The share price of liberal freedom is frankly falling. If it falls any further, we will all be flat on our faces. I think we all know by now that the problem is capitalism as we by now know it all. It is stumbling ahead, winning victory over victory mostly without putting up a hard fight. This is one of the harsh qualities it has acquired over a long time by taking the moral high ground of liberal freedom and human rights. I will not be far off the mark when I say most people have grown used to holding liberal freedom and capitalism as synonymous.
This pamphlet tries to do two things. It separates freedom and capitalism by exposing the collapse of humanity in the heartland of the free world. Evidence for this collapse is the unhappiness of free people as expressed in them voting for tyrannical cultural pessimism. People unhinged by the insecurity that is essential to capitalism are always too easily exploited by nut cases of various brands, specifically those graduating from the Harvard of sociopathy. The pamphlet further proposes three measures for a capitalist society to move on. I say move on because moving back is not only not an option, it is simply backward. As a cultural optimist I am convinced we can only move on by building on what makes us strong, not by reversing history toward a time of melancholy that never was.
The cul-de-sac of blind capitalism
Liberals promoting capitalism don’t promote freedom. The reason is simple: their view of mankind is that it needs more and more money. On this view progress is a necessary by-product of society accumulating capital in a market that, itself, is free. This is defended religiously. It’s a religious point after all. Its central tenet is that man’s original sin is laziness. In the capitalist case we can only “work it off”. If we work hard enough it will redeem generations to come. Every American Dream is just a story of redemption where an individual shows us how to atone for the evil void inside all of us. Continue reading
First, let me thank Adam for allowing me back after a multi-year absence. I felt compelled to write this piece because I believe this election and the incoming administration is not normal. Now, I’m struggling to connect the different worlds I inhabit(ed) and move forward.
At heart, I’m an optimist — a believer in the project of America. I am not ignorant of the crimes and inhumanities that have accompanied our founding and history. But, I do believe that we are forming a more perfect union. I understand that it happens in fits and starts. That there is progress and regression. That we have a constant tension of momentum to be more egalitarian, just, and inclusive at odds with inertia to maintain a status quo of inequality, oppression, and closely held power. Overall, I agree with President Obama’s sentiment that America today is truer to its ideals than ever before. We should take pride in that while questioning our history and the pace of our progress.
Yet, the election of Donald Trump and the subsequent events of the transition period have left me with a pause in my optimism like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my adult life. The causes are multi-faceted. I am concerned about how celebrity plays into national politics, overwhelming policy and substance. I have concerns about electing someone who has lived out his life as an egomaniac and con artist. But, even these are small concerns compared to what I fear most.
My greatest fear is for America itself. I promise this is not hyperbole. My fear is based in the fact that Donald Trump was willing to leverage the worst instincts of humanity to get elected. Trump stoked the flames of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism to gain votes for the presidency. He also threw in ridicule of persons with disabilities for good measure. And, he succeeded.
Because of his lifelong amorality and rudderlessness, no one felt comfortable saying for certain if this message was heartfelt or cynical. In fact, the campaign manipulated the media through that uncertainty. While the message of bigotry was undeniable, surrogates portrayed it as cynical and therefore not as bad as if it were genuine. Meanwhile, the candidate himself would wink and nod to the white supremacists and other hatemongers he mobilized into political action. It was rare to hear objections that the message was antithetical to American values regardless. Even in cynicism, this hateful strategy is destructive to our nation. The incredulity allowed Trump to play against pure evil and instead seem to be merely playing with the devil.
Never mind the ambiguity though. The transition period has clarified for us the true nature of the message. It was heartfelt. Trump is a hateful bigot and he intends to govern as a hateful bigot. There were clues we should not have avoided or rationalized. His choice of Mike Pence as vice president. His refusal to distance himself from white nationalists. His refusal to back down on a Muslim registry. His advertising that relied on sexist and anti-Semitic imagery. That imagery of the campaign and the “calculated” choices he made are the framework for the ideology of the transition. There is no reason to suspect they won’t be the foundation of his administration.
Trump has proposed a white supremacist for Attorney General. He named a white supremacist/anti-Semite/misogynist as his chief strategist. He has made an Islamophobe/xenophobe his national security adviser. A segregationist (of both the race and class varieties) is on his short list of possible HUD secretaries. Given the available information, the logical conclusion is that Trump intends to serve as a white supremacist in the Presidency.
We should recognize immediately that, even as a majority of the electorate, we have little hope of reaching Trump and his administration. We are not going to change their strategy or course through a resistance from the left, or even from the middle. He is too self-absorbed and too well insulated to be swayed. Congress is unlikely to be forthright when dealing with him.
