Friday, January 30, 2004

France, Brazil Relaunch "Lula Fund" to Tax Arms Sales and Fight Poverty

I can't believe it's actually happening, Brazil and France working togther. Allright.
I'm happy to add a link to "Collective Knowledge", an online library of texts put together by a guy from the Red & Anarchist Action Network (RAAN). It's texts by authors who don't recognize or respect copyright laws (or are dead and can't do anything about it), so no legal problems involved.....thankfully there's a lot of interesting theorists out there who fit this description. RAAN itself is an interesting group, and I'm sure there's a link to them on the Collective Knowledge site. So check it out and happy downloading.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Uncivil is much to light a word to describe what we have, we have a half-civil, half-authoritarian society, and we've had it for over twenty years.

The end of civil society in the U.S. and it's reconstitution: the 70s and now.

I think that something which gets totally lost in the mix is the awareness that the reason why the seventies happened at all is that there was this thing called civil society which was concieved of as existing; and if something was happening in that civil society, like the counter-culture and political activism, well, it was something that society should be interested in as a whole. After all, this is part of civil society.

Whether that society is dominated by the upper classes, or if it has a very much inconsistant and inaccurate opinion of the world around it, like the seventies did in dismissing economics and class, it still was thought about as a collective whole. We're all in it together, right?

Well, the end of the seventies was actually only brought about by the virtual dissolution of civil society brought about by the "Reagan Revolution" of the early eighties. The only way that those people could win was to convince people that society itself was inherently corrupt, and so convince people to withdraw into their own alienated lives and be afraid of the outside world and other people.

This cancelling of society has had as it's consequence an enourmous increase in social pathology stemming from the eighties up till now, and only unfortunately accelerated by the attitude that the administration has taken since 9/11.

I think that civil society should be reconstituted in the United States, that the scare mongering has to end, that we should come out of our little boxes and form a communitas again, collectively, instead of a reich auf eins, as has been promoted by several administrations, then the seventies will be able to continue and we'll be out of this farcial semi-civil semi-uncivil society which we've been given as our lot in life.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Austria was very interesting. You don't realize it, or at least I didn't realize it, until you've been there a while that Jewish culture simply isn't present. It's such a normal part of American life that it doesn't click at first that something's missing. It was weird to come back home and pass by my local synagogue and see people I know who're jewish, because it simply is not there in Austria.

I have to say that Austria was the only place I've ever been to where I didn't feel out of place because of my appearance. I'm part Hungarian, and the Hungarian part of me shows up really strongly in my appearance, making me look somewhat odd by anglo-american standards. But in Vienna over the summer the place was crowded by Hungarian tourists as well as Magyars who probably lived in Austria their whole lives who flocked to Vienna as well, and I had the odd experience of being able to go down any street in the old town and pick out people who could be either my twin or my brother or someone closely related to me.

I was even addressed in Magyar a few times by shopkeepers, which was amazing, even though I don't speak the language.

Then I came back to the U.S., and everyone seemed vulgar and rude.

Correction, it wasn't Eichmann but Speer that Counterpunch was making a parallel with in reference to McNamara.
Welcome to CounterPunch

I had a very strange moment in Vienna last summer; I was wandering around SE Vienna, looking for the Belvedere Palace, when I saw this huge ugly concrete building that was some sort of transit station. I had taken the subway to the Tirol station and so saw it a bunch of times.

It turns out that the spot where the Vienna transit station is located is the place where the Final Solution was run after the Nazis took over Austria, the place where Eichmann and Kaltenbrunner worked, the place which Eichmann referred to as being where he spent some of the most happiest moments of his life.

The parallel drawn between McNamarra and Eichmann on the Counterpunch.org's front page made me think of it.
Mental work and material work.

I think that work in general is never solely material, there's always a mental component to it in that the purpose of the work is never completely given by the material changes wrought to the world by it. There are also changes which, for purposes of brevity, could be called cultural changes or rather changes which are culture bound and are only meaningful to the people's minds and aren't meaningful in the greater scheme of things, taken as being material. So when a person works he or she doesn't just manipulate material, he or she also manipulates it according to aims and norms which are really arbitrary yet are important for society. Moreover, the way that our minds are set up predisposes us to do mental work at the same time we do material work, so that any reasonable job is a combination of both, even if all that combination entails is sawing a piece of wood in conformity with how people do it in area X (which doesn't mean they know how people do it in area Y---this stuff is largely unconscious).

If the mental and culturally produced aspects of work were stripped from material work it would soon become unbearable and just be pointless drudgery. Total alienated labor is the product of such a reduction.

But indeed, there has to be a mental part to work, or else there would be nothing to distinguish different modes of production from each other---nothing to distinguish work in the Roman world from work in the Middle Ages from modern work from work in a tribal society.

Both aspects of labor have to be present for work to be satisfying to the individual, and as to modes of production, the realization that work is more than it's material manipulations opens up avenues for restructuring the mode of production to promote the greatest personal liberty and the greatest social equality.

In other words, to create a free society and a better society through the revision of the division of labor and the method of labor. They go together in that if you follow the method of labor out into society eventually you will be led to the constitution of society which will lead you to the division of labor in society.

All change at once, the whole and the part.

We probably won't know the extent of the problems in the United States until the political climate shifts.

No one has money for the type of resources neccesary to do a comprehensive survey of social inequity and dysfunction. And if they did their bosses wouldn't let them do it anyways.

Meanwhile the Brookings institute can pay people to play around with theorists who know Gilles Deleuze and French post-structuralism in order to come up with creative but totally bullshit conceptions of how social movements function in this day and age.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Oh, also added FMLN link
Just added a link to CISPES, Committee In solidarity with the people of El Salvador, who will be providing people to be observers for the upcoming presidential election in El Salvador.

Friday, January 23, 2004

The origins of socialism....

I've wondered, from time to time, why it was that people who were out to design utopian communities would be the first socialists. The answer seems to be that in designing utopias and actually creating utopian communities they were going back to the rennaisance roots of modern politics, when coming out of a static society (the middle ages) they still had the idea that if you wanted to conceptualize change in society you in effect had to come up with a whole new theory of how society works and what society should be like; the rennaisance didn't have much of a concept of incremental change.

Anyways, the idea of a republic, which was the crown jewel of the enlightenment political philosophizing, was in fact a sort of utopian answer to the question of 'what should replace the middle ages?'. The Republic was a sort of fine tuned model of government and society which was flexable enough and liberal enough to accomodate change and to survive as a better, viable, political form of social organization.
That being said, it's pretty interesting that in order to go beyond the form of a Republic, the theorizers didn't modify the theory of a Republic but instead reverted to the older practice of coming up with a whole different social form and presenting it as the alternative.

And that succesfully allowed them to present an alternative social order, while countries without a strong socialist tradition, like the United States, for example, or, I should say, the United States in particular, the U.S. has gotten stuck on the idea of a Republic as a positive social ideal; the critical thinking which generated the form is not widely known or thought about, all that is presented are the bare principles that positively define what the system of government in the U.S. is, as though they generated themselves, were god given, and are unalterable.

Utopian thinking is a way to get around that; and that's what generated socialism, so maybe a return to utopia would help the U.S. get out of the torpor that it's in in terms of institutional innovation and change.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Oh, and (yawn), do I really have to say that a demonstration as show of force would be non-violent, etc...
Working class autonomy and the building of a mass movement.

If you look back through history, all of the labor and political working class parties have appeared to come out of nowhere. Where did the Chartists come from? Where did the unions that became the British Labour Party come from? No one knew until after they'd appeared on the scene. The reason was, and is, that the society we live in is thoroughly controlled by the middle class, and the upper middle class; their perspective gets on the news, it gets in the newspapers, it gets relayed on TV, and they really don't know or understand the working class. They don't. The best that they can come up with are some stereotypes derived from who knows where; sometimes those stereotypes even become the focus of faux working class oriented movies, like the one about american football that had al pacino as the coach; but they don't understand the working class.

So when something happens, when there's a strike, when suddenly a labor party of a new union bursts on the scene the middle class, and by extension the media, is stunned; they can't understand it, can't understand what they're about, can't understand what they want, etc... because they're simply different people from a different social world than the strikers.

We can use this to our advantage. Populism, populism not in the sense which was talked about here earlier, but real populism in the sense of Jim Hightower and a few other authors, can break onto the scene and become a political force, and indeed was on the verge of doing so, thanks to the anti-globalization movement, when 9/11 hit.

Since then the people in charge have used patriotism to try and erase from people's minds the idea that struggling for social justice is a workable and practical ideal. After all, if you think that there are terrorists around ready to destroy you and your family at any moment, it's a little hard to think about social reforms.

