Home / Culture and Society / Reflections on Class, Class Consciousness, and OWS

Reflections on Class, Class Consciousness, and OWS

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

“Class” is a touchy subject in American political parlance. Any talk of class – apart from the purely descriptive sense of the term whose main purpose is taxonomical, to tell you where you stand along the American hierarchy of values and our peculiar measure of success – is bound to be disturbing because it runs counter to the American Spirit, the idea that we can become whomever we want to become, that there’s no stopping us if we’re ambitious and enterprising enough, that the sky is the limit. But you know the rest. The American Dream writ large is the incarnation.

So no, I’m not speaking here of our middle class or of our lower middle-class, not even of our upper class and beyond. These are taxonomical categories; and when so used, they’re denotative of our standing in society. And given upward mobility, another indispensable element of the American Dream, it’s no wonder these terms are uncontroversial. In fact, they perpetuate the myth of “belonging,” the myth that we’re all in the same boat, that only our abilities, determination and hard work separate one from the other. And given equality under the law, we surely must live, or so the story goes, in the best of all possible worlds. Legal protection, coupled with unlimited potential for individual success, surely must sound like a dream come true. Indeed, it’s the unique accomplishment of liberalism, classical or modern, that it perpetuates this dream.

Which is why whenever “class” is used in any way other than as a taxonomical term, denoting our present status in society, with a mind, of course, to our unquestioned assumptions as to social fluidity, it is bound to evoke a negative response for it strikes at the very core of our beliefs. “Class warfare” is the extreme form of the adverse reaction, and we’re surely familiar with the accusation: it’s un-American, we’re told, undermining the very spirit and principles upon which this nation was founded, inciting violence at worst, social unrest at best. And given that we’ve shed all pretense at class by virtue of either birth or privilege, unlike some of our Continental brethren for whom the vestiges of the Old World, it’s arguable, still remain, no wonder we’re getting incensed. For it’s our creed, our article of faith, that not class but meritocracy rules, no ifs, ands or buts. And that if anyone doesn’t make it “the American way,” it’s their own damn fault. Thus the myth is kept alive.

There are indications this is about to change. In any case, so think Barbara and John Ehrenreich, the authors of a seminal article in Mother Jones, “The 1 Percent, Revealed,” and their identification of OWS as the catalyst. Now we know beyond any doubt, say the authors, what kind of people comprise our ruling class, the despicable 1 percent:

[It’s] … the bankers [stupid[, hedge fund managers, and CEOs targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement. They have been around for a long time in one form or another, but they only began to emerge as a distinct and visible group, informally called the “superrich,” in recent years.

One only wonders what took us so long to have ever come to this realization. Did we really need OWS to bring things into sharper focus? But let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment and try to embrace the stance of extreme naiveté.

Aside from the growing income and wealth disparity which have come to afflict well nigh every segment of our society – which trend, by the way, has long been in coming, certainly before OWS was a figment in anyone’s imagination – the Ehrenreichs build their case by deconstructing another fashionable term of late, “the liberal elite.” [By “liberal elite,” they mean academics, media figures, well-educated middle managers, highly trained engineers, trial lawyers, teachers, doctors and social workers – in short, “the professional managerial class” – but you get the idea.]

The argument is two-prong. First, the liberal elite took a hit just like everyone else has; consequently, it, too, is bound to join the ranks of our disenfranchised. Second, and more important, it has always been a make-believe category, a political rather than sociological construct.

And here, the Ehrenreichs are at least partly correct to credit our Right with this spurious construction (I say “partly” because our Left hasn’t exactly endeared itself to the hoi polloi) so as to create a diversion which consisted of pointing to an imaginary rather than the real enemy. With the help of OWS, however, the authors argue, this illusion has been shuttered. Now we know who the real enemy is, “the [despicable] 1 percent, revealed.” To which I say, what a bunch of malarkey!

I had better preface what I’m about to say by declaring that apparently, I have a far greater faith in the intelligence of the American people than the Ehrenreichs do, even if that intelligence is unarticulated most of the time. They speak of distraction as though a major impediment to attaining class consciousness; and on face value, of course they’re right. But c’mon now, distractions are part of life. If we make use of ‘em, it’s only because they serve their purpose. It’s not exactly as though distractions were supposed to take over and supplant our entire thinking processes. And if we make use of them, it’s only because we find them convenient insofar as they enable us to hold on to our biases, our age-old prejudices and stale ideologies, their function being none other than to provide us with an excuse, a perfect pretext.

Which is to say nothing yet of the authors’ greatest omission, excluding from consideration all those for whom distraction, apart from being a factor, any kind of factor, isn’t even a part of their vocabulary. Yes, what I mean here is our growing underclass, our poor and our “invisibles,” our Niggers, our homeless, our gays, even our women, all those who no longer have any stake in America because America had failed them time and again, all those whose main business of living is sheer survival, nothing but making do, may the devil take the rest. None of those folks give a damn about who exploits whom or why. It’s a fact of life to them , plain and simple; besides, they haven’t the luxury. All they need to know, “it’s the Man.”

It’s rather ludicrous the Ehrenreichs and their ilk should be pontificating from their bully pulpit so. I’d the last person to deny anyone the faculty of hope, but I can’t help but detect a major disconnect here between the authors’ guarded optimism and the underlying realities, realities they’re so out of touch with that they are not even acknowledged, let alone considered. As a result, not only is the growing bulk of the American public excluded from their analysis; to make matters worse, even those who by all means ought to be affected by the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions – our dwindling middle class facing the imminent threat from foreclosures, shrinking incomes and job loss – end up being minimized: diversion is being posited as having been a major barrier to attaining class consciousness while the root causes are conveniently ignored. Now that the bubble is burst and we know who the real enemy is, a brighter future awaits us all, we’re told.

There’s no question OWS has been and continues to be a great many things to a great many people. Thus far, it has attracted the homeless and the marginalized, the most disaffected members of unionized labor as well as the government employees, even some of our intelligentsia,I daresay; and with a bit of luck, its appeal may become more universal. But for the Ehrenreichs to claim the movement has reached anything like a widespread support simply flies in the face of the facts. Indeed, for all the genius behind the OWS slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” the emblem of the Occupy movement, isn’t it rather revealing that by and large, the bulk of the American public, the very people who ought to have embraced the OWS message as though their own and run with it, remains unconvinced? In fact, most are repelled by it. I’d be the first to say the reasons are many and varied, but surely, some of it has got to do with the fact we’re not all that comfortable yet with this “class thing.”

Which again goes to show you can never trust a member of the intellectual elite to offer a valid self-critique, not as long as they’re still bona fide members of the elite. Come to think of it, an open rebellion by the scribes, taken as a class, has been a rare thing indeed. True, there have been incidences in ancient China, but don’t forget: Confucius was a conservative and the arch defender of the imperial rule and the status quo. What few intellectuals have come to lead and join the masses in their struggle – Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and one may as well include Prince Kropotkin here and Count Tolstoy if only for good measure – they’ve always done so at their own peril by disavowing their class membership: they acted as individuals.

What then are the major impediments, then, to adopting the Ehrenreichs’ rather rosy picture of love reigning supreme and class solidarity in abundance? What are they willfully or ignorantly unaware of?

I’ve already alluded to some of the factors which continue to mitigate against class consciousness and a sense of greater commonality in American political and social experience – methodological individualism, the atomistic, Lockean conception of the individual as though (still) in a State of Nature, along with the emphasis on rights and rule of law aimed at protecting those rights as though the epitome of our freedoms, the legalistic conception of equality. Need I say more?

Let’s face it!  American society is still riddled with divisions along racial and ethnic lines in order for the sense of solidarity to take hold. Equally prohibitive is the philosophy of methodological individualism, just spoken of, which inscribes the American psyche more so than any other human society, past or present. The most vulgar rendition of it is, individual success at all cost; a more benign one, putting one’s own interests above the interests of the community.

Even Rome, the most imperialistic state ever conceived, a template for all imperialistic states to follow, had better sense than that. But then again, the Romans hadn’t the benefit of the liberal ideology which posits the individual as though in a never-ending conflict with all other humans and the forces of nature, though in a state of conflict they most definitely were. Yes, even the Romans, irreligious as they were by today’s or the ancient standards, weren’t altogether taken in by the myth of individualism and the resultant hubris. Even they, the conquerors of the world, have known their rightful place in the larger scheme of things. For better or worse, they have always been humble enough to pay homage to Destiny (or Fortune, as the case may be, if gods happened to smile their way). It’s but a reconstruction of a civilization long gone, I’d be the first to admit it, an aid to understanding. One can never be certain, of course!

There have always been classes as far as human societies go, a ruling class, a priestly class, the scribes, the workmen, the artisans, the peasants and the slaves. Perhaps the Solon’s and Cleisthenes’s Greece was the only exception insofar as public officials were elected by the casting of lots, the term of office not to exceed one year; and in that respect, everyone was equal. Of course we must make an allowance here for the existence of slaves, which made the entire enterprise we call “direct democracy” not only possible but suspect as well.

