Wednesday, July 29, 2009


"Just as the scorpion threatened by fire shoots it's own venom into itself, democracy encircled by the flames of free market economics and the new world order pumps the searing venom of corruption into it's veins."

Jean Braudrillard Cool Memories 4

Old Jean is a pessimistic ex-revolutionary but his acidic intellect can still produce gems and these onservations written from 1997 to 2005 still resonate. As to a depresed democracy purposefully extinguishing itself, I'm not sure the allegory works perfectly, but witnessing the most current battle between corruption and the Spectacle play out one has to think that the disgusted populace must be reaching a point of rebellion (if not revolution).

The endless perp walk with it's handcuffed CEOs, Congressmen, bureaucrats, Rabbis, Priests, gurus, and cops has itself elevated cynicism to the role of the New Modern Religion. Institutions create culture and culture creates character. If the dominant, all encompassing institution is the Market, vice, avarice, greed and depravity should come as no big surprise. When each reltionship, each value, all philosophy is commodified and price controlled, it becomes harder and harder to explain "liberal democracy" to children.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Southern Man

A couple of articles in the new Harpers jumped out at me because I have been thinking about the southern states of the US and what kulturcritic called"the perennial political and social forces of manipulation, monitoring and control" in his last blog. Add Economic to that list and we are back to Debords Spectacle and I just want to make the obvious point that Southerners, with their tendency towards religious conservatism, are the most oblivious citizens ( in a crowded field!) with regard to these forces of control.

The particular articles concern the demise of the US auto industry ,the growth of Christian evangelism and an essay about Emmit Till and their common factor of course is the historical and present South, its racism, nativism anti-intellectualism and violence. Without going all Faulkner I think it fascinating that America is having this Spectacular psuedo-conversation about race where there is no apology, no mention of justice, no one asks for forgiveness or memorialises victims. It's all intellectual pablum(Obama), or CNN spin (focus on Al Sharpton!) about Henry Louis Gates, as if that gets anywhere near the heart of the matter. And of course everyone knows why Toyota or Honda would force southern states to get into a bidding war to see whose citizens can be the most obedient, boot licking, anti-union droids. These people watch cars go around in circles for hours on end while drinking crappy beer! After sitting through a sermon about fire and brimstone and Noahs Ark!

Here is the best part; the ultimate conformers, the most easily manipulated and controllable population actually identify as "rebels". The article Like I Was Jesus: How to Bring a Nine Year Old to Christ describes the brain-dead Child Evangelism Ministry, which also operates up North, but is most successful down in Jim De Mint country. A Crispy Creme donut in one hand and a bible in the other, these predators work the playgrounds and housing projects , looking for susceptible young minds to corrupt with their passive, moronic mythology.

I have, by the way, done my time living in the region, and recognize that sexism, racism, fundamentalism etc..are alive and well up north ( two blocks from here) but I just needed to rant about these particular forces of reaction and ask : What is their vision of the Good Society? Do I keep trying to engage these people in a discourse in which they want no part? Will their class consciousness somehow reaapear so that they understand the "manipulation, monitoring and control" which has become as much their religion as Jesus?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Democrats and Labor

What is already a rather uneasy alliance should become even more so now that the "card check" provision of the Employee Free Choice Act has been dropped at the behest of "moderate Democrats". Unions spent 80 million dollars and tons of time on this campaign and are trying to present a stoic face as they see this key provision wiped out in back room deal making. They also put a lot of effort into getting Obama elected in part because he was a vocal supporter of the legislation. What lessons will they learn? The "deal" so far appears to include a limit on the time employers can stall before holding an election (currently 40 days) of 5 to 10 days. This is good. The election must take place after 30% sign and there are still much stiffened penalties for employer infractions included. Still being negotiated is the possibility of union access to company property for organizing and barring employers from forcing workers to attend anti-union "educational" meetings. This is also good , although the very fact such meetings exist is proof of how far unionism has fallen. Next they will require workers to attend church and recite the pledge!

I was never convinced that "card check" would be the miracle cure for the decline of unionism in this country but I felt it was worth supporting actively, a somewhat controversial position within Wobblie ranks. Many Wobs especially resisted the idea of binding arbitration which is also, interestingly,a provision the right-wing is fighting tooth and claw. This seemed to me an unrealistically "pure" stance considering the political realities and I think forcing employers into a contract is a defeat for them if not an actual victory for workers.

As to the long-term effects, I would like to think a certain percentage of the rank and file will become further radicalized by this compromise at their expense and start to see that only eventual worker power ( the general strike) can bring about true social change. Reliance on capitalist "democracy" will always lead to betrayal and such hollowed out "politics" can never deliver the goods. More and more people will begin to spit the word "moderate" out with disgust and such spineless cowards as the Diane Fienstiens and Arlen Specters will enjoy the enmity and infamy now reserved for those "crazy radicals".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A New Reason to Struggle

A week ago Friday Troutsky became a grandfather and so increased his own responsibility to find a sustainable alternative to the capitalistic juggernaut. The imperative here is to somehow re- develop a sense of stewardship, such as the native Americans incorporated into their life-ways and a renewed sense of egalitarian community, so that young Jonah Tiberious Graff will not have to express himself through violence or coercion. It can happen, but only through re-focused effort.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

4th of July in Butte America

I walked for two hours down the middle of the main street of the most working class city in the universe yesterday, carrying a sign saying People Over Profit. Amongst the contingent of 35 or so single-payer advocates in the annual parade, I was the one wearing an IWW shirt and it helped introduce me to a number of interesting folks. Hearing Max Baucus was going to participate in the parade,( I still don't know whether he showed?) a group of activists built a beautiful float showing the Statue of Liberty lying sick in a hospital bed. The crowd reaction was mixed, a lot of blank looks, but showed what I felt was an amazing degree of support for our cause with lots of clapping and cheering and only a couple of small confrontations with Free Market Morons. Butte is a unique place with a history of class struggle and unless you have experienced St.Patricks Day or Evil Knievel Day in this hard living, hard drinking, hard playing town you don't really know Americana.

Afterwards, I drove a young activist back to Missoula, an intelligent, dedicated young lady whose main focus was spreading the virtues of perma-culture. Whenever you get discouraged with the struggle, remember lots of people like her are out there, travelling , learning, helping. From SOA protests in Georgia, to logging sale disruptions in Oregon to small farms high in the Himalayas this young anarchist was connecting it all and I connected her with our Community Union and she connected me with a local Catholic Worker House. That's how it works, folks.

Meanwhile, back in the mosquito infested Big Hole, my old friend Stewart and I talked late into the night about Risk - Reward, what he felt to be the driving motor of human endeavor. Pressing me as to how my "New Society" might incorporate this basic incentivizing device into it's structure, he used the example of an architect-engineer who makes decisions upon which many lives depend and who should therefore (he believed) be rewarded as such. This leads, of course , into that whole discussion on Personal Responsibility and it's general promotion, but fortunately exhaustion finally set in and I was allowed to sleep a few hours. (my friend is hyper-ADD and into self-medication)
Here is my delayed answer, Stew.
Let's just have everybody decide how much one should be rewarded for such onerous tasks as risk-acceptance. But let's also see if we can't reduce such risk or distribute it in such a way that it falls less heavily. Let's see how responsible people are when given the choice between working and fishing. Will you fish all day? Will you think of something else you would like to accomplish instead? I think you will get tired of even such a beautifully idle pursuit as tossing flies at wily trout. I think you will find some work that needs to get done. or the mosquitos will finally drive you to it.