02 December 2009

Progress Valley Authority Corps! Attention!

:::from the language archives:::

I've been thinking about how de-valued our language can be with regard to dealing with our economic crisis and in particular, how that de-valuing can lead to some interesting and troubling conclusions about where we may be headed.

These thoughts came to me last night during a panel discussion about whether or not all the stuff for "free" for young people in the Jewish community is "good" for the Jews. In talking about birthright, for example, one young man said to me, "Think of all the equity we're creating by inspiring two hundred thousand young people to be Jewish!"

"Human equity." That's one.

And then my mind drifted to:

The Bailout (money)
The Stimulus Package (money)
Cash for Clunkers (money)

And then I was depressed but oddly inspired by the remarkable confluence of money being used to buy our way out of trouble.

Reading a very disturbing article about Ashton Kutcher in Fast Company had me even more troubled: "When I have a conversation with someone and they say, 'I'm not worried about monetization yet,' that scares the shit out of me," he says.

Strange what keeps some people up at night.

Anyway, it had me thinking about another conversation I had recently, with someone claiming that one of the greatest achievements of the 60s Generation was abolishing the draft. "But what did you replace National Service with?" I asked. It's a serious question that we have to reckon with, and one that, left unanswered, will only allow rampant individualism to continually run roughshod over any hope of building a democracy rooted in values and the collective.

So I took my list:

The Bailout (money)
The Stimulus Package (money)
Cash for Clunkers (money)

and compared it to the projects conceived by the Greatest Generation:

The Civilian Conservation Corps
The Works Progress Administration
The Tennessee Valley Authority

and I found myself pining for an earlier time and a more rooted imagination--an imagination rooted in "corps" (the body politic); "work" and "progress" (cos who can argue with that?); and "authority" (is there such a thing as too much autonomy? seems a question worth asking when millions starve without work, shelter or health care).

If I were 18 years old, risking my life to repair our world would be a pretty alluring proposition. Losing my life into a virtual reality?

I'd just feel punk'd.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post, and good to be led to think about what the new lingua franca means (or doesn't).

But I am wondering what you're referring to when you write of "all this free stuff" - besides birthright -- in the Jewish community.

I want a serious Jewish education for my children? This costs more than I have. I grow anxious wondering whether the financial aid committee at our day school will again raise what we must contribute, though our income has gone down.

I want to send my children to Jewish camps -- this costs a small fortune. My eldest is involved with Hebrew high school and Jewish choral programs which all charge (justified) tuition, which I struggle to afford.

When do those of us who are committed to Jewish life -- and committed to raising engaged Jews --get to see any of the "free?"

Anonymous said...

A major cause of the togetherness of the projects you mentioned was a widespread financial desperation that is difficult for many of us to imagine in the US today and by two terrible world wars. While these events may have brought that generation together, the focus on the individual we see today is a symptom of our prosperity.