Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Spatial Fix Is In


“Spaces of Global Capitalism – A Theory of Uneven Geographical Development,” by David Harvey, 2006/2019



Harvey is the most prominent leftist geographer inspired by the Marxist method.  He’s always integrated spatial issues like land rent with labor exploitation. This book’s three essays start with a 2004 lecture about the contradictions between neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism on the one hand, and the actual democratic needs of the working classes on the other.  He sees both isms as anti-democratic props to capital, as both have worked to reestablish class power for the rich.  According to Harvey, this is the ruling class’s main weakness since both ideologies demand authoritarian rule.  As a result the ruling classes have to constantly negotiate how to placate, control, confuse or defeat the proletariat, the majority. This is not news or shouldn’t be.
Choose the Red Pill

The second essay of ‘notes’ is more ambitious.  It seeks to integrate 4 theories of uneven geographical development into one theory inspired by dialectics and materialism.  Theory one is capital’s view that it only brings ‘progress’ to the backward across the world.  Theory two is Jared Diamond / Jeffrey Sach’s claims that the environment determines economies and societies.  Theory three is that imperialism underdevelops and exploits the periphery/global south/3rd World for profit.  Theory four is a limited version of Marxism, which states that class struggle is the only motor in this process.

If this sounds fraught, well, he’s the one who wrote “Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism,” so complexity in his view is the nature of society. This book is mostly a theoretical discussion.  It has few references to actual events, so at times the text becomes a word salad.  Oddly, the rural/urban divide is never mentioned. 

Harvey discusses how ‘common sense,’ ‘pragmatism’ and ‘realism’ hide ideology in the guise of being objective.  He applies 4 Marxian views – A. how capital accumulation embeds itself in socio-ecological life. B. how accumulation by dispossession works presently.  C.  the law-like methods of capital accumulation in space and time.  D. political, social and class struggle in various geographies.  He wishes to develop a ‘unified field theory’ of uneven geographical development, but these preliminary notes do not cohere at the end, as he fails to link them clearly to the 4 views he is trying to unite.

The third essay is a delight – defining the keyword "space."  Harvey starts with three categories that define space – absolute, relative and relational.  He applies this to 9/11, to Henri Lefebvre’s 3 concepts of space (experienced, conceptualized and lived) and to Marx’s analysis of labor and how that also fits.  Ultimately he creates two 9 point matrixes combining his and Lefebvre’s concepts, applied to either space or labor.  Post-modernists dwell on the cultural/idealist part of the matrix, while simplistic Marxists live in the purely mechanistic and factual part of the matrix.  Harvey insists that events can be plotted dialectically as they move across the grid into all 9 spaces.  As such he does not ‘weight’ any one space, which places him in a multi-dimensional philosophic category, but certainly leaning towards materialism - much like Marx.  In this essay Harvey challenges both Lenin and Einstein.

Other reviews on this subject below – use blog search box, upper left:  “Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism,” “The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis of Capitalism,” “Rebel Cities – From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution,” (all by Harvey); “Capital City – Gentrification and the Real Estate State,” “The Long Depression,” “J is for Junk Economics,” “Capital in the 21st Century,” “Minneapolis 2040 Housing Plan,” “How to Kill a City.”



And I bought it at May Day Books!

Red Frog

August 24, 2019

Friday, August 16, 2019

Hijacking the Language


“Keywords – the New Language of Capitalism” by John P Leary, 2019

Language actually means something, as any politician, journalist and human being knows.  Words many times ‘become reality.’  Leary examines the changing words and phrases associated with what Ernest Mandel called ‘late capitalism’ and others less clearly call neo-liberalism.  What you notice about them is their euphemistic, upscale and ‘artistic’ ambience, which is meant to obscure their market and commodity-based intentions.  They reflect the usage of the upper-class, many times derived from management gurus, conformist academics, corporate journalists or capitalist economists.  They are mostly about white-collar work or environments, but have seeped into blue-collar work too.

