Washington Free Press  Washington State's Independent Journal of News, Ideas & Culture
home |  subscribe/donate |  article archive |  issue archive |  organization |  volunteer/submit |  activism calendar |  contact us
CLIMATE      SPORTS      SUBSTANCES      RIGHT BRAIN      MEDIA      TRUTH      LIES      MILITARY      HEALTH      BUSINESS      POETRY      TRANSPORTATION      IMMIGRATION      WORKPLACE      ELECTIONS      WORLD      TECHNOLOGY      POLITICS      ENERGY      EDUCATION      AROUND WASHINGTON      ENVIRONMENT      CULTURE      WAR      ECONOMY      HISTORY      RIGHTS      LAW      ACTIVISM      MEDICINE      MARIJUANA      SEATTLE      CARTOONS      WASHINGTON      VACCINES      TACOMA      GENETIC ENGINEERING      CORPORATIONS      FLUORIDATION      WIRELESS RADIATION      MINOR PARTIES      SPOKANE      CLIMATE      SPORTS      SUBSTANCES      RIGHT BRAIN      MEDIA      TRUTH      LIES      MILITARY      HEALTH      BUSINESS      POETRY      TRANSPORTATION      IMMIGRATION      WORKPLACE      ELECTIONS      WORLD      TECHNOLOGY      POLITICS      ENERGY      EDUCATION      AROUND WASHINGTON      ENVIRONMENT      CULTURE      WAR      ECONOMY      HISTORY      RIGHTS      LAW      ACTIVISM      MEDICINE      MARIJUANA      SEATTLE      CARTOONS      WASHINGTON      VACCINES      TACOMA      GENETIC ENGINEERING      CORPORATIONS      FLUORIDATION      WIRELESS RADIATION      MINOR PARTIES      SPOKANE     
search WFP via Google
PEACE & JUSTICE CALENDAR
compiled by
Jean Buskin

November
December
January
All Months


Cartoons of
Dan McConnell

featuring
Tiny the Worm


Cartoons of
David Logan

The People's Comic


Cartoons of
John Jonik

Inking Truth to Power

Latest Posts
click topics to search past content

MILITARY

Former US Attorney General Testifies for Plowshares Activists Ramsey Clark supports WA anti-nuke movement Ground Zero Center (Nov 28, 2010)

HEALTH

Hunger Up 36% in Washington State from Children's Alliance, cartoon by John Ambrosavage (Nov 28, 2010)

POLITICS

The Progressive Tea Party? Maybe when it comes to surveillance issues Doug Collins, cartoon by Dan McConnell (Nov 28, 2010)
Obama Wooing 'Economic Royalists' FDR was way gutsier Norman Solomon, cartoon by David Logan (Nov 28, 2010)

SUBSTANCES

The Dirty Secret Behind 'Demon Tobacco' Regulation doesn't cover cigarette additives Doug Collins, cartoons by John Jonik (Nov 28, 2010)

EDUCATION

America’s Education Gender Gap Bill Costello, cartoon by John Ambrosavage (Nov 28, 2010)

ELECTIONS

Washington State Votes Against Change Janice Van Cleve, cartoon by Dan McConnell (Nov 28, 2010)

FOLLOW FILE updates

DeCourseys v. Real Estate Giant; Amazon Prevails in Customer Privacy Doug Collins, cartoon by John Ambrosavage (Nov 28, 2010)

ENVIRONMENT

Poll: Southwest WA Supports Conservation Climate Solutions, cartoon by John Jonik (Nov 28, 2010)

CULTURE

What Color Is Your Santa? holiday cartoons by John Ambrosavage (Nov 28, 2010)

MEDICINE

WA Doctors Tell McKenna: Put Patients Before Politics Doctors for America (Oct 25, 2010)

ACTIVISM

No, Higher Consciousness Won’t Save Us Charles Reich got his second book right Norman Solomon (Oct 23, 2010)

LAW

Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons in WA ACLU of WA, with cartoon by John Jonik (Oct 23, 2010)

RIGHTS

Report: Racial Profiling Pervasive Across America OneAmerica (Oct 23, 2010)

WORLD

Port Townsend Food Co-op Rejects Israel Boycott Jefferson County BDS, cartoon by George Jartos (Oct 23, 2010)

HISTORY

A Bellhop in the Swingin' Seventies Overly detailed resume plus cartoon by John Ambrosavage (Oct 20, 2010)
Johnny Horizon's Draft Physical Can he avoid Vietnam? John Merriam (Oct 20, 2010)

