Thanks, Society

31 03 2011

…for doing your best to rob me of my cheery optimism. That the first one is a commonly googled question I understand. That second one–wow. That’s a doozy.

Don't know, Yes, No, Don't know, Not sure.

Oh, and also

Number four may answer numbers one through three.





The Glorious World Before Regulation

31 03 2011

Let the market work it out.

"Hey gang, let's skip class and head to Poison Beach!" (image via Cracked.com)





Eww! Poors!

25 03 2011

Al Franken relates a story wherein Jesse Jackson said once that he was ashamed to admit that when he walks down a dark street at night and hears footsteps behind him, he’d feel relieved if it were white man. I’ve always thought this was strange; if I was walking down the street and heard footsteps behind me, and saw that it was one of the white men from Deliverance, I would not be relieved. I would much prefer a black man in Brooks Brothers.

This guy?

...Or this guy?

The point being, the class indicators of the person are relevant, if not solely determinative. I don’t think I’d feel differently about a white guy or a black guy in a pink polo shirt with flipped up collar jabbing on a Bluetooth. Now if I had a choice between Paul Wall and apl.de.ap, I’d rather be followed by apl.de.ap,though there is a chance that seeing him out of the corner of my eye would cause me to laugh to death.

This guy?

...Or this guy?

Let’s put it in clearer terms. I used to work at a cafe, the sole person on my shift. This was up on Belmont near Clark, at the tail end of its stretch as a seedy area, when there were still lots of homeless street kids in the alleys, and heroin addicts nodding off on the curb. We also got some of the many homeless folks who still wandered the neighborhoods north of Lakeview, victims of the shutdowns of federal shelters in the 80s.
Read the rest of this entry »





Some Friday Tagore.

25 03 2011

Lovers Gift 36.

My fetters, you made music in my heart. I played with you all day long and made you my ornament. We were the best of friends, my fetters. There were times when I was afraid of you, but my fear made me love you the more. You were companions of my long dark night, and I make my bow to you, before I bid you good-bye, my fetters.

Stray Birds 213

Night’s darkness is a bag that bursts with the gold of the dawn.

Crossing 49

In the world’s dusty road I lost my heart, but you picked it up in your hand.
I gleaned sorrow while seeking for joy, but the sorrow which you sent to me has turned to joy in my life.
My desires were scattered in pieces, you gathered them and strung them in your love.
And while I wandered from door to door, every step led me to your gate.

If you're first name is Rabindranath, you are very likely not a redneck.





The End of Elections in the Neoliberal Era

17 03 2011

The time for elections as the focal point of activism has expired. Activist participation in elections, and elections as the organizing focus for economic justice movements is finished, and activism inside the Democratic Party is not distinct for the result it produces from activism inside the Republican Party. There are differences between Democrats and Republicans, but is gauged only by degrees of resistance to corporate power, which is not a strategy that can ever make progress. Therefore, the “electoral strategy” of trying to achieve justice through political elections has proven ineffectual, and electoral activism circumscribed in its value.

Neutered Elections

In the city of Deadwood, South Dakota, an intensely rich gold find carved society into wilderness. Men poured into a small gulch in the Black Hills to make their fortune. Miners panned and chiseled for enough of “the color” to drink, gamble, visit brothels, and put a little by for family they’d left back home.

Until that is, the introduction of amalgamation by capital. The gold could not be produced “efficiently” without that process. Wealthy and powerful interests (in the HBO show Deadwood, represented by an unquestionably cariactured George Hearst), moved in to buy up land from panicked homesteaders. What had been a community of small businessmen and free miners slowly transformed into a community or wage earners. Quality of life dipped, and to serve these wage earners, cheaper labor had to be brought in, from China and Europe, to produce what local goods were produced and to work at laundry, food preparation, etc. The labor market got worse–one major employer creates a virtual monopsony. The homesteaders left to go west, and were replaced at the mine by cheap immigrant labor. Deadwood turned into just another American town.

Poor Charlie Utter, who knows what’s coming but can’t quite understand it.

