Saturday, May 03, 2008
The Key to the Crisis
"...any meaningful democracy requires citizens who are empowered to create and re-create their government, rather than a mass of marginalized voters who merely choose from what is offered by an “invisible” government. Citizenship requires a commitment of time and attention, a commitment people cannot make if they are lost to themselves in an ever-accelerating cycle of work and consumption." Jeffrey Kaplan The Gospel of Consumption
This article reveals the source of a continuing business philosophy that drives corporate capitalism in the united States and most of the rest of the world.
Consumerism, and the "work ethic" that props it up, is a result of a deliberate propaganda program by corporate leaders in the 1950s to forestall a widespread public move toward shorter work hours. During the Depression, many companies shortened worker hours to allow more workers at least some work and income. Those workers found they enjoyed the increased time at home to be with their families, to grow gardens, to take part in the process of democracy in their communities.
After World War II, when the demands of war-time production petered out, workers prepared to return to a six-hour work day or a four day work week. Industrialists panicked. Floating on a sea of filthy lucre, they saw their bloody profits draining away as workers sought a more balanced life in post-war America.
The corporate response? Thought control!
The advertising market boomed in the 1950s as corporations sought to lure workers and citizens into the never-ending spiral of consumption, resulting in the institution of the 8-hour work day and five-day work week. Consumers were dragged along by silver inlaid nose rings into the work-debt-work cycle that drew fathers and mothers away from families, parents away from children and citizens away from involvement in local democracy.
We see the results today: an apathetic citizenry, unconcerned and uninvolved in democratic decision-making, with heads down against the economic winds carrying them to bankruptcy. Who has time to be involved with your community when one must work 60 hours a week to make payments on the new car and boat, the $350,000 house, the kid's braces and the vacation to Mexico to "get away from it all?"
Jean found the answer many years ago and taught me well. Consuming less allows us to work less, thus having more time to engage with our neighbors, walk our precinct during elections, work at the polling places, attend community and local government meetings, participate in local government, craft letters to the editor, and to our local government officials.
Corporate capitalism consumes democracy and excretes apathy.
As John E. Edgerton, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, noted: “Nothing breeds radicalism more than unhappiness unless it is leisure.”