by Milo Clark

September 23, 2002


"There is life and there is hope. How do you reconcile both?
--g.a., 1976"

Hope is one of many magazines I look at. It is a little right of cockeyed optimist and snuggles up with cuddly and cute newage. I have to wipe dew drops off when it comes.

Swanee Hunt was US Ambassador to Austria during the late and still lamented too often violent and barbaric dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. She sat at the tables during related efforts at "Peace Process."

She writes about waging peace in the current issue of Hope. She says that inviting the men who wage war to work out peace is bassackwards. I agree. My private shred of optimism rests firmly on the premise that the collective we ought to get men out of the way and give women a try. Couldn't possibly do worse and might do better. And then there are Mss Albright and Condoleezza herself...

Swanee Hunt is now at the Kennedy Center at Harvard. She also heads up an organization called "Women Waging Peace." Bless her! (1)

Orion, another hopeful magazine, put out by a hopeful Orion Society, just released its twentieth anniversary issue. Thick, coated stock (at least 20% post-consumer content, certified by Conservatree as an environmentally sound paper), very beautifully illustrated with photographs, woodcuts, drawings, clever layout and multi-colored renditions of paintings (90% vegetable inks). Irony drips along with dew drops.

Wendell Berry, archdeacon of the small farm, author of the seminal 1977 tearjerker, "The Unsettling of America" and numerous successors contributes an article, "The Agrarian Standard."

He notes, ". . . the abuses of farmland and farming people. . . have persisted and become worse. . . ."  ". . . our farm communities are far worse off now. . . . Our soil erosion rates continue to be unsustainably high. We continue to pollute. . .with agricultural poisons. We continue to lose farmland to urban development of the most wasteful sort. The large agribusiness corporations that were mainly national in 1977 are now global, and replacing the world's agricultural diversity, . . . with bioengineered and patented monocultures that are merely profitable to corporations." Not to mention backed by the full might of the US government. Zimbabwe, starve or take US GM grains!

"We agrarians are involved in a hard, long, momentous contest, in which we are so far, and by a considerable margin, the losers."

"One keeps writing essays and speeches that one would prefer not to write. . . ." (2)

The Sun is Sy Safransky's contribution to hopeful magazines, nice chicken soup from the hills of North Carolina. Sy gets a lot of really good writers and photographers to contribute fairly regularly. Derrick Jensen, whom I have cited in the past, does top quality essays and interviews. In the June 2002 issue, he interviews George Ritzer, "The Disenchanted Kingdom: George Ritzer On The Disappearance of American Culture."

George Ritzer is a sociologist. He has written proper sociological tomes and publishes frequently. Only one old book in the Hawaii State Library System. A few more in the UH libraries, though.

Ritzer often cites Max Weber (1864-1920). Many of Weber's more gloomy predictions are coming to fruition today. In Ritzer's view Weber ". . . feared that bureaucracy would spread until society became a seamless web of rationalized institutions from which there would be no escape."

After a big yawn and casual "So what?" from the unwashed, Ritzer gave this general idea a catchy and better selling name: McDonaldization. Still a bit on the heavy side, but better. McDonaldization is Frederick Winslow Taylor's Scientific Management (aka industrial engineering) carried to and beyond its logical extremes. Remember: There is no excess which will not be exceeded!

McDonaldization comes down, in Ritzer's view, to Efficiency, Predictability, Calculability and Control through Technology. It is more efficient to eliminate choice. No surprises allowed. Script behavior, especially consumer behavior. Faster is better than better. Beyond portion control comes profit. Turn over seats to the max. No creativity allowed. Totally in the box. System uber alles!

Ok, so we know about all that. If burgers flipped equal votes, McDonald's and all its imitators win by a landslide. You got a problem with success? I mean success!

A recent article in the Financial Times notes that same-store open more than one year sales at McDonald's are down seven percent in 2002 so far. Response? Open new restaurant franchises in pseudo-Mexican and fake-Italian modes. No problema. If at first McDonald's doesn't succeed, McDonaldize something else.

Travel around the world a bit. Look down the street here and nearly everywhere. What is to be seen? Row on row of Mickey D's and imitators. Local entrepreneurs in more than 150 countries are doing local versions of Efficiency, Predictability, Calculability and Control Through Technology. No more mamas or poppas anywhere. So, tell me something new?

The extension of McDonaldization, in Ritzer's view, is dumbing down the already dumbed down. "I fear we're creating a population that won't know what to do during a crisis. How do people who have been taught to be subordinate -- at home, at school, in the workplace -- become active, creative agents in a changing society?" Excellent question. Rhetorical to the max, though.

". . . the principles of rationalization burrow into every sector or our lives. Although all rationalized systems operate in much the same way, they may not look the same. This makes it much more difficult to attack the growth of rationalization and, in fact, leads me to be pretty pessimistic about our future."

". . .why, if I'm so pessimistic. . ., why do I bother writing about the problem? The answer is to increase awareness. When we're conscious of being controlled, it becomes much harder for those in power to maintain that control." Unnhuh. So, I do Subway, mo' bettah!

". . . the system tries to eliminate creativity: because creative action can cause the system to fall apart. The game may be rigged, but by acting creatively, we stand a chance of beating it." (3)

Somebody said that an optimist is someone who doesn't know much or have much information.

A deeply cherished memory recalls a clogged square in Prague as the Soviets released hold. Thousands and thousands of people stretched their arms high clasping keys. The sound of keys jingling and jangling overwhelmed all. Free us! Unlock us! (Daniel Quinn, are you listening?)

Remember that the Soviet Union and its satellites imploded with very little violence.

Hope that the Bush monarchy will move on as quietly.

Get out your keys. Be ready.

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References and Notes

1.  Hope, September/October 2002, Number 3, p. 10 ff. Hope Publishing, Inc. P. O. Box 160, Naskeag Road, Brooklin ME 04616, 1-800-513-0869 $19.95 one year subscription. $4.95 cover.
Women Waging Peace, 65 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge MA 02138, 1-617-868-3910  (back)

2.  Orion Twentieth Anniversary Edition, volume 21, 3. The Orion Society, 187 Main St., Great Barrington MA 02130, p. 50 ff., 1-888-909-6568, $35.00 one year subs. $9.00 cover.  (back)

3.  The Sun, Issue 318, June 2002, p. 4 ff. The Sun, 107 North Roberson St., Chapel Hill NC 27516, 1-919-942-5282, $34.00 one year subs. $3.95 cover.  (back)


Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, comes from a classic Eastern Establishment background culminated by a Harvard MBA. Perversely, however, he learned to think. Applying thought, he sees beyond and tries to write about what he sees. He now lives in the rainforest of non-tourist Hawaii near the lava flows.

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Published September 23, 2002
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