The crack and the light

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets through.”
Leonard Cohen

Now that the myth of “the market” has triumphed to become everything in America, a light begins to shine through cracks of “market populism” and “The New Economy.” It is light shed on my career, wasted on the shores of this business “revolution,” and illuminated never so well as in conversations with a former classmate – once a Neil Young-singing rebellious druggie and now managing director of a major investment bank in New York. Emblematic, he sits across a massive fissure, not measured in miles but by a class gulf, where he, privy to market information and an expression of the truest cynicism, controls my dead-ended corporate employ, my worthless stock options, my non-existent pension and health insurance.

Thank goodness for Thomas Frank and his “One Market Under God, Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy.” Had I only read it when it was published in 2000 and dog-eared passages, as I do today, about marketing, public relations and management theory (like those of Jack Welch, so revered my former management) in the so-called populist market revolution.

It’s not that I ever believed economic justice and political democracy were the rule of the country. Heavens, I grew up surrounded by country gentlemen estates and mounds of old banking money that socialized at what a resident anthropologist called the Holy Trinity of the country club, the private school and the Episcopal Church. Naturally (as in woods and water), it’s an astoundingly beautiful part of the world, but even as a young girl, horseback riding the wooded easements of these estates, I was acutely aware of the have-a-lot-a-lots and the rest of us.

Fast forward a couple decades. Call me a cynic; call me an elitist; it’s just name calling. Please do call me a free agent set upon my democratic destiny of freedom to express, like Thomas Frank (so much more eloquently), what’s really going down in America – and I’m told, England, too.

On a more positive note, I stood last Friday in a field at the National Renewable Energy’s wind testing center with representatives of Thorne Ecological Center, Western Resources Advocates, Xcel Energy and NREL for a question and answer session. We stood in the sun at the foot of a Skystream, a 1.8kW tower manufactured by Southwest Windpower. Thorne will use the turbine at its reserve to educate children about electricity.

This Tuesday, Sean Garrett laid before me construction drawings for one of his residential architectural projects in Santa Rosa, California. We talked about sustainability – and sustainable lives – over lunch. Sean made the good point that by definition, “green,” cleantech and energy efficiency contribute to sustainability, but they are not sustainability. That, says Sean, “is how you understand your place in the world.”

Other things going on this week:
· In Harper’s Magazine, following a Chevron “Will You Join Us” ad about energy conservation, Lewis Lapham describes the Iraq war as a free-market success: “Our American forefathers understood the rules of the game. The first settlers of the New England wilderness constituted themselves as a society of acquisition as well as a community of God.” Add Iraq to the long list of acquisitions, and read Stephen Kinzer’s “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change.”
· ExxonMobil has run greenhouse gas ads to bouncy music, kids of mixed races walloping golf balls: “Kids, they’ll tackle almost anything. An approach we can all learn from. So ExxonMobil has teamed up with Stanford University to find breakthrough technologies to deliver more energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a challenge, but we’re getting there. ExxonMobil.” Whatever. The jig’s up, Exxon.
· BP’s Smart Pig.
· Energy consultant, Gregg Eisenberg, sings about modern life, consumption and globalization.

Next week, I will have packed toiletries in my check-in luggage and headed to Maine for training on a Home Performance ENERGY STAR™ program. Colorado’s Governor Owens will have returned from Jordan where he is cutting arms deals for the military complex that pervades this state.

I need a break from the bombardment of fear and jingoism.

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