Life Inc

Discuss

73 Responses to “Life Inc”

  1. Anonymous says:

    You definitely need to ditch DreamHost. I did the same thing: had problems with the cheap account, then moved to a Private Server, one each for http and the database, and it still sucked. Constant outages, constant failures to help me, and constantly blaming me–though that particular site never got more than 1800 page views a day. So I told DH to go screw and moved elsewhere.

    Regarding Park Slope, though, I don’t agree with you. It shows the same flabby thinking you used to throw around Slashdot.

    I remember your mugging story from the first time around and I’ll say now what I said then: You need to quote those emails from the Park Slope Parents email list. Let’s see them. Or shall I go dig them out of the archives myself?

    The Park Slope you’ve describe is just New York City, buddy, and America. It’s not a neighborhood that is somehow grossly different. It’s simply a collection of aspirants who want good things. You make it sound rich and fancy, when all I see from my office window in my little rented apartment in north Park Slope is a bunch of working class immigrants, young families, and people looking to get, and stay, comfortable. If you’re seeing anything so poisonous as what you describe, then you need to change the company you’re keeping.

    And another thing: the coop is totally a normal place. Seriously. It reminds me of every non-profit I’ve ever worked for. There’s nothing unusual about it at all and it is neither a tone-setter for the neighbhorhood nor particularly remarkable.

  2. towlemonkey says:

    You just sold a book.

  3. Anonymous says:

    @jasper,

    It is possible that your neighborhood is in the beginning stages of the gentrification cycle, when there really is a sense of community and people work together. Those aspects, after all, are what attract the yuppies in the first place. Sometimes this sense of community happens without a fear of the ‘other’ (in this case, the desperate destitute) but not often.

    Whether you are still there or not, analyse the community in ten years, and the truth will be obvious, either way.

  4. Dave says:

    Rushkoff

    I’m with you here. I started watching The Company, and found its thesis, that corporations are programmed to operate like sociopaths, instantly convincing. And this from a librtarian former Merrill Lynch broker. A company is as greedy (but no more greedy) as a human. But it has no empathy. No conscience. It’s literally not in the programming. And you can’t put a company in jail. This seems like a significant flaw in the system. I couldn’t watch the rest of the movie, though. It became clear that it saw the world in black and white, as fundamentalists often do. It’s silly to pretend that free trade and development haven’t brought billions of people out of poverty in our lifetimes. Things, people and systems are rarely all bad or all good.

    So yes, I think corporatism has had a significant impact. But I think it hasn’t so much changed the DNA of society as it has provided an amplifier to certain aspects of society (wealth creation and consumption) without any amplification being applied to the other aspects (community, empathy, accountability). This is a problem. And the true costs of things are not reflected in prices so that individuals can make rational choices, resulting in invisible and awful externalities. I’d like to see a carbon tax and the DOD and VA budgets funded entirely by oil taxes. Let a market with more accurate signals do its magic.

    But if I had a guess, I’d say that the answer to improving our civilization will come from amplication rather than trying to turn down the volume on corporatism. Too many developing countries have seen what we have and want it. If that process pulls them out of poverty, good.

    Humans are rational actors who make decisions based on inputs. Most don’t get that yet. Most people think advertising doesn’t affect them. They are wrong. And the evolutionary forces of the free market mean the companies most skilled at creating effective inputs that result in consumption of their product will thrive. Sometimes those inputs are created by word of mouth and quality. That’s a good thing. Sometimes those inputs are billions of dollars of advertising and chemical manipulation. That’s not. So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a little regulation to turn down the volume on these kinds of inputs would be good for society. Should a company with no soul, conscience or accountability really have the same free speech rights as a citizen? Eh, maybe not.

    And speaking of legislation, companies that thrive through effective lobbying? Also not good. The defense industry, which I am a veteran of, favors the survival of those companies most skilled at manipulating the acquisition system. They therefore rationally spend billions on this activity. There are not billions on the other side to lobby for sanity. This is a problem.

    I’m optimistic, though. I don’t think America is the example of what lies ahead for development. I think Scandanavia is. People want to be safe and happy. Money does that for you, to a point, possibly somewhere around $60k. After that, there are significant diminishing returns. People start to realize that friends, family and time to spend with them are more valuable. Me and my friends are hitting this point. I save for early retirement and take comp time rather than overtime. Hopefully we’re the canaries in the coal mine?

    Damn fine discussion you’re starting here, Rushkoff. Ping me if you’re in DC and I’ll buy you a drink at the best bar in town. (The Gibson)

  5. thecat17 says:

    I printed this out, and then my girlfriend snatched it. She’s reading it behind me, not knowing that I’m typing this out. ;)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Rush, is this the first chapter of your book? I NEED to read the rest of this! It’s so damn good and timely.