The Clinton years were a sort of giveaway; Clinton honestly did not care what working class people, or youths, did, in terms of politics, because his administration didn't believe that anything but neoliberal politics were feasable; so it simply refused to listen to or engage critics, creating a power vacuum where people who were thoroughly disenchanted with Clinton's politics could use his administration's contempt to their advantage. By organizing something like the Seattle demonstrations, for instance.

So back then all you really had to be was a disaffected person who was interested in leftist politics or social justice and you could basicly do what you wanted in terms of reading, in terms of organizing, in terms of demonstrating, in terms of trying to get through to other people, regular people, about what was really going on in the U.S.

But times have changed. Bush has created a counter-ideology to replace Clinton's non-ideology strategy of contempt. Now, instead of ignoring both critics and people from classes and groups who might be interested in organizing for social change, Bush is actively trying to co-opt them, and to co-opt the whole working class social world in the United States to believing in his war on terror and his social goals.

What has to happen now is that we have to use the autonomy of the working class to our advantage. Nothing's changed; the demagogues speaking in the name of the people, like Rush Limbaugh, can wail all they want, the life of the working class is still beyond the experience and knowledge of radio announcers, TV personalities, and government officials.

Since it's no longer possible to criticize the administration publicly in a serious way, or to criticize policy in a serious way and still be accepted and tolerated in mainstream society, to put forward a pro-working class, true populist, agenda, we, and that means people interested in these issues, have to spread the idea that a split society is an ok society.

It's OK to say that you like Bush in public and in places where you'd get criticized if you didn't do it but in private gather with your friends and discuss how things really are. The media doesn't allow critical ideas on tv, we have to be our own media, but we have to be a seperate media, one that doesn't want to supplant the normal media but wants to consciously stay under the radar so that it won't get discovered and either destroyed or co-opted. Alternative media is great, but alternative media has to be consciously self-limiting if it wants to continue to function as an information source.

Once enough people have privately thought about things and come to the conclusion that a progressive agenda is right and that the Bush administration is wrong, we demonstrate our power by holding a massive demonstration, or several regional demonstrations, pushing for a progressive agenda acording to what we've come up with as good things to have, not simply responses to the current administration coming off the cuff. If enough people come, and there are enough rich ideas and true support there, we've just established our place in the nation's political structure and defeated the Bush administration's claim to hegemony on ideological grounds.

No more lost memory possible after that.
Why I don't believe leftists who get disillusioned...

Because it's not an equal fight. On the one side you have the forces of propaganda and state intimidation, on the other side you have people fighting for their ideals. To go over to the other side means more than you've just changed your political opinions, to go over to the other side means that you've endorsed the propaganda which you know to be false and which goes beyond simple political disagreement to include geo-political concerns like who has the real power in this world and who doesn't. The people that, right now, have the power, have the money, and have the resources, are the capitalists. To go over to the other side means that you've endorsed their political program, which is pro-capitalist and anti-egalitarian.

There are plenty of people, by the way, who, while dissenting from the left don't go the distance to endorse the right, who instead feel that despite the left's problems that it's still better connected to the truth than the capitalist press and the U.S. government.

They sort of fall in a middle position; they don't get featured on talk shows or get their columns in the paper, they just have their convictions and live life.

There are, for example, some former Soviet dissidents who are now saying that yes, the Soviet Union was not a democracy, we didn't have freedom of speech, but we didn't want Russia to turn into a copy of the United States, we wanted it to be more like the social democratic states of western Europe. You don't hear to much from them in the mainstream media.

You also don't hear much from Solzheneitsen these days, either. Solzheneitsen, author of Gulag Archipelago among other works, has embraced an old time Christian conception of the world which equally condemns capitalist and communist culture....and has actually written on it, I think you can find his books on the Bruderhof websites, their press actually publishes them, I believe......but you don't hear much in the capitalist press, which lionized gulag archipelago when it came out, about what it's former champion has to say about life in the U.S. right now.

Which is why I don't believe people who renounce the left and come over to the right, and are a success at it, because whether you believe in the political ideology or not the world system is still distorted by money and power, and even if you take a philosophical stand against people you once agreed with you still have to live in a world distorted by power and money and make a judgement about where you stand in relation to that in addition to where you stand politically.

Those people who make the judgement that, irrespective of politics, money and power are ok, have discredited themselves politically by any reasonable standard, no matter if they call themselves liberals, conservatives, or radicals.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

What happened in South America...

I think that the terms right wing and left wing are overused and don't really refer to the reality of South American politics. Conservative vs. liberal is a better approximation, because right wing assumes that the person holding these views agrees with liberty and democracy at some level, at least in U.S. politics, while the regimes that took power in South America believed in nothing of the sort.

So with Pinochet and the Argentine generals, we ended up supporting people who were terroristically conservative in policy; who were so conservative that they believed that a campaign of terror had to be waged against their own people to keep the country from falling apart and dissolving.

If such a policy had been followed by England at the time of the Revolution, all of the Revolutionary leaders which we now feel are our founding fathers would have been rounded up and executed by Britain to teach the colonists a lesson.

The people who came into power in South America were people who demanded more obediance to the central government and more control of society by the Church. and if they had been around during colonial times would have insisted on tighter controls of the colonies by the Spanish crown and tighter control of the country's social life by the Spanish church, which was the most conservative and reactionary catholic church in Europe.

These were the people that we put into power, supported, and aided in their military, police, and intelligence capacities. We, the supporters of freedom and leaders of the free world.

Think about that contrast if you want to understand why people in South America might not be ra ra go U.S.A. at your level.

Why people in South America might not like America....

Well well, we talk about "Why would Brazil oppose us?" or "Why is there 'anti-american' sentiment in Argentina?", but we never consider the basic facts of the matter.

Although the indigenous and slave question is much more serious and acute in South America, these countries pride themselves on being populated by people who came to the new world seeking liberty, just like people in North America came here seeking liberty. In Chile Brazil and Argentina in particular, this is a very strong theme. If you want to get technical about it Chile and Argentina are more European than Europe is, I understand, in some ways, with not a lot of those indigenous people that Americanos hate so much messing up the scene. This being the case, the case that a lot of people in those countries came there seeking liberty and freedom from Europe, how do you think they feel when the new world country which got independence first, and which prides itself on it's support of liberty and democracy, openly favors dictators running their countries and campaigns of terror against the civilian population without any consequences for the perpetrators?

How do you think you'd feel if a country presenting itself as the promoter and guarantor of freedom in the world supported the United States turning into a total dictatorship where people could be arrested by secret police and 'disappeared' at any time?

How would you feel if this country supported people running the United States who openly professed their admiration for Adolph Hitler, as Juan and Evita Peron did?

Would it seem a little bit hypocritical that the leader of the free world was praising admirers and active supporters of the Nazi regime?

Think about it.

Why in the world would people who left Europe seeking freedom believe what the United States says when the United States seems to only support freedom and democracy for it's own people, and endorses terror and dictatorship for it's fellow new world residents who happen to not have a U.S. passport?
Why I don't really care about articles telling how Bush is pushing for Internet surveillance.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but, quite frankly, just like the library monitoring which is permitted under the PATRIOT act, this new measure is solely intended to scare the squares away from getting involved with the political counter culture; it can't do a damn thing against people that are already part of it and already believe in leftist politics.

Internet monitoring.....you mean that hasn't already been going on? I'd suggest talking to Sherman Austin of "Raise the Fist"about that one.

Personally, I've had posts on other sites monitored by cops, I've had my phone tapped (and can prove it), my mail monitored (and opened once), and have had the cops in a less progressive town I used to live in do a practice run of a raid on my house, so I'm not exactly scared when Bush announces that he wants internet monitoring capabilities.

The biggest effect of this is to create fear in the minds of people who are fence sitters or on the brink of getting interested in leftist politics but aren't really sure if they want to do it yet; they can't do anything about cadres.

FMLN Oficial Site

Ah, election time is coming up in peaceful and beautiful El Salvador.

The FMLN, which fought the genocidal government during the eighties, has reinvented itself as a democratic socialist party dedicated to bringing about ride ranging social change to El Salvador through democratic means. They're running strong, Schaftik and Guillermo, as candidates for president and vice president in the March elections.

This blog wishes them, and the FMLN, the greatest of luck in this decisive contest.

And y'all from the U.S. who read this site and don't know about the FMLN, check them out. The more I find out about them the better they sound.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Do yourself a favor....

Quite a lot of left sites out there have fallen into the "When will it all end" mode of looking at things, which, believing that the fight is solely about immediate issues, neglects the big picture and long term goals.

This sacrifice, which is a sacrifice of vision really, leads to a boring torpor on these sites as nothing ever new really appears on them.

So do yourself a favor....

If you want to read something inspiring, something that will cut through the woe is me schtick, track down a copy of the "Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti", published by Penguin Press (and in print).

Skip over Sacco's letters (which don't make up much of the book anyways), because Sacco probably did what he was accused of while Vanzetti was an innocent man, and you'll find enough there to keep you going for quite a while.

