Thursday, June 4, 2009
The election of Barack Obama was, among other things, proof that a large percentage of Americans can be mobilized around a specific action. In this case, the action, a relatively easy one to accomplish, was to go out and vote. We voted for hope and change. Now we are watching this new President do what presidents do. For some he is fulfilling that promise, for others, he is disappointing. (I am not dealing here with the other half of Americans who did not want Obama) Yesterday I was thinking that we have the means, as Americans, to effect immediate and sweeping change, but the vote is not it. The vote, as exciting as it can be, effectively puts someone we like in the grasp of the forces we don’t like. You take an Obama and drop him into the money and power pit and hope he will somehow miraculously defeat the throng of Lyons. An expectation hard for even the most idealistic dreamers to fathom. Our candidate, once elected, gets separated from us and must live in a little world created by the money people, for the money people, and of the money people. We, on the outside looking in, scratch our heads and wonder why he is doing things that he said he wouldn’t, or not doing things he said he would. America, lets face it, is a nation run by the interests of capitalism. We are now firmly positioned, economically, as a consumer culture. Which is why it occurs to me that it is not the vote, but the boycott, that has the potential to tame the beasts of corporate appetite. The vote puts a politician in the grasp of corporate power. A boycott puts the grasp of consumer power on the neck of the corporation. Imagine if the type of mobilization that elected Obama could be directed to a specific targeted boycott. Say of one of our most egregious polluters. Or say to an insurance company that is so hell bent against universal health care coverage. Or perhaps applied against an Oil company. We forget that we control the life blood supply of all these corporations. We give them the money to do the things they do. We write out the insurance checks that are used to lobby the government to keep us from getting the health care we need. And we pay for the gas that pays for the oil companies to carry out their exploits. In the days when unions were needed badly, back when people were being killed by their jobs, and living in terrible conditions, the strike worked. It was hard and people sacrificed. Today the boycott has the potential, it seems to me, to effect the kind of change so many of us deeply long to see, but don’t think we ever will. Why not? I think I am going to start looking for the signs of an awakening. Not a religious revival, or a dawn of a new politic, but an awakening of the slumbering kundalini of consumer power. If we are a capitalism nation and capital is made from consumption than the clear conclusion is that the consumer controls the capital.