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Marques & Sparks

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  • Clore Daniel C
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://www.egroups.com/group/smygo Saturday, December 9, 2000 Marques & sparks It s time to confront the corporations for
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 10, 2000
      News for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://www.egroups.com/group/smygo

      Saturday, December 9, 2000

      Marques & sparks

      It's time to confront the corporations for which peddling
      brands has taken over from selling products, anti-corporate
      campaigner Naomi Klein tells Mary Fitzgerald

      The Irish Times

      RETAIL THERAPY: Amid the frenzy of your Christmas shopping,
      are you aware of the trimmings? Do you even notice when your
      shopping-list specifies Nike Airs, not just runners, or
      Tommy Hilfigger shades, not just sunglasses?

      And in this maelstrom of shopping frenzy, did you notice a
      certain stilling of the tills for International Buy Nothing
      Day? Probably not.

      Nonetheless, a dedicated band of activists in Ireland, and
      in places such as the US, Spain and the UK challenged our
      shop-till-you-drop culture by asking us not to shop for one
      day, November 25th. On the streets of Dublin and Galway they
      set up information stands and handed out leaflets to
      shoppers in an example of the growing anti-corporate
      movement which, buoyed by the Internet, is spreading all
      over the world uniting such seemingly disparate strands as
      anti-roads activists like the Glen of the Downs protesters,
      Reclaim the Streets in Britain, Indian farmers campaigning
      against genetically modified crops, indigenous rights groups
      such as the Zapatistas in Mexico and the anti-sweatshop
      movement in the US.

      Naomi Klein, a 30-year-old Canadian writer, has been hailed
      as one of the leaders of this rising international current
      of anti-corporate feeling, what she terms "the next big
      political movement - and the first genuinely international
      people's movement". Klein's book, No Logo, published this
      year, has been dubbed "the Das Kapital of the growing
      anti-corporate movement" for its damning indictment of an
      increasingly branded world.

      Charting the backlash against corporations and the brands
      they peddle, No Logo has inspired an increasingly
      politicised generation of twenty- and thirtysomethings, whom
      Klein tags "Generation Why", to question corporate power and
      attempt to reclaim that power for themselves. The book
      inspired the band Radiohead to ban corporate advertising
      from their UK tour.

      In London to speak at the V&A Brand New exhibition, which
      examines the phenomenon of the brand, Klein is concerned at
      the media perception of her as a leader within the
      anti-corporate movement. "I'm uncomfortable with the idea of
      being the face of the protest," she says. "I believe one of
      the strengths of this movement is that it is rightly
      suspicious of leaders and it doesn't have that kind of cult
      of personality leadership; in fact it has chosen not to have
      leaders like that."

      Klein concedes she is viewed by the media as the acceptable
      face of an often misunderstood movement. It's a movement
      which only gets press attention when protesters throw a
      brick through the windows of McDonalds or clash with police,
      as happened at demonstrations in Seattle and Prague. "I know
      I am that respectable face but I am not the only one who
      plays that role," she says, "This movement is not just a
      bunch of kids with rings in their noses. That's only one
      aspect of the movement. It also involves international trade
      lawyers who are dissecting the WTO and political leaders and
      leaders of NGOs and human rights groups who are just not
      included in this debate and don't get on television and
      don't get interviewed very often.

      "Nobody is going to write the bible of this movement, there
      is no Das Kapital of this movement, which makes it something
      I would actually want to be part of."

      The latter half of the 20th-century witnessed the global
      onslaught of the brand. Streets from Dublin to Moscow, Tel
      Aviv to Buenos Aires bathe in the glow of McDonalds's
      ubiquitous golden arches while Coca Cola's advertisements
      portray it less as a sweet, fizzy drink, more a symbol of
      global unity.

      The central thesis of No Logo revolves on what Klein sees as
      a seismic shift in the corporate world, occurring when
      corporations changed from selling products to selling
      brands. In a form of latter day alchemy, corporations, free
      from the grubby business of actually manufacturing products,
      concentrate on developing their brand as an elusive,
      intangible blend of aspiration, dreams and meaning.

