LOOKING FOR LIFE BEYOND CABLE NEWS AND FINDING THAT RESISTANCE IS FUTILE
You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy. But you cannot have both.
- Louis Brandeis
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
- Chinese Proverb
Well, look who came to dinner!
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Category Archives: consumerism
POSTED BY ORHAN
May Day is an international day of celebration to honor the labor movement. This year the Occupy movement has made a call for mass action—the May First General Strike (#M1GS): a day without the 99%. Over 115 US cities have organized in solidarity with this call to action.
A general strike is a way to build and demonstrate the power of the people. It’s a way to show this is a system that only exists because we allow it to. If we can withdraw from the system for one day we can use that day to build community and mutual aid. We can find inspiration and faith—not in any leaders or bosses but in each other and in ourselves.
If you are inspired by the day of action but don’t live near any organized events you can still take part. If you can’t strike, take the first step. We can work to shift the balance of power back into the hands of the people little by little in our everyday lives.
Here are some examples to get you thinking:
- Move Your Money: If you haven’t already, May Day is as good as any to move your money out of a national, corporate bank into a local bank or credit union. Support your local community and break up the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks that threaten our economic system. Learn more about moving your money here: www.moveyourmoneyproject.org
- Have a Potluck: Share a meal with others and and talk about subsidized agriculture and factory farming or make a meal with friends to serve to local homeless people a la Food Not Bombs.
- Start a Personal/Community Garden: On May Day, start or pledge to start a personal or community garden. Growing our own food means independence from corporate farms. This is one more way to take your self out of a system bent on keeping us complacent.
- Have a Free Store/Fair: Get together and share your unwanted items with others. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You could be helping someone who was about to go out and buy a (fill in your item here) anyway.
- Ride your bike to work/carpool with friends: Ride your bike or arrange a carpool to work. When you do this you are lessening our country’s dependency on outdated, unclean energies.
- Screen a Movie: Invite your friends or neighbors over to watch a documentary. After, have a discussion about how it relates to your values or the ideas of Occupy. You can watch political documentaries online at the following links for free:
- Have a Skill Share: Give a free class to share your skills and knowledge. This could be as simple as giving a knitting demonstration or as complex as teaching someone a new language.
We have the power in our hands to change the course of our day to day realities if we are willing to participate and reach out to our neighbors and communities. In the words of Steven Biko, ”the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Big business should not be in control of us, we are the many and they are the few.
Supermarket carts are too frackin’ big. Look around your local store and see how many carts are full. One in ten? Yesterday at my local, the Manager was near the entrance pretending to be glad to see the customers and pretending to be willing to hear their comments. He wasn’t getting much business, so I thought I’d make an inquiry; surely there’s no reason to clog the aisles with unnecessary oversized carts?
I asked why not two sizes of carts. He said we have carry baskets. I said yes you do, and they’re wonderful when I”m gathering a few lightweight things. Lightweight things. So why not two sizes of carts on wheels, I asked. And the man looked at me as though I’d asked him to undress and do an Irish jig.
There is, no doubt, some marketing study of human behavior that underlies the continuing use of the big cart, even as families have shrunk and households are increasingly composed of a single person.
I am sure they think we’ll be compelled to buy more and fill that basket. And I’m also pretty sure they’ve never done the two/three times a week supermarket shuffle.
Enough with the giant shopping carts. (I’ve posted about this before, but no one listened.)
I don’t know the date of these issues, but they’re current. I’ve posted a few (see here and here). It breaks my heart. And it’s not that Time magazine thinks we’re shallow. It’s that they know we’re shallow. Magazine cover choices are entirely about selling copies. The hard facts of the real world don’t seem to sell very well here. And Time knows that.
Now, I hate waste – absolutely hate it and using as much of the skin stuff as I do, I’ve learned a few things:
- When your tube or pump bottle of moisturizer stops producing, don’t toss it out! There’s a good deal left that you can’t see, but not enough to respond to the pump or the press – which I assume to be by design. More sales that way! Don’t fall for it – get out the matte knife and cut that sucker open. Cover it with a little plastic wrap to keep it from drying out and you’ll get weeks more use.
- Most of us know that it’s best to apply moisturizer after showering when skin is still a bit damp. It’s better absorbed that way, better for your skin – the bonus is you’ll use a lot less. And if you – like me – rub cream or lotion onto your hands a dozen times a day, the same principle applies. You’ll find you use about 1/3 the lotion you now use.
- Product in a jar is honest. You can see what’s left and easily use every single bit. Reward those who put their cream in an honest jar. Buy it.
Look how they hug those waffle-makers tightly, close to their bodies. They look like desperately hungry people fighting over a food drop. But no, it’s just the American consumer, the one who used to be the American citizen, out shopping. And grabbing the bargains at Walmart, where they live for this shit. Ugly stuff.