“It was the economic necessity, someone always had to work in order to provide another person with their leisure, the least of which being, tending to the affairs of the state,” so says the conventional wisdom. “It’s preordained,” so we’re told.

So how are we to free ourselves, in that case, from this age-old pattern, this troublesome meme which appears so engraved in our hearts and minds that we can’t seem to think beyond taking advantage of others as a way of securing our own freedoms? And how are we do this in this land called America, once conceived as the Great Experiment but which, as a matter of fact, presents the greatest obstacle ever because the premises were all wrong? How are we to do this when individual rights end up masquerading as our freedoms and the rule of law – that unique expression of the will (or mere acquiescence, as the case may be, on the part of) the ruling class – as (distributive) justice?

If you’re looking for philosophical underpinnings which ground these conclusions, you’ll do well to give a cursory look at Charles Taylor’s article, “The Nature and Scope of Distributive Justice,” in Philosophy and The Human Sciences, Philosophical Papers 2 (see the featured selection). Meanwhile, if you’re looking to practical solutions, I can’t improve on Marx’s definition of class, bourgeois edition, which ties the concept to the ownership of the means of production: until the producers have full control over the disposition of their product, there’ll never be a classless society. And assuming now that a classless society is a desideratum for any democratic society worthy of its name, a condition whereby only meritocracy rules, whereas birth, rank or privilege are of no account, this ought to be our greatest aspiration.

The Ehrenreichs open their provocative article with a quote from E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class:

Class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.

It’s a fairly straightforward definition, no doubt about it. I hasten to add, however, it hasn’t happened yet. We’ve got a long way to go.

Perhaps Bell Hook’s essay, “Love As The Practice Of Freedom” in Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, another featured selection, should serve as a fitting conclusion. Let me cite the opening paragraph:

In this society, there is no powerful discourse on love emerging either from politically progressive radicals of from the Left. The absence of a sustained focus on love in progressive circles arises from a collective failure to acknowledge the needs of the spirit and an overdetermined emphasis on material concerns. Without love, our efforts to liberate ourselves and our world community from oppression and exploitation are doomed. As long as we refuse to address fully the place of love in struggles from liberation we will not be able to create a culture of conversion where there is a mass turning from an ethic of domination.

Powered by

About Roger Nowosielski

  • Yes. If you have a pdf folder where you file various pdf documents, you should be able to locate it.

    BTW, I’ll be dealing partly with David Graeber’s recent book on the origins of debt and money. A seminal text. Anarcisse provided me with a site where I can download it. I’ll forward you the link on this site if it’s a success.

    Also, look at the first page of this comments space to the links I provided, interviews, videos, and reviews. The last one on that page, linking to an article in “Social Text,” is very concise and a great summary. Take a look at it if time allows.

  • I will look forward to reading your article, Roger.

    Let me look on my old nag of a computer for the Foucault pdf, then. (Was it not a pdf?)

  • We started with the Two Lectures first. I believed I scanned it to you way back.

    BTW, have another article forthcoming, hopefully today but at the latest tomorrow.

    Would appreciate your comments once it’s out.

  • Hiya Roger and troll,

    Could one of you please tell me what the name of that Foucault paper we read that time was, if you recall? Was it two lectures (power-knowledge)…or was it Truth, Power, Knowledge?

    I am hoping to get the exact one we read.


  • A top notch discussion about the future of OWS and prospects between Naomi Klein and Yotam Marom, both seminal thinkers.

    Any comments, Anarcissie, Cindy, Mark Eden?

  • Yes, and the only way to challenge the dominating culture is to grow values of the alternative culture. That’s why your voice is needed, Cindy, even here on BC.

  • Hiya everyone:

    The New York Times eXaminer is a new paper which bills itself as An antidote to the “paper of record”.

    The take is, of course, along the lines of the emerging world consciousness.

    At the moment, they are trying to grow. A donation of as little as a dollar will get you NYTX columnist Danny Schechter’s new e-book “Occupy!” which includes an introduction by Greg Palast. I plan to subscribe because I want to support a new media that challenges the mantras of the dominating culture. This promises to be one that will grow.

  • Reflections on OWS by women activists.

  • A convicted felon, money launderer and chief lobbyist par excellence, Abramoff, gives advice to OWS to stay within the political bounds.

    His words are thick with irony, considering he’s been the chief user and abuser of the political system in place.

  • Impressive. I wouldn’t expand that much energy to expose a troll, but I suppose it served the purpose.

  • If you want to observe the thorough carpet-bombing of a troll, read this.

    The backstory does touch on the employment of institutional trolls. We might want a more detailed vocabulary to refer to this species — it seems to me there is a major difference between someone who enjoys disrupting an on-line conversation purely for enjoyment, and one who does it as a matter of employment or profit, just as there is a difference between an admirer and a shill.

  • The Year in Review.

    Jan 2, 2012

  • @74

    Speaking of the devil, Paul Christephoro Jr., allegedly an attorney, gets his day of fame. It’s not just anybody that gets their honorable mention, as per the following NPR report.

    Which makes one wonder, why does BC attract all the discredited trolls? So they could keep on trolling elsewhere?

    Interestingly, there has been no response from Paul Jr. after he’s been found out.

  • Anarcissie, Grady,

    Check out this one on how the funny money works; fits in quite well with Graeber’s theory of money:

    “Will Charlotte Church Avert Global Economic Armageddon and Save the World?”

    Besides, it’s an excellently written article and fun to read.

  • And I second Christopher’s bid –Happy New Year, everyone.

  • Glad you’re still here. Now, re: your separation of the two things – the good on the one hand and morality on the other — I have to reason through this. I don’t take everything on faith and neither should you. Once I reconstruct the relationship, I’ll get back to you. Offhand, it’d seem to me that the two things came as a gestalt, i.e., it’s not as though we first contemplate on what kinds of goods there are and then go about pursuing them. I don’t believe that’s how the human mind works, nor do I think it’s reflective of my experience.

    In any case, you presented me with an interesting and challenging puzzle, and that’s all to the good — no pun intended.

  • Roger, I actually came back to correct a mistake I made, and then Christopher’s comment (which was a joy in itself to read) confirmed that I needed to make the distinction.

    Goodness is a FRUIT of the Spirit, not a GIFT of the Spirit.

    It was an important mistake to correct because God has given so many raw materials (gifts) to man so that we can produce what God wants to see (fruit):

    “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5)

  • AMEN, Christopher Rose!
    Love is VERY hard work.

    AND, if there is one word that sums up “laboring alongside GOD” it would be “loving.”

    So, God works in mysterious ways! Thus shall I express my delight at the news that Christopher Rose is gettin’ the Word out on his Facebook Page. AND providing commentary!

    Happy and PEACEFUL year to one and all.

  • As I went to bed just over eight hours ago, one of the things I was thinking about was how many excellent comments you’d made recently, Irene, how much I was in agreement with you and how pleasing that was.

    Returning to the comments this morning, I was again pleased – then right at the last minute you went and blew it!

    There are no superior bright ideas or “ideas so dark and base” that aren’t actually the product of we humans. To believe otherwise is to simultaneously think less of us on the positive side and underestimate us on the negative side.

    We humans are capable of many literally amazing things, not all of which are good, but we shouldn’t absolve ourselves of the responsibility for these things by palming off the cause or source to supernaturalism, that is an abandonment, plain and simple.

    On another note, as on another comments thread here on BC it cheered you up to see a non-theist looking at a theist source, I thought I’d leave you with a quote from that fascinating multi-human authored book called simply (if perhaps immodestly) “The Book” I recently posted on Facebook, along with my typically realistic addendum.

    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

    It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

    Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

    Love is hard work.

    Happy New Year to one and all!

  • Morality ISN’T a gift of the spirit. Morality and spirituality aren’t the same thing. Thank God that there are many, many moral atheists, or this world would be more of a hell than it is already.

    Goodness is a gift of the Spirit. There are some bright ideas that are so superior to what any human being could come up with on his own that they have to be inspired. If you’re not an atheist, Roger, you know what I mean.

    On the flip side, there are some ideas so dark and base that no human could have come up with them on his own either. And so again we see that spirituality and morality are not the same thing. Haven’t scratched the surface yet? You’re not kidding.

    But it’s late.

  • @130

    Now that I’ve your comments, let me register this one: I think the concepts of “good” and “morality” are inseparable, which is to say, you couldn’t have one without the other. It’s not as though morality were the means and the good the end. What I’d like to argue, in fact, is that we can’t conceive of “the good” if it weren’t for the moral standpoint.

    Do come back, because I’m dying to know what you think. Besides, I don’t know whether you’re aware or not, we haven’t even scratched the surface. I can’t think in fact of a more pressing topic than this one.

    And to top off your last comment, if goodness is the gift of the spirit, morality can be no different

    But I’m afraid I’m saying to much by having said that. It’s one thing to say it, it’s another being able to justify it.

  • First off, it’s got nothing to do with being a Marxist or not. I’m speaking as a human, that’s all. The term was used in a restricted context.