Our immediate concern is to inform and interact with the Americans who voted for him so that they will not vote for him again. Our primary effort must be to expose him for the fraud he presents and the threat he poses. Because he is a threat to every American and to America itself.
The question remains, How do we engage with those who voted for Trump? I believe that many of them voted in the hopes that he would save their jobs and their towns. That he would save their way of life. That allowed them to accept a message that scapegoated, demonized, and targeted people of color, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, and women. Many of us are so disgusted by their ability to ignore his hatred that it makes it difficult to forgive them for their vote. But, our nation’s future depends on our ability to confront Trump and his bigotry through dialogue with our fellow citizens. We must swallow our pride and begin conversation with them.
That doesn’t mean we should allow people a pass on hatred. We must challenge bigotry when we confront it. We must condemn those who are truly hateful. But, we must also begin by reaching out to those nearest to us and learning about their concerns and fears. It will be through these intimate moments that we can begin to find bonds of common concern as well as common aspirations.
I am aware that this is a lot easier for me to say as a person who can check every box of privilege. I don’t often need to swallow my pride. I am not faced with regular indignities. I haven’t been forced to comply with systems and norms that are different from my own norms. Trump voters aren’t likely to blame me for their problems or greet me with hatred.
Perhaps the burden I am referring to here falls primarily on people like me. People who can hopefully relate in some way to the Trump voter and begin a dialogue. I think as long as those like me check our privilege to be sure we are acting in service to social justice this could be a positive step.
I am willing to believe that some Trump voters did vote in hopes of economic change. That they felt it necessary to choose someone outside of the Washington political class.
I can imagine a perspective that sees the world moving too quickly and a feeling of being left behind. I grew up with people who I know are in situations where they don’t know how they will take part in the America of the future. Who believe that the jobs they are qualified for are disappearing and that their future looks bleak. Yes, these people are almost exclusively white, almost exclusively middle class. These old friends have parents who worked for auto companies and other heavy manufacturers where they made good wages. Their parents were the last people to have jobs in a lot of those factories. My friends and I went to college or worked an apprenticeship. For some of us, it worked out. And, as it worked out most of us, especially the college educated, left for America’s metropolises where opportunity is now concentrated. But, the jobs many of us prepared for aren’t as plentiful anymore. Especially for those who stayed in place. The unions are diminished. Our degrees are less valuable as elite jobs require post-graduate work. People accept less for the same work. They don’t seem to be able to save enough to get ahead. They wonder how they’ll ever achieve their parents’ standard of living. In the end, they find the phrase “Make America Great Again” to be a signal of hope.
Ironically, these people have a lot in common with the people I’ve gotten to know in the past 20 years. They feel targeted by “Make America Great Again.” Yes, they are largely people of color and from other marginalized groups who have the exact same fears and concerns as my childhood friends. My friends from today see different causes and blame different forces. They see a continuous blockade to most of the opportunity in America that is getting worse. Few of them had parents making incomes as large as the elders of my childhood friends. But, they recall a time when their communities were more vibrant. They can remember local stores and safer streets. They miss the togetherness of their old blocks and neighborhoods. They wonder if that will ever be their reality again. Or, if they’ll be kicked out as soon as their neighborhood becomes even modestly more livable.
It’s nothing new that these two groups are being played against each other. This is a classic American tactic most notable in the antebellum and Jim Crow South. But, it is also a common tactic of the segregated cities in the Midwest and Northeast of the 20th century. An important part of our work is to inspire solidarity between these groups. It’s something that should occur naturally. Yet, it continues to remain unfulfilled because of our social divisions, especially our racial division.
But now, we have crossed beyond a normal threshold. The election of Trump is not normal. This is not an ordinary time. At this moment in American history, we must find a way to succeed where generations before us failed.
Our task before us is critical. We cannot be passive in this crisis. We have to be willing to work hard and be uncomfortable. It’s going to be hard to challenge our white friends and explain to them the threat Trump poses, first to our friends of color and eventually to all of us. It will be hard to explain to our friends of color that we aren’t minimizing hatred when we try to understand the motivations of our white friends and connect them to the concerns we all share. We, who can navigate multiple settings, must move between and among them to find the connecting points that will bring us together.
Let’s begin by asking one another about our hopes and fears. At first, let’s listen more than we talk. Let’s find ways to challenge others while allowing them to challenge us. Let’s confront unfairness while allowing people to save face. Then, let’s start to connect people. Let’s demonstrate our commonalities. Let’s explain our different realities. Let’s build empathy and understanding. Let’s breakdown stereotypes and uplift truth.
