If progressives, whether in unions, activist groups or political parties, don't soon begin doing politics differently -- radically differently -- they will fail to show that "a better world is possible."
And the price of failure will be catastrophic.
We have known for years that our consumer culture is out of control and our obsession with having more and more stuff has reached the status of a virus. Our consumer-driven global economy is a lethal threat to the planet and every one of its eco-systems.
The lock that consumerism has on Western so-called civilization is formidable -- a virtual death-grip on our culture and our future as a species. It is a kind of madness but one which we can apparently adapt to. This manufactured addiction to more and more stuff undermines community, threatens the planet and doesn't even make us happy. Consumerism, driven by the most sophisticated and manipulative psychology the advertising industry can buy, has had the effect of atomizing us. We are defined more and more by what we have, less and less by our relationships to family, friends, colleagues and community. (Murray Dobbin, “Left Needs Soul Searching,” The Tyee, 9 July 2009)
Things are "out of control." We have a "virus." Our problem is our sinful and ongoing want for "more and more."
If this sounds about right to you, just a word-or-two of caution, if I might: this rhetoric is very much akin to that spouted by those Michael Lerner would, be very assured, not rightly so very happy to be likened to: those darned Nazis.
Nazis?--Yeah, Nazis. When Germans got in the mood to vote this unsavory fellow in, their complaint was that Germany had gotten much too greedy (oh how the Nazis hated those free swinging swing-dancers!), that it had a virus in its bloodstream, that it needed to become pure again, in touch with primal Germanic, masculine, simple and communal purity (does this have anyone thinking of another recent Tyee article?), and this required people enjoining together and organizing some kind of very substantial purge.
So who was it in Germany that was prospering most, that engaged most successfully in professional, commercial affairs, that tended to treat their children in a more liberal, permissive fashion? And guess who got purged so the nation could feel all stoic manly again?
Commercialism isn't the problem. Rather, it's many people's tendency to feel dislocated, out of touch, when society moves ahead too much; it's people's intrinsic discomfort with abundance, with getting what they want and deserve to possess. (For those interested in the sort of language that presaged Hitler Germany, check out the link:http://www.psychohistory.com/htm/eln06_war.html)
If some other someone wants to put forward a vision of a society that suggests that life is about accumulating, realizing growth, love, friendliness, playfulness, but that it just isn't well represented/encouraged by the kind of culture we're "in," I'll very much be listening, by the way. For what we got now, certainly ain't all that much of what I really want. I just trust about no one who rails talks "viruses" and rails against greed, even from someone as worth attending to as lovely Lerner most certainly is. And getting together in most any group can make you feel a sense of belonging, purpose, vitality; but group-think can make a lot of what later is understood as hugely abhorrent, look in the moment all too very "hit-the-right-spot" right, virtuous, refreshing--meaningful.
Is the Tyee going to prove a vehicle for some to reclaim their lost manliness, their solid heritage of once-upon-a-time simplicity? If it does, some may stop thinking of it so much as a friend to the Left, who have historically been seen as a bit feminine and foreign, a bit luxurious in their tastes, by their more "prosaic" peers. Please don't go there. It may be that all good left-wing communal efforts talk in ways akin to how Lerner manages here. But I think it would do good to have someone write something delineating/detailing how historically, it is always the Right that most loudly rages/riots against things like commercial excess, about the ill-offerings of ostensible societal progress'. Offer some History.
Useful, perhaps, will be some offerings from the British 18th-century, when the isles got really wicked commercial, when it became a nation of shopkeepers, where everyone pretended to be gentry, in no small part owing to their possession/accumulation of all the right assemblage of fashionable goods. The Right, then--the conservatives, then--all said society was becoming soft, loosing all sense of real purpose and meaning, and that as consequence it would prove militarily weak and earn collapse owing to invasion, or some other widespread and total calamity. Turns out they didn't know what the hell they were talking about, with Britain fairing not so bad, overall, in subsequent centuries--even without them giving up their taste for domestic, pretty, niceties.
Of course, as mentioned, my taste for shopping excess would never, ever involve West Edmonton Mall--that elephantine pleasure-house for taste-crippled proles.
Richard Brody shared a link.Moderator · November 20 at 3:38pm I'm obsessed with Bringing Up Baby, which is on TCM at 6 PM (ET). It's the first film by Howard Hawks that I ever saw, and it opened up several universes to me, cinematic and otherwise. Here's the story. I was seventeen or eighteen; I had never heard of Hawks until I read Godard's enthusiastic mention of him in one of the early critical pieces in "Godard on Godard"—he called Hawks "the greatest American artist," and this piqued my curiosity. So, the next time I was in town (I… I was out of town at college for the most part), I went to see the first Hawks film playing in a revival house, which turned out to be "Bringing Up Baby." I certainly laughed a lot (and, at a few bits, uncontrollably), but that's not all there was to it. I had never read Freud, but I had heard of Freud, and when I saw "Bringing Up Baby," its realm of symbolism made instant sense; it was obviou…
A Polish zoologist and his wife maintain a zoo which is utopia, realized. The people who work there are blissfully satisfied and happy. The caged animals aren't distraught but rather, very satisfied. These animals have been very well attended to, and have developed so healthily for it that they almost seem proud to display what is distinctively excellent about them for viewers to enjoy. But there is a shadow coming--Nazis! The Nazis literally blow apart much of this happy configuration. Many of the animals die. But the zookeeper's wife is a prize any Nazi officer would covet, and the Nazi's chief zoologist is interested in claiming her for his own. So if there can be some pretence that would allow for her and her husband to keep their zoo in piece rather than be destroyed for war supplies, he's willing to concede it.
The zookeeper and his wife want to try and use their zoo to house as many Jews as they can. They approach the stately quarters of Hitler's zoologist …