recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : handwashing   3

The Complicated Legacy of Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog” | The New Yorker
"Brand now describes himself as “post-libertarian,” a shift he attributes to a brief stint working with Jerry Brown, during his first term as California’s governor, in the nineteen-seventies, and to books like Michael Lewis’s “The Fifth Risk,” which describes the Trump Administration’s damage to vital federal agencies. “ ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ was very libertarian, but that’s because it was about people in their twenties, and everybody then was reading Robert Heinlein and asserting themselves and all that stuff,” Brand said. “We didn’t know what government did. The whole government apparatus is quite wonderful, and quite crucial. [It] makes me frantic, that it’s being taken away.” A few weeks after our conversation, Brand spoke at a conference, in Prague, hosted by the Ethereum Foundation, which supports an eponymous, open-source, blockchain-based computing platform and cryptocurrency. In his address, he apologized for over-valorizing hackers. “Frankly,” he said, “most of the real engineering was done by people with narrow ties who worked nine to five, often with federal money.”

Brand is nonetheless impressed by the new tech billionaires, and he described two startup founders as “unicorns” who “deserve every penny.” “One of the things I hear from the young innovators in the Bay Area these days is ‘How do you stay creative?’ ” Brand said. “The new crowd has this, in some ways, much more interesting problem of how you be creative, and feel good about the world, and collaborate, and all that stuff, when you have wads of money.” He is excited by their philanthropic efforts. “That never used to happen,” he said. “Philanthropy was something you did when you were retired, and you were working on your legacy, so the money went to the college or opera.”

Brand himself has been the beneficiary of tech’s new philanthropists. His main concern, the Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit focussed on “long-term thinking,” counts Peter Thiel and Pierre Omidyar among its funders. The organization hosts a lecture series, operates a steampunk bar in San Francisco’s Fort Mason, and runs the Revive & Restore project, which aims to make species like the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon “de-extinct.” The Long Now Foundation is also in the process of erecting a gigantic monument to long-term thought, in Western Texas—a clock that will tick, once a year, for a hundred centuries. Jeff Bezos has donated forty-two million dollars to the construction project and owns the land on which the clock is being built. When I first heard about the ten-thousand-year clock, as it is known, it struck me as embodying the contemporary crisis of masculinity. I was not thinking about death.

Although Brand is in good health and is a dedicated CrossFit practitioner, working on long-term projects has offered him useful perspective. “You’re relaxed about your own death, because it’s a blip on the scale you’re talking about,” he said, then quoted Jenny Holzer’s “Truisms,” saying, “Much was decided before you were born.” Brand is concerned about climate change but bullish on the potential of nuclear energy, urbanization, and genetic modification. “I think whatever happens, most of life will keep going,” he said. “The degree to which it’s a nuisance—the degree to which it is an absolutely horrifying, unrelenting problem is what’s being negotiated.” A newfound interest in history has helped to inform this relaxed approach to the future. “It’s been a long hard slog for women. It’s been a long hard slog for people of color. There’s a long way to go,” he said. “And yet you can be surprised by successes. Gay marriage was unthinkable, and then it was the norm. In-vitro fertilization was unthinkable, and then a week later it was the norm. Part of the comfort of the Long Now perspective, and Steven Pinker has done a good job of spelling this out, is how far we’ve come. Aggregate success rate is astonishing.”

As I sat on the couch in my apartment, overheating in the late-afternoon sun, I felt a growing unease that this vision for the future, however soothing, was largely fantasy. For weeks, all I had been able to feel for the future was grief. I pictured woolly mammoths roaming the charred landscape of Northern California and future archeologists discovering the remains of the ten-thousand-year clock in a swamp of nuclear waste. While antagonism between millennials and boomers is a Freudian trope, Brand’s generation will leave behind a frightening, if unintentional, inheritance. My generation, and those after us, are staring down a ravaged environment, eviscerated institutions, and the increasing erosion of democracy. In this context, the long-term view is as seductive as the apolitical, inward turn of the communards from the nineteen-sixties. What a luxury it is to be released from politics––to picture it all panning out."
stewartband  wholeearthcatalog  technosolutionism  technology  libertarianism  2018  annawiener  babyboomers  boomers  millennials  generations  longnow  longnowfoundation  siliconvalley  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  politics  economics  government  time  apathy  apolitical  californianideology  stevenpinker  jennyholzer  change  handwashing  peterthiel  pierreomidyar  bayarea  donaldtrump  michaellewis  jerrybrown  california  us  technolibertarianism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You — Medium
"We are a community branded as leaders living through this revolutionary moment, living through this extreme winning and extreme losing. It falls on us to ask the tough questions about it.

But we here in Aspen are in a bit of a tight spot.

