robertogreco + capitalism   1102

Oil and Gas Emissions Have Increased Under California's Cap and Trade Program
“ProPublica analyzed state data in a way the state doesn’t often report to the public, isolating how emissions have grown within the oil and gas industry. The analysis shows that carbon emissions from California’s oil and gas industry actually rose 3.5% since cap and trade began. Refineries, including one owned by Marathon Petroleum and two owned by Chevron, are consistently the largest polluters in the state. Emissions from vehicles, which burn the fuels processed in refineries, are also rising.

Critics attribute these increases, in part, to a bevy of concessions the state has made to the oil and gas industry to keep the program going. They say these compromises have blocked steps that would have mandated real emissions reductions and threaten the state’s ability to meet its ambitious goal of slashing its emissions 40% by 2030.

“There’s no question a well-designed regulation on oil and gas can have an effect,” said Danny Cullenward, a Stanford researcher and policy director at Near Zero, a climate policy think tank. “And that was traded away for a weak cap-and-trade program.”

Experts say cap and trade is rarely stringent enough when used alone; direct regulations on refineries and cars are crucial to reining in emissions. But oil representatives are engaged in a worldwide effort to make market-based solutions the primary or only way their emissions are regulated.

Officials with the state Air Resources Board, which oversees cap and trade, say those fears are exaggerated, that California’s program is doing what it needs to do and they can tweak it over time as needed. They point to the state’s overall drop in emissions since cap and trade began in 2013, even as its economy grew. They tout a host of other, more traditional climate regulations widely considered the best in the country.

But even with all those rules working together, California needs to more than double its yearly emissions cuts to be on track to meet the 2030 target. Meanwhile, the scope of the climate crisis and public pressure for strong regulations on fossil fuel companies have risen exponentially, even in the past year.

ProPublica delved into the mechanics of California’s cap-and-trade program, examining 13 years of political horse-trading, regulatory tinkering and industry lobbying to make sense of rising fears that it will not deliver the emissions reductions it is supposed to.

Five areas of concerns have emerged, some specific to the state’s program and some so fundamental that they raise questions about whether market solutions anywhere can do the work that is needed to take meaningful climate action while there is still time.

[1] Cap and Trade Isn’t Designed to Hold Any One Company Accountable

… [2] Market-Based Climate Change Solutions Are Being Set Up to Provide Loopholes and Giveaways

… [3] California’s Oil Industry has Blocked Efforts to Make Cap and Trade Tougher on Them

… [4] More Meaningful Regulations Are Being Sacrificed

[5] We’re Dependent on Fossil Fuels”

[See also:
https://www.propublica.org/article/cap-and-trade-is-supposed-to-solve-climate-change-but-oil-and-gas-company-emissions-are-up

“Cap and Trade Is Supposed to Solve Climate Change, but Oil and Gas Company Emissions Are Up

Countries have called California’s cap-and-trade program the answer to climate change. But it is just as vulnerable to lobbying as any other legislation. The result: The state’s biggest oil and gas companies have actually polluted more since it started.”]
capandtrade  emissions  climatechange  policy  lobbying  carbonemissions  2019  environment  fossilfuels  bigpetroleum  capitalism  regulation  accountability  loopholes  markets 
2 days ago by robertogreco
Inhumanism Rising - Benjamin H Bratton - YouTube
[See also:
https://trust.support/watch/inhumanism-rising

“Benjamin H. Bratton considers the role ideologies play in technical systems that operate at scales beyond human perception. Deep time, deep learning, deep ecology and deep states force a redrawing of political divisions. What previously may have been called left and right comes to reflect various positions on what it means to be, and want to be, human. Bratton is a design theorist as much as he is a philosopher. In his work remodelling our operating system, he shows how humans might be the medium, rather than the message, in planetary-scale ways of knowing.

Benjamin H. Bratton's work spans Philosophy, Art, Design and Computer Science. He is Professor of Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics at the University of California, San Diego. He is Program Director of the Strelka Institute of Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow. He is also a Professor of Digital Design at The European Graduate School and Visiting Faculty at SCI_Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture)

In The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (MIT Press, 2016. 503 pages) Bratton outlines a new theory for the age of global computation and algorithmic governance. He proposes that different genres of planetary-scale computation – smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, smart cities, the Internet of Things, automation – can be seen not as so many species evolving on their own, but as forming a coherent whole: an accidental megastructure that is both a computational infrastructure and a new governing architecture. The book plots an expansive interdisciplinary design brief for The Stack-to-Come.

His current research project, Theory and Design in the Age of Machine Intelligence, is on the unexpected and uncomfortable design challenges posed by A.I in various guises: from machine vision to synthetic cognition and sensation, and the macroeconomics of robotics to everyday geoengineering.”]
benjaminbratton  libertarianism  technology  botcoin  blockchain  peterthiel  society  technodeterminism  organization  anarchism  anarchy  jamesbridle  2019  power  powerlessness  control  inhumanism  ecology  capitalism  fascism  interdependence  surveillance  economics  data  computation  ai  artificialintelligence  californianideology  ideology  philosophy  occult  deeplearning  deepecology  magic  deepstate  politics  agency  theory  conspiracytheories  jordanpeterson  johnmichaelgreer  anxiety  software  automation  science  psychology  meaning  meaningfulness  apophenia  posthumanism  robotics  privilege  revelation  cities  canon  tools  beatrizcolomina  markwigley  markfisher  design  transhumanism  multispecies  cybotgs  syntheticbiology  intelligence  biology  matter  machines  industry  morethanhuman  literacy  metaphysics  carlschmitt  chantalmouffe  human-centereddesign  human-centered  experience  systems  access  intuition  abstraction  expedience  ideals  users  systemsthinking  aesthetics  accessibility  singularity  primitivism  communism  duty  sovietunion  ussr  luxury  ianhacking 
2 days ago by robertogreco
Dr Sarah Taber on Twitter: "So I learned something fun about the word "pioneer" today. It was originally a military rank in the late medieval period for ... construction workers." / Twitter
“So I learned something fun about the word “pioneer” today.

It was originally a military rank in the late medieval period for … construction workers.

Specifically, CWs who went ahead of armies to cut down forest, clear trails, build roads/bridges, identify fording spots, etc

so the REAL army could march through later.

In other words, they were doing all of this in enemy territory while getting shot at.
Dr Sarah Taber

So like this sounds super badass, right? That’s the sentiment we attach to “pioneer” today.

Except it comes from Latin “pedestrian,” as in “not high-class mounted cavalry,” aka broke-ass serf trash.

It’s from the same term as “peon” and “pawn.”

https://etymonline.com/word/pioneer

“Pioneer” means disposable people who pave the way for invasion.

The cannon fodder that goes in before the usual rank ’n’ file cannon fodder.

Indigenous people talk about the growth of the United States as a military invasion.

And, uh, we agreed with them. We openly used military terms to talk about what we were doing.

It’s only later that we romanticized it into forgetting.

This also slots into something I’ve been seeing with how we Euro-Americans settled the US: rank classism amongst ourselves, covered up with rose-tinted glasses.

We openly acknowledged that the earliest settlers in an area were probably gonna get killed & the perks were all going to go to gentlemen coming in later.

And OUR GOVERNMENT WAS MORE THAN OK WITH THAT.

We had inequality that created desperately poor people, willing to do anything for a chance to escape poverty- like invade Native land knowing there was a high & justifiable risk of being killed for it.

We weren’t just ok with that system. We deliberately weaponized poverty.

The US’s refusal to enforce treaties allowed poor whites to squat on Native land. When they were evicted or killed, that was used as a pretense to formally invade Native land (bc we’re “hard on crime” I guess).

And THAT’s when land speculators were able to gobble up vast tracts.

The land speculators couldn’t make money without genocide AND the casual disposability of their. own. people.

I’m not saying this to claim we had it worse than Native people, who suffered actual genocide. White settler deaths never amounted to the numbers Indigenous ppl faced.

But this is hitting a lot of the same notes @DanDanTransient has been talking about with how much settler “technological & logistical superiority” was really more about how it creates poor people & then treats them as expendable. [quoting @DanDanTransient: also here https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:28ba80f5d65f ]
The wheel is great if you want to build and maintain an infrastructure, something pre industrial societies needed cheap or free labor to do the building and maintaining.

Laborers weren’t considered disposable to most Native cultures.

Nothing is impossible when you have hordes of impoverished, desperate peon-eers to throw at the problem.[Quoteing @DanDanTransient: also here https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:28ba80f5d65f ]
A better question than “why didn’t Natives build wheels?” is “why did Europeans spend decades blocking, damming, and covering their natural roadways instead of just discovering kayaks and canoes?”

it’s interesting to me how much Americans fear China for its real and/or perceived willingness to just throw human bodies at a thing until it’s conquered

because that’s exactly what we did to Indigenous people

Anyway, the most impressive piece of engineering to me

is the social engineering we did to convince people that pioneering was awesome. Nowadays the word makes us think strong, virtuous, honorable, badass Paul Bunyan-type shit

instead of, y’know, what “pioneer” really means. An underclass that cuts down trees & gets shot at so other people can ride in and take the goods.

This is just one reason it’s important for white settlers to understand how much we’ve damaged *ourselves* with colonialism.

Every phase of colonialism had its own set of broke colonists paving the way with infrastructure. Cutting down trees, to building roads & ferries, to building railroads.

That work was always done by the dregs of our society.

In other words, colonial society NEEDS DREGS.

The American invasion economy needed broke desperate people.

It still does. Because we still haven’t figured out any other way to live, than by weaponizing poverty to get people to wreck themselves for the empire.

It’s also just one reason “it’s all about class!” brocialism isn’t good enough.

Rich whites didn’t pick on poor whites just for shits & giggles. They did it to weaponize us against other people. And it WORKED.

We can’t repair that- or ourselves- by making it “all about class.” That just keeps rich whites at the center of the universe instead of aligning ourselves with other people that they- and we, through our participation in colonialism- harm.

welp that’s a lot of technocolonialism & thoughts on how if the white working class is serious about living our best lives, we gotta get our heads out of the white upper class’s ass, take responsibility for where we’ve been, & make some better friends

happy Sunday”
sarahtaber  2019  pioneers  words  language  colonialism  technocolonialism  class  inequality  capitalism  gentrification  exploitation  genocide  indigenous  us  classism  race  racism  society  socialengineering  poverty  serfs  peons  speculation  landspeculation  disposability  disposal  poor  labor  construction  pawns  military  government  settlers  settlercolonialism  laborers  work  china  brocialism  weaponization 
10 days ago by robertogreco
Left is the New Right, or Why Marx Matters - CounterPunch.org
“The American obsession with electoral politics is odd in that ‘the people’ have so little say in electoral outcomes and that the outcomes only dance around the edges of most people’s lives. It isn’t so much that the actions of elected leaders are inconsequential as that other factors— economic, historical, structural and institutional, do more to determine ‘politics.’ To use an agrarian metaphor, it’s as if the miller was put forward as determining the harvest.

The American left has had an outsider role in this politics from the inception of the nation as a capitalist oligarchy to the improbable cobbling together of the idea that popular democracy can exist alongside concentrated wealth. If the powers that be wanted popular democracy, they could stop impeding its creation. The ‘first mover’ advantage, that once gained, power is used to close the door behind it, has be understood for centuries in the realms of commerce and politics.

As was probably the intent, the 2016 presidential outcome was used by the more persistent powers to divide the American left. The neoliberal left moved to a reflexive nationalism tied through class interests to state-corporatism in defense of the realm. Carnival barker Trump, an American political archetype for at least two centuries, was portrayed as a traitor to capitalist democracy— from the left. Emptied of analytical content, left affiliation was made a ‘brand.’

In more constructive terms, Bernie Sanders reached into red state territory to facilitate a class-based left political response to the failures of capitalism by promoting social welfare programs with historical precedent in the New Deal. Tied to an analytically sophisticated effort to shift power down and across political and economic hierarchies, something akin to popular democracy is in the process of confronting its long-mythologized ghost.

[image]

Graph: It is hardly incidental that as wealth has been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, its power to affect political outcomes has been codified through official determinations like Citizens United. While the domination of politics by concentrated wealth may seem new, it ties to the conception of the U.S. as a capitalist oligarchy where rich, white, slavers determined political outcomes. The Senate, the U.S. ‘House of Lords,’ wasn’t popularly elected until the twentieth century. Source: inequality.org.

Part of the challenge of addressing this politics comes through dubious parsing of ‘the political’ from its objects. If an agent of the government tells people when to wake, what to wear, what they can and can’t say and what to spend their time doing, that is authoritarian. When an employer determines these, it is considered ‘free choice.’ In the neoliberal frame, economics is only political to the extent that elected leaders promote specific economic policies.

Even with the realization of late that money determines political outcomes, the distribution of income and wealth is considered economics while the use that these are put to in the political arena is considered politics. The unvirtuous circle of capitalism, where concentrated income and wealth are used to affect political outcomes so as to increase concentrated income and wealth, ties economics to politics through the incompatibility of capitalism with democracy.

Modern electoral politics replaces this relationship of economics to politics with color-coded branding— red or blue, where ‘our guy’ is what is good and true about America. The other party exists to pin ‘our guy’ into a corner that prevents him / her from acting on this goodness. Barack Obama was prevented from enacting his ‘true’ progressive agenda by Republican obstructionists. Donald Trump is being persecuted by deep-state, snowflake, socialists.

Left unaddressed and largely unconsidered has been the persistence of class relations. The rich continue to get richer, the rest of us, not so much. For all of the claims of political dysfunction, when it comes to bailouts and tax cuts, wars and weaponry and policing and surveillance, these opposition parties can be counted on to come together to overcome their differences. Likewise, when it comes to the public interest, partisan differences are put forward to explain why nothing is possible.

[image]

Graph: as illustrated above, in recent decades the greatest gains in the relative wealth of the rich came during the terms of liberal Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Lest this seem— or be framed as, incidental, the liberal Democrat’s support for the mechanism of this enrichment, Wall Street, explains the relationship. In economic terms, Democrats have been the party of the radical right— financialized, neoliberal capitalism, since the inception of neoliberalism in the 1970s. Source: inequality.org.

The unitary direction of this government response in favor of the rich may seem accidental, a byproduct of ‘our system’ of governance. In fact, the defining political ideology of the last half-century has been neoliberalism, defined here as imperialist, state-corporatism, controlled by oligarchs. And contrary to assertions that neoliberalism is a figment of the imagination of the left, its basic tenets were codified in the late 1980s under the term ‘Washington Consensus.’

What the Washington Consensus lays out is the support role that government plays for capitalism. Its tenets are short and highly readable. They provide a blueprint that ties Democratic to Republican political programs since the 1980s. They also tie neoliberalism to the Marxist / Leninist conception of the capitalist state as existing to promote the interests of connected capitalists. Left out, no doubt by accident (not), was / is a theory of class struggle.

When Donald Trump passed tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the rich and corporations, this was the Washington Consensus. When Barack Obama put ‘market mechanisms’ into Obamacare and promoted the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), this was the Washington Consensus. When Bill Clinton tried to privatize Social Security, this was the Washington Consensus. The alleged ‘opposition parties’ have been working together from a single blueprint for governance for four decades.

The intended beneficiary of this unified effort is ‘capitalism,’ conceived as multinational corporations operating with state support to promote a narrowly conceived national interest. An ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) clause was included in NAFTA when Bill Clinton promoted and signed it. An even more intrusive ISDS clause was included in the TPP when Barack Obama promoted it. The intent of these ISDS clauses is to give the prerogative of governance (sovereign power) to corporations.

It is no secret in Washington and outside of it that multinational corporations pay few, if any, taxes. The logic of this is two sided. On the one side, the neoliberal / Washington Consensus premise is that corporations can put the money to better use than government. The other is that the role of government is to support capitalism, not to constrain it. Barack Obama’s consequence-free bailouts of Wall Street, often at the expense of ordinary citizens, possessed an internal logic when considered through this frame.

An historical analog can be found in the relationship of the East India Company to the British empire. The East India Company drew financial, tactical and military support from the British monarchy as its global reach made it a key institution of imperial expansion. Its economic ties gave it a depth and breadth of reach that military occupation alone couldn’t achieve. Centuries later, Mr. Obama made this point when he argued that the TPP was crucial to ‘countering China.’

The rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s was intended to address the alleged failures of the New Deal. By the late 1980s, this new-old ideology had been codified as the Washington Consensus. Its proponents amongst national Democrats morphed into the New Democrats / DLC just as the Soviet Union was coming unwound. The twin ‘failures’ of the New Deal and communism led to the revival of dogmatic capitalism that saw the state as an appendage of capitalist institutions. Bill Clinton was more likely than not sincere when he declared that ‘the era of big government is over.’

The conflation of Democrats with ‘the left’ that first emerged to counter the New Deal in the 1930s, persisted through the 1990s and the 2000s because it was useful to both political parties. Republicans were the party of business while Democrats claimed to be the party of the people. While the New Deal was in place and from a liberal perspective, the Democrats did support a limited conception of the public interest domestically. However, by the time that Bill Clinton entered office, the public interest had been redefined to mean corporate interests.

This tension can be seen more clearly in the fight over NAFTA, which Republicans had been unable to pass before Mr. Clinton entered office. Mr. Clinton was able to use his liberal bona fides— and the fact that he wasn’t a Republican, to bring over just enough Democrats in congress to get NAFTA passed. He went on to divide bourgeois Democrats from the broader Democratic constituency through the use of race and class dog whistles. In this sense, he presaged Donald Trump. The net effect was to successfully divide the Democrat’s constituency by class.

Before Bill Clinton, the anti-NAFTA fight had a clear class component. Organized labor had lined up against the free-trade agenda that was being promoted by Reaganite Republicans. Through his rhetoric of ‘fair’ capitalism and a ‘level playing field,’ Mr. Clinton gave a liberal patina to an utterly retrograde, pre-Great Depression, form of capitalism. With no apparent irony, the Washington Consensus applied a Marxist / Leninist conception of the capitalist state without any pretense of it mitigating capitalist excess.

The clutter of party politics creates … [more]
us  politics  democrats  republicans  marxism  karlmarx  class  capitalism  neoliberalism  2019  roburie  billclinton  barackobama  donaldtrump  oligarchy  ideology  ronaldreagan  canon  labor  organizing  left  nafta  freetrade  inequality  freedom  liberty  washingtonconsensus  1980  1970s  1908s  leninism  excess  recessions  markets  government  tpp 
11 days ago by robertogreco
A Giant Bumptious Litter: Donna Haraway on Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction
"Socialists aren’t the only ones who have been techno-utopian, of course. A far more prominent and more influential strand of techno-utopianism has come from the figures around the Bay Area counterculture associated with the Whole Earth Catalog, in particular Stewart Brand, who went on to play important intellectual and cultural roles in Silicon Valley.

They are not friends. They are not allies. I’m avoiding calling them enemies because I’m leaving open the possibility of their being able to learn or change, though I’m not optimistic. I think they occupy the position of the “god trick.” [Eds.: The “god trick” is an idea introduced by Haraway that refers to the traditional view of objectivity as a transcendent “gaze from nowhere.”] I think they are blissed out by their own privileged positions and have no idea what their own positionality in the world really is. And I think they cause a lot of harm, both ideologically and technically.

How so?

They get a lot of publicity. They take up a lot of the air in the room.

It’s not that I think they’re horrible people. There should be space for people pushing new technologies. But I don’t see nearly enough attention given to what kinds of technological innovation are really needed to produce viable local and regional energy systems that don’t depend on species-destroying solar farms and wind farms that require giant land grabs in the desert.

The kinds of conversations around technology that I think we need are those among folks who know how to write law and policy, folks who know how to do material science, folks who are interested in architecture and park design, and folks who are involved in land struggles and solidarity movements. I want to see us do much savvier scientific, technological, and political thinking with each other, and I want to see it get press. The Stewart Brand types are never going there.

Do you see clear limitations in their worldviews and their politics?

They remain remarkably humanist in their orientation, in their cognitive apparatus, and in their vision of the world. They also have an almost Peter Pan quality. They never quite grew up. They say, “If it’s broken, fix it.”

This comes from an incapacity to mourn and an incapacity to be finite. I mean that psychoanalytically: an incapacity to understand that there is no status quo ante, to understand that death and loss are real. Only within that understanding is it possible to open up to a kind of vitality that isn’t double death, that isn’t extermination, and which doesn’t yearn for transcendence, yearn for the fix.

There’s not much mourning with the Stewart Brand types. There’s not much felt loss of the already disappeared, the already dead — the disappeared of Argentina, the disappeared of the caravans, the disappeared of the species that will not come back. You can try to do as much resurrection biology as you want to. But any of the biologists who are actually involved in the work are very clear that there is no resurrection.

You have also been critical of the Anthropocene, as a proposed new geological epoch defined by human influence on the earth. Do you see the idea of the Anthropocene as having similar limitations?

I think the Anthropocene framework has been a fertile container for quite a lot, actually. The Anthropocene has turned out to be a rather capacious territory for incorporating people in struggle. There are a lot of interesting collaborations with artists and scientists and activists going on.

The main thing that’s too bad about the term is that it perpetuates the misunderstanding that what has happened is a human species act, as if human beings as a species necessarily exterminate every planet we dare to live on. As if we can’t stop our productive and reproductive excesses.

Extractivism and exterminationism are not human species acts. They come from a situated historical conjuncture of about five hundred years in duration that begins with the invention of the plantation and the subsequent modeling of industrial capitalism. It is a situated historical conjuncture that has had devastating effects even while it has created astonishing wealth.

To define this as a human species act affects the way a lot of scientists think about the Anthropocene. My scientist colleagues and friends really do continue to think of it as something human beings can’t stop doing, even while they understand my historical critique and agree with a lot of it.

It’s a little bit like the relativism versus objectivity problem. The old languages have a deep grip. The situated historical way of thinking is not instinctual for Western science, whose offspring are numerous.

Are there alternatives that you think could work better than the Anthropocene?

There are plenty of other ways of thinking. Take climate change. Now, climate change is a necessary and essential category. But if you go to the circumpolar North as a Southern scientist wanting to collaborate with Indigenous people on climate change — on questions of changes in the sea ice, for example, or changes in the hunting and subsistence base — the limitations of that category will be profound. That’s because it fails to engage with the Indigenous categories that are actually active on the ground.

There is an Inuktitut word, “sila.” In an Anglophone lexicon, “sila” will be translated as “weather.” But in fact, it’s much more complicated. In the circumpolar North, climate change is a concept that collects a lot of stuff that the Southern scientist won’t understand. So the Southern scientist who wants to collaborate on climate change finds it almost impossible to build a contact zone.

Anyway, there are plenty of other ways of thinking about shared contemporary problems. But they require building contact zones between cognitive apparatuses, out of which neither will leave the same as they were before. These are the kinds of encounters that need to be happening more.

A final question. Have you been following the revival of socialism, and socialist feminism, over the past few years?

Yes.

What do you make of it? I mean, socialist feminism is becoming so mainstream that even Harper’s Bazaar is running essays on “emotional labor.”

I’m really pleased! The old lady is happy. I like the resurgence of socialism. For all the horror of Trump, it has released us. A whole lot of things are now being seriously considered, including mass nonviolent social resistance. So I am not in a state of cynicism or despair."
donnaharaway  2019  californianideology  interviews  wholeearthcatalog  stewartbrand  technosolutionism  technology  climatechange  extinction  deminism  ontology  cynicism  resistance  siliconvalley  objectivity  ideology  science  politics  policy  loss  mourning  biology  resurrection  activism  humans  multispecies  morethanhuman  extractivism  exterminationism  plantations  capitalism  industrialism  history  indigenous  socialism 
12 days ago by robertogreco
This wave of global protest is being led by the children of the financial crash | Jack Shenker | Opinion | The Guardian
““I’m 22 years old, and this is my last letter,” the young man begins. Most of his face is masked with black fabric; only his eyes, tired and steely, are visible below a messy fringe. “I’m worried that I will die and won’t see you any more,” he continues, his hands trembling. “But I can’t not take to the streets.”

The nameless demonstrator – one of many in Hong Kong who have been writing to their loved ones before heading out to confront rising police violence in the city – was filmed by the New York Times last week in an anonymous stairwell. But he could be almost anywhere, and not only because the walls behind him are white and characterless, left blank to protect his identity.

From east Asia to Latin America, northern Europe to the Middle East, there are young people gathering in stairwells, back alleys and basements whose faces display a similar blend of exhilaration and exhaustion. “The disaster of ‘chaos in Hong Kong’ has already hit the western world,” the former Chinese diplomat Wang Zhen declared in an official Communist party paper, following reports that protesters in Catalonia were being inspired by their counterparts in Hong Kong. “We can expect that other countries and cities may be struck by this deluge.”

Wang is right about the deluge. In the same week that those seeking independence from Spain occupied Barcelona airport and brought motorways to a standstill, Extinction Rebellion activists seized major bridges and squares across London, prompting nearly 2,000 arrests. Both mobilisations adopted tactics from Hong Kong, including fluid targets – inspired by Bruce Lee’s famous “be water“ mantra – and a repertoire of hand signals to outwit security forces.

Meanwhile Lebanon has been convulsed by its largest demonstrations in two decades, dozens have been killed during anti-government marches in Iraq, and in Egypt a blanket ban on dissent by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s brutal dictatorship failed to prevent sporadic anti-regime protests breaking out across the country late last month. In the Americas, where Wang once served as a Chinese government envoy, Ecuador, Chile and Haiti are all experiencing citizen uprisings that are virtually unprecedented in recent history, ushering vast numbers of people into the streets – as well as soldiers tasked with containing them.

Each of these upheavals has its own spark – a hike in transport fares in Santiago, or a proposed tax on users of messaging apps like WhatsApp in Beirut – and each involves different patterns of governance and resistance. The class composition of the indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador can’t be compared with most of those marching against the imprisonment of separatist leaders in Catalonia; nor is the state’s prohibition of protest in London on a par with the repression in Hong Kong, where officers shot live ammunition into a teenager’s chest.

And yet it’s clear that we are witnessing the biggest surge in global protest activity since the early 2010s, when a “movement of the squares” saw mass rallies in capital cities across the Arab world, followed by Occupy demonstrations in the global north. Historically speaking, the past decade has seen more protests than at any time since the 1960s. Despite their disparate grievances, some common threads do bind today’s rebellions together. Tracing them may help clarify the nature of our present political volatility.

One obvious link is also the most superficial: the role played by social media, which has been widely noted in the press. While it’s true that digital technologies have enabled more agile and horizontal forms of organising, the ubiquity of these tools in 2019 tells us almost nothing about what is driving people to take to the streets in the first place. Indeed, in many states, social media is now an instrument of state repression as much as it is a tool of revolt.

The most significant connection is generational. The majority of those protesting now are the children of the financial crisis – a generation that has come of age during the strange and febrile years after the collapse of a broken economic and political orthodoxy, and before its replacement has emerged.

One direct impact of the crash has been a rapid diminishment of opportunity for millions of young people in rich countries – who now regard precarious work and rising inequality as the norm. At the same time, the aftermath of the crash has cracked the entrenched structures that had evolved to detach citizens from active participation in politics – be that through authoritarian systems or via an institutional consensus on the inevitability of market logic and technocratic management. Amid widespread economic and social failure, it has become harder than ever for elites to justify power, even on their own terms.

All this has produced a generation charged with hopelessness and hope. Afflicted by what the anthropologist David Graeber calls “despair fatigue”, protesters are putting their bodies on the line because it feels as if they have no other choice – and because those who rule over them have rarely seemed more vulnerable. Most have spent their lives under the maxim “there is no alternative” – and now circumstances have forced them to widen their political imaginations in search of something new. As one poster proclaims in Chile: “It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.”

Facing them down are states determined to put citizens back in their box and reseal the borders of political participation. The problem for governments is that there is no longer an established centre ground to snap back to, and their opponents know it – which is why so many of those involved in the current mobilisations will not settle for token concessions from the authorities.

“We need a whole new system, from scratch,” declared one demonstrator in Lebanon. The crackdown on Catalan separatists by the Spanish government has brought back dark memories of the state’s dirty war in the Basque country in the 1980s and the Franco era that preceded it; troops are marching through city centres in Chile for the first time since Pinochet.

In China, Xi Jinping has claimed that any attempt to divide the nation will result in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder”. In many places, grassroots victory – and radical political transformation – feels to many like the only possible resolution, lending clashes an “all or nothing” antagonism and urgency that is hard to roll back.

What has intensified this urgency is the backdrop of looming ecological catastrophe. Even where protests are not explicitly about environmental concerns, the prospect of planetary catastrophe in our lifetimes raises the stakes for all political action. “The kids who are walking out of school have a hugely radical understanding of the way that politics works, and they recognise that our democratic processes and structures as they stand are designed to uphold the status quo,” Jake Woodier, one of the organisers behind the UK climate strike movement, told me this year. “They know that they will be worse off than their parents, know that they’ll never own a home, and know that on current trends they could live to see the end of humanity. So for them, for us, politics is not a game, it’s reality, and that’s reflected in the way we organise – relentlessly, radically, as if our lives depend on it.”

The Cambridge political scientist Helen Thompson once argued: “The post-2008 world is, in some fundamental sense, a world waiting for its reckoning.” That reckoning is beginning to unfold globally. They may come from different backgrounds and fight for different causes, but the kids being handcuffed, building barricades, and fighting their way through teargas in 2019 all entered adulthood after the end of the end of history. They know that we are living through one of what the American historian Robert Darnton has called “moments of suspended disbelief”: those rare, fragile conjunctures in which anything seems conceivable, and – far from being immutable – the old rules are ready to be rewritten. As long as it feels like their lives depend on winning, the deluge will continue.”
protest  protests  yout  greatrecession  crisis  economics  2008  2019  catastrophe  chile  china  catalonia  barcelona  hongkong  latinamerica  asia  spain  españa  lebanon  egypt  ecuador  haiti  london  extinctionrebellion  climatechange  policy  inequality  youth  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  repression  future  pinochet  franco  separatists  statusquo  elitism  uk  us  robertdarnton  jackshenker  government  governance  military  globalwarming  capitalism  socialism  democracy  technocracy  disenfranchisement  politics  democrats 
18 days ago by robertogreco
The Meaning of Chile’s Explosion
"The ongoing popular upheaval in Chile is the product of thirty years of neoliberal oligarchy and half-hearted democratization. To uproot the existing power structure, the country needs a new constitution."
chile  2019  neoliberalism  capitalism  history  pinochet  constitution  change  camilavergara  democracy  power  inequality  ppotest  protests  economics  society 
21 days ago by robertogreco
Chile protests against President Pinera and deep inequality.
“But symbols get scrambled when they’re reused. If a spectacle resurfaces, its meaning rarely remains exactly the same. That’s happened with the Joker, and it’s happening with other old reference points too. Take the loud pot-beating protests that have been taking place all over Chile, called cacerolazos. People leaning out of windows or marching on the streets, loudly expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo and their support for the protests. (If you don’t know what that sounds like, here’s a video a relative sent me from Oct. 19, taken in the middle-class neighborhood of Ñuñoa.) If you were around and right-wing in 1971, the cacerolazos ringing out all across the country the past week—in rich neighborhoods and poor ones, in cities big and small—might remind you of the March of the Empty Pots, which many forget was actually undertaken by conservative Chilean women to register their opposition to Allende’s socialist government. Those protests were largely and functionally right-wing, but—like the cacerolazos against the government today, which have a very different politics—they also managed to transcend class differences.