We will each have to find methods to accomplish this work for our constellation of circles. But, we can learn from one another along the way. In other words, let’s talk to each other as well. We can gain insight and strength from our unity. Most importantly, I hope it will allow us to hasten the change we want to create.
Where do we go from here? We go outside our comfort zone. We go to new places. We go to our best nature. We go high. We go deep. We go to our core values. And, from there we can stand united to continue to form a more perfect union.
If you’re not working in a big organization you might not know, but the rest of us are being managed by objectives. The people so managing us are convinced they are being SMART about it. The fact is that they are smarter than we are, as is clear from the fact that we have been stupid enough to put up with it for so long. They sell it to us like diet pills are sold to those addicted to sugar: as a replacement addiction. Suddenly we should feel liberated from micro-management when the only ones liberated are those managing us: liberated from caring about the actual human beings that do the actual day-by-day work.
If you are working in a big organization (and you’re a bit of an a***hole) you may find this amusing: the rest of them are being targeted as well. As politicians increasingly see themselves as entrepreneurs (mostly forgetting the adjective ‘failed’), they want in on the magic. This means they want all of the control and none of the taking-an-interest. They want to be liberal and eat our cake too. Above all they want us to feel different from the others who haven’t achieved independence. Divide …
Let me use my newly found independence to say something about managing for performance: it’s inhuman because it sets out to eliminate the specifically human uncertainties from the process. That is enough to stop doing it. More than enough to start questioning it. Forget about it not working. Forget about the appeal to intuition (diet pill ads appeal to your intuition as well). It is anti-human and we should not put up with it. Out of principle. Full stop.
I’m not the first to say this, see Geert Hofstede (1978):
In other words: the sole reason for reducing us to targets is Continue reading
“I will not allow anybody to destroy the education that allowed me to become who I am.”, said a politician in response to the question whether it was possible for him to agree on reforming an education system reported to increase inequalities. A sentence which he knew to appeal mostly to the unfortunately many with unfortunate experiences with schools. As he knew whom the sentence “I am the living example that you can make it also if you’re born from working class parents.” would appeal to. Sentences hovering like drones above the heads of voters which believe there is only one bigger enemy than politics: statistics. Sentences that will fire their charge with surgical precision on any politician daring to rely on a statistical finding.
Some politicians like to focus on the ever increasing gap between politicians and their electorate. From another politician: “I earn only a modest income so I know what life is like for an average voter.” The anti-political politician is not monopolized by the right. Politics by hysteria replaces politics. Nobody even tries to explain what we know about the facts. If somebody tries she’s set aside as a naive nobody, the real politicians who hate politicians smile wearily and that’s that. I know who stands to gain from this type of politics although I don’t know whether it’s by design or by invisible hand that our politicians get converted into a selectorate of one-lining sons of bitches which glorify and praise science as long as it is not applied in the social sphere.
It matters: if it’s by design we can only fight it. If we fight it we need to use weapons even more powerful than theirs. Which means we will lose. If by invisible hand we can educate and apply some real politics to cancel out the bias and move on.
I’m naive but the question is: how naive are you?
Warning: Though I’ve tried to remove graphic details of the case, what follows is an account of my experience as a juror on a trial that included some degree of domestic violence. It’s my understanding reading these types of things can be very stressful to people who have suffered through these situations.
I confess I may have played a part in ruining a woman’s life. Some time in January, I got a jury summons. Some time last week, I called the number to see if I had to report. I did. When I reported, I was sent up to a courtroom as a prospective juror. As we filed in, we saw a woman sitting with a lawyer, and a man sitting with a lawyer. “Thank God,” I thought. “Civil.”
Wrong. The man with the lawyer was a detective. The judge read us the indictment and revealed this was a trial for felonious assault. The woman sitting with her back to us was accused of stabbing her boyfriend. Oh crap.
After the jury questionnaires had been filled out, the judge called the first name. It was mine. All the jokes about dodging having to serve evaporated immediately. This got very real, very quickly. The judge asked whether I was married or living with a partner. Being a former math major, I instinctively answered this “or” question with a yes. She chuckled. “May I ask which it is?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m married, yes.”
She went on to ask where I worked, how long I had been there. What did my wife do? How long had she been there? Did I have any kids, and if so, how old were they? Had I brought any reading material? I explained awkwardly that I was reading a book called “Sharp Objects”.