Our deliberations about what to do about this extreme winning and losing are sponsored by the extreme winners. This community was formed by stalwarts of American capitalism; today we sit in spaces named after Pepsi (as in the beverage) and Koch (as in the brothers); our discussion of Martin Luther King and Omelas is sponsored by folks like Accenture, David Rubenstein and someone named Pom; we are deeply enmeshed and invested in the establishment and systems we are supposed to question. And yet we are a community of leaders that claims to seek justice. These identities are tricky to reconcile.

Today I want to challenge how we reconcile them. There is no consensus on anything here, as any seminar participant knows. But I believe that many of our discussions operate within what I will call the “Aspen Consensus,” which, like the “Washington Consensus” or “Beijing Consensus,” describes a nest of shared assumptions within which diverse ideas hatch. The “Aspen Consensus” demarcates what we mostly agree not to question, even as we question so much. And though I call it the Aspen Consensus, it is in many ways the prevailing ethic among the winners of our age worldwide, across business, government and even nonprofits.

The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this: the winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm.

The Aspen Consensus holds that capitalism’s rough edges must be sanded and its surplus fruit shared, but the underlying system must never be questioned.

The Aspen Consensus says, “Give back,” which is of course a compassionate and noble thing. But, amid the $20 million second homes and $4,000 parkas of Aspen, it is gauche to observe that giving back is also a Band-Aid that winners stick onto the system that has privileged them, in the conscious or subconscious hope that it will forestall major surgery to that system — surgery that might threaten their privileges.

The Aspen Consensus, I believe, tries to market the idea of generosity as a substitute for the idea of justice. It says: make money in all the usual ways, and then give some back through a foundation, or factor in social impact, or add a second or third bottom line to your analysis, or give a left sock to the poor for every right sock you sell.

The Aspen Consensus says, “Do more good” — not “Do less harm.”

I want to sow the seed of a difficult conversation today about this Aspen Consensus. Because I love this community, and I fear for all of us — myself very much included — that we may not be as virtuous as we think we are, that history may not be as kind to us as we hope it will, that in the final analysis our role in the inequities of our age may not be remembered well.

This may sound strange at first, because the winners of our disruptive age are arguably as concerned about the plight of the losers as any elite in human history. But the question I’m raising is about what the winners propose to do in response. And I believe the winners’ response, certainly not always but still too often, is to soften the blows of the system but to preserve the system at any cost. This response is problematic. It keeps the winners too safe. It allows far too many of us to evade hard questions about our role in contributing to the disease we also seek to treat."



"Now, a significant minority of us here don’t work in business. Yet even in other sectors, we’re living in an age in which the assumptions and values of business are more influential than they ought to be. Our culture has turned businessmen and -women into philosophers, revolutionaries, social activists, saviors of the poor. We are at risk of forgetting other languages of human progress: of morality, of democracy, of solidarity, of decency, of justice.

Sometimes we succumb to the seductive Davos dogma that the business approach is the only thing that can change the world, in the face of so much historical evidence to the contrary.

And so when the winners of our age answer the problem of inequality and injustice, all too often they answer it within the logic and frameworks of business and markets. We talk a lot about giving back, profit-sharing, win-wins, social-impact investing, triple bottom lines (which, by the way, are something my four-month-old son has).

Sometimes I wonder whether these various forms of giving back have become to our era what the papal indulgence was to the Middle Ages: a relatively inexpensive way of getting oneself seemingly on the right of justice, without having to alter the fundamentals of one’s life.

Because when you give back, when you have a side foundation, a side CSR project, a side social-impact fund, you gain an exemption from more rigorous scrutiny. You helped 100 poor kids in the ghetto learn how to code. The indulgence spares you from questions about the larger systems and structures you sustain that benefit you and punish others: weak banking regulations and labor laws, zoning rules that happen to keep the poor far from your neighborhood, porous safety nets, the enduring and unrepaired legacies of slavery and racial supremacy and caste systems.

These systems and structures have victims, and we here are at risk, I think, of confusing generosity toward those victims with justice for those victims. For generosity is a win-win, but justice often is not. The winners of our age don’t enjoy the idea that some of them might actually have to lose, to sacrifice, for justice to be done. In Aspen you don’t hear a lot of ideas involving the privileged and powerful actually being in the wrong, and needing to surrender their status and position for the sake of justice.

We talk a lot here about giving more. We don’t talk about taking less.

We talk a lot here about what we should be doing more of. We don’t talk about what we should be doing less of.

I think sometimes that our Aspen Consensus has an underdeveloped sense of human darkness. There is risk in too much positivity. Sometimes to do right by people, you must begin by naming who is in the wrong.

