Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Past Didn't Go Anywhere

The villian from T. Pynchon's new novel addressing the Industrial Defence Alliance:

"So, of course we use them, we harness and sodomize them, photograph their degradation, send them up onto the high iron and down into the mines and sewers and killing floors, we set them beneath inhuman loads, we harvest from them their muscle and eyesight and health, leaving them in our kindness a few miserable years of broken gleanings. Of course we do.Why not? they are good for little else."

He is Scarsdale Vibe and he is, of course, talking about the working class. It is the time of Ludlow and the anarchists are his nemisis, although his eventual demise springs from a less predictable source. This would make a great movie!

"We will buy it all up," making the expected arm gesture, "all this country.Money speaks, the land listens, where the Anarchist skulked ,where the horse-thief plied his trade, we fishers of Americans will cast our nets of perfect ten-acre mesh, leveled and varmint proofed, ready to build on. Where alien muckers and jackers went creeping after their miserable, communistic dreams, the good lowland townsfolk will come up by the netful into these hills, clean, industrious, Christian, while we, gazing out over their little vacation bungalows, will dwell in top dollar pallazzos befitting our station, which their mortgage money will be paying to build for us...when all is festival and wholesome sport and eugenically chosen stock, who will be left anymore to remember the jabbering Union scum, the frozen corpses whose names, false in any case, have gone forever unrecorded? who will care that once men fought as if an eight hour day, a few coins more at the end of the week, were everything, were worth the merciless wind beneath the shabby roof, the tears freezing on a womans face worn to dark Indian stupor before it's tme, the whining of children whose maws were never satisfied, whose future, those who survived, was always to toil for us, to fetch and feed and nurse, to ride the far fences of our properties, to stand watch between us and those who would intrude or question?"

It's a refreshing candor that Pynchon endows his ruling class with, the kind we almost never hear in our modern, liberal, "democratized" class conflict. Scarsdale Vibe makes no bones about his station nor his ideology.

"Anarchism will pass ,it's race will degenerate into silence, but money will beget money, grow like the bluebells in the morning, spread and brighten and gather force, and bring low all before it. It is simple. It is inevitable .It has begun."

A great storyteller, hell raiser and Wob died on Saturday, Utah Phillips RIP. He constantly reminded us about the power of memory. We need to remember, to respect and honor ,those who fought before us and I thank T. Pynchon for helping with the project.We need others.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Redneck, Blue collar

Once again America's "system" of class definition is exposed and found wanting. What kind of system, after all, can make sense of working class, middle class, ruling class, employing class, upper class, under class, owning class, coordinator class? When the punditocracy trots out the meme that Hillary owns the "white, blue collar, working class" everyone nods their head knowingly, but such terminology is of course, meaningless.(This is the medias role, to reinforce meaninglessness)

We could use our idiot/savant President's "system", that is, anyone embarrassed to be seen by a recently widowed soldiers wife while playing golf is working class. In this cultural analysis, Golf is really the best determinant, far better than Jeff Foxworthy jokes or shirt color. Using this system we can discard Hillaries absurd claim to a constituency based on the sweated armpits of those shirts and see it for what it really is, one based on IQ and bigotry. Watch her numbers swell as we head down towards Bergoo, W. Virginia and now check their garages for golf clubs. Between puffs on their Vantage cigarrettes they might explain their electoral rationale of just being tired of all these Husseins! Or why they have two first names. (Jim-Bob?) Harsh, I know, but I have lived among these people, their churches, confederate flags, Crispy Cremes and shitty beer. A public that cannot articulate their frustration cannot engage in a democracy and the total sham should be brought out into the light of day rather than taken to some Biblical Theme Park with dinosaurs and Adam and Eve.

I also was fascinated with Bush's populist stance against subsidies for "wealthy farmers" contained in the latest Farm Bill. As he appeases the Jews (each out-going US President must perform this ritual) and pleads with the Arabs ( a new ritual), rebels against his elite handlers and is found more and more disgusting by the masses, he demonstrates perfectly the problems anti-intellectualism has created for itself. It is a morass for which redneck language, historiography, philosophy, even humor, is ill suited.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Empire Strikes Back

Seeing Dan Ortega dressed in red in front of a podium on May Day was enough to elicit a response from the guardians of capitalist order over at the New York Times. James Mc Kinley Jr. at the Americas desk was assigned this particular hatchet job and he performed his duty well. (NY Times May 4) "Citizen Councils stir fears of totalitarianism" James breaks out the T word right away and lets us know this is about Red and Fidel and Hugo. The article itself is about nothing, some complainer in the opposition fed him some quotes concerning his "fear"about the slope slipping towards the gulag. Seems the dictator of Venezuela is selling Nicaragua oil at half price (the balance to be paid over a 23 year loan at 2%) so they can invest in infrastructure and social programs. Talk about a commie plot! And here's the kicker, they are letting community councils make decisions about the investments instead of the regulatory state bureacracy! How dare they! Next thing you know they'll be giving away health care for free. A Socialist Revolution? I think not.

