The Noise and The Numinous
There are so many modern catchphrases that bother me. Rewriting the dictionary, combining old and new words, post-this, neo-that, and the all-time favorite: turning nouns into verbs. Remember that Kinko ad, “The new way to office.” When did “office” become a verb?
One that really gets me for different reasons is the introduction of the term “Conscious Capitalism.” Conscious capitalism is defined in Megatrends 2010 as, “the dynamic matrix of social, economic—and spiritual—trends transforming free enterprise.” Which sounds all well and good on paper. But to me the skeptic, it sounds like a way to prey on people’s values and eco-guilt to produce income. Or, as phrased by the cynic in me, a way to consciously separate you from your consciously earned dollars.
If you really believe these things, why talk about it in such a way? Why pronounce yourself a “Conscious Capitalist?” Why not live it, act it, and be it. CEOs talking about it reek of targeted marketing, not some sort of enlightenment. All of this talk of spirituality being linked with business strikes me as a kind of hubris. Spirituality is something that is lived, not loudly pronounced from your website or blog. Shouldn’t it be something you just do? You don’t get kudos for doing the things you are supposed to do, like your laundry or paying your bills.
I’m much more fond of the concept of “Conscious Living” where our social/spiritual/environmental outlook is not sub-divided/compartmentalized into little categories, but acted on as a whole, informing all that we do. Compartmentalizing is a slippery slope, what is next, “Conscious Jacuzzi’ing?” “Conscious Coffee Drinking?” and the ever-popular “Conscious Lawn Bowling?”
Those that do not know history, repeat it. Today’s secular progressives have a new religion that is collected under the rubric of “spirituality, environmental, and social action.” Being a good progressive/liberal, I love these terms, embrace them, and see them as necessary (and broad) areas of action on the part of all members of society for the progress, evolution, and betterment of the world and humanity. But when codified by catchphrases and blessed by the ethically questionable multi-national corporations that are mass-marketing these combined self-help, business, and feel-good-about-yourself books, we risk becoming something I’m not fond of: an organized religion. We do seem to be on that path. And much like other organized religions we have our priests and prophets; and we also have those that collect our offerings.
Back in the day, the Catholic Church had this great system of purchasing “Indulgences.” (This system has gone the way of so many great ideas, like leeches and phlebotomy. Although I do hear that leeches are making a comeback.) In the old system of Indulgences you could pay for your sin. Literally, pay a fee and get rid of the guilt and consequence of your sin. What a great system. I would love to see a copy of that menu. How much for a drunken weekend gambling in Las Vegas? I’d buy a roll of those tickets. What is gone for the Catholic Church is making a strong showing for liberal lovers of the environment! You can pay away your eco-guilt at different websites that offer to offset your emissions. Well, not your personal emissions, but the greenhouse gas emissions of your automobiles, motorcycles, even that airplane trip you took to see Aunt Millie in Idaho.
Taking a road trip to Yosemite? Feel guilty about driving the Hummer? Give us fifty bucks and we’ll plant a tree and you, sir, can be guilt-free! They will even send you a plastic license plate holder that advertises their services. I wonder if you need to pay them to offset the greenhouse emissions from manufacturing that plate holder and shipping it to you? And then pay them to offset the mailing of your check. And then pay to offset the emissions from manufacturing the check and ink from the pen used to write the check. It never ends. Hell, I’m putting an herb garden in my window box, I wonder if somebody will pay me to plant it so I can offset their holiday emissions. Erm, automobile emissions.
It seems that once again the simplest solutions evade us. We want to have our SUVs and still feel good about our participation in the earth’s environment. So we pay someone an indulgence, instead of driving a more environmentally appropriate vehicle. (I know, and agree, that for some of you an SUV is appropriate, but for most I see on the LA freeway, it is not.) And we want to feel good and spiritual about having our own business. So we call ourselves “Conscious Capitalists.” Would it not be better to feel good about the entirety of your life, and call yourself a “Conscious Liver?” Maybe that would be better spelled, “Live-er.”