    I’ve got to proceed by stages here, hope you understand, so that I don’t make light of your thinking as well as mine.

  • Let me think. You’re throwing a whole bunch my way.

  • I still think it is good to have a word (namely, the word “good”) to describe infinite vistas beyond the avoidance of stealing and murdering. Morality is smart. Goodness, however, is sometimes unreasonable from a self-preservation standpoint.

    And this is what I think. We are all Body, Soul, Spirit. Morality keeps the body and soul together. Goodness, though, is a gift of the Spirit.

  • But having read the article about Foot, and having seen this:

    Foot complains that most philosophers in modern times see their subject as having to do exclusively with the virtue of justice:
    [R]elations between individuals or between an individual and society, and so with such things as obligations, duties, and charitable acts. It is for this reason that, of the four ancient cardinal virtues of justice, courage, temperance and wisdom, only the first now seems to belong wholly to “morality?.

    I better understand what your objections actually were.

  • Jumping from there to here, then…
    …so you were disturbed that I said that morality is nothing more than decency?

    If I hadn’t read the article about Philippa Foot’s work, I might have thought that by that, you meant that the Marxist in you bristled at my claim that legal codes worldwide reflect a universal understanding of morality as being respect for an individual’s person and property, and that “goodness,” or charity, was impossible to codify like that. How much of one’s discretionary income will a “good” person donate to charity? 10%? 50%? Is it immoral to donate less than 100%? No. Is it good? Who’s to say?

  • I realize I haven’t provided the link. Here it is:

    “Natural Goodness” by Philippa Foot, a review.

  • Just so you know, Grady, Elizabeth Anscombe, Phlippa Foot and Iris Murdoch are my heroins, and moral philosophy is my forte.

    You should avail yourself of some of Iris Murdoch’s philosophical writings, especially The Sovereignty of Good, a collection of three essays. It’s put us more or less on the same page.

    The way I see it, moral and political philosophy are inseparable. The classicist in me, I guess.

  • Grady,

    I looked up your reference to Olmann in the Wiki. I was struck by a particular statement he made — he doesn’t believe in the fact-value distinction. Since I thought I was quite versatile on the subject, it got me to wondering: was it a particularly a Marxist trait?

    Now, I have no idea whether it will be of any interest to you, but just in case, here it is.

    I decided to look up the old fact-value controversy. The following is a fairly concise review of Philippa Foot’s breakthrough work on the subject, Natural Goodness, a quick read if you’re up to it. Again, I have no idea whether this is of interest to you, but to me moral thinking is the only kind of intelligent thinking.

    Proceeding on the assumption that it’s not an irrelevant subject to any astute observer of the present, let me share my thoughts anyway.

    However admirable Ms Foot’s project may be, in trying to eliminate the emotive component from the complex of so-called “moral decision making or moral judgment,” I think it’s misguided. And it’s misguided for the simple reason that rationality is (still) being held as the ultimate standard in terms of which to evaluate all human concerns.

    I’m afraid I’ve been to spoiled (“corrupted” is another word) by the postmodernists such as Lyotard and Foucault, to ever regard reason, pure or practical, or rationality, is so high a esteem.

    My view of reason is that it’s for the most part instrumental, offering a justification at best, a rationalization at worst, of our values. Our values come first, the reason or rationality merely follow. If I’m contradicting Aristotle here, do tell! but I don’t think I am.

  • Happy New Year’s to you too, Joseph.

    Just to recap, the video was just for the entertainment. The main point of my previous post still stands: a faulty construction arising out of Lockean/Hobbesian political theory as to the nature of the individual.

    In any case, I do think you should avail yourself of Taylor’s article just for the heck of it. What have you got to lose?

    Best wishes.

  • Roger,

    The video done by Dr. Harvey was quite impressive; the crude animations kept my attention through the more detestable points of his philosophical explanations. Nonetheless, I simply cannot see a social order in which humanity thrives if we deny it one of its most fundamental aspects; competition.

    This, of course, brings us back to human nature. I believe that, in recognizing the ways of humankind, a sound government should focus on its most beneficial aspects and legislate in a manner which highlights and rewards these, while discouraging and punishing detrimental ones. Human nature is neither negative or positive; it simply is. However, as all governments have the base goal of social engineering, so why should they not direct human activity towards positive ends? A debate rises here about what exactly a positive end is, as everyone has their own definitions of success and failure.

    It is by recognizing the traits of human nature that some of my beliefs could be described as conservative, but certainly not all. I am probably one of the few political writers at this e-newsmagazine that can sound like Ted Kennedy on a social issue such as women’s reproductive rights one day, and John McCain on a national security issue such as preventative warfare the next. This is something that I look quite fondly on, and always manages to keep things interesting in my commentary. I certainly would not want anyone to feel that their time has been wasted by reading one of my articles, whether he or she agreed with me or not. Diveristy of opinion is what makes life so interesting in my view. Orthodoxy or groupthink are two things that I find to indescribably abhorrent, for reasons far too numerous to list here.

    Anyhow, happy New Year’s to you, Roger. I am sure that 2012 will bring us many things to opine on.

  • Well, perhaps I’m too steeped in the academic tradition of putting everything down on paper, that unless it’s on paper, it’s only fleeting, soon to become but a memory and, the second time around, in the absence of written material, you’re back to square one.

    You can’t reassess your past thinking and move forward from memory alone. You must have something perfect (meaning: complete) before your very eyes upon which you can build.

    It’s like building a house, brick by brick. You can’t do it with imaginary bricks, nor can you do it all at once. It’s a step by step kind of thing, and the elements which go into construction must be more or less concrete, that is to say, finished.

  • Yes, I had a checkered career, Grady, graduate schools, skid row people who worked for me, three marriages and many more relationships, friends, in somewhat “high” places and in low, eating can food at times and at others, in the finest SF restaurants, a million dollar property in SF and NY at one time and a Citroen Maserati, all lost by now and living on measly SS income of under one thousand a month. And it don’t regret a single moment. It’s that combination of experience and thinking which I consider my strength.

    What class am I? I don’t care. I’d say I’m classless or in any case, that the category doesn’t apply to me.

    What class was my father who was a dramatic/comic stage actor in National Polish theater but who, on arrival to US, worked the rest of his life as a technician for Telefunken?

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Forget this compulsion about retrieving links and references. Organizing is not a fetish of order but a reaching out. If people care they can follow the clues and find what they seek.Randy Clyde Hoyle wanted to find others like hisself so bad he resorted to dreams of cloning. It was an impractical fantasy. Don’t be like that.

    Talk… listen… talk…. listen…. just like breathing…. talk… listen… talk… like political yoga……….

  • GradyLeeHoward

    So here’s roger, a person who has owned and run his business for 25 years, and who dabbles in political economy- or at least writing and conversing about it. To what class does he belong? Are his perceptions and understandings not conditioned too?

    Secondarily, there are the academic Ehrenreichs. What roger maybe fails to “get” is that their conception of the “Occupy breaktrough” completely conforms to their situation and perceptions, even their hopes. It is useless to tear down the Ehrenreichs'”sign” because they are “for real.” Maybe the problem of their message is that they have exhausted their potential for understanding. I have met and discussed Barbara’s books with her, critiqued her method(s). She gave her all in the fight for a universal all-inclusive health care system.She really puts her income behind her values. Her clothes are from Goodwill and other secondhand shops.
    Sometimes it would behove us to live for a time in underclass employment, as she has. But we would also benefit by considering how messed up one’s mind can get in the upper ranks where Oligarchy is served almost directly. Consider Robert Reich and Chris Hedges. Can either of them ever meet the “roger standard” in their muddled discourse.
    We are less what we say we’ll do, than what we’ll actually do. I couldn’t get arrested at Occupy or the Keystone Excel protests because I was too ill, and I may regret that as long as I live. I missed a formative experience. At this juncture class is something you act out, even when you know you’re in the cognitive minority. It is an experiment to see if we can still touch hearts and minds at a time when every class has adopted the “freindship habits” of robber barons in the Gilded Age (term originated by Sam Clemens).
    “What holds them in place?” said one space alien to another, “So that tey do not deviate from their assigned orbits, and fall broken.”
    “It is a mysterious invisible force generated in the nucleus of the cultural organism, the companion replied.”We do not yet understand the agency of its power, but they call it fear.” (from a stage play by Randy Clyde Hoyle of Cherryville, NC… former exterminator, former cotton mill hand, former homeless disabled person, currently an engaging fellow).

  • Well, Grady, I asked for it, I guess. Just a couple of points, not in rebuttal but for clarification, so that we understand one another better.

    Sure I had a mentor, couldn’t you tell? but not across class lines, that’s indeed rare. You’re right of course that we can only influence the people we touch, which speaks directly to my needs. I ought to be a lecturer in College De France, for chrissake, but here I am, stuck in the boondocks, no social contact to speak of, never mind the intellectual kind, so the internet is my only connection to keep me from going insane. I’ve given up on writing books, even novels — a play is the only thing that remains. So yes, I’m acting out of my quintessential need, and the need to make a difference.