Words Leading to Money
Leary has an alphabetized selection with an short essay on each imbued with his anti-capitalist understanding.  I’m going to be brief, and just give a hint as to what he thinks the words really mean now.  You'll have to read the book for more depth:

     1.     “Empowerment” – the opposite of actual power.
     2.     “Choice” – choosing between two or more corporate selections.
     3.     “Stakeholder” – actually just the owners or shareholders.
     4.     “Accountable” – blame the worker.
     5.     “Leadership” – corporate managers and CEOs.
     6.     “Artisanal” – expensive branding.
     7.     “Best practices” – better exploitation.
     8.     “Brand” – the commodification of everything, yourself included.
     9.     “Coach” – individualist training leading to more $.
     10.    “Sharing” – giving profits to the rich.
     11.     “Collaboration” – obeying management at all times.
     12.     “Curate” – choosing upscale items to buy.
     13.      “Flexibility” – doing what management says, part of late capitalist body analogies that 'naturalize' class domination.
     14.       “Creativity” – the merger of market and aesthetics.
     15.       “Conversation” – therapeutic fake consultation.  The short form of ‘hearing your story.’
     16.     “Content” – almost anything but mostly filler in a 24 hour cycle.
     17.     “Data” – pretend objectivity.
18.     “Design” – corporate control or plan.
19.     “Disruption” – upscale economic jargon for destructive layoffs and low pay.
20.     “Ecosystem” – the area inside a skyscraper or corporation.
21.     “Engagement” – pretending to enlist you in the 'Conversation.'
22.   "Entrepreneur" - romantic virtue profiteer.
23.   "Human Capital" - euphemism for labor, hiding human labor beneath the rubric of inhuman variable capital.  The grand-daddy of capital's rhetoric.

I could finish the alphabet but I won’t. I do have a beef with Leary's use of “DIY” (Do It Yourself).  Not in the sense that capital wants ‘you’ to fix all your own problems, but in the sense that few except the professional and capitalist classes have the money to hire people to always fix their cars, houses, computers, etc.  Yes, it is marketing, but fixing things yourself is unavoidable.  I.E. the proletarian going to Lowes to replace a leaky pipe is not following some capitalist meme.  However, there are not many of these over-eager misunderstandings.

Many of the terms have recycled meanings from older capitalist ideas - from Taylorism, from the work of Norman Vincent Peale, Dale Carnegie, Sun Tzu.  No one can still use 'the Protestant Work Ethic,' 'pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,' 'positive thinking', 'yankee-know-how' or the prosperity gospel without being called on it.  So these terms have been modernized and 'humanized' by management gurus like Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, or economists at the University of Chicago and press like Fast Company or The Harvard Business Review.

In other words, what used to be an old-fashioned sweatshop is now a lean, flexible and sustainable entrepreneurial environment!  If you are sick of hearing this crap day in and day out at your job, on TV or on the radio, at school, on the internet or from people you know, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Other reviews on this topic below, use blog search box, upper left:  “Doublespeak,”  “The North is not the Midwest,” “All Art is Propaganda,” “Manufacturing Consent,” “Propaganda,” “Rich People Things,” “When Journalism Was a Thing,” “The Post,” “Southern Cultural Nationalism,” “Empire of Illusion,” “Turning off NPR,” “Kill the Messenger,” “NPR Completes Editorial Assassination,” “All Art is Propaganda,” “J is for Junk Economics.”   

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
August 16, 2019

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Look Up in the Sky!


“Astrology – Fraud or Superstition?” by Chaz Bufe, 2002

This small pamphlet is part of a series of pamphlets on religion or anarchism that May Day just got in.  Each is $1.  If you’ve thought of astrology as a harmless cultural oddity, embedded in newspapers, dating and expensive phone lines, you would not be far wrong.  But it is more than that.  As Bufe points out, it is part of the magical thinking which runs rife in the U.S. – especially through religion, over scientific issues, even in the treatment of history and politics.  Tens of thousands earn some kind of a living off of astrology, much like priests, imams, rabbis, swamis and preachers do from bilking believers.  39% of U.S. citizens believed astrology was ‘scientific’ in 2002.  Today that number is probably smaller due to the drop in religious thinking across the board. 

