We work for all forms of justice: environmental, social, political, racial, gender and economic. Our feminism includes a radical analysis of power, seeing all systems of oppression as interrelated, rooted in structures of domination and control.
- Reclaiming Principles of Unity
Yesterday, one of the myriad activist e-lists I'm on had me fill out a survey about activism and what causes I support and how I support them. It was an interesting inventory when I looked at everything I support and where I put my time and money and energy and resources, and when it came time to rank them by what was most important, it was really tough to do. What's more important? Ending the war in Iraq, Israel v. Palestine, Darfur, Chinese human rights tragedies, fighting poverty around the world, protecting civil liberties at home, helping homeless and hungry folks everywhere, aid to third world countries, women's rights, equal rights for all genders and races and classes and bodies, getting out the vote, stopping nuclear power in all its forms, fighting commercialism and mindless consumption and marketing mind-control, slowing down global warming and saving the planet, sustainable agriculture, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
How am I supposed to prioritize all of that? It's a really long list, and there's not one that doesn't somehow boil down to life or death. And, what's more, like the quote above says, these issues are interconnected and interdependent. Peace in the middle east can never happen without solving the energy crisis. The energy crisis will never resolve without tackling mindless consumption. Mindless consumption will never shift without radical changes in the way marketing has saturated Western culture. Marketing will never let go its hold without a new endgame that doesn't value profit over humanity. Profits can't be devalued until people of all sizes and shapes and colors and ages and races and classes are really and truly honored as inherently worthy.
Moments like this, the overall fucked-up-ness of the world takes my breath away.
Anyway. This survey yesterday got me thinking about how environmentalism may be the top of the list for me, not only because I believe that saving the planet has to trump everything else (ending war is awesome, but matters less if we're all drowning like polar bears under rising sea levels anyway), but also because environmentalism intersects with just about every other cause. It's especially intertwined, I think, with social justice and class warfare, though, and that's really interesting to me.
Today's batch of news added fuel to the fire of the ideas rolling around in my brain, too. First was this from Treehugger, which led me to Green as a Thistle (a blog about one chick's thousand steps toward a greener life - new to me and really interesting), and then to this from The Independent (an article talking about eco-snobbery, one of my personal pet peeves with the Green movement). Next was this from The New Yorker, which rambles over a variety of topics, including the marketing aspects of the green movement, green economics, cap-and-trade, Jimmy Carter, deforestation, and British supermarket chains. Then I came upon this really freaking brilliant piece from Orion Magazine (via Common Dreams), which really jived with my lines of thought on the way ideas I hold dear intersect in interesting ways. Also, this awesome piece (from WaPo of all places, also via Common Dreams) just ROCKED, taking on the trendiness of the green movement, and how it's become ubiquitous, not because it's imperative or critical, but based entirely on the same consumer culture that created the climate crisis in the first place.
This last article quotes some guy named Victor Lebow:
"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction . . . in consumption. . . . We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate."
If I had to pick one common thread that bound together all these other issues, I think it might just be consumer culture. Sure, capitalism has raised the standard of living for lots of people in the world....but mostly those people already had the highest standard of living. Manufacturing gave lots of people jobs...but how many of them would've been able to subsistence farm and make their own goods, using the resources taken up by the manufacturing process? In a world where people are researched and pigeonholed, the better to convert them to revenue streams, and where tyrannical religious doctrine has in some ways been replaced (or co-opted) by the marketing mantra du jour, how can this cycle be broken? How can we allow people to be human beings and not just profit margins or commodities?
I know that the world economy is complicated, and certainly technology and communications and travel and medicine have progressed leaps and bounds thanks to consumer culture and its benefits....but I wonder if, in the end, the price might just be too steep. I don't know.