There is a new heartland heartbeat of hope and inspiration making its way across America providing freedom, sustenance, fulfillment, sustainable progress and community-recycled profits. Following English 101 guidance where our teachers taught it was far better to “show, not tell;” actual place-based economic models are starting to transform foreclosed, outsourced and “creatively destroyed” industrial and residential wastelands. Showing through working mainstream bipartisan parables instead of broadcasting via predictable and disheartening partisan political discourse, a new American reality is emerging just below the surface of decay, abandonment and despair where the eye that sees comes up short against the entrepreneurial mind that perceives and acts while the working class soul prospers.
We need to see, touch, and feel what’s possible, to immunize ourselves against the campaign “Super Pac” induced message viruses coming our way. Trapped by “the worst politics money can buy,” anonymously-funded campaign sloganeering turns the pros and cons of vulture versus virtuous versus crony capitalism practices and excuses into a futile and infertile debate. We only know what’s real in our lives, what we aspire to and how we have no choice but to calibrate and try to heal the suffering at home, next door and down the street. Surrounded by decades of premeditated economic devastation that grows stagnant ugliness as an annual metropolitan and rural mutant harvest, we need reasons to believe, reasons to transform moral hazard (over the top risks without bearing any consequences) into stakeholder “friends with benefits.”
While still micro-sited and not yet everywhere, and without falling into the delusional narcissistic trap of wishful thinking, there is a whole new economy struggling under America’s crusty, polarized skin, trying to break free and go to scale. This place-based economy springing up from coast to coast prioritizes stakeholder worker ownership, and honors local labor as sovereign to global capital with profits recycled within hosting communities. You can see real-time examples in the PBS “Fixing the Future” program or in the upcoming “Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work” documentary by Moving Images, both of which just touch the rim of what’s possible. Watch the preview for Shift Change:
Nobody who seeks this kind of empowerment is hoping for a free lunch. Every new micro economic victory bobbing to this re-galvanized American surface has to fight off being weighted down by past realities that are no longer relevant, overcoming deliberately communicated misperceptions to hook the past into distorting the present, with hardcore ideologies and vested interests purposefully trumping these new common pathways to the common good. Trapped between the ever more meaningless and manipulative political clichés that fill our virtual public square, we discover we cannot return to a frontier of rising expectations without embracing our American history of individual freedom to reject yesterday’s destructive practices in favor of better definitions, values and models.
As a vital part of this process and right on cue like a quadrennial reappearing declining species, the white working class independent vote is up for grabs in the 2012 elections. Pollsters and campaign magicians insist this is an easily channeled, visceral, angry reactive vote incapable of rationally hitting the reset button, all too susceptible to sensory image manipulation and eerily capable of voting against its own basic economic interests. Beyond the growing countrywide discrepancies between the wage-needy ninety-nine percent too cowed to walk off minimum wage factory reservations and the passive income-capital gains gentrified one percent mischaracterized as “job creators,” what we witness are the lethal repercussions of too much selective destructive practices inflicted at will on the innocent many to produce way too much constructive benefits on behalf of the way too highly manipulating few.
So instead of just occupying, we are reinventing. Contrary to campaign scaffolding which gets whipped up and then taken down post vote, technology now exists so that the American people can chronicle themselves to the point that viewing reinforces more believing and acting. Inspirational pictures emerge connected by the examples of well practiced leadership and innovation into replicable models. Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” depicts a country of tornado chasers following the man-made storms that have ripped up, foreclosed and off-shored our industrial heartland to make our mean streets meaner. YouTube, the largest video platform and the second most popular search engine on the globe and conceived in America, is about to launch You-TV which will turn these new economic parables into endless mini-series. With more than four million families losing their homes to foreclosure across America and more than thirty million structurally unemployed or under employed, the audience is out there to write scripts for civic reality shows that will either haunt us, hurt us or lift us up for generations.
More than ever, we need transformational parables that become tomorrow’s viral videos to favor authenticity over political and partisan stage-managed, irrelevant talking points and dialogues of the purposefully deaf. Instead of “La Gauche Divine,” a Barcelona-Catalan descriptive invention to depict left of center intellectuals and academic beautiful people in the late last century who focused on self-serving, self-preserving theories and making themselves feel good at the expense of putting into place policies that might liberate people to feed themselves; we need authentic game-changers who manage to transform without creating a Davos oligarchic spa of haves masticating sophisticated policy canapés while digesting the have-nots.
Beyond Hendrik Hertzberg’s caricature of today’s political right (March 5th edition of The New Yorker) composed of “an excitable, overlapping assortment of Fox News friends, Limbaugh dittoheads, Tea Party animals, war whoopers, nativists, Christianist fundamentalists, a la carte Catholics (anti-abortion, yes; anti-torture, no), anti Rooseveltians (Franklin and Theodore), global-warming denialists, post-Confederate white Southrons, creationists, birthers, market idolaters, Europe demonizers and gun fetishists;” we need entrepreneurial leaders who put civic conscience before markets and who are willing to transcend self-interest in favor of enlightened domestic community interests, who trot out their life examples in replicable modules as pathways to progress the rest of us can deploy as our own mantras.
Several organizations showcasing these parables include:
- National Cooperative Business Association
- National Cooperative Bank
- Foundation for Enterprise Development
- The ESOP Association
- Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)
- B-LAB (B Corporations)
- Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC)
- Heartland Capital Network
- US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
- National Center for Employee Ownership
- Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Cooperatives
- MIT CoLab
- Community Wealth.Org
- Mondragon Corporation and The United Steelworkers Union – in the formation of the union-coop model using Mondragon principles
- Penn State Center for Sustainability
Effectively segmented communication, more resources and solutions-oriented policies freed from ideological constraints or limiting preconceptions, will encourage these thousands of newly envisioned economic development flowers not only to bloom but to multiply into more American living stories with individual equity as the enabling platform. You-TV is among the first to realize that “content is no longer proxy for an audience.” Instead, the audience proves the content. This is exactly what is happening not only in the world of online video but in communities across the country as we wake up to our deepest reasons and believe them into better economic and societal realities. Starting this election cycle, politicians need to get over themselves and play catch-up or lose their constituent audiences to those who are seeing over the horizon, who are already there.