    Theo

  7. Jenonymous says:

    Doug,

    As an NYC resident, 99% of the disgusting behavior that you describe (the woman refusing to vaccinate her kid and then conspiring with her rabbi to job the system for school records purposes) isn’t due to any Big Bad Machine out there. It’s simple human greed coupled with an ability to get away with it.

    It’s an intellectual laziness that’s mollified by hairshirting on the small stuff (cloth diapers, re-washing plastic bags for use, paying 10x more for organic) while ignoring the big stuff (promoting reasonable supermarkets in poor areas so that everyone can have SOME kind of fresh food, fair housing practices, supporting local school districts and literacy programs by actually putting your kid in to them).

    Oh, and fuck your neighbors sideways with a rabid pit bull set on fire if they really DID bust you for reporting your mugging because they were afraid of their property values going down.

    Finally, let me say this: If you’re paying $4500/month for a 2 BR in a walkup, you DID buy into the hype. Big time. You can rent an entire house for that in a lot of nice neighborhoods in Queens and even further out in Brooklyn, if you could just get over that “hip” cachet. I think you know that.

  8. k1p says:

    Yep, It’s called change. Happens all the time. Sometimes it happens the other way too. A “nice” neighborhood declines and “poor” people move there. Do you feel bad for the displaced “rich”. Me either, but then I expect change.

  9. @mro says:

    I think this is a thrilling conversation to be having. Thank you for posting it. As I’ve said in the Metaverse Manifesto, “From the moment that one’s vision can become another’s instantaneously, the enormous division between individuals – previously spanned by corporate interfaces – is ended.”

  10. urshrew says:

    I think the problem you have is with our nature to trade long term gains for short term ones, and how often we get neither. People wanted their homes to be sold for a profit, even if it was based on lies and obfuscation, so badly, that they ignored the very issues which would, or will, eventually destroy the very thing they’re trying to protect. Do you think that this is really any more prevalent now, then in the past? Are people any more educated about what is actually in their best interest today then hundred, or two hundred or a thousand years ago?

    (btw, I really like your show on WFMU. Not everything, but most of it. Keep up the good work).

  11. Anonymous says:

    hot damn… my 1500 3br in greenpoint’s looking better by the second! stone’s throw from williamsburg, should you desire to throw stones at hipsters (we have a good angle out our window).
    i’m concerned for greenpoint though. i tried to move to w’burg years ago before it got too hip, and was priced out to bushwick. fearing for my life (yes i’m a paranoid suburban girl, plus my friends getting attacked down the street didn’t help) i moved up to greenpoint and it’s just the bees knees. same price as w’burg, one-tenth the dog poop, broken glass and roving machete gangs. i think greenpoint is next for the big G-fying though. manhattanites stay on your side of the river!!

  12. phisrow says:

    Ah, yes. “Property Values”: where the most vulgar manifestations of middle-class morality are given the veneer of numerical precision and economic inevitability…

    It’s funny, really, how willing so many people are to accept the petty tyranny of the homeowner’s association.

  13. rushkoff says:

    Current anthropology suggests a competitive human species, and that the greed that corporatism encourages or at least allows is merely an extension or amplification of something already there. I’ll grant you that.

    But there is plenty of evidence from anthropology that humans behave quite cooperatively – the food-sharing work of Glynn Isaac, for example. I can’t help but suspect that the popularity of counter-examples to collaborative behavior are as much or more the fashion of a greed-based society than they are its best science.

    And even if people do have a tendency towards greedy behavior, I’ve made the argument in the book that this kind of behavior has been encouraged – even legislated – in favor of sharing or other behaviors that do not contribute as immediately to the GNP.

    People spending time together not buying anything are bad for the economy, as measured by current metrics.

  14. chroma says:

    Hello,

    Which one is the chapter where you define “corporatism”? Am I correct that the whole book revolves around this concept?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Doug, your website is down…

  16. Anonymous says:

    Paragraphs or not, I sat and read this end to end. I think your experience was worthwhile in allowing you the space and ability to step back and glimpse this world we have built up around ourselves. I believe strongly in face to face discourse as a curative to our cultural illness. Please be assured you’ve given me a whole months worth of discussion. I cannot wait to spread awareness of your perspective and look forward to seeing a historical overview of out post industrial transition from Citizens to Consumers.
    Thanks,
    Liana

  17. Takuan says:

    The body of a rock
    This is recorded in the Terao Ka Ki, the chronicle of the house of Terao. Once, a lord asked Musashi “What is this ‘Body of a rock’?” Musashi replied, “Please summon my pupil Terao Ryuma Suke.” When Teruo appeared, Musashi ordered him to kill himself by cutting his abdomen. Just as Terao was about to make the cut, Musashi restrained him and said to the lord, “This is the ‘Body of a Rock’”.