Orion - Shooting Down Bogus Ideas
Bufe lays out the ways that astrology is false:

     1.        It is based on the ‘principle of correspondences.’ This means Mars being ‘red’ relates to blood, war and iron.  Which might work in a Greek play or in a cultural analogy, but nowhere else.
      2.        Astrologers cannot explain how astrology works, through they think different ‘vibrations’ from different celestial bodies affect humans differently.   Yet all matter and motion throughout the universe is similar, not different.
      3.        Uranus, Neptune & Pluto, which were discovered after astrology as a method started, are not used in calculations.  Nor are many other celestial bodies recently discovered.  Astrology is historically-based and missing some planets!
4.        The supposed ‘vibrations’ from planets or stars would be far weaker than earth’s gravity, genetics, life in the womb or the arms of a midwife at birth.  What about their effect?
5.        Astrology does not take into account the inverse square law, a basic of physics.  It says distance plays a role in weakening the effect of light or gravity or what-have-you.  So for astrology the effects of a near planet like Mars or a constellation 100 million miles away are no different.
6.        Astrology ignores precission.  The Earth wobbles, which means since astrology started (and the Tetrabiblos was written) two millennia ago, those who rely on it are now off by almost a full sign.  I.E. even the sky is changing.
7.        Natal astrology is based on the time of birth.  They claim a mother’s body shields a baby from astrological ‘radiation’ until birth.  However, it seems odd that the wood, concrete, iron and steel of modern buildings cannot stop this ‘radiation.’
8.        More liberal astrologers claim that celestial bodies only give ‘indications’ of astrological forces.  As Bufe puts it: “…taking such a position, astrologers are saying in effect that for unknown reasons the positions of some of the stars and planets are indications of the undetectable effects of unknown types of undetectable forces emanating from unknown, undetectable sources.”
9.        There is no empirical evidence of this ‘radiation’ or ‘vibration.’
10.    Scientists have repeatedly tested astrological theses on large groups of humans and no correlation has been discovered between birth date and personality or anything else. 
11.  Feelings are not a substitute for facts.  One scientist gave 150 believers of astrology exactly the same horoscope and 94% of them recognized themselves in it.  It was the horoscope of a mass murderer.

Astrology fits as some kind of magical thinking back-up as religion fails.  It takes the natural interest in the universe, in the stars and planets, and turns it into a magic show.  Of course the universe IS magical in another sense – but not in that way.  Bufe puts it somewhat harshly, befitting a non-political pure atheist:  “It is simply based upon credulousness, ignorance, irrationality and the eagerness of human sheep to be led.”

Other reviews on this subject below, use blog search box, upper left:  “Rise of the Nones,” “God is Not Great,” “Libertarian Atheism versus Liberal Religionism,” “Female Genital Mutilation,” “Annihilation of Caste,” “Bright Sided,” “The Jesus Comics,” “The Dark Side of Christian History,” "The Left and Islamic Literalism," “The Da Vinci Code.”

And I bought it at May Day Books!
The Cultural Marxist
August 13, 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Click, Clack, Click, Clack


“The Pancho Villa Underground Railroad,” by Johnny Hazard, 2015

This fiction book is set in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  It starts as a sort of anarchist / leftist travelogue about radicals moving around the U.S. attending protests, then travels into Mexico.  It bounces between Minneapolis events and Chihuahua (Villa territory) then Cuernavaca (Zapata territory).  It is written in a fragmented, episodic style that is frankly hard to follow.  Sort of a post-modernist impressionism doing inward-looking hipster riffs.  It name-drops various radicals, organizations, events and cultural references, including the legendary peasant revolutionary Villa who once invaded New Mexico for a short time.  It even mentions Minneapolis’ own Palmer’s Bar and May Day Books, as Hazard is a local author.

The Train is Waiting
The ostensible plot centers around a young woman, Iris, who plays some kind of role in anti-government bombings in Columbus, Ohio, then flees as a fugitive.   Left politics and direct action are atmospherics.  Feminism is an undercurrent.  The roiling Mexican left in Cuernavaca around the 9/11 attacks shows its roots in the proletariat.  It has fragmentary pictures of life in these Mexican cities, which some may like.