If you don't know much about the Sacco and Vanzetti case head on over to www.infoshop.org and look around in the "Anarchist History" section for links to info. You'll be glad you did.
Hey there, just added two sites which might interest all of you out there.

The first is "Fight For the Future", put out by the Service Employees International Union.

The second is "Labor Start", which is a worldwide trade union news related site.

The first one is really new, just starting out, while the second one is one I should have included long ago, but, as these things go, I forgot about it...

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Oh, and globalization has already failed.

That's what caused the global economic meltdown of '97-'98, which caused people like Paul Krugman to write books with titles like "The Return of Depression Economics", which was Krugman's rejection of Globalization as an economist. The meltdown was a direct result of Clintonist economic policy, as the economies which failed were obeying the economic advice that Washington under Clinton had been giving them.

Only China and, later, Malaysia didn't really fall prey to the collapse, and that was because, of course, China was and is sort of semi-Communist, and because the Malaysian economic minister decided to break all the rules and pursue an economic policy which he thought would pull his country out of the mire, which it did.

His policy was heavily protectionist.

So globalization has already failed, y'all, happy easter.
Another way to think about the Death of Populism is to compare it to Dylan's goin electric.

Now Bob Dylan started out in the folk scene of Minneapolis, was heavily invloved, and, out of frustration at anti-Rock sentiments decided to perform electric at the Newport folk festival.

Dylan was originally a rocker, but that's beside the point.

The environment in which he initially performed and existed as an artist was one which was largely made up of the elite who were dedicated to preserving and exploring an idea of the 'folk' which did not correspond to what the 'folk' at that time were actually listening to and thinking about.

Heavily idealized, it accepted Dylan's initial lie about where he came from---that he was sort of a working class drifter who had lived all around the U.S. "soaking it up where he was" (I paraphrase) as Nat Hentoff in the liner notes of "another side of Bob Dylan" put it----because it wanted to believe that there really were people like that out there.

The thing is that even according to the logic of the songs themselves, which these largely priveleged people performed, the folk millieux was getting it way wrong.

I think of the song "Lonesome Valley" by the Carter Family, which is a religiously tinged sond talking about how we all have to basicly walk on the road of "The Pilgrim's Progress", striving for redemption in a hostile world, and how Joan Baez massacred the lyrics by suggesting that going down to Mississippi and helping with the civil rights movement was equivalent to the very serious matter of fighting for your soul.

It's not that Mississippi wasn't important, but it's offensive to think that the religious ideas were just thrown out the door to make way for Baez's current political interests.

It's a standard in Baptist sunday schools, I understand, and they surely would be offended that the meaning had been changed so brazenly by one who didn't even believe in what the song was originally saying to begin with.

But back to Dylan.

The Folk as it existed at the time Dylan was playing pure folk music wasn't interested in the old songs played by old musicians in the Mississippi Delta and in Appalachia; they were interested in Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, contemporary country, Kansas City style blues, and Bluegrass music.

So was Dylan really betraying the Folk when he started to play music which in all likelihood actually reflected what the Folk actually liked and listened to better than what the so-called Folk scene was putting out?

I like Dylan's post-electric phase much better than his pre-electric phase, I think that it liberated him creatively and led to much better music, which, incidentally, was and is closer to what the real people actually listen to than is any upper class folk music, new or old.

So that's a parallel to demise of Populism and the motivation behind the Tropicalia movement in Brazil.

How Django Rhineheart destroyed Western music.

I love the Grateful Dead, I really do, but, unfortunately a misunderstanding occurred which has had very wide ramifications.

You see, the Dead's style of guitar playing and jamming has been taken up by quite a few artists, or at least attempted by a few artists who may not have gotten it, with usually dismal results.

The assumption is that somewhere in the mixture of rock music, folk, and marijuana, lies the secret to the Dead's sound.

Not true.

The secret to the Dead's sound is Django Rhineheart, a gypsy musician who blended Spanish flamenco guitar with jazz guitar to create a very cool and unique sound which blends spontaneity and exploration with a general latin mode of doing things which is actually pretty traditional, yet which doesn't neccesarily appear as such in the work of those, like the Dead, Garcia in particular, who have taken up Django's style.

That weird matrix of rock--->folk----> marijuana is actually a combination of Spanish guitar styles---->jazz--->folk---> and rock.

That's how the Dead's sound was produced. But.....the many stoned accolytes of the Dead (mostly younger people, not the original 'heads) didn't get it, didn't get the message that this was so, and so have proceeded down a road of increasingly mediocre music and jam styles based more on initiative and smoking pot than on actual music theory or musical styles like Django's which could give them an actual background on which they could do some high quality, abstract, jamming.

So this is how Django Rhineheart has destroyed Western music....

We can only hope that things will recover soon.

I should add that the death of populism concept, when applied to the U.S., legitamates Anti-State Communist and class struggle anarchist points of view.

I've never been a fan of people who say that the defining thing about their politics is that it's working class and they're working class too. I've always thought that was a self serving cop out, especially when applied to anarchism.

People should be free to pursue whatever ideas they want, from wherever they come from, without having to put themselves into some sort of box based on where they are coming into politics from, whether that be a class, race, gender, sexual preference, you name it, place.

Why shouldn't working class people be taught Marxist theory? Wouldn't they be interested in it?

The thing is, that in pursuing political ideas and thoughts which come from all across the board, from all over the world, I'm not committing any sort of treason to my class or my roots or whatever; instead I'm doing what any intelligent person who had the chance would concievably do, and to say that something is out of bounds because it's esoteric is to question whether or not I count as a thinking person or not. After all, people from extremely priveleged positions engage in esoteric and somewhat trivial thoughts and explorations all the time and no one seems to think it's inappropriate.

The "death of populism" concept, then, is more about the death of the bourgeois concept of the people than any invalidation of the people themselves. The people think like bourgeois people in that they have the same interests and ideas, although qualified by their different place in the economy, and it's the bourgeoisie, not the workers, who put up barriers between the people and the greater culture which is out there.

After all, we have only so much cultural material to go around, what do you think people in a workers' state would do? Well, in addition to being workers they'd pursue the same sorts of cultural ideas that were once only the property of the bourgeoisie.

We're all people. Socialist revolution doesn't invalidate that.

It's time to act towards each other as people instead of according to some preconcieved categories.

Death of Populism.

I urge everyone to track down a copy of Glauber Rocha's picture "Land in Anguish"; this is what Caetano Veloso cited as the liberating inspiration for starting, or at least making clear, Tropicalia.

The central thing that Veloso took away from the film, which is very hard to understand simply by reading his book "Tropical Truth", is the conseqence of the realization which the main character Paulo has at a pivotal point.

The whole film is about this poet's political awakening, involvement with the left, then disillusion, then his return to the left which ultimately ends in his demise.

The pivotal scene happens after he's returned to the left; the background is that, disenchanted with the compromises his left wing candidate-employer Viera is making, he leaves the left and returns to Sao Paulo (Paulista) dissolute living, then, persuaded by Vierra's people that the situation in the country (Brazil, by the way) has gotten so bad that getting involved with the left is more important than being concerned with Vierra's faults, he returns to political work.

What happens in the pivotal scene is instructive. In a very stylistic gathering of all of the forces which are usually associated with demagoguery, the Church, Business, and the People, which is a Vierra rally (his opponent is presented as new Napoleon), a poor farmer representing the people is nominated by the other people to speak their minds. He starts out by saying "Well, I don't like how things are, but I like the President" who is Vierra's opponent (Diaz, the Napoleon figure), at which point Paulo clamps his hand over the guy's mouth and says that he doesn't know what he's talking about. Then another farmer steps up and says that the guy who has just been muzzled really does speak for them, at which point one of Vierra's goons wrestles him to the ground and puts the barrel of a gun in his mouth.

It's stylized, remember?

But the important thing is what Paulo realizes after this. You see, he doesn't just accept what he's done unreflectively, no, almost immediately after he's silenced the man he realizes what a terrible thing he's done and, in a very important moment goes from talking about things in political-ese to speaking about the experience of him, the priveleged classes, and the people, in terms usually associated with poets and artists.

He talks about the mystic's gaze which can see through people's white skin....

What is significant about this is that, ironically, by adopting the language of the artist, of the poet, he captures the actual experience of the people in as realistic terms as it's ever presented in the film.

He realizes that Vierra's pandering is wrong, that the real life of the people goes beyond such gimmmicks and games, but, at this point, he's made too much of a commitment to Vierra to pull out, and he ends up paying for it with his life, even though he realizes that Vierra represents what he, as a human being, should be against.

This is the "death of populism" talked about by Veloso, the radical notion that by honestly expressing ourselves in our ideals we reach closer to the people than we could ever do by appealing to a vacuous populism which the people are all supposed to conform to. After all, we're all human right?