  18. kirk.woerner says:

    I’m reading the book and your argument is interesting. It’s infuriating that Americans refuse to see that corporations are not people no matter what the law says and that expecting them to behave like people is like expecting your toaster to love you.

    However, the argument so far comes dangerously close to making the same assumption at times. If we acknowledge that corporations are entities with no individuality, then we have to also acknowledge that they cannot be “evil” and that we cannot assign blame to them. Especially if we want to convince people with embedded interests that there’s a better way, simply pointing out all the problems with the corporation isn’t enough. After all, we all want toast. Making the argument that toasters are bad because they burn the bread doesn’t cut it. I hope the book points out some of the good things that the corporate structure has enabled. We can and should do better, not just different.

  19. urshrew says:

    “It pays the mortgage. The Yuppie Nuremberg Defense.” from Thank You For Smoking

  20. Trevel says:

    I found this interesting, as far as I got in it. There’s this new invention called ‘paragraphs’ that makes reading lengthy text much easier. You should look into it.

  21. Anonymous says:

    “We are fast approaching a societal norm where we–as nations, organizations, and individuals–engage in behaviors that are destructive to our own and everyone else’s welfare.”
    Because in the good old times things were different, right? Everyone worked for the common good and there was no exploitation, right?

  22. kpkpkp says:

    Caesar: If you want better schools and can live with a 3 hour commute, why not just move to New Jersey – good schools!

  23. Egypt Urnash says:

    Not loading for me; did you overload your own site? I guess I’ll wait until you’re done and put up an official Pirate Bay torrent or something.

  24. Anonymous says:

    http://www.climatecaucus.net/2008Report/2008ClimateCaucusReport_FullVersion.pdf

    there some similar notions in there..havent read it all tho..its very wide.

    you are all creative people. we can all contribute in our own lives..think of our own ways.

    details are details..its the core idea.
    for me this text was something i have thought a lot myself.
    it was a good feeling..not being alone.

  25. Anonymous says:

    @ AIRSHOWFAN

    I think that something you’re missing is what money actually is. It has become something almost arbitrary and detached from anything with real quantifiable value to people. It’s just an agreement, and lately it hasn’t been working in our favor.

    This is something that M. King Hubbert realized this in 1933. Hubbert and other Technocrats suggested linking money to energy, something I find very attractive. Technocrats also had some other exotic economic ideas that are either extremely naive or genius. I’m not really sure yet.

    I think a great place to start would be a reevaluation of our concept of money and how we define it.

  26. Ernunnos says:

    This should be shelved in the horror section.

    And it’s the kind of horror you can’t get away from. Once you start to see the kinds of long-term sacrifices people make for short-term gains, you can’t unsee it. The next-fiscal-quarter mentality is everywhere. And many people don’t even get that far ahead. For most it’s next-month’s-rent.

  27. invisibelle says:

    Wow, $4500 a month, with jerks for neighbors. That’s unfortunate. Thanks for reminding me why I don’t live in NYC, though.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Read it all, would read moar.

  29. jjasper says:

    I pay under $2,000 for a large 2 bedroom in Inwood, and when I was mugged, the entire community, including another mugging victim got into helping out. A local police officer went through the park where I was mugged with me and helped me put up signs.

    Park slope sis full of pretentious hipster snots. Inwood is the real hidden bohemia of NYC.

    Also, for the love of god and all that is holy, use paragraph breaks. Long rambling single paragraph screeds get the TL;DR response, and end up looking like they were co-authored by the unibomber.

  30. airshowfan says:

    This book clearly took a lot of work, it is very well written, and I appreciate it being posted here.

    On the other hand, I think it’s taking something simple and making it much more complicated than it has to be.

    Tell me if I’m oversimplifying things, but the message seems to be; Money is the root of all evil.

    OK, more precisely: People care about money (getting it and not losing it) and about value (i.e. stuff/usefulness/enjoyability per unit money) more then they care about community, civic engagement, and (some) relationships. What you call “corporatism” to me looks like nothing beyond wanting to optimize the use of money.

    You say people don’t want this system, but I would debate that. People are consumers/investors, and consumers/investors want this system. Corporations (and governments and other institutions) often present people with the choice of being a good consumer/investor or being a good citizen, and people apparently choose to be a good consumer/investor (i.e. buy cheap stuff, invest on what’s most profitable). What has changed is not what people want. What has changed is that we’re now being presented with these consumer-OR-citizen choices, since corporations (and governments and so on) realized that people choose “more money and more stuff per unit money” over “more social responsibility” every time, and that optimizing ventures to exploit the consumer/investor mindset (at the expense of the citizen mindset) is profitable and causes fewer complaints.

