Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Idealism as the new Realism

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article about re-thinking the current free-market economic system called A Revolution in Spirit, by Benjamin R. Barber. This article is particularly poignant for both the times America is facing and also for me personally as I am in the middle of my Voluntary Simplicity Course and rethinking my own identity as a consumer. The main theme of the article is stated nicely here: "The issue is not the death of capitalism but what kind of capitalism--standing in which relationship to culture, to democracy and to life?" and it goes on to say:

"Refashion the cultural ethos by taking culture seriously. The arts play a large role in fostering the noncommercial aspects of society. It's time, finally, for a cabinet-level arts and humanities post to foster creative thinking within government as well as throughout the country. Time for serious federal arts education money to teach the young the joys and powers of imagination, creativity and culture, as doers and spectators rather than consumers."

I'm all for that. There has never been a better time than now to rethink the mindset that America has been propelling for upwards of thirty years. I'm also a fan of these suggestions:

"Recreation and physical activity are also public goods not dependent on private purchase. They call for parks and biking paths rather than multiplexes and malls. Speaking of the multiplex, why has the new communications technology been left almost entirely to commerce? Its architecture is democratic, and its networking potential is deeply social. Yet for the most part, it has been put to private and commercial rather than educational and cultural uses. Its democratic and artistic possibilities need to be elaborated, even subsidized...For far too long our primary institutions--from education and advertising to politics and entertainment--have prized consumerism above everything else, even at the price of infantilizing society. If spirit is to have a chance, they must join the revolution."

It wont be easy to make these changes, that's for sure. But in a society where identities are shaped by what you purchase and consume and the divide between the rich and poor continues to separate itself, why not seriously consider some alternatives? I want to make something of my time here on Earth that is worth more than the demarcations of trash that I can produce as a consumer. "We elected a president committed in principle to deep change. Rather than try to back out of the mess we are in, why not find a way forward?"

This article addresses some great issues; more than I can portray here. I challenge you to read it and really think about it. What does capitalism mean and how can looking at it a little differently change the ways in which our society, economy, and culture are fueled?

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1 comment:

Allan Stellar said...

Will capitalism reform itself, and become Earth friendly? Will a change in consciousness bring about a new reverence for the Earth and all wild things?

Of the former, I am skeptical. The latter might hold some possibilities, in my view.