This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wildgoose 3. Psalters, Wilhelms.


            The music the first night was highlighted by Psalters.  This band is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.  They travel around the planet in a black bus, and apparently live a kind of communal existence.  Their music is almost indescribable in its drawing from many sources and its energetic performance.  I describe them as “tribal,” and their set was characterized by intensive drumming.  One memorable lyric was, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions; the road to heaven is not paved.”
            They performed a version of the classic, “Sixteen Tons (I Owe My Soul to the Company Store),” which I interpreted as a commentary on our economy.  We have devolved into a situation where the economy is so controlled by big business that the collapsed and oppressive context of the song relates to all of us now.  They pay us so we can buy stuff, and borrow money from, them.  We work hard; they get richer off us.
            Psalters are fantastic!  They have an integrity and an energy that gets the gospel across unlike any other performers.  They are light-years from the often saccharine and gutless music that passes for "Christian rock."

            (The evening was topped off by a long set from Michelle Shocked.  She might have been the most well-known of the performers all week.  Her music was very good, and her story intriguing, but she indulged in far too much chatter for my taste.)

Pamela Wilhelms.

            To continue in that vein, the next morning I went to hear Pamela Wilhelms talk about “the emerging regenerative economy.”  This was in the “prayer garden,” an open area punctuated by rocks big enough to sit on.  I initially approached Wilhelm’s talk with some skepticism.
            She began by saying that we need to be curators of hope, as we make this shift to a regenerative economy.  On the one hand, there is the fact that, of the 100 largest economies on the planet, 53 are corporations and 47 are nation-states.  On the other hand, she noted that “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.”  (Most mainstream economists are blissfully unaware of this rather obvious fact, preferring to believe that the environment is an infinite source of free resources and an infinitely expansive dumping ground for our waste.)
            Wilhelms noted that we are a democracy and the people have the power, if they will use it.  It is better to have a reasonable and realistic plan than to approach every issue as a fight.  Her approach is to look for the life in the system and use that for leverage in changing the whole system.  (Which is similar to a “contextual” approach in missiology, where the churche looks for the places in a situation where God is already at work.)
            Wilhelms said we need to look for “for profit” companies that do good.  We have to learn to measure wealth by the quality of life, not, as now, by the speed with which we kill things.
            In the emerging regenerative economy we need pictures of what can be, what we want to move towards.  This is important because the normal approach of progressives/emergents is to predict catastrophe if nothing changes.  A positive vision would be more fruitful. 
            If the system is to change, the consumer/voting/investment base has to change.  One way to do this is by focusing on the “triple bottom line.”  In other words, instead of looking only at financial profit, this would also address social and environmental effects.  The “triple bottom line” takes into account social, environmental, and economic results.  This system is already in place in “B corporations.”
            One of the things we will have to do is choose lower economic returns on our investments. 
            The mindset of young people has palpably changed.  She refers to young people today as “the justice generation.”  I hope she is right and that this lasts.
            Basically, Wilhelms’ hope is that we can develop a “conscious Capitalism.”
            My response (and I had a long talk with her later in the week) is that, although these instances showing the emergence of a conscious Capitalism are great, they are still very small.  Yes, big things always start small.  However, my suspicion is that once anything like this starts to gain some traction, the larger system will start clamping down.  “Conscious Capitalism” could be a contradiction in terms.  What if Capitalism is inherently based on waste, greed, exploitation, rape, and pillaging?  What if that’s it’s DNA and it is essentially evil and unredeemable?  They will quickly make “conscious Capitalism” illegal.
            We need to form communities of sharing and resistance now, and not be surprised or discouraged by the coming clampdown.

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