Today, the cacerolazo seems to be transcending categories again. Because they seem to be coming from every sector, it’s not clear that Chile’s current situation is reducible to the usual right–left axes. On Friday night, the largest protest in the country’s history gathered, with approximately 1.2 million in Santiago and protests in solidarity all over the country. The sheer size also doesn’t lend itself easily to factionalist descriptions. That’s what sets this moment apart—and makes it seem just very faintly possible that a country that’s been rehashing the same triumphalist and traumatic stories about itself for decades might be able to pivot for a new chapter. While over 120 allegations of human rights violations are being investigated, including possible homicides by law enforcement and allegations of torture and sexual abuse—as well as hundreds of people injured by birdshot—the massive gatherings have not yet resulted in the kind of brutal military crackdown that happened in 1973.

I started here by referring, as for years one had to, to the country’s two protagonists: Pinochet and Allende. They were symbols of two very different Chiles. But when I said that these sights in Chile the past week would be traumatic if you were alive in 1973, I meant it. Many Chileans weren’t alive then. This contingent—young, buckling under increasing costs of living and enormous debt—seems tired of relitigating the past. They’re objecting, at least in part, to the long shadow Pinochet and Allende have cast: to the way Pinochet has been used endlessly as an excuse by the left while they preserved many or most aspects of his economic model; to the way Allende has remained a boogeyman for the right, used to scare children with stories of financial ruin and leftist terrorism. It even makes a certain horribly Freudian kind of sense that breaking the country out of these unproductive narrative recursions would require a strange and terribly dangerous semi-reenactment. With tanks on the streets. Lines in the stores. Fires. Fights.

I don’t want to downplay the intensity of what’s happened the past week. The chaos has many Chileans exhausted and on edge. What began with a student protest over a subway fare hike has exploded into nationwide marches against much more: an unsustainably high cost of living, poverty-level retirements, bad and expensive health care, poor education, and crushing debt, to name a few. President Sebastián Piñera called a state of emergency in the early hours of Oct. 19, deploying the military. Much of the country is now under curfew. As of this writing, 18 people have died. There is footage of soldiers beating civilians; one video captures Carabineros (militarized police) bludgeoning people as they walk by. A TV network aired live footage of soldiers shooting as they drove through a neighborhood in Recoleta. On Tuesday morning, an Argentine TV news team was broadcasting when a soldier lifted his rifle and shot at them with a rubber bullet. By Tuesday night, there was footage of soldiers shooting into a building in Las Condes. Chile’s infrastructure has been heavily damaged in the protests too: After Oct. 18, most of the subway system was severely damaged and temporarily shut down. Dozens of stations were burned. While some lines are partly operational, full function won’t be restored for months. Buses and police precincts and stores were set on fire. Hundreds of small and medium-size businesses throughout the country have had to close due to looting or other damage. Things are loud and frightening and wild.”



“On Friday, the Congress was evacuated due to protests outside, a peaceful (if loud) protest that by evening surpassed a million people in Plaza Baquedano alone. Though truckers have denied going on strike for fear of creating food shortages, they joined taxi drivers to bring the highways outside Santiago to gridlock, protesting against high road tolls. Efforts to create enough change are ongoing too: Evelyn Matthei, who served as Piñera’s former minister of labor during his first term, ran for president, and is currently mayor of Santiago’s Providencia district, said in an interview on Friday that the kind of profound change the country needed would require replacing “at least” eight of Piñera’s 24 ministers with people from the middle class with more diverse backgrounds that included (for example) public education experience. In the lower chamber of Congress, the House passed a proposed reduction in the work-week to 40 hours, and the opposition proposed a plebiscite for a new Constitution. To the extent that the demands are legible, the protests seem to be calling, first, for an end to the state of emergency and the military presence, and, more broadly, for a Constituent Assembly—for a new Constitution and a new social contract that sees people more as citizens than as a captive market for corporations seeking government concessions. Many are calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Chadwick, who spearheaded the initial escalation against the fare-dodgers. Others call for Piñera’s ouster. After the extraordinary, nation-wide outpouring Friday evening—Santiago’s protests were made up of almost 7 percent of the country’s population—Piñera tweeted, “The massive, joyous and peaceful protest today, where Chileans ask for a Chile with greater justice and solidarity, opens big roads to future and hope. We all have heard the message. We all have changed. With unity and help from God, we will travel this road to a better Chile for everyone.” Many of the chants had directly insulted him. On Saturday, he announced that he’d asked all his ministers to resign and said he would lift the state of emergency on Sunday if circumstances permitted. The curfew in Santiago is over. No one knows what will happen next.

***

I’ve noticed fewer Joker references over the last few days. And it feels like the potency of certain old spectacles—men in uniform confronting civilians, long grocery store lines—might be diminishing too. After a week of this state of emergency, things are not better in Chile. Things do not get easier when the “happy face” gets replaced by honest feeling. Tourism has plummeted, there are still fires, and people are anxious and angry and tired. But circumstances are not as bad as they could be. It could all go south at any time, but for now—for now—there is not desabastecimiento. The lines are not bread lines. (Yet.) Disturbing though the images of military attacking civilians are, things have not escalated to the familiar point of no return. I don’t know if that’s progress for a country both saturated by and sick of witnessed and inherited traumas. But it is something.

“Do you think Joker inspired any of this?” I asked my cousin Bernardita. “Of course,” she said, “or actually, the reverse: the social discontent inspired this interpretation of the Joker. Without a doubt.”

Whatever use the protesters have made of the Joker, there are obvious limits to his explanatory power. The protesters’ interpretation of the nihilistic clown has also taken some extratextual—and unifying—turns, such as the refusal of some politicians (and even a general) to adopt the rhetoric of war. The Joker snapped and turned on society. Chile is angry, and parts of it did snap. But by and large, the public still cares and has not devolved into nihilism. On Oct. 21, NO ESTAMOS EN GUERRA—WE ARE NOT AT WAR—was projected on the side of the Telefónica building near Plaza Italia, where huge crowds had gathered to reject the military’s enforcement of the curfew and test this version of Chile to see if it has changed. And if it can.”
lililoofbourow  chile  2019  protests  history  salvadorallende  pinochet  inequality  precarity  change  corruption  government  governance  democracy  neoliberlalism  chicagoboys  policy  politics  protest  sebastiánpiñera  michelebachelet  ricardolagos  dictatorship  symbols  symbolism  thejoker  batman  military  mobility  wellbeing  qualityoflife  labor  work  debt  violence  coup  trauma  injustice  justice  reform  constitution  eduardofrei  revolution  resistance  neoliberalism  capitalism  miltonfriedman  victorjara 
23 days ago by robertogreco
If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality | Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser | Opinion | The Guardian
“If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality

The president declared ‘Chile is at war’ but the crisis is, at heart, a message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract

As with the yellow vest movement in France, it was impossible to foresee that an increase in the price of the Santiago metro would trigger demonstrations throughout Chile. When you think about it, however, it is unsurprising. Inequality in Chile is scandalous and most middle-class Chileans live in precarity. Now Chile is roiled by mass protests and looting; the government has declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in many cities across the country.

The scale of the looting shows that the country has a structural problem with a clear name: inequality. The per capita income of the bottom quintile of Chileans is less than $140 a month. Half the population earns about $550. Tax evasion has cost the treasury approximately $1.5bn. Two-thirds of Chileans believe that it is unfair that those who can pay more have access to better health and education. They’re right.

The images of discontent and anger around the country are shocking to watch. Yet the current Chilean administration and much of the political class simply do not seem to understand the magnitude of the problem or what is at stake. On Friday night, as the situation spiraled out of control, the president, Sebastián Piñera, dined in Vitacura, the richest neighborhood in Santiago. A few days earlier, the minister of economy suggested that since the price of the Santiago metro is cheaper in the morning, people should get up early to save money. Attitudes like these only reinforce the existing malaise.

How have Chilean authorities responded so far? On the one hand, they have kept an inexplicable silence and their actions have been late and incompetent. On the other hand, the government has begun advancing an increasingly authoritarian message implying that the conflict must be solved with repression.

“Chile is at war,” Piñera declared on Sunday night. He argued that the country is facing a powerful and violent foe and that the government should respond in kind. Those who lived through the Pinochet dictatorship heard those words with dismay. While it is true that the looting is serious and security is needed, it is alarming that the government does not have the slightest interest in understanding the social discontent in Chilean society.

The Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously argued that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. When the president of Chile asserts that the country is at war and implies that the armed forces must solve the problem, he has effectively abdicated his job: to govern. (Luckily, Gen Javier Iturriaga, who is in charge of the emergency situation, later declared that he is not at war with anyone.) Piñera and his advisers do not seem to understand that the problem facing the country is not a military one but a political one. This crisis is, at heart, an urgent message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract.

The longer it takes the government to understand this, the harder it will be to get out of this catastrophe. Real political reforms will take time, but there are symbolic measures that the government could take as a first step, like firing the cabinet ministers who have shown themselves to be most out of touch with their own people.

It is also worth remembering that increasing economic inequality is not a Chilean phenomenon but a global phenomenon. Hopefully other governments see the lesson here: rampant economic inequality is dangerous to social stability.

If the Chilean government chooses a repressive path, it will not only generate more violence, but also give greater voice to radical and autocratic rightwing forces. Democracy itself is at stake. If Piñera wants to wage war, he should wage war on the real enemy: inequality. This war can be won only through politics and not by other means.”
chile  2019  sebastiánpiñera  protests  economics  protest  neoliberalism  inequality  capitalism  politics  policy  cristóbalrovirakaltwasser  autocracy  democracy  carlvonclausewitz  javieriturriaga  violence  precarity  elitism 
26 days ago by robertogreco
The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn’t from protesters. It’s from Piñera and the 1% | Oscar Guardiola-Rivera | Opinion | The Guardian
“The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn’t from protesters. It’s from Piñera and the 1%

Protest criminalised, direct action equated with terrorism: it’s starting to feel like the bad old days of Pinochet

“We’re at war against a powerful enemy,” declared President Sebastián Piñera live on Sunday night TV from the Chilean army headquarters. “Democracy not only has the right but the duty to defend itself using all instruments … and the rule of law to fight those who would destroy it.” You may be forgiven for thinking Chilean democracy is besieged by some terrifying force: a foreign army, or even an invader from outer space. Nothing could be further from the truth. Piñera’s statement is doublethink: a lie travelling the world while truth is still putting on its boots.

But who is the enemy Piñera has gone to war with? One of his government’s own making – namely, the poorer people of Chile. This is the country that is the ground-zero for the neoliberal economic model now in crisis all over the world. From Canada and the United States to Chile and Argentina, the fire this time in the Americas and elsewhere is being fanned by the few. They’ve benefited the most from an economic model that consists of squeezing the many. And now, having nothing else to lose but their bullshit jobs and half-lives, the dispossessed are rising up like an army.

The Chilean people have been robbed of everything. Health, education, water, transport, all basic services have been privatised. Hope has been privatised. What else is there to do? Protest peacefully? Done that.

I witnessed a dance-in a few years back in Santiago. Dressed up like zombies in a 1980s Michael Jackson video, the student movement demanded free public education. They’ve been doing so since 2006. The protests intensified in 2011, during the first Piñera administration: 70% of the population supported their demands, widely seen as part of a general desire to transform the economic and political model established by the military dictatorship that governed the country from 1973 to 1990, after the violent coup against democratic socialist Salvador Allende.

Consider Chile’s privatised education system. It emerged during the Pinochet years in the 1980s, resulting in the 1990 education constitutional framework, signed by the general himself. After the first wave of student mobilisations, Pinochet’s framework was replaced by the 2009 General Education Law, which introduced no significant changes.

Like the rest of Chile’s neoliberal model, it was set in constitutional stone so that its reform or repeal would be nearly impossible. Such provisions became part of a constitutional framework designed by Pinochet’s intellectual collaborators like Jaime Guzmán, who was responsible for drafting most of the constitution that still governs Chile.

Guzmán was inspired by Francoist falangism and Third Reich constitutionalism, revised for a late 20th-century landscape. According to this ethos, respect for the constitution and the rule of law only goes as far “as the situation permits”, as the junta members put it on 11 September 1973, the day of the coup. This qualification has been accepted by all post-dictatorship rulers of Chile, if not in principle at least in practice.

In the dictatorship, meaningful protest and direct action were forbidden. Engaging in such acts meant risking summary execution, torture or disappearance. In the democracy, nominal rights to protest exist but remain severely limited. Social protest is frequently criminalised and direct action often equated with terrorism.

Judging from the videos and testimonies circulated this week by concerned citizens and protesters, engaging in such acts still risks violent reprisals from the authorities.

The Pinochet regime offers us a lesson: a neoliberal model can only be established by a campaign of scapegoating and lies, underpinned by the promise to “take back control”, “restore order and the constitution” and deliver “the will of the people”, plus a modicum of force. It can only be maintained if such force is normalised, shielding the model from the protests of the left-behind, which are inevitable when the dispossessed realise the game was rigged from the very outset. These were the tactics of Chile’s military junta. Clearly, its actions have echoes in the present.

This time, the spark that blew the powder keg came on 13 October, when the transport ministry announced the Santiago underground fare would rise by 30 pesos. Thereafter, school students began organising fare-dodging acts of protest all over the city. Thirty pesos might not sound much. And if you squint, Chile’s economy isn’t doing that badly: it has a GDP of $15,902 (£14,155) per capita, one of the highest in Latin America.

But for the many, Chile’s workers and precariat, the average salary is low: only £350 per month. Commuters coming from the peripheries to work in the capital may have to spend between £50 to £70 a month on transport alone. Try to feed a family with what’s left in a country without universal healthcare or free education. It is the same across the continent – in Quito, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Rio. No wonder the hemisphere is exploding.

After the adults started joining students in fare-dodging protests, economics minister Juan Fontaine, very much of the free-market Chicago school, advised them to get up earlier to avoid the more expensive fares. His colleague, transport minister Gloria Hutt, later implied fare-dodgers were criminals. As protests raged across the city, a video of Piñera partying at an upscale restaurant during his grandson’s birthday went viral. People took to the streets.

Piñera then did what they all do – the Trumps, the Bolsonaros, the Johnsons of this world. He stamped his authority in the name of democracy, law, and the will of the people. In the country of Pinochet, Piñera resorted to the behaviour of a dictator.

The state is now behaving like security for the country’s privatised industries. The crackdown is not about protecting the people. It’s not about 30 pesos. It’s about 30 years of an economic model elevated to the level of constitutional principle for the benefit of those who got richer during the Pinochet years, and continue to get even richer during Piñera’s – while the many suffer. They’re not taking it any more.”
oscarguardiola-rivera  2019  chile  sebastiánpiñera  protest  protests  democracy  inequality  plutocracy  oligarchy  capitalism  neoliberalism  dictatorship  pinochet  precarity  economics  politics  policy  violence  society  jaimeguzmán  constitution 
26 days ago by robertogreco
Chileans Have Launched a General Strike Against Austerity
"Chile is the original home of neoliberalism, first begun after the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in 1973. If you listen closely to mass protests on the streets today, you can hear Allende's last words: “The people must defend themselves.”"
chile  2019  history  neoliberalism  economics  chicagoboys  miltonfriedman  salvadorallende  felipelagos-rojas  franciscagómez-baeza  capitalism  inequality  privatization  precarity  sebastiánpiñera  imf  society  government  governance  dispossession  debt  credit  pinochet 
26 days ago by robertogreco
‘Parasite’ and South Korea’s Income Gap: Call It Dirt Spoon Cinema - The New York Times
"Bong Joon Ho’s latest film joins a growing list of movies criticizing South Korean inequality — a problem so pervasive it has given birth to its own slang."

...

"While such inequality afflicts the United States and many other countries, South Korea’s income distribution is remarkably lopsided. In 2015, the top 10 percent of South Koreans held 66 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the poorer half of the population held only 2 percent, according to figures cited by Kyung Hyun Kim, a professor of East Asian studies at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of several books on Korean cinema. In addition, large numbers of South Korea’s elite inherited their wealth.

That inequity, combined with scandals involving corruption among the privileged, have bred so much bitterness and frustration among Koreans that new slang phrases have emerged in recent years, like “gold spoons” and “dirt spoons.”

“People who are born with a gold spoon are the ones who have made it,” the professor said. “The have-nots are dirt spoons. They will always be given a dirt spoon, and it will always be a struggle.”

The lack of social mobility for dirt spoons is at the heart of “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon Ho. The Kims are each smart and talented in their own ways. Yet they are so poor — they crouch next to a toilet just to steal a neighbor’s Wi-Fi — that there is no clear path for them to succeed.

Though economically disadvantaged Americans face a similar plight, in South Korea, job prospects can be tied to family background, as when employers ask about applicants’ parents, a practice that could favor the privileged, Kim, the professor, said. Furthermore, investigations have uncovered nepotistic practices, like private schools’ preference for installing family members in teaching positions.

So why not fake it till you make it? In “Parasite,” the Kims’ son, Ki-woo, fluent in English, uses a referral from a privileged friend and counterfeit college credentials to trick the Parks into giving him a job as a language tutor for their teenage daughter. Ki-woo’s sister, Ki-jung, pretends to be an art therapist and gets hired to work with the Parks’ disturbed little boy. Dad and Mom soon join the subterfuge by posing as a professional driver and a housemaid for the Parks, who are as gullible as they are neurotic about cleanliness."
bongjoon-ho  parasite  film  inequality  koreas  southkorea  2019  class  nepotism  elitism  capitalism  education  society  socialmobility  precarity 
27 days ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Chile Learns the Price of Economic Inequality - The New York Times
“Chile is often praised as a capitalist oasis, a prospering and stable nation on a continent where both prosperity and stability have been in short supply. But that prosperity has accumulated mostly in the hands of a lucky few. As a result, Chile has one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the developed world.

Now that inequality is threatening the country’s stability. Santiago, the capital and largest city, has been convulsed by protests that were sparked by an increase in subway fares but that have become an expression of broader grievances: against the poor quality of public health care and education; against low wages and the rising cost of living; against the meager pensions that Chileans receive in old age.

Sebastián Piñera, the billionaire elected president in 2017, initially responded with belligerence, declaring the Chilean government “at war” with the protesters, some of whom have burned buildings and subway stations and engaged in looting — behavior that is undoubtedly criminal and reprehensible.

But most of the protesters are engaged in the peaceful exercise of their democratic rights. And on Tuesday, a chastened Mr. Piñera acknowledge his administration and its predecessors had failed to address their legitimate grievances.

“I ask for forgiveness for this shortsightedness,” Mr. Piñera said. He proposed a slate of reforms, including an increase in the top income tax rate, an increase in retirement benefits, and a guaranteed minimum monthly income.

The protesters’ rage is born of the frustrations of everyday life.

Chileans live in a society of extraordinary economic disparities. The distribution of income before taxes is highly unequal throughout the developed world; by that measure, Chile sits roughly in the middle of the 36 developed democracies that constitute the membership of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What makes Chile an outlier among those 36 nations is that the government does less than nearly any other developed nation to reduce economic inequality through taxes and transfers. As a result, Chile has the highest level of post-tax income inequality among O.E.C.D. members.

Santiago’s prosperity is undeniable. Viewed from the top of the tallest building in South America, which stands in the middle of a financial district called “Sanhattan,” neighborhoods with luxury apartments, private hospitals and private schools stretch as far as the eye can see.

But Santiago’s poverty also is striking: crumbling public hospitals, overcrowded schools, shantytowns that sit on the outskirts of the metropolis.

And farther from Santiago are cities untouched by the recent boom.

“The people who govern the country seem to be living in a different world from the rest of us,” Enrique Araya, a 49-year-old lawyer, told a Times reporter on Friday as he and his family banged pots outside of a Santiago subway station — a traditional form of protest.

Chile is not suffering from a lack of resources but instead from an unsustainably narrow conception of its obligations to its citizens. The military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1973 to 1990 rewrote the nation’s laws and economic policies and reshaped its institutions to encourage free-market competition and to minimize the role of government. Its legacy endures. Even after increases in recent years, the Chilean government still spends a smaller share of total economic output than every other nation in the O.E.C.D.

The obvious path for Chile is for the government to spend more money improving the quality of life for a vast majority of Chileans, who are exposed to the vicissitudes of a market economy while being denied a sufficient share of the benefits. It is an extreme version of the challenge facing many developed nations, including the United States.

Some Chilean plutocrats appear to be awakening to the reality that Chile cannot sustain broad support for its economic system without a stronger safety net. Andrónico Luksic Craig, chairman of Quiñenco, a financial and industrial conglomerate, wrote on Saturday on Twitter that he was ready to pay higher taxes.

“There is no magic,” he wrote — no alternative to simply spreading the wealth more evenly.

Now that Mr. Piñera has acknowledged the need for change, he faces the challenge of showing that he can chart a new course.”
2019  chile  protests  sebastiánpiñera  history  dictatorship  chicagoboys  capitalism  inequality  policy  neoliberalism  santiago  protest  prosperity  precarity 
27 days ago by robertogreco
'Global Trumpism': Bailouts, Brexit and battling climate change | CBC Radio
[Also here:
https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/global-trumpism-how-rogue-code-writers-became-the-authors-of-our-politics-1.5321199
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-23-ideas/clip/15741291-global-trumpism-bailouts-brexit-and-battling-climate-change ]

“How did the middle class end up in perpetual debt? Why is there ‘no money’ for infrastructure or social programs, but there is for waging war? And what does all this have to do with Donald Trump, or Brexit, or climate change?

If you’re mystified about any of the above, then author and Brown University professor Mark Blyth can clarify things for you. He says it’s helpful to use a computer metaphor to describe the economy.

In his lecture at McMaster University as part of their Socrates Project, Blyth compared capitalist economies to laptops: different makes, but similar in appearance. He argues these computers run just fine for a while — say, about 30 years . But all the while, there are bugs in the software that eventually causes the system to crash. Then you rebuild the hardware, fix the software, and reboot.

System breakdown
That’s what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when labour costs and inflation became a problem. The ‘system rebuild’ included less powerful unions, more global trade, and central bankers who were put in charge of setting interest rates.

But this new system generated bugs of its own, among them, a runaway culture of lending, and a lack of wage growth among the middle classes, who did a lot more borrowing than they could afford.

Mark Blyth says this borrowing wasn’t just driven by rampant consumerism.

“How do you get by when … everybody tells you there’s no inflation, yet the cost of everything that matters is actually going up? Education, health care, all that sort of stuff,” Blyth said in his lecture.

“And the only way you can fill in the gap is to borrow more money.”

Cue the 2008 financial crisis
However this time, Blyth says there was no rebuild. Instead, the United States Federal Reserve led a bailout of the big banks, domestically and internationally. The rich got much richer, the middle class got perpetual low interest rates to keep carrying their debts, and the poor had their social programs cut in the name of austerity.

Blyth contends this dynamic is what lit the fuse of global populism: the rise of leaders who appeal to public outrage, alienation, and lack of trust toward career politicians and traditional political parties.

“Your debts are too high…you can’t pay them off, but you can roll them over. They’re not going to be eaten away by inflation, and the people who brought you here have zero credibility,” said Blyth.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGuaoARJYU0 ]

Blyth compares populist leaders to ‘rogue code-writers’, hacking into the software of a system that was never properly rebuilt after the crisis of 2008. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it strengthens democracies.

“[Populism] is now part of the furniture … It’s already changed, so just get used to it. And let’s remember historically that 100 years ago, the people who were the populists then, the people that everyone was afraid of, became the established parties in many cases,” Blyth told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed.

“So every now and again you have to have a little revolution, and that’s what’s happening now.”

Populism is springing up on the right and the left, said Blyth. The difficult choices that need to be made about climate change could come from a left-wing populist movement, not unlike the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ proposed by younger American Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Looking at how things may unfold in the not-too-distant future, Blyth speculates “right populism wins round one.”

“But ultimately, left populism wins round two, because left populism is the only one that takes climate change seriously,” he concludes.”
2019  markblyth  economics  inequality  brexit  donaldtrump  trumpism  fragility  greatrecession  2007  2008  policy  democracy  personaldebt  debt  taxes  wealth  income  climatechange  bailouts  finance  recessions  recession  oligarchy  popularism  berniesanders  banking  global  financialcrisis  inflation  productivity  consumerism  stockmarket  ipos  wages  middleclass  capitalism  us  uk  canada  caymanislands  delaware  arizona  isleofman  austerity  nahlahayed  latecapitalism  federalreserve  priorities  centralbanks  monetarypolicy  politics  alangreenspan  economists  loans  creditcards  spending 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Renata Ávila: "The Internet of creation disappeared. Now we have the Internet of surveillance and control” | CCCB LAB
““At the start of the 21st century, one of the questions that excited me most about access to the Internet was the possibility of producing infinite copies of books and sharing knowledge. That idea of an Internet that was going to be a tool for integration and access to knowledge has shattered into smithereens. It was a booby trap. We are working as the unpaid slaves of the new digital world. I feel that it’s like when the Spanish colonisers reached Latin America. We believed the story of ‘a new world’. And we were in a box, controlled by the most powerful country in the world. We should have regulated a long time before. And we should have said: ‘I will share my photo, but how are you benefitting and how am I?’ Because what we are doing today is work for free; with our time, creativity and energy we are paying these empires. We are giving them everything”.”



“We move into the field of ethics and ask Renata Ávila about three concepts that have modified their meaning in the last decade, precisely due to the acceleration with which we have adopted technology. They are trust, privacy and transparency and how these influence the new generations. We cannot divorce these three questions from the concepts of austerity, precarity and the institutional corruption crisis”, she argues. “Letting strangers into your home to spend the night, is that an excess of trust or the need to seek resources?”.”



“After all that has been discussed, some might think that this Guatemalan activist is so realistic that she leaves no room for optimism. But Renata Ávila does not like being negative and she is convinced that the human race is capable of finding resources to emerge from any “mess”, even at the most critical moments. “We have a perfect cocktail” – she says with a half-smile of worry. “A democratic crisis caused by some terrible leaders in power, with a climate-change and technological crisis. This can only lead to a collective reflection and make us reconsider on what planet we want to live in the future”.”
renataávila  2019  internet  history  surveillance  latinamerica  knowledge  labor  work  colonization  regulation  creativity  capitalism  web  online  activism  democracy  crisis  power  politics  technology  reflection  climatechange  transparency  privacy  corruption  precarity  austerity  trust  influence 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
What’s Happening In Sweden? – Bella Caledonia
"When it comes to making absurd exaggerations about this country to suit their beliefs, they are latecomers. If Sweden occupies an outsized position in the dystopian geography of the nativist right, this is derivative, a sacrilegious inversion of the role it has held for generations in the belief system of their progressive opponents.

It seemed harmless enough, a few years back, when no one talked about ‘fake news’ – but actually, what’s the difference between taking a small local experiment and blowing it up into a story about a whole country switching to a six-hour day, and taking a few local incidents involving immigrants and blowing these up into a story about a whole country where law and order is breaking down? The content is different, sure, and the consequences darker, but the basic pattern is the same."
sweden  dougladhine  myths  socialism  democracy  history  socialsafetynet  2019  bureaucracy  immigration  nationalism  whitesupremacy  arms  weapons  andrewbrown  dominichinde  scandinavia  nordiccountries  welfarestate  chile  pinochet  austerity  schools  schooling  education  privatization  markets  capitalism  labor  work  misinterpretation  england  uk  military  neutrality  foreignpolicy  coldwar  wwii  ww2  exceptionalism  modernity  socialdemocrats 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Empire, Militarization, and Popular Revolt in Africa - YouTube
“In what ways does militarization/militarism in the African context enable, extend and depend upon economic, military/’security’ relations with imperialist actors, most importantly the US and Israel?

What are the new/old justifications and mechanisms of imperialist intervention, war, and policing across the continent (e.g. AFRICOM, drone strikes, outsourcing of regional interventions, joint military trainings and ‘cooperation’ etc.)? How do they criminalize dissent and shape the contexts in which popular mobilization take place? What are the socio-economic, (geo)political structures and dynamics, historical legacies and past forms of mobilization that inform current revolts in Algeria and Sudan? What do they share in common and how do they differ from one another and past mobilizations? What kinds of connections can be made with current anti-colonial/anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist struggles currently underway in Puerto Rico and Haiti, as well as with struggles against racial capitalism and the police/carceral state in the US? What is the role of the US and its allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE) as counter-revolutionary actors? How can we build on past and existing forms of internationalism and contribute to reviving an anti-imperialist left in order to better support popular struggles across the African continent and beyond?”

[https://peoplesforum.org/event/empire-militarization-and-popular-revolt-in-africa/

“Empire, Militarization, and Popular Revolt in Africa
August 31 @ 2:00 pm - 5:15 pm

This event explores the themes of imperialism, militarization, police/carceral state, and resistance across the African continent with the aim of making broader regional and transnational connections with struggles elsewhere in order to build cross-regional solidarity.

2:00-3:30pm
‘Imperialist Interventions and Militarization across Africa and beyond’
Yasmina Price
Samar Al-Bulushi
Corinna Mullin
Kambale Musavuli
Khury Petersen-Smith

–BREAK—

3:45-5:15pm
“African Revolts”
Nisrin Elamin
Brahim Rouabah
Suzanne Adely”

Each panel will consist of short presentations to ensure time for meaningful discussion and the opportunity to share/ learn from our diverse experiences working on these themes in different contexts. Some of the questions that will be addressed include:

In what ways does militarization/militarism in the African context enable, extend and depend upon economic, military/’security’ relations with imperialist actors, most importantly the US and Israel? What are the new/old justifications and mechanisms of imperialist intervention, war, and policing across the continent (e.g. AFRICOM, drone strikes, outsourcing of regional interventions, joint military trainings and ‘cooperation’ etc.)? How do they criminalize dissent and shape the contexts in which popular mobilization take place? What are the socio-economic, (geo)political structures and dynamics, historical legacies and past forms of mobilization that inform current revolts in Algeria and Sudan? What do they share in common and how do they differ from one another and past mobilizations? What kinds of connections can be made with current anti-colonial/anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist struggles currently underway in Puerto Rico and Haiti, as well as with struggles against racial capitalism and the police/carceral state in the US? What is the role of the US and its allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE) as counter-revolutionary actors? How can we build on past and existing forms of internationalism and contribute to reviving an anti-imperialist left in order to better support popular struggles across the African continent and beyond?

Participant BIOS

Suzanne Adely is a long time Arab-American community organizer, with a background in global labor and human rights advocacy. She is a member of the Bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, National Lawyers Guild board member and co-chair of the NLG international committee and MENA subcommittee. She currently works for the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a bi-national alliance of worker based organizations in the food economy. She is a member of Al-Awda-NY, US Palestine Community Network and a newly launched Arab Workers Resource Center.

Samar Al-Bulushi is an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at University of California, Irvine. Her research is broadly concerned with militarism, policing, and the ‘War on Terror’ in East Africa. Previously, she worked with various human rights organizations and co-produced AfrobeatRadio and Global Movements, Urban Struggles on Pacifica’s WBAI in New York City.