    As usual, let me make the analogy with air travel. Yes, seats are tiny and uncomfortable, flights are delayed and overbooked, and airline operations cut corners in customer service and cleanliness and sometimes even safety. Why? Because that’s what people want! How do I know? Because when people search for a trip online and are shown a few options, they buy the cheapest one (that fits their schedule), every time. This sends a clear message to airlines: Only ONE parameter matters, and it is ticket price, so if you improve anything and raise the ticket price, you’ll get less business.

    Maybe the message of your book is more similar to my own take on all this than I realize. But it’s really as simple as “People care about money, and companies know it”. That’s all that there is to it.

    The current situation was not brought on by conspirators in Wall Street or Washington; It was brought on by people making choices that showed companies and governments that we care about money. We all did it. Each time one of us shopped at Wal-Mart, bought something manufactured in eastern Asia, dealt with a company through an overseas customer-service phone center, invested in the most profitable stock or real-estate development regardless of social/environmental consequences… we motivated companies and governments to become like this. We communicated to them that we care about money, and they catered to us. They don’t control us, we control them.

    Of course, the consequences of caring about money at the expense of social/environmental consequences is becoming clear, and maybe people will see that other important things should be cared about, not just money. Just as caring about family comes before money (e.g. getting a plane ticket on short notice to visit a sick grandparent, or monetarily helping an old parent or unemployed sibling or child), maybe some aspects of caring about community and society should too.

    Maybe I’m making the same point you’re making, as far as what needs to change. But I’m not pretending that the problem is about “corporatism”, conspiracies, or authoritarian fascism. We brought this on ourselves. We could have stopped it at any point by caring more about society than about money. And we still can. If we want.

    But will people want to spend more money for the same stuff, just for the sake of reviving Main Street? Maybe they will, when they see that the consequences of supercapitalism is increased social inequality. Or maybe they won’t, if it seems like social equality and a stable economy are luxuries so expensive that they’re only possible through authoritarianism (i.e. at the expense of freedom to choose jobs, products, etc). We could end up like a South American country, or like communist Russia, but luckily (and too subtly for most online articles) there is a nice wide spectrum in between.

    Of course, I could be wrong. I could be missing something. So I’ll keep reading the book as it is posted on BoingBoing, and I’ll try to keep an open mind. But I’m skeptical that the current economic system (and it social consequences) was brought on by anything other than a populace who wants to be careful about money and who made choices (about what to buy and what to invest in) accordingly. Speaking of which, I should get back to work… ;)

  31. Takuan says:

    “Oh, and fuck your neighbors sideways with a rabid pit bull set on fire”, why thank you, a useful turn of phrase. I’ll be putting that in my style manual.

  32. bridgie says:

    I think it’s hilarious how most of the comments here have focused on how much you pay too much for rent. They’re making your point for you!

    I think everyone dismissing this as “laying the blame for everything at corporatism’s feet” completely misses the point. The issue at hand isn’t corporations, it’s how people have absorbed that value system (“maximizing shareholder value”) as their own, while simultaneously convincing themselves that human beings have always operated this way and that nothing can be done to change it.

  33. Anonymous says:

    The more I read and watch Douglas Rushkoff’s work (on teen media, on human agency…) the more I wish he would look at more specific solutions. He’s on it now with CSAs and local bartering.

    Please look at democratic education. This is the last bit of daylight between what has been and shall be. Democratic schools are the true (unlikely though they be) hope for helping along a generation NOT bought and sold and corporatised.

    Arts & Ideas Sudbury School in Baltimore. Voices From the New American Schoolhouse on youtube.

  34. Anonymous says:

    $4500 a month?? Errrr, wow. Maybe you should come to Seattle… I’m paying about $1100 for a 2500-sq foot, 4-bedroom home on a nice lot in a quiet, friendly neighborhood in north Seattle. I can’t imagine paying $4500 a month for any home anywhere, even if it came with a padded rumpus room full of nubile young sex goddesses. I mean, really…$4500 a month??

  35. rushkoff says:

    I tried to use the “extended” tab feature on boingboing’s version of Movable Type, which yanked all the paragraphs. It also refused to post the text in an ‘extended’ window. I’m asking the other bloggers here how to use that feature.

    Yes indeed, I crashed my own server. I had Dreamhost, and crashed it last time I guest blogged at bb. So I spent a ton of money to get private server, private database, a ton of memory…and of course none of that worked. The support staff guy who emailed me back says his microphone is broken and he can’t call me!

    But I will get this working somehow.

    I agree about different neighborhoods responding to crimes and other challenges differently. A lot of it has to do with how much living in a particular place is a market decision and how much is a decision of where and with whom a person really wants to live.

  36. Uland says:

    It’s funny to me that Rushkoffs’ new message seems to be about the destructive reality of a corporatized culture when his thesis for the last decade was getting inside the machine and reworking it..
    Suddenly he’s a back to the land guy..

  37. chroma says:

    Bridgie: I was specifically thinking of the original poster’s example of the man sending his child to Catholic school. Pursuit of happiness there means seeking a better education for his son. There’s no pursuit of money there.