    Do you honestly think you can’t have an honest to goodness dialogue with select few on the net? Does it invariably have to be in person? And if we can’t touch anyone otherwise, then why in the hell are we doing it? Out of desperation? You speak of discourse, but discourse is a dialogue, is it not?

    Anyway, your account of Jack Martin is intriguing. Never being able to shake off the middle class values? That cuts a rather grim picture as to the possibilities and potential for the hoi polloi (which isn’t to say that acquiring an intellectual turn of mind makes for a better person). I’d like to believe otherwise of course, that exceptions do not constitute the rule. Perhaps genetics has something to do with it, but I’d still consign it to the realm of exception. I’m guided here by Socrates’s saying that unexamined life is not worth living, and the slave parable about learning the concepts of geometry. In any case, my personal experiences tell a different tale, but perhaps I do suffer from a blind spot in this respect and am simply projecting.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Every mind is wired differently. What would seem related to one person may not seem related to another. Jung assumed, and so did Steinbeck in his novels sometimes (One Big Soul), that we all shared or had common access to a collective consciousness. And that may be why roger and other hopeful people expect a breakthrough with ideologically opposed opponents, and why he expects my mind to share the same scheme of organization as his. Each genome and each history form a different mind by chance. It is by needs we are all related, and not a collective consciousness. This theory (bourgeoise myth)about a milkman aspiring to be a stockbroker makes little sense. No matter how much the milkman can visualize, imagine and mimic the stockbroker he can never duplicate the required history and socialization. Neither can the stockbroker immediately master the skills and intricacies of becoming a milkman. I learned this from studying lives; for example, my working class mentor Jack Martin who was a cabinetmaker for 20 years before attending college. He had the more than the required intellect to become a college professor as he aspired,he completed all the required academic and field work, but his working class values meant there was always conflict (internal and external) all along the career path. He trained me in dissent, but that is not a trade truly studied in formal education. Later, when I went to Europe to earn a PhD in media analysis I was able to consult with Jack about solidarity with the dispossessed in my work. After Jack edits your writings you begin to know yourself and your blind spots very well. I wonder if roger or anyone else here ever found a sympatico mentor like that. Those relationships are highly unlikely across class lines. A working definition of any thing is always best. Class (and classism as practiced)today is not entirely what Marx and Engels observed, understood or meant.
    You can gain this and related insights by reading “Alienation” by Bertell Ollman. He is lately of NYU, but the book needs updating. I hope he lives to provide that service. His office is near that of Steven Lukes (both emeritus) and that is how we met. But Jack and I have come to agree that discourse is far more important to the justice struggle than writing. If roger wants to truly waste time he should write a book. Books are obsolete anyways. You can only influence the people you touch.

  • I’m not as certain about “human nature” as you are, Joseph. Personally, I think you’re too cogent a thinker to have to rely on any such premise as your first principle, even if you’re committed to conservatism as your core ideology. To the best of my recollection, Burke didn’t take this rather easy route; his justification was more in terms of the established patterns, mores, ways of doing things. His position came down more or less to “if it ain’t broken, why fix it?”

    This is neither the time nor the place to to present a counterargument, but let me suggest the following: perhaps you ought to consider the possibility that the presumed fixity of human nature comes part and parcel with Locke’s legalistic conception of a civil society as though an aggregate of individuals bound by no means other than (social) contract, in other words, by taking Hobbes’s State of Nature depiction (as to the human condition) ameliorated by the Social Contract proviso. Understandably, the result would be a conglomeration of atomistically-defined individuals, each bound to pursue his or her own self-interest, which naturally leads to a state of conflict and strife, only to be resolved by the intervention of the State and its laws.

    As I hinted at in the subject article, I believe it’s a wrongheaded conception for its too narrow a definition as to what constitutes the totality of human aims, goals and objectives, even human happiness: being part of the community is not part of the picture. You might want to look for a corrective in the source I cited towards the end of the article, the Charles Taylor piece. I would have scanned it to you, but my scanner isn’t wireless.

    (Incidentally, Adam Smith had adopted pretty much the same picture as Locke, only in the sphere of economics, but that’s another story.)

    I’m also reproducing a link I posted in #70. It’s a video presentation by David Harvey, very entertaining, short, and sweet. You don’t have to buy all of Harvey’s ideas, but he does touch upon this “human nature” thing. It’s no substitute for Taylor’s article, of course.

    Crises of Capitalism.

    In any case, I think we’re having a good conversation.

  • Roger,

    When it comes to personal economics, I see it in the following way; if one is able to comfortably sustain oneself, then he or she is doing well. Dollars and cents after the fact are just that; while we should all try to earn as many of them as possible in order to have the freedom to live our lives to the fullest, individual sustainability is paramount. It is always best to look out for those in need, no doubt, especially if a personal relationship has been established beforehand. However, if we were all to try being self-reliant first and foremost, in manners far beyond the financial, I believe that our society would be in a far better way than it is now.

    As far as the law being able to adequately deal with inequality is concerned, it can attempt to regulate every facet of the political, fiscal, and social economies to the nth degree, but the competitive spirit of humankind would quickly render such a thing as obsolete. We were not born to be stagnate entities; humanity either regresses or progresses. I believe that by allowing individuals to have either productive or destructive lives, the laws we abide by here in the United States, along with similar ones in other nations of the Free World, are best suited to human nature. Needless to say, personal freedoms end when one’s actions impact another, particularly in a negative fashion. So, in a nutshell, I say that each of us are allowed to carve our own path, or paths, through life, and should never hesitate in doing so. The cost that our Founding Fathers and ancestors alike paid to afford us this opportunity was far too great. As an immigrant yourself, I am sure that you can relate to this point in a way which us native-born Americans never could possibly fathom.

  • My goodness, Joseph, I’m not very good at being praised, I find it embarrassing, so please forgive my clumsiness.

    I do struggle, btw, but I made it my choice to devote more time to what I do and love to do. But of course you’re right, I am privileged more or less. And I couldn’t possibly do what I do if I had a family that depended on me.

    You’re right about the class thing, especially on the micro level. We are gregarious animals. Even so, we tend to form groups and cliques, and with people who share our interests, inclinations, common pursuits. It’s a social thing, and it’s harmless, I suppose, as long as it doesn’t affect the quality of our relationships with the others. Ultimately, we’re all our brother’s keepers, and I believe that’s more important in the long run than our associations.

    I find it interesting that you’re skeptical about the law of the land being able to redress the many differences and inequalities not only in our own but all other societies. A “conscience of a conservative”? — to borrow an old phrase.

    But then again, you’ve never been a run-of the-mill conservative in my eyes.

  • Roger,

    This was a refreshing philosophical read, as was Of Mice, Men, and Other Things earlier this year. I believe that social classes can and will develop in any society as it is only natural for humans to seek and form groups consisting of like-minded individuals. Said groups can be on the micro- or macro-level, such as a country club or what is commonly referred to as the lower-middle class. In any case, while the law can grant everyone equality of opportunity, equality of condition is a pure pipe dream. In every society which this idea has been attempted, mass turmoil has followed.

    Your comments on the Ivory Tower dwellers of academia are spot on. The disconnect between the theoretical (as in classroom debates) and the practical (as in a fifteen-year-old dealer selling narcotics to pay his family’s bills) is staggering. In any case, though, us Blogcritics can hardly claim to be the definitive voice of the terminally downtrodden. Why is this? Simple; you yourself once explained to me that, by our very definition as professional writers, we form a distinct social group. Obviously, those with the resources to devote to writing for this e-newsmagazine are not struggling for mere physical survival, as so many of those frustrated with society are. Therefore, regardless of our respective income levels, each of us is a member of what Auberon Waugh described as the chattering class; most often manifested in Marx’s petite bourgeoisie. Interestingly enough, while we may not live in towers made of ivory, they do consist of marble, granite, or some other sort of polished stone. That so many of us lack this acute level of self-awareness is a profound testament to the level of wealth which the lion’s share of Americans enjoy; even should we not consider ourselves to be “wealthy”.

  • Thanks, John, really appreciate it since you’re not too frequent a visitor.

  • John Lake

    Nice article, Roger.

  • @90

    Workers-Owners of America, Unite! by Gar Alperovitz, an interview with Amy Goodman;

    NYT op-ed by same.

    Just a point of order, Grady, for your consideration. It took me ten minutes or longer to retrieve this link from another thread. I consider it a complete waste of time. And so would you, I’m certain.

    Perhaps your power of retention is way greater than mine, but that’s neither here nor there. Whatever the case, perhaps you may better understand now why I was clamoring way back for a focused discussion group that would stay on topic, one at a time. In my close to three years on this site, I must have posted over a thousand of important links, more perhaps, but they’re all over the bloody board. Now, this is the kind of time I can’t afford to waste. Were we to stick to one topic at a time rather than keep on wandering all over the God’s creation, it all would be organized and at one’s finger tips.