      Klein documents how ideas of freedom and democracy and the
      identity politics of feminism, race, ethnicity and gender
      have been hijacked by marketing and turned into little more
      than slick sales patter wrapped up in the guise of warm,
      fuzzy meaning. Racial harmony sells woolly jumpers for
      Benetton. Polaroid executives see their brand not as a
      camera but a "social lubricant". Nike adverts proclaim high
      heels to be a conspiracy against women. Gandhi, Einstein and
      the Dalai Lama are appropriated by Macintosh to convince us
      that if we buy an Apple Mac we too can "think different".

      Klein feels that today's I-shop-therefore-I-am culture
      points at deeper failings within society: "I think the
      success of the brands is about our failure as a society to
      speak powerfully in the language of ideas. It's about the
      retreat of our politicians and intellectuals. People are
      drawn to these brands because they are selling their own
      ideas back to them, they are selling the most powerful ideas
      that we have in our culture such as transcendence and
      community - even democracy itself, these are all brand
      meanings now."

      Hidden behind the glossy veneer of the brand is the hard
      reality of the manufacturing process. The trend for
      out-sourcing, whereby production is transferred to
      subcontractors, usually in Third World free trade zones,
      resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in Europe and the
      US. Nike and Gap are just two of the companies which have
      been accused of exploiting sweatshop labour in Asia and
      Central America. In much of the West, corporations keep
      overheads down by employing low-paid, no-benefit workers on
      temporary contracts.

      There is a growing awareness of this disparity between the
      shiny brand image and the murky truth of manufacturing. This
      awareness, coupled with a growing disillusionment with the
      rampant corporate colonisation of ideas and physical space
      is, Klein believes, fuelling the anti-corporate backlash in
      a generation often dismissed as apathetic and apolitical.
      "What shocked me was meeting a new generation of activists
      who grew up with this as their culture, a generation who
      have been written off as beyond hope," she says, "They are
      longing for something else and when you see this happening
      in North America, in the most consumerist culture where kids
      grow up with ads in their classrooms and logos everywhere,
      when they start reclaiming space, space they never had, I
      think that is great reason for hope.

      "Here is this new generation who have seen the Havels and
      the Nelson Mandelas take power and have their economies lose
      control to the IMF. They are trying to get to the deeper
      roots of injustice and power relations, they are questioning
      structures more deeply than just saying we have to get our
      representative into office and then everything will be OK."

      The anti-corporate movement, which Klein has described as
      "an amalgam of environmentalism, anti-capitalism, anarchy
      and the kitchen sink", has been criticised for its apparent
      lack of a unifying vision, seeming more like an incoherent
      mish-mash of ideologies, aims and objectives with no defined
      leadership.

      Klein points out a fundamental unity of vision within the
      movement: "What unites this movement more than anything
      else, and what unites people like the anarchists in Italy
      and Reclaim the Streets and the Zapatistas and the Indian
      farmers who are burning genetically engineered Monsanto
      crops, is first the spirit of reclaiming space and the idea
      of self-determination and also the idea that we can say no
      to the centralisation of power which is happening all over
      the world, the fact that power is moving everywhere to
      points and further away from our communities whether that is
      the WTO or the World Bank or the IMF or our own
      governments."

      It goes beyond simply a question of choosing what things to
      buy, she says. "I think it is more about thinking about the
      role buying plays in our lives. I think it is more important
      not to get hung up on which brand is more ethical than
      others but to think about the whole way we approach shopping
      as entertainment, as a holiday, as being our main political
      sphere.

      "Personally, I don't respond well to people telling me what
      to buy and what's right and what's wrong about my lifestyle.
      I think it is much more positive to say you can be part of a
      movement and try to destigmatise activism. So many people
      say to me: `You know, I really agree with what you are
      saying but I'm not an activist so what can I do?' and I say
      to them: `Well, if you're not an activist there isn't much
      you can do.' "We must say to ourselves that it's not OK not
      to get involved in activism. We are citizens, we are human
      beings in the world, we are more than just shoppers and we
      are going nowhere if we can't reclaim that part of
      ourselves."

      No Logo by Naomi Klein is published by Flamingo at £14.99 in
      UK

      --
      ---------------------------------------------------
      Dan Clore

      The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
      http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/index.html
      The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
      http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/necpage.htm

      "Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
      zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
      not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
      Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
      and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
      night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
      &c., &c.,"
      -- The Book of Dzyan.
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