For more coverage: Lululemon wants to know: Who is John Galt?
Occupy Lululemon: yoga apparel giant’s new tote bags ask ‘Who Is John Galt?’—an homage to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged—the “bible of the Tea Party.”
But first, context. The intro from NPR’s story on this burgeoning, much-covered controversial marketing move by yoga apparel giant Lululemon:
Yoga sports apparel store Lululemon has sparked controversy with new shopping bags that promote a novel by Ayn Rand. The bags have the words “Who is John Gualt” on them — a phrase from the book Atlas Shrugged. Lululemon founder Chip Wilson is a fan of the book…
…However, at least at the moment, it does seem – the evidence suggests that Lululemon has severely alienated its core constituency. Certainly here in Toronto, the moms in the fantastic-looking Lululemon pants are discussing this in the school yards and the yoga studios and they’re not at all possible. And so, it’s possible that Ron Paul followers will suddenly embrace yoga or may buy a fantastic-looking pair of pants. And at the very least, it just means that Ron Paul will have some followers who just look great from behind.”
I’m friendly with the Lululemon crew. I see them at the Yoga Journal Conferences. I see them at their store, in Boulder. They’re super nice and helpful. The product is good, though I wish more of it was made in the USA or Canada or fair-labor certified, from sustainable materials. Mindful is as mindful does.
I asked them about the bags. They pointed me to this blog, an explanation of where they’re coming from. They also carry copies of Atlas Shrugged in all stores, or at least most. So they’re definitely pushing this book, and its ideology.
What they say in their blog—rise above mediocrity, live your greatness…is great. As long as we use our greatness to be of service, instead of to wall ourselves off behind gated communities, as do many of the adherents of Ayn Rand—who twist the American dream from being about middle class and the good life into being about untold riches and to hell with the rest of the world, and the poor, and the sick, and the weak.
So—I have no problem with this. It’s provocative. Good for them. We all should realize that we can live extraordinary lives. The key, however, is not to try and die with the most toys. It’s to be the guy/gal who gives the most toys away.
~ Waylon Lewis, ed.
PS: guess this means that Chip Wilson of Lululemon, like John Mackey of Whole Foods, or wassisname of Urban Outfitters, likely votes as conservative as he can. What’s it with all these conservative-owned, liberal-consumer-base companies rocking in down economies?
Our elephriend Matt King‘s thoughtful response:
This is hard to understand fully, since I haven’t been following Lululemon other than the Brittany Norwood homicide case, and I also haven’t read Ayn Rand (I’m pretty poorly read for a Harvard grad :/).
I’d say that anything that decreases demand for $150 pairs of pants and decreases the market and mind share for a brand that essentially sells reformulated petroleum products to vain yoga moms who practice yoga for personal gain is of nominal benefit to society and opens space for more conscious brands like Prana or I AM.
However, having begun yoga around 10 years ago for selfish reasons (I wanted to increase my flexibility and lung capacity to be a more successful rower) and having my life path ultimately changed by teachers…and taken into a more conscious practice to benefit others, I’m conflicted to pronounce a definitive denunciation of Lululemon or yoga styles like Bikram that open doors for people to explore the deeper branches of yoga sadhana.
Our society is unfortunately very materialistic (caught in the prakrti) and it’s hard to convince people to do things that diminish their social standing, wealth, or sense of identity. So, superficial branches of physical yoga fill a role in Western societies and open doors for people to turn more inward and explore the possibility of renunciation, or at least a less material identity.
All in all, we’re in a time of extraordinary evolution of consciousness and the economic and moral structures that govern human behavior are crumbling – many are seeking ways to get off the grid, return to nature, and return to the higher Self, and the explosion of the yoga phenomenon shows how deeply we yearn for a different mode of existence, even if we haven’t quite dialed in to the depths of the ancient meditative traditions. We’ll all start waking up shortly, though—I think we are all feeling a tremendous increase in the amount of consciousness and experiencing energetic shifts individually, societally, and globally.
2012 will be interesting, to say the least.
Bonus: an illuminating response from Matt’s dad, Will:
“I’ve read Atlas four times and consorted with some Objectivist wingnuts here and there over the past 46 years. This trope that it’s a call to excellence is so much horsepoop. It’s a stylized, exaggerated and stereotyped overreaction…to Marxism. It’s the Koch Brothers before the Koch Brothers. It’s selfishness to the point of nihilism.Again, it’s just as, if not more, likely that community-spirited soft-hearted liberals will achieve excellence than those blinded by revulsion at collectivism. IMHO.
