Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Ok I understand that in the context of the more-personable more-earnest more-hippy weblog entry below that that this next statement will seem very bizarre, but here goes: I want to subscribe to Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine.

You can mock me about this. I understand that this desire is wrong.

I have been ridiculed about my secret stash of MSLs before. “How can the same girl who reads Bitch Magazine read “Martha Stewart!” I recall one such outburst. It seems contradictory: how can a person who decries the consumerism of the times want to subscribe to its Bible?

But please listen to my rationalization: in my last entry, I wrote about how birders could be a formable political force if mobilized. Likewise, Bruce Sterling's Viridian movement is based on the premise that in order to get a middle-class population behind environmental change, pollution must be perceived as gauche and green design seen as classy, smart, and cool.

So when I read a eight page spread in MSL on a particular family of flowers, or rare form of vegetable or a form of pottery you can only find in a small village in Vermont, I can't help but think that if we could only tweak the magazine a little then MSL could be a force for good. The Martha Stewart Legion could start help protecting the local farms that produce the fresh food for that dinner party, the wild places where one can be inspired for their garden, and the local craftspeople that create the collectable goods that middle class America obviously aspires to have.

But am I fooling myself? Of course I am.

We will never see a letter to Martha Stewart like this:

Dear Martha,
The water is becoming undrinkable and its getting harder to breathe. I'm afraid of getting cancer and giving birth to children with congential birth defects. I thought the future was supposed to be better than the past. What gives?

Dear Mita,
You should read Wendell Barrie’s beautiful essay in this month’s Harper's Magazine (Readings, pg 15, April 2002). It's called "The Idea of a Local Economy" and the premise of the essay is that supporting a local economy is the best thing we can do to help us bear the brunt of the hurricane of globilization as it rips through our world.

But its his explaination on how our economy works and on what false premises it is built on which I think the parts worth seeking out and reading. They aren't new thoughts but Barrie presents them succinctly and elegantly. Here's an example of his writing that touches on your concerns about the future:

We have an "environmental crisis" because we have consented to an economy in which by eating, drinking, working, resting, traveling, and enjoying ourselves we are destroying the natural, the God-given world...

Sentimental capitalism is not so different from sentimental communism as the corporate and political powers claim. Sentimental capitalism holds in effect that everything small, local, private, personal, natural, good and beautiful must be sacrificed in the interest of the "free market" and the great corporations, which will bring unprecendented security and happiness to "the many" --- in, of course, the future...

The idea of an economy based upon several kinds of ruin may seem a contradiction of terms, but in fact such an economy is possible, as we see... It does so by false accounting... And so we have before us the spectacle of unprecendented "prosperity" and "economic growth" in a land of degraded farms, forests, ecosystems, and watersheds, polluted air, failing families, and perishing communities."

You can find Harper's Magazine at your finer book and magazine stores. The article "The Numbing of the American Mind: Culture as Anesthetic" is also worth checking out.

And don't forget to buy local. You can find my line of products at your local Zellers.

Martha Stewart

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