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cybervoicesPeter Montague, The enemies of democracy (Rachel's Environment & Health News)
VOLUME 2, NUMBER 27    <> MONDAY, JULY 9, 2001

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Corporate American  flag, adbusters.org

C'est moi (It is I)

My birth, my siblings, my future.
My up-bringing, my respect, my posture.
My calm, my peace, my camera,
My soul, my own-beliefs, my stamina,
My grandfather, my missing piece, my India.
My bike, my energy, my transportation.
My love, my surfacing care, my transformation.
My strength, my will, my rights.
My choices, my mistakes, my fights.

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My hands, my food, my meals.
My pains, my sorrow, my ills.
My anger, my frustration, my craze,
My confusion, my indecisions, my maze,
My moments, my modes, my faze.
My drinks, my delusions, my adventures.
My forgotten moments, my whats, my endeavors.
My lost children, my self-hatred, my future wife.
My photos, my thoughts, my life.
Vincent Urbain


Only disconnect

On May 17 the president of the United States ascended the podium of the Capital Center Partnership in St. Paul, Minnesota and presented his thoughts on the American energy crisis:

It’s time to act. The energy plan I lay out for the nation harnesses the power of modern markets, and the potential of new technology. It looks at today’s energy problem and sees tomorrow’s energy opportunity. It addresses today's energy shortages and shows the way to tomorrow's energy abundance. As a weatherworn but wise old Texan once observed, “To consume is the ultimate expression of humanity.”

Sure he did.

The opening lines quoted above come straight from Dubya’s May 17 address — the same one where he reassured the American public that “conservation does not mean doing without.  Thanks to new technology, it can mean doing better and smarter and cheaper.” The president wore a dark suit for the occasion, with a bright blue tie that echoed the electric blues and environmental greens of the stage backdrop. He spoke softly but carried a big stack of goodies for his powerful friends.

The final sentence in the quote comes from the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s latest contribution to Bay Area counterculture, “1600 Transylvania Avenue,” which debuted at Dolores Park last week. Here the president of the United States indulges in slightly flashier clothes, particularly enjoying the swish of a succession of ever-gaudier capes.

As he should. For the White House has been occupied by gang of Corporate Bloodsuckers, and The President’s a very special one. It’s his Big Tax Cut that will enable Americans to pay their ever-rising utilities bills.

Glee and gratitude all ’round.

At least, as much glee and gratitude as a nation of zombies can put together.

Turns out that the unprotesting American people are swallowing the swill the Bloodsuckers produce because their little gray cells have been paralyzed. Remember the happy populace in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” kept placid and unquestioning by regular doses of soma (whose effects are perhaps not so different from the ecstasy dished out in SoMa clubs — but that’s another story)? In the Mime Troupe’s version, incessant doses of commercial messages create the same semi-somnambulant state. It’s well nigh impossible for ordinary folk to jam the media outlets, because the corporations that own them are legal people: they enjoy the rights and powers of private citizens, but with a lot more financial backing. (For the legal-minded: this status follows from a 1888 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, that the Southern Pacific was a “natural person” and therefore entitled to all Bill of Rights protections.)

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To learn how the Highest Form of Capitalism, now inhabiting the White House in human form, is brought to its knees, you might catch the Mime Troupe on its summer tour (for a schedule, consult www.sfmt.org. or call 415 285-1717). Reaching the ripe old age of 40 has not slowed the pace of the company’s pratfalls, and winning a Tony has failed to veil its posturing with an air of respectability. Its villains are still something to sneer at; its lovers are still loverly. A performance by the group is still, quite literally, a romp in the park.

Or you might pick up a copy of Kalle Lasn’s Culture Jam: How To Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge — And Why We Must.

Any resonance of the title with the classic doomsday film “Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is probably intentional, for Lasn is just as iconoclastically unorthodox as Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern. The founder and head hellraiser of Adbusters Media Foundation (adbusters.org), in recent years Lasn has perpetrated a series of “marketing campaigns” on the world, including Buy Nothing Day and TV Turnoff Week.

The campaigns are clever and amusing as they turn familiar brandname sales pitches on their heads. Joe Camel becomes Joe Chemo; McDonald’s golden arches turn into the EKG chart of a “Big Mac attack.” But their motivation is serious — and revolutionary. Says Lasn:

A free, authentic life is no longer possible in Americatm today. We are being manipulated in the most insidious way. Our emotions, personalities, and core values are under siege from media and cultural forces too complex to decode. A continuous product message has woven itself into the very fabric of our existence. Most North Americans now live designer lives — sleep, eat, sit in car, work, shop, watch TV, sleep again. I doubt there’s more than a handful of free, spontaneous minutes anywhere in that cycle. We ourselves have been branded.

The solution? Social demarketing — “uncooling consumerism.” Calling attention to the stark naked nudity of the Emperor of not only Ice Cream but also Philip Morris and Nike and Calvin Klein and poking fun at his barrel chest and spindly legs.

The result? An escape from “the postmodern malaise… a perspective-jarring turnabout in [our] everyday life.” Laughing our way out of what French philosopher Henri Lefebvre called the “bureaucratic society of controlled consumption.”

Now that’s cool.

Betsey Culp