Thoughts Tangentially Related to the Government Shutdown Maybe

Some loosely connected thoughts I had this evening:

1. I prefer the tea party to the GOP establishment, because at least they’re sincere.

2. In 1960, 58% of Americans believed that “most people can be trusted.” In 1993, only 37% did. Using coded language that appeals to people’s anxieties about other races or communities can only exacerbate this problem. And yet it seems to me to be central to what Conservatives talk about when they talk about “restoring America,” taking such statements at face value.

In a thousand years the children of the Neptunian Empire will read comic books like this about American space-marines in space-Southeast Asia.

In a thousand years the children of the Neptunian Empire will read comic books like this about American space-marines in space-Southeast Asia.

3. I’m optimistic about the current paralysis of our government, because I believe that what we are seeing is the break down, for a variety of reasons, of the neoliberal consensus that has dominated American politics since Reagan. Although the grassroots right has struck many of the opening blows, this may well create real opportunities for change. Not the ordered, technocratic change that Obama promised, which was always going to be limited by its place within the context of a globalized neoliberal order, but real, messy, surprising change.

4. That said, global warming gives me the heebie-jeebies. Seriously.

5. To put it differently, I’m pessimistic about the American economy not because the government is inept, but because even when the government was functioning normally, it was pursuing goals and policies which have had, and continue to have, the ultimate effect of making the country as a whole poorer, limiting opportunities, and generally shitting on our collective economic future.

6. Clinton led us here. Going back to the policies and practices of the Clinton era, ecstatic though it might make many liberals, will not get us out of this mess. This mess being the toxic combination of de-industrialization, the casualization of labor (meaning the replacement of full-time workers with contractors, adjuncts, temps, part-timers, interns, etc.), increasing un- and under-employment, the financialization of the economy, and the globalization of labor markets.

7. In a global market for labor, there will always be people to exploit. There will always be someone willing to work for less. The idea that we can compete by being “flexible” and “smart” and creating a leaner, better educated workforce, able to “compete in the global economy” is a fallacy. There is only one way for Americans to compete in a global market for labor, and that is to lower our standard of living and accept lower wages. You can educate a person anywhere. Every person on the planet is capable of doing higher level work. The legacy of the industrial revolution and the prestige of American research universities will only get us so far, and so far will not be nearly far enough.

8. It scares me that our government is not facing these problems. But it scares me more to know that, were our government open for business and functioning normally, it would almost certainly be taking a counterproductive approach. For example, continuing to push free trade agreements that benefit international capital first and foremost, and do as much harm as good to the countries involved.

9. There’s a great Fleetwood Mac song called “what makes you think you’re the one.” This should be our anthem as Americans. We are not the one. We are just one fairly large country among many, burning through the accumulated wealth of the “American century” – a century which we spent obsessing over a Cold War bogeyman, but which nonetheless looks eminently sane compared to the war on terror. Globalization almost certainly means the end of American exceptionalism. This is a fact which pundits and politicians would do well to note.

10. Americans are obsessed with the idea of being able to buy happiness because they’ve bought into the idea that work is the ultimate path to fulfillment, only to find that all their work really gives them is money. Money may well be an important prerequisite for happiness, but it won’t get you all the way, will it?

11. Is there really anyone in America who values work compared to family, friends, and hobbies by the ratio of 9:4 (hours) or 5:2 (days) or 49:3 (weeks)? Anyone? If we’re a democracy, shouldn’t our economy reflect our values?

12. It’s bedtime for me. Happy Wednesday, and it looks like this ol’ blog still has some life in it.

PS: Comments in list form earn extra points!

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Feet People

feetpeople(1)This is one of my absolute favorite Feet People comics. Happy Frigg‘s Day!

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Just a Silly Drawing

Incoming

Incoming!

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Feet People Friday

Feet People

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The Last Man on Earth

Loneliness bore down on the old priest with the same unbearable pressure as the uncountable tons of water that rested just a few feet above his head. He remembered the sun, and held its image in his mind, blinding white light that no man had experienced since the Fall. He wondered if he was the last man alive who could still remember what it felt like—the warm, steady sun on the back of your neck.

screen-shot-2012-05-26-at-5-29-25-pmThe hot, wet air was unbearable. On the walls, streaked with rust, were the curling remains of construction paper fish, still clinging to their tape: red, green, yellow, each with a name: Jacob, Jesse, Jonathon—these were the Js—Josie, Jessica. Jessica’s fish had been blue, but the construction paper had faded to gray.

The priest could remember a Jessica—a vague little girl with pigtails and blue eyes—from the last class of third graders before the Evac. It had to be the same girl. He closed his eyes and tried to call up a memory of her Guardian’s face, to give Jessica a matronym, but his mind came up empty. He had forced the names out long ago, in a vain attempt to protect his sanity from the once bitter memories of companionship and of touch. Now he clung to those memories with all his heart.

But the priest could not forget the children. He remembered holding little Jessica by the hand, teaching her about God the Father, and the Holy Spirit who held back the water. Arguing with the Teachers and the Guardians—blind, pitiful fools, holding their elaborate plans out before them as if hope alone could sustain their pathetic colony. Or prayer, he added with a wince.

As he walked, the priest listened to the creaking of metal bolts and the uneasy silence of glass holding back water. He slid one fat, pale finger across the damp between his collar and his neck, and whispered a silent prayer. At the end of the hallway a small red light blinked.

The lights flickered, and in the distance the priest could hear the most terrifying sound in the world: drip . . . drip . . . drip . . .

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Conquest and the Roots of American Violence

Is American non-violence possible? That is the question which Todd May asked over at The New York Times philosophy blog The Stone the other day, and it is an interesting one. May begins by running through some of the recent tragedies which the United States has faced in Boston, Connecticut, and Colorado. “Facing ourselves squarely at this difficult moment might provide a better lesson for the future than allowing ourselves to once again give in to blind fury,” May writes. “We might begin by asking the question, Who are we now?”

But already he has made a mistake. I don’t believe that now has very much to do with it. Better to ask: who have we always been? May sees American society as turning towards violence because of neoliberalism, in which “the embrace of classical liberalism or neoliberalism erodes social solidarity,” and “the decline of our ability to control events in the world,” which May dates from either Vietnam or Iraq, your choice. Beneath these  two trends, preceding and enabling them, May sees American’s sense of competitive individualism.

May goes on to argue that nonviolence is not passive, but rather constructive and creative. Nonviolence is something you do. It is not simply the absence of violence, but the active construction of alternatives. I agree with this wholeheartedly, and I think that May’s essay is excellent. Nonetheless, I don’t think he understands the roots of American violence. To answer that question, to see who we have always been, we must turn our eyes back centuries, to the flourishing, turbulent, vivid America of 1491:

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Mischievous Penguin Comics

Who Let the Little Guy Steer?

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