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Just a Thought


bokonon
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So I just started reading this book called How To Go Further by Woody Harrelson and an idea struck me. The hippies of my parents' generation successfully challenged a lot of social norms and conventions. I really do feel that they paved the way for non-conventional lifestyles and familial arrangements. Now in my generation many people deny the existance of a valid counter-culture. However, I feel that the fact that ideas like organic food and green cleaning products are now quite mainstream is proof of the fact that my generation's zeal for environmentalism has had a positive effect on the mindframe of western society. Basically I believe that we have and should contintue to take the philosophies that began with the fifties and sixties counter-culture and combine them with the modern research and technology of today to continue increasing our environmental efficiency. To sum up, my parents fixed the uptight notions of gender roles and societal convention, we should do what we can to make the planet cleaner. Then we could all run around naked, drinking water right from the rivers! (holy shit, I do still have some naive optimism left in me, I thought I was a hundred percent jaded and cynical by now......must be that springtime air)

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I share in your optimism. It's the only thing that keeps me sane (or I guess some would say insane)...

Regardless I find it much less heavy on the heart than a blanket of cynicism (and I've also been down that road)...

I'd like to think that there are still good people pokin around with the ambition and inclination to do good things...

And yes, the spring air is inspiring...

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Spider Robinson makes the claim that pessimism is actually lazy behaviour: if you think everything's going to go bad, and there's nothing you can do about it, you eliminate any responsibility you might otherwise have to actually try and make things better. If you believe that we can work problems out (and we have worked out a lot of problems: smallpox has been eradicated, the Soviet Union crumbled without any thermonuclear warheads going off, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, etc.), you can then move to figuring out how to solve problems. (He also says that science fiction is the only hopeful form of literature, because it's the only form of literature that supposes we'll still exist in the future.) I'd add a Heinlein line: hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Aloha,

Brad

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Despite my tendency to moan, I am definitely more optimistic than pessimistic when it comes to many current trends.

I'm 31 and I certainly don't remember there being an entire "organic food" section at the local grocery chains when I was a kid, as there is now. There were no recycling programs. People didn't give a second thought to things like trans-fats, smoking in public places or health-conscious food stuffs.

Hippie-consciousness of the 1960s sort battled the establishment and came up with more than a few victories. Of course, some of these have been co-opted my market forces. That doesn't stop other little victories from occuring though.

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I like people like Spider Robinson.

I'm a strong believer in 'anything is possible'. Strong, active and passionate minds are the key.

I think things change so friggin' fast these days that it's hard to even have a 'counter-culture' per say. Instead we, collectively, need to focus on adapting to change and trying to keep that change on a positive level. Teaching children from the get-go the importance of a clean earth is VITAL.

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to address your initial point - a lot of people are working with towards these ideals with today's technology. this is not a new idea - these ideas and their application in our lives have been evolving since their conception... just under the radar more or less as both the public's attention and the priorities of government shift.

good to hear you're inspired :)

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I think it's important to vascillate wildly between cheery optimism and hopeless desperation. Keeps people guessing.

I do think it's important never to lose the critical edge - even and especially around the whole question of counterculture. Check out the book The Rebel Sell when you get a chance. It's a bit over-resigned for my tastes, but the authors do well to remind us that capitalism loves sub-cultures because they provide such fresh-blooded niche-markets. E.g., while we can hope, and possibly even assume, that the cost of organic foods is going to go down over time, it is still largely for the kitchens of those who have enough expendable income to kick around.

I guess that's another way of saying that there should be nobody a counter-culture should be harder on than itself.

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well, if you can't afford to buy organic...GROW YOUR OWN! really..its not that hard, and there is nothing like something fresh out of the garden..mmmmmmmm...and in the winter, if you have a little extra money, you could set yourself up hydroponically for it too! gots to stop relying on the big box grocery store.

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did anyone see sixty minutes this week? Pretty interesting stuff on the Bush administration covering up scientific evidence of global warming. changing documents, rewording to lessen the severness of the scientists' discoveries...

on another note, I'm 34, and I have told my students that when I was in high school, we did not have an environmental issue course. I have 31 students in my class. They are provided with information in which they can decide on what is right/wrong.... Opening minds to alternative ideas.

