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Alternative hedonism might just lead us to fulfilment

Jackie Ashley, The Guardian
A new campaign by those disaffected with our shopping culture could be a cure for anxiety and low self-esteem
…Many of us are, in short, ready to listen to anti-consumerism. The question is: what kind? Hairshirt puritanism will only ever appeal to a minority – it’s a self-righteous thing, as much about psychology as real politics. No, rational anti-consumerism has to work with the grain of what many more people already feel instinctively – that time to live, just to be, is more valuable than a few more cheap shirts. It would not confront shopping directly, but would return to some recent lost battles, about shop workers’ hours and the cost of air-freighting exotic foods around the world – jumping opportunistically on to issues, but always with a simple question at the back of the mind: is this really necessary, and is it making us happy?

Anti-consumerism has the capacity to unite trade-union demands for shorter hours with the environmentalist and better-lifestyle agendas that are being picked up on by the centre-right as well as the left. Though not religious myself, I note the concerns of those who are, as they ask how to live more fulfilling lives. The irreligious can ask, equally, how we can get ourselves back from the indignity of simply being consumers to the dignity of citizenship.

No politician I can think of has yet found the language and tone for a proper scepticism about the shopping culture. “Do as I do, not as I say” hardly works when politicians live such frantically busy lives and have limited their greater vision to endless growth. But alternative hedonism has something going for it: if you have the chance to laze, dawdle and slough off the tyranny of yet more shopping this Easter, you may unwittingly be part of the next revolution in political thought.
(17 April 2006)

Here comes the sun – links

Big Gav, Peak Energy (Australia)
Mostly happy news about green technology. A bit of Iran and Murdoch-bashing at the end of today’s post.
(17 April 2006)

The hope of the web

Bill McKibben, NY Review of Books
When, less than a decade ago, the Internet emerged as a force in most of our lives, one of the questions people often asked was: Would it prove, like TV, to be a medium mainly for distraction and disengagement? Or would its two-way nature allow it to be a potent instrument for rebuilding connections among people and organizations, possibly even renewing a sense of community? The answer is still not clear— more people use the Web to look at unclothed young women and lose money at poker than for any other purposes. But if you were going to make a case for the Web having an invigorating political effect, you could do worse than point your browser to, which was launched in 2002 by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga

…What gives Kos and Jerome credibility is less their solid and straightforward book than the Web community they’ve helped to inspire and build. It includes a series of literally interlinked sites, ranging from the enormous if somewhat predictable, such as, partially financed by George Soros, to the tiny and tightly focused. A few are expert blogs on particular topics: the University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, for instance, gives detailed accounts of the day’s events in Iraq at his Informed Comment site, Others derive from more traditional journalism: Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo ( employs a couple of full-time reporters to uncover and explain the latest developments in the Republican congressional scandals. Others are more traditional blogs (if “traditional” can be applied to a medium four or five years old).

…When we consider Kos’s own Web site and its numerous links to other blogs, we see something like an expanding hive of communication, a collective intelligence. And the results can be impressive. A writer with the pen name (mouse name) Jerome à Paris, for instance, organized dozens of other Kossacks interested in energy policy to write an energy plan that I find far more comprehensive and thoughtful than anything the think tanks have produced. It’s been read and reshaped by thousands of readers; it will serve as a useful model should the Democrats retake Congress and have the ability to move legislation.
(27 April 2006 issue)
Even though the immediate subject of McKibben’s article is Daily Kos and Democratic Party politics, the powerful new model of communication he describes is also used by the Peak Oil blogosphere. Members might include:
The Oil Drum
Peak Energy (Australia)
Peak Energy (Seattle)
Resource Insights
Global Public Media
Culture Change
Jerome à Paris
Energy Bulletin
Allied websites not as devoted to PO include:
Plus the hundreds of contributers and tens of thousands of readers…

Related: Ignore bloggers at your peril, say researchers (The Guardian)
Can Kos, liberal blogosphere reshape Democrats’ image?