Why Bother ?:Reasons for Doing and Being
CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Fri Nov 19 09:07:46 MST 1999
Oh, Sister !
What is ?
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
We have been writing this column for a couple of years now. Periodically,
we'll get a message from a reader that goes something like this:
"I've been reading your column for a while, but it's all negative. You lay
out the problems -- problem after problem, week after week -- but give no
hint at a solution. It's all so depressing. Please take me off your list."
We and others can advocate more democracy until we turn blue in the face,
but at some point, we must look carefully at the question of why, given
the facts on the ground, there is no mass human revolt against the
corporate control over our democracy.
We set out recently in search of solutions. And luckily for us, our first
stop was the Washington, D.C. office of the Sam Smith. Smith is the editor
of Progressive Review, and is a long- time small d democrat.
Smith has written a new book, tentatively titled: Why Bother? Reasons for
Doing and Being. He's searching for a publisher.
Smith says that during a meeting on a new journalistic enterprise in the
1980s, he realized that to a large degree, facts didn't matter anymore. "I
noticed that truth was no longer setting people free," he writes, "it was
only making them drowsy."
We were in an age, as philosophy professor Rick Roderick put it, where
everything once directly lived was being turned into a representation of
So, Roderick argued, we watched Michael Jordan to remember what a life
filled with physical exertion was about. Similarly, Smith says, we now
watch C-SPAN, to remember what democracy was about.
As we were glued to the television set and computer screen, a culture of
impunity took hold.
How does a culture of impunity differ from ordinary political corruption?
Ordinary political corruption represents the corruption of the culture. A
culture of impunity becomes the culture.
"Such a culture does not announce itself," writes Smith. "It creeps up,
day by day, deal by deal, euphemism by euphemism. The intellectual
achievement, technocratic pyrotechnics and calm rationality that serves
as a patina for the culture of impunity can be dangerously misleading. In
a culture of impunity, what replaces constitution, precedent, values,
tradition, fairness, consensus, debate, and all that sort of arcane stuff?
Smith reminds us that the Italians, who invented the term fascism, also
called it estato corporativo -- the corporatist state.
"Orwell rightly described fascism as being an extension of capitalism,"
Smith writes. "It is an economy in which the government serves the
interests of the oligopolies, a state in which large corporations have the
powers that in a democracy devolve to the citizen."
Is there any doubt that ours is a corporate state?
And it is our increased consciousness of the corporate state that has led
us to deeper despair.
"To accept the full consequences of the degradation of the environment,
the explosion of incarceration, the creeping militarization, the
dismantling of democracy, the commodification of culture, the contempt for
the real, the culture of impunity among the powerful and zero tolerance
towards the weak, requires a courage that seems beyond us," Smith writes.
"We do not know how to look honestly at the wreakage without an
overwhelming sense of surrender."
In the face of this despair, Smith rejects the way of the reformer in the
hope that a new activism will arise -- the citizen who will seek the "hat
trick of integrity, passion and rebellion."
"We need no more town meetings, no more expertise, no more public interest
activists playing technocratic chess with government bureaucrats, no more
changes in paragraph 324B of an ineffectual law, no more talking heads,"
Instead, we need an uprising of the soul, that spirit of which Aldous
Huxley described as "irrelevant, irreverent, out of key with all that has
Smith wants to see Huxley's uprising of the soul. He's asking us to begin
to fundamentally question the corporate culture that has, step by step,
unannounced, engulfed us -- junk food pushers in the schools, tort
deformers educating judges, oil companies cleaning up in public museums,
big companies of all stripes taking over public interest groups -- the
list is endless.
The uprising of the soul will replace the reformer with the rebel, the
negotiator with the defender of justice, the prevaricator with the honest
citizen, the diplomat with the radical.
"We need to think the unthinkable even when the possible is undoable, the
ideal is unimaginable, when power overwhelms truth, when compulsion
replaces choice," Smith writes. "We need to lift our eyes from the bottom
lines to the hills, from the screen to the sky, from the adjacent to the
Why bother? Smith asks.
We have no other choice.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The
Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common
Courage Press, 1999; http://www.corporatepredators.org)
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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