Brian Calvert: Slow and local — it’s a way to fight back
Writers on the Range
By now it should be obvious that cynical corporate interests from the fossil fuel industry have executed a successful takeover of U.S. policymaking. President-elect Donald Trump has named high-powered executives and friends of the industry to run the country, a job he has admitted might be “bigger” than he thought.
Be angry at the sun, a wise man said, if such things upset you. It is done, it has happened, and there is nothing left now but to bear witness to the utter failure of our perishing republic. Right?
Wrong. Like any reasonable person, I’m worried about what we Americans have done, not just to our world but to the future world. The human race had only a very long shot to prevent catastrophic climate change, and now we have an administration dead set on ending even those meager efforts. So be it. The sight of such blatantly corporate Cabinet picks leaves me hopeful. They, and their agenda, are now out of the shadows.
Joining Scott Pruitt, the proposed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (and a man who is currently suing that agency), is Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, as secretary of state. ExxonMobil spent years publicly denying climate science, even as it privately acknowledged the risks of climate change decades ago. Our Western public lands, clean air, water and wildlife all are imperiled by Trump’s operatives.
True power in U.S. politics has been organizing itself around the logic of corporate capitalism for a long time. With it so obvious now, we have equally obvious ways to resist: by changing the way we spend.
Corporations derive power from money — our money — and its efficient organization into political capital. For the hydrocarbon industry, that means fossil fuels and plastics. So use your shopping cart, online and off, as your daily voting booth and buy as little of these things as you can.
If you want to shake the halls of power right now, you need not fly on a jet-fueled airliner to attend a mass march, or gas up your car and speed to a far-off demonstration. Instead, why not throw a cover over your car and stay away from the gas station for a while? Get some exercise and a bus pass. Close your laptop, turn off your phone — it takes money away from the giant utilities. Then walk to the store, gather some local ingredients and bake something. Avoid electronics and plastics. Write a letter to a friend, by hand, and mail it off. Gather spare lumber and build a birdhouse. Go to church, join a choir, host a game night. Pick up a guitar. Put on a play. Saw, hammer, chop. Sing, dance, run. Take a moment to wonder at the wild world, the deer in the fallow field, the hare in its winter white. True resistance to the current regime begins with rejoining the slow and local analog world.
This is a great way to regain some of the agency you might be missing, in a world that feels like it’s tumbling out of control — yours, mine and everyone else’s. The less you drive and the less you buy, the more power you siphon from our new corporate overlords. And, maybe not at first, but eventually, you’ll be creating something beautiful. Beauty so created has its own power, a slow power that builds — the power of a handmade bookshelf or a hand-knitted sweater, of homemade chili and fresh-baked bread. These things have a tendency to feel essential, not disposable, and as such they have staying power and the power to help us understand what’s truly important. Perspective, too, is power — understanding the importance of friends, family and neighbors, of how fleeting and fragile all life is, that all things pass. Trump, too, shall pass.
Yes, be angry. It is infuriating to see the ideal of American democracy so battered, to bear witnesses to a corporate coup. Powerful elites have their hands on the levers of national power and they will lean hard to maximize profits, to enrich themselves at the cost of our health and well-being. We mustn’t let them.
Why rant on Facebook? Why not channel your anger, put your energy into yourself and your neighbors — or even local politics? I’m sure your county could use a reasonable commissioner. Eventually, the dark cynicism of our nation’s oligarchs will be exposed as we all move on, leaving them mired in the prehistoric muck they so covet. In the meantime, let’s not empower them any more than we have to.
Brian Calvert is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is the magazine’s managing editor in Paonia.
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