The consequence of this is the legitimation of avante-garde ideas as being fit for internal consumption, thereby liberating both the people and the artist from preconcieved notions of what they should be like and what types of things they should say.

It allows for quite a lot more truly democratic impulses than any sort of mass politics, I believe.

Our own paralells to it in the U.S. go back to the founding, shortly after the revolution. They didn't have "populism" back then as a coherent idea, but they did have it's eighteenth century equivalent, which was whiggism which portrayed pre norman Britain as a Gothic Paradise, where the Anglo-Saxons, as rough germanic people's descended from the great migration of germans into Europe which broke the Roman empire in two, enjoyed free living, even if it wasn't refined living and even if it didn't generate any decent art because of it's lack of refinement.

This was an idea which was born and bred in the British upper classes. These same upper classes, and their American counterparts, identified the country folk of Britain, many of which had emigrated to the U.S., as being the bearers of this pure Gothic culture, and as bearers of it were similarly lionized as being superior to the city dwelling and court attending citizens of Britain.

And so an idea of a "people" was born, a sort of proto-populism from before such concepts had really gelled in people's minds.

What happened because of this concept is instructive; the upper class people in the U.S. used it as a propaganda tool not just to rally the people against the British but also to get the 'people' to absorb the prejudices that they wanted it to absorb and not absorb the prejudices they wanted them to stand clear of.

The most notable things which the upper class wanted the 'people' to steer clear of was Classical culture, which would pollute the Gothic roughness of the American people. So people who had at their disposal all the Classical culture that they wanted told people who had never had a chance to see it at all to stay away from it; they never gave their own opinion because they were never asked and never presented with it so that they could make their own determination, the result being that the U.S. ignores Greek and Roman ideas to a degree which is way off the charts with respect to other Western new world countries.

Even though they're part of our history, they simply aren't considered important. Neither are many other branches of learning which rational examination would figure to at least have some value. The source of this provincialism isn't with the people but with the aristocrats which promoted this willed ignorance and which shaped the American people from the start of independence.

So the provincialism of America and of the American people is due in perhaps a very significant part to a false idea of what it meant to 'be an American', promoted by people who weren't part of the mass that they were instructing.

So it's a false consciousness.

The real people lies below the provincial populism which is so widely spread these days.

It always has.

And that's how the death of populism in Brazil has a parallel in the United States.

Friday, January 16, 2004

You know, there's a chance that the reason that the indo-european people's started migrating westward was to get away from Chinese court culture in the east. So by returning to China and Asia people of european descent may be coming full circle.
Now that I live on the west coast a problem presents itself....

My theory, or at least one of my theories, about the formation of the United States----the settling of it and the creation of the actual political, social, and culltural life of the country we live in---is based on a modified understanding of Fredrick Jackson Turner's frontier hypothesis.

Augmented by understandings of what the Founding Fathers were thinking and trying to accomplish, this amounts to the idea that Americans really first came from the outlying areas of Britain which weren't really integrated into the British State and who wanted to keep the autonomy that they had. They emigrated to America, then, when the population got to high, they moved out west. West in US history has been a constantly changing frontier; first it meant western Massachusets, then it met western New York state, then it meant Kentucky and Tennesee (Which used to be part of North and South Carolina), then, well, you get the picture.

We move when, as Daniel Boone is reputed to have said, we start seeing smoke from a neighboring cabin in the distance. We're a very diffuse country as a result.

But.

All of this westward migration is predicated on the culture being a sort of extension, or stretching of East Coast culture. You can see that this is actually how it is. Travel westward and things change, but they change in the sense of constant modifications to a set pattern of values and cultures, South and North alike....it get's progressively stranger, but it's always a sort of logical progression from what's more familiar in the East.

Texas in many ways is the natural border for how far this stuff can be stretched without falling apart all together. Texas in it's best aspects actually recognizes a sort of magical realist sense of culture which has fused the indian and catholic culture of Mexico with indigenous Texas feelings of independence, something quite far removed from what you'd find in New York State or the surrounding areas. But it's still a recognizable extension and not a qualitatively different situation.

The west coast, however, is a whole 'nother story.

Somewhere between the rocky mountains and the Sierra Madres that culture of the east coast breaks down totally. Something new takes it's place when it gets beyond the mountains and into the sliver of habitable and arable, fertile, land which runs down the west coast.

That being the case, what next?

I have an idea.

A possiblity is that this wanderlust can continue into Asia. The ultimate consequence of our western evasion of civilization might be the merging of our civilization with the much more ancient cultures of Asia, which like to think of themselves as the highest manifestation of culture on the globe. Or maybe merging with nomadic tribes in Siberia and Mongolia.

We might end up becoming true barbarians, which wouldn't be so bad after all.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Going to the moon and mars

I'm all for going back out into space, as long as Bush goes first.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Why the market does not approximate classical liberalism.

The idea of a society based on liberal principles has come to be associated in recent time more and more with the market: the free market unregulated is thought to simulate, with it's competition, it's give and take, and it's checks, a liberal system. By liberal I obviously mean it in it's original sense, not in the derrogatory way that conservatives use it.

Liberalism was based on the theory that free individuals associating together in a society can rule themselves without a lot of interference, and that this would be accomplished by people checking other people when their activities encroached on the rights and freedoms of others, so that the society would be self correcting and self directing....the product of a liberal society, the direction that the free action of people in association would produce, would be the best guide for getting to a good society, or a better society than the present, or a society which more closely met and reflected the needs and desires, and beliefs, of the people involved.


Somehow this was transferred in economic thought to the market, with the market itself being concieved as a sufficient sphere of social activity with which this liberal republic could be realized.

This is not accurate, not in the least, and there are very good and simply put reasons for it.

The most significant has to do with the checks on activity that society would use to regulate itself and keep order.

In the economic model the only place checks can come from is from within economic activity itself. A libertarian publication set out this idea pretty well. When asked how a city would know when it had enough casinos, a rightwing economist replied that to know you had to keep building them until they stopped making money. When you reached that point, you'd know that was enough. That was the check, failure to make money.

The economist obviously glossed over all the social problems which come from promoting legalized gambling and even was willing to totally sacrifice any obligation to those facets of the industry by promoting the building of as many as possible, until they stop making money.

This is an example of checks in the economic model only coming from inside economic activity.

In a real liberal republic checks on harmful activity would come through social and political movements as well as personal dissent, and general resisitence, rather than just through economic indicators. Ironically, these forces for checking activity are precisely the ones that economic minded free market liberals deem to be antagonistic to the development of freedom and optimum results in terms of general satisfaction and economic development.

Which brings up the question of just who does this type of thinking serve?

Social agitation and political pressure are the traditional means by which individuals air their grievances and try to change things, and it has been since time memorial, within dictatorial societies and free societies, tribal societies and statist societies. What does the free market then serve if the traditional ways by which people have voiced their opinions are considered antagonistic to the satisfaction of those same people, both in the economic and social realm?

If the poor agitate for change, and someone says "Who cares what you think, the market will help you", who exactly is that system serving?

The pseudo-science of economic analysis has been pressed into service when such questions come into play, conveniantly ignoring that economics doesn't serve abstract linear equations but serves people themselves.

It's obvious who this sort of reasoning serves: those who control the economic enterprises and have the luxury of standing apart from the mass of the people and trying out different strategies to help their businesses make money. This type of liberalism only benefits those who aren't likely to lose anything in the give and take of the market; those who are immediately dependent on it, who are a paycheck or two away from homelessness, are much less likely to appreciate the grand arc of economic development that their wretched state figures into.

So we have a contest between two groups: those who control the economic enterprises, who view economics as the only valid social force for change, and the people, who want to change things through popular movements and political pressure.

In a true liberal republic the question of which of these forces should ultimately control the destiny of the nation wouldn't even need to be asked.
Medical school as triumph of analytic philosophy.

I'm not in medical school, but I've been around college enough to know what it's about.

Med school, for those of you reading this from countries other than the U.S., is considered the summum bonum of professions to go into here---even more prestigous than being upper management in corporations---because of the skill and knowledge, and work, which go into learning and applying the stuff succesfully.

What's the secret, then, to med school? Why should I ask this? Well, because the scuttlebutt around the U.S. is that there's something mysterious and not that well understood about the grand admission to med school.

The secret, I believe, is this: work is work. Work is work, whether you're building a house or studying for a med school class. Work is processed by the mind as being the manipulation of symbolic forms, and the mind doesn't make any sort of distinction between what those symbolic forms actually add up to in the outside world.

Maybe manual labor was a sort of bad example, but in doing research or engaging in any intellectual pursuit, it's all the same to our mind, since we are fundamentally cut off from what actually happens out there.