    It’s the chaotic nature of these discussions that bugs me. Occasionally brilliant remarks are made but they’re all over the bloody place. Which makes it imperative, under the circumstances, that I keep notes to myself for future reference. Well, my argument is that it shouldn’t be necessary were we to structure these discussions by topics. Then, everything of importance would be neatly cataloged and pigeonholed in one place.

    Now, I suggest that’s a sensible way of proceeding.

  • Still, to complicate Marx a bit, I should say that in the “real world,” one’s aspirations are also a factor as to which class he or she thinks they belong. Thus, a bricklayer who dreams the American Dream may consider himself an aspiring middle class candidate — a little capitalist in the making, as Shenonymous would say — even though he’s a common laborer.

    So class, as defined in real terms by Marx, and class consciousness, which is a subjective thing, depending on the subject, are not exactly the same thing.

  • What I think I’ve done, for the most part of the article I provided a sociological and cultural account of class and class consciousness, tainted besides by the wrongheaded atomistic political philosophy of Locke, which serves as the basis of “our” liberal creed. And these accounts are of merit in their right, of course, but they’re not as radical as the Marxist critique which I only bring up at the very tail end only by way of mention, and which I don’t develop.

  • @105, 106

    Good critique. True, the article was superficial and one-dimensional for that very reason. I would have thought the motivation was rather implied, but you’re right. It’s got to be expressed clearly and brought to the fore.

    Just haven’t thought clearly enough and in sufficient depth before writing it, and now that I see it, the scope was too narrow in conception.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    To convey truth you must call things by their real names.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    If Marx got anything right it is that consciousness is conditioned by the way one earns a living. You survey consciousness but prefer to remain blind to motivation. You could never be an actor. I used my Disqus registry (email) for Moyers. And class is mostly determined by where you get money. Uncle Junior was a really smokey spook I’d seen before, so I called his hand. Because you and I use our real names our work has higher integrity. Thought without corporeal existence would not even cut it for phenomenologists. Only corporations before the Supremes can pull that one off.

  • Wow, if Paul Jr. is for real, at least he should have used a handle. Otherwise, he’s just a troll and an impersonator to boot.

  • OK, I’m there too. No sense posting in anticipation of Moyer’s topic.

  • I don’t bother checking up on people’s identity. The content of their thoughts is my only interest.

    BTW, checked out BM’s site. What’s the best way to register?

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Ocean Marketing boasted a Paul Christoforo who suffered a PR Meltdown. A skunk by any other name would smell as …..
    Not that Christoforo, search these Facebook members.

  • Well, a self-employed person, even an attorney, isn’t a capitalist by Marx’s definition, which pertains only to the organization of production.

    Anyway, I’ll take a peek at the site you mentioned.

  • You got to wait until he answers the question. If he’s in practice by himself, then he’s not a capitalist. He doesn’t exploit anyone. Any whoever chooses to pay his fees for services rendered is not being exploited either.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Uncle Junior would be an owner-operator if partnership had been attained, but that’s all theoretical isn’t it. There are registries where licensed lawyers are listed with jurisdictions of practice and areas of expertise. Real people are Linkedin and such.

  • #90

    Yes, I made reference to that link but some, Igor for instance, discounted the idea on the grounds that co-ops have been tried before, and that they’ve always failed.

    Maybe so, but times are surely different. In any case, I’ll fall on Zizec’s adage about past social experiments that failed:

    “Learn from your mistakes and try again.”

  • GradyLeeHoward

    How can a guy who charges $75 an hour to fill in forms afford to give it away free here? Something don’t jibe. Maybe the avatar is an attorney and the operator is one of Newt’s child janitors. I’m real because you can see my house and car on Google Earth. Anyone else care to share.

  • Paul, just a question. Do you have your own practice, is it a partnership, or do you “own” a law firm, being a senior partner, that is?

  • GradyLeeHoward

    89- I’m jabbering like a mynah bird and the show hasn’t yet begun. I get tired and sleep late though. This next cold snap will kill some poorer Americans. I took my laptop and sat on the radiator to conserve gas.

  • An addendum to 91

    My diagnosis: most folks are mostly concerned about defending their position(s), which is why it takes them so darn long to compose a reply. But I’m always in the attack mode, always going where no man had gone before.

    And since I have nothing to defend and nothing to lose, I’m fearless.

  • Paul Christoforo Jr

    I am an attorney. As long as there is more than one person, you won’t put me out of business.

    I found this site helping out my son who is doing a report for school about the Occupy movement. Considering how hollow and directionless the endeavor is no surprise these people are poor and can’t find work. Like the movie said the bums lost so quit whining and make something of yourself

  • In any case, the problem with most public bulletin boards such as this one, people take days sometime to respond. Anarcissie and Shenonymous are perfect examples, because their every response must be a pearl of wisdom.

    I have no problem with struggling with my thoughts on the go and with thinking on my feet, so to speak. It’s only through making errors that you can eventually get it right. Check, check and double-check, use other people as a sound board and let them use you in the same way. That’s what a dialogue is supposed to be like. Sure, you can do it in the privacy of your own mind, too — and there’s time for that also — but not when it comes to intellectual give and take.

    A good analogy — it’s like I’m playing a speed chess, say a two minute game, and my opponent is playing postal chess. And I have to wait for days on end until their next move.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    “The market discounts all future gains” becomes impossible as soon as debt as a commodity is eradicated. So labor originated assets would accumulate in healthy bodies and minds. Every schmuck would be a contender. Go back to Guy Alperowitz’s observation that 130 million belong to cooperative (worker owned) credit unions and that 13 million already labor in worker owned businesses. Alperowitz’s office is right near Michael Greenberger’s and they have conferred.

  • I got your message on the other thread, and will give it a shot, I hope I’ll be able to comment even if I haven’t watched the program.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Uncle Junior 78: Fred Engels liked being a commie even when he was superintendent of a big cotton mill in Manchester.

  • Don’t know whether you noticed, but I posted a bunch of links to Graeber’s work on “debt.” Too bad he doesn’t carry his ideas to their natural conclusion.

    I tried to draw Anarcissie into this discussion — imagining what a debt-free economy might look like, a thought-experiment of sorts — but thus far no go.

    Glad to hear you’re recovering.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Are you guys discussing a saw blade as a circle? Radically radial! Maybe Occupy needs shop tools.
    Moyers&Company premiers January 13th over many PBS outlets. See also billmoyers.com where I have planted my flag. Can you come over and help me drag him into the 21st Century?Bill opens rehashing the Meltdown. He still doesn’t get that Obama has an LBJ problem and may drop out. Empress Hillary anyone?

  • @78

    I have no intention of stealing anything from you, Paul, just to put you out of business.

    Whatever it is that you’re peddling, I don’t want.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Igor 80: Clarification-After you beat the Nazis you employ their methods against the state capitalist planned economies (Called Communists), but then your dissidents realize you originated Nazi methods against American Indians, Black slaves, Philipinos, Haitians, Mexicans and your own underclass. Soon genocide and covert counterinsurgency become routine as does state secrecy to conceal escalation. By 2011 your “socialist President” is assassinating women and children with remote controlled planes. And the music goes round and round, O-o-oh, Oh,Oh,Oh; and it comes out here.

    You became Godly, and you created the Jihadists in your image from mud, and you blew the breath of life and the hatred of the other into them. And they walked on the Earth and defied their Creator. Now perpetual war is assured. May the circle be unbroken.

  • Well, the majority of the respondents in the NPR report were pros. A moment’s inattention is all it takes.

  • Since there’s no escape, Igor, because by your own admission, the circle is vicious, then your “solution” isn’t really a solution but more like a drowning man’s straw.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Most normal Americans should never have occasion to use a tablesaw, a chop saw, a jointer or even a wood lathe. If one has good sense one will employ the services of a trained craftsman who has the self-assurance of an acrobat and the discipline of a martial arts master. This Bob Vila stuff where you buy and try is for idiots. Might as well start hacking into your household electrical hub.

  • Igor

    I object to “… you still haven’t escaped the vicious circle.”

    Yes, it’s a circle, and it’s vicious, and there is no escape.

    It’s like foreign affairs: after you beat the nazis, then the commies jump up. After you beat the commies, then the jihadists jump up. After the jihadis, who knows?

    But there WILL be someone.

    Vicious, Cyclical. Run around in circles. There is no escape.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    My informant on class is Jacqueline S. Homan of Erie, PA; author of “Classism for Dimwits”, occasionally used in sociology and Women’s Studies classes.

  • Paul Christoforo Jr

    I think you need a job because you want to take from those who have one. What successful businessman wants to be a Marxist? It’s a joke. Why should you steal from me so you can go play bongos and smoke weed in the park?

  • An example of how an industry resists implementing readily available safety measures and technology, all in the name of “consumer’s choice.”

    “New Regulations for Table Saws.”

    Which is to say that our way of doing business necessarily comes with a proviso: caveat emptor.

  • Yes, I have, Paul Jr., for over twenty five years. Have you?

    And what makes you think I need a job?

    Seems you’re suffering from constipated thinking if all you can do is jump to conclusions on not a scintilla of evidence, or a very insecure person, probably both.

