Mashup of the Occupy thing, history and a brand new Barbie

Not a rant; a long, meandering rave



The world, she is a-changing! Not that it isn’t always changing, but sometimes there are quantum leaps, or pivotal events that make it more noticeable. For me, the stars aligned recently: movements in cities and towns around the world seeking to change the broken systems. Wow! Then, I got last minute tickets to the International Flamenco Festival and to Meow-Moew’s show in the Spring. Yay! Then I was fortunate (thanks to C+C) to attend the launch of Michele Landsberg’s book, Writing the Revolution and while in the line-up I saw someone I haven’t seen for 20 years and got caught up. Then, I got to shake Stephen Lewis’ hand. And then, if you haven’t seen and heard by now, Mattel is introducing a new, alt Barbie. Cool.

The Occupy thing

An Occupy the World movement is spreading and is for the most part sane, although there are lots of people finding wacky opportunities in it, like the guy who made the film The hot chicks of New York City’s OWS. The film has made some women grumpy. Seems even a protest is a capitalist opportunity and, sex still sells.

In Toronto, people being people, there are now splinter groups from the original Occupy group, but I suppose that’s to be expected. We now have Occupy Toronto and Occupy Bay Street. How dumb. How unnecessary. How very much old school identity politics and yet, predictable. Until everyone feels heard and validated…and it’s hard to know what to align with: For things to change? For social justice and an end to all forms of violence and discrimination, including corporatism?

Meanwhile, on a tangent: capitalism, liberalism, socialism and conservatism have long been corrupted and perverted from their original theoretical frameworks. Capitalism has turned into corporatism and corporatism has become a religion. If history is any guide, it’s never strictly about the politics: it’s about the money, the power, and the game of politics. People get creative with these things. Dr. Florida’s prediction about the rise of the creative class — a sort of silly but well-marketed idea — turned out to be prescient in a weird sort of way; however, I don’t think he expected the creative class to be those accountants and fund managers and bankers and shadowy men from the shadowy planet of backroom deals and world market domination (grow the company! bigger is better!) and creating shareholder value. (Excuse me but what the F does shareholder value contribute to society in any meaningful way?)

In capitalism, or the rabid brand that’s practiced by corporations and sanctioned by governments and taught in schools, few question the dogma that growth is good. But it seems to me that growth reaches a point where it’s unhealthy and unmanageable. Like that tipping point from being simply overweight to being obese. Or telling a lie that starts reasonably innocently but becomes so big that it’s impossible to back away from with any dignity.

In spite of the splintering and punditry, in the event that the men and women behind the curtain missed it, the Occupy thing has stirred something in the larger human community. Perhaps the Occupy thing is a nascent thing that can’t be defined under a single banner ad. Perhaps, as Michele pointed out, it is about social justice.

Perhaps. I am not sure there would be such a movement if there were jobs for people, if the mortgage debacle hadn’t happened, if there hadn’t been massive fraud in the UK and in the US and in Europe in the many billions of dollars that’s caused the collapse and artificial propping up of the economic system as we know it. What people are responding to is loss and betrayal, broken promises, being manipulated. How about a total, global jubilee year for 2012? It would take us less than five years to be back in the same place unless we change the economic theories — which have been outdated since faster paced technology came to be a force in the economy, roughly after WW2.

It seems to me we’re seeing a statement on the need for something to change because old solutions are not working, and when they’re applied, they break down fast than ever before: the canaries are standing up before any more are sacrificed in the proverbial mines for the fat cats. (No offence to cats.) What the corporatists and their supporters fail to understand is that the Occupy thing is not a negotiation. (One sign in New York said, “We’re here, we’re unclear, get used to it.”)

The dictators in our world are not as identifiable as they are overseas, but they’re around, framing everything in a context of productivity and materialism and purchasing power. Do you know anyone who works just 37.5 hours? Who isn’t tethered to work by email, phone and worry 24/7? Who ignores the mistreatment because they’re lucky to have a job?

In case the men and women behind the curtain missed it, while it’s not exactly the same as the French Revolution or the storming of the Bastille, there’s something about Occupy that’s similar. Reaction to injustices. To unfairness. To entitlement. New thinking came out of that revolutionary time, so perhaps we can hope for something new to emerge from these times too, ideally without violence.

A brand new Barbie

But enough of that. Will you look at the new Barbie? The internet is a-twitter with this latest incarnation of Barbie, because clearly, we’re messing with a cultural icon and war is getting boring and so is all the opinionator talk about the economy.


Barbie and friend

I never played with Barbie. As a little girl, I thought Barbie was for sissy girls. Which I was not. However, I did grow up to be a sort of nerd and as such I have a collection of comics, and some action figures such as Atomic Boy, The Tick, Pingu, bunches of robots and other collectibles that I am too shy to name. I have put many of them away and other than all of you who read this, there are probably three people on the planet that know about my collection of nerd things. However, for all my collections, I do not own a Barbie anything, which has not stood me in good stead with my nieces.

This edition of the Barbie dolls is almost cool and might rock in every way — except for the shoes. I would like to see cool black leather ankle boots, with refined metal work on them as buckles. Perhaps my initials.

Now, my enthusiasm for this might make me lose some serious feminist points: plastic is bad. Barbie is white. There’s a wee creature on a chain, likely without its permission. The shoes are CFM pumps and in all likelihood, Barbie is not one of the 99 per cent: she looks more like an untattooed Paris Hilton. Oh, and to those parents who are pissed about this Barbie doll? Don’t buy it.

I won’t be buying it either — I’m waiting for the Lost Girl Action Figure — but I can appreciate the courage and creativity and utter silliness behind this new Barbie, that just happens to be made by a huge corporate toy manufacturer. And doesn’t that just bring me to a different place, a place of paradox. Contradiction. Today. Here. Now. New world, old world.

For those of us here now, we’re in that in-between time, the time of transition. The new world is not likely to land for a while. In-between times are not easy, certain or clear, so when things start to fall apart, like the things we put our trust in — education, banks, leaders — it gets a bit confusing. Getting out there and talking to other people in the in-between time is a good thing, if only to know we’re in this together.

I will not say out loud how I would appreciate it if the stars kick the butts of those leading splinter groups in Toronto. But I do.

For me, I’m hoping that the stars align again. I’m hoping that they align to end once and for all the insidious social Darwinism in every place it’s worshipped; to surface and spread new human, planet and animal/fowl/fish friendly models of economics and finance and business, and to launch a peaceful revolution that lands us on the civil society side of change.


About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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2 Responses to Mashup of the Occupy thing, history and a brand new Barbie

  1. terrisitagg says:

    Take a breath!! Clever, pithy observations FCS. I had a question about the Barbie (I will admit to having a Debbie Doll (Barbies poor cousin) but I wasn’t very interested in that stuff either. Are her dimensions still as out of whack with any healthy reality, or have they reduced her breast size so she will simply look anorexic? Oh, and the CFM stillettoes are small enough to easily suck up in the vaccuum cleaner, which is a good thing (that’s where they belong). If you look at the headshot you chose though, it would appear that Babs is indeed tatted up. I wonder if there is any opportunity for the child to express her “individuality” and “cultural identification” in the choice of those tattoo’s.

    Your observations about the “Occupation” are very interesting, and you make some very good historical references, but isn’t it only a “movement” if it goes somewhere? There certainly are a lot of diverse individuals milling about, and SOME of the exchanges are difinitive and pertainent. I’m just much relieved I don’t have to work in a downtown office and be challenged by people who don’t know who I am or what lowely cog in whatever wheel I’d be spinning in. In my maturity, I’ve become a little ‘crowd phobic’. Great start under your new name!! Thanks!

    • FS says:

      Dearest T: Wow… thank you. :-). Hmm where to begin? The problems inherent with Barbie remain… she is what she is. There are a few interesting things about the reaction to this latest Barbie: once upon a time ago, a girl looking like this would’ve been labeled trailer trash. But we’ve elevated that look — or perhaps co-opted it — in much the same way that we’ve appropriated other class and culture looks and elevated them to a status that gets the label fashion. As a thought experiment, it’s kind of interesting to play with all of the connections with this. In all honesty, I liked the art of it. And art can be used to subvert the prevailing cultural norms, although sadly, even alt is mainstream now. The interesting thing is that little girls don’t feel that they can’t express themselves with a Barbie doll, so maybe the kinds of things we project onto Barbie and the little girls playing with her bear looking at?

      Movement: T, that’s such a good question. I am reluctant to call it a movement in a formal sense; we don’t yet know if it has legs. By the same token, perhaps our understanding of such things needs to change and not be so hemmed in by our need for utter clarity at all times. (Although clarity is good, ambiguity is more prevalent. SO we need strategies to deal with that). What is a movement in our culture? Maybe it’s like one of those waves that used to happen at concerts and games, stand up sit down. Over. TIl the next one. It is likely too early to tell, but whatever it is, I think it gives anyone who’s listening an idea that there’s something going on, and whether there is anyone, anywhere, picking up on the threads and the undertones and the nuggets and can follow through to a clear path, is anyone’s guess. This event will, however, for people who attend it, influence them and if any of them become future decision makers, that can be a good thing. Let’s hope. ((hugs)) — my response is a wee post. Sorry!

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