    But this just brings up my original point, which is that the original post doesn’t define its “corporatism” bogeyman, thus, it’s nearly impossible for you and I to debate it.

    Is it greed? Shortsightedness? A combination? Something else? Why invent this new category of “sin”?

    Having this underdefined evil of “corporatism” makes it easy for the original poster to blame everything bad that happens on it. It also makes it easier for everyone to agree with him; people can easily blame, for instance, spousal abandonment or noisy kids on the lawn on “corporatism”, because who’s to say that they’re wrong?

  38. Anonymous says:

    About three-quarters through, I recalled the title of a horror node on e2 that seemed rather relevant
    “We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death.”

    Somehow, reality has found a way to become more terrifying than the fiction we create for that purpose.

  39. winkybb says:

    Property prices come and go. Property values are something quite different. The “negative publicity” might push prices downwards, but may also push values upwards. People almost always get the two confused. It is not just in property either….

  40. lautaylo says:

    For those who think it’s tl;dr:

    Cognitive Dissonance: We Has It.

    Also, 2 months of that rent quote would totally pay off my current school debt. Is this what you’d call “normal” rent in NYC? If yes, consider me a country mouse. That’s insane!

  41. Jenonymous says:

    Takuan,

    You’re welcome, use it, make it yours! :)

  42. megaptera69 says:

    I’m surprised at your surprise. The first response of any progressive or “other leftie types” when their own needs are directly threatened is to go NIMBY fascist so quickly your head will spin. More surprised that you are still allowed in the coop.

    Waiting patiently for your cloud to recover to read more shocking hypocrisy from the “left”.

  43. Anonymous says:

    /thanks for posting this

    love reading your stuff, even if i don’t always agree…

    have added your title to my amazon wish list (even if i read it online, i’ll still want a paper copy to pore over…)

  44. chroma says:

    Bridgie: I did, in fact, read the part where the original poster says that the problem is not corporations, but “corporatism”. The term is not really defined anywhere, as far as I can see. Thus, I stand by my original (now disemvoweled) assessment.

    Everybody wants a better life for themselves (this is the “maximized shareholder value” you refer to, I assume). I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Sometimes, in order to get a better life for ourselves, we must first help others. This is known as “enlightened self-interest”.

  45. jennylens says:

    OMG BRILLIANT! I pray this book and author is on every major TV show, starting with Oprah, 60 Minutes, cable news, whatever most peeps watch, plus major articles in Newsweek, Time and Vanity Fair, NY Times (LA Times, gotta laugh at that one!), even the “free” LA Weekly and sister mags, and of course blogs like HuffingtonPost to Ann Coulter.

    I write this with tongue-in-cheek and heavy heart, because your book/dissertation “attacks” and dissects ALL they stand for and all their reason for being.

    Plus it should be mandatory reading for Congress and everyone in school, as important as the three R’s or that stuff they force students to memorize to pass tests so schools get money to support Government and Business interests.

    I am excited to see such a brilliant analysis of what I’ve long felt, but could never write so persuasively and scholarly as Rushkoff. I’m ALWAYS the whistleblower, and ALWAYS disliked, mistrusted and ultimately hurting myself in so many ways. I truly do suffer for being outspoken for asserting my LEGAL rights.

    For example, making suggestions in offices (don’t rock the boat, or else get fired). No wonder American business is suffering!

    Recently I wondered how to implement a new city ordinance which ultimately benefits ALL in terms of health. Imagine the resistance I’ve gotten from fellow renters, the owners, management company and City Attorney’s Office because I dared tried to inform peeps Santa Monica just passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking outdoors in shared areas.

    The owner of my bldg REFUSES to post the info, even though LEGALLY he is obligated to do so. Will the City Attorney do anything? NO.

    AND our corporate minded Rent Control peeps objected to the ordinance, cos they see it as a way to evict peeps, even though the LAW prevents that. I bet Rent Control is full of smokers.

    Imagine that I should be thrilled I don’t have to smell smoke in MY apt while doing yoga or merely being in my kitchen, even with the window closed.

    We have toothless laws regarding smoking outside businesses and bus stops. If someone wants to smoke where it is illegal to smoke, there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    And people still say Santa Monica is full of hippies and liberals, a city who brags about being “Green” and responsible. A city tearing down buildings to put up larger ones, to bring in more city taxes and whatev.

    I want to read how to survive in a city full of yogis and raw foodies who pay top dollar for yoga classes, clothes, raw foods. Yep, even the “counter culture” sold out long ago. “Green” businesses and cities, yogis, raw foods, health freaks, just as corporate and greedy and self-serving as the Glen Becks of the world.

    BUT NO, I’m the criminal, the way peeps treat me. Toothless laws.