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I have not seen the movie How To Go Further, but that is what the book is based on. I have however read The Rebel Sell, upon advice from Mastershake in fact (love that articulate post there! :P ). One of the funniest sentences I've ever read is in there....something involvind sitting in the dirt and tying macrame. But I totally see the point that capitalism loves counter-culture...but what is so inherently wrong with capitalism? I would love to see some huge monster corporation that makes a bajillion dollars selling environmentally sustainable products. We could call it Hempsanto as a play against Monsanto. I wouldn't even care if it was a monopoly, as long as it made quality products that were produced in a "green" manner. Maybe if I open a restaurant I'll call it McVegan's! But of course there will be no milk on my fries. And I'll make shitloads of profit and take over the landscape of the world. I'll have little Nicaraguan children clambering for my tofu wraps. In fact, their price will be an indicator of the relative prosperity of the nation in which they are being sold. I'll be a world dominatrix vegan monopolizer. (he he, I said dominatrix) I really don't see what's so bad about capitalism. This view is a result of the Rebel Sell and Ayn Rand. I just see something wrong with making profit the only goal. Quality products that are sustainably produced. I'm gonna take over the world.

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I have difficulty endorsing capitalism per se. The problem with capitalism, imo, is the same problem with commodity exchange in general: it's a perversion of worth and value, and as such it cheapens reality and robs it of its depth. It presumes that values can be assigned to all things, which quantifies them and violates their uniqueness. It dissolves the particular into the general. It allows means to be eclipsed by ends. It allows violence against self and others to pass under the aegis of necessity. It lets employers screw employees and treat them as interchangeable and devoid of their own individuality. It makes power invisible. It has no time for passion, unless it can be used to turn a buck. It supports a mindset that would measure all things in terms of their usefulness (a measure typically absorbed from the social environment, but rarely the subject of critical, conscious reflection), and not their intrinsic, immeasurable, mysterious, unspeakable worth.

Given that people are largely insecure, self-serving, destructive creatures who are driven to generate meaning through their ability to control, capitalism, which is based on the principle of self-aggrandisement, only twists that knife and drives it deeper; it makes us think we're doing things for ourselves, but at the same time it commits violence to the very idea of self. The more we pursue self-interest, the more we lose ourselves, and the more we reproduce the conditions that generate the same mindset. And the problems are so deep and far-reaching that there can be no simple alternative to capitalism; Marx wasn't the only one who totally blew it when he thought there was one.

Thus endeth the rant :).

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I have difficulty endorsing capitalism per se. The problem with capitalism, imo, is the same problem with commodity exchange in general: it's a perversion of worth and value, and as such it cheapens reality and robs it of its depth. It presumes that values can be assigned to all things, which quantifies them and violates their uniqueness. It dissolves the particular into the general. It allows means to be eclipsed by ends.

could not the EXACT same thing be said of socialism? communism?

It lets employers screw employees and treat them as interchangeable and devoid of their own individuality.

whereas it's opposite allows employees to screw over employers and treat them as interchangeable and devoid of their own individuality.

sorry boiler rat ;)

It makes power invisible. It has no time for passion, unless it can be used to turn a buck.

take out "turn a buck" and insert "promote general welfare", and we've got a solid argument against socialism.

Given that people are largely insecure, self-serving, destructive creatures who are driven to generate meaning through their ability to control, capitalism, which is based on the principle of self-aggrandisement, only twists that knife and drives it deeper;

is the concept of self-serving a bad thing, if that person is truly good? i know it's largely rand talking, but c'mon with this self-serving thing already.. the cynicism of it all drives me insane! i suppose i'm entirely too optimistic to subscribe to this particular section of your rant DEM, but capitalism is an institution and meddling it and confusing it with general and RAW human spirit is too hard to even begin with. i'd cough it up to momentum and in doing that, have to think people generally aren't evil, but rather just naive or gullible and easily caught up in things.

just remember the nice story guigsy told when he fell on the ice and that girl glanced his direction and how, by all london terms, that was a beautiful moment supporting the goodness of humanity.

:)

The more we pursue self-interest, the more we lose ourselves, and the more we reproduce the conditions that generate the same mindset.

this is a particularly hard concept for me to grasp.

And the problems are so deep and far-reaching that there can be no simple alternative to capitalism; Marx wasn't the only one who totally blew it when he thought there was one.

YAY!

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YAY!

That was my point ;).

I don't see socialism, or any other -ism, as a valid alternative. I do like the idea of working with social policies (since we're stuck with them, along with all the other complexities of civilisation) that favour those whom civilisation has disadvantaged. But I have problems with backing any system of social organisation per se, since these sorts of structures do, like you point out in the case of socialism, invariably strip people of their personhood - or give them an excuse to do that to themselves.

