|The road ahead is not what you are used to. It is not developed. |
It must be created. Collectively.
The world has changed. It happened while nobody was looking, and in a way few thought would matter. The prominence of the nation state has receded, and taking over its place has been the multinational corporation. The global triumph of capitalism has led to unbridled confidence and blind following of the market doctrine. When capitalism won, nations lost, people lost, and the interests of multinationals were granted the power to drive policy in even the most powerful nations on the planet. It has gotten so that the multinational corporation has infiltrated not only our political system, but also our social life, our everyday. People often care less what it is to be a citizen of a nation, or what it is to be a human being, and more with the latest, greatest, fastest, coolest... product. And this change is global. In the US and other "developed" nations, such has been going on for decades now, but the penetration of the product (the many flags of the corporation) into social life has now reached every corner of the globe.
And what are the implications of this shift in attention that has become so pervasive all around us? I would argue the result is what "development" has become in the modern world: the constant erosion of the collective, the community, the whole, and the unreasoned acceptance of the individual as the point of primary concern. "Developed" society has led us to a point in history in which it is socially acceptable and desirable to promote your own interests over those of others. The capitalist ethos of competition, and the drive for profit has now been translated into a guide for action. "Do what you have to do to get that new smartphone, damn the rest." The intense rule of the product is especially pervasive in the world's youth, who are less well equipped to be critical of the constant promotion and advertising of the new rulers. It also important to remember that these new rulers - the multinational corporations - no longer have the interests of the nation in mind when calculating their next steps. Their interests are solely self-interests, primarily the drive to increase profit. No matter the cost.
All is not lost, however...
For more than two years now, we have seen a steady stream of popular unrest: the Arab Spring, Occupy, Idle No More, Greece, Turkey, and numerous other instances across the globe. The labeling and compartmentalization of these events only serves to separate them in the popular mind. Keeping them separate perpetuates the capitalist mindset that privileges the individual, promotes competition over cooperation, and by these very concepts, breeds division and difference. We would do well to consider them all a part of the same thing: a global resistance movement fighting against the take-over of every aspect of our lives by the corporate industrial complex. It is time to remember: we are one.
Moving forward within our connectedness is a truly radical move away from the individually centered capitalist paradigm now so pervasive across the globe. I was moved to share these thoughts after reading a piece in TruthOut by Alyce Santoro, Manifesto for the Obvious International, which echoes much of what I wrote above. Santoro is an artist-scientist and uses her connections to these seemingly disparate disciplines to create new ideas about how we can move forward in creative, novel, and positive ways. Her ideation of Obvious International is one such attempt at bridging the imagined gaps between people, between movements, between communities. In her own words, Santoro declares:
We refuse to comply with those who would have us submit to a state of fearful isolation and frantic inability to think clearly, critically, and creatively. We do not allow our thoughts to be constrained by linear, commercialist clock-time, and subvert it by realizing immeasurable, fluid, unstructured time that, infused with intention, flows via its own trajectory and with its own momentum (e.g., Parisian café culture of the 1920s and 30s, Black Mountain College 1933–1957, potlatch gatherings, jam sessions). By understanding the detrimental effects of prefabricated space, we can transform or avoid it to the greatest extent possible and strive to create alternatives that provide inhabitants with deeper senses of connection to one another and to place (e.g., parks, camps, churches, locally owned establishments, community gardens).
The Obvious International is an imaginary collective – one joins by imagining oneself a part of it. While the collective is imaginary, the relationships it generates and the results of its efforts are quite real. By rethinking the meaning of evolution, humanity, progress; by reconsidering the meaning of meaning itself; and by living our lives according to what we find, we are setting a bold new course into the present. Each of us can start where we are, first by noticing and then by becoming practitioners of the arts of the commonplace, the quotidian, the obvious.
This manifesto is a catalyst for further dialog and development of appropriate action. It is neither a starting point nor an end, but an articulation along a trajectory. This text is copyleft, share-ready, and open for comment at obviousinternational.com. Plans, exchanges, designs, and modifications by collaborators are actively being sought, collected, assimilated, and implemented.
1. Paradox exists everywhere.
By embracing paradox, we acknowledge the human capacity to perceive subtlety and nuance, and we recognize the speciousness of habitual compartmentalization and dualistic thinking. We may feel separate from nature, but in fact we are both separate and interconnected. We are individuals and members of a society. Thought and action are not isolated; they are two facets of an intricate, dynamic process.
2. All is in flux.
When we appreciate that nothing is truly static or linear we gain a sense of the complexity of being. By embracing the idea that everything, including information, is in a constant state of refinement or modification, we see that conventional forms of communication that require one isolated viewpoint to prevail above another may hinder perception of subtle connections that exist within seeming contradiction. The dialectician's goal is not to "win" a debate, but instead to pool and analyze knowledge to gain a deeper, more holistic understanding of a situation.
3. Culture is in the quotidian.
To change what is normal, we must recraft the commonplace and cultivate reverence for and awe at everyday phenomena including air, sensory input, flora, fauna, empathy, and architecture. By paying attention to the details of everyday existence (the ways we experience both space and time), we can influence its effect on ourselves and our communities.
This is a dynamic participatory occasion.Break out of your habits and your solitude. Imagine yourself as part of something greater, a community, a collective, a citizen of the planet. Open your mind, explore, learn, seek new ideas, be daring! Seek out others and listen to their ideas, and build, share, and build some more. Listen. Collaborate. And listen. Don't accept what is, but instead, create the world. Change what is normal. Create a new normal. We must create the new world. Break out of your habits. Repeat.
When you think about it, it really is quite Obvious.