running to the forest and ignoring all of society’s problems. What I actually mean when I use this term is opting out of harmful systems: divesting from them. In this case, divesting doesn’t mean selling off assets; it means choosing to no longer participate. And there are a lot of systems out there that are worth divesting from.

If you were online yesterday, you’ll probably know that Israel launched an assault on Rafah and, at the same time, the Met Gala took place in New York. The juxtaposition of these two events highlights the hellscape that we currently call western capitalist culture. It also clearly highlights the connection between these issues: a wealthy nation like the US funding a genocide half the world away.

It also highlights the way that we can and should focus on divesting from celebrity culture:

“As long as the masses remain enamoured with wealth, celebrities, designer clothing, brands, status symbols, and bourgeois culture, our oppression will never end. Because by elevating our oppressors, we also celebrate the systems that enrich them and exploit or alienate us.” originally from the Hampton Institute, shared by The Revolutionary Girrl on Instagram

“As long as the masses remain enamoured with wealth, celebrities, designer clothing, brands, status symbols, and bourgeois culture, our oppression will never end. Because by elevating our oppressors, we also celebrate the systems that enrich them and exploit or alienate us.” originally from the Hampton Institute, shared by The Revolutionary Girrl on Instagram

When people think about opting out, they don’t often think about the media they consume, but television shows and films, streaming platforms, and record labels—all of these are tools within the capitalist system designed to maximize profit. Celebrity culture is a testament to the sheer amount of money that goes into bolstering this industry: the industrial entertainment complex. And casual consumers are often complicit in participating in ways that we don’t think about.

There are many of us who pay attention to how we spend our money when it comes to fast fashion or food choices, but have you thought about how you spend your entertainment dollars? Divesting from the industrial entertainment complex that promotes celebrity culture means becoming aware of the ways that you participate financially and by giving your time and attention.

Am I saying that you should never see another movie or stream music from your favourite artist? No, but like any intentional living practice, you should be conscious and aware of how you’re participating. And just like when divesting from any cultural institution, it will feel awkward and strange at first, but there are real alternatives that likely exist in your own backyard: here enters the indie scene.

Did you know that there are independent artists out there who are creating amazing art and music? There are independent filmmakers, podcasters, Youtubers, writers, designers, authors, painters, sculptors, actors… you get my point. What’s even better? They might be your friends, family, or extended network. They might be your neighbours or community members. What I mean to highlight here is that they’re local. And giving your money to folks locally has a million and one benefits for your community, so not only are you divesting from harmful systems, you are also investing in better ones.

The next time you’re thinking about going to see the latest blockbuster film, maybe check to see what’s on at the local theatre instead. Or rather than breaking the bank on Taylor Swift tickets, check out a local band down at the pub. Take a break from your daily recommended playlist on Spotify and see if there’s any local bands that have music available that you can download on your computer or phone.

This investment in your local community takes power away from celebrity culture and instead supports the growth and development of new systems, often ones that exist outside of the colonial capitalist paradigm.

Switching over may feel a bit clunky at first; remember, you’re swimming against the stream. You may feel that you’re somehow missing out, but let me assure you: you’re bound to replace that FOMO feeling with new connections—connections to real people in your neighbourhood and community that care much more about you than any celebrity ever will.

And to bring this full circle, if you’re looking to divest from those other institutions that profit from genocide and war, there’s ways to do that too: check out your local financial co-operative or credit unions and then ask them questions. (Even they can be sneaky about how they invest money.) And if you’re looking for alternatives to post-secondary institutions, well… you can always look for a placement or internship to get experience instead of a degree or diploma. There are also non-accredited institutes that offer courses and classes if you’re looking to learn in a classroom environment.

In other words, there are almost always alternatives: sometimes you just have to step out of the status quo and take a leap of faith, trusting that you’ll land safely in your local community supporting new systems and institutions.

If you’re interested in learning more about these new systems and institutions, you’ll be jazzed to know that the first issue of Novitas the magazine is coming out in June! Presales will start next week through Kickstarter. Stay tuned to learn more!


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