The physical aspect of my being began to flourish early in high school as I became a highly competitive rower, eventually representing the United States at two Junior World Championships (one in Trakai, Lithuania, and one in Athens, Greece). Rowing and serious academic studies led me to Harvard University where I exited the world of crew after a few months due to severe pain caused by bulging discs in my back, crushing my dreams of competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. I had started practicing yoga in high school under the instruction of my teachers Tim Thompson and Laura Camp, but subsequent to my back injury I began to deepen my practice of aṣṭānga viṅyāsa yoga and explored new meditative spiritual and physical practices. At Harvard I began my journey on the path of Buddhist studies in 2005 in the spring of freshman year with an introductory course from Janet Gyatso. I was so enthralled with the material and by my contact with Korean Zen at the Cambridge Zen Center that I decided to change my major from Government to Religious Studies with a focus on Buddhism. I applied to study abroad programs seeking a more intimate and intensive instruction in Buddhist studies and practices and spent the first semester of my sophomore year practicing and studying Japanese Buddhist traditions on the Antioch College Buddhist Studies in Japan course. We lived for two weeks each in Hokyoji and Chigenji, Zen monasteries in Fukui provice, as well as a month on Mt. Koyasan in a Shingon (esoteric tantric Buddhism) monastery, and finally a month in Kyoto in Pure Land and Tendai monasteries. After returning from this enlightening experience I continued to study Buddhism (this time Tibetan traditions focusing on pilgrimage and sacred geography at Mt. Kailash) and Comparative Religious Studies under Janet Gyatso and Robert Orsi, respectively, and began practicing Taekwondo and Hapkido with club teams.
I spent the next summer as a volcano guide on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, spending most of my time hiking and camping outdoors under full moons and skies blanketed with stars. My junior year led me to study Religious Dimensions of Human Experience under David Carrasco as well as lay-monastic relations in Theravada Buddhism, focusing on sangha-state relations in Burma, under Justin Ritzinger. After fall semester the travel bug had got me again and an opportunity to travel to Cuba opened up through a study abroad program offered by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and I spent the spring of 2007 on academic exchange at the Universidad de La Habana studying US-Cuban relations, German Idealist philosophy (Spinoza through Marx), Spanish, and Religions of Afro-Caribbean descent (Santería, Palo Monte, Regla, and Sociedad Abakua). After such a revolutionary experience as spending four months in Havana I could not fathom going back to the cloister of academia and took a semester off to return to Nicaragua where I volunteered with non-profit organizations working in eco-tourism and conservation as well as renewable and appropriate energy technology implementation in rural communities. I finally returned to Harvard to complete my degree in the Study of Religion under Christopher Queen (Socially Engaged Buddhism) and Parimal Patil (Indian Buddhist Philosophy from Nagarjuna to Candrakirti) while also studying Portuguese, Spanish, spending one last travel jaunt in São Paulo, Brazil, practicing capoeira regional with a club group, and tai chi chuan and chi qong under Sifu (Master) Yon Lee of the Harvard Tai Chi Tiger Crane Club.
After graduating from school in January of 2009 with an AB in the Comparative Study of Religion I moved back home to the San Francisco Bay Area and worked in a variety of trades from college test preparation to coaching a high school rowing team. I also served as a consultant for Core Foods which produces an organic, whole food meal replacement bar called the Core Meal, now available in Whole Foods and Costco in the Bay Area. I completed my RYT- 200 Yoga Teacher Training at the end of February 2010, which I did through Laura Camp’s Camp Yoga at the Monkey Yoga Shala in Oakland, and then my RYT-500 hour certification in July 2010 with Vedantin Ping Luo of School Yoga Institute in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala. I was blessed to live and teach/facilitate two yoga teacher trainings in Guatemala at the Mystical Yoga Farm on Lago de Atitlán from July-December of 2010 where I began studying ayurveda, herbalism, Sanksrit language, Mayan cosmology, and shamanic energy healing with Vedantin and Mayan Elder Tata Pedro Cruz as well as through personal study.