"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Just had an interesting conversation with a fellow Co-op board member who drove me home from Sac about how culture can be manipulated to great effect by companies or political movements trying to sell their products / canditates...e.g. Nestle creating a market for coffee in Japan by marketing coffee-flavored candies with cartoon characters to kids 30 years ago...now coffee has an enormous market share where it was previously unsuccessful because there was no cultural imprint for it there. Same with the Republican party / far right and the focus-group research done on what buzzwords are the most powerful, etc., working to create a culture that could embrace its manifest destiny agenda.

This is stuff I'd like to look into a bit, not having yet read the books my colleague was talking about and being unable to cite check him at the moment, but it makes me think that true liberals need to be much more pragmatic about these things. I don't mean that individual "liberal" political candidates need to be more pragmatic. I trust at least some of the current ones to be absolutely that. We don't want to just copy what the Empire does. This would be a much more grassroots, local kind of pragmatism, in which activists work to create a bigger cultural space for things like co-operative and /or locally owned / operated businesses (for example). We talked about how we might create a better cultural imprint for the Co-op in our town which is still completely off the radar of too many people, or is viewed as some kind of hippie fringe establishment by many others. Suddenly the importance of events like "Freaky Food Fun Fest" that we have every year around Halloween have more meaning. We are imprinting the little children to believe that the Co-op is fun. It's not just about generating more sales on that particular day or even just about encouraging more (grownups) to join the Co-op right away. It's ensuring future generations of co-op member-owners. This is perhaps obvious, but I Since somebody in a board room is trying to do this to us just about every minute of every day of our lives, why not adopt these principles to things we really like and care about and would like to see more of in the world. We want to be a board room that uses our (limited) powers and budget for good.

I'm having these deep (and perhaps just slightly creepy) thoughts due to today having attended a workshop on Co-op Board governance, presented by the co-op network (a co-op made of co-ops) to which we belong. It allows member stores can pool buying power and thus stay more viable than individual little grocery stores might be. Also makes me think that even though there's now a giant Walmart in my poor old hometown, it was very very important for the message to get out that not everyone thought it was a fine idea, that quite a few people would rather it not be there. Bless all of you who have the will to say no, or even no thank you, right out loud, to whatever cultural steamroller may come rolling by. Good assumptions should withstand questioning just fine, and bad ones too often win by no contest. Getting steamrolled by a bad assumption can ruin your whole day but I think it feels better if you yell a bit (or whatever level of dissent with which one is comfortable and deems appropriate to the situation). So at the very least, they (steamroller operators) won't follow their initial bad assumption with the additional bad assumption that nobody cared / everybody agreed.

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