  • Paul Christoforo Jr

    Roger, do run your own business? I assume not because if you did, you wouldn’t be a Marxist. Why not get a job instead of being a bum?

  • @ 72

    I’m quite present, no thank you, so you can address me in the first person.

    It may be naivete if you’re willing to have more of the same. In that case, eternal vigilance may be the answer, but it’s a lame answer because you still haven’t escaped the vicious circle.

    So the trick is either to bypass the corporations (as they’re presently structured), or to restructure them so they’d approximate what may be called a “public corporation,” along the Marxian lines, so that the producers are the stockholders and total control.

    In case you didn’t know, I am a Marxist insofar as organization of the means of production is concerned.

    So it’s far from naive what I said. It would be naive were I to resign myself to the existing economic arrangements and praxis as though something inevitable and forever written in stone. Obviously I don’t!

    The moral of the story, you shouldn’t judge the book by its cover.

  • Igor

    I was surprised by Rogers apparent naivete in #58:

    “Certainly more regulation is no longer the answer because the industries are already being “regulated.”

    Satisfactory regulation requires a constant effort by society, and constantly passing new regulations as industry lawyers find new ways around old regulations and more bribe friendly politicians to corrupt.

    Of course industry is willing to hire more lawyers and bribe more officials because the ROI is VERY high. A little bit of bribe money buys a lot of influence and favors.

    S.T.M. in #56 gives the answer as “eternal vigilance”, etc., and he’s right.

    There is no end to this. The struggle between citizens and the corporations that would oppress them is constant and eternal. That’s the way it is in a society, such as ours, that honors strife and competition above all else.

  • Cindy,

    You also want to look at this, Harvey on the Crisis, in two parts:

    part one

    part two

    Interestingly, Harvey anticipates OWS here, especially when he talks of “democratization of our cities” as well as of there being a fertile ground for a wide reaching, global movement.

  • @67 #3

    Right, Cindy. The entire RSA series is a good one.

    I like this one even better, by Dave Harvey.

  • Also, you owe it to yourself to listen to the podcast of Diane Rehm’s show I linked to earlier. It’s proof positive that this government has been corrupt and in collusion with either the propertied class and later, the industrialists, almost from the get-go.

    So there’s nothing really new about what we’re witnessing today, except perhaps that we the people are becoming more and more aware of what’s really going on in the corridors of power. Furthermore, I don’t believe America can recover from this toxic capitalism-liberalism combo this time around (as it had after the railroad debacle); no amount of reforms can change the beast; and we certainly can’t count on Mr. Capitalist to create another era of American prosperity to keep the people at bay: he’d already given up on on the good ole USA, having squeezed all the profit he possibly could, his investments are mostly in the “underdeveloped countries.”

    So as Mao would say, the situation is excellent.

  • Yes, and I’ll look at the link in #3.

    As a matter of fact, I was going to email you the link to Rebecca’s article today, but I’m happy you got hold of it anyway.

    BTW, look at the site which features her article in the first place. It’s a real find. You can access it by clicking on the first-cited link in the article, which introduces Rebecca’s article.

  • Roger,

    1) #12 – An important point from Graeber’s videos is that if everyone’s mortgages had been paid off with the bailout money, it would have served to bail out both the banks and the people.

    2) #62 – Rebecca Solnit’s article is amazing and a “should read”.

    3) Another “should see” I discovered after watching the Graeber video is 23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism where: “Development economics expert Ha-Joon Chang dispels the myths and prejudices that have come to dominate our understanding of how the world works in a lecture at the RSA.” He shows, for example, how there is never a “free market” and how when its proponents simply accept the rules of a market, they then call it a free market and when they do not accept the rules, they then consider the “free market” to be hampered. In essence what is envisioned as a “free market” then, has always only and ever come about through government and rules. Proponents then, appear to simply be in such agreement with the rules of whatever they call a free market, that they do not see that there are rules.

  • Strange you say that, OAAR. The article I just linked to in #62 speaks to different meanings of the term “occupation.” One of the usages, prior to the Victorian England, one must suppose, had sexual connotations as well, for which reason it was discontinued for a stretch.

  • One Australian’s Apostrophe Rant

    Rog: “a pole-throwing event”.

    Lol. Very funny Rog.

    It find the actualy name hilarious too: “Tossing the caber”.

    Tossing, of course, having a sexual connotation in the UK. Auto eroticism isn’t falling in love with yer new Beemer, although I suspect the two things are connected sometimes.

  • My wife’s great-uncle was a US Army colonel during WW II – and did not escape the Death March.

    He wrote a book about his experiences, but he was from Puerto Rico and it was unfortunately only ever published in Spanish.

    We’ve suggested to my mother-in-law, who’s bilingual, that she ought to have a go at translating it, but so far she hasn’t been so inclined.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    STM –

    Your family still talks about it today because history is still more important to those outside the western hemisphere than it is to us. Why? Because (with the exception of Oz) there are places one can go in nearly any nation in Europe, Asia, and Africa that are a thousand years old or even much older than that, whereas the oldest in NA or SA that is connected to Western culture is no more than 500 y.o. and usually much younger.

    Two Filipino friends of mine passed within the past two years – both of whom narrowly escaped being part of the Bataan Death March. I do feel it’s a great tragedy when one who has seen and done and been through so much passes away, for so much history has been lost as well.

  • I’m compelled to provide a link to an article by Ms Rebecca Solnit, “Compassion Is Our New Currency: Notes On 2011s Preoccupied Hearts And Minds.”

    It should get the article of the year award.

  • Keep on preaching the truth, brother. Human values must be made to prevail over the kind of mentality which puts profits, corporate efficiency and the politics of fear above all else.

  • Igor

    Sounds about right.

  • A review of Richard White’s book, as per link above.

    A sample:

    The excerpt from page 99 concerns the “friendship” that was at the center of so much Gilded Age politics, corruption, and business. Similar networks remain central to modern politics, business, and corruption today. The excerpt below captures much of this, but page 99 breaks off a paragraph that I will complete here: “The key figures of the Gilded Age networks of finance, government, journalism, and business had stumbled like so many vampires on a cultural form (friendship), drained it of its lifeblood (affection), and left it so that it still walked, talked, and served their purposes in the world. Friendship was a code: a network of social bonds that could organize political activity. Affection was not necessary.”

  • Fascinating first hour on today’s Diane Rehm’s show:

    In interview with Richard White, the author of Railroaded, a must-listen podcast.

    If you think corporate bailouts and political corruption such as we’re experiencing today is anything new, brace yourself for a surprise.

    The author is an optimist. Just as the events of the late nineteenth century led to a significant reform movement at the turn of the last century, he thinks we will be able to pull another rabbit out of the hat. One only wonders what it would take. Certainly more regulation is no longer the answer because the industries are already being “regulated.” What then?

    Another significant point of difference which defies drawing too strong a parallelism: we’ve already gone the full gamut of manufacturing/industrial development; these folks are doing that now in the Third World. Indeed, even most of the investments in new technologies take place in India and China, wherever the costs are the lowest and the return on capital promises to be the greatest.

    So c’mmon now, it’s one thing to say that the Yanks are innovative and very adept people, but you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.

  • Well yes, but I don’t think he’s into Scottish games, like a pole-throwing event, for instance.

  • S.T.M

    I just had a look at your link Rog … a Scottish Pole. They’re everywhere, the buggers. You can’t keep a good Pole down.

    They are still admired and remembered in the UK for their sacrifice and courage during the war. They didn’t like the Germans much. I find it interesting that it was, what, 70 odd years ago now but it’s such a huge part of our collective consciousness (in the US too) that we all still talk about it as if it were yesterday. Even my Gen Y son does, because of his grandfather.

    The two longest-surviving WWII veterans in my family both died recently. One flew with the RAAF attached to the RAF in Europe and survived 32 night bombing raids over Germany at a time when the life expectancy of such aircrew was a few weeks; the other fought against the Japanese on a Royal Australian Navy ship attached to the US Pacific fleet. Both were in thick of it and lucky to see out the war. Neither of them liked to talk about it much so we all knew to shut up until they mentioned it.

    With their passing, as there are fewer and fewer of those guys left, we lose a bit of living history. The last of the World War I veterans in Oz, a centenarian, died last year (which is remembered as our “greatest generation”), and all the WWII veterans who are left are now well into their eighties or beyond.

    I hope when lunatics like OBL and his ilk are flying jets into skyscrapers in NYC or blowing up tourists in Bali or buses and trains in London we don’t get lost in the politics of it – and remember why those people don’t like us: because we have choice in our lives; because a lot of people gave up their lives or risked their lives to ensure that tyrants didn’t rob us of our basic freedoms. That people who don’t have those freedoms want to take them away again is a good reminder of the bi-partisan approach we should all be taking in this.

    It’s a good if painful reminder that the price of freedom really is eternal vigilance. I know it sounds really hokey, but it’s as true today as it was in 1939.

    Cheers Rog.

  • But that’s OK. “Ski” epithet was the mildest when I was in the service.

