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The Black Dog inspires creativity -- its high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and spacious tables encourage daydreaming, journaling, doodling and other precursors to art making.


Twin Town High (vol. 8)

Your Locally Grown Alternative Newspaper

Monday 25 June @ 13:20:12
Liberating Passive Consumers Into Active Citizens

Consider this everyday phenomena. From head to foot, caps to sneakers, people are covered with company logos and designer labels—paying top dollar to be walking billboards. What an ingenious scam to get people to pay corporations to advertise their products. What's even more disturbing is how these consumer goods have become an increasingly significant part of people's identity. The much-touted American individualists are morphing into passive consumers who buy buy buy.

Last fall, U2 frontman Bono has gone even further, by tapping into what's left of people's concern for others with his RED campaign. He's teamed up with Apple, Motorola, Gap and other corporations who've created a line of products linked by the color red. Part of the profits from the sales of these iPods, cell phones, T-shirts and sneakers is to go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa. Gap alone spent over $7 million to advertise their RED products. UK Independent reporter Paul Vallely wrote in March that the RED campaign says that it donated $11 million to Rwanda and Swaziland for health programs, but those countries owe the West $50 million in debt payments. In the meantime, how much extra profit have these companies and the celebrities hawking RED made? For more on RED, see Vallely's piece at www.joinred.com

Part of what your consumer dollars pay for is the destruction of communities around the world and here at home. Transnational corporations seize more and more of what was once called “the commons”--that is, public resources owned by We The People--from getting natural resources like timber and oil for a pittance from parks to “privatizing”--more accurately, corporatizing--schools, social services and even to creating private armies, like Blackwater.

First, these giant companies had to colonize minds. In the country that invented public relations and Hollywood, they've had ample means to do it. The first step to becoming active citizens again is to rethink how we're consuming.

With the internet, you can access information about any company’s products and how they're made. Well-established organizations like Public Citizen, Global Trade Watch, Students United Against Sweatshops and others can reveal if your dollars for certain products also pay for pollution or exploiting people's labor.

Take Nike. By now, surely everyone should know that their sneakers and sports clothes are made under near slave-like conditions. Workers make pennies, work 15-hour days seven days a week and live in barracks. Why would a descendant of slaves, Michael Jordan, for example, front for Nike—and why would anyone think it's fashionable to wear that oppression?

Consider Wal-Mart. They've helped destroy small town and rural economies, they pay their workers low wages with no benefits, and members of the Walton family are five of the top 10 wealthiest people on Earth. Is shaving a few bucks off one's monthly purchases worth helping to wreck the economic lives of our communities?

There's not an individual solution to the corporate takeover of our country but what each of us does, matters.

You can support local farmers at organic co-ops and farmers' markets. At least, shop at grocery stores with a unionized workforce. Shopping at local stores keeps money circulating in your own community, while shopping at Big Box chainstores means money leaves your community for a distant corporate coffer.

If you want to help clean up the environment, educate yourself about products that don't pollute. Simple things like baking soda and vinegar are not only environmentally-friendly cleaners, they cost a lot less than polluting ones. Again, the internet is invaluable for making better product choices.

While you're educating yourself to be an informed consumer, don't forget the news. It’s helpful to read the international press to get stories not reported in the U.S., and to seek out the TC alternative media, like the Utne Reader, TC Daily Planet, KFAI Radio (and Pulse). Knowledge is the beginning of power. Thomas Jefferson, said “Democracy will not survive—or thrive—without an informed and vigilant citizenry.”

Once you're in touch with what people are doing to make your city better, it becomes clear that there are things you can contribute—and not just money. The average American watches four hours of television a day, so a lack of time for engagement isn't the issue.

You shop less and do more with your time.

Maybe you help clean up your block on a Saturday morning with your kids. You go to a school board meeting or devote an hour a week to writing your state legislators or Congressmember about issues you care about.

You ask more questions than ever before. You meet and interact with people who are different from you but who care about some of the same things. You take more actions with other people and feel more connection to the place you live.

You begin to imagine that the ideals that have been reduced to cheap talk from politicians on the campaign trail can actually become true--because now, you're an active citizen bringing those ideals closer to reality. No one else can do it except us.

It's far more satisfying and real than wearing red T-shirt with a logo on it.

(Notice: Twin Cities activists took up Cindy Sheehan's call for New Declaration of Independence and are gathering in Philadelphia, 10 blocks from where the American Declaration of Independence was ratified. Conerned about corporate power over everything? Mad as hell that a Democrat-controlled Congress continues to fund the occupation of Iraq? Want to be part of building a democracy movement in the USA? Join progressives, Greens, peace activists, disillusioned Democrats, independents, anarchists and socialists in Philadelphia. June 30 & July 1; Friend's Center, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, Pa. For more info, call Michael Cavlan at 612-327-6902 or e-mail ollamhfaery@earthlink.net or Suzanne Linton at 651-429-3529 or bahiabaubo@hotmail.com.)
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