Nisrin Elamin is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Columbia University Society of Fellows and a lecturer in the Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies Department. Her work explores the relationship between land, belonging, migration and geopolitics in post-secession Sudan. Her current project examines the ways landless and landholding communities are negotiating and contesting changes in land ownership prompted by a recent wave of Gulf Arab corporate investments in Sudanese land. She is affiliated with Girifna, a movement fighting for democracy and a transition to full civilian rule in Sudan.

Corinna Mullin is an adjunct professor at John Jay College and the New School. Her research examines the historical legacies of colonialism and contemporary imperialist interventions in shaping Global South security states in a way that facilitates labor exploitation, natural resource extraction and other forms of Global South value drain, with a focus on Tunisia.

Kambale Musavuli, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and one of the leading political and cultural Congolese voices, is a human rights advocate, Student Coordinator and National Spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo.

Khury Petersen-Smith is an activist and geographer who interrogates US empire. He is the Middle East Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a founding member of Black For Palestine.

Yasmina Price is a Black anti-imperialist Marxist committed to the liberation of colonised peoples and the abolishment of police, prisons and all oppressive structures. She has organized locally and led trainings within a socialist group, also participating in panels organized by Verso Books and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung focusing on global mechanisms of injustice. She is currently a PhD student in Black Cinema at Yale.

Brahim Rouabah is an Algerian activist and academic. He is the co-founder of the UK based Algerian Solidarity Campaign. He is currently working on his PhD in Political Science at the CUNY Grad Center. His research focuses on issues related to knowledge production, colonialism and the origins of capitalist property relations.

Co-sponsor by The Polis Project and Warscapes.
The Polis Project is a hybrid research and journalism organization producing knowledge about some of the most important issues affecting us, and amplifying diverse perspectives from those indigenous to the conflicts and crises affecting our world today. We aim to democratize scholarship, produce in-depth, critical journalism and knowledge for and by communities in resistance. We look to make sense of the world with its infinite injustices, inequality and violence, with the courage to reveal how existing systems, ideas, ideologies and laws have failed us. We unpack complexity by understanding that knowledge is power, and like all power, it shouldn’t be owned by a few people or corporations. And we pursue this by adapting our storytelling, analysis and research to the newest, most innovative ways of spreading work to engaged audiences everywhere.

Warscapes is an independent online magazine that provides a lens into current conflicts across the world. Established in 2011, Warscapes publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, interviews, book and film reviews, photo-essays and retrospectives of war literature from the past fifty years, and hosts public conversations, art shows, and film screenings in the United States, Europe and across Africa. Warscapes is motivated by a need to move past a void within mainstream culture in the depiction of people and places experiencing staggering violence, and the literature they produce. Apart from showcasing great writing from war-torn areas, the magazine is a tool for understanding complex political crises in various regions and serves as an alternative to compromised representations of those issues.]
africa  kenya  uganda  niger  tunisia  somalia  ghana  us  occupation  imperialism  africom  activism  migration  blacklivesmatter  israel  colonization  2019  solidarity  saudiarabia  unitedarabemirates  refugees  dehumanization  race  racism  policy  internationalism  capitalism  donaldtrump  military  militarization  islamophobia  egypt  history  mali  humanitarianism  funding  violence  sudan  algeria  libya  criminalization  specificity  drones  economics  china  burkinafaso  militarism  people’sforum  leftism  socialism  yasminaprice  samaral-bulushi  corinnamullin  kambalemusavuli  khurypetersen-smith  nisrinelamin  brahimrouabah  suzanneadely  class  liberalism  neoliberalism  cynicism  optimism  anticapitalism  antiimperialism  tuareg 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
La Hora de los Hornos - Parte 1 - Neocolonialismo y violencia : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
“La Hora de los Hornos - Parte 1 - Neocolonialismo y violencia

La Hora de los Hornos, es un film argentino realizado en 1968 por los cineastas Fernando “Pino” Solanas y Octavio Getino, integrantes en ese entonces del Grupo de Cine Liberación.

El film está dividido en tres partes:
1) “Neocolonialismo y violencia”
2) “Acto para la liberación”, dividido a su vez en dos grandes momentos “Crónica del peronismo (1945-1955)” y “Crónica de la resistencia (1955-1966)” [https://archive.org/details/ActoParaLaLiberacion ]
3) “Violencia y liberación” [https://archive.org/details/ViolenciaYLiberacion ]

El narrador es el locutor y actor Edgardo Suárez.

Esta película recién pudo ser estrenada formalmente en la Argentina en 1973 debido al contexto político de aquella época (para entonces ya había ganado varios premios en Europa).

En 1989 fue reestrenada y en 2008 reeditada en una versión extendida.”

[”La Hora de los Hornos, es un film argentino realizado en 1968 por los cineastas Fernando “Pino” Solanas y Octavio Getino, integrantes en ese entonces del Grupo de Cine Liberación.

Este film está dividido en tres partes: “Neocolonialismo y violencia”; “Acto para la liberación”, dividido a su vez en dos grandes momentos “Crónica del peronismo (1945-1955)” y “Crónica de la resistencia (1955-1966)”; “Violencia y liberación”. El narrador es el locutor y actor Edgardo Suárez.

Esta película recién pudo ser estrenada formalmente en la Argentina en 1973 debido al contexto político de aquella época (pero para entonces ya había ganado varios premios en Europa).

En 1989 fue reestrenada y en 2008 reeditada en una versión extendida.”
https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Hora_de_los_Hornos

“The Hour of the Furnaces (Spanish: La hora de los hornos) is a 1968 Latin American film directed by Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas. ‘The paradigm of revolutionary activist cinema’,[1] it addresses the politics of the 'Third worldist’ films and Latin-American manifesto of the late 1960s. It is a key part of the 'Third Cinema’, a movement which emerged in Latin America around the same time as the film’s release."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hour_of_the_Furnaces ]

[via:
(quotes)https://www.instagram.com/p/B3SjqOEgZm2/
(poster) https://www.instagram.com/p/B3SiGr0gCD_/ ]
neocolonialism  violence  latinamerica  1968  fernandosolanas  pinosolanas  octaviogetino  film  documentary  cheguevara  frantzfanon  disobedience  capitalism  cia  us  imperialism  edgardosuárez  thehourofthefurnaces  lahoradeloshornos  revolution  activism  politics  thirdcinema  peronismo  brasil  brazil  argentina  resistance  liberation  freedom  1973  2008  1989  history 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Mariame Kaba: Everything Worthwhile Is Done With Other People – Adi magazine
'Eve L. Ewing: Let’s talk more about organizing and activism because I think that that is a really important distinction. I do not identify as an activist. I am very frequently identified as an activist, which I find very puzzling. What do you see as the difference between those things?

Mariame Kaba: I think that people who are activists are folks who are taking action on particular issues that really move them in some specific way, but activism only demands that you personally take on the issue. That means signing petitions. Being on a board of a particular organization that’s doing good in the world.

That way, activist is super broad, and that’s why people call people activists. Your individual action, for example, of writing, can be a form of activism in the sense that it wants to educate people and get them to take action in their own way. You are in that way potentially being activist in your orientation, at least, if not in identity.

Organizers, however, can’t exist solo. Because who the hell are you organizing? You can’t just decide to wake up one morning and be like, “I’m just going to do this shit.” If you’re organizing, other people are counting on you, but more importantly, your actions are accountable to somebody else.

Organizing is both science and art. It is thinking through a vision, a strategy, and then figuring out who your targets are, always being concerned about power, always being concerned about how you’re going to actually build power in order to be able to push your issues, in order to be able to get the target to actually move in the way that you want to.

I have been an organizer for a big part of my life in the sense that I’ve been involved with other people in campaigns to move various things. But sometimes I’m just an activist.

But [in that case] I have no accountability to anybody, and that’s kind of dangerous. Because there are a lot of people doing a lot of shit that nobody can call them on.

Eve L. Ewing: Who is failed when that happens?

Mariame Kaba: I think that the people who are most directly impacted by the things people are doing are failed. Because they should have a say, and be part of the shaping of that thing that is about them. That’s critically important. But I also think that you yourself are failed if what you’re trying to do is do a hard large-scale thing and you don’t have any people.

Eve L. Ewing: Or you’re just trying to do it by yourself.

Mariame Kaba: It’s like, why?! You’re going to burn out. It’s not humanly possible for you to just be your Lone Ranger self out there in the world. Ella Baker’s question, “Who are your people?” when she would meet you is so important. Who are you accountable to in this world? Because that will tell me a lot about who you are.

And how much hubris must we have to think that us individual persons are going to have all the answers for generations worth of harm built by multi-millions of people? It’s like, I’m on a 500-year clock right now. I’m right here knowing that we’ve got a hell of a long time before we’re going to see the end. Right now, all we’re doing is building the conditions that will allow the thing to happen.

Eve L. Ewing: Furthermore, people who came before me have left me things that mean a lot to me that they will never live to see the fruition of. And so therefore it’s unreasonable for me to expect, “I’m going to fix this.” I think one of the biggest things we can do for ourselves is to recognize how, even as oppressed people, we have internalized the narrative of individualism.

Mariame Kaba: Capitalism is what helps us figure out the individualism part. It’s so married together. The itemization of everything into its own little sliver is capitalist. The other thing I learned from my friends, Mia Mingus and Leah Lakshmi and others who are disabled people in the world, is this notion of crip time. Folks who are disabled have to operate in the world in such a different register. That’s what Mia says all the time: the notion that we supposedly are not interdependent on each other can only exist in an ableist world. Because if you have any sort of disability, you desperately need a relationship with other people—you can’t be on your own or you will die. You have to recognize the interdependence, or build interdependence. You don’t have a choice. Crip time means, “We’re just going to get to it when we can.”

Disability justice gives us that real insight. I am not visibly disabled, but I’m chronically ill. Having lupus was a moment for me. The things I felt were super important were actually not that important—a re-frame of my whole entire existence—and I was like, oh, okay. “I can’t do this” meant something.

Eve L. Ewing: I want to circle back to visibility, and who is uplifted and not uplifted in movements. I sense you increasingly choosing visibility in different ways. I saw a picture of you in the New York Times and I was like, “Oh, my goodness.”

Mariame Kaba: I know.

Eve L. Ewing: So, I would love to hear your thoughts around why you generally choose to not be photographed, and some of your other choices around naming yourself, not centering yourself. And then ways in which that is changing, and why?

Mariame Kaba: That’s a really good question because it’s one of my struggle areas internally as a human being.

I grew up with mentors who taught me that the organizer is never up front. I would write things anonymously. I wrote a hell of a curricula, which I see still circulate today, with no attached name to it.

When I was in my 30s, I was doing a big curriculum project with a friend. She’s a white woman. We were finishing this project and I was like, “Oh, I don’t need to put my name on it.” I’m a believer in information access, free information access. I also don’t think my ideas are these original ideas. They belong to a lineage. So I always felt not proprietary.

She said, “It’s interesting to me. As someone who a lot of younger people look up to, younger women of color in particular, and your own interest in history, it’s so interesting to see you erasing yourself from history.”

Eve L. Ewing: She hit you with the “interesting”!

Mariame Kaba: Like daggers. She’s a very good friend of mine. But the fact that a white woman said that to me just messed with me. And did it from a place of real care, you know?

Eve L. Ewing: Yeah. “I just think it’s funny how…”

Mariame Kaba: “I just think it’s funny how you’re willing to erase yourself from history when you’re always recapturing histories of all these black women in your multiple projects, and you’re always talking about how you had to find them in the archives, right? And you’re literally erasing yourself at the moment. Also, it’s interesting that the younger people are seeing you do that.”

I was like, “Oh, wow.”

I took a breath, I thought about it really, really hard, and I was like, “You know what, actually? In part, she’s right.” In part, I still believe in just not centering myself. [But] she’s right in this sense: how are people going to be able to trace the lineage of ideas if I’m writing a whole bunch of things that no one knows I wrote, right?

That began the shift in my life around putting my name on my stuff. They email me from New Zealand and they’re like, “Thank you for putting out this thing. We’re using it.” I also know that the ideas are traveling, and that makes me feel good about that work, and I never got that before. So, that was a gut-check moment for me around being like, “At least put your name on your shit.”"

...

"Eve L. Ewing: When you say litigation focused, you mean specifically around litigating Jon Burge [the Chicago police commander notorious for torturing people into giving false confessions]?

Mariame Kaba: Yeah. Prosecution, jail, and all these cops going to jail. Then, Joey Mogul [a Chicago-based attorney at the People’s Law Office, known for representing victims of police torture] came to me in late 2010 or early 2011 and said, “I hear you. We had these conversations for years, and everybody’s left empty now that Burge [was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice]. The survivors who remain haven’t gotten anything, and the statute of limitations [for torture victims] has run out, and we have no court recourse. It’s got to be political, and also I have evolved on abolition myself.”

It wasn’t a mea culpa; it was just a recognition that we need something else, and what can we do? That’s when art was the offering. We said, let’s ask people for [ideas for] secular memorials, and that reparations ordinance was one of the secular memorials.

All the things people talk about are in the abstract, but it’s not. It is about listening to feelings from our imaginations, right? Art can be uniquely situated for that. That’s why cultural work is an organic part of organizing, even when organizers don’t know it.

Eve L. Ewing: Artists are always there.

Mariame Kaba: They’re there. They’re there as the people to help us think through it. Why does this have to be? It doesn’t have to be like this. You can think of something totally fucking different. Why are you all stuck in the presentist moment? You can dream a future. We need that so desperately in the world.

Eve L. Ewing: Who are your heroes?

Mariame Kaba: God, I have so many touchstones. I believe in touchstones, people who you go back to in particular moments where you need something.

I turn to Baldwin a lot. I read him when I’m feeling a sense of despair over the world that I’m in. I find a sentence that he wrote and it’s like, “Ooh, yes.”

I think about so many of the black communist and socialist women of the first part of the century. If they could go through what they went through, if Marvel Cooke could go through the Red Scare and through being fired by… [more]
mariamekaba  eveewing  prisonabolition  prisons  sociology  knowledge  relationships  organizing  stuggle  activism  restorativejustice  transformativejustive  angeladavis  history  education  community  accountability  ellabaker  capitalism  individualism  mutualaid  miamingus  leahlakshmi  disabilities  diability  visibility  anonymity  information  access  accessibility  erasure  self-erasure  reparations  jails  incarceration  touchstones  heroes  jamesbaldwin  marvelcooke  redscare  idabwells  ruthwilsongilmore  bethrichie  camaralaye  waltwhitman  poetry  colonialism  criminaljustive  police  policeviolence 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake - The New York Times
"It rhymes with ‘schneo-liberalism.’ It was an economic disaster and a political dead end."

...

"In 2009, Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.

Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party’s economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.

If he’d been in the mood to press the case, Obama might have found widespread public appetite for the sort of aggressive, interventionist restructuring of the American economy that Franklin D. Roosevelt conjured with the New Deal. One of the inspiring new president’s advisers even hinted that was the plan.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said days after the 2008 election.

And then Obama took office. And rather than try for a Rooseveltian home run, he bunted: Instead of pushing for an aggressive stimulus to rapidly expand employment and long-term structural reforms in how the economy worked, Obama and his team responded to the recession with a set of smaller emergency measures designed to fix the immediate collapse of financial markets. They succeeded: The recession didn’t turn into a depression, markets were stabilized, and the United States began a period of long, slow growth.

But they could have done so much more. By the time Obama took office, job losses had accelerated so quickly that his advisers calculated the country would need $1.7 trillion in additional spending to get back to full employment. A handful of advisers favored a very large government stimulus of $1.2 trillion; some outside economists — Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith — also favored going to a trillion.

But Obama’s closest advisers declined to push Congress for anything more than $800 billion, which they projected would reduce unemployment to below 8 percent by the 2010 midterms. They were wrong; the stimulus did reduce job losses, but it was far too small to hit the stated goal — unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010.

Obama’s advisers also rejected ideas for large infrastructure projects. They offered a plan to prevent just 1.5 million foreclosures — when, ultimately, 10 million Americans lost their homes. And they declined to push for new leadership on Wall Street, let alone much punishment for the recklessness that led to the crisis.

“He chose an economic recovery plan that benefited educated, well-off people much more than the middle class,” writes Reed Hundt, a Democrat who is a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in his recent history of Obama’s first two years, “A Crisis Wasted.”

A lot of this might be excusable; it was an emergency, and Obama and his team did what they could. But Obama’s longer record on the economy is also coming under fire from the left. The Obama people — many of whom came to the White House from Wall Street and left it for Silicon Valley — seemed entirely too comfortable with the ongoing corporatization of America.

In the Obama years, the government let corporations get bigger and economic power grow more concentrated. Obama’s regulators declined to push antimonopoly measures against Google and Facebook, against airlines and against big food and agriculture companies.

It is true that Obama succeeded in passing a groundbreaking universal health care law. It’s also true that over the course of his presidency, inequality grew, and Obama did little to stop it. While much of the rest of the country struggled to get by, the wealthy got wealthier and multimillionaires and billionaires achieved greater political and cultural power.

What’s the point of returning to this history now, a decade later? Think of it as a cautionary tale — a story that ought to rank at the top of mind for a Democratic electorate that is now choosing between Obama’s vice president and progressives like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who had pushed Obama, during the recovery, to adopt policies with more egalitarian economic effects.

From this distance, the history favors Warren’s approach. As Hundt notes, not only did Obama’s policy ideas produce lackluster economic results (at least in that they failed to hit their stated goals), they failed politically, too. The sluggish recovery in Obama’s first years led to a huge loss for Democrats in the 2010 midterms. Obama was re-elected, but during his time in office, Democrats saw declining national support — and in 2016, of course, they lost the White House to Donald Trump, an outcome that Warren has tied directly to Obama’s early economic decisions.

Why had Obama chosen this elitist path? Another new book, “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy,” by the antimonopoly scholar Matt Stoller, provides a deeply researched answer. It boils down to this: Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, was the product of a Democratic Party that had forgotten its history and legacy. For much of the 20th century, Democrats’ fundamental politics involved fighting against concentrations of economic power in favor of the rights and liberties of ordinary people. “The fight has always been about whether monopolists run our world, or about whether we the people do,” Stoller writes.

But in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, as Stoller explains, Democrats altered their economic vision. They abandoned New Deal and Great Society liberalism in favor of a new dogma that came to be known as neoliberalism — a view of society in which markets and financial instruments, rather than government policy and direct intervention, are seen as the best way to achieve social ends.

Obama’s biggest ideas were neoliberal: The Affordable Care Act, his greatest domestic policy achievement, improved access to health care by altering private health-insurance markets. Obama aimed to address the climate crisis by setting up a market for carbon, and his plan for improving education focused on technocratic, standards-based reform. Even Obama’s historical icons were neoliberal — the neoliberals’ patron saint being Alexander Hamilton, the elitist, banker-friendly founding father who would be transformed, in Obama’s neoliberal Camelot, into a beloved immigrant striver with very good flow.

It is tricky to criticize Obama from the left in the Trump era. There’s still widespread nostalgia and good feeling for Obama as a political figure — and, considering the disaster of the current administration, it feels almost churlish to re-examine his years in office. There are also a range of good defenses for Obama’s policies. “I have no doubt that when historians look back on the Obama years, he will and should be given credit for preventing a second Great Depression,” Christina Romer, one of the advisers who had pushed for much greater stimulus, told me.

Obama’s policies were also perfectly in line with prevailing orthodoxy — it’s likely that Hillary Clinton would have pursued similar measures if she’d won the 2008 primary. It is also worth noting that, ahem, parts of the punditocracy shared his market-fetishizing philosophy: I wrote skeptically of antitrust prosecution against Google in 2009, 2010, and 2015.

But that’s exactly why I found Stoller’s book so insightful. The long history of Democratic populism is unknown to most liberals today. Only now, in the age of Sanders and Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are we beginning to relearn the lessons of the past. For at least three decades, neoliberalism has brought the left economic half-measures and political despair. It’s time to demand more."
farhadmanjoo  2008  2009  politics  barackobama  democrats  greatrecession  neoliberalism  economics  missedopportunities  toldyaso  obamacare  unemployment  finance  inequality  banking  elitism  billclinton  policy  2015  antitrust  google  hillaryclinton  2016  donaldtrump  markets  capitalism  liberalism  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  alexandriaocasio-cortez  mattstoller  monopolies  alexanderhamilton  healthcare  newdeal  power  corporations  corporatization  reedhundt  middleclass  crisis  josephstiglitz  jamesgalbraith  paulkrugman  2010  2019 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Episode 87: Nate Silver and the Crisis of Pundit Brain by Citations Needed Podcast
"Nate Silver tell us Joe Biden’s inconsistent political beliefs are, in fact, a benefit. They’re “his calling card” and evidence he “reads the room pretty well”. Venality, we are told, is “a normal and often successful [mode] for a politician.” Insurgent progressive groups like Justice Democrats shouldn’t call Biden out of touch with the base because, Silver tell us, “only 26 of the 79 candidates it endorsed last year won their primaries, and only 7 of those went on to win the general election.”

On Twitter and his in columns, high-status pundit Nate Silver, has made a career reporting on the polls and insisting he’s just a dispassionate, non-ideological conduit of Cold Hard Facts, just channeling the holy word of data. Empirical journalism, he calls it. But this schtick, however, is very ideological - a reactionary worldview that prioritizes describing the world, rather than changing it. For Silver - and data-fetishists like him - politics is a sport to be gamed, rather than a mechanism for improving people’s lives.

We are joined by Current Affairs editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson."
natesilver  statistics  elections  politics  2008  2012  2016  2020  2019  polling  data  punditry  538  cynicism  snark  smartpeople  joebiden  nathanrobinson  citationsneeded  racism  mattyglesias  justicedemocrats  progressive  elizabethwarren  barackobama  hillaryclinton  berniesanders  change  meaning  purpose  belief  capitalism  statusquo  ideology  morality  ethics  debates  priorities  quantification  policy  horseraces  gamification  horseracepolitics  electibility  ideas  gaming  chicktodd  media  nytimes  abcnews  espn  donaldtrump  datafetishism  progressivism  values  betting  observationeffect  voting  us  analysis  trolling  entertainment  probability  apathy  apolitical 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Meritocrat Who Wants to Unwind the Meritocracy - The New York Times
"In “The Meritocracy Trap,” Daniel Markovits delivers a fierce indictment of a system he says is undermining democracy and making everyone miserable."
meritocracy  danielmarkovits  inequality  democracy  society  misery  capitalism  elitism  2019 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Cile: la strage di Pinochet : cile: Internet Archive
[“United Kingdom” by Ken Loach is about the September 11, 1973 Coup d’état in Chile. It’s a segment from the film 11’09"01 September 11. (via Sophia)

11’09"01 September 11
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/11%2709%2201_September_11 ]

[Also here: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x415e ]
kenloach  chile  1973  salvadorallende  pinochet  coup  henrykissinger  richardnixon  intervention  democracy  imperialism  capitalism  socialism  via:sophia  cia 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
What Salvador Allende Feared
"On September 11, 1973, Chile’s socialist president Salvador Allende was overthrown in a CIA-backed military coup. In this 1971 interview, published in English for the first time, Allende expressed his fears of internal destabilization and US interference."
salvadorallende  1973  1971  chile  history  us  intervention  rossana  rossanda  henrykissenger  richardnixon  socialism  cia  capitalism  democracy  coup 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Student Debt Is Transforming the American Family | The New Yorker
"A great deal has changed since Kimberly’s parents attended college. From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards or auto loans. Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness.

Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net. But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills.

These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference. Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twentysomethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream."
caitlinzaloom  2019  capitalism  money  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  latecapitalism  parenting 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
When Your Kid's College Education Could Wreck You Financially, Should You Pay? | Here & Now
"The cost of college has soared. But for many middle-class families, paying for a kid's education has become both a financial and a moral issue.

"We are in a situation where we've forced parents to choose between the values of financial prudence and the values of parenthood, says Caitlin Zaloom, author of "Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost," and New York University professor of social and cultural analysis.

Zaloom (@caitlinzaloom) talks with Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd about how families should balance their own finances with the desire to open doors for their children."
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | How Paying for College Is Changing Middle-Class Life - The New York Times
“Everyone knows that higher education is expensive. The average annual price tag for attending a private, four-year American college is now around $50,000. To pay that, most students receive some combination of financial aid and loans, but schools expect parents to reach into their bank accounts, too.

Paying for college, however, is taking a toll on American families in ways that are more profound and less appreciated than even the financial cost conveys. It has fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class in this country.

Although middle-class families have long labored to help their children get educated, only recently has the struggle to pay for it — which can threaten the solvency of the family and cast children in the role of risky “investments” — transformed the character of family life. It is altering relationships between parents and children and forcing them to adjust their responsibilities to each other.

As an anthropologist and professor at New York University, one of the world’s most expensive institutions of higher education, I’d long suspected that the cost of college — which has tripled at public colleges and universities in the past three decades — was affecting my students and their parents in more than just budgetary terms. But I wasn’t sure. Americans typically avoid discussions of personal finance, and parents frequently decline to discuss family finances with their children — until, too often, they have no choice.

So I embarked on a research project to better understand middle-class families who are taking on debt to pay for higher education. Over the past seven years, my research team and I conducted 160 in-depth interviews across the country, first with college students and then with their parents. I considered families to be middle class if the parents made too much money or had too much wealth for their children to qualify for major federal higher education grants, and if they earned too little or possessed insufficient wealth to pay full fare at most colleges.

As is customary with this kind of research, I offered the interviewees anonymity so that they would be more likely to participate and to be open and honest. Even still, gaining access was an arduous process.

Perhaps the central theme that emerged from this research was that for middle-class parents, the requirement to help pay for college is seen not merely as a budgetary challenge, but also as a moral obligation. The financial sacrifices required are both compelled and expected. They are what responsible parents should do for their children.

Indeed, shouldering the weight of paying for college is sometimes seen by parents as part of their children’s moral education. By draining their savings to pay for college, parents affirm their commitment to education as a value, proving — to themselves and to others — that higher education is integral to the kind of family they are.

The feeling of obligation is hardly illusory. Decades ago, when organized labor was strong and manufacturing jobs were plentiful, a four-year college degree was not needed to achieve or maintain a middle-class life. But now college is virtually essential, not only because the degree serves as a job credential, but also because the experience gives young adults the knowledge and social skills they need to participate in middle-class communities.

The result for middle-class families is a perpetual conflict between moral duty and financial reality. Again and again, the families I interviewed spoke of how hard it was to follow the steps that the federal government, financial industry players and financial experts advise, such as starting to save for college when the children are young. Indeed, I found that when experts instruct parents to economize, they force families into three common moral traps.

First, when their children are young, the parents face an impossible trade-off between spending on their present family needs and wants and saving for college. Few parents choose saving over spending on child development. Less than 5 percent of Americans have college savings accounts, and those who do are far wealthier than average.

For those with middle-class jobs, saving enough for college would mean compromising on the sort of activities — music education, travel, sports teams, tutoring — that enrich their children’s lives, keep them in step with their peers, deliver critical lessons in self-discipline and teach social skills. The paradox is that enrolling children in the programs that prepare them for college and middle-class life means draining the bank accounts that would otherwise fund higher education.

The second moral trap occurs when children begin applying for college. As nearly every family told me, the parents and the children place enormous value on finding the “right” college. This is far more than finding an affordable place to study; it is about finding the environment that best promises to help build a social network, generate life and career opportunities and allow young adults to discover who they are. With so much at stake, parents and children prioritize the “right” school — and then find ways to meet the cost, no matter what it takes.

An inescapable conclusion from my research is that the high cost of college is forcing middle-class families to engage in what I call “social speculation.” This is the third moral trap: Parents must wager money today that their children’s education will secure them a place in the middle class tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this bet will pay off — for the parents or the children. And too often, I found, it doesn’t. Some parents’ saving plans were waylaid by crises — health emergencies, job losses, family breakups — that were common enough but impossible to foresee. Likewise, many children failed to land well-paying jobs out of college, forcing them to bear the weight of paying off debt during the most vulnerable decade of their adult lives.

Paying the high cost of college also means jeopardizing the long-term financial security of the parents. The more parents spend on their children’s education, the less they have in their retirement accounts. Here we find another paradox: Parents make huge investments in education so that their children can maintain or achieve middle-class status, but in the process, they increase the risk of falling out of the middle class themselves.

One popular tip financial advisers give parents is to spend on college the way they’re supposed to act in an airplane that loses cabin pressure: first secure their own oxygen masks (by saving for retirement) and only then assist their children (by spending for college). In reality, though, parents act just as they would on the airplane. They take care of their children first.

It’s no wonder, then, that family finances are so shaky throughout the country. The median American household has only about $12,000 in savings.

It’s also no wonder that as so many of my interviews ended, parents joked about their financial predicament by saying they might win the lottery. They have come to see outlandish luck as their best chance of dealing with their predicament. And in the absence of real changes to the current system of paying for college, what other hope do they have?

Such speculative, wishful thinking may seem irrational. But until we reform how a college education is financed, that is how countless middle-class families are holding on to the American dream.”
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
What Is the Cost of College Doing to Families? - The Atlantic
“Joe Pinsker: In the past few decades, what’s changed in how families pay for college?

Caitlin Zaloom: College used to be a lot cheaper for families, because there was more funding from the government. If you think about the biggest educational systems, like the University of California system or the City University of New York system, these universities were free or practically free for decades. That was in part because of a belief that higher education was essential for the national project of upward mobility, and for having an educated citizenry.

So middle-class families didn’t always have to pay for college with debt. The shift began in the 1980s, in terms of a changing political philosophy. President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, said in 1981, “If people want to go to college bad enough, then there is opportunity and responsibility on their part to finance their way through the best way they can.” When those who argued that college is a private benefit framed it like that, it became logical to say that education should be paid for by the people that it benefits. And so in the 1990s, the vast expansion of loans for higher education began.

Pinsker: Many of the parents and children you interviewed about their college-related debt feared that they were being financially burdensome to their family members. Given the shift you just described, do you think that this represents people internalizing system-level problems as personal ones?

Zaloom: The families that I spoke with really feared the possibility that they would be a weight on each other. And that is very much a fear of failing under the terms of the current college financing system—people understand themselves as failing, but we give them unreasonable terms.

The fear is a really visceral feeling for parents. What they want is for their children to be able to go off into the world and become adults without the weight of their history—that of the parents—bringing them down. Across all of my interviews, it was so important to parents to enable their kids to move into open futures, not limited by the parents’ economic background. The idea of limiting the horizon of their children is almost inconceivable to the parents that I spoke with.

Parents understand something profound about living in a powerfully unequal society. They recognize that having a kid who can take their shots—who can really make the most of themselves—is essential to the possibility of reaching this far-off tier where people are living lives of stability and wealth. And if young adults are unable to take that shot, they face the possibility that they will be in either that constrained, eroding middle class that their parents belong to—or, worse, that they will fall, and fall far.

Pinsker: The middle-class parents in your book generally didn’t talk with their kids about the financial strain of paying for college. You note that this isn’t confined just to the subject of paying for college, but is the case with other financial matters too. Why do you think parents so often avoid conversations about money with their kids?

Zaloom: I think that one reason middle-class parents stay silent about their finances is that they feel vulnerable, in terms of their social standing. When families face financial difficulties, that makes them feel like they may fall out of the middle class and like they won’t be able to do what people like them are supposed to do—for instance, to be able to send their kid to a college that’s a good fit or to be able to retire securely. So that silence about money is a kind of last resort for shoring up a faltering middle-class identity.

