New Directions

March 2005


It is amazing how hegemony works -- how our world views shape our perception of what is real and what is possible. The most amazing part is that so very much of the way we filter existence is contrived by others for their own benefit.

A woman came up to me the other day and declared to me, "You don't like Windows, do you?" And then without giving me even a moment to reply, she continued on, "I just don't understand that. I mean, I'd be lost without Windows. How can you use anything else?"

Well, I thought to myself, how do you answer someone like that? I'm sure that her feelings would bring no great sorrow to Redmond (where they "make" Windows). I think I replied with some platitude about liking to march to the beat of another drummer.

Here is someone, who has never used anything other than Windows and thus has absolutely no basis for comparison. One might as well say, "English is the best language because it is the only language I have ever heard," or "America is great because many people say it is." Brand loyalty is very much like patriotism. It usually starts with some germ of truth. That germ of truth is usually a long, long time ago. The loyalty we feel to the product or the country really has no factual basis in reality.

Do you love your country or do you just feel really lucky that you were born in New Jersey instead of some villiage in Haiti? There are some things about our country that are undeniably good, like the Bill of Rights. There are other things, like the fact that the peasants who were unlucky enough to be born into that village in Haiti have such misery in their lives as the direct result of US intervention in their country and their economy. I love the former and regret the latter. I think we can do better and I think it is a crime that we don't do better.

And I do use Windows. Windows is a lot better than it used to be. Most of the applications that run in it are very much better behaved than they used to be. There's a lot to be said in favor of it, but I don't like it, it costs way too much and is a pain to maintain. I have derived a lot of benefit over the years from Windows. Do my criticisms of Windows make me disloyal? I was never loyal to begin with.

But there are millions of people who are fanatically loyal to Windows and feel grateful to Redmond. This is an attitude that is not discouraged by Microsoft. Far from it. Microsoft spends tens of millions of dollars every single day to make sure that these people remain fanatics for Windows. It's pretty funny actually. If Microsoft had actually spent all that money making their product better, instead of managing public opinion to believe that it was better, it might actually be better. Now they're spending more than a million dollars a day to slander Linux and all the while the relentless little Penguin keeps gaining on them.

I wish I could say the same thing about these United States. I wish I could point to some nation or group of nations and say, hey, they have really good ideas and people are beginning to lose faith in the Power and Majesty of the United States. Our capitalism and consumerism is still the prize and goal of most of the other nations on earth. As a result, China's inner cities are nowmamong the most polluted places on earth and their per capita cancer rates have gone through the roof. Some people in India have some really good ideas about sustainable agriculture and industrial conservation, but their country has so many major problems, it's hard to believe that they'll be able to settle them and move on in my lifetime.

There's always Europe. With the exception of Great Britain, which thanks to the legacy of Maggie Thatchers ruinous neocon policies (GB has slipped below Portugal in disposable income and leads Europe in infant mortality), most of the nations of Europe have been becoming increasingly democratic, both politically and economically. When Spain joined us in out illegal war in Iraq, the Spanish people promptly voted the government out of office, and the newly elected government listened to the will of their people and left our "coalition of the willing." The unions in Europe exercise real power, so Europens have the safest work places and the lowest incidence of job-related disability.

But they're in cahoots with the US in despoiling the world through Globalization for the continuing profits of global transnational corporations. The Europeans continue to spend more on "defense" than most of the other nations (if you neglect to factor the USA in -- we spend more than all the other nations of the world combined for "defense"). I really can't hold my magnifying glass up to Europe and claim they've got "the right answer."

I just hope that we get blindsided by wisdom somehow. I keep hoping that something I'm not paying attention to is really important and will make a real substantive difference in the survival and condition of my grandchildren. I'm going to keep looking.

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