I have to be honest.  This book is almost unreadable.  It is like someone with ADD writing while on weed, jumping from thing to thing to thing.  Perhaps the author should try poetry.  I enjoyed the Minneapolis references, as anyone living here would do.  But without depth it just comes across as poetic slumming.

Other similar fiction reviewed below, use blog search box, upper left:  “Good News,” “The Bomb,” “Something in the Air,” “The Dispossesed,” “Peace, Love and Petrol Bombs,” “Palmer’s Bar.”

The Kulture Kommissar
August 11, 2019

Saturday, August 10, 2019

WTF Series #9 - Triumph of the Flow


Motorcyclist Rant

I ride and I’m watching.  Motorcyclists, like bicyclists, scooter riders and pedestrians, have to carefully observe the driving behavior of the people behind the wheel of massive killing machines – ah, I mean cars.  In spite of the large number of vehicle deaths in the U.S., no one yet wants to outlaw them. I've named cars, SUVs, vans and pickups as ‘retirement vehicles’ given the apparent ease necessary to pilot one.  So here’s the deal.

See Me, Feel Me, Hear Me...
I call it the flow.  It is a zen concept in which you adapt to the flow of traffic you are in.  The steel river. It means total awareness of others, as driving is really a social experience.  You can tell clueless or anti-social drivers immediately.  The ‘flow’ means you don’t drive too fast, you don’t drive too slow, you fit into the pace, you adapt.  That pickup that thinks it is in a ‘race’?  Take a pill, asshole.  That person who is driving 10 miles under the city speed limit?  Go back to a country lane and try again.  Don't stop in the bike lane like you are some delivery vehicle - otherwise that bicyclist has to swerve into possible traffic, as you just blocked their flow.  Awareness of others means using blinkers, stopping diddling with a phone at stoplights or anywhere, not suddenly stopping in the middle of a street, going around cars turning left, using all the lanes on a freeway and if you are slow on the freeway, staying on the right!  Those people on the right going exactly the speed-limit like self-appointed cops?  Blocking the flow again.

If confused about location, pulling over or driving around the block or taking the next exit works better.  Hey, even learn to read a map or use a GPS.  Those who do something stupid like crossing many lanes of traffic to save a hair of time are the worst. Blocking the flow.

Knowing what lane to be in beforehand helps the flow.  Weaving between lanes hurts it.  Looking for stoplights and stop signs coming up – in other words, anticipation, helps the the flow.  (Stop signs are actually many times stupid – in Ireland they use “Yield” instead just to be more real.)  The flow means not rushing up to a stop light and jamming on the brakes.  In fact brake wear is the biggest sign of a bad driver – and it also means excessive gasoline use.  Both costly habits. That jerky rabbit style of driving?  They should grow up.  You've seen people that put their brakes on constantly while driving, like every 10 seconds.  At every curve or intersection?  What is up with that?  Check experts who ‘high-mile.’ They teach how to approach lights or stalled traffic.  It does not involve acceleration - it actually means coasting like a kid on a bike.

The flow means using all lanes available, including the infamous ‘zipper’ merge.  I once had to argue with an alleged ‘professor’ that making a highway even smaller by queuing in one lane instead of two was against the laws of physics or plumbing.  I have been run off the road several times by Minnesotans thinking they are in a line for a movie instead of on a two-lane highway becoming one.  Or people who merge onto a freeway and assume everyone is going to move over.  Legally, the ones on the freeway have the right of way.

Many cities have a combination of city drivers and country drivers.  The latter tend to be somewhat lost, slow and uncertain.   Their grasp of ‘the flow’ is questionable. (In Minneapolis, that means Wisconsin plates…)  Yeah, you know who you are.  Or recent immigrants from countries where driving is a new experience.  Motorcyclists see you.  

Florida has the most vehicle accidents, which probably means the worst drivers.  Tennessee, Arizona, South Carolina and North Carolina are next worst - note - all in the U.S. south.  Minnesota is one of the safest states in the nation (#3), along with Massachusetts, North Dakota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Vermont, and Alaska - mostly northern states.  