Quite by coincidence, I was reading Dennis Roger's great piece, A Symptom Called Managua , (NLR Jan/Feb.) just this morning wherein he describes the "pathologized development path" this sprawling metropolis has followed through the last several decades, thanks in part to US intervention. Sonia will argue that we didn't invade a country with an elected government but of course there is more than one way to skin a cat (and more than one definition of totalitarian as well.) AFTER invading and occupying Nicaragua from 1912-33 our trained monkey Anastasio Somoza and his National Guard murdered Sandino and crushed the movement for liberation. So much for a "well regulated militia"! Anyway, Somoza and his sons set themselves up in business in a BIG way but the 1972 earthquake was the real opportunity for the family empire and young Somoza II took full advantage. Eventually the corruption and brutality combined with economic collapse began to inspire a resistance movement "But the (US) Democratic Congress continued to vote military funding for the National Guard and-even as the latter were subjecting the civilian population to aerial bombardment and artillary fire- (Pres.) Carter sent a personal letter to Somoza congratulating him on the human rights situation in his country." Jimmy was also a big supporter of the Shah of Iran.

So then the FSLN takes Managua on July 19 1979 but they have a real mess on their hands and Reagan picks up where Carter left off and funds the Contras,basically left over National Guard and other mercenary thugs, and mines the harbor of Managua illegally to establish a virtual embargo. Through the 80's 30,000 impoverished residents join the slums and informal economy each year and in 1990 neo-liberalism arrives in the form of Violeta Chamorro and the election victory of the UNO. As the symbols of Sandinismo are destroyed, Mc Donalds , Subway ,Pizza Hut and "the Miami Boys" arrive to build golf courses and gated communities. High walls keep out the gangs, which take over the slums. The 90's are marked by rampant corruption, privitization, drug related violence and "Free Trade Zones".

Today,"elite factions jostle for power in the New Nicaragua". Ortega mixes anti-imperialist rhetoric with negotiations with the IMF and big business. He takes Chavez's cheap oil, but according to the author, "there are few sign this new Sandinista government is likely to inaugurate a more equitable phase of national development." The Times can rest easy.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Desire For Self- Expression (and joy)

Around five o'clock yesterday a vehicle pulled up to the loading zone in front of the Florence building on the corner of Front and Higgins in Missoula Montana and and red shirted eye double W's (IWW) pulled out a "soapbox" and bullhorn and quickly got to work.
"Fellow workers!" shouted the first of what would be a two hour stream ofboth scripted and impromptu speakers and exhortators, poets and orators. 99 years ago, on this very corner, the idea that Americans had the right to free speech was first tested when Wobbly organizers (Elizebeth Gurley Flynn, Frank Little, Jack Jones, St. John among others) stood up and began to tell assorted loggers, miners and laborers that it was time to "dump the bosses off their backs"!They were arrested en masse and the call went out for workers to converge. With the jails packed and an endless line of "speakers" waiting to get arrested the business leaders of the town, tired of paying to house ,feed and try these "rebels" changed the ordinance banning sidewalk speech.

Of course we had no idea what kind of reception we might recieve here in modern day, post-industrial Missoula, from the citizenry or the officials charged with maintaining order but it turned out the populous had plenty to say and the cops remembered the lesson of 1909. As Wobs railed against the deprivations of capitalism, environmentalists talked of degredation, others spoke of war and oil and Columbia and the price of rice, ragged vagabonds gave the assembled a piece of their mind, rappers rapped. Folks stood against the building with their mouths open, What Was This? Was It Spectacle? Public Space Reclaimed? A Demonstration? They would come up and ask "can I speak... about anything?" HELL YES!

Self expression leads to self-determination but it is neither easy nor comfortable. My heart pounds and hands shake, my mind goes blank (especially in interviews with TV reporters!) but this too can be overcome. Others spoke of the hesitancy and daring leap out of their "comfort zone" but you could sense the liberating potential of people realizing they have a voice, they can sound at least as reasonable as that last guy, they have an opinion they want heard! First Friday of every month that soapbox will appear on that corner and talking back, speaking out, mouthing off, will once again begin to be part of our culture. Turns out it is also FUN!