The Emerging Commons

February 17, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society

The new paradigm is becoming easier to see.  I’m observing an emerging of the 60s without the narcissism and the drugs.  The commons is no longer a foreign concept.  I’m feeling excited and relieved.  And, a little scared.

I’m an unapologetic hippie disguised as a business man/activist/theorist/artist.  I feel like I felt the first time ‘round when the world felt like it was in the process of being reborn.  It wasn’t the war ending or the drugs.  It was the certainty many of us felt that society was transforming, heading powerfully in the direction of the Left, in the direction of female-centric egalitarianism, reverence for nature, sensitivity and responsibility toward poverty, minorities and the Third World.  I’m only partly talking about the election of Obama.

I did not see Reagan coming.  Large portions of our population felt threatened by both the minorities within our borders and hostile governments overseas.  Those folks voted to protect what they have and focus on what corporations could commercially provide.  It was a potent, cogent combination.  The zeitgeist had most of us believing that the purpose of government was to encourage those that are good at making money to make more money while protecting our borders and keeping the poor away.

During the 70s through the 00s, there were forces at work, the same energies we saw unleashed in the 60s.  These were not hidden forces, though their implications were not easily interpretable.  Uninterpreted, they moved though our society unimpeded.

The most obvious was the dissembling of the Soviet Union.  There could be no 60s without peace.  There could be no peace with a cold war.  When the Soviet Union transformed, I was more than elated.  I’d felt personally stalked by missiles since I was little.  The fall of the Soviet Union, for me, meant I didn’t have to be scared anymore.  This change in politics was a personal epiphany.  I believe that the transcendence of this polarity cannot be underestimated.

In the meantime, media and corporations homogenized our nation.  From the early 70s when I drove back and forth several times a year between St. Petersburg, Florida, and Chicago to the early 80s when I again took up residency in the North, I observed the destruction of American cuisine.  Unique local fare was replaced by chains in the many states I would stop in to eat meals.  I observed radical changes in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida in a single decade.  Suddenly, almost all Americans were eating the same thing.

In the meantime, TV and cable transformed what people were observing.  Bill Cosby became the American family.  Women worked, blacks became middle class and gays came out as normal.  We were all seeing the same thing, and what we were seeing was that the other was not as other as the polemicists were telling us.

It is not a mistake that the last place in the nation to get TV (TV arrived with cable), the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee, was also the region with Democrats least able to visualize an African-American as president.  Without a Bill Cosby we would not have been able to have an Obama.

The new paradigm we see emerging now was cultivated by the fall of the twin towers of the old world view:  hostile poor and minorities at home, hostile governments overseas.  For forty years these deep-seated beliefs have been undermined by global changes and a new media story.  That story has been deeply contrary to what politicians have been telling us.  The new story was that we are all the same.

It is deeply ironic and interesting that corporations and the elites, those that have most profited from the years since the 1960s, have been instrumental in disseminating the information that homogenized our country.  With homogenization comes less fear of what is different as differences are absorbed, transformed and then transform the culture.  The other has become us.  We can now choose to be less afraid of sharing.  With hard times this is important.

A reverence for the commons is on the way.


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