And don't get me started on parking lots - one of the worst places for fender benders or little accidents.  That lazy ass attempting to park closest to the doors?  Parked in a lane?  Lord...

I’ve ridden motorcycles for 39 years without an accident with another vehicle.  Motorcycles stop faster than cars, accelerate faster, maneuver better and provide better visibility for a rider’s eyes.  Which all helps – but we need some zen help too.  Don’t assume we are always watching all the erratic driving like a hawk.  I know motorcyclists can be pains in the ass – especially those Harley-branded riders who think their loud pipes are some kind of safety procedure.  After 6 drinks and no helmet, I’d say not.

Electric scooters and motorcycles and any kind of bicycle are actually the future – zombie technologies like gasoline and large vehicles are doomed except for those who need them.  Some day you might have to leave your retirement vehicle and join us in the flow. So go with it!

Other posts on this subject, use blog search box upper left:  “The Outlaws,” “Spring is Here.”

The Red MC
August 10, 2019

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A New Paradigm?


“Riot, Strike, Riot – the New Era of Uprisings,” by Joshua Clover, 2016.

This is a good attempt at understanding the changing configurations of the proletariat.  It references events worldwide (and thus attempts to get credence from that), but it really extrapolates the model of Oakland Occupy as a model for the U.S.  In Oakland a combination of youth and what Clover  calls ‘surplus populations’ under capital – presumably the unemployed and the destitute - occupied a geographic square, engaged in property damage, blockaded the port twice, then set up a mass democratic social structure – the Oakland ‘commune’ - for a short period of time.
  
His theory - which is quite elegant and well-written as Clover is a professor, poet and music writer - is that the proletariat under capital has gone through 3 periods of resistance.  They are a period of geographic riots based on the high prices of basic items like food, which centered around the marketplace and ports.  This corresponds to the early period of rising mercantile capital.  The second is the period of strikes, as more and more the locus of rebellion centered on oppressive waged work in factories.  This corresponds to the period of industrial capital and the industrial 'revolution.'  The third period is a return to what he calls ‘riot prime.’  This period returns to riots that focus on the issue of consumer prices and the circulation of capital through transport.  But now tending towards a new social configuration in the context of declining world-wide financial capital - the present.  He calls the dominance of financial capital part of ‘exhaustion capitalism.’

Clover seems to be a council communist, hostile to traditional party politics of the reformist or revolutionary type and quite rightly also against stagnant forms of Marxist ‘analysis.’  His challenge to what he calls ‘workerist’ Marxists is that he thinks they still focus on the strike as the main path to social revolution.  Whether this is true or not is another matter.  He insists this ignores the lived existence of the racialized ‘lumpen’ who now live outside the confines of waged work and instead live on the dole, in the non-productive economy, as peddlers or even criminals - or whose pay and labor is so precarious as to be almost non-existent. 

A great quote from Marx about the immiseration of the proletariat backs him up:  the working population therefore produces both the accumulation of capital and the means by which it itself is made relatively superfluous; and it does this to an extent which is always increasing.”

I think he’s got something here, with a caveat.  The caveat is this, briefly:  Clover’s idea of a deindustrializing ‘center’ society is a thesis that borrows from bourgeois sociology, which wishes to hide the working-class that still exists in ‘center’ countries like the U.S.  Clover conceded Kim Moody’s thesis that U.S. transport workers are a new mass force, but this fits in with Clover’s slant that consumption and the transport of goods are now key in center countries.  For this he might be called a ‘consumerist’ Marxist for his reflections on the U.S.  Because the book is ostensibly about the U.S., Clover does not discuss the re-centering of production to the capitalist periphery or social revolutions, political revolutions and attempts at revolution in other countries that rise above strike or riot.  Nor does he conjecture about a future ‘strike prime.' 