    I think it’s too late to close the barn door after the horse it out. When yogis and raw foodies buy into this . . .

    Written by someone who is a yogini raw foodie, but disgusted at the way stores, studios, mags, etc — the so-called “enlightened” community — ruthlessly treat the individual.

    I was a teen in the 60′s and have seen so much go downhill and corporate. I won’t give up, but ever feel like Sisyphus?

  46. nosehat says:

    From the original post: We live in a landscape tilted toward a set of behaviors and a way of making choices that go against our own better judgment, as well as our collective self- interest. Instead of collaborating with each other to ensure the best prospects for us all, we pursue short- term advantages over seemingly fixed resources through which we can compete more effectively against one another.

    This is one of most succinct descriptions of human behavior I’ve seen–actually, it’s a great description of the behavior of any biological entity on the planet. Biological organisms, from viruses to plants to animals on up to humans always act out of selfish, short-term, non-collective interest. Read Richard Dawkins, read Darwin, etc. I was thus surprised to see you follow this up with In short, instead of acting like people, we act like corporations. Sure, corporations act like this too, but this behavior seems quintessentially human to me.

  47. trailblazer says:

    I heard the tail end of your interview with Michael Krazny on Forum and came here to dive into Life Inc. First, kudos for calling a facade facade, for concisely distinguishing real wealth from jargon, and for keeping in check the tendency to rush to blame and promoting instead acknowledgement of where we’re at so we can move to a new playing field with our eyes open. My first step will be to take inventory of the stocks that I hold and find out if the corporations in my “portfolio” are worthy of propping up. Then, to reassess my own “psychological portfolio” and begin to question the basis of the values that determine where I direct my energy, and create a livelihood from a basis that has, at a minimum, not solely corporatist values. Thanks for the stories, insights, and inspiration. Looking forward to reading more of what you’ve written.

  48. dan says:

    Great intro, though depressing. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book. I just hope you’ve got some solutions – it’s so easy to point out all that’s wrong without talking about how to change it.

  49. Anonymous says:

    What a great post. Thanks so much for taking the time to think this through. Well done!

  50. Dave says:

    I think Rushkoff’s got something important to say here, but at first blush it seems like a whole lot of words that can be boiled down to “people are selfish nowadays.” In order for this to be meaningful it must be the case that people haven’t always been selfish. This seems to fly in the face of basic biology, psychology and history.

    What’s more, like many World Bank protesters and their ilk, I can’t get past the fact that his negative observations about the plight of the poor seem to occur in a vacuum. The poor in these neighborhoods are now serving fast food? That may be a bad thing, but what jobs did they have before? Brain surgeon? Ballerina?

    And disparity always seems like a weasel word to me. If everyone in my neighborhood gets a $10,000 (inflation-adjusted) raise but Bill Gates moves into the neighborhood, disparity has skyrocketed, but are we really worse off? I’m more interested in actual poverty. If someone invents a poverty-eliminating machine, but in the process becomes a quadrillionarie, throwing off the curve and making him, his friends family and neighborhood impossibly wealthy in a world that no longer has poverty, how is this not an improvement?

    I understand that psychological research indicates that our happiness is based more on our comparative wealth than on our actual wealth once basic needs are met, but I don’t think that making rich people poorer should be an actual development goal.

  51. Mac345 says:

    Okay, so if I call the cops on this mugger I’m a snitch?

    Can anyone explain Takuan’ comment to me?

  52. dculberson says:

    megaptera69: surprisingly adept at transference!

  53. Anonymous says:

    Brilliant. Totally and completely on point. Possibly the best thing I have read on the net, and yes, I’m going to buy the book. Maybe I’ll even get my dad a copy. Thanks for your brilliant and concise writing.

    -Scott in Tokyo

  54. newe1344 says:

    Maybe people on this post lack a capacity for abstract thought. Sure, anyone can read someone’s opinion and then pick details to argue against, thus negating the legitimacy of the argument on the whole right?

    No. I personally don’t feel attacked or threatened by Rushkoff’s arguments, which makes it easier to listen to his point of view on the whole and assume there is probably some middle ground we can both agree on.

    I may not agree with instances of experiences making valid argumentative commentary on our social dynamic. But I do sympathise that we as a society should take a proactive stance and eliminate the mechanism that create social virus by replacing them with mechanism that evolve us.

    Though we have replaced authoritarian rule with something more subtle, I believe our society will be forced to evolve into something more conscious of itself when we reach our environmental carrying capacity. At least Rushkoff is trying to change this voluntarily.

    Whether I a agree of disagree is irrelevant, the fact that there are still idealists gives me hope.

  55. megaptera69 says:

    Yes I meant the lefties from the neighborhood.

    Your story simply reinforced my perception of most progressives: as long as it someone else’s problem it is a cause that requires the application of everyone else’s money. That is until if becomes a problem that impacts their money.