Pinsker: What is the single change that you think would be most effective in making paying for college less fraught for families?

Zaloom: I think that it is essential to make public universities tuition-free or low-cost. That would do wonders for helping families understand that education is for them, and for opening up the imaginations of young people who don’t otherwise see college as a possibility. That is important in and of itself, but it’s also important because free tuition would take the pressure off families to reorganize their lives around trying to achieve this unmanageable financial goal, which is what we ask them to do now. And then ultimately, it would also benefit young adults, because they would be graduating without the kind of debt that would inhibit them from trying to figure out what kind of contribution they want to make to the world and what kind of job they want to have.

Pinsker: What would you say to people who would read what you just said and argue in response that money can’t just be given out to everyone like that?

Zaloom: Most of the economic arguments against free tuition are based on the notion that education is a private good—that a college education is like a house, in that it’s something you are buying and then hold the responsibility to pay back. I don’t dispute the calculations of those who support that argument. And I do understand that funding free or low college tuition would also benefit a lot of wealthier families. But, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I see higher education as being a fundamental public good that we have somehow defined as a private one.

Even considering that economic objection on its own terms, I would argue that higher education is now necessary for a stable life and a good job, in the way that K–12 education and a high-school degree was necessary 40 years ago. We now have a system that requires K–16 education for financial stability, so it’s important to fund that—we wouldn’t ask people to pay for 5th grade, so we shouldn’t also ask people to be paying for sophomore year.”
caitlinzaloom  joepinsker  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  studentdebt  middleclass  finance  education  economics  publicgood  precarity  inequality  2019  obligation  us  moraltraps  morality  debt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Brief Idyll of Late-Nineties Wong Kar-Wai
"In the summer of 1997 I was living in London, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’d left college and had been in the city for a year, trying, like so many other twentysomethings, to write a novel. I’d given myself a year, but as the chapters took shape so did a curious tension about the way my life was playing out. Part of me was exhilarated and determined: I was writing about a country and people—my people—that did not exist in the pages of formal literature; I was exploring sexual and emotional boundaries, forming relationships with people who seemed mostly wrong for me, but whose unsuitability seemed so right; I was starting, I thought, to untangle the various strands of my cultural identity: Chinese, Malaysian, and above all, what it meant to be foreign, an outsider.

But the increasing clarity of all this was troubled by a growing unsettledness: I had imagined that the act of writing my country and people into existence would make me feel closer to them, but instead I felt more distant. The physical separation between me and my family in Malaysia, which had, up to then, been a source of liberation, now created a deep anxiety. All of a sudden I saw the huge gulf between the person I had been and the one I now was. In the space of just five or six years, university education had given me a different view of life, a different appreciation of its choices. My tastes had evolved, the way I used language had changed—not just in terms of syntax and grammar but the very fact that standard English was now my daily language, rather than the rich mixture of Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Malaysian slang that I had used exclusively until the age of eighteen. I was writing about the place I was from, about the people I loved (and hated), but felt a million miles from them.

All around me, the world seemed to be repositioning itself in ways that seemed to mirror this exciting/confusing tension within me. Britain was in the grip of Cool Britannia fever, and London—multicultural, newly confident after the Labour Party’s victory in the elections—seemed to be the most exciting place on the planet, a city where minority groups of all kinds suddenly found their voice and artistic expression flourished alongside capitalism. On the other side of the world, where my family and friends lived, however, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis had just erupted, bringing the previously buoyant economies of Southeast Asia to their knees. On the phone with my parents, I heard news of one friend after another who’d lost their job or business. A new anxiety lurked in the voices of all those I spoke to in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region: an unspoken fear of civil unrest, of anti-Chinese violence that inhabited the passages of our histories in times of crisis. These fears were not unfounded: less than a year later, in Jakarta, where my father worked at the time, widespread anti-Chinese riots led to the murders of over a thousand people and hundreds of incidents of rape and burning of Chinese-owned property and businesses. Stay where you are, don’t come back, various friends cautioned.

On TV, I watched the handover of Hong Kong to China after one hundred years of British colonial rule, a transition that felt at once thrilling and scary: the passing of a country from one regime to another, with no one able to predict how the future would pan out. My sister, who had recently moved to Hong Kong to find work, decided that it would change nothing for her, and that she would stay.

I sank deeper into the world of my novel. I sought refuge in a place where I was in control—but even there, things weren’t working out. My characters were all divorced from their surroundings, trying to figure out how to live in a world on the cusp of change. They fell in love with all the wrong people. They didn’t belong to the country they lived in. I wanted the novel to be an antidote to the confusion around me but it wanted to be part of that mess. I was exhausted by it and by the end of that year, abandoned the manuscript.

It was exactly at that time that Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together found its way into the art house movie theaters of Europe. That summer he had won the Best Director prize at Cannes for the film—the first non-Japanese Asian to do so—and I’d seen the movie posters in magazines: Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung sitting dreamily in the back of a car, their faces bathed in a hypnotic yellow light. I’d grown up with these actors, iconic figures in Asian pop culture. I’d seen all their movies, and like so many of my contemporaries, knew the words to all the Leslie Cheung songs, which still take up several gigabytes of memory on my iPhone. I’d seen and swooned over Wong Kar-Wai’s previous films, Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, as well as a curious early work called Days of Being Wild, set partly in the Philippines and also starring Leslie Cheung. I thought I knew what to expect from Happy Together. It turned out that I had no idea at all.

It’s impossible to describe the intense rush of blood to the head that I felt on seeing these two leading actors—young, handsome, but somehow old beyond their years—in the opening scene. They are in a small bed in a boarding house in Buenos Aires. They are far from home, wondering what to do with their lives, how to make their relationship work again. Within seconds they are making love—a boyish tussle with playful ass-slapping that morphs quickly into the kind of rough, quick sex that usually happens between strangers, not long-term partners.

It was the end of the twentieth century; I had watched countless European movies where explicit sex was so much a part of the moviemaking vocabulary that it had long since lost the ability to shock me. But the people in this film were not random French or German actors, they were familiar figures of my childhood, spitting into their hands to lubricate their fucking.

The two men are partners in a turbulent relationship with extreme highs and lows. They travel to Argentina—as far away from home as possible—to try and salvage what they can of their love. Their dream is to travel to see the Iguaçu Falls, a journey which takes on totemic qualities as the movie progresses and their relationship once again falters. They break up. Tony Leung takes a lousy job as a doorman at a tango bar; Leslie Cheung—promiscuous, volatile—becomes a sort of rent boy, though the precise nature of his relationships with other men is never clearly defined. (Over the years I’ve developed a resistance to remembering the characters’ names, wanting, I guess, to imagine that Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung were actually in a relationship.) Leslie drifts in and out of Tony Leung’s life, sometimes bringing his tricks to the bar where Tony works. From time to time they appear ready to get back together again, but they always miss their chance to connect—often in a literal sense, for example when one goes looking for the other, but goes into one door just as the other emerges from an adjacent one.

Their relationship is a series of missed connections, but it is more tragic than two people simply being in the wrong frame of mind at the wrong time. It is impossible for the men to achieve intimacy because they are unable to carve out their place in the world—neither in Buenos Aires nor in Hong Kong, which is referred to often but never in comforting or nostalgic terms. Their new city is not welcoming, and neither is their home country. The same set of problems they escaped from home to avoid follow them to this strange foreign place. The Buenos Aires they inhabit is at once real and unreal, sometimes gritty, other times so dreamy it seems like an imagined city. The mesmerizing visuals that Christopher Doyle created for that film (and would carry into Wong Kar-Wai’s future works) make us feel as if the characters are floating through the city, incapable of affixing themselves to it.

Late in the film, a major new character is introduced—an innocent, uncomplicated young man from Taiwan played by Chang Chen, who works in the Chinese restaurant where Tony Leung has found employment. They form a close friendship, one that seems nourishing and stable. But Tony Leung is still preoccupied by Leslie Cheung, even though they are no longer together. Does Chang Chen feel more for Tony Leung than mere friendship? Almost certainly, he does. He goes to Ushuaia, the farthest point of the Americas, but Tony Leung chooses to remain in Buenos Aires. Those missed connections again: that impossibility, for Tony Leung at least, to figure out how he truly feels because he is too far from home, cut off from his points of reference. That intense separation should have brought him objectivity; he should have gained clarity of thought and emotion. Instead his feelings remain trapped in a place he wants to leave behind, but is unable to forget.

In the closing scenes, Tony Leung finally manages to leave Buenos Aires and travels not to Hong Kong but Taipei. He goes to the night market where Chang Chen’s family runs a food store. Chang Chen isn’t there, he is still traveling the world. “I finally understood how he could be happy running around so free,” Tony Leung says in his low, sad, matter-of-fact voice-over. “It’s because he has a place he can always return to.”

When I think of that period in 1997, when I couldn’t walk down the street or fall asleep without seeing Tony and Leslie dancing the tango in a squalid kitchen, or hearing Caetano Veloso’s featherlight voice hovering over ravishing images of the Iguaçu Falls—I can’t help but think that we were in a short era of innocence before the complicated decades that lay ahead. The Hong Kong that Wong Kar-Wai refers to in that movie no longer exists. The film’s original title is 春光乍洩, which means the first emergence of spring sunshine—or, more idiomatically, a glimpse of something intimate. But perhaps it refers also to that brief moment of openness and… [more]
wongkar-wai  tashaw  film  memories  memory  place  belonging  home  1990s  1997  2019  youth  identity  storytelling  unsettledness  separation  malaysia  education  highered  highereducation  langauge  english  malay  cantonese  mandarin  chinese  malaysian  change  innocence  london  capitalism  jakarta  southeastasia  hongkong  china  tonyleung  lesliecheung  chunkingexpress  happytogether  fallenangels  daysofbeingwild  buenosaires  relationships  intimacy  families  connection  nostalgia  comfort  cities  taiwan  changchen  taipei  vulnerability  openness  acceptance  victimization  divisiveness 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Hollowed Out | Tarence Ray
“Over the years, this effort has become a bit of a sick joke: it’s attracted more and more grant funding, while the building itself has sunk deeper into a state of disrepair. In 2017 the town council got half a million dollars from the Appalachian Regional Commission to fix it up, and one year later the roof caved in. It now looks like something you’d see in Dresden, 1945.

That hasn’t stopped regional technocrats from using it as an example of what “downtown revitalization” could look like, if done properly. This is because the push to develop sites like the Daniel Boone Hotel is largely an effort in narrative-building, bolstered by grants and strategic media coverage. If you can sell the resurrection of the Daniel Boone Hotel to people who want a brighter future for their deindustrializing region, you can get more grants for that effort, which gets you more press, which gets you more grants. It’s a feedback loop in which you never really have to do anything. A local write-up of that half-million-dollar grant reported that stabilization of the hotel would begin by summer 2017. All that’s happened since is the caved-in roof.

Staring up at the building’s crumbling edifice, I wondered what kind of fantastical grant narrative had justified those half-million dollars. After all, I used to write grants for a living, and I’ve developed a bit of an eye for the tricks of the trade. I found this on the ARC’s website:
The hotel is a central component of Whitesburg’s economic development future and revitalization plans. After the structure is stabilized and renovated, it will be a regional destination and economic driver. The project will create 23 jobs, leverage $2,000,000 in private investment, and will attract 9,900 additional visitors annually to the area. [Emphasis mine.]

These metrics are how you determine the ambition of the project: 9,900 additional visitors annually to the area. How’d they get that number? Well, they either made it up, or some consulting firm gave it to them, and they probably made it up.”



“It’s clear how the POWER Initiative benefits Appalachia’s new managerial class, disaster capitalists who are forward-looking only in their desire to exploit resources in Appalachia which don’t yet exist. But it certainly hasn’t benefitted the people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, who don’t have the capital to start their own entrepreneurial “ecosystems” or run countless feasibility tests with no discernable purpose. I realize I’m missing the point here; the eminently wise technocrats of the ARC would tell me that of course poor and working people aren’t going to start their own businesses. The point is to get middle- and upper-class gentrifiers to start those businesses, and then they’ll employ everyone in a community, and their wealth will trickle down. Even if that were possible in a rapidly depopulating region, many people would remain trapped in violent, backbreaking, dead-end jobs.

But training poor and working people for different jobs is equally unpromising. The majority of the tech skills that that POWER grantees have promised to teach are in some of the most replaceable jobs in the industry: app development, web development, and dataset management. And even if those jobs aren’t easily replaceable by fellow low-paid workers, in a few years they will be, by machines. One POWER project in Pennsylvania got over half a million dollars to train former coal miners to become pipeline workers in oil and gas, an industry that automates and mechanizes at hyperspeed.

Of course people will still be needed to run and monitor the machines, but there isn’t much manufacturing going on in the Appalachian interior, and there never will be, simply because it’s not profitable to put your factory in a remote county in eastern Kentucky, far away from all major ports and transportation corridors. The very people who love capitalism so much that they’d base their entire Appalachian revitalization project on its inerrancy constantly forget its basic premise: things must be profitable in order to matter.

All of this is to say that we can identify several themes in the Obama administration’s grand Appalachian economic development initiative. First: never meet peoples’ material needs directly or encourage them to organize. Rather, study the feasibility of giving them things, or throw some money at a community college, which can train people in the art of being a well-behaved and productive worker, so that they can then get things themselves. Second: if you absolutely must build any infrastructure, make sure that it’s in service to something else, like a wildlife viewing facility or a prison. Third: use as many fancy words as possible to make it sound like you’re keeping busy. Target and deploy your dislocated coal workers to maximize creative potential so that we can create a thriving and diverse restorative economy in the mountains.

And finally, the fourth and most important thing: remember that you don’t actually owe anybody anything, that the government has ceased delivering people even their most basic needs, that it has in fact altogether stopped caring if they live or die. Remember that agencies like the Appalachian Regional Commission exist first and foremost to facilitate industry, and that the grant they’ve given you is meant to be deployed for that purpose. Remember that the story you tell is more important than the work you do, which should never amount to more than attending conferences and joining conference calls. And through it all, don’t forget to tell your friends and family that you’re helping the poor people of Appalachia who are too dumb and broke and demoralized and addicted to help themselves.

Right now, the hillbillies are a rich seam of grant money. Capitalists, being opportunists, will always flock when they see one.”



“In rolling out the POWER Initiative, the Obama administration rarely mentioned poverty; the rhetoric was all about the middle class and their well-paying, skilled jobs. The elite no longer have to manage the lower classes through ambitious national political projects; their single-minded obsession with preserving the middle class does that for them, because it provides a bulwark against working-class solidarity.

Those of us who do want a better world often find our efforts stymied by projects claiming to be progressive. The single most important legacy of the War on Poverty is the creation of a massive nonprofit industry in poor, rural areas like Appalachia. As Goldstein writes, “For a select few, antipoverty programs were a means toward political mobility and professional advancement as representatives or intermediaries for the poor. Funding made possible the development of a new class of local political leaders and nonprofessional social workers habituated to the routines of the political process.”

These leaders and nonprofessional social workers have never gone away. They tell us every day that the way to turn around our prospects is to work within the system, to be nice to our politicians and oligarchs so that they’ll give us nice things in return, to work out and eat right so we might deserve those nice things. Meanwhile, infrastructure continues to crumble and working people struggle to put food on the table. But at least, thanks to the POWER initiative, we can work out our abs on the walking trail to liberation.”
charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  waronpoverty  nonprofit  nonprofits  2019  rural  appalachia  revitalization  loops  powerprogram  funding  class  solidarity  ideology  capitalism  poverty  inequality  statusquo  workingwithinthesystem  kentucky  westvirginia  tarenceray  management  disastercapitalism  gentrification  profit 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Uber Undone | Noah Kulwin
"Silicon Valley began this decade as the bleeding edge of the American economy, where new technologies were said to be building a better future for the whole planet. By its end, the American tech industry will be largely viewed as the labor-destroying, profit-hungry behemoth that it truly is. While Facebook’s inadvertent election-rigging and Google’s near-monopoly on digital advertising might draw more attention as the culprits behind that pendulum swing, it is Uber’s Randian capitalism that most transparently lays bare Silicon Valley villainy. And even from outside the C-suite, from which he was ejected in 2017, Kalanick remains its smug, unapologetic face."
siliconvalley  californianideology  grifters  us  finance  economics  venturecapital  2019  mikeisaac  noahkulwin  technology  technosolutionism  google  facebook  society  traviskalanick  uber  lyft  gigeconomy  labor  inequality  urbanplanning  urban  urbanism  capitalism  neoliberalism 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
America Without Family, God, or Patriotism - The Atlantic
“The nuclear family, God, and national pride are a holy trinity of the American identity. What would happen if a generation gave up on all three?”



“One interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about the erosion of traditional Western faith. People under 30 in the U.S. account for more than one-third of this nation’s worshippers in only three major religions: Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This reflects both the increase in non-European immigration since the 1970s and the decline of larger Christian denominations in the latter half of the 20th century. It also reflects the sheer increase in atheism: Millennials are nearly three times more likely than Boomers to say they don’t believe in God—6 percent versus 16 percent. If you think that Judeo-Christian values are an irreplaceable keystone in the moral arc of Western society, these facts will disturb you; if you don’t, they won’t.

A second interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about politics. Youthful disinterest in patriotism, babies, and God might be a mere proxy for young people’s distaste for traditional conservatism. For decades, the Republican Party sat high on the three-legged stool of Reaganism, which called for “traditional” family values (combining religiosity with the primacy of the nuclear family), military might (with all its conspicuous patriotism), and limited government.

Millennials and Gen Zers have turned hard against all these values; arguably, their intermittently monogamous, free-spending Republican president has, too. Young voters are far to the left of not only today’s older Americans, but also past generations of younger Americans. Based on their votes since 2012, they have the lowest support for the GOP of any group in at least half a century. So it’s possible that Millennials are simply throwing babies out with the Republican bathwater.

But it looks like something bigger is going on. Millennials and Gen Z are not only unlikely to call themselves Protestants and patriots, but also less likely to call themselves Democrats or Republicans. They seem most comfortable with unaffiliation, even anti-affiliation. They are less likely than preceding generations to identify as “environmentalists,” less likely to be loyal to specific brands, and less likely to trust authorities, or companies, or institutions. Less than one-third of them say they have “a lot of confidence” in unions, or Silicon Valley, or the federal government, or the news, or the justice system. And don’t even get them started on the banks.

This blanket distrust of institutions of authority—especially those dominated by the upper class—is reasonable, even rational, considering the economic fortunes of these groups were pinched in the Great Recession and further squeezed in the Not-So-Great Recovery. Pundits may dismiss their anxiety and rage as the by-products of college-campus coddling, but it flows from a realistic appraisal of their economic impotency. Young people today commit crimes at historically low rates and have attended college at historically high rates. They have done everything right, sprinting at full speed while staying between the white lines, and their reward for historic conscientiousness is this: less ownership, more debt, and an age of existential catastrophe. The typical Millennial awakens many mornings to discover that some new pillar of the world order, or the literal world, has crumbled overnight. And while she is afforded little power to do anything about it, society has outfitted her with a digital megaphone to amplify her mordant frustrations. Why in the name of family, God, or country would such a person lust for ancient affiliations? As the kids say, #BurnItAllDown.

But this new American skepticism doesn’t only affect the relatively young, and it isn’t confined to the overeducated yet underemployed, either.”



“he older working-class men in the paper desperately want meaning in their lives, but they lack the social structures that have historically been the surest vehicles for meaning-making. They want to be fathers without nuclear families. They want spirituality without organized religion. They want psychic empowerment from work in an economy that has reduced their economic power. They want freedom from pain and misery at a time when the pharmaceutical solutions to those maladies are addictive and deadly. They want the same pride and esteem and belonging that people have always wanted.

The ends of Millennials and Gen Z are similarly traditional. The WSJ/NBC poll found that, for all their institutional skepticism, this group was more likely than Gen Xers to value “community involvement” and more likely than all older groups to prize “tolerance for others.” This is not the picture of a generation that has fallen into hopelessness, but rather a group that is focused on building solidarity with other victims of economic and social injustice. Younger generations have been the force behind equality movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, #AbolishICE, and Medicare for All, not only because they’re liberal, and not only because they have the technological savvy to organize online, but also because their experience in this economy makes them exquisitely sensitive to institutional abuses of power, and doubly eager to correct it. What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride as the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.

The authors of the paper on working-class men note that, even as their subjects have suffered a shock, and even as they’re nostalgic for the lives of their fathers and grandfathers—the stable wages, the dependable pensions—there is a thin silver lining in the freedom to move beyond failed traditions. Those old manufacturing jobs were routine drudgery, those old churches failed their congregants, and traditional marriages subjugated the female half of the arrangement. “These men are showing signs of moving beyond such strictures,” the authors write. “Many will likely falter. Yet they are laying claim to a measure of autonomy and generativity in these spheres that were less often available in prior generations. We must consider both the unmaking and remaking aspects of their stories.”

And there is the brutal truth: Many will likely falter. They already are. Rising anxiety, suicide, and deaths of despair speak to a profound national disorder. But eventually, this stage of history may be recalled as a purgatory, a holding station between two eras: one of ostensibly strong, and quietly vulnerable, traditions that ultimately failed us, and something else, between the unmaking and the remaking.”
derekthompson  us  culture  society  economics  generations  change  religion  patriotism  families  2019  suicide  middleage  purpose  meaning  community  anxiety  malaise  collapse  vulnerability  traditions  marriage  parenting  millennials  geny  genx  generationy  generationx  generationz  gender  work  labor  unemployment  hope  hopelessness  activism  skepticism  power  elitism  democrats  republicans  politics  education  highered  highereducation  ronaldreagan  reaganism  belief  diversity  voting  unions  siliconvalley  socialjustice  justice  impotency  underemployment  spirituality  capitalism  neoliberalism 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
notes from the periphery | spicytakes [Futures/futurities for The Redirect at SFMOMA]
"For this talk, I was asked to present a vision of the future, guided by a series of questions sent to me. I am very grateful for these questions, the chance to present a vision. But I was unable to conjure a vision of the future.

Instead, I will try the difficult task of describing the present as I see it, and perhaps somewhere our views might overlap – difficult these days. For me, traveling through the world, through China, through the US can be time travel enough.

I see the hyperspeed of the Bay Area, as a black Tesla scrapes against a parked car in slow motion, outside a historic black church in Oakland, next to a new brunch spot. Churchgoers and Sunday brunchers mix in a line that goes around the corner, spirituality and community threaded. A homeless man sells print media, as brunchers are glued to their phones. Depending on who you ask these days, Oakland is in the middle of a tech induced decline or a creative renaissance, or both. Survival at the edges.

I can describe to you a warp speed visit to Shenzhen, in its tech culture that remixes and hacks parts into new forms of hardware, hardware that hold an exuberant virality. In Shenzhen’s lack of intellectual property rights, I see entirely modular phones that make repair easy, unlike the cypher of an iPhone. There are phones with built in compasses that point to Mecca, earbuds that sell like hotcakes in Nairobi, co-designed by young Kenyan and Chinese entrepreneurs.

The death of intellectual property rights means a death to a human right, the assumed human right towards claiming invention. It spells a death to the elevated, individual genius. In much of Western media this death is noted as deeply problematic: copy cat culture in Shenzhen, the Chinese inability to innovate, only steal.

In Shenzhen I interview a prominent member of the maker movement who calls herself a cyborg. She brings up the deep contradictions of Western views on innovation. Why was it, she tells me, that the girls she grew up with in Shenzhen, who went on to work as factory girls in electronics factories were seen as mindless drones, while a few miles away, she soldered on Youtube and was heralded as a maker movement star? In this challenge to an Enlightenment era construction of humanity, of a purity of invention, I think of Sylvia Wynter’s wise words. “…The struggle of our new millennium will be one between the ongoing imperative of securing the well-being of our present ethnoclass (i.e., Western bourgeois) conception of the human”, she writes. And this line between security and uncertainty I believe, marks so much of our relationship to technology. the moment, as the computer scientist Terry Winogrand writes about, as the moment where we ascribe rationality to machine and the ongoing obsession with who is human.

I travel to another fold in time, rural Shandong China, in a Taobao village. In this village, over 70% of households make products at home for Taobao.com, an e-commerce platform made by the Chinese tech giant Alibaba. In rural Taobao land, the laws of Taobao supersede government laws. Farmers toil in the fields and during holiday seasons, they make costumes in home workshops for customers from Shanghai to Hanoi. One farmer is now a millionaire. I wander through fields, judging and gauging, ready to indict the viscitudes of platform capitalism, worried of a future where an entire village uses Alibaba’s mobile payment system, of tech led credit ratings. Of being beholden to Alibaba forever, amidst a village Taobao kindergarten and a Taobao hotel. The number of Taobao villages have skyrocketed, with more to come under Alibaba’s Rural Development Strategy. Other companies, like Foxconn are beginning to understand this spatial fix, this moving inward into the countryside, leaving expensive cities, like Shenzhen. Last year, Foxconn opened a 300,000 person iphone factory in Henan. All of this, under a loose policy by the government of “rural revitalization” – a nod to the rise of industrialized farming and the tech economy that must replace it.

I ask one farmer, who is also a Taobao producer, about his concerns for the future of his village’s close ties to Taobao.

He tells me that “the future” is a concept created if you believe that everything in the present is imperfect. He says that here, in the fields, in the long dark of winters, is the revelation that the universe is perfect as is. It is up to us to maintain it. There is no future, because every day depends on precariously balancing the present.

So if the future is produced, what does it mean to hold still the present? When we speak of crisis and apocalypse in the future, what needs do those words serve? Who’s needs do they serve? I think of an interview with indigenous sci-fi writer Rebecca Roanhorse. In it, she says “I think Native folks have already experienced an apocalypse, all the sort of dystopian tropes you see in movies, we’ve experienced those — our land lost, our children taken away, sent to schools and things like that. And we’ve survived.”

To hold still the present for a moment, means facing the different threads of time that weave our understanding of technology, of who we construct as the human, of what we construct as technology to begin with. After all, technology itself is a produced concept, as historian Ruth Oldenziel has documented: it was Thorsten Veblen who came up with the idea that technology is something that engineers produce. Before that, the loose umbrella of how-to was an unelevated, technical art that anyone (including) could attend to.

In a constructed futurity: who has the right to the future, who is left to steward the present? I think of software and how its builders dream of changing the world, while underneath, labor and geographic peripheries power copper mines and data centers. I think of how much work we have if we commit to the project of revolution, and who really does the work.

I wonder who are the people who must agree to the fictions someone else wrote, and those who are powerful enough to write fictions for the rest of us? I am not good at inscribing fiction, because I am still unlearning everyday the concrete and psychological fictions someone else has written.

And spending time in the Chinese countryside trying to unravel rural technology use, economic prosperity and nationalism, I begin to realize my questions are all insufficient. The mismatch is my urban understanding of time, the fictions that I have learned. Life in one village still centers around the agricultural calendar. In the agricultural calendar there are nine days in a week. Because of this, I never get the market days right.

When I finally figure out the days, I walk by people stirring sesame oil in a giant wok, all sorts of contraptions to distill, boil, assemble, nourish. If Veblen could divide realms into technology or not, surely these contraptions can be technologies too. And if we already live in a world where time travel is possible simply by traveling through multiple understandings of time and talking to others, what happens when there are multiple understandings of technology? If we embrace multitudes, what happens to the desire for a singular future, for reassurance, or our even our desires for certainty?"
xiaoweiwang  2019  rural  shenzhen  china  manufacturing  alibaba  taobao  capitalism  platformcapitalism  ruraldevelopmentstrategy  foxconn  revitalization  ruralrevitalization  future  bayarea  oakland  peripheries  nairobi  present  futures  countryside 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
The OA Is Really Canceled—Despite the Hard Work of Fans—And Brit Marling Has a Message | E! News
[original text here:
https://twitter.com/britmarling/status/1165013288532332544
https://www.instagram.com/p/B1hKgS9pUZG/ ]

“To the fans of The OA—

We’re humbled, to be honest floored, by the outpouring of support for The OA. We’ve seen beautiful artwork in eulogy from Japan, France, Brazil. We’ve read moving threads and essays. And we’ve watched dozens and dozens of videos of people all over the world performing the movements with what can only be called perfect feeling. One young person from a wheelchair, another young woman standing astride two horses, a mother in her backyard with her two children at her side and an infant strapped to her back. (link in bio to a site with many of these videos someone has thoughtfully compiled)

Your words and images move us deeply. Not because the show must continue, but because for some people its unexpected cancelation begs larger questions about the role of storytelling and its fate inside late capitalism’s push toward consolidation and economies of scale.

The work you’ve made and shared has also just been very heartening inside our increasingly complex and often bleak time. The more news I take in of the world, the more I often feel terrifyingly certain that we are on the brink of moral and ecological collapse. Sometimes I feel paralyzed by the forces we are up against—greed, fear, vanity. And I can’t help but long for someone to rescue us from ourselves—a politician, an outlaw, a tech baron, an angel. Someone who might take our hand, as if taking the hand of an errant toddler, and gently guide us away from the lunatic precipice that the “logic” of profit unguided by the compass of feeling has brought us to.

Of course, my desire to lie in wait for a hero is nothing new. Nor is the anesthetizing comfort that brings. These concepts were birthed and encouraged by centuries of narrative precedent. We’ve been conditioned to wait.

Almost every story we’ve ever watched, read, been told, held sacred is framed in a single structural form: the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is one man with one goal who goes up against increasing obstacles to win his objective and return to his people with the wisdom needed for all to move forward, to “progress.” This story has played out from Homer’s Odyssey in 8th century BC to every reiteration of the Star Wars franchise. It sallies forth lately with anti-heroes like the beloved Tony Soprano (who, even while doing what we all know to be wrong, is still a hero and the perfect one for late capitalism).

I have loved many of these stories and their heroes. I dressed up as She-Ra “princess of power,” He-Man’s bustier-clad, sword-wielding twin sister for more Halloweens then I care to admit. I have played roles in films where I have been the hero holding the gun and it certainly felt better than playing the female victim at the other end of the barrel. So it’s no surprise that as we face what seem to be increasingly insurmountable obstacles, we scan the horizon for the hero who will come for us. According to the stories we tell it will most likely be a hot man. And he will most likely be wearing brightly colored spandex and exceedingly rich.

But the more I think on this, the more it seems bat-shit crazy. No one is coming to the rescue. We have to save each other. Every day, in small and great ways.

So perhaps, at this late hour inside the dire circumstances of climate change and an ever-widening gap between the Haves and Have-Nots, we are hundreds of years overdue new mythologies that reflect this. Stories with modes of power outside violence and domination. Stories with goals for human agency outside conquest and colonization. Stories that illustrate the power of collective protagonism, or do away with protagonism entirely to illustrate how real, lasting change often occurs—ordinary people, often outsiders, often marginalized—anonymously organizing, working together, achieving small feats one day at a time that eventually form movement.

Steve, BBA, Buck, Jesse, French, Homer, Hap and OA are no longer authoring the story. Neither are Zal or I. You all are. You are standing on street corners in the hot sun in protest. You are meeting new people in strange recesses online and sharing stories about loss and renewal that you never thought you’d tell anyone. You are learning choreography and moving in ways you haven’t dared moved before. All of it is uncomfortable. All of it is agitation. All of it is worth something.

