Painting The Grass Green To Make The System Look Better

Painting The Grass Green To Make The System Look Better

"To paint the grass green"" is a Polish idiom which refers to an activity supposedly cultivated during the socialist period (1945-1989) in Poland, while preparing for high officials from the ruling party or the state visiting a town or factory. According to this anti-communist narrative, on such an occasion, everything had to look top-notch, as the mayor’s/director’s career relied on how his/her own bosses would like the tidiness and order.

Quoting the definition on PolishIdioms: "Most factory employees were assigned sweeping and painting tasks for local pavements and buildings to look fine. They even tried to make the grass look unnaturally green, hence the playful comment about covering it with paint, should it not be green enough.

By using this expression, you imply that an activity is neither sincere nor standard, and may, in fact, be pointless, and that it is only done in order to gain some political advantage by covering up the reality."

Western media reported in 2013 that "China is deceiving environmentalists and tourists by painting its urban grass green." A few months ago, another video began circulating on the Internet showing the Chinese painting barren hillsides green. The people distributing these videos assumed that it was proof of the ultimate madness of a totalitarian dictatorship that so pathetically tries to cover up the grim reality of its regime. As one person in social media said: ”This is being done in order to deal with the CCP authorities’ inspection and cheat satellite aerial photos.”

Unfortunately for these propagandists, social media users quickly verified these videos and discovered that the Chinese do not paint the stones green, but use a process called hydroseeding. It is a mix of grass seed, mulch, fertiliser, water and a few ingredients to make all that stick together. The mulch is coloured with a natural and biodegradable green dye to help see where the product has been applied. This concoction is sprayed on newly excavated or filled slopes to give them a headstart to re-vegetation. So the only thing that the Chinese were doing in those videos was spreading seeds on barren ground. Grass roots provide stability to slopes and prevent them from slipping easily.

Nevertheless, why am I writing all this? A few days ago, while scrolling social media, I came across a video straight from the United States. At first I couldn't believe my eyes because it was an advertisement for lawn painting services. Therefore, I quickly verified as to whether this was a real advertisement. It turned out that even companies have been established, offering their products and services in lawn painting. From one of them, we are told: ”You may consider spray painting your lawn green if you have brown spots or dead spots. Grass paint improves curb appeal by temporarily boosting your grass’s color. It’s an excellent solution for sprucing up lawns discolored from dormancy, drought, or disease.”

Contrary to appearances, this funny and pathetic – I think you can safely call it that! – phenomenon says a lot about the current stage of capitalism. And what is more, this saying about "painting the grass green" should refer to capitalism, not socialism, and be associated with the USA, not socialist Poland.

In the 1940s, the Levitt family built 17,000 houses. When selling these houses, they demanded that the new homeowners mow their yards once a week from April to November. This obligation was a condition of purchasing the house. This trend of "perfect lawns" was followed by Scotts Co, which in 1948 began selling its "Weed and Feed" lawncare product, which enabled homeowners to eliminate weeds and fertilise at the same time. However, this drug contained the toxic herbicide 2,4-D – which has over time been linked to cancer, reproductive disorders and neurological disorders. But the herbicide (not only poisonous to humans, animals and plants) was relatively expensive. By the early 1960s, homeowners were already looking for ways to get great turf at a low cost. A 1964 Newsweek article indicated that green grass paint was sold in 35 states.

So, what is wrong with painting the grass if it is (probably) less harmful than using herbicides, and cheaper too?

Contrary to appearances, the biggest problem is not that a few corporations are making money on this completely unnecessary product. Especially in the face of climate change, the practice of painting lawns shows something much more scandalous: terrible class stratification. States such as California prohibit watering lawns during droughts (due to very limited water resources). That is why ordinary people, proletarians, obsessed with having a "perfect lawn" (which in the eyes of society emphasises their social status as well-groomed and wealthy) use lawn paint. However, this law does not concern celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart or Kim Kardashian, who exceed their monthly water consumption many times.

Watering the lawn is slowly becoming a luxury service, available only to the bourgeoisie, while the lower classes can be satisfied with a shoddy form of lawn painting. Capitalism is increasingly proving its absurdity and distortion of reality, as well as inequality. Of course, I am not advocating that everyone in drought areas should water their lawn to spite the system – that would be stupid – but I am trying to draw attention to the fact of the existence of "equal and more equal" in this hypocritical system of capitalism.

Such pathetic illusions of ‘prosperity’ are painted by capitalism... as it turns out, it plans to paint literally. But if we examine what this system does, we will find even greater pathology.

A few years ago, in Poland, there was an incident involving a woman working in a supermarket: she was putting out some strawberries. But when she saw that some of them were wilted, she did not put them out, which was in line with the employer's recommendation. Instead, she took them to the break room and ate them. She was fired for this because she "robbed this supermarket chain" (owned by one of the richest Poles). What she was supposed to do with these strawberries was to throw them into the trash! Then, she wouldn't have been fired.

We may wonder about this absurd mechanism. For, on the one hand, if it doesn't look absolutely fresh, as if someone picked it from the vine half an hour ago – it didn't ripen for a month or two in a cold store, of course! – it is absolutely not suitable for sale. And if you can't sell it, if you can't make a profit out of it, the only way out in the wonderful, libertarian world of neoliberalism and human rights is to throw it into the trash bin. This is because it is worse than worthless, it is an insult and an insult that should be destroyed so thoroughly and completely, so that there is no trace left of it, nothing left for man to use.

Of course, there is a second meaning to this. By forcing overproduction and subsequent mass ‘utilisation,’ you can manipulate the market, speculate on prices, and force a reduction in "production costs" for the maximum own margin. The system under which we all live today is, in fact, the real case of "painting the grass green."

Here, then, is a system that creates the illusion of prosperity by actually limiting it to a small group, while at the same time selling the illusion of prosperity to a slightly larger group – mainly the Western middle class in the form of the aforementioned shoddy lawn paint and the upper middle class and the bourgeoisie of third world countries –at the expense of suffering and death from starvation, from untreated diseases, etc of the proletarians in the Global South.

The author is a student of law in Poland