So med school, and pre-med, works because it's skillfully arranged things so that mental work can correspond to a very important facet of human life---the body and mind. Med school and pre-med, then, with the combination of experimental science courses, math courses, natural science courses, and later more explicitly experimental and theoretical classes dealing with medicine, is an arrangement which tricks your mind into processing the symbolic manipulations in such a way that you're actually able to apply what you've learned to the human body in a way in which gets consistent results which conform to what you're aiming at, instead of either randomness or negative results.

Because when it comes to medicine, the application of all of this is as much a shot in the dark as is the learning of it. The natural tendency of our minds, I believe, is to construct symbolic forms which are mostly fantasy, which may correspond to reality in the sense of local history but which, if pressed, don't have any validity when measured against the laws of the natural world.

By working around that through constructing real and valid medical knowledge and techniques, what once was devoted to fantasy and local intrigue is now made to serve reality itself in a positive way.

This, my friends, is a triumph for analytic philosophy, or for the analytic ideas, without the truthfullness of which none of this would be possible.
Here's something you don't see everyday: a lost highway times health tip.

My health tip? Grape seed extract. Grape see extract has really powerful antioxidant's in it, is cheap, and is available at any drug store.

What makes grape seed extract different, or so good, is that the chemical in grape seed extract is the same chemical that's in the plant extract which goes by the brand name "Pycnogenol". But whereas that product, which is an extract of a pine resin, is very very expensive, grape seeds, being plentiful due to wine production, are not.

So if you want to bulk up on your polyphenols, choose grape seed extract over pine resin extract. It'll save you a lot of money and make you healthier.
I'm working my way through "First world, ha ha ha!", an anthology of writings about the Zapatistas published shortly after they started their rebellion.....the first essay is really funny....it starts out with this merchant talking about how all of the sudden ski masks started to be in style, because this girl was ordering as many as she could get, then boots seemed to be in style for the same reason, then black pants, then green shirts, then bandannas. She goes on to say that after the rebellion she saw where all of that went "and I haven't sold a thing since" (because they shut her down). And another girl saying to her boss that after new years she won't be working anymore, whereupon her boss asks her if she's getting married, the girl says no, then the boss asks what's up, and the girl says "It's a surprise, you'll see".

Funny stuff.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Should I have to repeat it?

If your family got it's start as homesteaders or yeoman farmers, they got the land cheaply because it was taken from the Indians. Therefore, it wasn't the product part of 'fair competition' in any concievable sense of the words.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Settlers in a capitalist economy, or, the real origins of white anglo supremacy in the United States.

We live in a strange country; publicly, our leaders proclaim that we're an example of capitalism working, that the market has sorted out the winners and the losers, and that those on top are there because they earned it and those on bottom are there because they didn't.

But, if you dig a little bit deeper into people's family histories you'll find out that that isn't exactly the case.

You see, we have two different ideals in America, two different ideas about what 'making it' entails, which have existed side by side in our national consciousness somewhat incongruously, with the implications of one being supplanted by the other never fully worked out.

The two ideals are that of the yeoman farmer, which is what American citizenship and American ideas about the 'good life' were based on for several centuries, from the start of colonization up until the mid 19th century, and that of the capitalist small businessman, who started off poor and worked his way up into a stratum of comfortable wealth by his own industry.

Why are these two ideals incongruous?

Because, to lay it out, if your family came to the United States as yeoman farmers, as settlers homesteading property or running a small farm, then when the United States became a capitalist country instead of an agrarian country your family had a major advantage, owning, as it did, capital in the form of land and a working farm, which in all probability gave them a leg up into the comfortable class of the new capitalist order, certainly higher up than the immigrant who came here with the shirt on his back and nothing else did.

Yes, America, the land of opportunity-----but some people had more opportunity if their family was descended from settlers as opposed to poor workers, didn't they?

If your family was made up of farmers and land holders, it probably never had to live in a poor ghetto, working on an assembly line or in a slaughter house.

They probably never had to work in a steel mill or on a railroad.

Instead, they probably became the nucleous of the new upper class, that pure anglo class which colonizes higher education with their fraternities and which yells the loudest about people getting their just deserts in a competative economy.

Yes, for some people the narrative of their family history deals with their settling of the new world; for others it deals with finding a living in a harsh country billed as a land of opportunity, and you can't belong to both stories.

So yes, white supremacy does have a historical origin in this country, and it's not your imagination when you see most upper class people being ethnically homogenous here.

The Conquest.

The conquest that needs to happen is of real life; not of hypothetical life, not of dreaming life, not of life lived in an alternative community, insulated from the real life being lived by 'normal' people with normal jobs. What I've seen in different degrees all over this land is creative people giving up on wanting to have an impact on so-called mainstream life, and settling for success within their little ghettos.

We need to come out of the ghettos and seek to make an impact on real life, to take it over, so to speak, and make our success durable and our ideas lasting by merging them with the culture at large, instead of being afraid of mom and dad in the pick up truck who supposedly have the keys to real life that we don't.

There is no mystery; real life is nothing more than the life you lead translated into center stage in society. The emporer wears no clothes and we can compete with him and his minions and win in the process, because we're better than them.

And we should do just that; if we do it we'll find out how easy it is.
When people say 'There're no alternatives' I have to wonder in what world they've been living. Here in the U.S. we have so many opportunities to explore hidden knowledge which may supply us with the grist for a thousand opportunities at alternatives that it's not even funny.

But there is a catch, and that catch is that if you pursue these alternatives or this neglected knowledge you do so alone and without the prestige or recognition that pursuing roads which are more fashionable bring.

You're not going to get rich by doing it, and you're probably not going to get famous by doing it, but you can do it, and if you do do it you'll end up leading a better life which is more enriching than all that normal stuff could ever be.

Some people who have the opportunity don't want to wean themselves off of the gravy train, though.

Some people have to fight just to get a decent life in this country, and those that have the opportunities for real alternatives don't want to give up the bottle, even though it would be no sweat off their backs.
What can I say except that Paul O'Neill's interview on 60 Minutes might be the breakthrough we've been waiting for. It adds legitamacy to all we've been saying, for sure. It's important to note, though, that the question of what do you want to do with this newfound legitamacy is more important than actually agitating for it. Don't get me wrong, I'm just sick of waiting for an opportunity to do things 1, 2,3, and 4 on my list of creative ways to explore life, do politics, write, think, work, relate to other people, etc.... and O'Neill's revelations are to me license which is so overdue that it's almost a denoumont that it's happened. Yawn. Now I can start to do some of those creative things that I have on my list, with the knowledge that society isn't totally against me, and will likely be less and less against me for doing it as time goes by.


Sunday, January 11, 2004

One thing I have to say about Peter Lamborn Wilson....

Is that quite a few people out there talk about making leftist theory accessable to the working class and to popular culture, but Wilson is possibly the only American writer in recent times to actually pull it off.

T.A.Z., Temporary Autonomous Zone, written under the pseudonym Hakim Bey, appealed and, presumably, appeals, to the nascent working class and lower middle class counterculture which was solidifying in the early '90s. This culture was based on the patching together of a few remnants of sixties counter culture, like Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary, who was still alive at the time, along with the combination of cyber punk culture and drug culture, particularly that relating to Terrence McKenna, along with some Occult revivals and other miscellany.

Wasn't much, maybe, and wasn't all that productive in the long run, possibly, but it was in fact one of the real and authentic subcultures in america which actually had an existence independent of authors proclaiming that they were part of something.

The other subculture might be Punk, with Alternative music being somewhat of a bridge between the two.

Anyways, this group of people existed, and Wilson's TAZ spoke to them, possibly causing people who never would have connected to the left or the anarchist movement to have their minds blown open a little bit.

TAZ was criticized, I believe, basically because of this. To which I'd reply that fraternizing with the lower middle class is a worthy price to pay for getting real working class rebels interested in alternative politics.
I have an important issue to talk about; usually stuff on this site is just random musings, but in the past few weeks I've come to see this as being more and more important and disturbing.

American politics has always had it's oddities; I've noted before how it is that people who are very much liberals but extreme liberals are often more irrational than leftists who may seem to have a much more extreme take on things. Extreme to those who don't know much about leftist philosophy and can't make heads or tails of it, that is.

Something more disturbing is the lengths to which political demonization is going in this country, in particular the lengths which conservative columnists are going in portraying liberals in a negative light.

Self styled conservative columnists I might add.

What's going on in the U.S., in U.S. political culture is that we're playing with fire: being part of the U.S. seemingly absolves us from all charges of extremism.

If rightwing shock jocks attack liberals and 'leftists' in ways which, if they were talking about people in general, humanity, and not about American liberals, would be considered too extreme and crass for words, it's excused. It's excused because, in circular logic, when they say something about people they disagree with it's not considered to be as strong a statement as if they were talking about 'people' at large.

Regionalism excuses political discourse which shouldn't be excused.