Many of you have expressed your gratitude for this story and for Zal and I and everyone who worked on The OA. But it is all of us who are grateful to you. You’ve broken the mold of storytelling. You’re building something far more beautiful than we did because it’s in real time in real life with real people. It’s rhizomatic—constantly redefining the collective aim as it grows. It’s elliptical—it has no beginning and no real end. And it certainly has no single hero. The show doesn’t need to continue for this feeling to.

The other day Zal and I pulled over to offer a bottle of water and food to a young woman who has been protesting the cancelation of the show on a street corning in Hollywood. As we were leaving she said “you know, what I’m really protesting is late capitalism.” And then she said something that I haven’t been able to forget since: “Algorithms aren’t as smart as we are. They cannot account for love.”

Her words. Not mine. And the story keeps going inside them.”

[See also: https://ew.com/tv/2019/08/24/brit-marling-the-oa-cancelation-fan-hunger-strike/ ]
theoa  britmarling  heroes  latecapitalism  capitalism  storytelling  herosjourney  collectivism  protest  love  solidarity  mutualaid  mythology  protagonism  protagonists  collaboration  humanagenct  conquest  colonization  violence  domination  movements  activism  organizing  wisdom  progress  greed  vanity  climatechange  2019  economics  consolidation  economiesofscale  small  decentralization  hierarchy  form  homer  theodyssey  tonysoprano  thesopranos  power  inequality  fear 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Answer To Burn Out At Work Isn’t "Self-Care"—It’s Unionizing | Common Dreams Views
"Being in a union means that you and your coworkers work together to fix the problems at your workplace, and then negotiate for solutions with management."
work  labor  organizing  economics  capitalism  self-care  kaylablado  2019  problemsolving  burnout  nonprofit  nonprofits 
august 2019 by robertogreco
The New Spiritual Consumerism - The New York Times
"How did you spend your summer vacation? I spent mine in a dissociative fugue of materialist excess, lying prone on my couch and watching all four seasons of “Queer Eye,” the Netflix makeover show reboot. Once an hour, I briefly regained consciousness to feverishly click the “next episode” button so that I wouldn’t have to wait five seconds for it to play automatically. Even when I closed my laptop, the theme song played on endless loop as Jonathan Van Ness vogued through my subconscious. The show is a triumph of consumer spectacle, and now it has consumed me, too.

Every episode is the same. Five queer experts in various aesthetic practices conspire to make over some helpless individual. Tan France (fashion) teaches him to tuck the front of his shirt into his pants; Bobby Berk (design) paints his walls black and plants a fiddle-leaf fig; Antoni Porowski (food) shows him how to cut an avocado; Jonathan Van Ness (grooming) shouts personal affirmations while shaping his beard; and Karamo Brown (“culture”) stages some kind of trust-building exercise that doubles as an amateur therapy session. Then, they retreat to a chic loft, pass around celebratory cocktails and watch a video of their subject attempting to maintain his new and superior lifestyle. The makeover squad cries, and if you are human, you cry too.

Because “Queer Eye” is not just a makeover. As its gurus lead the men (and occasionally, women) in dabbing on eye cream, selecting West Elm furniture, preparing squid-ink risotto and acquiring gym memberships, they are building the metaphorical framework for an internal transformation. Their salves penetrate the skin barrier to soothe loneliness, anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, absentee parenting and hoarding tendencies. The makeover is styled as an almost spiritual conversion. It’s the meaning of life as divined through upgraded consumer choices.

Just a few years ago, American culture was embracing its surface delights with a nihilistic zeal. Its reality queens were the Kardashians, a family that became rich and famous through branding its own wealth and fame. “Generation Wealth,” Lauren Greenfield’s 2018 documentary on American excess, captured portraits of people who crave luxury, beauty and cash as ends in and of themselves. Donald Trump, the king of 1980s extravagance, was elected president.

But lately American materialism is debuting a new look. Shopping, decorating, grooming and sculpting are now jumping with meaning. And a purchase need not have any explicit social byproduct — the materials eco-friendly, or the proceeds donated to charity — to be weighted with significance. Pampering itself has taken on a spiritual urgency.

Practitioners of this new style often locate its intellectual underpinnings in the work of Audre Lorde. But when Lorde wrote, in her 1988 essay “A Burst of Light,” that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” she was speaking in the context of managing her liver cancer — and doing it as a black lesbian whose health and well-being were not prioritized in America.

Now the ethos of “self-care” has infiltrated every consumer category. The logic of GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s luxury brand that sells skin serums infused with the branding of intuition, karma and healing, is being reproduced on an enormous scale.

Women’s shoes, bras, razors, tampons and exclusive private clubs are stamped with the language of empowerment. SoulCycle and Equinox conceive of exercise as not just a lifestyle but a closely held identity, which backfired when some members were aggrieved by the news that the chairman of the brands’ parent company is a financial supporter of President Trump. Therapy memes imagine mental health professionals prescribing consumerist fixes, which are then repurposed by beauty brands. Even Kim Kardashian West is pivoting to the soul: Her latest project is launching a celebrity church with her husband, Kanye West.

[embedded tweet by Benefit Cosmetics US (@BenefitBeauty):

"Therapist: and what do we do when we feel sad?

Me: go to @Sephora

Therapist:

Me:

Therapist: I’ll drive"]

And through the cleaning guru Marie Kondo, who also became a Netflix personality this year, even tidying objects can be considered a spiritual calling. Her work suggests that objects don’t just make us feel good — objects feel things, too. She writes of old books that must be woken up with a brush of the fingertips and socks that sigh with relief at being properly folded.

“Queer Eye” has further elevated material comforts into an almost political stance. When the reboot of the original — which ran on Bravo from 2003 to 2007, as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” — debuted last year, Netflix announced that it intended to “make America fabulous again” by sending its crew deep into the red states to “turn them pink.” By preaching self-care to the men of Middle America — it has so far plucked its makeover subjects from Georgia, Missouri and Kansas — the show would heal the nation itself through the power of stuff.

Is “Queer Eye” a political show? In a sense, yes. Van Ness, the show’s profoundly magnetic grooming expert, rocks a signature look of a Jesus beard, mermaid hair, painted nails and high-heeled booties. His fashion and grooming choices have an obvious political valence; he recently came out as non-binary. When he makes over some straight dude, it is as if he is imbuing the process with his own transgressive identity, even if he’s grooming the guy into a standard-issue cool dad.

Anyway, it’s wonderful to watch. In contrast, the original “Queer Eye” no longer goes down so easy. The show’s exclusive focus on providing men with physical upgrades now plays as cynical. The Fab Five ridicule their marks as much as they help them. More than a decade before same-sex marriage would be legalized across the United States, these five out gay men were quite obviously punching up.

But in the new version, the power dynamic has flipped. The difference between the Fab Five and their charges is no longer chiefly one of sexual orientation or gender identity. (This “Queer Eye” also provides makeovers to gay men and to women.) The clear but unspoken distinction is a class one.

Marie Kondo in “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”CreditDenise Crew/Netflix
The “Queer Eye” cast may come from humble beginnings, but they now reside in coastal cultural centers and hold fulfilling and lucrative jobs. Their makeover subjects are lower- and middle-class people who are, though it is rarely put this way, struggling financially. This “Queer Eye” handles them gently. As Van Ness puts it in one episode: “We’re nonjudgmental queens.”

It’s a little bit curious that as our political discourse is concerned with economic inequality — and the soaring costs of health care, education and homes — the cultural conversation is fixated on the healing powers of luxury items. What does it mean, that materialism is now so meaningful? “Generation Wealth” posits that extreme spending is a symptom of a civilization in decline. Americans may not have what they need, but at least they can get what they want, even if it’s on credit.

The writer and performer Amanda-Faye Jimenez recently posted a meme to Instagram of a child swinging blithely on the playground as a fire rages in the forest behind him. The forest is tagged: “My personal life and career.” The child: “The skincare routine.”

[embeded IG post]

Material comforts are comforting: cooking a nice and interesting meal; living in a tidy and beautiful space; soothing tired eyes with a cool mask. And money helps you get money: The subjects of “Queer Eye” are typically made over in a standard professional style, as if they are being retrofitted for the work force. Surreptitiously, “Queer Eye” provides vacation time, too: Its subjects somehow receive a week off from work to focus on themselves.

The trouble is that when “Queer Eye” offers these comforts, the show implies that its subjects have previously lacked them because of some personal failure. They have been insufficiently confident, skilled, self-aware, dedicated or emotionally vulnerable. The spiritual conversion of the show occurs when the subject pledges a personal commitment to maintaining a new lifestyle going forward. But what these people need is not a new perspective. They need money, and they need time, which is money.

“Queer Eye” offers a kind of simulation of wealth redistribution. But every time the Fab Five retreats from the scene, I imagine the freshly-painted homes slowly falling into disrepair, the beards growing shaggy again, the refrigerators emptying.

In the fourth season, which dropped last month, the team makes over a single dad from Kansas City who is known as “the cat suit guy” because he wears feline print onesies to local sporting events. By the end, he gets a new corporate casual wardrobe, and a pop-up support network for his depression — he struggled to discuss it with anyone until the cast of “Queer Eye” broke through his shell.

As they prepare to leave, he tells them that he really needs them to stay in touch. “You’ve got to check on me,” he says. Absolutely, one of them says: “On Instagram.”"
consumerism  consumption  amandahess  capitalism  wellness  2019  class  queereye  classism  inequality  materialism  netflix  television  tv  latecapitalism  makeovers  audrelorde  self-care  gwynethpaltrow  goop  soulcycle  equinox  fitness  kimkardashian  mariekondo  therapy  mentalhealth  politics  economics  instagram  isolation  loneliness  comfort  wellness-industrialcomplex 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Meritocracy Harms Everyone - The Atlantic
“Escaping the meritocracy trap will not be easy. Elites naturally resist policies that threaten to undermine their advantages. But it is simply not possible to get rich off your own human capital without exploiting yourself and impoverishing your inner life, and meritocrats who hope to have their cake and eat it too deceive themselves. Building a society in which a good education and good jobs are available to a broader swath of people—so that reaching the very highest rungs of the ladder is simply less important—is the only way to ease the strains that now drive the elite to cling to their status.

How can that be done? For one thing, education—whose benefits are concentrated in the extravagantly trained children of rich parents—must become open and inclusive. Private schools and universities should lose their tax-exempt status unless at least half of their students come from families in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution. And public subsidies should encourage schools to meet this requirement by expanding enrollment.

A parallel policy agenda must reform work, by favoring goods and services produced by workers who do not have elaborate training or fancy degrees. For example, the health-care system should emphasize public health, preventive care, and other measures that can be overseen primarily by nurse practitioners, rather than high-tech treatments that require specialist doctors. The legal system should deploy “legal technicians”—not all of whom would need to have a J.D.—to manage routine matters, such as real-estate transactions, simple wills, and even uncontested divorces. In finance, regulations that limit exotic financial engineering and favor small local and regional banks can shift jobs to mid-skilled workers. And management should embrace practices that distribute control beyond the C-suite, to empower everyone else in the firm.

The main obstacle to overcoming meritocratic inequality is not technical but political. Today’s conditions induce discontent and widespread pessimism, verging on despair. In his book Oligarchy, the political scientist Jeffrey A. Winters surveys eras in human history from the classical period to the 20th century, and documents what becomes of societies that concentrate income and wealth in a narrow elite. In almost every instance, the dismantling of such inequality has been accompanied by societal collapse, such as military defeat (as in the Roman empire) or revolution (as in France and Russia).

Nevertheless, there are grounds for hope. History does present one clear-cut case of an orderly recovery from concentrated inequality: In the 1920s and ’30s, the U.S. answered the Great Depression by adopting the New Deal framework that would eventually build the mid-century middle class. Crucially, government redistribution was not the primary engine of this process. The broadly shared prosperity that this regime established came, mostly, from an economy and a labor market that promoted economic equality over hierarchy—by dramatically expanding access to education, as under the GI Bill, and then placing mid-skilled, middle-class workers at the center of production.

An updated version of these arrangements remains available today; a renewed expansion of education and a renewed emphasis on middle-class jobs can reinforce each other. The elite can reclaim its leisure in exchange for a reduction of income and status that it can easily afford. At the same time, the middle class can regain its income and status and reclaim the center of American life.

Rebuilding a democratic economic order will be difficult. But the benefits that economic democracy brings—to everyone—justify the effort. And the violent collapse that will likely follow from doing nothing leaves us with no good alternative but to try.“
meritocracy  danielmarkovits  neoliberalism  capitalism  society  2019  competition  policy  privateschools  taxexemption  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  inequality  redistribution  governance  taxation  hierarchy  oligarchy  parenting  anxiety 
august 2019 by robertogreco
CENHS @ Rice! » 133 – María Puig de la Bellacasa
“Dominic and Cymene indulge a little post-Pruitt glee on this week’s podcast and speculate about the possibility of six foot tall low carbon lava lamps in the future. Then (16:46) we are thrilled to be joined by star STS scholar and emergent anthropologist María Puig de la Bellacasa to talk about her celebrated new book, Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds (U Minnesota Press, 2017). We start with the importance of care in feminist philosophy and how this work, alongside her own activist background, inspired this project. She asks us to consider how we can make knowledge that takes seriously a politics of care without giving ourselves over to the neoliberal commodification of care. And she asks how a commitment to speculative ethics can lead us to imagine and enact worlds different than the one we inhabit now. Later on, María tells us about what led her to quit philosophy and why appropriation might not actually be such a bad thing. Then we turn to her work with permaculturalists and soil scientists, what it was like to study with Starhawk, changing paradigms of soil ontology and ecology, what are alterbiopolitics, speculative ethics in a time of political crisis, and so much more.”

[See also:

“Matters of Care by María Puig de la Bellacasa, reviewed by Farhan Samanani”
https://societyandspace.org/2019/01/08/matters-of-care-by-maria-puig-de-la-bellacasa/

“Reframing Care – Reading María Puig de la Bellacasa ‘Matters of Care Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds’”
https://ethicsofcare.org/reframing-care-reading-maria-puig-de-la-bellacasa-matters-of-care-speculative-ethics-in-more-than-human-worlds/ ]
maríapuigdelabellacasa  care  maintenance  2018  morethanhuman  humanism  posthumanism  multispecies  anthropology  ecology  alterbiopolitics  permaculture  caring  ethics  politics  soil  philosophy  brunolatour  work  labor  activism  neoliberalism  feminism  donnaharaway  academia  knowledge  knowledgeproduction  thoughtfulness  environment  climatechange  individualism  concern  speculation  speculativeethics  speculativefiction  identitypolitics  everyday  pocketsofutopia  thinking  mattersofconcern  highered  highereducation  intervention  speculative  speculativethinking  greenconsumerism  consumerism  capitalism  greenwashing  moralizing  economics  society  matter  mattering  karenbarad  appropriation  hope  optimism  ucsc  historyofconsciousness 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef on Barefoot Economics, Poverty and Why The U.S. is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation” | Democracy Now!
"We speak with the acclaimed Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef. He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his book Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics. “Economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don’t understand poverty,” Max-Neef says. [includes rush transcript]"

...

"We have reached a point in our evolution in which we know a lot. We know a hell of a lot. But we understand very little. Never in human history has there been such an accumulation of knowledge like in the last 100 years. Look how we are. What was that knowledge for? What did we do with it? And the point is that knowledge alone is not enough, that we lack understanding.

And the difference between knowledge and understanding, I can give it as an example. Let us assume that you have studied everything that you can study, from a theological, sociological, anthropological, biological and even biochemical point of view, of a human phenomenon called love. So the result is that you will know everything that you can know about love. But sooner or later, you will realize that you will never understand love unless you fall in love. What does that mean? That you can only attempt to understand that of which you become a part. If we fall in love, as the Latin song says, we are much more than two. When you belong, you understand. When you’re separated, you can accumulate knowledge. And that is — that’s been the function of science. Now, science is divided into parts, but understanding is holistic.

And that happens with poverty. I understood poverty because I was there. I lived with them. I ate with them. I slept with them, you know, etc. And then you begin to learn that in that environment there are different values, different principles from — compared to those from where you are coming, and that you can learn an enormous amount of fantastic things among poverty. What I have learned from the poor is much more than I learned in the universities. But very few people have that experience, you see? They look at it from the outside, instead of living it from the inside.

And you learn extraordinary things. The first thing you learn, that people who want to work in order to overcome poverty and don’t know, is that in poverty there is an enormous creativity. You cannot be an idiot if you want to survive. Every minute, you have to be thinking, what next? What do I know? What trick can I do here? What’s this and that, that, that, that? And so, your creativity is constant. In addition, I mean, that it’s combined, you know, with networks of cooperation, mutual aid, you know, and all sort of extraordinary things which you’ll no longer find in our dominant society, which is individualistic, greedy, egoistical, etc. It’s just the opposite of what you find there. And it’s sometimes so shocking that you may find people much happier in poverty than what you would find, you know, in your own environment, which also means, you know, that poverty is not just a question of money. It’s a much more complex thing."

...

"The Peace Corps, yeah, OK. I was many times in that. I even taught Peace Corps groups, you know, in California and so on and on. Then I found them, you know, in the field when I was there. Lovely young people, you know? I mean, very well-intentioned, you know. And the situations like this.

Well, there you have a woman making a poncho. No, but with another machine, instead of making two ponchos in one week, I mean, she could make 20 ponchos.

So, now, “We will bring you a much better thing.”

“Oh, OK, well…”

They bring it in, you know, and come back a few months later, you know, to see a huge production of this woman. And how our young find?

“Oh, how do you like the machine?”

“Oh, very nice.”

“And how many ponchos are you making?”

“Well, two ponchos a week.”

“What do you mean? You could make much more.”

“Well, but I don’t need to make more.”

“But why do you make just two? Well, what is the machine then for?”

“Well, I make two, but now I have much more time to be with my friends and with my kids.”

In our environment, you know, you have to do more and more and more and more. No, there, instead of making more, they have more time to enjoy themselves, to have a nice relationship with friends, with family, etc. You see? Lovely values which we have lost.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to change? You’re saying it’s obvious, but what do you think needs to happen that they’re avoiding?

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Well, to begin with, a completely new concept of economics. This economy is crazy and poisonous. I am an economist, and I have been fighting against the economy that is taught the way it is being taught and being practiced. I have been fighting it for almost 40 years of my life, because it’s an absurd economy that has nothing to do with real life. It’s all fabrications, no? If the model doesn’t work, it’s not because the model is wrong, but because reality plays foul tricks. And reality is there to be domesticated, you know, and become the model. That is the attitude. And that’s systematic, in addition.

What is the economy that is being taught in the universities today everywhere? Neoclassical economics. Neoliberalism is an offspring of neoclassical economics. And neoclassical economics is 19th century. So we are supposed to solve problems of the 21st century that have no precedent with theories of the 19th century. We no longer have a physics of the 19th century, nor a biology, nor an engineering — nor nothing. The only thing in which we stopped in the 19th century is in the concept of economics. I mean, and that is elementarily absurd. And the main journals and everything, you know — I mean, no, no, that’s the way it must be."

...

"AMY GOODMAN: And if you’re teaching young economists, the principles you would teach them, what they’d be?

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: The principles, you know, of an economics which should be are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle.

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Nothing can be more important than life. And I say life, not human beings, because, for me, the center is the miracle of life in all its manifestations. But if there is an economic interest, I mean, you forget about life, not only of other living beings, but even of human beings. If you go through that list, one after the other, what we have today is exactly the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: Go back to three: growth and development. Explain that further.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialoguing here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth.

And I am working, several decades. Many studies have been done. I’m the author of a famous hypothesis, the threshold hypothesis, which says that in every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now.

I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying — and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house — thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem."
manfredmax-neef  economics  chile  2010  interviews  poverty  capitalism  development  barefooteconomics  knowledge  understanding  creativity  ingenuity  society  individualism  greed  cooperation  mutualaid  survival  time  work  perspective  peacecorps  colonialism  neoliberalism  ecosystems  humanism  growth  gdp  underdevelopment  accumulation 
august 2019 by robertogreco
T. S. Eliot Memorial Reading: Fred Moten - YouTube
“The first annual T. S. Eliot Memorial Reading honored the work of Fred Moten, who was introduced by Prof. Teju Cole.

Recorded on April 25, 2019, at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University.

Sponsored by the Woodberry Poetry Room and the T. S. Eliot Foundation.“
tseliot  fredmoten  tejucole  2019  towatch  freedom  vigor  love  witness  withness  breakingform  ephasia  art  writing  fluency  transformation  we  uninterrogatedwes  ceciltaylor  language  escape  édouardglissant  tonimorrison  howweread  howwewrite  difference  separability  meaning  meaningmaking  words  poetry  expression  togetherness  liberation  howweteach  lacan  criticaltheory  reading  purity  jamesbaldwin  race  beauty  criticism  self  selflessness  fugitives  fugitivity  work  labor  laziness  us  capitalism  politics  identity  society  belonging  immigration  africandiaspora  diaspora  violence  langstonhughes  looking  listening  queer  queerness  bettedavis  eyes  ugliness  bodies  canon 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Capitalism and the Urban Struggle | Boston Review
“One of the things that interests me is the simultaneity of what goes on in the urban network. Occupy Wall Street was about Wall Street, but Occupy movements sprung up in a hundred odd cities in the United States, and you can find Occupy movements in Europe and around the world. So the urban network is actually a very powerful set of political possibilities. Part of my argument is that we should be thinking about how to use the urban network and how to use the political power that lies with closing cities down or intervening in cities as part of what political struggle is all about.”



“DJ: Mainstream liberals who talk about urbanism focus a lot on environmentalism and culture. Cities promise greener forms of living, since they offer greater density and more efficient energy use. And these liberals obsess over green architecture, high-speed rail, and so on, as well as about cities as centers of “creative culture.” Would you say they’re guilty of a certain fetishism over green living and culture?

DH: Very much so. As I try to point out in the book, the culture industries are very much caught up in the search for monopoly rent. It’s interesting that they’re called “industries” these days, which means that there’s a commodification of culture and an attempt to commodify the cultural commons and even commodify history, which is an astonishing process.

A lot of the green stuff is about planting trees and making things look greener. But I’ve yet to see a really radical reconfiguration of urbanization that would really confront the questions of global warming. So the liberal view does that, but what it doesn’t pay attention to is the tremendous social inequalities that exist. In New York, the social inequalities are dramatic, and we have huge concentrations of what we call precarious and insecure, employed people in these cities. In a way it’s an urban proletariat that is engaging in the production and the reproduction of urban life, and I don’t see the liberals taking any notice of that as being a problem. I mean, the levels of social inequality in New York City are far, far greater now than they were 30 years ago, and I would not be at all surprised to see an urban insurrection going on over those levels of inequality.”



“DJ: There you argue that Murray Bookchin had a more reasonable answer to the problem of how to organize for large-scale reform, given the limits of horizontal, anti-hierarchical political structures.

DH: One of the things I criticize the left for is what I call “fetishism of organizational form,” and it’s not only anarchists. The communist parties of yore used to have a democratic centralist model from which they would never depart, and it had certain strengths and it had certain weaknesses. Now there are certain elements within the anarchist movement that now believe totally in this horizontality idea and will not contemplate anything that is hierarchical. So I say, “Well, look, you’re disempowering yourself by sticking to that as the only organizational form which is viable.”

Again, there are certain anarchists who think that it’s reasonable to negotiate with the state or to try to reform the state and certain anarchists who say they want nothing whatsoever with anything that looks like state power. I have problems with that. My concern would be to say, “Let’s try to think of an organizational form that can confront the nature of the problems that we face,” which include, by the way, the one that you talked about earlier about the global nature of the struggle. You cannot imagine that we could simply have socialism in New York City and nowhere else. We’ve got to start thinking about all of the international relations and international divisions of labor and the like. So I’m more concerned with finding a practical form of organization, which can confront the nature of the problems we face, and I find that these rather dogmatic assertions by the communists, on one hand, and some of the anarchists, on the other, that “This is the only form of organization which is acceptable” get in the way of a fluid discussion over what would be a good form of organization for political mobilization right now.

DJ: Do you think that we’ve come to any sort of promising conclusions about organizational form, or is this a debate that needs to take place over the course of many years?

DH: Oh, I think it’s a debate that’s unfolding, but it can unfold very rapidly. I mean, there are places in the world where people seem to have found ways to pin together both the horizontal and the hierarchical. I mention the case of El Alto in Bolivia, where that seems to have happened. There are other cases; I’ve been very impressed by the example of the Chilean student movement, which is very democratic and horizontal but at the same time accepts that there is a need for decisive leadership. As more and more models of that sort come to our attention, I think that more and more people will start to converge on a practical organizational form. At least that’s my hope. And I think what I was trying to do in the book was to contribute to that process by both critiquing fetishism and then talking about examples where it seems some mixture of organizational forms has been very successful.

DJ: Now that we’re in Spring, people in the Occupy movement are wondering, “Where do we go from here?” Can there be an Occupy movement without occupation—without actually occupying public spaces? It seems as though occupying public spaces is a very powerful form of protest that has succeeded in Egypt and elsewhere. So why not just continuing occupying?

DH: Well, I think there are intermediate forms of it. One example that I was talking about with some people the other day is the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina who, instead of occupying all the time, turned up once a week to a particular space to demonstrate over the question of what had happened to their disappeared children and grandchildren. Of course, they suffered a great deal of police harassment and in some cases violence, but they just kept coming there every week. We could do something like that: we could go to Zuccotti Park once a week and say, “Look, we are still here!” It could be a visible thing. Some weeks, there’d be 500 people there; maybe occasionally there’d be 5,000 people there. But if it became a tradition, that once a week we all went there to reassert the significance of our political movement, then this would be a very good step.

I think that one of the problems we have in New York City is that we have a vast amount of public space in which the public is not allowed to do what it wants. We have to liberate public spaces for these sorts of common political actions, and this is one of the arenas of struggle.

DJ: In terms of changing our politics, are there any steps that you think are promising? For example, some critics, such as Lawrence Lessig, point to money in politics as a central problem. There are others who talk about how we need more participatory democracy in place. Is there a political step that you think will make progress?

DH: There’s a political step that I think that we should take and be very clear about. This is what was so impressive about the Chilean student movement. They recognized very clearly that the situation they’re in was defined by what happened under Pinochet. Now Pinochet is dead, but they’re still living with the legacy of Pinochet. What they are struggling with is what you might call “Pinochetism.” In this country Reagan is long gone, but Reaganism has been doubled down on by the Republican Party in particular, but also accepted by large chunks of the Democratic Party. So we’ve got to go after Reaganism. In Britain, Thatcher is long gone, but we’ve got Thatcherism. In Egypt, Mubarak is gone, but Mubarakism is still there. So we’ve got to go after the systems of power and the systems of appropriation of wealth that have become pretty universalized right now, and we’ve got to see this as a real serious point of confrontation. As Warren Buffett says when asked if there’s class struggle, “Sure, there’s class struggle. It’s my class, the rich, who have been waging it, and we’ve been winning.” Our task, I think, is to turn it around and say, “His class shall not win.” And in order to do that, we’ve got to get rid of the whole neoliberal way of organizing contemporary capitalism.“
davidharvey  2012  capitalism  urban  urbanism  economics  democracy  cities  davidjohnson  henrilefebvre  righttothecity  anticapitalism  neoliberalism  politics  policy  liberalism  class  classstruggle  pinochet  warrenbuffett  chile  inequality  thatcherism  margaretthatcher  activism  murraybookchin  argentina  bolivia  ows  occupywallstreet  culture  society  green  greenliving  progress 
july 2019 by robertogreco
The mindfulness conspiracy | Life and style | The Guardian
"It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism."
capitalism  meditation  mindfulness  2019  ronaldpurser  economics  society  neoliberalism  activism  mindfulness-industrialcomplex  wellness-industrialcomplex  labor  via:austinkleon 
july 2019 by robertogreco
How mindfulness privatised a social problem
[via: https://hewn.substack.com/p/hewn-no-314 ]

“The £3.4trn industry encourages a preoccupation with the symptoms of mental illness, rather than their social causes.”

“In December 2008, while forcibly evicting tenants from a concrete high-rise in south London, Southwark Council pulled off a remarkable feat of complacency. Though residents didn’t know it at the time, every flat in the development that replaced the Heygate Estate would be sold to foreign investors, despite the council’s repeated promises of new social housing.

Recognising that people were “stressed”, councillors hired life coaches and “spiritual ministers” to run workshops teaching residents how to progress emotionally. The company behind the workshop, the Happiness Project, was founded by the British positive psychologist Robert Holden, the author of Shift Happens! The firm’s motto was: “Success is a state of mind; happiness is a way of travelling; love is your true power.”

That people about to lose their homes were stressed is hardly surprising. The council encouraged residents to look inwards, towards their brain chemistry, and in doing so cast itself as a solution, rather than a cause of the problem. Its response typified the idea of “magical voluntarism”, which the writer Mark Fisher described as “the belief that it is within every individual’s power to make themselves whatever they want to be”.

The connection between stress and economics is well documented. In their 2009 book The Spirit Level, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson identified a strong correlation between inequality and poor reported mental health. In a report published last month, Dr Dainius Puras, the UN’s special rapporteur on health, stated that confronting inequality would be a more effective prophylactic for poor mental health than excessive therapy or medication.

Yet governments often opt for treatments that focus on the individual rather than social maladies. “Most don’t want to be thinking about how their policies might be contributing to problems in the first place,” says David Harper, a clinical psychologist at the University of East London. In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a treatment that focuses on raising awareness of negative emotions and developing coping strategies.

A preoccupation with the symptoms of mental illness, rather than their social causes, is because there’s no “big drug lobby behind prevention”, Harper says. Treatments such as CBT have proved a cost-effective cattle prod for herding the mentally ill off welfare benefits. As chancellor, George Osborne introduced the therapy for 40,000 recipients of Jobseeker’s Allowance as part of a back-to-work agenda.

“An industry has formed around the ‘stressed subject’,” says Ronald Purser, a long-standing Buddhist and academic at San Francisco State University. His particular concern is the commercialisation of “mindfulness”, whose original status as a radical Buddhist practice has been almost entirely lost. “The dominant mindfulness narrative is that stress is all inside your own head,” he says. “You can’t separate the individual from the environment. We’re embodied social beings.”

Mindfulness is the psychological practice of focusing one’s attention on experiences in the present moment. It is offered by the NHS, recommended by NICE, and, like CBT, encourages the development of coping strategies. In his new book McMindfulness, Purser takes aim at the lucrative “mindfulness” industry, which was worth an estimated $4.2trn (£3.4trn) in 2017. More than 100,000 books for sale on Amazon have a variant of the word in their title. The US military offers mindfulness training classes. In 2007, Google launched a mindfulness course called “Search Inside Yourself”, which has been spun into a non-profit body. “That’s when I really became suspicious,” notes Purser.

The mindfulness movement took off in 1979 when one of its progenitors, Jon Kabat-Zinn, founded a stress reduction clinic at the University of Massachusetts – the same year Margaret Thatcher became prime minister and a year before Ronald Reagan was elected as US president. Purser argues that mindfulness has become the perfect coping mechanism for neoliberal capitalism: it privatises stress and encourages people to locate the root of mental ailments in their own work ethic. As a psychological strategy it promotes a particular form of revolution, one that takes place within the heads of individuals fixated on self-transformation, rather than as a struggle to overcome collective suffering.