So let’s just come out and say the thing you’re never supposed to say in Aspen: that many of the winners of our age are active, vigorous contributors to the problems they bravely seek to solve. And for the greater good to prevail on any number of issues, some people will have to lose — to actually do less harm, and not merely more good.

We know that enlightened capital didn’t get rid of the slave trade. Impact investing didn’t abolish child labor and put fire escapes on tenement factories. Drug makers didn’t stop slipping antifreeze into medicine as part of a CSR initiative. In each of these cases, the interests of the many had to defeat the interests of the recalcitrant few.

Look, I know this speech won’t make me popular at the bar tonight. But this, for me, is an act of stepping into the arena — something our wonderful teacher-moderators challenged us to do.

I know many of you agree with me already, because we have bonded for years over a shared feeling that something in this extraordinary community didn’t feel quite right. There are many others who, instead of criticizing as I do, are living rejections of this Aspen Consensus — quitting lucrative lives, risking everything, to fight the system. You awe me: you who battle for gay rights in India, who live ardently among the rural poor in South Africa, who risk assassination or worse to report news of corruption.

I am not speaking to you tonight, and I know there are many of you. I am speaking to those who, like me, may feel caught between the ideals championed by this Institute and the self-protective instinct that is always the reflex of people with much to lose.

I am as guilty as anyone. I am part of the wave of gentrification and displacement in Brooklyn, one of the most rapidly gentrifying places in America. Any success I’ve had can be traced to my excellent choice in parents and their ability to afford incredibly expensive private schools. I like good wine. I use Uber — a lot. I once stole playing cards from a private plane. I want my new son to have everything I can give him, even though I know that this is the beginning of the inequality I loathe.

I often wonder if what I do — writing — is capable of making any difference.

When I entered this fellowship, I was so taken with that summons to make a difference. But, to be honest, I have also always had a complicated relationship to this place.

I have heard too many of us talking of how only after the IPO or the next few million will we feel our kids have security. These inflated notions of what it takes to “make a living” and “support a family” are the beginning of so much neglect of our larger human family.

I walk into too many rooms named for people and companies that don’t mean well for the world, and then in those rooms we talk and talk about making the world better.

I struggled in particular with the project. I couldn’t figure out what bothered me about it for the longest time. I wasn’t very good at coming up with one or getting it done.

And I realized, through conversation with fellows in similar dilemmas, what my problem was. Many people, including some being featured later tonight, are engaged in truly extraordinary and commendable projects. We are at our best when our projects take the system head on. But I wrestled with what I perceived to be the idea behind the project, of creating generous side endeavors rather than fighting to reform, bite by bite, the hands that feed us. I felt the project distracted us from the real question: is your regular life — not your side project — on the right side … [more]
anandgiridharadas  capitalism  change  cooperation  aspeninstitute  philanthropy  climatechange  inequality  virtue  competition  inequity  elitism  power  systemschange  privilege  finance  wealth  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  wealthdistribution  davos  riggedgames  goldmansachs  indulgence  handwashing  via:tealtan  risk  stackeddecks  labor  employment  disruption  work  civics  commongood  abstraction  business  corporatism  corporations  taxes  government  socialgood  virtualization  economics  politics  policy  speculation  democracy  solidarity  socialjustice  neoliberalism  well-being  decency  egalitarianism  community  indulgences  noblesseoblige  absolution  racism  castes  leadership  generosity  sacrifice  gambling  gender  race  sexism  emotionallabor  positivity  slavery  socialsafetnet  winwin  zerosum  gentrification  stewardship  paradigmshifts  charitableindustrialcomplex  control 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Nike’s Girl Effect | Al Jazeera America
"The sportswear brand Nike talks a big game about how economically empowered adolescent girls are the most potent weapon against poverty. The rationale behind the girl effect theory is that teen girls have the unique potential to stop poverty before it starts. As a Nike Foundation video explains, the answer to poverty should not be sought in government but in the earning power of impoverished adolescents.

This optimistic idea has been making the rounds since Maria Eitel launched the concept in her position at the helm of the Nike Foundation in 2008. Once a special assistant for media affairs for President George H.W. Bush, Eitel has become the world’s leading authority on poverty reduction and gender equality. Even President Barack Obama has called her a pioneer in her field.

By funding and partnering with some of the world’s most influential nongovernmental organizations and institutions — including USAID, Britain’s Department for Internal Development, the World Bank and the United Nations — and promoting the theory on The Huffington Post and The Guardian, Eitel has turned the girl effect into common development sense. Today millions of dollars of development aid and corporate social responsibility budgets are spent on programs that implement girl effect principles, many of them in Africa. They’re rooted in Eitel’s belief that the world's biggest problems need to be tackled by young entrepreneurs who should keep existing systems intact and improve them from within.