A lot of the headlines in my paper this week are about the urgent national need to get shopping. So I guess it’s time …
Kiss the children and oil up your weapons – it’s nearly time for me and my fellow liberals to pick up those arms and go once again into the breach in our never-ending War on Christmas!
Marylee brought this to my attention yesterday and I got it in an email this morning as well. Not a bad idea. And it’s yet another rational segue from Move Your Money and the Shop Local movement.
The email I received said “don’t buy products made in China”. I don’t think China is likely to notice, but the idea of putting some money into the hands of local businesses is appealing and can have an impact. Some ideas:
- a spa day
- gym membership
- car detailing
- a home visit from a computer tech
- a house cleaning service for a day
- tickets to a local theatre, opera, concert
- locally made crafts and jewelry
- locally created artwork
- a consult with landscapers or a decorator or financial consultant
- for grandparents: how about stocks in a local company
- and of course, gift certificates to any locally owned store or service business or donations in someone’s name
Now, a few weeks after Move Your Money Day, comes Shop Local Saturday. And why not. I don’t know where this project originated, but it’s a perfectly logical segue. There are dozens of local videos from around the country here.
POSTED BY ORHAN
NYPD raided Zuccotti Park at 1 AM this morning and cleared it. They destroyed all property, including the library. There were 70+ arrests.
POSTED BY ORHAN
Whatever happens now to the grand experiment in authentic democracy that is #OccupyWallStreet, much has been achieved.
For those who experienced the hierarchy-free and consensus-based direct democracy of the General Assemblies, saw and lived the little anarchist society, based on mutual aid rather than personal profit, built with love and sweat on a tiny strip of land–we no longer believe another world is possible, we know it. For us normal existence under capitalism–existence for the accumulation of wealth and power–no longer holds any fascination; like the mummy exposed to fresh air, it disintegrates, leaving only emptiness.
#OccupyWallStreet is under attack
, and its physical manifestation will not stand. It is under attack by the Right; by the Liberal establishment–ostensibly Left–to whom #OWS is as dangerous as it is to the Right; by the political class, obsolete when a people think and decide for themselves; and most of all, by the corporate elites who stand above Left and Right, pulling the puppet-strings in the shadow-play called American politics.
So tomorrow, we keep going. Howard Zinn wrote the following lines for moments like these, and they never seemed more meaningful:
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.
The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Update: Friday morning from the NY Times:
The cleanup of the Lower Manhattan park that has been occupied by protesters for nearly a month was canceled Friday shortly before it was supposed to begin, averting a feared showdown between the police and demonstrators who had vowed to resist any efforts to evict them from their encampment.
The announcement was made by the Bloomberg administration around 6:20 a.m., about 40 minutes before workers were scheduled to enter Zuccotti Park, which has been the home base for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators angered by what they see as an unfair and corrupt financial system.
POSTED BY ORHAN
Tens of thousands marched through the streets of lower Manhattan Wednesday in support of Occupy Wall Street and to protest the actions of the financial elite that has devastated the lives of so many. The current issue of Orion magazine includes an article by Christopher Ketcham that draws the connection between the demonstrators and the city they marched in:
Of the twenty-five largest cities, New York is the most unequal city in the United States for income distribution. If it were a nation, it would come in as the fifteenth worst among 134 countries ranked by extremes of wealth and poverty—a banana republic without the death squads.
It is the showcase for the top 1 percent of households, which in New York have an average annual income of $3.7 million. The One Percenters took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available).
New York’s wealth concentration is almost twice the record-high levels among the top 1 percent nationwide, who claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007, a number not seen since the eve of the Great Depression.
The number of homeless in the city rose to an all-time high last year with a record 113,000 men, women, and children, many of them comprising whole families, retreating night after night to municipal shelters.
Average workers have been the consistent losers since 1990. The real hourly median wage in New York between 1990 and 2007 fell by almost 9 percent. Young men and women aged twenty-five to thirty-four with a bachelor’s degree and a year-round job in New York saw their earnings drop 6 percent. Middle-income New Yorkers—defined broadly by the FPI as those drawing incomes between approximately $29,000 and $167,000—experienced a 19 percent decrease in earnings.
Almost 11 percent of the population, about 900,000 people, live in what the federal government describes as “deep poverty,” which for a four-person family means an income of $10,500 (the average One Percenter household in New York makes about that same amount every day).
About 50 percent of the households in the city have incomes below $30,000; their incomes have also been steadily declining since 1990. During the boom of 2002–07, the trend was unaltered: the average income in the bottom 95 percent of New York City households declined.
The wealth of the One Percenters derives almost entirely from the operations of the sector known as “financial services,” whose preoccupation is “financial innovation.” The One Percenters draw the top salaries at commercial and investment banks, hedge funds, credit card companies, insurance companies, stock brokerages.