It’s dangerous to generalise about mental health. For some, contemplative practices could be the key to reducing suffering. When I put this to him, Purser cites the American feminist Audre Lorde, who wrote that “caring for myself is not a form of self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. In McMindfulness, he argues that “reducing suffering is a noble aim and it should be encouraged”. But therapies like mindfulness, as currently practised, perpetuate a form of “cruel optimism”, he warns.

We are told that mindfulness is the path to happiness and security, regardless of our circumstances, and that success, as the Happiness Project piously told Heygate residents losing their homes, is merely a “state of mind”. “
mindfulness  mindfulness-industrialcomplex  wellness-industrialcomplex  society  capitalism  2019  hettieo'brien  economics  neoliberalism  labor 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Going Home with Wendell Berry | The New Yorker
[via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/1150867868696772608 ]

[Too much to quote, so here’s what Anne quoted:]

“Lancie Clippinger said to me, and he was very serious, that a man oughtn’t to milk but about twenty-five cows, because if he keeps to that number, he’ll see them every day. If he milks more than that, he’ll do the work but never see the cows! The number will vary from person to person, I think, but Lancie’s experience had told him something important.”
via:anne  wendellberry  rural  slow  small  empathy  kindness  georgesaunders  relationships  neighbors  amish  care  caring  maintenance  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  culture  farming  agriculture  local  locality  place  trees  history  multispecies  morethanhuman  language  restorativejustice  justice  climatejustice  socialjustice  johnlukacs  environment  sustainability  kentucky  land  immigration  labor  work  gender  ownership  collectivism  conversation  lancieclippinger  god  faith  religion  christianity  submission  amandapetrusich  individualism  stewardship  limits  constraints  memory  robertburns  kafka  capitalism  corporations  life  living  provincialism  seamusheaney  patrickkavanagh  animals  cows  freedom  limitlessness  choice  happiness  davidkline  thomasmerton  service  maurytilleen  crops  us  donaldtrump  adlaistevenson  ezrataftbenson  politics  conservation  robertfrost  pleasure  writing  andycatlett  howwewrite  education  nature  adhd  wonder  schools  schooling  experience  experientiallearning  place-based  hereandnow  presence 
july 2019 by robertogreco
David F. Noble: A Wrench in the Gears - 1/8 - YouTube
davidnoble  power  education  progressive  corporatism  highered  highereducation  documentary  rules  schools  schooling  deschooling  unschooling  cv  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  activism  authority  abuse  academia  resistance  canada  us  lobbying  israel  criticalthinking  capitalism  experience  life  living  hierarchy  oppression  collegiality  unions  self-respect  organizing  humanrights  corporatization  luddism  automation  technology  luddites  distancelearning  correspondencecourses  history  creditcards  privacy  criticaltheory  criticalpedagogy  attendance  grades  grading  assessment  experientialeducation  training  knowledge  self  self-directed  self-directedlearning  pedagogy  radicalpedagogy  alienation  authoritarianism  anxiety  instrinsicmotivation  motivation  parenting  relationships  love  canon  defiance  freedom  purpose  compulsory  liberation 
july 2019 by robertogreco
I Feel Better Now | Jake Bittle
"Depressed by the burden of life under capitalism? There's an app for that!"

...

"Much like climate change in the liberal imagination, depression in these programs is an effect without a cause."

...

"The same consumerist culture that once shunned mention of depression now also seeks to cannibalize its language for use in advertising and media."

...

"The navel-gazing recommended by apps like these has the potential to entice us away from larger questions about the structural forces that generate a great deal of our suffering."
depression  capitalism  navelgazing  2019  technology  samanthamash 
july 2019 by robertogreco
▶ Audrey Watters | Gettin' Air with Terry Greene
"Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) is an ed-tech folk hero who writes at Hack Education @hackeducation where, for the past nine years, she has taken the lead in keeping the field on its toes in regards to educational technology's "progress". Her long awaited and much anticipated book, "Teaching Machines", will be out in the new year."
2019  audreywatters  edtech  terrygreene  bfskinner  technology  schools  education  turnitin  history  learning  behaviorism  cognition  cognitivescience  psychology  automation  standardization  khanacademy  howweteach  liberation  relationships  agency  curiosity  inquiry  justice  economics  journalism  criticism  vr  facebook  venturecapital  capitalism  research  fabulism  contrafabulism  siliconvalley  archives  elonmusk  markzuckerberg  gatesfoundation  billgates 
june 2019 by robertogreco
This map shows how LA politicians have created a city for the rich
“Our politicians have handed over staggering amounts of public money and land for luxury development. In doing so, they’ve effectively worked overtime to make this city as hostile as possible to the working class.”



“Ultimately, the elites have been wildly successful: LA is the most desired location for global real estate investors in North America, and Mayor Garcetti can cheer that we’ve “been named the most economically vibrant city in the world.” On the flip side, the county’s Black population has declined by 150,00 since 1990, 650,000 children are hungry, and LA is one of the most unaffordable places on earth. These are the contradictions of a booming city under 21st Century capitalism; ones that our politicians have enthusiastically embraced at every step of the way.”
losangeles  development  2019  maps  mapping  jacobwoocher  politics  policy  gentrification  dtla  funding  capitalism  inequality  incarceration  criminalization 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The public is insufficiently educated on how to be a good public – @visakanv
"The public is insufficiently educated on how to be a good public.

I think this is civilisation-specific (ie not an issue for egalitarian hunter-gatherers who live enmeshed lives). And I think appreciating this requires appreciating that civilisation is hierarchical, stratified. The reality of status hierarchies is starker than we articulate.

Nobody introduces you to sexism 101, racism 101 or status hierarchies 101 when you’re a child. This is something you have to learn through fumbling experience and unverified hearsay, the way most people learn about sex.

Circling back. The public isn’t educated to be a good public because it isn’t in the interest(s) of the ruling class, not really. The public is educated to obey, to regulate & be regulated, to work. There are lots of shitty smartbro takes on this, but underlying truth remains

Many (most?) people fantasize about being a king, queen, prince, princess. Many (most?) people secretly know that the public commons is a dumpster fire, and aspire to have enough power to avoid being trampled by the great herd of humanity.

In the short run, for the quarterly report, the public yields the most profits when it is most anxious, fearful, outraged, disgusted. If you advocate for fewer ads, less hyperbole, a better user experience, you’ll probably get replaced by someone else who doesn’t care.

In the earliest conceptualization of “civilised” humanity, there were the rulers and the serfs. The masters and the slaves. The bougies and the proles. The clever trick of late-stage capitalism is selling gold-plated chains as a substitute for liberty.

It’s tempting at this point to point a finger at a mysterious Man who’s Out To Get Us. And maybe some people bear more responsibility than others for kickstarting the profit-seeking hyperdrive. But correcting it will IMO require a planetary effort that has never been coordinated. (Meditations on Moloch feels relevant here.)

I changed my mind about something halfway here. I was going to say “we are all responsible, it’s our collective insecurity” I’m not so sure that’s accurate, apart from in the most superficial sense. The asshole problem is real.

Assholes are the 1% of people that cause 74% of the problems everywhere they go. The challenge is to deal with assholes without becoming an asshole yourself in the process. It’s sadly-funny and true that anti-assholes are some of the worst assholes."
visakanveerasamy  2019  hierarchy  assholes  civilization  society  racism  sexism  inequality  humanism  capitalism  humanity 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Feminist cyborg scholar Donna Haraway: ‘The disorder of our era isn’t necessary’ | World news | The Guardian
"The history of philosophy is also a story about real estate.

Driving into Santa Cruz to visit Donna Haraway, I can’t help feeling that I was born too late. The metal sculpture of a donkey standing on Haraway’s front porch, the dogs that scramble to her front door barking when we ring the bell, and the big black rooster strutting in the coop out back – the entire setting evokes an era of freedom and creativity that postwar wealth made possible in northern California.

Here was a counterculture whose language and sensibility the tech industry sometimes adopts, but whose practitioners it has mostly priced out. Haraway, who came to the University of Santa Cruz in 1980 to take up the first tenured professorship in feminist theory in the US, still conveys the sense of a wide-open world.

Haraway was part of an influential cohort of feminist scholars who trained as scientists before turning to the philosophy of science in order to investigate how beliefs about gender shaped the production of knowledge about nature. Her most famous text remains The Cyborg Manifesto, published in 1985. It began with an assignment on feminist strategy for the Socialist Review after the election of Ronald Reagan and grew into an oracular meditation on how cybernetics and digitization had changed what it meant to be male or female – or, really, any kind of person. It gained such a cult following that Hari Kunzru, profiling her for Wired magazine years later, wrote: “To boho twentysomethings, her name has the kind of cachet usually reserved for techno acts or new phenethylamines.”

The cyborg vision of gender as changing and changeable was radically new. Her map of how information technology linked people around the world into new chains of affiliation, exploitation and solidarity feels prescient at a time when an Instagram influencer in Berlin can line the pockets of Silicon Valley executives by using a phone assembled in China that contains cobalt mined in Congo to access a platform moderated by Filipinas.

Haraway’s other most influential text may be an essay that appeared a few years later, on what she called “situated knowledges”. The idea, developed in conversation with feminist philosophers and activists such as Nancy Hartsock, concerns how truth is made. Concrete practices of particular people make truth, Haraway argued. The scientists in a laboratory don’t simply observe or conduct experiments on a cell, for instance, but co-create what a cell is by seeing, measuring, naming and manipulating it. Ideas like these have a long history in American pragmatism. But they became politically explosive during the so-called science wars of the 1990s – a series of public debates among “scientific realists” and “postmodernists” with echoes in controversies about bias and objectivity in academia today.

Haraway’s more recent work has turned to human-animal relations and the climate crisis. She is a capacious yes, and thinker, the kind of leftist feminist who believes that the best thinking is done collectively. She is constantly citing other people, including graduate students, and giving credit to them. A recent documentary about her life and work by the Italian film-maker Fabrizio Terranova, Storytelling for Earthly Survival, captures this sense of commitment, as well as her extraordinary intellectual agility and inventiveness.

At her home in Santa Cruz, we talked about her memories of the science wars and how they speak to our current “post-truth” moment, her views on contemporary climate activism and the Green New Deal, and why play is essential for politics.

We are often told we are living in a time of “post-truth”. Some critics have blamed philosophers like yourself for creating the environment of “relativism” in which “post-truth” flourishes. How do you respond to that?

Our view was never that truth is just a question of which perspective you see it from.

[The philosopher] Bruno [Latour] and I were at a conference together in Brazil once. (Which reminds me: if people want to criticize us, it ought to be for the amount of jet fuel involved in making and spreading these ideas! Not for leading the way to post-truth.)

Anyhow. We were at this conference. It was a bunch of primate field biologists, plus me and Bruno. And Stephen Glickman, a really cool biologist, took us apart privately. He said: “Now, I don’t want to embarrass you. But do you believe in reality?”

We were both kind of shocked by the question. First, we were shocked that it was a question of belief, which is a Protestant question. A confessional question. The idea that reality is a question of belief is a barely secularized legacy of the religious wars. In fact, reality is a matter of worlding and inhabiting. It is a matter of testing the holdingness of things. Do things hold or not?

Take evolution. The notion that you would or would not “believe” in evolution already gives away the game. If you say, “Of course I believe in evolution,” you have lost, because you have entered the semiotics of representationalism – and post-truth, frankly. You have entered an arena where these are all just matters of internal conviction and have nothing to do with the world. You have left the domain of worlding.

The science warriors who attacked us during the science wars were determined to paint us as social constructionists – that all truth is purely socially constructed. And I think we walked into that. We invited those misreadings in a range of ways. We could have been more careful about listening and engaging more slowly. It was all too easy to read us in the way the science warriors did. Then the rightwing took the science wars and ran with it, which eventually helped nourish the whole fake-news discourse.

Your PhD is in biology. How do your scientist colleagues feel about your approach to science?

To this day I know only one or two scientists who like talking this way. And there are good reasons why scientists remain very wary of this kind of language. I belong to the Defend Science movement and in most public circumstances I will speak softly about my own ontological and epistemological commitments. I will use representational language. I will defend less-than-strong objectivity because I think we have to, situationally.

Is that bad faith? Not exactly. It’s related to [what the postcolonial theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has called] “strategic essentialism”. There is a strategic use to speaking the same idiom as the people that you are sharing the room with. You craft a good-enough idiom so you can work on something together. I go with what we can make happen in the room together. And then we go further tomorrow.

In the struggles around climate change, for example, you have to join with your allies to block the cynical, well-funded, exterminationist machine that is rampant on the Earth. I think my colleagues and I are doing that. We have not shut up, or given up on the apparatus that we developed. But one can foreground and background what is most salient depending on the historical conjuncture.

What do you find most salient at the moment?

What is at the center of my attention are land and water sovereignty struggles, such as those over the Dakota Access pipeline, over coal mining on the Black Mesa plateau, over extractionism everywhere. My attention is centered on the extermination and extinction crises happening at a worldwide level, on human and non-human displacement and homelessness. That’s where my energies are. My feminism is in these other places and corridors.

What kind of political tactics do you see as being most important – for young climate activists, the Green New Deal, etc?

The degree to which people in these occupations play is a crucial part of how they generate a new political imagination, which in turn points to the kind of work that needs to be done. They open up the imagination of something that is not what [the ethnographer] Deborah Bird Rose calls “double death” – extermination, extraction, genocide.

Now, we are facing a world with all three of those things. We are facing the production of systemic homelessness. The way that flowers aren’t blooming at the right time, and so insects can’t feed their babies and can’t travel because the timing is all screwed up, is a kind of forced homelessness. It’s a kind of forced migration, in time and space.

This is also happening in the human world in spades. In regions like the Middle East and Central America, we are seeing forced displacement, some of which is climate migration. The drought in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America [Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador] is driving people off their land.

So it’s not a humanist question. It’s a multi-kind and multi-species question.

What’s so important about play?

Play captures a lot of what goes on in the world. There is a kind of raw opportunism in biology and chemistry, where things work stochastically to form emergent systematicities. It’s not a matter of direct functionality. We need to develop practices for thinking about those forms of activity that are not caught by functionality, those which propose the possible-but-not-yet, or that which is not-yet but still open.

It seems to me that our politics these days require us to give each other the heart to do just that. To figure out how, with each other, we can open up possibilities for what can still be. And we can’t do that in a negative mood. We can’t do that if we do nothing but critique. We need critique; we absolutely need it. But it’s not going to open up the sense of what might yet be. It’s not going to open up the sense of that which is not yet possible but profoundly needed.

The established disorder of our present era is not necessary. It exists. But it’s not necessary."
donnaharaway  2019  anthropocene  climatechange  science  scientism  disorder  greennewdeal  politics  interdependence  families  critique  humanism  multispecies  morethanhuman  displacement  globalwarming  extermination  extinction  extraction  capitalism  genocide  deborahbirdrose  doubledeath  feminism  postmodernism  harikunzru  cyborgmanifesto  philosophy  philosophyofscience  santacruz  technology  affiliation  exploitation  solidarity  situatedknowledge  nancyhartstock  objectivity  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Uncivilisation: the Dark Mountain Manifesto
"The authors do not tell us what they expect to happen after civilisation has disappeared, but it may be something like the post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world imagined by the nature mystic Richard Jefferies in his novel After London, or Wild England (1885). In it, Britain is depopulated after ecological disaster and reverts to barbarism; but it is not long before a new social order springs up, simpler and happier than the one that has passed away. After London is an Arcadian morality tale that even Jefferies probably did not imagine could ever come to pass.

Over a century later, the belief that a global collapse could lead to a better world is ever more far-fetched. Human numbers have multiplied, industrialisation has spread worldwide and the technologies of war are far more highly developed. In these circumstances, ecological catas­trophe will not trigger a return to a more sustainable way of life, but will intensify the existing competition among nation states for the planet’s remaining reserves of oil, gas, fresh water and arable land. Waged with hi-tech weapons, the resulting war could destroy not only large numbers of human beings but also much of what is left of the biosphere.

A scenario of this kind is not remotely apocalyptic. It is no more than history as usual, together with new technologies and ongoing climate change. The notion that the conflicts of history have been left behind is truly apocalyptic, and Kingsnorth and Hine are right to target business-as-usual philosophies of progress. When they posit a cleansing catastrophe, however, they, too, succumb to apocalyptic thinking. How can anyone imagine that the dream-driven human animal will suddenly become sane when its environment starts disintegrating? In their own catastrophist fashion, the authors have swallowed the progressive fairy tale that animates the civilisation they reject.

A change of sensibility in the arts would be highly desirable. The new perspective that is needed, however, is the opposite of apocalyptic. Neither Conrad nor Ballard believed that catastrophe could alter the terms on which human beings live in the world. Both writers were unsparing critics of civilisation, but they never imagined there was a superior alternative. Each had witnessed for himself what the alternative means in practice.

Rightly, Kingsnorth and Hine insist that our present environmental difficulties are not solvable problems, but are inseparable from our current way of living. When confronted with problems that are insoluble, however, the most useful response is not to await disaster in the hope that the difficulties will magically disappear. It is to do whatever can be done, knowing that it will not amount to much. Stoical acceptance of this kind is practically unthinkable at present - an age when emotional self-expression is valued more than anything else. Still, stoicism will be needed if civilised life is to survive an environmental crisis that cannot now be avoided. Walking on lava requires a cool head, not one filled with fiery dreams."
darkmountain  anthropocene  futurism  climate  climatechange  globalwarming  dougaldhine  2009  via:ayjay  environment  paulkingsnorth  manifestos  capitalism  latecapitalism  disaster  civilization  uncivilization  art  arts  lifestyle  catastrophe  johngray 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Uber’s Path of Destruction - American Affairs Journal
"ince it began operations in 2010, Uber has grown to the point where it now collects over $45 billion in gross passenger revenue, and it has seized a major share of the urban car service market. But the widespread belief that it is a highly innovative and successful company has no basis in economic reality.

An examination of Uber’s economics suggests that it has no hope of ever earning sustainable urban car service profits in competitive markets. Its costs are simply much higher than the market is willing to pay, as its nine years of massive losses indicate. Uber not only lacks powerful competitive advantages, but it is actually less efficient than the competitors it has been driving out of business.

Uber’s investors, however, never expected that their returns would come from superior efficiency in competitive markets. Uber pursued a “growth at all costs” strategy financed by a staggering $20 billion in investor funding. This funding subsidized fares and service levels that could not be matched by incumbents who had to cover costs out of actual passenger fares. Uber’s massive subsidies were explicitly anticompetitive—and are ultimately unsustainable—but they made the company enormously popular with passengers who enjoyed not having to pay the full cost of their service.

The resulting rapid growth was also intended to make Uber highly attractive to those segments of the investment world that believed explosive top-line growth was the only important determinant of how start-up companies should be valued. Investors focused narrow­ly on Uber’s revenue growth and only rarely considered whether the company could ever produce the profits that might someday repay the multibillion dollar subsidies.

Most public criticisms of Uber have focused on narrow behavioral and cultural issues, including deceptive advertising and pricing, algorithmic manipulation, driver exploitation, deep-seated misogyny among executives, and disregard of laws and business norms. Such criticisms are valid, but these problems are not fixable aberrations. They were the inevitable result of pursuing “growth at all costs” without having any ability to fund that growth out of positive cash flow. And while Uber has taken steps to reduce negative publicity, it has not done—and cannot do—anything that could suddenly pro­duce a sustainable, profitable business model.

Uber’s longer-term goal was to eliminate all meaningful competition and then profit from this quasi-monopoly power. While it has already begun using some of this artificial power to suppress driver wages, it has not achieved the Facebook- or Amazon-type “plat­form” power it hoped to exploit. Given that both sustainable profits and true industry dominance seemed unachievable, Uber’s investors de­cided to take the company public, based on the hope that enough gullible investors still believe that the compa­ny’s rapid growth and popularity are the result of powerfully effi­cient inno­vations and do not care about its inability to generate profits.

These beliefs about Uber’s corporate value were created entirely out of thin air. This is not a case of a company with a reasonably sound operating business that has managed to inflate stock market expectations a bit. This is a case of a massive valuation that has no relationship to any economic fundamentals. Uber has no competitive efficiency advantages, operates in an industry with few barriers to entry, and has lost more than $14 billion in the previous four years. But its narratives convinced most people in the media, invest­ment, and tech worlds that it is the most valuable transportation company on the planet and the second most valuable start-up IPO in U.S. history (after Facebook).

Uber is the breakthrough case where the public perception of a large new company was entirely created using the types of manufactured narratives typically employed in partisan political campaigns. Narrative construction is perhaps Uber’s greatest competitive strength. The company used these techniques to completely divert attention away from the massive subsidies that were the actual drivers of its popularity and growth. It successfully framed the entire public discussion around an emotive, “us-versus-them” battle between heroic innovators and corrupt regulators who were falsely blamed for all of the industry’s historic service problems. Uber’s desired framing—that it was fighting a moral battle on behalf of technological progress and economic freedom—was uncritically ac­cepted by the mainstream business and tech industry press, who then never bothered to analyze the firm’s actual economics or its anticompetitive behavior.

In reality, Uber’s platform does not include any technological breakthroughs, and Uber has done nothing to “disrupt” the eco­nomics of providing urban car services. What Uber has disrupted is the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency. Its multibillion dollar subsidies completely distorted marketplace price and service signals, leading to a massive misallocation of resources. Uber’s most important innovation has been to produce staggering levels of private wealth without creating any sustainable benefits for consumers, workers, the cities they serve, or anyone else."
huberthoran  uber  carsharing  taxis  transportation  2019  economics  technology  technosolutionism  huxterism  propaganda  regulation  disruption  innovation  scale  networkeffects  amazon  facebook  venturecapital  siliconvalley  latecapitalism  capitalism  exploitation  labor  growth  lyft  china  startups  cities  urban  urbanism  productivity  traviskalanick 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Anne Galloway 'Speculative Design and Glass Slaughterhouses' - This is HCD
"Andy: You’ve got quite an interesting background. I’m going to ask you about in a second. I wanted to start with the quote from Ursula Le Guin that you have on your website. It’s from the Lathe of Heaven. “We’re in the world, not against it. It doesn’t work to try and stand outside things and run them that way, it just doesn’t work. It goes against life. There is a way, but you have to follow it, the world is, no matter how we think it ought to be, you have to be with it, you have to let it be.

Then on the More Than Human website, you have these three questions. What if we refuse to uncouple nature and culture? What if we deny that human beings are exceptional? What if we stop speaking and listening only to ourselves? The More Than Human lab explores everyday entanglements of humans and non-humans and imagines more sustainable ways of thinking, making, and doing. Anne, let’s get started by first talking about what do you mean by all of that?

Anne: The Ursula Le Guin quote I love mostly because a critical perspective or an activist perspective, anything that says we ought to be changing the world in any way, it always assumes that we need to fix something, that the world is broken and that designers especially are well-suited to be able to solve some of these problems. I like thinking about what it means to respond to injustice by accepting it, not in the sense of believing that it’s okay or right, because clearly, it’s been identify as unjust. I love Le Guin’s attention to the fact that there is a way to be in the world.

As soon as we think that we’re outside of it, any choices or decisions or actions that we take are, well, they sit outside of it as well. I like being embedded in the trouble. I like Donna Haraway’s idea of staying with the trouble. It’s not that we have to accept that things are problematic, but rather that we have to work within the structures that already exist. Not to keep them that way, in fact, many should be dismantled or changed. Rather, to accept that there is a flow to the universe.

Of course, Le Guin was talking about Taoism, but here what I wanted to draw attention to is often our imperative to fix or to solve or to change things comes with a belief that we’re not part of the world that we’re trying to fix and change. It’s that that I want to highlight. That when we start asking difficult questions about the world, we can never remove ourselves from them. We’re complicit, we are on the receiving end of things. We’re never distant from it. I think that subtle but important shift in deciding how we approach our work is really important."



"Andy: Yes, okay. I was thinking about this, I was reading, in conjunction, this little Le Guin quote, I was trying to think, it’s unusual in the sense that it’s a discipline or a practice of design that uses its own practice to critique itself. It’s using design to critique design in many respects. A lot of what speculative design is talking about is, look what happens when we put stuff into the world, in some way, without much thought. I was trying to think if there was another discipline that does that. I think probably in the humanities there are, and certainly in sociology I think there probably is, where it uses its own discipline to critique itself. It’s a fairly unusual setup.

Anne: I would think actually it’s quite common in the humanities, perhaps the social sciences, where it’s not common is in the sciences. Any reflexive turn in any of the humanities would have used the discipline. Historiography is that sort of thing. Applied philosophy is that sort of thing. Reflexive anthropology is that sort of thing. I think it’s actually quite common, just not in the sciences, and design often tries to align itself with the sciences instead.

Andy: Yes, there was a great piece in the Aeon the other day, about how science doesn’t have an adequate description or explanation for consciousness. Yet, it’s the only thing it can be certain of. With that, it also doesn’t really seem to come up in the technology industry that much, because it’s so heavily aligned with science. Technology, and you’ve got this background in culture studies and science and technology and society, technology is a really strong vein throughout speculative design. Indeed, your work, right? Counting sheep is about the Internet of Things, and sheep. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that and why I am talking to you from the picture things to the Lord of the Rings, it basically looks like you’re living in part of the Shire in Middle Earth?

Anne: I do live in a place that looks remarkably like the Shire. It’s a bit disconcerting at times. The science and technology question in speculative design I think is first of all a matter of convenience. Science fiction, speculation, they lean historically, habitually towards science and tech. It becomes an easy target for critique. Not that it’s not necessary, but it’s right there, so why not? There’s that element to it. It has an easier ability to be transformed into something fanciful or terrifying, which allows for certain kinds of storytelling through speculation, that I think people, both creators and audiences or readers really enjoy.

Now, the irony of all of this, of course is that arguably one of the greatest concerns that people have would be tied to technological determinism, the idea that we’re going to have these technologies anyway, so what are we going to do about it? Now, when you speculate using these technologies, what you’re doing is actually reinforcing the idea that these technologies are coming, you play right into the same technological determinism that you’re trying to critique. In fact, one of the counting sheep scenarios was designed specifically to avoid the technology. It was the one that got the most positive responses."



"Andy: With all of this, and I may this pop at the beginning, just before we were recording, that there’s a sense of, because of everything going on in the world, that if only designers could run the world, everything would be fine, right, because we can see all of the solutions to everything. What would you want designers to get out of this kind of work or this kind of perspective?

Anne: Humility. That simple. I am one of those people. It’s because of being an ethnographer as well and doing participant observation and interviewing many people and their ideas about design. I’ve run into far more people who think that designers are arrogant than ones who don’t. This has always really interested me. What is it that designers do that seems to rub non-designers the wrong way? Part of it is this sense of, or implication that they know better than the rest of us, or that a designer will come in and say, “Let me fix your problem”, before even asking if there is a problem that the person wants fixed.

I actually gave a guest lecture in a class just the other day, where I suggested that there were people in the world who thought that designers were arrogant. One of the post-graduate students in the class really took umbrage at this and wanted to know why it was that designers were arrogant for offering to fix problems, but a builder wasn’t, or a doctor wasn’t.

Andy: What was your answer?

Anne: Well, my answer was, generally speaking, people go to them first and say, “I have this problem, I need help.” Whereas, designers come up with a problem, go find people that they think have it and then tell them they’d like to solve it. I think just on a social level, that is profoundly anti-social. That is not how people enjoy socially interacting with people.

Andy: I can completely see that and I think that I would say that argument has also levelled, quite rightly, a lot of Silicon Valley, which is the answer to everything is some kind of technology engineering startup to fix all the problems that all the other technology and engineering startups that are no longer startups have created. It’s probably true of quite a lot of areas of business and finance, as well, and politics, for that matter. The counter, I could imagine a designer saying, “Well, that’s not really true”, because one of the things as human-centred designers, the first thing we do, we go out, we do design ethnography, we go and speak to people, we go and observe, we go and do all of that stuff. We really understand their problems. We’re not just telling people what needs to be fixed. We’re going there and understanding things. What’s your response to that?

Anne: Well, my first response is, yes, that’s absolutely true. There are lots of very good designers in the world who do precisely that. Because I work in an academic institution though, I’m training students. What my job involves is getting the to the point where they know the difference between telling somebody something and asking somebody something. what it means to actually understand their client or their user. I prefer to just refer to them as people. What it is that people want or need. One of the things that I offer in all of my classes is, after doing the participant observation, my students always have the opportunity to submit a rationale for no design intervention whatsoever.

That’s not something that is offered to people in a lot of business contexts because there’s a business case that’s being made. Whereas, I want my students to understand that sometimes the research demonstrates that people are actually okay, and that even if they have little problems, they’re still okay with that, that people are quite okay with living with contradictions and that they will accept some issues because it allows for other things to emerge. That if they want, they can provide the evidence for saying, “Actually, the worst thing we could do in this scenario is design anything and I refuse to design.”

Andy: Right, that and the people made trade-offs all the time because of the pain of change is much … [more]
annegalloway  design  2019  speculativefiction  designethnography  morethanhuman  ursulaleguin  livestock  agriculture  farming  sheep  meat  morethanhumanlab  activism  criticaldesign  donnaharaway  stayingwiththetrouble  taoism  flow  change  changemaking  systemsthinking  complicity  catherinecaudwell  injustice  justice  dunneandraby  consciousness  science  technology  society  speculation  speculativedesign  questioning  fiction  future  criticalthinking  whatif  anthropology  humanities  reflexiveanthropology  newzealand  socialsciences  davidgrape  powersoften  animals  cows  genevievebell  markpesce  technologicaldeterminism  dogs  cats  ethnography  cooperation  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  slow  slowness  time  perception  psychology  humility  problemsolving  contentment  presence  peacefulness  workaholism  northamerica  europe  studsterkel  protestantworkethic  labor  capitalism  passion  pets  domestication 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Capitalism Camp for Kids - The New York Times
"Embedded in these programs is at least one contradiction: They promote entrepreneurship and leadership, but are also training kids to be good employees; to be innovators and disrupters, but also to be model office drones."
camps  capitalism  socialism  contradiction  drones  employees  obedience  innovation  disruption  entrepreneurship  children  indoctrination 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Spadework | Issue 34 | n+1
"By the time I started organizing so much that it felt like a full-time job, it was the spring of 2016, and I had plenty of company. Around the country there were high-profile efforts to organize magazines, fast-food places, and nursing homes. Erstwhile Occupiers became involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign and joined the exploding Democratic Socialists of America, whose members receive shabby business cards proclaiming them an “official socialist organizer.” Today’s organizers — not activists, thank you — make clear that they are not black bloc participants brawling with police or hippies plotting a love-in. They are inspired by a tradition of professional revolutionaries, by Lenin’s exhortation that “unless the masses are organized, the proletariat is nothing. Organized — it is everything.” Organizing, in other words, is unembarrassed about power. It recognizes that to wield it you need to persuade untold numbers of people to join a cause, and to begin organizing themselves. Organizing means being in it to win.