The problem is that the girl effect is a myth. In fact, it funnels girls and the NGOs that work for social change into a web of corporate dependency and away from the awareness and human rights education they need to challenge the issues that fuel poverty.

Invisible girls

Girls, the story goes, are invisible, undervalued by their families and not yet recognized as economic actors. What makes them unique is that, compared with their allegedly more selfish brothers, educated girls reinvest nearly three times as much of their income into their communities and are willing to pay for their family’s medical bills and school fees and, eventually, drive their countries’ economic growth.

Eitel and her movement insist that helping girls become economically productive is smart economics and a matter of human rights. The girl effect’s economic empowerment principles promote financial literacy education, business development training and access to credit and savings accounts.

However, there are significant blind spots in this program. Girls will never learn that tax evasion — which more and more development experts and women’s rights advocates recognize as one of the most destructive forces of corruption, exploitation and theft — is directly responsible for high levels of poverty, low education budgets and inadequate health services, particularly among women and girls. Corporations are widely seen as the main culprits here (and many NGOs say that if companies want to solve poverty, they should begin by paying income tax) because they often manipulate profits, pressure poor governments to grant them tax breaks and channel these untaxed profits to havens abroad.

Africa has the highest proportion of (private) assets held abroad, which is why some critics want to force corporations and other elites to pay their fair share. Contrary to Eitel, they believe that governments are best equipped to fix this injustice and that it is the responsibility of the state to provide health care and education.

Nike and Eitel can’t possibly be unaware of the unique potential of corporations to unleash such a tax effect. They have a rich history of abusing loopholes and tax holidays abroad and in the U.S. Without such tax strategies, it’s unlikely that Nike could have made $27.8 billion in revenue last year.

Self-empowerment

Labor rights and living wages aren’t addressed in the foundation’s girl effect program either. Nike’s supply chain vividly illustrates how labor rights training can boost women’s quality of life.

In the 1980s, it was largely due to the efforts of the Korean Women Workers Association that employees of Nike’s partner factories pushed up their wages, as women’s studies professor Cynthia Enloe wrote in her 2004 book “The Curious Feminist.” Nike and its contractors retaliated by moving much of their business to China and Indonesia, where wages were lower and workers were less likely to organize.

More recent studies suggest that high levels of labor rights awareness also helped thousands of Vietnamese Nike workers win better wages. Even though most of these workers still make less than the living wage and fare worse than their colleagues in state-led enterprises, without labor rights awareness, we probably wouldn’t have seen the five-year strike wave that spread across large factories in Vietnam from 2006 to 2011.

Instructing girls to pay for their families’ health and education with micro credit and pushing entrepreneurship and saving schemes on them without teaching them about living wages, labor rights and their rights to social services let governments off the hook.

That’s why the girl effect is a corporate fable that keeps the system intact, turns girls into consumers, expands market power and diffuses blame.

To Eitel’s credit, the stereotypical unproductive girl is no longer invisible. Development elites are talking about her and pressuring NGOs to use Nike’s playbook to save her from her fate for the benefit of all.

Less visible are the corporate practices and untaxed offshore assets that impoverish people all around the world. The woman who has, as a result, fallen off the activist and media radars is the woman whose cheap labor pays for Eitel’s salary and her philanthropic ventures. Unlike 20 years ago, very few global women's groups are talking about her.

Coincidence? Perhaps. It is nonetheless instructive to note that in 2011, two PR strategists who analyzed Nike’s communication strategies suggested that Eitel’s most important duty, after joining Nike in 1998, was to “reposition the company to the emotionally charged sweatshop controversy” by engaging with the media and with the lot of poor women in developing countries.

To protect Nike’s brand equity (after the anti-sweatshop campaigns), they argued, Eitel and her team emphasized “the company’s commitment to economically empowering individual women in underdeveloped countries and thus to respond indirectly to charges that it routinely tolerates the violation of its Asian female workers’ human rights.”

The girl effect addresses critical issues such as reproductive health, child marriage and access to school. Still, the dogmatic assumptions about female liberation on which it rests remain flawed. Girls are citizens, not consumers or entrepreneurs. Their equality should not rely on business logic, and the work of NGOs should not be constrained by the agendas of media-savvy corporations. If the conversation on women and poverty would talk less about whose investments pay off and more about who needs to pay up, we might finally see some substantial change."
nike  gender  mariahengeveld  girleffect  girls  women  systems  systemsthinking  2015  consumerism  citizenship  corporatism  poverty  policy  politics  economics  labor  laborrights  microcredit  cynthiaenloe  mariaeitel  equality  inequality  ngos  socialchange  invisibility  nikefoundation  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  greenwashing  handwashing  misinformation  propaganda  charitableindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
july 2015 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read