What I would like to see is a society where people do help one another out (again, like you say, where the helping-the-guy-out-who's-just-wiped-out-on-the-ice instinct prevails). We are, though, and I hope you see my point here, pretty deeply conditioned to rely on crutches that allow us to shirk our authenticity and responsibility to others - political, religious, and other cultural institutions that give us every excuse not to be fully aware and sensitive each and every waking moment.

Capitalism is a pretty hard-core narcotic that way.

And yes, so too can socialism be. The redeeming difference may be that the latter at least gets people to think about other people in non-instrumental ways. But I wouldn't go vaunting it as a system. History teaches best where systems lead.

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Although capitalism has some inherent flaws, I see no problem in working for your own personal gain, without worrying how much your work is helping everyone else. As long as you're not maliciously harming anyone else (other than the fact if your work is better than someone else doesn't get the job) than I think individualistic capitalism is an ideal situation. Basically, capitalism could be beautiful if people weren't assholes. Maybe we could breed out the asshole gene.

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ahah.. after quoting and replying, quoting and replying, quoting and replying, i finally got to the last little bit about Marx and thought to msyelf, 'damn, that was his point'. :).. sometimes i'm too reactionary for my own good.

I agree though that we do rely on crutches, far more than we should, and I fear that subscribing to socialist policies will only further that reliance. I blame big governments! Who do you blame? I know your dot fell somewhere close to Hillary and in the general 'socialist' realm, and so i'm interested. I've always thought of socialism, not as a crutch in itself, but as the catalyst to a crutch.

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I see no problem in working for your own personal gain, without worrying how much your work is helping everyone else. As long as you're not maliciously harming anyone else (other than the fact if your work is better than someone else doesn't get the job) than I think individualistic capitalism is an ideal situation.

no doubt. i think mankind inherently wants to do well for himself and to be able to be self-sufficient. it seems only since the advent of socialism as we know it, did that become such a bad, bad thing.

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I blame big governments! Who do you blame?

Myself :). If only I'd gotten an earlier jump on becoming World Emperor I'm sure I could have made the planet a perfect place by now ;) (the rest of the universe will have to wait).

I like Gandhi's belief that there is no such thing as evil people, but only people trapped in evil circumstances (by which he would also include habits of thinking and behaviour which would have them see other people as evil). The challenge then lies in their transformation.

That said, I do get frustrated with demagogues who make it their life mission to keep people trapped in delimited self-understandings. Take James Dobson, for example. I'd love to sit down for a coffee with the guy, but I'm certainly not going to back him up with the agenda he's got going (which includes, among other things, unbridled capitalist expansion).

I keep thinking about Adorno today; I love his line - "The fascist agitator is a masterly salesman of his own psychological defects."

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I keep thinking about a Coke jingle-- "I'd like to teach the world to sing..."

I generally agree with you DEM. The hard part for me is in deciding who civilization has disadvantaged, and in face of a society that has bloody well everything, are those who don't have everything disadvantaged? On a global scale, our idea of socialism must sicken those who could truly use assistance. Instead we float millions of dollars to keep a perfectly able-bodied man afloat, while an eleven year old starves to death. That is the hypocrisy of socialism.

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The hard part for me is in deciding who civilization has disadvantaged, and in face of a society that has bloody well everything, are those who don't have everything disadvantaged?

It's a bit of a cheap reply, but I'm sure there's an important distinction between need and want. Our system such as it is is predicated on cultivating endless, insatiable wants, to keep us addicted to acquiring more and more stuff, which just can't be healthy in the long run. Think of the burgeoning middle classes in India and China right now. How many more planets would we need to satisfy all those wants (not a purely rhetorical question - ecological consciousness has a ways to go there).

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good call lex...woody harrelson is the real deal...he's an ordinary guy who has realized what his lifestyle was doing to the planet, and due to his economic and celebrity position, has found a way of making a difference by "becoming the change" that needs to happen.

his movie is pretty powerful. there's a scene where they stop at a high school, do a presentation and conduct a yoga class on the lawn...several of the kids get it right away...

and ollie, thanks for posting the wal-mart story. if a big company like sprawl-mart is embracing organics and sustainable source products, that will have a ripple effect that will be felt through the whole retal sector.

three cheers for hopeful news for a change :)

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