Today, starting with the first of three field research interviews this month, I start with an introduction in order to ask a question, “When I was young, I wanted to look older. Now that I’m older, I want to look young. Why does it feel so good to have someone tell me, ‘Oh my, you look so young’?” For an interview question, it’s terribly worded, not particularly efficient in getting my point across; however, all six women agree immediately with a resounding, “It’s cultural.” So my next thought is, can we ever move beyond our culture?
In The Rebel Sell, Heath and Potter try to tease apart the cultural and sociological underpinnings of the present day economic impact within our society. Speaking to anti-capitalists first, the authors hope to convey that the antics of the counter-culture (i.e. Occupy Wall Street of the 00s, Hippies of the 60s) are simply another example of moving the counter to the center of culture. “Bohemianism and Business” actually have compatible interests, trying to dress the entrepreneur spirit of manifest destiny into a different outfit, but with the same principals nonetheless. The central ideology for capitalists and anti-capitalists focuses on wanting to be cool. Neither of them would agree with the other. Anti-capitalists would say their “coolness” is in rebellion and nonconformity whereas the Capitalist would say it’s in individuality and personal choice. But these desires come from the same root system of the sale tactic (whether economic or ideological) that transitions from selling to people what they need to selling them what is distinctive.
What I enjoy most in the authors’ approach is their satirical, in-your-face narrative that perturbs everyone, both sides, liberal-conservative, right-left, capitalist-socialist, in the process. Their goal is not to provide a formula, nor an affirmation of what works on either side. Rather, they overturn what anti-capitalists and capitalists hold onto in order to prove their point. By uncovering reality, what strikes me is a possible and needed response in our bondage to culture, as illustrated by the women today in my interview. The answer doesn’t line up with one particular dogma, or party line, or economic dictate. To disentangle cultural assumptions from the way we hope and desire to function in life requires a willingness to address the sacred cows of each “side.”
In another text, The Devil You Don’t Know (Louis J. Cameli), he speaks of how Satan easily deceives us of evil in this world by causing division. Sadly, Satan subtly steers us away from honest conversation with people with whom we agree and disagree. We no longer have safe places to work towards solutions economically, sociologically, spiritually, to name a few arenas. Division creates chasms that break apart opportunities to address true evil as sides find less and less in common, and more and more discord. Unfortunately, the conversations to find answers never occur which ironically are the very changes that both anti-capitalists and capitalists would hope to see.
In the humor of Heath and Potter, a light-heartedness allows for baby steps to stop the blaming so that asking the questions can be the focus. The authors encourage starting with small, workable proposals in the collective action of working together. Rather than allow the “logic of high school” to triumph, conversation in listening to each other could begin to change the framework of how we work towards solutions. Perhaps then, the person who receives the words, “Wow, you look so old,” could see that culture doesn’t have the last word on how we view one another, rather the value of wisdom with age could actually benefit the community in the conversation. The evil of division that seems inevitable and despairing can then be replaced with hope and possibilities of how to change a culture.
One last comment, anyone as a child who sang Free to Be You and Me, originally sung by Marlo Thomas and friends, “had me at hello” (See Introduction). Whether it is Heath or Potter (they don’t disclose), either one, I find myself ready to enjoy the conversation. While I still don’t know where I fall as a capitalist or anti-capitalist, I do appreciate that I’m asking more questions as a result of these two “intellectual martyrs.”