The need for one owner to control so many workers of course created a social strata of managers, foremen, and security, who could enforce Hearsts’ will.

This brings me closer to my point. In David Milch’s Deadwood, Hearst, played maniacally and brilliantly by Gerald McRaney, has a certain cavalier attitude towards coming elections that is instructive to us at this point in American history:

I’m an optimist, so I see a bright future for the American republic; though I see that future coming after some pretty nasty times in the immediate offing. The neoliberal consensus (in its broadest meaning, distinct from the “Washington Consensus”) has won the day. Even supposedly “liberal” political leadership subscribes to the neoliberal consensus.

Corporate power neuters the results of elections by stovepiping elected officials, narrowing their range of movement to within the confines of neoliberalism’s policy consensus. Once we accept this forlorn fact, much follows.

Neoliberal Consensus

Before I use the expression again and test your patience, I can define it for you, first formally and then substantively: Read the rest of this entry »





Jefferson’s “Tree of Liberty” & His Defense of Protesting Rubes

14 03 2011

It’s useful to take the time to look into history sometimes. Particularly when details of that history are shorn of context and held bare in a spotlight as proof of current righteousness.

We get it.

I don’t begrudge the tea party activists their protests; though I get the sense they feel that only their protests “count,” that theirs is true populist rage but nothing else is. If you want to protest taxes you perceive as too high, hey, that’s a long tradition in America. Go buck wild. But don’t then look at the massive protests for immigration reform, labor rights, against the war, and pretend they’re less meaningful because they’re somehow un-American or not “real.”

We get it.

The Tea Party campaign has taken the powerful and expansive ideas of the revolution and dulled their power by limiting them to being “anti-government.” The Founding Father’s weren’t “anti-government.” They were anti- lots of different things. Some were practically monarchists, others French-style Jacobin democrats. There was one thing common to almost all of them, though: they were radicals. By the measure of the time, they were progressives and they were radicals. This is a bald fact. They wanted to engage in social engineering, to undo the entire social, political and economic system and rebuild it according to commonly-held principles. They wanted to form the first republic in the history of civilization to officially forbid government interference in religion and vice versa. It is not at all a debate that within the at-time “modern” world, America’s revolutionary leaders were radicals–revolutionaries, after all.

Guess what we get?

And Jefferson, who provides right-wing activism with some of its most potent rhetoric, was on the radical end of that radical group. Jefferson rested his theory of government on a foundational need to formally limit the power of three classes (said another way, he really fucking hated the following groups of people): aristocrats, clergy, and creditors. He wasn’t a fan of slave traders either, but coming from a slave owner that’s not really compelling.

It.

Aristocrats to Jefferson were not a political class as much as an economic class. They were the landowners. They weren’t powerful because their title was a magic word; their title was powerful because it represented ownership of property that was impossible to dislodge from their grip. As to clergy, he said once there would have never been a single infidel if there had never been a single clergyman. He used the phrase “monkish ignorance.” You get it. That one’s obvious. Creditors–sometimes “bankers,” some times other wacky 18th century nicknames for them, like “stockjobbers,” though that one is specific to London–he loathed probably because he was in debt his whole life. But also he saw the hold of debt by one free person over another as a threat to democracy. Prior to industrial economies of scale, the creditor was most responsible for the economic misery of the working class husbandman or tradesman. It was a vacuous freedom to Jefferson to work all your days for the benefit of another who expends no labor.

Which brings us to his “Tree of Liberty” letter to William Smith, Read the rest of this entry »





Pop Stars, Then and Now

12 03 2011

My mom gave me all her old records, including some that I used to sit in the dining room and listen to on the record player over and over–including rare Fairouz prints, and perhaps my favorite, Enrico Macias.

The thing about Enrico Macias, at least based on this album cover, is that he is so ugly he is a monster. Not he is as ugly as a monster, but he is so ugly he is a monster.

Enrico

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters!

Could a monster–C.H.U.D., say–who sang as beautifully–and played classical guitar as lyrically–as Macias become a pop star today?