Mind Your Inventory!

Apparently it’s time to ramp up the promotion of the propaganda engine that is “Lemonade Day” in America.  Today’s Bloomington Herald-Times offers free advertisement for this event and the Powers behind it in the form of a “news item” in the Business Section (which, really, is only advertising), “Kids learn with lemons.”  Is it just me that finds the use of “lemons” ironic–hey kids, this kind of thinking sucks lemons!  (Well, I know it’s not just me because Sarah said it to me first!)  Don’t worry that the article is behind a pay-wall.  Make lemonade and read this post instead!

Recently a “poster” has been making the rounds on Facebook that offers a similar response: if all you have is lemons, your lemonade will suck.  I like the literalness of that.  It also put me in mind of the rank banality of the fools who bandy about sayings that seem to them to have some ring of biblical truth and gravity–you know, like teach a man to fish and you’ve supported a living; give him a fish and you’ve supported an entitlement.  The world in which these particular men “teach” us how to fish happens to supply us with no water and no fish.  (Now, read through all the Errant pieces on education and you’ll start to see why we’re up a creek without even the creek.)

I’ve written about this before in a couple of places (“Summer Camps and Business Plans” and “A Talent for Business“) and I keep needing to because, well, somebody should.

I’ve always just thought these kinds of things were as pointless as advertising for Coca-Cola products.  With a near monopoly on either market share or ideology, why bother?  But on second thought, not long ago I offered a piece of a speech given by William Morris in the late 19th century regarding the abuses of public advertising, “120 Years too Late,” wherein he says,

…it is only under very peculiar circumstances that advertising ever pays. And yet, my friends, I tell you plainly, people all over the country, in all kinds of businesses, spend enormous sums of money and half ruin themselves in advertising, the result of which is that they do not sell much more. The truth is, it is only on these two conditions advertising pays: the thing must cost little or nothing to make, and it must attract everybody’s money. The advertiser must enter into a life and death competition with all the other advertisers…

Does that answer the “why bother?” question I posed to “lemonade education” and Poison-Cola marketing?  To stay king shit you’ve got to raise the bum flap and let fly on the peasants below without cessation.

Is it indicative of something peculiar in my own neural networks that my mind just flashed to the “Jesus Prayer”?  Do you know what that is?  I learned of it in a Salinger story, I forget which, “Franny” I think.  Within the story the book The Way of the Pilgrim is discussed.

The pilgrim’s inner journey begins when he is struck upon hearing the words of Paul (in Thessalonians 5:17) to “pray without ceasing.” He visits churches and monasteries to try and understand how to pray without ceasing. His travels lead him to a starets (a spiritual father) who teaches him the Jesus Prayer—”Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”—and gives him practical advice on how to recite the prayer uninterruptedly, as a type of mantra.

Most versions of the prayer tack on “a sinner” to the end.  The point here is that the pilgrim or “sinner” is to repeat the prayer incessantly until it is internalized.

With that in our minds, two things things I’d like to draw attention to.  The first has to do with what seems to me a kind of thievery of childhood social structures.  If you ever, on your own or with friends in a neighborhood, actually made a lemonade stand and “sold” drinks you were offered a kind public subsidy.  Your parents proffered all the ingredients with no expectation of “profit.”  The ROI (coercive acronym alert!) was FUN (not an acronym).  Ideally (oh, do you think I’m idealizing this?), you were with friends or friends came by and the only lemonade you sold was to other adults who likewise enjoyed the chance to subsidize your fun.  And in their minds they wished that they too could get their living in a similar manner.  (Yesterday, as counter-ideology, I read a comment about grading teachers that claimed tenure was “immoral and unethical.”  A lawyer made this comment, ehem.)  The lemonade was cold (if you had a cooler and ice) on a hot day.  It was sour yet sweet.  It was tactile.  It was sensual.  It was living as a human being with other human beings and enjoying human togetherness as an end in itself.

What these take-over activities intend is to replace this human idea of community and enjoyment with a business plan and an “end” that rests in a balance sheet and debt financing.  To erase and replace our very nostalgias.  Remove old memory, insert new memory.  This has always been the way we think about lemonade stands!  No you may not have a taste unless you pay for it.  Be sure you have proper inventory control!  Are the P&Ls right for expansion?

In the service of this come Foundations happy to support this erasure.  And they are smart.  Really, ridiculous smart.  They know what they’re doing.  The are the snake in the garden of summer fun.  The Coleman Foundation is listed in the H-T article as offering grant support.  Look ‘em up.  They look decent enough, right, and sound decent enough.

The Coleman Foundation is a private, independent grantmaking foundation established in the state of Illinois in 1951. The Foundation supports educational institutions offering entrepreneurship education across the country, organizations providing cancer care, treatment and support, and agencies providing services for individuals with developmental disabilities only in the Chicago Metropolitan area – its primary geographical focus.

I mean, it’s hard to argue with that.  And my wee cynical mind whispers (well, screams really) “that’s the point.”  It’s hard to attack doers of evidently “good works.”  But that’s part of the game don’t you see?  It’s a long con and it’s been going on for a long time.  George Eliot, a champion, like William Morris, of finding and regenerating human communities in the face of machine-age degradations, felt her novels might serve to “counteract the fragmented, self-serving, and isolating tendencies of increasingly heterogeneous and complex societies” by recovering “a sense of solidarity through a revolution of thought and feeling.”*  This was not a political revolution but a revolution of sensibilities.  Through organizations like the Coleman Foundation the forked tongues have stolen even this method of change.

Look more closely.  Coleman sponsors a group called Self-Employment in the Arts.

We help artists succeed at becoming an artist through conferences, workshops, and our website full of resources and articles. The focus is on the business of arts.
Mission:  To provide educational resources to help aspiring artists gain the entrepreneurial knowledge and skills needed to establish and maintain a career as an independent artist.
About:  The focus of SEA is on the business of art. SEA was created with the idea that more artists will succeed if they have business skills, knowledge, resources, and contacts. Through artist-led conferences, a website full of resources and articles, and educational tools like the award winning Entrepreneurial Artist DVD; SEA helps artists turn their passions into a living. SEA is for college students, serious high school students, artists, and educators.

Coleman is paying artists to promote business ideology (pray on it incessantly).  You recall when the artist was the rebel in society?  Coleman will have none of that!  The endgame?  No more NEA and no more public funding for the arts.  Locally, in Bloomington, Indiana, a place scoring well on the LGBT scale of accepting communities, a place where every other person you meet is in a band, or six of them, there was recently a column in the newspaper by a city council member (all Democrats, too, don’t you know), “Arts should lean on private sector, not government,” saying the ARTS must be a private sector venture.  Beauty must be owned and graciously proffered by the Masters, not the public.

This is an insidious ideology and it is growing like a monster by leaps and bounds daily.

How can we not collectively recognize that selling everything puts you at the mercy of the highest bidder?  Are we finally simply admitting that we have always believed in the one true philosophy, like the proclamation for the one true God: Might makes right.

That is finally the lesson of lemons.

*Graver, Suzanne.  George Eliot and Community, p 3.

Photo Credit: timstock

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Douglas Storm is a host and producer for Interchange on Bloomington, Indiana's community radio station WFHB. "Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it..."

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