Occupy Oakland Port Shutdown
What is powerful about Clover’s thesis is that he captures the degeneration of stable waged work as the hallmark of capital flows and the confrontations that are now occurring.  They are not in production facilities but around consumption and transport issues – especially the prices of gas, food and housing worldwide (and in the U.S. health care and post-secondary education, which have taken on an electoral form…)  ‘Real estate’ rentier capital is now the main repository for wealth in the world.  This is why housing and city square occupations and blockades of roads, freeways, airports, ports, pipelines, dams and terrible infrastructure projects are so prominent as forms of resistance.  Occupy and the ‘yellow vests’ rebellion in France are cases in point, as is the NoDAPL protest at Standing Rock and the U.S. rebellions around police brutality.  The politics are contained in the acts themselves – basically calling on capital’s machinations and ‘business as usual’ to stop. This is not being carried out by the ‘working class’ alone, but by every strata of the proletariat.

The issue of ‘non-violence’ obviously comes up, as looting and broken glass are inevitably part of any riot – a pejorative word when used by the corporate media.  As Clover points out, liberals get involved on the basis of pacifism, calling for the state to have a monopoly on violence while calling the ‘zero-price’ setting of looting or property damage the same as violence against people. 

In the broader context, Clover does not think riot and strike are counter-posed, nor aspects of anarchism and socialism.  He shows how the confrontation of ‘riot prime’ is directly against the capitalist state, not against the capitalist workplace.  This is a valuable book which captures some present motions of capital and the proletariat – but perhaps not the future.  

(The author is a contributor to a new academic left journal out of the Bay Area - "Commune" - sold at May Day Books.)

Other reviews on this topic or mentioned in the book below, use blog search box upper left:  “The Precariat,” “On New Terrain,” “Rebel Cities,” “This Changes Everything,” “How Non-Violence Protects the State,” “Tropic of Chaos,”Detroit,” “Black Panther,” “Rise of the Warrior Cop,” “The Coming Insurrection.”

Relevant books not reviewed:  “I Do Mind Dying.”

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
August 6, 2019

Friday, August 2, 2019

Neoliberal Theater of Cruelty


“Mean Girl – Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed,”by Lisa Duggan, 2019

Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.” (Walter Sobchak, The Big Lewbowski)   This book shows how neo-liberal capital since the 1970s used a Randian ‘ethos’ to give corporations, the Republican Party and CEOs an ideology beyond profits.   On the other hand, the loyal Democratic Party opposition have no consistent ideology, but the leadership dips into Randist neo-liberalism themselves.  No wonder they get run over again and again.  

‘Freedom,’ ‘individualism,’ wealth, power, reason, the inferiority of the lower classes and sexiness are all celebrated by Rand.  ‘Sexiness’ should surprise you, as it did me.  As an historian and literary critic, Duggan digs into Rand’s life and texts so you don’t have to.  Rand started as an upper-class Jewish girl from St. Petersburg, Russia named Alissa Rosenbaum, fascinated with Hollywood and the movies and violently antagonistic to socialism.

Ayn Rand's Romantic Side

Her books “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” have been printed in almost as many copies as the Bible.  They are basically capitalist potboilers, endorsed by a long list of Republican politicians, corporate CEOs and Hollywood stars.  Our ‘ubermensch!’  Alan Greenspan, who piloted the economy into the ditch in 2007-2008 as head of the Federal Reserve, was in Rand’s inner circle of ‘Objectivists.’

Duggan notes that Rand’s atheism, distaste for domestic womanhood and reticence about being openly racist does not endear her to conservative Southern Baptists and other evangelicals.  Rand was also a long-time user of Benzedrine, i.e. ‘speed,’ so drugs were not foreign to her.  Rand’s love of ‘reason’ seems to make sense, but it is contradicted by emotional and sexual class themes.  Her fiction (and life) contain constant psycho-sexual tropes – lusty romances involving love triangles, divorce, homoeroticism, missing marriages and children, strong handsome corporate men, beautiful or mysterious women and even rape.  All these themes track with Hollywood movie scripts. 

Duggan details how Rand admired a sociopathic serial killer as a model for one of her heroic characters.  In fact, you might say all her heroes are sociopaths, not cowboys. Duggan calls Rand’s approach “cruel optimism” or “optimistic cruelty.”  This is what unites the various right-wingers who support Randism.