But how do you win? Historical materialism holds that crises of capitalism spark revolts, perhaps even revolutions, as witnessed in the eruption of Occupy and Black Lives Matter; uprisings in Spain, Greece, and Egypt; and the British student movement against tuition fees. But there’s no guide for what happens in the long aftermath, as the left has often learned the hard way.

In previous moments of upheaval and promise the left has often turned to Antonio Gramsci, who sought to understand why working-class revolts in Europe following the Russian Revolution had led to fascism. Gramsci concluded that on some level people consent to subservience, even take it for granted, when the order in which they live comes to seem like common sense. Hegemony was subtler than outright coercion, more pervasive, permeating the tempos of daily life.

It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”"



"The Thatcherite project was since then much advanced, and we had internalized its dictates. For our whole lives we had learned to do school very well; in graduate school we learned to exploit ourselves on weekends and vacations before putting ourselves “on the market.” Many of us still believed in meritocracy, despite learning every day how it was failing us. The worse the conditions of academic life became, the harder everyone worked, and the harder it became to contest them. Plus, we were so lucky to be there — at Yale! Compared to so many grad students, we had it good, and surely jobs were waiting on the other side for us, if for anyone. Who were we to complain? Organizing a union of graduate students at Yale seemed to many like an act of unbearable privilege — a bunch of Ivy League self-styled radicals doing worker cosplay."



"Realizing that it was not enough for people to like me was revelatory. I had to learn to be more comfortable with antagonism and disagreement, with putting a choice in front of people and letting them make it instead of smiling away tension and doing the work myself. I had to expect more from other people. With other organizers, I role-played the conversations I feared most before having them; afterward, I replayed them over and over in my head. I struggled to be different: the version of myself I wanted to be, someone who could move people and bend at least some tiny corner of the universe.

It’s not easy to be the site of a battle for hegemony. It’s not a beatific Whitmanesque “I contain multitudes”; it’s an often painful struggle among your competing selves for dominance. You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now. You may not like your own answer. Your inner Thatcherite will raise its voice. You can’t kill it off entirely; you will almost certainly find that it’s a bigger part of you than you thought. But organizing burrows into the pores of your practical consciousness and asks you to choose the part of yourself that wants something other than common sense. It’s unsettling. It can be alienating. And yet I also often felt I was finally reconciling parts of myself I’d tried to keep separate — what I thought, what I said, what I did. To organize, and to be organized, you have to keep in mind Hall’s lesson: there is no true or false consciousness, no true self that organizing discovers or undoes. You too, Hall reminds us, were made by this world you hope to change. The more distant the world you want to live in is from the world that exists, the more deeply you yourself will feel this disjuncture. “I’m not cut out for this,” people often say when they struggle with organizing. No one is: one isn’t born an organizer, but becomes one."



"The relationality of organizing is maybe the hardest thing to understand before you’ve done it. But it is the most important. This is not because people are governed by emotions instead of reason, though they sometimes are. It’s because the entire problem of collective action is that it’s rational to act collectively where it’s not to act alone. And you build the collective piece by piece.

Organizing relationships can be utopian: at their best, they offer the feminist dream of intimacy outside of romance or family. In the union, I loved people I did not know very well. In meetings I was often overcome with awe and affection at the courage and wisdom of the people there with me. I came to count many of the people I organized with as my dearest friends. When I needed help, there were always people I could call, people who would always pick up the phone, people I could and did talk to about anything. These relationships often served as a source of care and support in a world with too little of those things. But they were not only friendships, and not only emotional ballast. The people I looked to for support would also push me when it was called for, as I would them; that, I knew, was the deal.

Our relationships forged the practical commitments to one another that held the union together. They made us accountable to each other. They were difficult and multifaceted, often frustrating, intensely vulnerable, and potentially transformative but no less prone than any other relationship to carelessness, hurt, and betrayal, and always a lot of work. We were constantly building them and testing their limits, pushing each other harder the closer we got. They had to bear a lot of weight. In more abject moments, I wondered whether they were anything more than instrumental. More often, though, I wondered what was so menacing about usefulness that it threatened to contaminate all else.

The word comrade, Jodi Dean argues, names a political relationship, not a personal one: you are someone’s comrade not because you like them but because you are on the same side of a struggle. Comrades are not neighbors, citizens, or friends; nor are they any kind of family, though you might call them brother or sister. The comrade has no race, gender, or nation. (As one meme goes: “My favorite gender-neutral pronoun is comrade.”) Comrades are not even unique individuals; they are “multiple, replaceable, fungible.” You can be comrades with millions of people you have never met and never will. Your relationship is ultimately with the political project you have in common. To many noncommunists, Dean readily admits, this instrumentalism is “horrifying”: a confirmation that communism means submitting to the Borg. But the sameness of the comrade is a kind of genuine equality.

Being an organizer is like being a comrade in some ways but different in others. The people you organize alongside may be comrades, but the people you are organizing often aren’t; the point of organizing, after all, is to reach beyond the people who are already on your side and win over as many others as you can. So you can’t assume the people you organize share your values; in fact, you should usually assume they don’t. This means that unlike comrades, organizers aren’t interchangeable. It matters who you are. McAlevey’s theory of the organic leader is that people have to be organized by people they know and trust, not by strangers who claim to have the right ideas. The SNCC looked for “strong people” — not necessarily traditional leaders, but people who were respected and trusted among their peers, on the logic that people would only take risky political action alongside people they trusted. When organizers reflect the people they organize, they win: when women of color organize other women of color, a 2007 paper by Kate Bronfenbrenner and Dorian Warren shows, they win almost 90 percent of elections. This cuts both ways: when women and people of color led the organizing in my department, we often struggled to get white men to take us seriously.

Yet the comradely element of organizing can also open up space for building relationships with people beyond those boundaries. It’s not that class and race and gender disappear, transcended by the cause — … [more]
alyssabattistoni  organizing  academia  academics  highereducation  highered  2019  labor  work  unions  thatcherism  reaganism  margartthatcher  communism  ronaldreagan  capitalism  meritocracy  hegemony  stuarthall  busyness  antoniogramsci  comrades  relationships  relationality  utopia  hierarchy  instrumentalism  equality  leadership  politics  class  race  gender  school  schooliness  schooling  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Dig: Un laboratorio del socialismo en Chile. Entrevista con Daniel Jadue.
"*This episode of The Dig is a special Dig in Spanish. Visit Jacobin for a transcript in English. Este episodio de The Dig es un Dig especial en español. Entra a Jacobin para una transcripción en inglés.* [https://jacobinmag.com/2019/04/communist-party-chile-left-governance-recoleta ]

Cuando se piensa en Chile desde el extranjero, generalmente surge la imagen de su pasado reciente marcado por la dictadura cívico–militar. Y esto con toda razón. El legado del régimen genocida de Pinochet todavía está presente en todas partes—en la memoria personal y colectiva, en las leyes y en una constitución profundamente neoliberal que sigue condenando al sistema político a un bipartidismo e impide las transformaciones deseadas por la soberanía popular. Daniel Jadue, el alcalde de la comuna de Recoleta, ubicada en la Región Metropolitana del Gran Santiago, se ha entregado a la empresa de construir en su territorio un laboratorio del comunismo del presente y del futuro. Junto a su equipo ha abierto una farmacia popular, una óptica popular y una linda librería popular. Todos estos servicios de primera necesidad venden sus productos a precios bajos y justos desafiando con ello a un mercado supuestamente autoregulado que en Chile sólo ha demostrado funcionar más bien estimulando prácticas de monopolio—un capitalismo salvaje."
chile  recoleta  communism  politics  2019  sanieljadue  policy  economics  socialism  capitalism  cities 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Dig: Real Estate Capitalism And Gentrification With Samuel Stein Jacobin Radio podcast
"What is gentrification? It isn't just about what was once known as the hipster and is still known as the artist, the telltale warning signs of impending demographic change. It's part of an entire political-economic order that has made real estate global capitalism's most prized asset for storing wealth—one that has helped bend place-based urban governments to the will of mobile, and thus more powerful, capital. Dan interviews Samuel Stein on his book, Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State."
realestate  samuelstein  2019  gentrification  capitalism  neoliberalism  finance  realestatefinancialcomplex  money  wealth  cities  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  inequality  shelter  labor  policy  newdeal  urbanrenewal 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Data for Social Good: Crisis Text Line CEO Nancy Lublin | Commonwealth Club
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRlCX597JhA ]

"Suicide and mental health are hard subjects—so Crisis Text Line leveraged the power of the data it collects to help their counselors determine the best way to talk about the topics with those in need. The nonprofit, founded in 2013 by CEO Nancy Lublin, has provided a free text-based and human-driven service to support those experiencing mental health stress, gathering data points from more than 75 million text messages sent and maximizing the impact of their information to better train counselors and support their community. Its innovative and data-driven methodology for tackling hard conversations can also be applied to more than the mental health space, including to Lublin’s latest venture: Loris.ai. 

Lublin’s entire career has focused on initiatives addressing social issues, and she founded Dress for Success and Do Something prior to Crisis Text Line. With her technology lens on big challenges, she continues to iterate on innovative mechanisms and creative solutions to sticky problems. At INFORUM, she’ll be joined in conversation by DJ Patil, head of technology at Devoted Health and former U.S. chief data scientist in the Obama administration, to dig into the power of data to effect change. Come curious!"
data  mentalhealth  socialgood  crisistext  nancylubin  djpatil  2019  nonprofit  nonprofits  911  socialmedia  suicide  society  government  crisiscounseling  emoji  language  communication  responsiveness  texting  sms  stress  funding  fundraising  storytelling  technology  siliconvalley  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charity  startups  capitalism  importance  charitableindustrialcomplex  canon  noblesseoblige  humanism  relationship  courage  racism  connection  humanconnection  loneliness  pain 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Urban Warfare: housing under the empire of finance [podcast]
"This book launch discussed how our homes and neighbourhoods have become the “last subprime frontiers of capitalism’.

Raquel Rolnik’s new book Urban Warfare: Housing under the empire of finance explores how financialisation has colonised cities and housing systems around the world, provoking homelessness and dispossession despite its promise of homeownership for all. The book examines housing politics and policy from numerous national contexts including the UK, Kazakhstan, Chile, the USA and Brazil. Rolnik offers a searing critique of the political economy of housing under neoliberalism and a poignant analysis of how it has decimated households across the globe, as well as an account of how residents and social movements are fighting back.

Raquel Rolnik is Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo. A widely-published academic and writer, she has also served as Director of the Planning Department of the city of São Paulo, National Secretary for Urban Programmes of the Brazilian Ministry of Cities, Urban Policy Coordinator of the NGO Polis Institute and United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.

Glyn Robbins is a long-time housing worker and activist with Defend Council Housing, and holds a PhD in urban policy. He is the author of There's No Place: The American housing crisis and what it means for the UK. His articles about housing and urban policy appear regularly in the labour movement and housing press and have also been published by The Guardian.

David Madden is Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Cities Programme at LSE. He is co-author, with Peter Marcuse, of In Defense of Housing: The politics of crisis. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Jacobin, and the Washington Post.

Suzanne Hall is Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Cities Programme at LSE. She is the author of City, Street and Citizen: The measure of the ordinary and co-editor, with Ricky Burdett, of The Sage Handbook of the 21st Century City.

Established in 1904, the Department of Sociology @LSEsociology at LSE is committed to empirically rich, conceptually sophisticated, and socially and politically relevant research and scholarship. Building upon the traditions of the discipline, we play a key role in the development of the social sciences into the new intellectual areas, social problems, and ethical dilemmas that face our society today."
raquelrolnik  glynrobbins  davidmadden  suzannehall  housing  urban  urbanism  finance  capitalism  cities  urbanplanning  realestatefinancialcomplex 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State – Next City
"This book is about planners in cities run by real estate. It describes how real estate came to rule, and what planners do under these circumstances. Planners provide a window into the practical dynamics of urban change: the way the state both uses and is used by organized capital, and the power of landlords and developers at every level of government. They also possess some of the powers we must deploy if we ever wish to reclaim our cities from real estate capital. Understanding planners is an important way to understand the capitalist state — how it is built, and what it would take to dismantle it."



"A private land market is essentially a spoils system — whoever owns the land keeps the accrued benefits, whether or not the owner is responsible for them. Until land is socially controlled, those who possess property, capital and access to power will shape planning priorities. With so much global capital invested into real estate, planners are facing enormous pressure to stoke land markets and enable gentrification. Their charge is to find creative ways to raise property values — either because they are low and landowners want them higher, or because they are already high and city budgets will fail if they start to fall. Any seemingly technical discussions of growth, density or urban form are always also shaped by this imperative. Planners are not just shills to real estate, though; they can and generally want to make spaces more beautiful, sustainable, efficient and sociable. But without control over the land, the result of their work is often higher land prices, increased rents and ultimately displacement.

As some places endure this kind of land market inflation, others fall prey to disinvestment: their land loses its exchange value, their residents are shut out of credit markets and their buildings fall into dangerous disrepair. This leads to a landscape of radically uneven geographical development between capital-flush cosmopolitan centers, like New York and London, and investment-scarce cities like Camden, New Jersey and Blackpool on England’s Irish Sea coast. Even within cities, the same inequalities are often evident from neighborhood to neighborhood. Gentrification cannot be a universal phenomenon; money tends to come from one place and go to another, creating chaos on both ends. On the disinvested side, communities face terrible choices. Many want the benefits of good planning — safe streets, clean air, decent housing — but not the catastrophic tide of capital it summons. In these places, residents will often reject planners’ interventions out of a well-founded fear that they will be kicked out of their neighborhoods before they ever enjoy the promised improvements.

One recent example: in March 2017, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a major new initiative for the poorest parts of Brooklyn. The plan promised jobs, park, health care and housing at a cost of $1.4 billion. But Brownsville resident Dayon Hopkins was skeptical. He had already been displaced from Bedford Stuyvesant after that neighborhood started to gentrify. Pointing to an ordinary building, he told a New York Times reporter, “They’ll take this right here, and put a glass door, a brick wall on one side of the hallway, and now it’s a loft, and now it costs way more than people are making around these parts. And I understand: It does get nicer. But where’s everybody else going to go? Down south? Where are we going to go?’”

Hopkins says what most planners won’t: that as long as some people’s business is to profit off land and property, most people will not be able to enjoy the benefits planners promise. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can imagine a better world — in fact, we must. First, however, we need to understand how we got here and how the system works. I wrote this book for anyone who is frustrated with both the direction their cities are taking and the alternatives planners are offering. I put planners at the center of the story because they are uniquely positioned at the nexus of state, capital and popular power. On their own, however, planners cannot unwind real estate’s grip over our politics. For that, we will need organized people: mass movements to remake our cities from the ground up and gain control over our homes and lives.

Such movements have been a consistent feature of urban life, and have grown and adapted to face new challenges. Gentrification is brutal, but rarely total — not only because colonizers always rely on the labor of a local workforce, but also because people always fight back: as individuals, as families (of birth and of choice), as communities (local and international), as neighbors and as a class. Even after displacement, people find a way to remake their spatial cultures and rebuild their social ties — not just to survive, but to fightback anew.

Gentrification’s apologists will see this and claim displacement is not that bad — people are resilient, they move, they rebuild, they’re fine. My point is precisely the opposite: human beings will always resist regimes in which land ownership gives a small number of people enormous power over the lives of all others. People will fight back, and I believe that we will win. I hope this book contributes to that fight. It is made not only to be read, but to be used."

[See also:
https://www.versobooks.com/books/2890-urban-warfare
https://www.versobooks.com/books/2870-capital-city ]
oscarperryabello  raquelrolnik  samuelstein  housing  economics  capitalism  neoliberalism  urban  urbanism  cities  urbanplanning  2019  gentrification  ownership  inequality  dayonhopkins  realestatefinancialcomplex 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Zombie Neoliberalism | Dissent Magazine
"For someone who demands that Democrats return to the questions of class that once supposedly drove the party, Frank has a fraught relationship with the radical left. Perhaps it’s to be expected of someone who cut his political teeth in the decades when the idea of socialism was all but dead. His books are peppered with denigrations of communists past that feel particularly dated in a post–Cold War era where many of today’s Bernie Sanders supporters and new Democratic Socialists of America members scarcely remember the USSR. He often draws equivalencies between left and right, positioning himself, like any good New Dealer, as the compromise keeping the commies at bay—the only reasonable position between two wildly irrational poles. This leads, at times, to a curiously apolitical reading of politics, one that strikes an above-the-fray pose that ignores the realities of struggle.

Frank is sharper when he examines the Democratic establishment. Listen, Liberal is a biting diagnosis of the cult of smartness that has become liberalism’s fatal flaw. Given his own weakness for pretending to float above partisan conflict, the book is a self-critique as much as anything. In previous books he glanced at the failures of liberalism, only to return to pointing out how very bad the right is. When he notes today that “Nothing is more characteristic of the liberal class than its members’ sense of their own elevated goodness,” this is an unsubtle rebuke to his own earlier assumptions.

Criticizing the fetish for smartness within the liberal class (the term that he uses for what others have called the “professional-managerial class”) puts Frank in familiar territory. His skewering of tech-fetishists from the first dot-com era turns into a skillful reading of Obama’s turn toward Silicon Valley (and the fact that so many former Obama staffers have wound up there). The failure of the “knowledge economy” has been a subject of Frank’s since way back. There is, he notes, a difference of degree, not kind, between the Republican obsession with entrepreneurs and business and the “friendly and caring Democratic one, which promises to patch us up with job training and student loans.”

Since Trump’s win, Democratic strategists have doubled down on the idea that victory lies with Frank’s “well-graduated” professional class, the “Panera Breads” or the suburban voters of Chuck Schumer and Ed Rendell’s famed predictions that Democrats would make up any losses with blue-collar voters who defected to Trump by gaining ground in affluent suburbs. The most obvious problem with this strategy is that it does not approach a majority: only a third of the country has a bachelor’s degree, and only 12 percent an advanced degree beyond that. The other, and more significant, problem is that this assumption encourages a belief in meritocracy that is fundamentally anti-egalitarian, fostering contempt for those who haven’t pulled themselves up by their bootstraps—and Republicans already give us far too much of that.

Liberalism’s romance with meritocracy has also fostered an obsession with complexity for its own sake—a love of “wonky” solutions to problems that are somehow the only realistic way to do anything, even though they require a graduate degree in public policy just to comprehend. Politics by experts gives us a politics that only experts can understand. Complexity allows people to make things slightly better while mostly preserving the status quo and appearing to have Done Something Smart.

In Frank’s description of Hillary Clinton we see where all this leads: a feeling of goodness that replaces politics. This isn’t entirely fair, of course—for the millions of Clinton voters (and there were, we should remember, some 3 million more of them than Trump voters), one can assume that at least as many of them were motivated by her actual stated policy goals as Trump voters were by promises of jobs and a wall. Yet Clinton came up short in the key states that lost her the Electoral College as much because poor and working people stayed home than because of any sizable flip of the mythical “White Working Class,” those bitter non-degree-havers of the coastal media’s imagination, to Trump.

Feeling good about voting for Clinton because she was less crass than Trump—the campaign message that the Clinton campaign seemed to settle on—was not enough to inspire a winning majority at the polls. Feelings, Frank would agree, are no substitute for politics.


What is left of liberalism these days, then? Surveying the wreckage of the Democratic Party, one is tempted to answer: not much. On the other hand, the 2016 election (and the 2017 elections in the United Kingdom and France) show us the rise of a current presumed dead for decades. In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the United States has seen the awakening of socialist politics, breathing life into the kind of class talk that Frank has yearned for his entire career. It is important, then, that we take note of the limitations of longing for a vanished past, that we salvage the lessons from recent history that Frank offers in order to move forward.

Frank’s books presume that a return to the New Deal is the best we can hope for. His frequent invocations of FDR demonstrate the problems with Frank’s take on “culture.” Many New Deal programs, after all, excluded workers who were not white men, and while the best parts of the New Deal have resisted right-wing attempts to take them down, nostalgia for its peak is similar to that which motivates right-wing populism. It is the left’s version of “Make America Great Again.”

The echoes of Kansian arguments have returned to a left grappling with the best way to respond to Trump; some have forthrightly said that pandering to presumably cultural-reactionary Trump voters is necessary, that Democrats should discard “identity liberalism,” in Mark Lilla’s words. In Kansas, Frank wrote, “If basic economic issues are removed from the table . . . only the social issues remain to distinguish the parties.” But this is also true in reverse: when Trump ran to the left on trade, denouncing deals that Hillary Clinton had backed, few people were able to successfully explain why Trump’s racism and sexism made him, still, a bad deal for working people.

Frank demonstrates both liberalism’s promise and its limitations—which are also the limitations of Bernie Sanders and those who, in trying to defend the left against its more disingenuous critics, wind up casting the New Deal–state as the apotheosis of all possible politics rather than as one temporary phase in the class war.

For it is class war that we are in, whether we like it or not, and we will not win it with smartness or with better billionaires. It is a power struggle in which the right will aim to divide and conquer, to mobilize racism and sexism to maintain a hierarchy, and the center will attempt to smooth the roughest edges in order to hold onto its own power or, what’s worse, because it genuinely believes that there is still No Alternative.

“Liberalism,” Frank notes in The Wrecking Crew, “arose out of a long-ago compromise between left-wing social movements and business interests.” In most of his books there is a brief acknowledgment of this kind of struggle—nods to what Kansas refers to as “decades of movement building, of bloody fights between strikers and state militias, of agitating, advocating, and thankless organizing.” We need that kind of fight once again, if we are to hope for things to get better.

John Feltner of Rexnord knew; he joined his union comrades on the picket line even as he was preparing to lose his own factory job. Feltner told me about his time at “union school,” held on the grounds of the great labor leader and five-time Socialist presidential candidate’s home, and how compared to Debs’s day, neither political party spoke to him.

We need to ensure that our politics are not just a welfare-state version of Make America Great Again, a kinder fetishizing of the industrial working class that leaves so-called “social issues” out of the picture. For that hope, we need to turn to the social movements of recent years, to the growth of the Movement for Black Lives and the promise of the Women’s March and particularly the Women’s Strike, to the activists sitting in and disrupting town halls to save healthcare and even improve it, as well as the burgeoning membership of socialist organizations and the rise of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi. The groundwork is being laid, but as Frank notes, no benevolent leader is going to bring us the change we need.

That is going to be up to all of us."
2017  neoliberalism  sarahjaffe  donaldtrump  thomasfrank  hillaryclinton  meritocracy  smartness  elitism  politics  us  elections  newdeal  economics  workingclass  class  classism  berniesanders  socialism  capitalism  chokweantarlumumba  liberlaism  unions  labor  activism  organizing  chokwelumumba 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Traditions of the future, by Astra Taylor (Le Monde diplomatique - English edition, May 2019)
"If the dead do not exactly have power or rights, per se, they do still have a seat at the table—Thomas Jefferson among them. In ways obvious and subtle, constructive and destructive, the present is constrained and shaped by the decisions of past generations. A vivid example is the American Constitution, in which a small group of men ratified special kinds of promises intended to be perpetual. Sometimes I imagine the Electoral College, which was devised to increase the influence of the southern states in the new union, as the cold grip of plantation owners strangling the current day. Even Jefferson’s beloved Bill of Rights, intended as protections from government overreach, has had corrosive effects. The Second Amendment’s right to bear arms allows those who plundered native land and patrolled for runaway slaves, who saw themselves in the phrase “a well regulated Militia,” to haunt us. Yet plenty of our ancestors also bequeathed us remarkable gifts, the right to free speech, privacy, and public assembly among them.

Some theorists have framed the problematic sway of the deceased over the affairs of the living as an opposition between tradition and progress. The acerbic Christian critic G. K. Chesterton put it this way: “Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.” Social progress, in Chesterton’s account, can thus be seen as a form of disenfranchisement, the deceased being stripped of their suffrage. Over half a century before Chesterton, Karl Marx expressed sublime horror at the persistent presence of political zombies: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

The most eloquent partisans in this trans-temporal power struggle said their piece at the end of the 18th century. Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine had a furious debate that articulated the dichotomy between past and future, dead and living, tradition and progress. A consummate conservative shaken by the post-revolutionary violence in France, Burke defended the inherited privilege and stability of aristocratic government that radical democrats sought to overthrow: “But one of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated, is lest the temporary possessors and life-renters in it, unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act as if they were the entire masters; that they should not think it amongst their rights to cut off the entail, or commit waste on the inheritance, by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society.” Any revolution, Burke warned, hazards leaving those who come after “a ruin instead of an habitation” in which men, disconnected from their forerunners, “would become little better than the flies of summer.”

The left-leaning Paine would have none of it. Better to be a buzzing fly than a feudal serf. “Whenever we are planning for posterity we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary,” he quipped. His critique, forcefully expressed in Common Sense and The Rights of Man, was not just an attack on monarchy. Rather, it was addressed to revolutionaries who might exercise undue influence over time by establishing new systems of government. “There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the ‘end of time,’” he protested.

In his pithy style, Paine popularized a commitment both to revolution and to novelty. “A nation, though continually existing, is continually in the state of renewal and succession. It is never stationary. Every day produces new births, carries minors forward to maturity, and old persons from the stage. In this ever-running flood of generations there is no part superior in authority to another.” Given the onslaught of change, a constitution “must be a novelty, and that which is not a novelty must be defective.” Never one for moderation, Paine advocated a decisive break with tradition, rejecting lessons from the past, castigating those who scoured records of ancient Greece and Rome for models or insights. What could the dead teach the living that could possibly be worth knowing?

Every person, whether or not they have children, exists as both a successor and an ancestor. We are all born into a world we did not make, subject to customs and conditions established by prior generations, and then we leave a legacy for others to inherit. Nothing illustrates this duality more profoundly than the problem of climate change, which calls into question the very future of a habitable planet.

Today, I’d guess that most of us are more able to imagine an environmental apocalypse than a green utopia. Nuclear holocaust, cyber warfare, mass extinction, superbugs, fascism’s return, and artificial intelligence turned against its makers—these conclusions we can see, but our minds struggle to conjure an image of a desirable, credible alternative to such bleak finales, to envision habitation rather than ruin.

This incapacity to see the future takes a variety of forms: young people no longer believe their lives will be better than those of their parents and financial forecasts give credence to their gloomy view; political scientists warn that we are becoming squatters in the wreckage of the not-so-distant liberal-democratic past, coining terms such as dedemocratization and postdemocracy to describe the erosion of democratic institutions and norms alongside an ongoing concentration of economic power. Meanwhile, conservative leaders cheer on democratic regression under the cover of nostalgia—“Make America Great Again,” “Take Our Country Back”—and seek to rewind the clock to an imaginary and exclusive past that never really existed."



"Questions of labor and leisure—of free time—have been central to debates about self-government since peasant citizens flooded the Athenian Pnyx. Plato and Aristotle, unapologetic elitists, were aghast that smiths and shoemakers were permitted to rub shoulders with the Assembly’s wellborn. This offense to hierarchical sensibilities was possible only because commoners were compensated for their attendance. Payments sustained the participation of the poor—that’s what held them up—so they could miss a day’s work over hot flames or at the cobbler’s bench to exercise power on equal footing with would-be oligarchs.

For all their disdain, Plato’s and Aristotle’s conviction that leisure facilitates political participation isn’t wrong. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, radical workers agreed. They organized and fought their bosses for more free time, making substantial inroads until a range of factors, including the cult of consumption and a corporate counterattack, overpowered their efforts. A more sustainable, substantive democracy means resuscitating their campaign. Free time is not just a reprieve from the grindstone; it’s an expansion of freedom and a prerequisite of self-rule.

A reduction of work hours would have salutary ecological effects as well, as environmentalists have noted. A fundamental reevaluation of labor would mean assessing which work is superfluous and which essential; which processes can be automated and which should be done by hand; what activities contribute to our alienation and subjugation and which integrate and nourish us. “The kind of work that we’ll need more of in a climate-stable future is work that’s oriented toward sustaining and improving human life as well as the lives of other species who share our world,” environmental journalist and political theorist Alyssa Battistoni has written. “That means teaching, gardening, cooking, and nursing: work that makes people’s lives better without consuming vast amounts of resources, generating significant carbon emissions, or producing huge amounts of stuff.” The time to experiment with more ecologically conscious, personally fulfilling, and democracy-enhancing modes of valuing labor and leisure is upon us, at precisely the moment that time is running out.

With climate calamity on the near horizon, liberal democracies are in a bind. The dominant economic system constrains our relationship to the future, sacrificing humanity’s well-being and the planet’s resources on the altar of endless growth while enriching and empowering the global 1 percent. Meanwhile, in America, the Constitution exacerbates this dynamic, preserving and even intensifying a system of minority rule and lashing the country’s citizens to an aristocratic past.

The fossil fuel and finance industries, alongside the officials they’ve bought off, will fight to the death to maintain the status quo, but our economic arrangements and political agreements don’t have to function the way they do. Should democratic movements manage to mount a successful challenge to the existing order, indigenous precolonial treaty-making processes provide an example of the sort of wisdom a new, sustainable consensus might contain. The Gdoonaaganinaa, or “Dish with One Spoon” treaty, outlines a relationship between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Nishnaabeg people. The dish symbolizes the shared land on which both groups depend and to which all are responsible; in keeping with the Haudenosaunee Great Law of peace, … [more]
astrataylor  ancesors  climatechange  history  2019  democracy  capitalism  patriarchy  whitesupremacy  borders  power  time  future  change  hannaharendt  ecology  sustainability  globalwarming  interconnected  interconnectedness  indigeneity  indigenous  leannebetasamosakesimpson  leisure  plato  aristotle  philosophy  participation  participatory  organizing  labor  work  marxism  karlmarx  socialism  freetime  longnow  bighere  longhere  bignow  annpettifor  economics  growth  degrowth  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  debt  tradition  gkchesterson  thomaspaine  thomasjefferson  us  governance  government  edmundburke  commonsense  postdemocracy  dedemocratization  institutions  artleisure  leisurearts  self-rule  collectivism  alyssanattistoni  legacy  emissions  carbonemissions  ethics  inheritance  technology  technosolutionism  canon  srg  peterthiel  elonmusk  liberalism  feminism  unions  democraticsocialism  pericles  speed  novelty  consumerism  consumption  obsolescence  capital  inequality 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Ezra Klein Show - Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle | Listen via Stitcher for Podcasts
"Episode Info

In the past few months, two essays on America’s changing relationship to work caught my eye. The first was Anne Helen Petersen’s viral BuzzFeed piece defining, and describing, “millennial burnout.” The second was Derek Thompson’s Atlantic article on “workism.”

The two pieces speak to each other in interesting ways, and to some questions I’ve been reflecting on as my own relationship to work changes. So I asked the authors to join me for a conversation about what happens when work becomes an identity, capitalism becomes a religion, and productivity becomes the way we measure human value. The conversation exceeded even the high hopes I had for it. Enjoy this one.

