The Big Ideas of 2008

When the Center Collapsed

The year 2007 may well be remembered as the year the Earth tipped, but Adbusters is taking a firm hold of the planet in 2008 to try and balance things out.


Global warming kicked in with a vengeance in 2007 and ecosystems crashed like never before. We finally had to admit that our fossil fuel-based way of living had thrown the planet out of whack for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. The year 2007 may well be remembered by future generations as the year the Earth tipped, the moment when this 30,000 generation-long experiment of ours on Planet Earth suddenly veered out of control.


The number of marketing messages hitting our brains soared to an astonishing 5,000 per day. Mental health statistics flew off the charts. Teenagers cut and burned themselves and committed suicide in record numbers. Something tragic was happening and we didn't know what it was. It may be the beginning of a psycho-system collapse and the loss of our clarity of mind as a species.

2007 also saw millions of people making the breakthrough connection between advertising and their own mental health. Perhaps the most significant moment occurred last January when São Paulo became the first city in the world to ban outdoor advertising and declare itself ad-free – hopeful signs that we may finally be seeing the birth of a mental environmental movement that will take back the space we need to think clear, crisp thoughts again.


Stock markets soared to new heights in 2007, but also saw the first signs of cracks when the subprime market crashed. Suddenly all those billions of abstract dollars flying around felt more like a giant Ponzi scheme destined to collapse at any moment. And this time, unlike in 1929, we won't have the forests, oceans and the natural wealth of the planet to fall back on.

We also saw an unprecedented questioning of the fundamental assumptions behind capitalism and its neoclassical underpinnings. Ordinary people everywhere scratched their heads and wondered: why were financial markets peaking at this most ominous environmental moment in our history?


2007 saw a dramatic shift from a unipolar to a more multipolar way of running global affairs. Russia, China, India, Brazil, Iran, Venezuela and other Latin American countries all flexed their geopolitical muscles like never before.

Many of the ideas the left has been kicking around for years, like global voting systems (GVS), simultaneous national policies and a world parliament, suddenly made a lot of sense. In 2008, look for a more muscular United Nations and more buzz around the idea of global democracy. Adbusters will launch a competition to design the flag that this United States of Planet Earth can proudly fly.


In one of his recent lectures, French philosopher Alain Badiou said that the old revolutionary ideal of negation as destruction does not work anymore – we need a new concept. He listed composer Arnold Schoenberg as an example of an innovator who created a totally new tonal system – "a new framework for the musical activity" and "a new coherence for musical discourse," all without destroying the old. There's a hint there for how we on the left can turn our whiny, complaint-based style of capitalist negation into a magical and innovative new force for change.

On the personal front

Waves of euphoria, waves of despair... day by day, we come to realize that the simplest, most elegant solution to living in a warming world is to rethink freedom, rethink the idea that each one of us has the God-given right to drive to the supermarket, fly to Mexico on a whim and keep our living spaces toasty warm all winter. What we, the rich one billion people of the First World need before it's too late, is a good whack to the head – something bigger than a real estate crisis, bigger than oil costing over $100 a barrel, bigger even than the crash of 1929. We need to be prodded, shocked, terrorized and made to live.

In this 75th issue of Adbusters, we try to do just that.

36 comments on the article “When the Center Collapsed”

Displaying 31 - 36 of 36

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Don't get me wrong, sign me up for esperanta and let's get this unified global democracy party started. I'm just surprised to hear adbusters advocating for bigger government.


Let's stop advocating ANARCHY and ORGANIZE! If the scum running the planet today can maintain power with advertising to 6.5 billion dummies, so can WE. Let's brainstorm gaining awareness and support. This is the perfect avenue for dirty politics. And time is short.


I like the Badiou idea you note, to offer constructive critique rather than just trashing. However, I really feel that AdBusters has lost it's roots. It ain't local. And I have to say I was pretty convinced by the Heath&Potter book The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't be Jammed. I don't agree with all they say, but when you look at AdBusters you can't help but thing that gloss and image are more important than substance. Wasn't the point to bust not just the specific brand but the whole medium? Somehow we are now just another part of the grand society of spectacle and not in a way that builds an alternative. Let's get local and messy with the mundane/exciting everyday. I'm tired of hearing the same old Zero Population Growth concept as if it is radical. And the same old individual-consciousness raising gambit it's called religion and its as establishment as it gets. We need to act together to solve these big problems and style nor single voices just won't cut it. I've been on the margins and swam upstream and there is a real limit to what can do by themselves. Thinking different is all well and good but what we really need is to understand how each other thinks and get working collectively. No, not one world central govt local, local, noncoercive federation. The hip language of this magazine betrays an elitism, a need to be the vanguard... We need to evolve beyond that because these really are global crisises facing us and not just an individual crisis of identity!

J Leeds

Firstly, a really thought provoking article and a great take on the 2007 summary. I hope I haven't misunderstood whats being said here, if so, appologies but... Who the hell are you to call this the United States of Planet Earth. Too many American connotations and such arrogance. Please tell me you're not serious.

Jay McMahon

All good points, but I wish to touch on the Anarcho issue. I firmly believe, that if one wishes to contest another's comments and/or statements, then anger has to be removed from the equation. A strict mental process should be institued to analysis what was said and what is meant by said comments; long with the hidden statements. Then to question those comments to better clarify what the meaning behind what was said. Also, one can state the train of thought, which was used to arrive at the conclusion and cause you to contest another's point of view. The best example I could use is Bill O'Reilly pretty much anything he speaks could be contested. When he goes into his 'Talking Points' segment everything he says is commentary and to let you know its commentary a banner at the bottom of the screen states that fact. So, as soon as he goes into his personal rant he makes a statement like 'but there is a line'. My first question would not be about what he said, but 'What line?' and 'Whose line?', go after what he implying. There is a line that you should not pass and he is stating he is the maker of the line. Well, maybe it is just me, but that just doesn't sound like Censorship, it is Censorship and Fuhrer Bill is the self appointed Censor of what you and I are allowed to say. And I've just one thing to say to that Sig Heil, Mein Fuhrer Bill!


A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it The same can be said about politics, education, religion, and not just science. Is it all just a little bit of history repeating?


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