Published on Friday, March 24, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Which Side Are You On?
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Around DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C., you can look at people and hazard a guess as to which side they are on, or will be on.
The corporate state?
Or living, breathing human beings?
So, for example, if you are part of the pretty crowd, hanging in front of the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies -- reading The Economist, sipping a grande latte -- corporate state -- bet on it.
If you are on a bench in DuPont circle, reading The Ecologist, odds are you are, or soon will be, with living, breathing human beings.
In front of us now, sitting side by side, are these two UK publications, both of which have a smattering of influence in the United States.
The first thing that strikes us about the Economist are the corporate ads.
Mercedes Benz, Chevron, Shell, Xerox, Accenture, Boeing, Bayer, ConocoPhillips, Credit Suisse, Acura, Dow (which asks in its ad -- How far do we have to go for pure water? To which we answer -- as far away from a chemical facility as possible.)
Major multinationals. Slick four-color ads. Spouting the corporate line.
The Ecologist too has ads -- MIT Press, Fairtrade, Ecotricity, Worldwatch Institute, Ecover, Surfers Against Sewage -- publishers, public interest groups and alternative energy companies.
There's even a small ad from a group called Devolve that is sponsoring a meeting this month in Oxfordshire, UK titled "Level Three Consciousness."
To get a sense of the meeting -- and in a sense of The Ecologist -- here's the bulk of the ad:
"At Level One we respond as individuals -- giving to charities, recycling and so on.
At Level Two, we realize that the issues are political: we campaign and lobby for governments -- 'them' -- to act on our behalf.
At Level Three we come to understand that 'we' need to learn to act together to be the change. But doing what? Using what wisdom? And how do we find each other?" (www.devolve.org)
So, the Ecologist is saying -- I believe it's you, and together we can make change.
The Economist, on the other hand, says -- don't worry, you can have the best of both worlds.
You can be a corporatist and a liberal.
You can work for the corporate state, sip lattes, drive a Prius, and read, believe and feel good about reading and believing that Slobodan Milosevic was a brute.
The Ecologist comes back with -- if you want to challenge the corporate state, corporate liberalism doesn't cut the mustard.
You'll have to start questioning both how you live your life -- your driving habits, your coffee drinking habits, your eating habits, your bad political habits -- and the distribution of power.
The current issue of The Ecologist runs an article about the London borough of Hackney and how yuppification is changing the neighborhood.
Also a great profile of Al Crisci, a chef at a UK prison.
Crisci cooks wholesome meals for 750 prisoners at the High Down prison, teaches them how to cook from fresh ingredients.
Vegetables -- peppers, lettuce, radishes, chilies, tomatoes, eggplants -- are grown organically on the premises.
And by teaching the inmates how to cook, Crisci helps them qualifying for a possible job in catering when they get out.
Indeed, the cover story on this month's Ecologist is about prison nutrition -- or as the magazine puts it -- "why are governments ignoring the link between poor nutrition and crime?" (Which raises the question -- could it be that Ken Lay ate too many potato chips?)
The Economist likes to portray itself as a liberal person's guide to the markets.
So, take this week's issue: you have a favorable news item on Senator Russ Feingold's push for censure of President Bush, a ripping piece on the government's bungling of the Moussaoui trial, a profile of the resurgent BBC, and a lead editorial calling on PM Bush toadie Tony Blair to step down.
Liberal sentiments are sprinkled throughout the colorful weekly, detailed articles from around the world, book reviews, obits, and in the back, ads for young aspiring corporatists looking to secure their spots -- for example, as senior reconstruction engineer, USAID, Pakistan.
Or this one -- senior writer, Shell. "Supporting the head of editorial services, you'll help develop clear, compelling and consistent written material in a variety of styles for use across a range of internal and external media."
Are we saying -- don't read The Economist?
No. But you don't need to buy it. Consider reading it in a library. Or at a newsstand.
On the other hand, consider subscribing instead to The Ecologist. (www.theecologist.org.)
And cut back on the potato chips.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).
© 2006 Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman