I'm reading an interesting book right now about the genesis and trajectory of institutional fads. You know, the stuff like TQM, Six Sigma, standards testing, and other organizational re-orgs that seasonally take hold of education, medicine or business. The author talks about why fads take place in our culture (our belief in progress is one reason) and talks about why people decide to join fads.
I am thinking about this in the context of what I think our culture's current 'rage' is: environmentalism and "sustainable" and organic and everything. It's the buzz! Everyone is talking about it! My grandmother, who lives in a very small Michigan town and does not have access to the internet, took pains to assure me that her garden is "organic" the other day. I don't mean to belittle my grandma: she has been "organic" before the term had cache. She grew up in the Depression, when people didn't think about recycling and reusing--if you didn't do that, you did without. It's our culture that's weird--when organic is a pose or an unorthodox (or now, orthodox) choice.
My fear is that my own nascent environmentalism will cool, along with the hype. Or that our culture's concern will be 'greenwashed' out of us. Part of me feels cynical, now that all our marketing gurus are figuring out how to use this fad to generate even more consumption. It's just terribly ironic, no?
I don't think it's inevitable that everyone's enthusiasm for this greening trend will fade--I think there are elements of this paradigm shift that must take hold, because our planet literally can't sustain us and China and India living like we've been living. We all have to slow down. And yet, I worry that the fact that this feels like a fad will make it easier for us all to opt out, slow down, and lose interest. Is it possible for our generation and culture to pay attention for longer than one news cycle? Is it possible for us to really change the way we live?
I don't know. And I hate the fact that I, too, join the bandwagon when it suits me, when it's cool, and there's a great movie about it. Would that change would come...well, more organically.