My garden is a good resource for a multitude of debatable issues from nature/nurture to the variable use of green. During my walk-around this morning, I thought about Lewis Powell, Jr., and a less benign issue came to mind: intentionally manipulating the balance of things vs. the natural progress and corrections that make a garden beautiful and strong. There was a time when I sprayed poison or fertilizer to control everything from bugs and fungus, to the water, soil and seed. To say the least, it was an ill-conceived plan.
Seven years ago, on August 23, I came home to find thousands of beautiful hardworking bees all dying in my yard. It was a …revolting sight. The garden soil was a slowly moving carpet. They were everywhere. They lay motionless on blossoms. They were upside down in the grass and all over the deck. For days they fell like rain from the crepe myrtles. I had sprayed a systemic insecticide over thousands of square feet of plants in an attempt to fend off another round of spider mites.
This year, August 23 will be the 40th anniversary of Lewis Powell’s confidential memorandum, Attack of American Free Enterprise System. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will now. Since realizing the coincidence of the anniversaries, a parallel of the tragedies has found my sensibility.
My plan started when I thought the garden was being threatened. I wanted more of what I thought was good, more of what I wanted to see, less of what I didn’t want to see. I attacked the obstacles that stood in the way of a better garden. Unfortunately, neither foresight nor sustainability were part of the plan.
Over time, plants like the summer phlox grew to six feet tall and had to be supported. Their bloom heads were so over-sized that any change in the environment – wind, rain, even a bird sent them crashing down. At the same time, the soil was dying and everything that wasn’t over-stimulated was withering. Not knowing how to reverse the process, I sprayed what I didn’t want and fertilized what I did. Everything natural and good was eventually undermined.
Lewis Powell, Jr. may have done the same thing in offering his plan to transform America. His “manifesto” is nothing less than an outline designed to manipulate the natural balance of power. His notion of what was good – the promotion of neoliberal ideology, was to be strategically planted and fertilized as to dominate the landscape of education and public discourse. What he didn’t want to see – the influence of liberal-minded people and movements that criticized corporate dishonesty – was to be attacked and destroyed.
Powell’s plan was introduced in 1971. Since that time, his followers in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, corporate executives, businesses, and trade associations across America, have mobilized their economic and political power accordingly. They regularly “spray” their critics and have poured money into every conceivable medium to grow the ideology of corporate dominance and impunity. They created and continue to nurture powerful conservative think-tanks and corporate sponsored organizations that influence policy and write radical pro-corporate, anti-middle class, anti-labor legislative proposals. In short, what they have done is dominate the American campus, the media, politics, the courts, Wall Street, and every other powerful or influential American institution. Unfortunately, neither foresight nor sustainability were part of the plan.
For me, remembering the event of August 23rd in my yard will always be horrific. I enjoy more of a ‘Darwinian’ garden now. It has taken seven years for my small property to recuperate and become the healthy and bountiful land it is today. In that vein, I have great hope for America. A recent attack of spider mites attracted a population of beneficial predator mites that also eat thrips off my gardenia. My position in the garden has been relegated to that of a supportive spectator – a student of the natural process.
I think our country, on the other hand, is still badly infested with an out-of-balance intention.