community as a brand
“If you think of your home as property, rather than a place, and your community as a brand, rather than people, then you have decided to take a businessman’s approach. If you become a selfish individual, trying to extract value out of every person you meet, then you are a corporation. That is the logic of corporatism: Instead of creating value with others, you extract value from others, in a zero-sum game.” ~ Douglas Rushkoff, in an interview with Elizabeth Nolan Brown
But isn’t this overstating the case quite a bit? Most people don’t think this way, and yet we certainly have migrated to a world dominated by corporations and have certainly become more detached and less “community-oriented.” Before homes were thought of as “property” and merely as “places” this was largely due to the fact that someone – perhaps your feudal lord – could simply raze it to the ground or take it away from you. If anything ever added meaning to place it was property rights.
And who thinks about their community as a “brand”? Unless you’re being paid to promote tourism or business growth, you probably think of your community as a community, or a town, or a city, or whatever. Maybe you think it’s just boring. I think people have always grown bored with their surroundings. And unless I’m very mistaken, people who try to “extract value out of every person” they meet are generally regarded as somewhat sociopathic. I’m not sure it describes many people at all, regardless of the fact that we may all be, to one degree or another, selfish and self-centered. We always have been, I’d wager, and we likely always will be.
This isn’t to say that all is well in community-land. We could do better. We could build more organic neighborhoods. We could stop thinking always in terms of the car-culture. We could buy locally more often and more importantly, perhaps, even think locally. We could walk more and spend more time with our families and getting to know our neighbors instead of watching T.V. We could focus more on our local arts and culture and on the creation of vital, creative young minds in our local schools.
But this just seems like a stretch to me, to say the least. And I generally feel quite a bit of antipathy toward corporatism myself. I want to read Rushkoff’s book, and I’m going to have to read the whole interview as well, but I think I’ve retreated in many of my localist tendencies to a position which can be largely summed up with the phrase, all that glimmers is not gold.