At some point in time we have to start talking about the rights of man as a whole and not about 'American' rights or 'American' politics, as if adding the adjective American excused us from our human responsability of making just and ethical choices regarding how we treat our fellow human beings.

If that was the context that this stuff was viewed in, and I believe that that is the right context to view it in, then it would be denounced instantly.

Eventually, the consequences for internal American politics of using this rabid discourse is going to be the same as the consequences of using it in the realm of man in general, and that's not a very pleasant consequence to think about.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Western European exploitation, it's end, and the beginning of the modern age.

A strange thing happened with the end of World War One; the last chance for conservatives to entertain the idea of going back to how things were before the French and American revolutions passed.

Not surprisingly, with the passge of that historical moment, authoritarian currents which harkened back to an imaginary past, but which adopted much of the modern language and ideas of politics, namely Fascism and later Nazism, came into being.

What does this mean? Well, to give a little background, Prussia, one of the Entente in WWI, had presented itself to the world as a model of how conservative Europe could survive in a modern industrial era; the "German Empire", as it was known, was based on a federation of monarchies consisting of the germanic states which until recently had been independent kingdoms. Prussia sponsored development and some reforms.

It wasn't fascist or naziistic in the least, although it was indeed anti-liberal and anti-democratic.

The only other serious contenders for keeping alive the feudal, authoritarian, structure of old Europe, alive---Austria and Russia---had both by that time largely given up on the project. Austria had reformed itself mightily in the 19th century and was swiftly on the way to being a modern state, although not without serious obstacles and opposition, while Russia had suffered the Revolution of 1905, which made it more liberal, and had another revolution in 1917 of course.


What died with the death of the remnants of feudal europe?

I would say straight out authoritarianism as a principle of government.

This blog has written somewhat sympathetically in the past about medievalist thinkers who want to salvage some of the positive aspects of that tiime, but on the whole the medieval era was a savage one where the social and ideological innovation of that period happened in spite of the top down control and not with it.

Yes, there are some aspects of social life in medieval times which are interesting, but on the whole it represented the replacement of government conducted according to ideas of justice and rightness with personalistic rule.

Rome, which of course fell, was replaced by barbarian kings who imposed a tight feudal structure onto society which was an application of the tribal, warlord, idea of government on a mass scale.

The people who became the princes and kings, and who were the progenitors of the royal families which controlled Europe for over a thousand years, took their place by force. There wasn't a caucus of people asking if they wanted this system to be put in place, it just was.

The extinguishing of classical learning and values in public life and the substitution for it of dense feudal barbarian forms of government led to
society as an exploiting machine, with the war lords on top exploiting the people below them, who exploited the people below them, who did the same, all the way down the line to the bottom rung, with the source of the social structure being who was strong enough to dominate and control the rest.

This is the source of the high degree of exploitation in European society, the fact that European society has exploited other societies and people's more intensely than they have themselves, but to get back to what I was saying.

The authoritarianism of feudalism, the idea of might making right, came under fire in the rennaisance and was finally destroyed by the elimination of states based explicitly on that principle which the conclusion of WWI decided.

What took it's place, what had to take it's place, and what we're living in right now, is a sort of synthesis of classical ideas of statehood and citizenship and the more tribal, barbarian, and ethnic (for want of a better word) values of medieval non-Roman Europe.

The old values survived, and were resurrected in the fascist and nazi movements, because domination does produce real winners and losers, with the winners having tangable benefits acrueing to their position, and the winners don't want to give up those benefits once they have them.

Patriarchy and class exploitation within Europe brought real benefits to those who possesed them, but with the end of WWI the actual avenues to realizing those values on the national level were shut permanently.

But the point to keep in mind, which isn't much talked about or realized , here in the U.S., is that both the Nazis and the Fascists appropriated the language and ideas of modern politics to their own purposes. They did not seek to appeal to a previous conservative order and way of conducting politics, rather, they were "Brown Bolsheviks", as certain authors have said, radicals who accepted the modern political condition without question but who wanted to work for reactionary goals within that framework.

In a sense the war of old against new was over before these reactionaries seized power for this very reason.

But unfortunately here in the U.S. we ourselves haven't mastered the art of modern politics yet and so can't see that the danger is in parties and political bodies that are willing to work within the system rather than those who totally reject it.

We haven't had our WWI yet; personalistic exploitation still lives on here. Maybe with the defeat of Bush in the 04 election we'll have moved into the modern world.

And people will understand what the hell I'm talking about.
Two new links on the link bar: first, the Chiapas IMC, ie the Zapatista territory's Independent Media Center. Second, International News, a website which culls through the news around the world and gives links to a bunch of interesting stories. They also have a reciprocal links program with bloggers. And their blog roll is pretty good.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

And, to complete the thought, if Mexico is going nowhere by free trade, where is the U.S. going?
Centro de Medios Independientes, Chiapas

The Chiapas Independent Media Center; I'll be swiftly adding this to my links list.

It's important to know what the Zapatistas stand for and what they have accomplished.

They are a real armed struggle group which has created liberated communities in south east Mexico, communities where, to but it bluntly,
the flashy image of Zapatismo gives way to a lot of hard work by very dedicated people facing constant annihilation by the Mexican State.

What it challenges in Mexico is in a way a good paralell to what we have here in the U.S.

In Mexico the Mexican revolution, fought in the 1910s, has atrophied into something counterrevolutionary which, paradoxically, in it's support for populism and democracy as essential components of a 'Mexican' nation obscures the actual colonial history of Mexico, thereby making it seem as if there wasn't a colonial European upper class and an indigenous subject underclass. They're all Mexican, right? But the idea of Mexico came from the colonizers. Mexicans are in reality Aztecs,
Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Mayans, Yaqui, and others. There is nothing called Mexican which has historical reality.

The creation of Mexico is possibly the last legacy of the colonizers. Because, after all, if it's all Mexico and Mexico is a nation-state like all the others, and everyone is the same people, with equal rights, then there doesn't need to be any real discussion about issues like free trade and it's implications, or Mexico's place in the international scene, because, like the U.S., Mexico is a republic controlled by the people---and so not subject to the legacy of colonialism that other Central and South American countries face.

The legacy of colonialism in Mexico throws all of that off. When it's recognized that Mexico is really a state with the same internal colonization as other Latin American states the impact of free trade comes immediately under scrutiny.

If Mexico has a history of inequality which was not erased by the Mexican Revolution, but which has endured down to today, then to say that free trade will lift all boats is just a farce.

It's also a farce to say, in the same situation, that the guardians of the revolution are actually accomplishing something by constantly referring to those traditions.

The Zapatistas have pierced all of this.

In the place of Mexican populism they've put forward indigenous self government by indigenous principles, a concept which, if the propaganda surrounding the Mexican revolution is to be believed, should have led to nowhere because Mexico would supposedly be beyond such expressions of indigenous ways of life.

But it has.

There's a thin veneer which covers Mexico which makes it appear to be a country moving into further integration with the United States with no friction underlying it. Zapatistas puncture that veneer and shed doubt on where exactly that movement is actually taking regular Mexicans.


Oh, by the way, "Turkey" isn't actually pronounced Turkey; it's actually spelled Turkçe, which is pronounced Turk-chay. Just some info there.
As ever, Fela Kuti proves to be the best thing for a hang over; only this time the hang over is caused by drinking tea prepared the Turkish way, no alchohol involved.

To prepare tea the Turkish way you need two pots, or, alternately, a kettle and a pot. The point is to prepare a very strong infusion of tea in the small pot, then keep it heated on low, and then boil water in the kettle, then add the boiling water to infusion which you've poured into cups.

I recommend small cups.

To prepare it, take the probable number of cups of tea that you and your friends will be drinking, gather that amount of tea bags together, then, with a standard size tea cup, measure out from half to a third of a tea cup for every tea bag.

Put the water into the small pot.
Heat it to a boil and then reduce the temperature; add the tea bags, cover, and let cook for two to three minutes.

Remove the tea bags, keep it covered, and reduce the temperature to simmer.

This is your infusion.

Take the kettle and fill it with the water you'll think you'll be using to serve people with; boil it. When the kettle whistles, add the infusion to you and your guests cups---from a third of the way full to half---then add the boiling water to fill up the rest of the cups space.

This is the tea.

The advantages of this is that if you fix a big infusion and keep it simmerring all you have to do to fix fresh tea is boil a new kettle of water as needed. It tastes better and is much fresher. And much stronger.

You don't have to boil too much water for tea in the first place, then, which reduces the amount of stagnation the water endures and also stops the water from being boiled twice, which is reputed to decrease the taste.

I recommend going the Turkish way and serving in small cups rather than in large, because this is very strong tea and not meant to be gulped down; also, small cups of tea are fresher and better tasting than large cups which have been sitting a while; it's better to prepare many small cups of fresh tea than to drink one large cup halfway down, stop, and then drink more after it's sat for quite a while.