    “Novascotia” and “alphabet” were far more common, especially among the Alabama boys.

  • I don’t commend those fuckers, because the current Poles have sold their soul to the company store.

    You know of course I was talking about the Hitler menace.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    At the Stephens Pass Ski Resort here in Washington, the restaurant has a sign posted: “No skis or poles allowed”. Of course it’s referring to the skiing equipment, but one of my closest friends (who is a -ski) got a belly-laugh out of it.

    Also, his son is in the Army and used to hang out with the Polish NATO contingent in Afghanistan.

  • Just so you know I ain’t lying, here’s one:

    Charles Nowosielski, so you know my handle is legit too.

    Must be missing my calling, though, cranking our the stupid articles here for the hoi poloi.

    It’s time to write a play. Fuck the intellect. Go for the jugular.

  • Re: the Polish-English connection, Stan, yes, one of my uncles was flying for the RAF and at the end of the war, married a Scottish gal and settled in Edinburgh. So I do have relations in the UK, including the mainland as well.

  • And here’s a review on the Ulmann movie, and a good many references besides.

  • @34

    I checked the filmography, El Bicho, re: Ibsen’s plays. Bergman didn’t figure in any of the film productions, don’t know about theater, though.

    The one film I saw was Wild Duck. (Ugly Duckling is another rendition from Swedish. I believe I saw the German production, not the one with Liv Ulmann, and it was electrifying.

    And here’s the info on An Enemy of the People. I think I did see the Steve McQueen version.

  • Sure he was both. I wasn’t talking however about his personal graces, only about that moment in the Soviet history.

    But then again, being part Russian, perhaps I have a blind spot. I’m willing to admit it.

  • STM

    Stalin was both barbaric AND rapacious. A very nast piece of work indeed. Stalinism and Nazism belong in the same dumpster of nasty ideologies that have been consigned to the wastebin of world history.

  • Well, yes. Pols and the Russkies were always at war. I still think the socialist’s state main concern was to be let alone. They weren’t in the position yet to make any world conquest.

    The carving out of Poland wasn’t a new idea anyway. It had happened on more than one occasion, us having been stuck between the barbaric East and the rapacious West.

    The way I look at it, it’s just an old meme.

  • STM

    Stalin joined in the carve up of Poland with Hitler.

    The British Empire went to war in 1939 after warning Germany in an ultimatum that if it didn’t withdraw its forces from Poland by a certain date and time, a state of war would exist between Britain and Germany.

    Needless to say, the Germans didn’t withdraw so Britain and France declared war on Germany. France could have nipped WWII in the bud there and then as it had one of the largest armed forces in the world at the time, and had they crossed the border, they would have forced Germany into a war on two fronts it couldn’t have won with the resources it had at that time.

    But the French had suffered two million dead in World War I so you can understand their reluctance at that stage to move beyond sabre rattling. When they did go to fight, in 1940, it was too late and theb Germans had built an unstoppable war machine. The only ones left to do the fighting were the British, and they were woefully unprepared except at sea and in the air.

    Many tens of thousands of Poles fought the entire span of WWII with the British armed forces after escaping the German invasion of Poland. Some went to unbelievable lengths to do so, such as walking thousands of kilometres through occupied Europe.

    All those who did were offered British citizenship afterwards, and given that Poland was forced to live under the Russian boot for decades during the Cold War, most chose to stay there. I went to school in England for a while in the 60s and one of my schoolmates was the son of a Pole who fought for the British.

    There are plenty of your countrymen who found better lives in the UK and the US and Canada, Australia and New Zealand after the war. Many ended up working on a huge hydro-electric scheme here in the Snowy Mountains. Another schoolfriend here in Oz was of Polish background.

    He was a whole lot madder and wilder than the other bloke, though. He was a very tough bugger too.

    I have a mate of Italian background whose Dad grew tomatoes in his garden. One day he came home to find our Polish friend Stefan hiding in the garden scoffing down a whole lot of nice ripe tomatoes formerly destined for the cooking pot. He didn’t know what to say, so he just said to him: “Aren’t you going to put salt on those?”

    To which our Polish friend replied: “You’re right. Can I have some?”

    Poles I have known and loved. Apart from my own.

  • My goodness, Cindy, so happy you’re back. Tell the truth, I never communicated online better than with you. You can’t imagine how much I missed you.

    Hope you’re doing reasonably well.

  • Roger,

    I think I really get your article. Let me tell you that today, I was writing down some thoughts on matriarchy and what I was writing was about how when love is not a part of the decisions we make that involve other people, whatever we create is not humane or just or workable for all.

    It seems to me whether we are speaking of simple opinions–whether or not the old should have pensions or people should have maternity leave–or we are making any other level of pronouncement, procedure, proclaimation, decree, rule, or law, it is not just if love is not considered the overruling guide by which we make the decision.

    I read your article aloud to my mother and when I got to the last paragraph, needless to say I was amazed by the synchronicity.

    Thanks, Roger, for being in my world.

  • I was talking of the World War II era. The Cold War is another proposition, but even then, it was more a matter of exerting influence rather than conquest. Not to mention, China was another geopolitical enemy.

    In any case, Stalin was long gone by then.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    I don’t think Stalin had militaristic ambitions insofar as “conquering the world.”

    Before WWII, maybe he didn’t – I don’t recall any indication that he did. After WWII, however, I think it’s pretty incontrovertible that he had every intention of doing so – not so much by military force, but by proxy as is evidenced by the many Soviet-funded and -supplied rebellions in Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America.

    But you’re right – the Poles have very few blemishes on their record.

  • I would be too if I were you, proud that is. But I’ve nothing to be ashamed of either. The Poles have always fought for liberty.

    I’m rather less hard on the Russians, though. I don’t think Stalin had militaristic ambitions insofar as “conquering the world.” Forging a socialistic regime was headache enough. I think all he hoped to get from Hitler is a pact of non-aggression, that’s all.

    Don’t forget, the Western powers have done all they could to boycott the post-revolutionary Russia so as to bring her on her knees.

  • S.T.M

    And before I go, the one thing I’ll always be proud of as a person of British background is that the Old Country not once but twice stood up and refused to back down to German militarism in the space of 25 years, and at enormous cost to her people. There were almost no families in Britain and what was left of its empire during the two world wars who hadn’t lost someone.

    In the case of Nazism, it wasn’t a case of should we, but we have to. To me, that is what Britain will be remembered for in history … not for having a global empire, but for standing up for what was right no matter how unpalatable.

    It’s also why Brits (and Aussies etc) still have a lot of time for their American cousins, who eventually did the same thing when the time finally came.

    The Russians, not so much, but their entry into the war was slightly different. They had originally been allies of Germany and hopeful of getting a big slice of Europe in the carve up with the Nazis ’til Hitler turned around and bit them on the arse.

    You lie down with dogs, you get fleas, as both Germany and Russia discovered to their mutual misery.

  • S.T.M

    Same to you Rog. Cheers. I’m off to work (It’s 10.44am Wednesday here).

  • Well, sure, many in the US were Nazi sympathizers too — strong word — and only reluctantly joined the war effort. Not to mention the strong linguistic and cultural ties between England and Germany, as well as industrial interests.

    Hitler was hoping the British would be his allies. He considered them as part of the master race,

    Happy New Years, Stan.

  • S.T.M

    It really does work, Rog. There are little nuances that people might miss if they are not thoroughly up to date on British history, which might be especially unofortunate if you were American because one actually relates to an American.

    Annette Bening plays the American-born Queen of Edward. It’s a hisorical reference as during that time in the real history, the real King Edward abdicated the throne to marry his american lover Wallis Simpson. The paradox here, though, is that the real Edward might have been an admirer of Hitler pre-war at least, while George, who took over the throne afterwards, hated the Nazis. But during that time in the 1930s, American and British society had a lot of cross-cultural mixing. Possibly the two nations were closer on that level than they’d ever been. Certainly, what went on in Britain in that era was heavily reported in the US media, and vice-versa. Even Churchill had an American mother.

    So while it might look far fetched at first glance to have an American Queen in that setting, and her brother doing battle with Richard, it’s actually not that far from the truth.

    It’s another little reason why it works on every level. You should get it Rog … it’s well worth it.

  • Thus far all I could access is some clips. I may order it from Netflix.

  • Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a film Bergman directed that he didn’t write. He directed theater though so he might have worked on one of Ibsen’s plays there.

    McKellan’s version works better than you think in its setting, so I’ll be curious if you hold the same opinion after you see it.

  • Still, I think it was rather far fetched to cast Richard III, mod version, in England. Why not the pre-war Germany?

  • Rather surprising that Bergman didn’t do any films to speak of on Ibsen.

  • Spent about a week there doing touristy things plus have seen a bit from TV and movies over the years. I know a little of British history and the updated setting certainly seemed plausible, especially since this version was the first I had seen of the play.

    Also, I am a huge fan of McKellan, who plays such a great villain here. I got to see him give a powerful performance in Ibsen’s An Enemy of The People back in summer of ’98 and was very impressed.

