Sunday, March 25, 2007

Subversive Business

by Skald

Business has been co-opting and subverting noble causes for decades (well, centuries). This is their preferred method for destroying any movement that challenges them. The environmental movement is a perfect example-- big business simply runs countless "green" ads and creates scores of fake "environmental groups" (which are actually fronts for polluting industries) in order to confuse and befuddle the public. They also keep the media firmly focused on trivia, and use their media power to demonize and marginalize activists and concerned citizens. They buy "scientists" and government officials... and even environmental activists.

The 60s counter-culture is another great example. Big business has turned that rebellion into a lifestyle industry of cool. All the counter-culture trappings of that era now serve to sell Gap jeans and Cadillacs.

As I embark on my own "business" project (I still hate using that word.. need to create a new one), I ask myself-- can the tables be turned? Can we co-opt business and use it for radical, subversive ends?

The first attempts at such a thing were probably Ben & Jerry's and The Body Shop. These two companies, especially Ben & Jerry's, tried to weave a social-progressive fabric into their business (ignoring the very ill health effects of their products :). In fact, social change was part of their business mission. I remember how impressed and inspired I was when I first read Ben & Jerry's book.

Years later, I was extremely disappointed to hear they had sold out to a soulless mega-corporation-- swallowed up by the beast. Similarly, The Body Shop was eaten by Loreal-- an evil company that tests on animals. It seemed that subversive-business was an impossible oxymoron.

But maybe not. On a smaller scale, there are projects that are more progressive.

However, I don't know of any that I'd call truly radical. I hope to change that. Since my website is basically an information business, I plan to incorporate "subversive" information into its core. What does that mean? It means that when I choose articles to teach English, I won't just be using mainstream media pap. I'll also use the site as a way of exposing members to the likes of Noam Chomsky, Hakim Bey, Ralph Nader, Thoreau, and the like.

The nuts and bolts of teaching English are only a small part of the site. The content is equally (more!) important. My members aren't just interested in grammar and vocabulary-- they want engaging, interesting, thought-provoking content.

So, my little project has a dual mission. One is to teach English in the most natural and effortless way possible. The second is to build an international community of progressives and subversives-- who will use English as their medium of communication.


Taoist Poet said...

Hi. This comment is not really related to the post, but I just noticed that your archives are gone. They're not listed in the sidebar anymore. Just thought I'd point it out in case you hadn't noticed.


Skald said...

Yikes, I hadn't noticed. I must have deleted the code somehow. Anyway, they are back... at the bottom of the sidebar.


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