RETURN TO
MAIN MENU
PHILOSOPHY
PROJECTS
LEADERSHIP
NETWORK
 
"Notes from the Field": 
   Journal Entry # 1: 
The Velvet Revolution and Global Corporatism  
 

The Velvet Revolution and Global Corporatism

Last time I was in Prague, there was a revolution going on.  From this visit, it looks like Jan Pallach died to make the world safe for McDonald’s.

On my last visit to Prague, six months after the Velvet Revolution, there were people all over Wenceslas Square, setting up samizdat bookstores on folding tables, attracting tight little knots of citizens to the blue-printed pages fresh from the mimeograph machines. I could feel the newness, the freshness, the promise in the air.

Now, walking through the Square, it is McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, DKNY and the other icons of global corporatism that attracts flocks of people.  I came to Prague in part to get a feel for the pulse of the revolution.  From what I could see, it’s time for people to take to the streets in candlelight processions again.

(In fact, while I was in Prague, people were taking to the streets.  A Skinhead demonstration against global corporatism turned violent, smashing windows and terrorizing the patrons at a McDonalds Restaurant to a panicked bolt out of the back door.  This sort of behavior spreads more sympathy for McDonalds, while having zero effect on its profits.)

Perhaps the most damming evidence that points to a derailing of the Velvet Revolution is the fact that not one of the hundreds of different types of tourist T-shirts on sale by the scores of T-shirt shops even mention the revolution.  Franz Kafka, whom few have read, is the most popular T-shirt.  A week of searching did not turn up one Vaclav Havel or Velvet Revolution T-shirt.

What happened?  How did the promise of more than a million people jamming Wenceslas Square get perverted into an orgy of conspicuous consumption?  I have a few ideas:

1. The Velvet Revolution was really a proto-revolution.  Czechs were engaging in the beginning of revolutionary activity at precisely the same time that the Soviet system imploded.  It never fully progressed beyond what they DIDN’T want (an end to totalitarian rule) to what they DID want (capitalism? Self-rule communism? Something entirely different?)

2. They never developed the discipline and the sacrifice of long-term political struggle.  What separates the men and women from the boys and girls also separates out the opportunists, double-agents, general weirdos and misfits.  Given the tone and tenor of the current Czech election, the sorting out is sorely lacking.

3. And, finally, the Czechs never developed the Parallel Polis.  Or, if they did, they did not make it proof against Global Corporatism.

But, more important than what happened: what is going to happen?  The implosion of the communist world replaced a ravenous wolf with a sly, elusive fox.  They both eat the same number of chickens from the henhouse, but the fox tries to convince you not only that its for your own good but that you actually enjoy being devoured.

The current notion in vogue, that we’ve reached the “end of history” because our side won and there is no other side is a simplistic notion based on the fact that the alternatives to totalitarian economics are not very well thought out or comprehensive.  The Skinheads who went on a rampage in the streets of Prague know very well that this isn’t the “end of history.  If we are not careful, it is the Skinheads who will write the next chapter.

I see two major directions for the Czech Republic, the same as I see for the West as a whole:

1. The spread of totalitarian economics and global corporate culture, with society focusing on the glitter of a few at the expense of the many.  This period will end in the inevitable melt down of totalitarian economics (you really cannot grow forever).  In either case, everyone will lose.

2. The development of large scale, people-led, government-supported experiments in creating alternatives to totalitarian economics.  These would be efforts at creating local currencies, community-owned and operated businesses, sustainable agriculture and industry, opportunities for both worker and consumer ownership of businesses, and other experiments in weaning ourselves from the allure of the fox.

The challenge is great, the risks are many, the stakes are high.  On the side of the Czech people is Vaclav Havel, who wrote many years about the dangers of auto-totality.  Global corporatism is auto-totality in a business suit instead of a tank.  Now, the people of Prague can start another nonviolent struggle.  The first was to free their hearts and minds from the grip of totalitarian politics.  Now, they are being called upon to free their souls from the grip of totalitarian economics... along with their wallets.

Peace,

Sharif
 
 
Return to 
top of page
Return to 
Journal Site Map
RETURN TO
MAIN MENU
PHILOSOPHY
PROJECTS & SERVICES
LEADERSHIP
MENDER 
NETWORK
PUBLICATIONS