Connected We Stand

Are progressives missing the chance to capitalize on a major cultural transformation?

| March / April 2003

The other day a friend started haranguing me about “greenwashing”—token ecological gestures that corporations make to mask their environmentally destructive practices. I suggested that the practice reveals a corporate vulnerability to public opinion that opponents can turn to their advantage. He brushed this thought aside, as if anxious to convince me how hopeless it was trying to stop corporate malfeasance. I began to wonder if harping on the magnitude of problems might actually be keeping us from doing anything about them.

I’ve begun to feel lately that such lamentations are related to the ineffectuality of progressive politics in recent years. The left is floundering in part due to a failure to grasp the essence of a cultural shift that is slowly but surely transforming the world. The right is desperately fighting this shift, using time-honored strategies, tactics, and slogans. The left remains confused, standing in opposition to the right while sharing, unconsciously, many of its underlying assumptions and values. What is this cultural shift, and why are so many resisting it? Consider these more or less random examples: