August 2003
volume 1, issue 2




The ability to choose your issue is a privilege. Most people involved in resistance are communities struggling for survival. They didn't choose their issue any more then they choose their skin color or their proximity to extractable resources. Activists from more privileged backgrounds have the luxury of choosing what they work on and have to be aware of the dynamics which privilege creates. To expand the base of struggle and supprt front line resistance with systemic work we need to confront the silent (and frequently uninformed) consent of the comfortable.

Unfortunately all too often we are still talking in the language of single issue campaigns and are thus competing with ourselves for over-worked, over-stimulated people’s limited amount of time and compassion. The pool of aware concerned people not immersed in front line struggle are constantly having to choose between issues. Do I work on global warming or labor rights? World Bank or deforestation? Health care of campaign finance reform? One result is that a lot of people who sense the wrongness of modern society get overwhelmed by the range of issues and retreat into apathy or defeatism.

One of the strengths of the emerging global justice movement has been to create a new framework which goes beyond the age of single issue politics to present the corporate take over as a unifying cause of many of the planet’s ills. The problem has been the amount of information we’ve been packaging into the critique as we slowly try to work the public through the alphabet soup of corporate cronies, trade agreements, and arcane international finance institutions. I don’t doubt people’s ability to grapple with the mechanics of corporate globalization but I do doubt our movement’s ability to win the amount of air time out of the corporate media that we need to download the facts.
Everything— including the corporate global system— is very complicated. But likewise everything is very simple. There is sick and healthy. Just and unjust. Right and wrong. It is this language of values that can be our most powerful tool in building a holistic analysis that can subvert the control mythology and wake people up to the threat of the doomsday economy.

Long term activist and movement theorist Bill Moyer writes about the concept within psychology of “confirmatory bias” or people’s habit of screening information based on their own beliefs. In other words people are much more likely to believe something that reinforces their existing opinions and values than to accept information that challenges their beliefs.

Moyer’s point is that social movements succeed when we position ourselves within widely held existing values. The emerging global justice movements are already laying claim to core values such as democracy, justice, diversity and environmental stewardship as part of an inclusive vision of a life affirming future. Now our work is to expose the flawed values of the corporate take over.

Although ultimately our society must engage in values shift to over come some of the deep pathology of patriarchy, fear of “otherness” and consumerism, the first step is to articulate values crisis. This means speaking to people in terms of their basic values and showing them that the global system which is engulfing them is out of alignment with those values. In other words we have a “values crisis”, a disconnect between what kind of world people want to live in and the corporate world that is rapidly taking over.
We can articulate the values crisis by showing people that corporate capitalism is no longer grounded in common sense values. The corporate paradigm is a perversion— a cancer— that is masquerading as being reflective of commonly held values while it writes the rules of the global economy to facilitate it’s metastasizing across the planet.

A simple dichotomy for articulating the crisis which is being used more and more often is the clash between a delusional value system that fetishizes money and a value system centered around the biological realities of life’s diversity. We need to cast these opposing value systems as two very different paths for the future of our planet. The path shaped by life values leads towards many choices— the decentralized self-organizing diversity of different cultures, political traditions and local economies. While the money values path leads to fewer and fewer choices and finally the homogeneity of global corporatization.

It is our job as activists to clarify the choice by revealing the nature of the system and articulating the alternatives. Will it be democracy or global corporate rule? Will we be subsumed into a fossil fuel addicted global economy or build vibrant sustainable local economies? Which will win out ecological sanity or pathological capitalism? Will it be the corporate globalization of economics and control or a people’s globalization of ideas, creativity and autonomy? Democracy vs. corporate rule. Ecology vs. pollution and extinction. Life vs. the doomsday economy.

Here’s a few examples of language to articulate values crisis:

centralized control/democratic decision making
privatization/the global commons
corporatization/collective responsibility
mechanistic models/organic models
global economy/local economies
transferrable wealth/replenishable wealth
alienation from nature/earth centered values
absentee landlordism/stewardship
ecological illiteracy/biocentrism
proxy decision making/real democracy
short term gain/sustainability
narrow economic indicators/full cost accounting
artificial scarcity/abundance
inequitable distribution/economic justice
corporate rule/global justice
The System/ systemic change

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