AROUND WASHINGTON

Gregoire passes the hatchet; Bears love garbage; Where does the PUD travel to? featuring cartoons by Dan McConnell (Oct 20, 2010)

ECONOMY

Now's the Time to Expand Social Security Good for both Americans and American companies Steven Hill (Sept 9, 2010)

WAR

Obama's Speech for Endless War Normon Solomon, cartoon by Dan McConnell (Sept 9, 2010)

ENERGY

Yellowstone: The #1 National Security Threat Unless we turn Wyoming into a new energy Mecca Martin Nix (Sept 9, 2010)

TECHNOLOGY

Biodefense, Biolabs and Bugs Seattle City Council takes an important first step to safety Labwatch.org (Aug 9, 2010)

WORKPLACE

Teenage Microsoft Sweatshop 15-hour shifts under poor conditions at Chinese factory from the National Labor Committee (May 16, 2010)

IMMIGRATION

Why US Immigration Policy Needs Tweaking Bill Costello, cartoon by David Logan (May 16, 2010)
Arizona Immigration Brouhaha Various opinions from near and far, cartoons by Logan and McConnell (May 2, 2010)

TRANSPORTATION

The Coming Microcar Revolution Martin Nix (May 16, 2010)

POETRY

A Poetic Look at Tacoma Glass Art Museum; a limer-ICK Gerald McBreen (Mar 28, 2010)
Fall Is For Falling Out Of Love, etc. three poems Bob Markey (Mar 29, 2010)

BUSINESS

Who Rules America? Corporate conglomeration is leading to neofeudalism Don Monkerud, cartoon by John Jonik (Mar 27, 2010)

TRUTH

Architects and Engineers Ask for New Look at 9/11 Doug Collins (Feb 20, 2010)

MEDIA

Is Olympic Coverage Sexist? Media coverage rarely gives women equal treatment Univ. of Alberta (Jan 24, 2010)

RIGHT BRAIN

Why I Don't Come at Christmas Anymore not-so-jolly Saint Nick (Dec 18, 2009) Santa Gets Political art by Ambrosavage, Lande, and Dees (Dec 17, 2009)

SPORTS

A People's History of Sports BOOK REVIEW Doreen McGrath (posted July 24, 2009)

CLIMATE

Cashing In On Earth's Cycles: Part 3 Alan Cheetham & Richard Kirby (posted July 24, 2009)
Obama: How Serious About Climate Change? Doug Collins (posted July 24, 2009)


What is the Washington Free Press?

The Washington Free Press exists to carry under-reported news and thought-provoking opinion out to a wider audience. We specialize in news related to Washington State. In order to get the news out, we need your readership and support for basic costs. That's why we ask you to please subscribe and/or donate. If you would like to help us with writing, editing, or "scouting" for writers and articles, please contact us.

Doug Collins, editor

Support the WA Free Press. Community journalism needs your readership and support. Please subscribe and/or donate.


article below posted October 23, 2010    Bookmark and Share
No, Higher Consciousness Won’t Save Us

By Norman Solomon

Autumn 2010 is a time of disillusionment for many who deplore the USA’s current political trajectory. Some who’ve been active for progressive causes are now gravitating toward hope that individual actions—in tandem with higher consciousness, more down-to-earth lifestyles and healthy cultural alternatives—can succeed where social activism has failed. It’s an old story that is also new.

From economic inequities to global warming to war, the nation’s power centers have repulsed those who recognize the urgency of confronting such crises head-on. High unemployment has become the new normal. Top officials in Washington have taken a dive on climate change. The warfare state is going great guns.

When social movements seem to be no match for a destructive status quo, people are apt to look around for alternative strategies. One of the big ones involves pursuing individual transformations as keys to social change. Forty years ago, such an approach became all the rage—boosted by a long essay that made a huge splash in The New Yorker magazine just before a longer version became a smash bestseller.

The book was “The Greening of America,” by a Yale University Law School teacher named Charles Reich. In the early fall of 1970, it created a sensation. Today, let’s consider it as a distant mirror that reflects some similar present-day illusions.

On the front cover of “The Greening of America,” big type proclaimed: “There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act.”

Charles Reich got it right the second book.



That autumn, I was upbeat about Reich’s new book—including its great enthusiasm for “the revolution of the new generation.” (Hey, that was me and my friends!) The book condemned the war, denounced the overcapitalized Corporate State, panned the rigidity of schools, lauded the sensuality that marijuana was aiding, and dismissed as pathetically venal the liberalism that had driven the country to war in Vietnam.