  56. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry all this had to happen to you, but I’m glad it did since it’s what helped open your eyes.

    Many of you might find it interesting to watch the documentaries at: http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com

    Every problem has a root and a solution… and ignorance isn’t one of them (solutions that is)

    I said many might find it interesting… in fact many won’t, but those who do are the only ones who will matter in the long run.

    ~Jay

  57. rushkoff says:

    I still have to figure out the paragraphs thing. Working on it.

  58. jjasper says:

    @ – Jenonymous once an area is so hip it’s got $4,500/month 2 bedrooms, it’s no longer actually hip, it’s just full of hipsters. My neck of the woods is not going to gentrify the way Park Slope has, but it still attracts artists , because real artists can afford to *live* here. If you can afford $4,500/month, you’ve already made it.

    So I figure that attracts people who’ve got the “I got mine, screw you” attitude Rushkoff is talking about.

    But he’s dead wrong about this – . If people once sat on their stoops eating ices on summer nights it was because they had no other choice–there was no air- conditioning and no TV.

    My neighborood has plenty of people who sit on stoops, drinking beer or eating ices. We’ve got the guys with the ice block carts, bells, and tamarind syrup too. Better than the cheap pre-processed crap you get in midtown.

    People set up outside in the warm summer air (or will if we ever get any) and play dominoes. They have illegal BBQs. They play music real loud at odd hours of the night. They shout comments at each other’s opera scales (Inwood has a lot of opera singers!)

    Everyone has AC. We’re not a third world country, or living in the 1940′s. People here like to talk to each other. There’s a *community*. Not just rich white people who have a suburbs mentality. I think that’s a good part of your problem.

    Anyhow, thanks for reformatting.

  59. Takuan says:

    Mac345:

    no.

  60. McLuhanesque says:

    Very nicely written, and very expressive. As I was reading it I couldn’t help but think, “Habermas redux.”

    Seems to me what NYC, at least, and perhaps all of the U.S. needs is a little post-Marxist thought to take the neo-liberal edge off somewhat. Habermas, Gramsci, with a dash of Foucault would just hit the spot. Political economy should be a required subject in business schools, which might then allow some of these ideas of what we’re doing to ourselves to filter through to the general, self-interested public. Either that, or a little of this guy.

  61. eclectro says:

    @AIRSHOWFAN

    Each time one of us shopped at Wal-Mart, bought something manufactured in eastern Asia,

    And since when have any of us had a choice otherwise? This is a book I want to read.

    Also, assuming some personal responsibility generally leads to some sort of morality. And we already know what everyone thinks of the fundies here! Otherwise, a very good post.

  62. misterfricative says:

    Great post! Although in essence I think it’s just elaborating on a point that was made much more succinctly in an earlier article — http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/rushkoff/brand.html

    Couple of other points:

    Invoking fascism seems inaccurate and unhelpful. The OP says that we have ‘succumbed to an ideology that [resembles] mid- twentieth-century fascism’, but heck, from where I’m sitting, ideology doesn’t even come into it. These days, the closest you have is meaningless partisanship garnished with bits and pieces of patriotic, ethnic, cultural, and/or religious PR window dressing. So I think it would be more correct simply to say that the machineries of government are functioning more and more like corporations. And they exist for very similar reasons too, ie to self-perpetuate and to increase their control over their ‘stake holders’.

    @ Airshowfan #30: Yes, I think you are oversimplifying slightly: it’s not that money is the root of all evil, it’s that the *love* of money is the root of all evil. (Timothy 6:10 – the Bible gets it right for once!)

    Lastly — and if I’m wrong, then I’ll be very glad to be corrected by Rushkoff’s book or by anyone/anything else — however good your analysis and however good your proposed solution, no-one — certainly not corporations or the government — is going to be slowing down the metaphorical bus anytime soon to let you get off. If you want off, you have to jump.

    And you know what? I don’t know many people — in fact, except for one mad, brave niece, I don’t think I know anyone, myself included — who’s really willing to do that.

  63. chroma says:

    Ths rtcl scks. It seems to lay the blame for all of today’s human ills (crime, sickness, amorality, ignorance) at the feet of “corporatism”, which it doesn’t even define.

    Your schools suck? Blame corporatism! Your neighbor is an asshole? Corporatism again! The easy-answer crowd will love this one.

    By the way, did you know that book publishers only publish books that they think will make money? And that writers with a proven track record of selling are more likely to get lucrative book deals, thus creating a terrible feedback loop? Horrors!

  64. bridgie says:

    “Everybody wants a better life for themselves (this is the “maximized shareholder value” you refer to, I assume). I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

    Of course, I can’t presume to speak for the author, if you want my definition of “corporatism”, I’d say a big part of it is the neat little trick you just pulled there where you equated “pursuit of happiness” with “pursuit of money”.