Rand’s libertarianism is used to attack all varieties of socialism, mixed economies, the capitalist welfare state and the social-democratic state, as she saw them as varieties of the same thing. This gives consistency to her philosophy and to neoliberal economic ‘theory.’  “Individualists of the World Unite!” was her slogan in “The Individualist Manifesto,” copying Marx.  What should have been added was “You have everything to gain unless they lose their chains!”  What this reveals and what Duggan does not say is that underneath the variety of political battles there are only two philosophic choices – socialism or capitalism. Especially in the present period of the decline of capital.

Duggan shows how Rand’s romantic love of tall, blond, muscular Aryan men fits with white nationalist themes. Her social-Darwinist fantasies of wealth and a capital strike of the ‘job-creators’ fit quite neatly into growing capitalist inequality.  In her fiction, Rand always pictures the ‘mob’ as ugly, bestial, ignorant and violent, starting in her first novel about Soviet Russia ‘We The Living,' then transferring the theme to the U.S. working-class.  In her dystopian book 'Anthem' she lied about Marxism's attitude to technology.  She opposed Roosevelt and supported the McCarthyite movement after moving to the U.S., poorly testifying on ‘Communist influence’ in Hollywood.  She supported Goldwater, opposed the Vietnam war but also opposed the Civil Rights Act as a ‘restraint on trade.’ She ended up running a philosophic cult of ‘objectivists’ in New York.  Reagan and the Tea Party later took up her character John Galt.

Who are the voting cattle thrilled by this farce?  The lower ranks of Randian libertarians are mostly male, ‘white’ aspiring businessmen – ‘entrepreneurs,’ sole proprietors, freelancers, independent contractors, sellers of their personal capital, perhaps living as personal ‘brands.’  Or just precarians.  One day they will figure out that ‘many are called few are chosen.’ In the U.S. small businesses suffer an 85% failure rate after 18 months.

Here are some choice quotes from the book:
1.    “Rand’s mad adoration of capitalism, her excessive overidentification with it, only serves to make its inherent ridiculousness clearly perceptible.” (S. Zizek, 1980)
2.    “Rand’s complicated notoriety as … kitschy public figure (often posed with a cape and a huge dollar sign pin as well as a cigarette holder)…”
3.    “She rewrote the vast canvas of social, economic and political conflict underlying the Russian Revolution … into a stark melodramatic clash between worthy individuals and the mob. Not a surprising reductive analysis for a sheltered and privileged twelve-year-old caught in the swirl of overwhelming events.”
4.    Rand was a “unique combination of Adam Smith, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jacqueline Susann.”  (J. Hoberman, Village Voice)
5.    The Fountainhead offered simultaneously eroticized and moralized character studies embedded in a heroic romance plot, for the purpose of generating desire for capitalism.”
6.    Regarding Rand: “Trolls walk the American night.” (Gore Vidal, 1961)
7.    To Rand:  “The poor were not a class, but a collection of individual failures.”
8.    Trump: “His cabinet and donor lists are full of Rand fans.”
9.     “I am the CEO of ME, Inc.” (NYU)

Rand, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1974, though she denied the connection between smoking and cancer.  Not so reasonable.  She did sign up for Medicare and Social Security. Not so consistent.  Rand died of heart failure in 1982. 

Other reviews on this topic below.  Use blog search box, upper left: “Who Is Ron Paul?” “Rich People Things,” or the term ‘neoliberalism / neo-liberalism’ 

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
August 2, 2019

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Deconstructing Comics


The Jesus Comics – Cedar  Cultural Center, 7/26/2019

I worked volunteer cleanup at a long comedic sermon by two Jesus / spiritual comics – Science Mike and Michael Gungor.  I’d never heard of them. They pitch themselves as the “Liturgists – the Tabs & Wafers Tour’ which is based on their podcasts.  The audience was mostly young white suburbanites from what I could tell.  The ‘tabs’ are psilocybin.  The ‘wafers’ are an obsession with communion wafers.  Very oral stuff. 