The largest twenty financial institutions in the U.S., almost all of them headquartered in New York, now control upward of 70 percent of the country’s financial assets, roughly double what they controlled in the 1990s.
According to the article, financial innovation is a “socially useless activity”, with “little or no long-term value”, whose purpose is to “merely shift money around” without designing, building, or selling “a single tangible thing.” Financial services once allocated capital for socially useful projects that also created jobs. The goal now is to maximize short-term profit by generating and bursting asset bubbles, hedging carefully to come out ahead no matter the cost to society. Having created a wave of gentrification that devastated manufacturing and made the city unaffordable for most workers, including writers, artists, and musicians, the One Percenter sits atop a cuturally sterile world that “that offers nothing but mass consumption as a prospect for our youth,” that trumpets “contempt for the least powerful in society,” that offers only “outrageous competition of all against all.”
Is this worth thinking about? How does a 2012 Democratic challenger to Republican Senator Scott Brown do in Massachusetts if that state’s former governor is the presidential candidate? Could the ‘favorite son’ gene bring the Republican ticket there all the way home?
We need Elizabeth Warren in the Senate. We haven’t had a real consumer advocate around since Ralph Nader (who lost me when he gave the Presidency to George W. Bush in 2000).
Give her money.
UPDATE: Wow. A comment has popped up in the thread below from a CSR at Verizon. It’s real. This is disturbing on many levels. It may be simply a super powerful google-alert type thingee they have running, but still . . . a bit spooky. Click through the comments and go look.
Okay, this morning I decide to check the history of minutes I’ve used on my cell phone. I need a simple summary of usage over many months. I don’t have any paper bills here, so I headed to Verizon dot com. I clicked and clicked around a very dense site (obviously dedicated to sales, not service), and did a number of searches (useless). At the same time, I repeatedly tried to log into my own account – and repeatedly failed. Finally I clicked LIVE CHAT and told ‘Robert’ that I couldn’t log in and was only trying to do so in order to find info on my account.
The sweet young thing hiding behind the name Robert informed me that I was on the wrong website – go to Verizonwireless dot com said Robert. I refrain from any comment on that. (This phone/cable/internet company is unaware of ‘re-direct’.)
So I did as Robert said. And almost got into my account. Somehow though, my password is now unknown to them – doesn’t match their records dontchaknow. I requested a new one and finally succeeded in getting in.
I’ve now been at this for an hour.
Aha, I say to no one, now I can check my history of usage! Heh. This site is even denser than the first and it too is dedicated to selling me some kind of additional service and only gives up actual info reluctantly. But the historical info I sought would not be given up; no linkee anywhere. I went to forums. No help.
I have sent an email, a response to which – they are proud to announce ‘should arrive within 24 hours’. Fancy that.
I now officially hate Verizon. Next up: cancel contract. Find new service provider.
Reminds me of how brilliant the private sector is and how government can’t do anything right.
Think of the revenues! Just like NASCAR and so many others do, how about we slap corporate logos all over our military uniforms, our tanks, copters and airplanes? Golden Arches on a tank would attract an enemy longing for a Happy Meal (fooled ya!). BP’s green logo would look snappy on those camo getups. Endless opportunities for serendipity.
Why not? The free market is our god and the corporation is his prophet; we ought to be spreading the word.
Speaking of our corporate overlords: Did you know that AT&T and Comcast are the largest purveyors of online pornography in the country? I got that from Chris Hedges’ book “Empire of Illusion” (no linkee to text), so here’s a link to the online story in The Baptist Standard.
So much to be proud of.
No one who knows me would mistake me for a shopper. Sometimes I need to be told to replace a favorite garment which is perfectly clean and sometimes even pressed. But worn. Tired. Old. I don’t notice. I like sunglasses and scarves and tote bags and other accessories to which I pay much more attention. But I know this about myself, so I heed the advice and do what’s needed.
Like I said, I’m not a shopper.
This morning, I came across a page I’d torn out of an advertising circular from Sunday’s paper because it featured a small table fan of the sort I want for my office and haven’t been able to find. It’s a very small fan with a small footprint that will fit very nicely on my desk. It’s cheap and simple. Just my style. I want that fan. In fact I need that fan.
But I have no idea what store has that fan. Neither the store’s name nor any suggestive logo or partial logo nor small print at the bottom is to be found on either side of this sheet. It could be Sears. It could be Target. Maybe it’s Penny’s. I’ll bet they all have big budgets and big staffs to produce these little things that clutter our newspapers and litter our landscape.
Perhaps, as an “American consumer”, I’m supposed to be adept at identifying this orphan page by the font alone? If I can’t do that I must be unworthy of their $14.99 fan.