We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, October 11, 2013

The crisis of representation and the liberation of the self

Click here to access article by Nozomi Hayase from Reflections on a Revolution. (Note: there is an obvious error in the third paragraph: "APA" should be "AP", Associated Press.)

In this piece the author provides a psychological explanation for the widespread apathy and conformity that are preventing most Americans from protesting the ongoing attacks on their welfare and constitutional rights.

It all has to do with "representation" which is the inclination to look outside ourselves to products or persons who can fulfill our needs. This inclination has been driven by the public relations and advertising industries since the 1930s. My understanding of her thesis is this: having firmly established this psychological reaction in us, our ruling class authorities are now able to manipulate the representations to whatever effect they desire whether selling products or candidates. We have become passive and content with choosing among alternatives, carefully crafted and packaged, that authorities make available to us.

However much this phenomenon has taken hold, she sees hopeful signs that things might change.
Around the world, the message is loud and clear. People are saying we are no longer to be mere consumers, passively accepting the commercialized visions of a future handed down to us, with corporate values and political candidates sold to us like many brands of toothpaste. This is a voice resonating in all these movements around the world and calling for deep systemic change.
It seems to me that the "voice" is much quieter here in the US than in the rest of the world--and that worries me.