Most tea bags come with instructions based on the english standard tea cup, which is a little smaller than an actual cup and much smaller than a mug, so to prepare servings for cups smaller than that, like a demitasse for instance, you have to measure out how many demitasses equal one standard cup of english tea and then convert that into tea bags and water.

Tea is the fountain of hospitality, may this recipe help you welcome travelers from far away in warmth and kindness.

Economics.

I think a major misconception people have about the economy is that before the industrial revolution there wasn't much economy out there.

Therefore, by acting like the 19th century brought us everything they can maintain that without it we'd be nothing.

Industrial capitalism is authoritarian.

Before industrial capitalism, however, the economy still functioned and did so at a stable level.

What can happen is that we can move back into an economy more like that; it isn't either the industrial system or nothing.

Why illegal things are just plain stupid.

When I was a teenager I was the type of person who would get the Loompanics catalog and salivate over it's contents, fantasizing about putting all the illicit knowledge which was now seemingly at my finger tips into action. I didn't do any of it, but the thought that, yes, you could break the law and get away with it, and get away with it in a way which the cops pretty likely wouldn't be able to find out who did it, was a liberating thought.

What came with that liberating thought, however, was the realization that although that scenario was a possibility, it was also pretty pointless.

Once you get over the shock of seeing books about lock picking offered, for example, ones that are likely to be accurate, the question becomes "Why do it?". I couldn't give a good answer for that myself.

The closest I ever came to finding a practical way in which to apply all this was in fantasies about pirate radio, stoked no doubt by late night viewing of "Pump up the Volume".

That, at least, would have been productive.

But with most of the other stuff there I saw the same sort of futility as I see in lyrics to some 2Pac songs: there's one in particular where he immitates Biggy Small's voice and they're fantasizing about what the ideal goal would be, and it goes something like "I keys coming from overseas, cost a nigger a hundred Gs".

The point, if there is one, about that song is that well, their goal is to be really big drug dealers......to which I'd respond, so what's the point?

What exactly does being a big time drug dealer actually amount to? Not much. No matter how the Gangsta lifestyle is portrayed, it seems a pretty useless thing to aspire to if the only things it gives you are money and women.

Plus a potential to be locked for the rest of your life and/or assasinated by rival gangsters.

The thrill of the gangster lifestyle, which paralells, in a way, the thrill of knowing that you can do things against the law and get away with it, seems pointless in the final analysis.

Which, by the way, is what William "Upski" Wimsatt essentially says in Bomb the Suburbs (not the suburbians). He prints an interview with a graffiti artist who points out that graffiti and the hip hop lifestyle are good starts to a more productive life, doing what you want, but they aren't the goal, they aren't the end of the line, and that if you get stuck on them without being able to move onto something more solid and legitamate then you're really just spinning your wheels.

Living outside the system is sort of a contradiction in terms, or, at the very least, is not the whole of the story.

The quote unquote system includes both people living off the gr

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Did you know that Emmett Miller wrote and performed Hank Williams' signature song "Lovesick blues" twenty years before Hank ever did it, or that Hank Williams, along with Bob Wills, basicly stole Emmet Miller's vocal style and didn't give him credit for it or help him out when minstrelry was suppressed in the '50s?

I learned about the essential connection between blackface minstrelry and the beginnings of rock and roll and modern country from a wise man in Texas recently.

Did you know that the Roman Empire had trade unions?
Which brings me, sort of, to another topic.

One of the reasons why movements towards industrial democracy have fared so well in the UK and in Europe is that it's become clear, and has in fact been clear for quite some time, that most jobs out there are not going to be fun, exciting, or particularly relevant to a person's chosen field of study, if they have one.

Neither, I might add, do they actually make sense in the sense of adding up to achieveing something really spectacular. When one works at most jobs, the overall goal one is contributing to is rarely stunning.

Excepting jobs which focus on cultural creation, or on creative brain work, like being an artist, professor, writer, actor, most jobs typically leave people with only their spare time to devote to more pleasant creative and fulfilling concerns.

This is reality. The basis is that when it comes down to it jobs are there for the functioning of the economy, not to enrich your life with meaning.

So, understandably, the union movement and the movement for social democracy have gained quite a bit of support in superrogatory measures for trying to change the social system to make work easier, allow people more self control, give them more benefits, and make culture and the enjoyment of life easier for an increasing number of people.

However, here in the U.S. the idea that fundamentally work sucks and that we need to devise measures to compensate for that, along with of course changing the system in general, ahem, is undercut by the idea that somehow, somewhere, there are other types of jobs on the horizon which don't and which give fulfillment in an extensive way unto themselves.

A main avenue of this thought has grown out of the Horatio Alger school of capitalism, coming into the 21st century through the computer world. Here, starting a small business can be exciting. You can even get a job in IT (information technology), set your own hours, be working with the latest high tech equipment, making loads of money, and having a good time in the process.

All without actually producing anything.

That's the key. The ideal has been shifted so much to consumption, mercantile activity, and the factors which make the administration of productive companies actually able to function, like computer systems, that the thought that a substantial part of the population is always going to have to be involved in production which doesn't offer chances for upward mobility has been banished from people's minds.

Horatio Alger can't work because someone has to make the stuff to sell, and people can't just survive on abstract trade en-masse.

However, it's a great distraction. And it's a distraction which has been leant credibility by U.S. imperialism done under the banner of globalization, which has artificially propped up the U.S. economy even while the number of jobs that actually contribute to the productivity of the U.S. has dramatically decreased over the past thirty years.

Sometime that bill will have to be paid, and when that happens I guarantee that the idea of industrial democracy will look more and more attractive.
Globalization, imperialism, and the U.S. economy.

Way back when I learned about the various facts and relationships that underlie any economy; current account and capital account surplusses and deficits figured big.

Going back to the early days of economics, these two figures relate to the incoming and outgoing flows of trade and investment. Ideally, they should balance each other out. They go back to the early days of economics because, even then, it was realized that if you had a net outflow of cash from your country which wasn't being replaced by money earned from the export of goods that eventually your economy would collapse from being sapped of it's money supply.

The money supply was indicative of the situation of production and consumption; if cash is being converted into another currency to buy goods abroad and no cash from another currency is being converted into yours in order to buy things from you then your economy is loosing it's value, as indicated by the lessening of the cash supply.

The crisis can be averted by devaluing the value of money, but that just goes to prove the point---the value of money is always a rough estimate of the level and strength of productive forces in the economy, and to devalue money is to acknowledge that your level of production has decreased to the point where a re-valuation of the basic unit of trade is required.

Devaluation causes foreign countries and companies to take a less accepting view of your currency, which is now known to be worthless, thereby cutting off imports, in effect.

What does this have to do with the U.S.? Well, for a long time it's been recognized that the U.S. is in a situation in terms of trade and production which, in any other country, would have lead to a serious crisis and devaluation a long time ago. And would have inflicted the wrath of the IMF and the World Bank to boot.

The U.S. has an enourmous trade deficit; not only that but it's been formally paying that trade deficit through foreign investment, which is basicly burning the candle on both ends.

The money lost from decreased U.S. production is thought to have been made up for by cash inflows into U.S. companies through the sale of stocks and bonds by people and companies outside of the U.S.

But this leaves a few serious questions; after all, foreign companies know that the U.S. has a huge deficit, and as investors know the weaknesses of the U.S. possibly better than anyone. So why are they investing if it appears that the U.S. has engaged in an unsustainable economic policy, one which, if all indications are correct, will make it difficult for these same investors to get a return on their money?

After all, replacing money lost from trade deficits by foreign investment is an extraordinarily loosing policy; if the U.S. itself is staying afloat only because of the basic cash transfers of people expecting a great deal more in dividends in the future, there's going to be no way that it'll ever be able to pay it.

Or is there?

The U.S. economy has been hollowed out, we are enduring a serious economic downturn, but we haven't experienced the kind of serious economic disruption that the same situation elsewhere may be expected to invoke.

Prices are still low. The dollar hasn't collapsed. And there hasn't been a serious shift in investment.

We're still becoming a so-called "service economy", a place where more people serve each other than actually produce anything; the downturn hasn't led to companies opening up here offering jobs, as they may be expected to if normal economics is to be believed.

Luxuries are being hit, but we're still doing really well, comparatively.

So what exactly is propping us up?

It connects with foreign investment, the trade deficit, and globalization.

My theory is that we're still doing ok because the U.S. economy is essentially running on the gains gotten from imperialism, via 'globalization', which enables companies to stay afloat, pay foreign investors, and actually support an economy where an increasing amount of low and medium paid people do no productive work whatsoever but just help in facillitating consumption and the infrastructure of production (the information age).

