Thursday, May 14, 2009

Treating people as, y'know, people

So I interviewed Douglas Rushkoff today (I'll post a link to the interview soon) about his soon-to-be released book, Life, Inc.

The book is subtitled "How The World Became A Corporation and How To Take It Back." In really, really short form, the way to take it back is by reconnecting to your surroundings, your home, your friends, your food--everything. Rushkoff argues that people have been so shaped by our corporatist world that we behave like mini-corporations in ourselves.

I was transcribing for a while, and then put it away for the evening, still thinking about the things we discussed in the interview, about community, about how Rushkoff's point is actually rather close to Kant's instruction:

"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end."

And then I read this.

I don't have a problem with the post in general--gentrification is something that most young urban folks should think about and many don't. (Rushkoff actually takes on gentrification in the book as well, looking at the cycle and the rise in "property values".)

But what strikes me is that even here I see the corporatist mindset. Consider:

Anybody have ideas of how those of us in gentrifying neighborhoods--both folks who have lived "here" forever and those who are just moving in--can collectively benefit from our assets?

To be fair, Martin uses the term "assets" after it was used in an article that she quotes liberally in the piece. But once again, we're talking about people in business terms. My neighbors are not "assets." They are, as Kant noted, ends in themselves, not means to an end. They are people.

The idea is not to use our "assets," but to get to know the people in your neighborhood, to be part of a community. Community isn't just the place where you live. Community was my neighborhood in New Orleans where my neighbor would barbecue a huge dinner and invite the whole street to join in, where we'd stand outside and chat for a while whenever we ran into one another. Community is the mechanic on the end of my Philly block who drove me to school the day the part for my car didn't come on time, and called me to follow up and make sure the car was still working.

Martin concludes the post by saying:

"But beyond that, I'm hungry to interact with those in my community in a way that feeds us all."

I'd suggest that the first way to do that is to stop thinking about people as assets to be utilized.