Book recommendations:
Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials by Malcolm Harris
White: Essays on Race and Culture by Richard Dyer
The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914 by Philipp Blom
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan"
work  tolisten  burnout  identity  workism  derekthompson  annehelenpetersen  malcolmharris  richarddyer  philippblom  jenniferegan  capitalism  ezraklein 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Pedagogy of Design in the Age of Computation: Panel Discussion - YouTube
“I wish y’all could teach designers without using any Adobe products.” —@tchoi8 (9:11)

“Michael Rock, would say that ideally the things that you are learning in a school setting should stick with you […] throughout your entire career. […] I think critical thinking, historical references, […] space, time, community — that’s much more valuable.” —@mind_seu (12:48)

In response to “Can you teach curiosity?” @mind_seu: “…this sinking feeling that the more that I learn, the less that I know. On the one hand, it’s exciting & it makes you more curious to go into this worm holes, but on the other side it brings you into this state of insecurity”

In response to the same @tchoi8: “… curiosities can be stolen away from an individual when there’s a discouragement or peer pressure in a toxic way. I think people, including myself, lose curiosity when I feel I can’t do it or I feel less equipped than a student next to me. In technical courses, it’s very easy to create a dynamic in which the start student, who probably has done the technical exercises before, end up getting most attention or most respect from the class. We [at @sfpc] try to revert that [discouragement] by creating homeworks that are equally challenging for advanced and beginner students and that opens up dialogues between students. For example, [goes on to explain an assignment that involves transfer of knowledge (at 22:22)]”

In response to “Can you teach autonomy?” @mind_seu: “Whether you can teach someone autonomy or not, again is maybe not the right question. Why do we want to solve problems by ourselves? I think it’s trying to work with people around you who know more than you do and vice versa, so you can work together to create whatever project you’re trying to implement. But going into a tutorial hole online to do something on your own? I don’t know if we actually need to do that. These tools… we’re trying to build collectives and communities, I think, and maybe that’s more meaningful than trying to do something on your own, even if it’s possible.” [YES]

[See also:

Mindy Seu
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM9mRYpnD7E

Taeyoon Choi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfThnEo5xgE

Atif Akin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-URUDBItB8

Rik Lomas
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uk_XYIkyZM ]
towatch  mindseu  design  computation  2019  atifakin  riklomas  coding  publishing  digital  history  education  adobe  designeducation  howweteach  art  creativity  programming  decolonization  tools  longview  longgame  ellenullman  accessibility  access  inclusivity  inclusion  craft  curiosity  imagination  learning  howwelearn  insecurity  exposure  humility  competition  unschooling  deschooling  comparison  schools  schooliness  resistance  ethics  collaboration  cooperation  community  conversation  capitalism  studentdebt  transparency  institutions  lcproject  openstudioproject  emancipation  solidarity  humanrights  empowerment  activism  precarity  curriculum  instruction 
may 2019 by robertogreco
[Essay] | Faustian Economics, by Wendell Berry | Harper's Magazine
"The general reaction to the apparent end of the era of cheap fossil fuel, as to other readily foreseeable curtailments, has been to delay any sort of reckoning. The strategies of delay, so far, have been a sort of willed oblivion, or visions of large profits to the manufacturers of such “biofuels” as ethanol from corn or switchgrass, or the familiar unscientific faith that “science will find an answer.” The dominant response, in short, is a dogged belief that what we call the American Way of Life will prove somehow indestructible. We will keep on consuming, spending, wasting, and driving, as before, at any cost to anything and everybody but ourselves.

This belief was always indefensible — the real names of global warming are Waste and Greed — and by now it is manifestly foolish. But foolishness on this scale looks disturbingly like a sort of national insanity. We seem to have come to a collective delusion of grandeur, insisting that all of us are “free” to be as conspicuously greedy and wasteful as the most corrupt of kings and queens. (Perhaps by devoting more and more of our already abused cropland to fuel production we will at last cure ourselves of obesity and become fashionably skeletal, hungry but — thank God! — still driving.)"



"The normalization of the doctrine of limitlessness has produced a sort of moral minimalism: the desire to be efficient at any cost, to be unencumbered by complexity. The minimization of neighborliness, respect, reverence, responsibility, accountability, and self-subordination — this is the culture of which our present leaders and heroes are the spoiled children.

Our national faith so far has been: “There’s always more.” Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine. Thus an X marked on a paper ballot no longer fulfills our idea of voting. One problem with this state of affairs is that the work now most needing to be done — that of neighborliness and caretaking — cannot be done by remote control with the greatest power on the largest scale. A second problem is that the economic fantasy of limitlessness in a limited world calls fearfully into question the value of our monetary wealth, which does not reliably stand for the real wealth of land, resources, and workmanship but instead wastes and depletes it.

That human limitlessness is a fantasy means, obviously, that its life expectancy is limited. There is now a growing perception, and not just among a few experts, that we are entering a time of inescapable limits. We are not likely to be granted another world to plunder in compensation for our pillage of this one. Nor are we likely to believe much longer in our ability to outsmart, by means of science and technology, our economic stupidity. The hope that we can cure the ills of industrialism by the homeopathy of more technology seems at last to be losing status. We are, in short, coming under pressure to understand ourselves as limited creatures in a limited world.

This constraint, however, is not the condemnation it may seem. On the contrary, it returns us to our real condition and to our human heritage, from which our self-definition as limitless animals has for too long cut us off. Every cultural and religious tradition that I know about, while fully acknowledging our animal nature, defines us specifically as humans — that is, as animals (if the word still applies) capable of living not only within natural limits but also within cultural limits, self-imposed. As earthly creatures, we live, because we must, within natural limits, which we may describe by such names as “earth” or “ecosystem” or “watershed” or “place.” But as humans, we may elect to respond to this necessary placement by the self-restraints implied in neighborliness, stewardship, thrift, temperance, generosity, care, kindness, friendship, loyalty, and love.

In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define “freedom,” for example, as an escape from all restraint. But, as my friend Bert Hornback has explained in his book The Wisdom in Words, “free” is etymologically related to “friend.” These words come from the same Indo-European root, which carries the sense of “dear” or “beloved.” We set our friends free by our love for them, with the implied restraints of faithfulness or loyalty. And this suggests that our “identity” is located not in the impulse of selfhood but in deliberately maintained connections."



"And so our cultural tradition is in large part the record of our continuing effort to understand ourselves as beings specifically human: to say that, as humans, we must do certain things and we must not do certain things. We must have limits or we will cease to exist as humans; perhaps we will cease to exist, period. At times, for example, some of us humans have thought that human beings, properly so called, did not make war against civilian populations, or hold prisoners without a fair trial, or use torture for any reason.

Some of us would-be humans have thought too that we should not be free at anybody else’s expense. And yet in the phrase “free market,” the word “free” has come to mean unlimited economic power for some, with the necessary consequence of economic powerlessness for others. Several years ago, after I had spoken at a meeting, two earnest and obviously troubled young veterinarians approached me with a question: How could they practice veterinary medicine without serious economic damage to the farmers who were their clients? Underlying their question was the fact that for a long time veterinary help for a sheep or a pig has been likely to cost more than the animal is worth. I had to answer that, in my opinion, so long as their practice relied heavily on selling patented drugs, they had no choice, since the market for medicinal drugs was entirely controlled by the drug companies, whereas most farmers had no control at all over the market for agricultural products. My questioners were asking in effect if a predatory economy can have a beneficent result. The answer too often is No. And that is because there is an absolute discontinuity between the economy of the seller of medicines and the economy of the buyer, as there is in the health industry as a whole. The drug industry is interested in the survival of patients, we have to suppose, because surviving patients will continue to consume drugs.

Now let us consider a contrary example. Recently, at another meeting, I talked for some time with an elderly, and some would say an old-fashioned, farmer from Nebraska. Unable to farm any longer himself, he had rented his land to a younger farmer on the basis of what he called “crop share” instead of a price paid or owed in advance. Thus, as the old farmer said of his renter, “If he has a good year, I have a good year. If he has a bad year, I have a bad one.” This is what I would call community economics. It is a sharing of fate. It assures an economic continuity and a common interest between the two partners to the trade. This is as far as possible from the economy in which the young veterinarians were caught, in which the powerful are limitlessly “free” to trade, to the disadvantage, and ultimately the ruin, of the powerless.

It is this economy of community destruction that, wittingly or unwittingly, most scientists and technicians have served for the past two hundred years. These scientists and technicians have justified themselves by the proposition that they are the vanguard of progress, enlarging human knowledge and power, and thus they have romanticized both themselves and the predatory enterprises that they have served."



"If the idea of appropriate limitation seems unacceptable to us, that may be because, like Marlowe’s Faustus and Milton’s Satan, we confuse limits with confinement. But that, as I think Marlowe and Milton and others were trying to tell us, is a great and potentially a fatal mistake. Satan’s fault, as Milton understood it and perhaps with some sympathy, was precisely that he could not tolerate his proper limitation; he could not subordinate himself to anything whatever. Faustus’s error was his unwillingness to remain “Faustus, and a man.” In our age of the world it is not rare to find writers, critics, and teachers of literature, as well as scientists and technicians, who regard Satan’s and Faustus’s defiance as salutary and heroic.

On the contrary, our human and earthly limits, properly understood, are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning. Perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure — in addition to its difficulties — that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.

To recover from our disease of limitlessness, we will have to give up the idea that we have a right to be godlike animals, that we are potentially omniscient and omnipotent, ready to discover “the secret of the universe.” We will have to start over, with a different and much older premise: the naturalness and, for creatures of limited intelligence, the necessity, of limits. We must learn again to ask how we can make the most of what we are, what we have, what we have been given. If we always have a theoretically better substitute available from somebody or someplace else, we will never make the most of anything. It is hard to make the most of one life. If we each had two lives, we would not make much of either. Or … [more]
wendellberry  2008  economics  science  technology  art  limits  limitlessness  arts  ecosystems  limitations  local  humanism  humanity  humility  community  communities  knowledge  power  expansion  growth  interdependence  greed  neighborliness  stewardship  thrift  temperance  christianity  generosity  care  kindness  friendship  loyalty  love  self-restraint  restraint  watershed  land  caring  caretaking  morality  accountability  responsibility  respect  reverence  corruption  capitalism  technosolutionism  fossilfuels  waste 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Oppenheimer Moment - Alan Cooper | Open Transcripts
[direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/254533098 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/TopLeftBrick/status/1123865036370468864 ]

"All of our social sys­tems bias us toward a pre­sen­tist focus: cap­i­tal­ist mar­kets, rapid tech­no­log­i­cal advance, pro­fes­sion­al reward sys­tems, and indus­tri­al man­age­ment meth­ods. You have to ask your­self, how will this be used in ten years? In thir­ty. When will it die? What will hap­pen to its users? To be a good ances­tor, we must look at the entire lifes­pan of our work.

I know I said that there were three considerations, but there’s a strong fourth one, too. Having established the three conduits for bad ancestry—assumptions, externalities, and timescale—we now need some tactical tools for ancestry thinking.

Because it’s a systems problem, individual people are rarely to blame. But people become representatives of the system. That is, the face of bad ancestry will usually be a person. So it takes some finesse to move in a positive direction without polarizing the situation. You can see from the USA’s current political situation how easy it is to slip into polarization.

First we need to understand that systems need constant work. John Gall’s theory of General Systemantics says that, “systems failure is an intrinsic feature of systems.” In other words, all systems go haywire, and will continue to go haywire, and only constant vigilance can keep those systems working in a positive direction. You can’t ignore systems. You have to ask questions about systems. You must probe constantly, deeply, and not accept rote answers.

And when you detect bad assumptions, ignored side‐effects, or distortions of time, you have to ask those same questions of the others around you. You need to lead them through the thought process so they see the problem too. This is how you reveal the secret language of the system.

Ask about the external forces at work on the system. Who is outside of the system? What did they think of it? What leverage do they have? How might they use the system? Who is excluded from it?

Ask about the impact of the system. Who is affected by it? What other systems are affected? What are the indirect long‐term effects? Who gets left behind?

Ask about the consent your system requires. Who agrees with what you are doing? Who disagrees? Who silently condones it? And who’s ignorant of it?

Ask who benefits from the system? Who makes money from it? Who loses money? Who gets promoted? And how does it affect the larger economy?

Ask about how the system can be misused. How can it be used to cheat, to steal, to confuse, to polarize, to alienate, to dominate, to terrify? Who might want to misuse it? What could they gain by it? Who could lose?

If you are asking questions like these regularly, you’re probably making a leaky boat.

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about what I call working backwards. It’s my preferred method of problem‐solving. In the conventional world, gnarly challenges are always presented from within a context, a framework of thinking about the problem. The given framework is almost always too small of a window. Sometimes it’s the wrong window altogether. Viewed this way, your problems can seem inscrutable and unsolvable, a Gordian Knot.

Working backwards can be very effective in this situation. It’s similar to Edward de Bono’s notion of lateral thinking, and Taiichi Ohno’s idea of the 5 Whys. Instead of addressing the problem in its familiar surroundings, you step backwards and you examine the surroundings instead. Deconstructing and understanding the problem definition first is more productive than directly addressing the solution.

Typically you discover that the range of possible solutions first presented are too limiting, too conventional, and suppress innovation. When the situation forces you to choose between Option A or Option B, the choice is almost always Option C. If we don’t work backwards we tend to treat symptoms rather than causes. For example we clamor for a cure for cancer, but we ignore the search for what causes cancer. We institute recycling programs, but we don’t reduce our consumption of disposable plastic. We eat organic grains and meat, but we still grow them using profoundly unsustainable agricultural practices.

The difficulty presented by working backwards is that it typically violates established boundaries. The encompassing framework is often in a different field of thought and authority. Most people, when they detect such a boundary refuse to cross it. They say, “That’s not my responsibility.” But this is exactly what an externality looks like. Boundaries are even more counterproductive in tech.

A few years ago, a famous graphic circulated on the Web that said, “In 2015, Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

The problem is that taxi companies are regulated by taxing and controlling vehicles. Media is controlled by regulating content. Retailing is controlled by taxing inventory. And accommodations by taxing rooms. All of the governmental checks and balances are side‐stepped my business model innovation. These new business models are better than the old ones, but the new ideas short‐circuit the controls we need to keep them from behaving like bad citizens, bad ancestors.

All business models have good sides and bad sides. We cannot protect ourselves against the bad parts by legislating symptoms and artifacts. Instead of legislating mechanism mechanisms, we have to legislate desired outcomes. The mechanisms may change frequently, but the outcomes remain very constant, and we need to step backwards to be good ancestors.

And when we step backwards, we see the big picture. But seeing it shows us that there’s a lot of deplorable stuff going on in the world today. And a lot of it is enabled and exacerbated by the high‐tech products that we make. It might not be our fault, but it’s our responsibility to fix it.

One reaction to looking at the big picture is despair. When you realize the whole machine is going in the wrong direction, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a fatalistic sense of doom. Another reaction to seeing this elephant is denial. It makes you want to just put your head back down and concentrate on the wireframes. But those paths are the Option A and the Option B of the problem, and I am committed to Option C. I want to fix the problem.

If you find yourself at the point in a product’s development where clearly unethical requests are made of you, when the boss asks you to lie, cheat, or steal, you’re too late for anything other than brinksmanship. I applaud you for your courage if you’re willing to put your job on the line for this, but it’s unfair for me to ask you to do it. My goal here is to arm you with practical, useful tools that will effectively turn the tech industry towards becoming a good ancestor. This is not a rebellion. Those tools will be more of a dialectic than a street protest. We can only play the long game here.

Our very powerlessness as individual practitioners makes us think that we can’t change the system. Unless of course we are one of the few empowered people. We imagine that powerful people take powerful actions. We picture the lone Tiananmen protester standing resolutely in front of a column of battle tanks, thus making us good ancestors. Similarly, we picture the CEO Jack Dorsey banning Nazis from Twitter and thus, in a stroke, making everything better."



"Now fortuitously, I had recently been talking with folks at the engineering school at the University of California at Berkeley about teaching something there. Renato Verdugo, my new friend and collaborator with the great hair, agreed to help. And we just completed co‐teaching a semester‐long class called “Thinking Like a Good Ancestor” at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation on the Berkeley campus. Renato works for Google, and they generously supported our work.

We’re introducing our students to the fundamentals of how technology could lose its way. Of awareness and intentionality. We’re giving the students our taxonomy of assumptions, externalities, and time. Instead of focusing on how tech behaves badly, we’re focusing on how good tech is allowed to become bad. We’re not trying to patch the holes in the Titanic but prevent them from occurring in future tech. So we’re encouraging our students to exercise their personal agency. We expect these brilliant young students at Berkeley to take ancestry thinking out into the world. We expect them to make it a better place for all of our children.

Like those students, we are the practitioners. We are the makers. We are the ones who design, develop, and deploy software‐powered experiences. At the start of this talk I asked you to imagine yourself as a tech practitioner witnessing your creations turned against our common good. Now I want you to imagine yourself creating products that can’t be turned towards evil. Products that won’t spy on you, won’t addict you, and won’t discriminate against you. More than anyone else, you have the power to create this reality. Because you have your hands on the technology. And I believe that the future is in the hands of the hands‐on.

Ultimately, we the craftspeople who make the artifacts of the future have more effect on the world than the business executives, the politicians, and the investment community. We are like the keystone in the arch. Without us it all falls to the ground. While it may not be our fault that our products let evil leak in, it is certainly within our power to prevent it. The welfare of our children, and their children, is at stake, and taking care of our offspring is the best way to take care of ourselves.

We need to stand up, and stand together. Not in opposition but as a… [more]
alancooper  design  ethics  ancestors  2018  time  systemsthinking  systems  capitalism  neoliberalism  technology  lifespan  externalities  economics  ancestry  legacy  side-effects  morality  awareness  intentionality  renatoverdugo  powerlessness  longgame  longnow  bighere  zoominginandout  taiichiohno  problemsolving  johngall 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | The Rich Kid Revolutionaries - The New York Times
"Rather than repeat family myths about the individual effort and smarts of their forebears, those from wealthy backgrounds tell “money stories” that highlight the more complicated origins of their families’ assets. If their fortunes came from the direct dispossession of indigenous peoples, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt. As a woman in her early 20s told me of the wealth generated by her family’s global business: “It’s not just that I get money without working. It’s that other people work to make me money and don’t get nearly as much themselves. I find it to be morally repugnant.”

Even those I have talked with whose family wealth was accumulated through less transparently exploitative means, such as tech or finance, or who have high-paying jobs themselves, question what they really deserve. They see that their access to such jobs, through elite schools and social networks, comes from their class (and usually race) advantages.

They also know that many others work just as hard but reap fewer rewards. One 27-year-old white woman, who stands to inherit several million dollars, told me: “My dad has always been a C.E.O., and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that.” She and others challenge the description of wealth garnered through work as “earned.” In an effort to break the link between money and moral value, they refer to rich people as “high net wealth” rather than “high net worth.”

Immigrants who “make it” are often seen to exemplify the American dream of upward mobility. The children of immigrants I spoke with, though, don’t want their families’ “success stories” to legitimate an unfair system. Andrea Pien, 32, is a Resource Generation member and a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who accumulated significant wealth in the United States. She spoke of refusing to be “the token that then affirms the capitalist meritocracy myth, the idea that ‘Oh, if Andrea’s family made it, we don’t need affirmative action, or we don’t need reparations.’”

In general, these young people don’t believe they are entitled to so much when others have so little. Many describe feeling guilt or shame about their privilege, which often leads them to hide it. One college student, a woman of color, told me that she worried what other campus activists might think of her. “What a fraud, right?” she said. “To be in those spaces and be acting like these are my struggles, when they’re not.” A white woman who lives on her inheritance of more than $15 million spoke of “deflecting” questions about her occupation, so that others would not know she did not do work for pay.

These progressive children of privilege told me they study the history of racial capitalism in the United States and discuss the ways traditional philanthropy tends to keep powerful people at the top. They also spend a fair amount of time talking about their money. Should they give it all away? Should they get a job, even if they don’t need the income? How much is it ethical to spend on themselves or others? How does money shape friendships and relationships? Resource Generation and its members facilitate these conversations, including one local chapter’s “feelings caucus.”

If you’re thinking, “Cry me a river,” you’re not alone. I have faced skepticism from other sociologists when discussing this research. One colleague asserted that rich young people struggling with their privilege do not have a “legitimate problem.” Others ask: How much do they really give, and what do they really give up? Aren’t these simply self-absorbed millennials taking another opportunity to talk endlessly about themselves?

I understand this view. There is certainly a risk — of which many of them are aware — that all this conversation will just devolve into navel-gazing, an expression of privilege rather than a challenge to it. It is hard for individual action to make a dent in an ironclad social structure. And it is impossible, as they know, to shed the class privilege rooted in education and family socialization, even if they give away every penny.

But like Abigail Disney, these young people are challenging fundamental cultural understandings of who deserves what. And they are breaking the social taboo against talking about money — a taboo that allows radical inequality to fade into the background. This work is critical at a moment when the top 1 percent of families in the United States owns 40 percent of the country’s wealth, and Jeff Bezos takes home more money per minute than the median American worker makes in a year.

As Holly Fetter, a Resource Generation member and Harvard Business School student, told me, “It’s essential that those of us who have access to wealth and want to use it to support progressive social movements speak up, to challenge the narrative that the 1 percent are only interested in accumulation, and invite others to join us.”

Wealthy people are more likely to convince other wealthy people that the system is unfair. And they are the only ones who can describe intimately the ways that wealth may be emotionally corrosive, producing fear, shame and isolation.

Class privilege is like white privilege, in that its beneficiaries receive advantages that are, in fact, unearned. So for them to conclude that their own wealth is undeserved, and therefore immoral, constitutes a powerful critique of the idea of meritocracy.

The fact that the system is immoral, of course, does not make individuals immoral. One person I spoke with, a white 30-year-old who inherited money, said: “It’s not that we’re bad people. It’s just, nobody needs that much money.” But judgments of systems are often taken as judgments of individuals, which leads white people to deny racism and rich people to deny class privilege.

So even the less-public work of talking through emotions, needs and relationships, which can seem self-indulgent, is meaningful. As Ms. Pien put it, “Our feelings are related to the bigger structure.”

One huge cultural support of that structure is secrecy around money, which even rich people don’t talk about.

Wealthy parents fear that if they tell their kids how much they will inherit, the kids won’t develop a strong work ethic. Yahya Alazrak, of Resource Generation, has heard people say, “My dad won’t tell me how much money we have because he’s worried that I’ll become lazy.” One man in his early 30s recounted that his parents had always told him they would pay for his education, but not support him afterward until they revealed that he had a trust worth over $10 million. Parents also have a “scarcity mentality,” Resource Generation members said, which leads them to “hoard” assets to protect against calamity.

Secrecy also often goes hand in hand with limited financial literacy. Women, especially, may not learn about money management growing up, thanks to gendered ideas about financial planning and male control of family assets. Some people I met who will inherit significant amounts of money didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond.

When wealthy parents do talk about money, they tend to put forth conventional ideas about merit: They or their ancestors worked hard for what they have, scrimped and saved to keep and increase it, and gave some of it away. When their children reject these metrics, parents’ sense of being “good people” is challenged.

When one woman told her immigrant parents she wanted to give their millions away, it was like “a slap in the face” for them, she said, because they felt they had “sacrificed a lot for this money.”

Parents — and the financial professionals who manage family wealth — also tend to follow conventional wisdom about money: Never give away principal. Charitable donations should be offset by tax breaks. And the goal of investing is always to make as much money as possible. As one 33-year-old inheritor said, “No financial adviser ever says, ‘I made less money for the client, but I got them to build affordable housing.’”

Talking about how it feels to be rich can help build affordable housing, though. Once the feeling of being a “bad person” is replaced by “good person in a bad structure,” these young people move into redistributive action. Many talked about asserting control over their money, pursuing socially responsible investments (sometimes for much lower returns) and increasing their own or their families’ giving, especially to social-justice organizations. And eventually — like the people I have quoted by name here — they take a public stand.

Finally, they imagine an alternative future, based on a different idea of what people deserve. Ms. Pien, for example, wants to be “invested in collective good, so we can all have the basics that we need and a little more.” In her vision, this “actually makes everyone more secure and fulfilled and joyful, rather than us hiding behind our mountains of money.”"
abigaildisney  wealth  inequality  activism  legacy  2019  rachelsherman  affluence  security  disney  merit  meritocracy  inheritance  privilege  socialjustice  justice  redistribution  morality  ethics  upwardmobility  immigrants  capitalism  socialism  fulfillment  joy  charity  shame  guilt  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  power  hierarchy  secrecy  hoarding  scarcity  abundance  money  relationships  isolation  class 
may 2019 by robertogreco
What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away | The New Yorker
"During the first few days of my Internet decluttering, I found myself compulsively checking my unchanged in-box and already-read text messages, and scanning the same headlines over and over—attempting, as if bewitched, to see new information there. I took my dog out for longer walks, initially trying to use them for some productive purpose: spying on neighbors, planning my week. Soon I acquiesced to a dull, pleasant blankness. One afternoon, I draped myself on my couch and felt an influx of mental silence that was both disturbing and hallucinatorily pleasurable. I didn’t want to learn how to fix or build anything, or start a book club. I wanted to experience myself as soft and loose and purposeless, three qualities that, in my adulthood, have always seemed economically risky.

“Nothing is harder to do than nothing,” Jenny Odell writes, in her new book, “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” (Melville House). Odell, a multidisciplinary artist who teaches at Stanford, is perhaps best known for a pamphlet called “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Watch,” which she put together while in residence at the Museum of Capitalism, in Oakland. Odell investigated the origins of a blandly stylish watch that was being offered for free (plus shipping) on Instagram, and found a mirrored fun house of digital storefronts that looked as though they had been generated by algorithm. The retailers advertised themselves as brands that had physical origins in glitzy Miami Beach or hip San Francisco but were, in fact, placeless nodes in a vast web of scammy global wholesalers, behind which a human presence could hardly be discerned.

Like Newport, Odell thinks that we should spend less time on the Internet. Unlike him, she wants readers to question the very idea of productivity. Life is “more than an instrument and therefore something that cannot be optimized,” she writes. To find the physical world sufficiently absorbing, to conceive of the self as something that “exceeds algorithmic description”—these are not only “ends in and of themselves, but inalienable rights belonging to anyone lucky enough to be alive.” Odell details, with earnest wonder, moments in her life when she was reoriented toward these values. After the 2016 election, she began feeding peanuts to two crows on her balcony, and found comfort in the fact that “these essentially wild animals recognized me, that I had some place in their universe.” She also developed a fascination, via Google Maps, with the creek behind her old kindergarten, and she went to see it with a friend. She followed the creek bed, which, she learned, runs beneath Cupertino’s shopping centers and Apple’s headquarters. The creek became a reminder that under the “streamlined world of products, results, experiences, reviews” there is a “giant rock whose other lifeforms operate according to an ancient, oozing, almost chthonic logic.”

Odell elegantly aligns the crisis in our natural world and the crisis in our minds: what has happened to the natural world is happening to us, she contends, and it’s happening on the same soon-to-be-irreparable scale. She sees “little difference between habitat restoration in the traditional sense and restoring habitats for human thought”; both are endangered by “the logic of capitalist productivity.” She believes that, by constantly disclosing our needs and desires to tech companies that sift through our selfhood in search of profit opportunities, we are neglecting, even losing, our mysterious, murky depths—the parts of us that don’t serve an ulterior purpose but exist merely to exist. The “best, most alive parts” of ourselves are being “paved over by a ruthless logic of use.”

“Digital Minimalism” and “How to Do Nothing” could both be categorized as highbrow how-to—an artist and a computer scientist, both of them in their thirties, wrestling with the same timely prompt. (At one point, Odell writes, she thought of her book as activism disguised as self-help.) Rather than a philosophy of technology use, Odell offers a philosophy of modern life, which she calls “manifest dismantling,” and which she intends as the opposite of Manifest Destiny. It involves rejecting the sort of progress that centers on isolated striving, and emphasizing, instead, caregiving, maintenance, and the interdependence of things. Odell grew up in the Bay Area, and her work is full of unabashed hippie moments that might provoke cynicism. But, for me—and, I suspect, for others who have come of age alongside the Internet and have coped with the pace and the precariousness of contemporary living with a mixture of ambient fatalism and flares of impetuous tenderness—she struck a hopeful nerve of possibility that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Odell writes about the first electronic bulletin-board system, which was set up, in Berkeley, in 1972, as a “communal memory bank.” She contrasts it with Nextdoor, a notoriously paranoid neighborhood-based social platform that was recently valued at $1.5 billion, inferring that the profit motive had perverted what can be a healthy civic impulse. Newport, who does not have any social-media accounts of his own, generally treats social media’s current profit model as an unfortunate inevitability. Odell believes that there is another way. She cites, for example, the indie platform Mastodon, which is crowdfunded and decentralized. (It is made up of independently operated nodes, called “instances,” on which users can post short messages, or “toots.”) To make money from something—a forest, a sense of self—is often to destroy it. Odell brings up a famous redwood in Oakland called Old Survivor, which is estimated to be almost five hundred years old. Unlike all the other trees of its kind in the area, it was never cut down, because it was runty and twisted and situated on a rocky slope; it appeared unprofitable to loggers. The tree, she writes, is an image of “resistance-in-place,” of something that has escaped capitalist appropriation. As Odell sees it, the only way forward is to be like Old Survivor. We have to be able to do nothing—to merely bear witness, to stay in place, to create shelter for one another—to endure."



"My Newport-inspired Internet cleanse happened to coincide with a handful of other events that made me feel raw and unmanageable. It was the end of winter, with its sudden thaws and strange fluctuations—the type of weather where a day of sunshine feels like a stranger being kind to you when you cry. I had just finished writing a book that had involved going through a lot of my past. The hours per day that I had spent converting my experience into something of professional and financial value were now empty, and I was cognizant of how little time I had spent caring for the people and things around me. I began thinking about my selfhood as a meadow of wildflowers that had been paved over by the Internet. I started frantically buying houseplants.

I also found myself feeling more grateful for my phone than ever. I had become more conscious of why I use technology, and how it meets my needs, as Newport recommended. It’s not nothing that I can text my friends whenever I think about them, or get on Viber and talk to my grandmother in the Philippines, or sit on the B54 bus and distract myself from the standstill traffic by looking up the Fermi paradox and listening to any A Tribe Called Quest song that I want to hear. All these capacities still feel like the stuff of science fiction, and none of them involve Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. It occurred to me that two of the most straightforwardly beloved digital technologies—podcasts and group texts—push against the attention economy’s worst characteristics. Podcasts often demand sustained listening, across hours and weeks, to a few human voices. Group texts are effectively the last noncommercialized social spaces on many millennials’ phones.

On the first day of April, I took stock of my digital experiment. I had not become a different, better person. I had not acquired any high-value leisure activities. But I had felt a sort of persistent ache and wonder that pulled me back to a year that I spent in the Peace Corps, wandering in the dust at the foot of sky-high birch trees, terrified and thrilled at the sensation of being unknowable, mysterious to myself, unseen. I watered my plants, and I loosened my StayFocusd settings, back to forty-five daily minutes. I considered my Freedom parameters, which I had already learned to break, and let them be."
jiatolentino  2019  internet  attention  jennyodell  capitalism  work  busyness  resistance  socialmedia  instagram  twitter  facebook  infooverload  performance  web  online  nature  nextdoor  advertising  thoreau  philosophy  care  caring  maintenance  silence  happiness  anxiety  leisurearts  artleisure  commodification  technology  selfhood  identity  sms  texting  viber  podcasts  grouptexts  digitalminimalism  refusal  calnewport  mobile  phones  smartphones  screentime  ralphwaldoemerson  separatism  interdependence 
april 2019 by robertogreco