When Nike or whoever else sells their shoes or shirts or whatever products here, they may be economy models or they may be pricey, but either way a good profit has been made because the production costs in the third world are so low, enabling them to still make a profit even if prices are 'normal' and not visibly excessive.

This enables the poor and the lower middle class to still enjoy a fairly high standard of living even though the economy should not allow it. The profit gained by the difference between production costs and retail costs also allows companies to pay foreign investors, as well as for the wealthy to continue to by true imports---imports where the fact that the products come from abroad is a luxury and not an entangled fact of our economic system.

So in this situation capitalist globalization adds up to direct transfers of value from the third world to the United States, which finances the United States economy; additionally, the stock market allows foreign companies to share in the spoils of a permanently tilted system by allowing them to buy into it by means of stocks and bonds.

Brokered imperialism, in other words.

After all, essentially there are a great many people who do nothing productive in an economic sense who still enjoy a good life, which they would be unable to enjoy elsewhere. Why are they able to survive at service jobs when service jobs are the things that should be going first to revive the economy? Because being citizens of the United States they benefit from the cash transfers from the third world to our country, and are essentially being subsidized by the labor of the poor in those countries, in factories and mills which are very much engaged in productive activity.

Therefore, the U.S. needs capitalist globalization for it to stay viable, and has put forward the U.S. model as an option for multinational companies around the world to buy into as an enticement for their states to accept the U.S. trade model, both in their own countries and abroad.

It's not the only way for the U.S. economy to remain viable, for sure, but it's the thing which is providing the U.S. stability in an otherwise unsustainable situation.

All the time that the U.S. holds off on restructuring, which it should have started after it became clear that it's post-war economic boom was going to go away as Europe and Japan recovered, is time that's getting the U.S. into a deeper and deeper hole for when crisis hits.

Essentially, then, globalization has enabled the U.S. to evade the problems coming from having to pair down it's economy while simultaneously having to promote production for competition on the world market. In other words, to avoid having to solve the problem of how to give U.S. workers good jobs in the new economic order.

The Smirking Chimp

Good article by Chuckman. The thing which people don't realize is that this peaceful international world which Bush has come and disrupted didn't naturally come to be that way.

Whether he likes it or even realizes it or not, this new adventure in Iraq along with the war in Afghanistan and other offensive dealings in the world of foreign policy, have taken place on the background of international law, which has been responsable for the great restraint that the rest of the world has shown to the U.S. in light of it.

If international law and the interanational order that it's produced is really going to go away, the U.S. will be facing armies that can check and in fact overrun and invade the U.S. succesfully, no matter what nuclear weapons or high technology we have.

It's not as if military power isn't out there, but the defenseless stance which the international community has been affecting all through this is largely illusory; it's defenseless because it's holding itself back, for the benefit of the world order at large.

This can change very quickly; if the U.S. really abrogates international law it won't have the carte blanche access to invade countries without serious international opposition any longer, to say the least.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Every once and a while this blog recommends songs by Bob Dylan or other artists which have contemporary relevance. Let me suggest "Senor, Tales of Yankee Power", by Bob Dylan, as being one which has a lot of resonance to the current moment.

Yes, Garcia covered it on a track appearing in "Masked and Anonymous", but the original on "Street Legal", which has been remastered, sounds much better.

A few lines:
señor, señor, do you know where she is hidin'?
How long are we gonna be ridin'?
How long must I keep my eyes glued to the door?
Will there be any comfort there, señor?


There's a wicked wind still blowin' on that upper deck,
There's an iron cross still hanging down from around her neck.
There's a marchin' band still playin' in that vacant lot
Where she held me in her arms one time and said, "Forget me not."


Señor, señor, I can see that painted wagon,
smell the tail of the dragon.
Can't stand the suspense anymore.
Can you tell me who to contact here, señor?


Well, the last thing I remember before I stripped and kneeled
Was that trainload of fools bogged down in a magnetic field.
A gypsy with a broken flag and a flashing ring
He said: "Son, this ain't a dream no more, it's the real thing."

copyright bob dylan

Sunday, January 04, 2004

The fact that this globalization and free trade stuff came out of corporate culture means that in opposing free trade talks and general globalization events we're also opposing the corporate culture that's been slowly taking over our country. The fact that there was no constituency which came up with or supported free trade and neoliberalism outside of the business sphere is a sign that this part of society has overstepped it's bounds; way far. It's time to reel it in and give it a citizen's reckoning.

We might be the rabble in their eyes but we do live in a democracy and the rabble's vote counts.

So let's show them our putrid hippy green whatever misconceptions and defeat them by it, with all of our crooked teeth showing just to piss them off even more.

Oi!
Speaking of strange coincidences....

It turns out that I know one of the people that was involved in putting the FTAA conference together. We know each other from a group in the non-political sphere of life. Talking with her, after the protests, was revealing in that I was willing to go quite a long way to be fair and accomodate her perspective while she didn't move an inch in my direction, and instead just repeated what she believed, which was that outside agitators who didn't know anything about what the conference was really about had stirred up trouble.

This is not democracy. Although a small incident, nontheless it captures an essential feature of the system and what we're fighting against: here we have agreements that impact many spheres of life, in a whole lot of countries, and which have the potential to mess up life in those countries for millions of people, and to raise questions about the validity or rationality, or the character or the potential impact, of those agreements is regarded as something totally unneccesary and misguided?

Maybe we are wrong. Maybe free trade will in fact bring all the benefits that proponents think it will bring; but we'll never know if discussion about the topic in the social stratum which have the capability to actually effect things is limited to free trade positions.

There are quite a few people out here who believe that more examination is required, at the very least, before these agreements should be signed and put into action; a process which was respectful of democracy would recognize this and seek to engage it instead of isolating itself behind closed doors in private conferences.

This is why we take to the streets, to demand that they face the opposition in public and in a meaningful way.

If we can break the power of the corporate mindset and make it compromise in ideology by forcing it to address anti-globalization concerns we will have produced a major victory.

Why?

Because nice people involved with putting on the conference notwithstanding this neoliberal ideology doesn't come out of a vacuum. It's a symptom of the dominance of the corporate sector over everyday life in the U.S. The people who make the free trade agreements get to that position by being good corporate employees who go along with the system and never question it; neo-liberalism, in a sense, comes out of corporate culture and the culture of management theory prevalent in American business.

Despite general affinities to American beliefs and attitudes, which come out of the fact that we are a new country, the actual ideas and concepts which make up neo-liberalism come out of nowhere except the corporate board room; they don't exist in American culture in general.

The fact that they are the ideas and beliefs setting the stage for global economic agreements which come back and influence those not involved with corporate management speaks to the power of that culture of conformism, and that culture deserves to be compromised because of that power.

If neo-liberalism is a product of the corporate board room, produced because of the general takeover of life in the U.S. by corporations, then the fact that that is what is trying to direct the essential forces of life on this planet is an insult to all concepts of popular power and democracy.

It's even an insult to non-democratic systems in that even dictatorships need the tacit agreement of large segments of the population to exist, and this would provoke even citizens of those regimes to rebel, as it actually has in the case of non-democratic regimes in south america, asia, and africa.

The idea that corporate power is slowly growing isn't the problem, although I wouldn't personally want it, it's that this power wants to take over everything, and that this slow growth of power which we've allowed to happen has led to a coup by forces which presented themselves as the good guys which bothers me the most.

It's like a bad guest which has committed the worst crime after many petty ones. It wasn't supposed to happen in the first place, and now that it has happened there's no excuse for it having to answer for itself.

It's only fair.
Another World is Possible.

Another world is not only possible but neccesary; the thing which people involved with neoliberalism don't realize is that closing off alternatives to development and declaring that this is the end game of global development is more a mark of just how authoritarian and limited the corporate mindset is in relation to the world than a rational proposal.

Another world is possible, in effect, because the world which has been bullied into us as the only alternative is constructed so completely flawed that it doesn't even function as a rational world in and of itself, not to even touch on the effects of exporting it to other countries as the bread and butter of the future.

Another world has to be possible because this world doesn't work at all.

If it was different, we would be having a different sort of politics, we would be having the sort of normal politics that characterized the early eighties and late seventies; then, the lines were drawn pretty clearly: the Soviet Union existed, and to be a leftist meant to have achieved a reckoning with that fact and to have decided on a course of action and ideas in light of that reckoning. These days being a leftist in the U.S. mostly means not wanting the country to spill over the abyss and plunge the entire world into chaos and potential final destruction. It's sort of easier now...

The U.S. is the last bastion of classical liberalism, the last place where such a belief system is tenable and can gain adherents. This is what fuels neo-liberalism socially.

Australia, I believe, has a similar constituency of people believing in classical liberalism; people living on the frontier, pursuing freedom in a wide open land; that's what drives it here too in the U.S., but Australia doesn't have the power to impose it's self on the rest of the world and the U.S. does.