At the time, I scarcely picked up on the fact that “The Greening of America” was purposely nonpolitical. Its crux was personal and cultural liberation—in a word, “consciousness,” which “plays the key role in the shaping of society.” And so, “The revolution must be cultural. For culture controls the economic and political machine, not vice versa.” In effect, the author maintained, culture would be a silver bullet, able to bring down the otherwise intractable death machine.

Let’s freeze frame those two dreamy claims and mull them over. Consciousness “plays the key role in the shaping of society.” And culture “controls the economic and political machine, not vice versa.”

Reich combined those outsize tributes to “consciousness” and “culture” with disdain for some plodding struggles. “The political activists have had their day and have been given their chance,” he wrote. “They ask for still more activism, still more dedication, still more self-sacrifice, believing more of the same bad medicine is needed, saying their cure has not yet been tested. It is time to realize that this form of activism merely affirms the State. Must we wait for fascism before we realize that political activism has failed?”

In his 1970 book, Reich laid it on the line: “The great error of our times has been the belief in structural or institutional solutions. The enemy is within each of us; so long as that is true, one structure is as bad as another.” And Reich added a fanciful theory of “liberation” that would leave behind the corporate liberal constraints of the era.

Liberation, he wrote, “comes into being the moment the individual frees himself from automatic acceptance of the imperatives of society and the false consciousness which society imposes.” His optimism sprang from the belief that “the whole Corporate State rests upon nothing but consciousness. When consciousness changes, its soldiers will refuse to fight, its police will rebel, its bureaucrats will stop their work, its jailers will open the bars. Nothing can stop the power of consciousness.”

Fast forward a quarter century.

In 1995, the same Charles Reich was out with another book—“Opposing the System”—his first in two decades. Gone were the claims that meaningful structural change would come only as a final step after people got their heads and culture together. Instead, the book focused on the melded power of huge corporations and the US government.

Reich’s new book was as ignored as “The Greening of America” had been ballyhooed; no high-profile excerpt in The New Yorker or any other magazine, scant publicity, and not even faint controversy. Few media outlets bothered to review “Opposing the System.” A notable exception, the New York Times, trashed the book.

In his 1995 book, Reich challenged what he called “the System”—“a merger of governmental, corporate, and media power into a managerial entity more powerful by reason of technology, organization, and control of livelihood than any previously known form of rule.” Reich astutely noted that “we deny and repress the fact of corporate governmental power,” and he pointed out: “There will be no relief from either economic insecurity or human breakdown until we recognize that uncontrolled economic forces create conflict, not well-being.”

In sharp contrast to his flat assertion a quarter century earlier that “the whole Corporate State rests upon nothing but consciousness,” Reich now emphasized the egregious imbalances of financial power: “It is economic deprivation that comes first, dysfunctional behavior second, in the true cause-and-effect sequence.”

The author saw a much fuller social context for the yearning and euphoria that had animated “The Greening of America” and the era it celebrated to excess in 1970. Far wiser in 1995, he wrote: “Most of the important things in life, the things we truly desire, such as love, joy, and beauty, lie in a realm beyond the economic. What we do not recognize is how economics has become the destroyer of our hopes. It is economic tyranny that cuts off our view of a better future.”

Today, even more, we live in a time of economic tyranny. The mantra of “hope” has proven hollow when directed toward a political leader; some react to disappointment by pinning their hopes on individual consciousness or cultural transformations. But deep patterns of economic predation, ecological destruction and endless warfare cannot be effectively undermined by transcendent consciousness or cultural radicalism. Realistic hope is not in a political star or in the mere transformation of our individual selves. Our best strategies and our futures are bound together with political engagement that embraces all of humanity.

Norman Solomon is the author of many books including “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.” This article is adapted from portions of that book. For information, go to www.normansolomon.com.


Bookmark and Share

Comments (3)

Please keep comments polite and related to the above page.



#1 - Fred - 10/25/2010 - 11:24
The point of the above is well taken, but I think that the diff. between the two books is really that of short-term and long-term change. The argument of "Greening"--that true change comes from pervasive cultural shifts--is still true, I think.

#2 - バーバリー - 08/06/2013 - 02:48
Truly nice and well written article. The ideas are strongly pointed out and clearly emphasized. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas on this one. You write about this topic very well. I really enjoy reading your blog and I will definetly bookmark it! Keep up the interesting posts. バーバリー http://www.fetang.com/

#3 - post - 05/15/2016 - 01:26
Amazing post

Name
E-mail (Will not appear online)
Comment
This comment form is powered by GentleSource Comment Script. It can be included in PHP or HTML files and allows visitors to leave comments on the website.