  65. rushkoff says:

    I wish I were still in the “left” Mega. This book would not be considered Leftie, but I am intrigued by your perception.

  66. Takuan says:

    well now, imagine that:

    “The financial meltdown may not be punishment for our sins, but it is at least in part the result of our widespread obsession with financial value over values of any other sort. We disconnected ourselves from what matters to us, and grew dependent on a business scheme that was never intended to serve us as people.”

    Sometimes the illusion of money alone is enough to make us discard people. Or even the promise of an illusion.

  67. caesar female says:

    My children are in the NYC public school system, and I have committed subterfuge to enroll them at a better school than the zoned neighborhood option. I would do it again-and I don’t know any parent who would not do the same.

    For one year they attended the zoned school down the block. Both children learned and got along just fine with their peers. However, the despair, the drudgery of the system put in place at the school by the school administration and the government-tightly scheduled blocks of instruction in reading writing and math-only (absolutely no extra learning “frills” like science or music, art) was soul crushing. There was no way for one motivated parent, or even 15 motivated parents to counter this entrenched failure-and we tried. The teachers counselled me to move them to another school. One gave me some pointers on how to do it.

    Am I behaving like a greedy corporatist? Yes-if seizing an opportunity to better my childrens’ future is akin to corporatism and greed. I deprived a local school the opportunity to bore my children to death and turn them off learning as their neighborhood friends are becoming. I gave myself a 3 hour daily commute by subway to deliver and retrieve the kids from school. My kids enjoy the privilege of attending a public school that does what a school is supposed to do. If you had children, I’ll bet you would do the same.

  68. watchout5 says:

    I loved their part about how the whistleblower is all our enemy, because in a way he cries out against the all mighty dollar. Amazing piece, I’m totally going to buy this book.

  69. rushkoff says:

    or did you mean the lefties of the neighborhood? yeah, I suppose it was kind of fascist.

    The whistleblower thing was so extreme, back before the crash. Now a lot of them are the heroes, I suppose, and we’re in more the scapegoat phase.

  70. Avram / Moderator says:

    Rushkoff, I live in Prospect Heights, a short walk from the northern end of the Slope, and and I’m both seeing and not seeing the Slope I’m familiar with in your descriptions.

    On the matter of race, yeah, I’ve long noticed that the racial composition of the people I see shifts as I cross Flatbush Ave.

    But on the matter of public vs private schools, what about PS 321? That’s a public school, and yet local parents fight to get their kids into it.

  71. stubing says:

    Great bit of writing, Rushkoff…
    You got at something I think about a lot. Much of what happens in our world (whether you live in Michigan or Slovakia or Ohio) is justified because at some point wolves might attack. Thoughtfulness and idealism and the common good are luxuries that just can’t be considered when wolves are about to attack. We have to get in line and just accept whatever.
    I agree with you and I say bullshit, too.

  72. buddy66 says:

    “Oh, and fuck your neighbors sideways with a rabid pit bull set on fire”

    Nah. The tune is okay but the lyric is off.

  73. rushkoff says:

    I don’t blame you, Caesar. We’re all in the same situation. Those of us with the ability to leverage what we have to rise above what’s on offer (by almost any means necessary) – particularly for our kids – are obligated to do so. At the same time, we grow aware of how our actions sometimes simultaneously contribute to the underlying problem.

    Yes, I’d do the same. In my case, I moved out of the city altogether. Both a good thing and a bad thing. And that’s why I told the stories in this introduction of all those truly good people who were nonetheless taking steps that went against their better natures, if you will, in order to get by. The woman who has to trick people out of getting insurance reimbursements – or her own job and salary are at stake. The woman who has to buy drugs at Wal-Mart, and so on. They’re not bad. We’re not bad.

    We are behaving in ways that I believe are actually more “greedy” (to use your word) than we really are, because the underlying landscape – the rules of the game – are based in false assumptions about markets and scarcity and centralization and corporatism.

    But it took me a whole book to unpack it in its detail. The excerpt above is an introduction, meant to present the problem – not to lay blame.

    And no, I don’t believe its human nature. There’s a section in the book on Dawkins and the way I believe social evolution has been twisted to support an untrue set of assumptions about human non-cooperation.

    As for #30 posted by airshowfan: yes yes! Of course, yes. That’s why there’s a whole book. It’s much much more complicated than the ten page introduction. But if I went into how complex it was in that introduction, I fear that readers would just throw the book down. I wanted to humanize the problem in the introduction. That’s why I took a very small story about a single little mugging and used it as a symbol or metaphor for something bigger. But it’s not the real story – just my own little touchstone, and what I hoped would be an easy window.

    Please keep the comments coming. This is super-informative for me. I don’t want to overwhelm people, so I’m thinking one real excerpt per week – and then more on my own site (once it’s working).

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