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Lessons from an Economic Hit Man

Posted by Ashlee Green at Dec 01, 2009 12:15 PM |

Editorial intern Ashlee Green on what she learned from meeting author John Perkins.

John Perkins neglected his calling as a life coach. But his career as a writer didn’t completely miss the mark: His 2004 bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and the newly released Hoodwinked are motivational calls to duty, only with attached citations.

At a salon-like gathering last week, Perkins himself gave YES! Magazine staff and friends the rundown on some of what’s wrong with our country, and how we can fix it. Here’s what I gathered from the grand master himself:

  • Choose your bananas wisely. Corporations are corporations. If Chiquita can pull off paramilitary massacres in the name of the almighty dollar, perhaps it doesn’t need your additional three-bucks-per-banana-bundle consumer endorsement.
  • Don’t blame Obama. At least not entirely. Think of the pressure he’s under to maintain the flow of corporate campaign moolah for years to come. We’ve got to go out and make him create change. He said so himself in his September 9 health care speech: “If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.”
  • Redefine capitalism. “Capital” has the potential to be any valuable asset, not necessarily a financial one. Spirituality, creativity, experience, patience, skill—just think of all the wonderful things we can share with each other to form a more positive and less money-hungry world.
  • Redefine religion. Once we realize we’re all fighting the same fight and really just seeking a “deeper sense of human character” no matter our doctrine, perhaps we can forgive one another and move towards a “cross-pollination” of sorts.  Let’s stop bickering about creationism vs. evolution and start arguing healthcare and climate change.
  • Recognize all options. After substantial research and weighing of options, Perkins’ daughter spent $600 on a locally built crib for her newborn son that she could have found for $200 at the local superstore. Why? It was “an investment in [her son’s] future,” she said. Even if you and I don’t have the loot to invest, we should at least be willing to recognize that sustainable options are available, and that we’re missing an investment.
  • Voice your frustration; articulate your praise. Purchasing power is a beautiful thing. Stop buying it, and eventually companies will have to stop producing it. Case and point: Polaroid film. Do your research, raise questions, and stop impulse buys…then let companies know why you’re buying (or not buying) by writing letters, and sending e-mails!
  • Play a role. Politicians and journalists aren’t the only ones bettering our world, they just get the spotlight. Artists, writers, scientists, educators, and activists, we’re all working together for the ultimate goal of a better, more sustainable world. Find your hole and keep digging. And try to have some fun in the process! As Perkins says, “Preserve and prevail.”

Granted, my roommates and I had some time to ponder Perkins’ speech and came up with some questions of our own.

  • For years, Perkins kept his silence due to bribes and threats from corporations in exchange for not writing his book about being an “economic hit man.” Since his story is so important, why was money still controlling his decisions?

  • Is it more daunting to fight big business for people struggling to make ends meet than it is for those with the safeguard of a regular income? When the U.S. unemployment rate has surpassed ten percent, is purchasing power the best way to fight corporate control?

     


    Ashlee Green is a YES! Magazine editorial intern.

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