  • Revolution Through Banking.”

    One of OWS’s projects.

  • S.T.M

    El Bicho, yes that IS a great version of Richard III. I don’t know whether you’ve spent any time in England, but the sttings are quite surreal as they use well-known landmarks that have been moved to different locations to suit the story.

    Alternate history isn’t my go generally but this is an excellent idea that works well with a great cast, and it has historiacl and cultural context given that Edward Mosely, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, was quite a powerful figure in British politics in the 1930s, mirroring as he did the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany.

    Mosely was never going to achieve what Hitler did, as the British are champions of personal freedoms, liberty and freedom of speech – but there WAS a divide in that period and many aristocrats and members of the upper classes actually thought fascist ideology might have provided the answer to the woes besetting Vritain and the rest of the world at that time.

    Of course, Mosely’s support dropped to virtually nothing once Hitler started dropping bombs on Warsaw, Rotterdam, and London – but against that backdrop and in the context of this play, one could easily imagine the rise of a powerful far-right figure in Britain at that time had Hitler NOT sent his war machine across Europe.

    Setting it to the battle between the houses of York and Lancaster is perfect as the big difference would have been in comparison to Germany, had such a scenario come about in Britain, there would almost certainly have been bloodshed between the two such diameterically opposed factions … the oppressors and the freedom fighters.

    There are different camps but I am one of those who likes the cross-cultural, trans-Atlantic reference within the film to Britain’s closeness with the US, which is especially fitting for that period. Anette Bening is magic.

    That is why the film works so well on so many levels. A fantastic Shakespeare what-if.

    The cast and crew must have had a ball making it, too. I think that comes through in the film.

    As a person immensely proud of my British heritage and a grateful inheritor of an extraordinary REAL history, such an eery alternate version of what might have been is very eery indeed. Magnificent stuff.

    Thanks for reminding me: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it and I finish work late tonight so I’ll be at a loose end for a few hours and will now watch it again.


  • So Anarcissie, how far did you get with the Graeber book? What do you make of it thus far?

  • Right, since OWS is hibernating.

  • S.T.M

    Actually, now is the winter of our discount tents.

  • Will do. But tell you the truth, can’t be turning these articles any longer. The medium isn’t powerful enough In fact, it stinks.

    Time for tragedy and tragic hero. But here’s the dilemma that’s been facing me for years. Our times are so mundane, so bereft of drama.

    Must look to Pinter for inspiration and ideas.

  • have you seen Ian McKellan’s version? it’s set in an alternate version of ’30 Britain. seek it out

  • Just watching Richard III, one of my old time favorites. What a treat!

    Only Shakespeare and Olivier can make you sympathize with a villain.

  • Occasionally, mistyping does lead to interesting turns of phrase, doesn’t it?

    Almost like monkeys coming up with Shakespeare.

  • I liked the ‘ever-growing burned of student debt’.

  • @17

    … burden of student debt …

  • Another topnotch review from Social Text.

    This one covers almost all the bases.

  • A succinct review by Financial Times.

    One of Graeber’s arguments is that indebtedness figured as a major cause of many social revolts and upheavals. It may be interesting to note, in this connection, that the most direct if not immediate cause of OWS has been precisely that: not so much a universal concern with social justice but the ever-growing burned of student debt.

  • Another interview.

  • This time a podcast from the Brian Lehrer show.

    Interestingly, while Graeber recommends consumer debt forgiveness as one kind of solution, the recent thrust on the part of the US government is re-institution of the debtors’ prisons.

    Is our government afraid of something, and who exactly is in the pockets of whom>

  • A short interview with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

  • More of Graber’s thoughts on 5000 years history of debt, this time in video form:

    part one

    part two

  • Sorry, try this one.

  • Roger,

    The Graeber interview link doesn’t seem to work.

  • Anarcissie, OAR, Igor too.

    The following is a topnotch interview with David Greaber about his recent book (see #5):


    It’s no substitute, of course, for the real thing, but it’s as good a summary of the underlying ideas as one could hope for. Graeber does indeed come across as a seminal thinker. He manages to unravel the present financial system for a deck of cards it really is.

    Interestingly, the banking term for all this credit is “float.” Notice, however, than when an individual, not an institution, engages in the same practice, as when writing a check for which there isn’t yet a cover, we called it “kiting” and it is, technically at least, prosecutable to the full extent of the law.

    I guess different strokes for different folks.

  • Since I’m at it, I’m about to post a link referencing Anarcissie comment on David Graeber.

    Stay tuned, you should find it most interesting.

  • Roger,

    Was #4 aimed at me? I’m probably not as far right as most of the conservatives here, in fact I’m just right of center on most issues. There might even be a few where I’m a tiny bit left of the middle.

  • I took Thompson to be saying precisely that — class consciousness.

    Glad you’re bringing up Graeber again. I do intend to re-read that part about debt

  • It’s true I don’t know what bell hooks means when she says ‘love’. Maybe that’s her fault — she should have put in a parable or two. I don’t think I love my neighbors much, regardless of their class, ethnicity, religion, politics, or national origin, but I’d probably pull any of them out of a ditch Good-Samaritan fashion if it was not a great inconvenience to myself. I’ve been reading David Graeber’s book about debt and I’ve just gone through a part where he reminds us that the social substrate on which everything else is founded is communistic; for example, if your neighbors need to be pulled out of a ditch, you pull them out, without cutting a deal for ditch rescue services first. Usually. Maybe this is what hooks is really talking about; God knows.

    As to Thompson, I would have said not ‘class happens’ but ‘class consciousness happens’. The class system is already there.

  • And that from the mouth of a conservative?

  • Roger,

    I think we are in exactly the same situation as were medieval serfs, with the land-owners (Corporate CEOs & Shareholders) in charge of our daily lives, their minions selling us time in our hovels (bankers and lenders), and those mid-level powers overseen by their liege (government), to which all profits of the land we work flows towards and from which rules, edicts, punishments flow from, and if we disappoint the lord enough, the men-at-arms (police) are sent to haul us to a dungeon.

    Going back even further in time, our current society strongly resembles Rome during the peak of the Coliseum days, where we have our bread (fast food) and circuses (sports & Hollywood) to keep us entertained and in our place, while the Caesar (government) looks on with disdain at the antics of the crowd, eventually deigning to give a thumbs-up, or down (taxes up or down, to war or peace) to the roar of the masses, all the while sipping wine and eating candied dates in the shadow of slave-shaded sanctuary, and fawned upon by the gladiator-of-the-moment before he is sent back into the ring.

    Of course there are still classes, which are just another way of separating us from them; and no matter who makes up the us, there is always a them.

  • “However, although current events have inspired actions such as OWS, there is as yet no sign of a serious challenge to the present order of things within the party-politics system. The proggies want better Welfare, not revolution.”

    I don’t believe I said anything different; in fact, I’m just as skeptical as you in that no serious challenge has been made.

    I read Thompson in a more restricted context. When he says “class happens,” I take him to mean that it’s a coalescing of a bunch of prior events (just like Eco’s insight that the storming of the Bastille was but icing on the cake). Besides, I don’t think he’s addressing the formation of the existing class structure but a possibility of emergence of a working class which opposes the existing social order. Not only the title of his work suggests that. Also, let’s not forget that early twentieth century England was steeped in the socialist ideology, much more so than the US.

    As to bell hooks, I’m not exactly certain what point you’re making. Granted, the passage cited is rather open to interpretation, but her main point is that in order for a substantial coalition among those who are oppressed to form, we must look beyond our specific oppression, oppression which is particular to our own group of faction, and start identifying with all forms of oppression, even the forms which do not affect us personally. And for that, a certain level of empathy is a must. I would have thought this was rather implicit.

  • Anarcissie

    Like many others, I find bell hooks’s recommendation that we love one another rather steep. At least with Jesus we get the assurance that our Father In Heaven is backing us up (and will do us serious harm if we don’t make the effort).

    I thought the Ehrenreich article was surprisingly impervious to radical analyses of class, but maybe I missed something. Class doesn’t ‘happen’; it’s carefully constructed by many and imposed on all, by force if necessary.

    My own take on the OWS phenomenon so far is very different. I think Americans have acknowledged and lived with class for a long time, although in different and shifting ways. After all, our educational system, which was formed in the middle and late 19th century, is primarily a class filter and processor, and an overt one at that — people go to college and temporarily acquire useless information so that they can get into the middle class. What went wrong in 2006-2008 (and in 1929) was not that class became visible but that the ruling class had failed to govern the community correctly, partly because it had failed to govern itself. The breaking point was different for different people. For many it must have been the moment when Mr. O put Social Security and Medicare, the Ark of the Covenent of social welfare, on the block. However, although current events have inspired actions such as OWS, there is as yet no sign of a serious challenge to the present order of things within the party-politics system. The proggies want better Welfare, not revolution.

    History tells us that there is a lot of ruin in a country, so our present ruling class may have some way to go before they shape up or are replaced. Meanwhile, people like me have an expanded opportunity to spread subversive ideas among the folk.