With those questions answered, a second juror was called. In all, 18 jurors were interviewed after me. With every one of them, she found a way to take one of their answers and ask a follow-up question about how this might have biased them against either the defense or the prosecution. When I realized this contrast with my own questions, I figured I could call my wife and my boss and let them know I’d be busy for the next few days. Continue reading
My left nostril is the nostril that is on the side of the hand that when held up with thumb horizontal and forefinger vertical is forming an L. This is certain. Many such things are certain however much it is imaginable that hands and fingers could well be arranged in a way that the hand so forming an L would actually be the right hand. Nature is boring, chickens are chickens and the rest of us have knees protruding from our legs in the same direction as our face.
My point being that I hate points.
It will not be too long before somebody will say somewhere: “The Greek Tiger has risen from its ashes like a phoenix.” and not realize that it is the linguistic equivalent of:
Which brings me to a new pet hatred: cats on YouTube, or to be more precise: anything on YouTube. While parents think their children or making grammatical errors on FaceBook or Twitter, what they are really doing is typing in ‘cat slam into glass door’ or ‘fall in hole dressed clown’ or … this is how it must feel to have your brain sucked out of your skull. I hate that the last sentence made me try ‘brain sucked out skull’. Don’t worry, I counterbalanced the bad karma by googling in ‘Santorum’.
Anyway, I have nothing against nature and I hope that the Greeks will Tiger themselves up soon (if only to show the right nutwings that they can go burn themselves to ashes after calling some of us lazy based on nothing else then our physical location and/or ethnic descent) but nature did create Santorum and that’s much worse even than spiders so it cannot be all good.
This was a despicable year. The rich were so busy putting their own problems first that they could now finally fully ignore what the poor were down to. Or:
The SuperWest acted as if a piece of Debtonite suddenly required us to be the center of all attention. That would have been despicable enough but we went on to square despicable in Continue reading
First and foremost I hate that somebody changed the way this blog is displayed on my iPod. By displaying full length posts rather than excerpts, he or she seriously degraded my established having-a-quiet-shit routine. The only revenge I see open to me is to force Continue reading
She was somewhat of a number. Like many of her generation she longed for epic disaster as the only way out of her present predicament. Getting hit by a car, for instance, when crossing the road. Unfortunately for her longing, she crossed roads in a prudent manner not just respecting all applicable regulations but building in additional safety. This meant her chances of car injury were vanishingly slim. It was not a matter of avoiding being hit by a car, she was just unable to break rules that made sense to her. And it made a lot of sense to her not to burden an accidental driver by with the guilt of having hit anybody.
Hers is a familiar position to be in: confined without being physically restricted. She realized it and that’s how she came to plan her escape from civilization. Continue reading
I confess that I have acquired new superpowers. I can now embed video and I can ‘Align Full’. As I like to flatter myself that I am somewhat suffering from OCD (what one clings on to to be special!) this will significantly increase my comfort as well as my self-esteem.
I can now confess that:
It would have been a more convincing show of talent and text control if I would have been able to have found something that were allowed to play in this window. I know this. It just goes to show how much of a poseur I really am. I try, obvious to everybody is that I just try. By the way, the video is as bad as the song is great so it is probably better to have it play in another window.
I confess that I am fed up with all of the drama of modern times. I sure wish that for those believing that things are going to the shit-hole nowadays we could organize a reversal of time such that they could live through history backwards. I would give them eternal life so they wouldn’t miss any of the fun of the times that were supposedly so much better than ours. I am a cultural optimist and I confess that I don’t even feel like this is something to confess to.
‘Get over it already!’ is a thought I confess to having most of the times when somebody gets all excited about this position of that individual or yonder group of idiotic morons. I know that there are morons out there that can bend the facts much faster than Magneto would be able to bend the tiniest of needles. I know that. I am not blind. But are they increasing their numbers? I confess I don’t think so. And that’s mostly because I am a poseur.
Not that things are as they should be. I am not a cultural stagnist. For those believing this is as good as it can get I confess that I would sure wish that this is as good as it would get, for them. Because in dying on the spot they would not experience all of the many good fun that is still out there, yet to come.
I confess to being jealous of Kotsko, Adam and of Wolfson, Ben and of Davies, Daniel all of which are amongst those who’re notorious on this corner of the internet in which I am posing as somebody who likes to make people stare. Hell, I confess to once even having posed as a girl. My facade is just a fake. I’m a laid back non-actvist who thinks things are on the up and up and who is quite content with being popular with The Wife and The Kids and notorious in this corner of the world with a couple of anonymous individuals who are my friends.
I confess that being an anonymous individual is not the worst aspiration to have, all in all.