The Ultimate Superhero
The audience was mildly enthusiastic.  I’m an atheist so this was some weird and sad shit. Evidently religion is having a hard time getting young people into the pews.  So these late 30s, early 40s comics swear, talk about sex, take ‘shrooms’ and have oneness experiences, bare their chests, talk about playing guitar (cool!) and make lots of jokes.  Hey they even dabbled in atheism for a time!  Edgy but safe.

These are former fundies, then episodic Dawkins’ atheists, now renewed spiritualists and hip Christians.  ‘Science Mike,’ a misnomer, used to be a Southern Baptist from Tallahassee Florida who worked in advertising.  The other Michael flew around the country for his job (white collar I wager).  He talked about his psilocybin trip.  He can’t explain what his mushroom trip was like, but it was mind-bending and ego-reducing and you should believe in God too.  Whatever God is, that is.

Politics lurked.  They revealed themselves to be Clinton backers.  They oppose gay-phobia and support women’s rights.  They castigate fundies for their opposition to both and for their Biblical literalism.  Well duh.  But they don’t talk about class or economics, just ‘love.’  This, however, might be news to their audience.  Perhaps they are some kind of weird transmission belt for youth recovering from fundamentalist derangement syndrome.  They call it deconstruction.  Just don’t stay atheist!

Of most import was a long story by Science Mike about his heart attack.  He was given a choice by his doctor – die in 6 months or change your lifestyle.  So he went on a plant-based diet and lost 20 pounds.  Hence the hairy chest baring.  But he accrued a $48,000 medical bill.  Mike was not scientific enough to tell us if he was on the ACA.  But he did say that the ‘Christlike’ donators to his GoFundMe page saved his bank balance.  He is a C-list celebrity in the Christian world after all.  What he did not say is that Single Payer/Medicare For All might prevent issues like this.  In other words, charity for celebrities – a Republican tactic – solves our medical problems.  Good work, Mike.  Fuck you too.

Mushroom Mike is a familiar figure – meditates, dabbles in eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism and is probably into mindfulness, yoga and white tea.  He thinks only people who meditate would help him unload his van in Los Angeles, where they both hauled their wives and children to start their careers anew.  Before that he handed out flowers and pamphlets in the streets, similar to the Jesus freaks or Jesus people you’d meet in the 1970s.  Mushroom Mike had a Down’s syndrome child and her disability plays an endearing role in Science Mike’s search for a church.

Another Super Hero for Adult Children
Science Mike was obsessed with finding the right church – not too hip, not too big, not to anti-gay, not hostile to Down’s syndrome - just right.  And Goldilocks found one and dragged his family to it.  The focus on church seems to be a non-understanding among people who have spent too much time in religious institutions.  The only community they know is a church.  That is very true for the South, which basically concentrates on church or family - and Science Mike is from Florida.  But as the rest of us know, there are MANY other communities out there – and even the biggest, the working classes.  Mike's dilemma reflects the isolation so many people experience due to the mass alienation that is U.S. capitalism.  Which is why some seek out church. 

So after the jokes it all led to a semi-sermon about something.  I’m not quite sure what.  But ‘love’ was in there and so was ‘oneness.’  Now ‘love’ is not a political program, nor does it rise above a cliché at this point in history.  But people continue to use it as if it means something other than being really, really vague.  Which is the point.  Virtue signaling without content.  ‘Oneness’ is also a magical idea where the oppressors and the oppressed lie down together like lambs and lions. Ain’t going to happen.  Preaching class peace pays though.

I have to say after about 2.5 hours, this was not really about love or Down’s syndrome  or Jesus or psilocybin or god – it was all about Science Mike and Mushroom Michael.

Where’s George Carlin when you need him?  Where are the Christian Socialists even?

Other reviews on religion below.  Use blog search box, upper left:  “The Rise of the Nones,” “God is Not Great,” “Libertarian Atheism versus Liberal Religionism,” “Female Genital Mutilation,” “Annihilation of Caste,” “Jude the Obscure,” “The DaVinci Code,” “The Dark Side of Christian History,” “To Serve God and Wal-mart,” “The God Market,” "Love or the Alternative."

The Cultural Marxist
July 30, 2019