June 14, 2010
Oil Spills and Real Change
The elephant in the middle of the room is: slowing down our consuming will surely change our relationship to corporations. Earth-friendly economies are local, without sweatshops, fewer ships and trucks and packaging, and a lot less Wall Street. That is the big riddle facing capitalists. Their annual reports are full of SUSTAINABILITY! SUSTAINABILITY! -- but their fundamentalist devotion to expansion every quarter cannot possibly be sustainable. So each of us physically absorbs thousands of marketing messages that say, essentially, “We can shop our way out of this.”
We walk around with our stunned brains and it doesn’t quite register that the oil spill in the gulf is now carrying advertising. The spill has become commercial programming. There’s that quarterly report again! The nightmare of energy is becoming just another reality show with high ratings, another product to consume that is made of the byproducts of that same oil. We haven’t sorted out the message from the messenger.
We must not let these crimes congeal into just more excitement over a well-cast villain. Our Puritan culture loves to hate the bad guy. We forget that the bad guys manipulate our Puritan impulse, and have for generations. They are doing that now, with the tragic pelicans, while simultaneously dousing us with green-washing rhetoric and advertisements full of smiles and sunlight.
Follow the money. The corporations are studying us. They need to gauge the popular uprising after the spill. They see how much of our response is flowing through blackberries and iPhones, blogs and email. But, children - THE REVOLUTION WON’T BE TWEETED. Our plethora of connective devices are not a Commons in the center of town. We can smart mob our way toward each other, meet in the farmer’s market or at the peace rally or a swap-o-rama or the fist-waving crowd at the palace gate.
Let’s get the sensual part of communicating going again. (And not just a Live Nation supervised rock show.) The Commons must be re-claimed with our bodies beyond surveillance, outside of demo pens. We must be a crowd of citizens more powerful than the governments and corporations that jealously surround us.
Most major change in history saw the Commons physically filled up first. We must battle back against that quarterly bottom line, which needs to physically separate us and has for many years. Ultimately change is physical. It means not consuming with our body. It’s meeting each other in public, then shouting and singing in a great movement. Consuming less means touching more. STOP SHOPPING, START LOVING!