Monday, November 7, 2011

Some thoughts on despair.

One of the many mania (or is it manium?) of our age is the unreal belief that a small and inconsequential action on the part of an individual can help solve a major problem or crisis.

Now we wear wrist bands to save the small-eared sea lion, we wear lapel pins to fight sagging testicles, we grow mustaches to fight baldness in cats.

Every morning, it seems, on some street corner or another, I walk by giant inflatable rats. They're put up by our dwindling breed of union men. They're protesting the use of non-union labor, low wages or some other corporate indelicacy. I'm not sure that this marching or shouting gets anyone anywhere. Certainly the wage gap between the working class and the corporate class smacks, today, of the late 19th Century. So, it seems that the barking and the ratting out and the occupying is little more than the tale of sound and fury told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

No one, maybe outside of Christopher Hedges, is pointing the finger at the root cause of unemployment. The $10 million paid to a middling CEO is equal to 200 $50k/year jobs. In other words, the plutocracy sees more shareholder value in paying one man $10 million than in paying 200 $50K.

Wrist bands won't stop this. Nor will tents in privately-owned parks (a privately-owned park sounds like something out of Louis XIV France. Let the peasants hunt thrush one day a year.) Nor will forwarding a link, nor will a like, nor will (ha ha ha) this inconsequential blog.

I don't know what the Mahatma would think of the feeble fights against corporations, against fracking, against hunger in Africa. But I do think of this probably apocryphal
exchange he had with Churchill:

Churchill: “What do you think of Western civilisation?"

Ghandi: "I think it would be a very good idea.”

I have a feeling that we are in the midst of a trend that is relatively inexorable. The rich will ride their horses over the poor and the middle-class will disappear like a fist when you open your hand.

All the liberal progress forwarded by the American New Deal, minimum wage laws, a 40-hour work week, the right to organize, a social safety net, affordable higher education and decent public education seem to be falling by the wayside.

One of our political parties, ostensibly half our electorate, have given way to near absolute lunacy and radical reactionary thought.

The other of our parties is in the thrall of Wall Street and worries more about bankers than ordinary wankers.

Sorry kids, a ribbon on a lapel, a slogan and a logo aren't going to change shit.


peggy said...

everything has to start somewhere... winning minds (and hearts if existent) is the hardest part, especially of those who can change things -- the ones who would lose a bit of money and influence in the short term... but what could they win... there are things we all might lose otherwise... "the love of money is the root..." we will see.

Anonymous said...

First of, Occupy Wall Street is the first bonafide rebuttal of the military industrial banking oligarchy in decades. Thumbs up for that (drum circles etc notwithstanding). This is downward mobility George. The American Empire is going the way of its British cousins.And i Think you'll eventually see it in our industry as well, especially as digital media, apps, platforms proliferate. 8 guys in Tajikistan van create the next Rovio. Trotsky and Marx were right after all, tho not in the way they imagined they would be. Decline is never fun, esp as it gains velocity. Look at Greece.

Tim said...

We do live in the age of the 'magnificent gesture.' I suppose we're partially responsible. What I find more depressing than mindsets that dominate OWS and the Tes Party, is the mantra we hear from everywhere that moderation is no longer an option. That 'There will be blood." as Daniel Day Lewis said.

peggy said...

what are the mindsets dominating ows like tim? or those dominating the tea party? and how come you find them both depressing? id like to know. i take it you oppose the ows movement.

Unknown said...

the occupy wall street is an interesting thing happening. On one hand i'm sure it's the basis of a real undertow which may rise and grow and become truly powerful if it hits the right note. On the other it seems as if certain reporters of the movement is now only focusing on what appears to be fringes of the movement. Thus clearly trying to undermine its seriousness and seriousity. Things like petty crime, filth, etc. that clearly and unfortunately happen anywhere and everywhere people are gathered for whatever reason. On an average day Penn Station (my commuter hub) for example sees its fair share of petty crime, filthy toilets, bums and drugs, and that's a place patrolled by heavily armed troops, plain clad cops, and dog patrols. Wit that logic we better close Penn Station. I am not taking active part in the demonstrations on Wall Street, but I do think they are warranted and important. Greed has gone too far in many ways. And as someone expressed it" "We live in a nation where there's socialism for the super rich and capitalism for the poor".

peggy said...

or privatizing profits and socializing losses. this is not healthy for the whole of societies anywhere, obviously.

george tannenbaum said...

My point wasn't to call in to question the validity of any cause--particularly good causes. My question was really, does growing a mustache to fight cancer really do any good. I admire those who have taken their money from Bank of America and move it to a credit union. My questions are
a) can we really resist in a substantial way? b) will loudmouths really hurt the bank c) will any of it make a difference?

We have supported, all of us, governments in the pocket of the military-industrial complex. America might be the Nazis of the 21st century. But we go home to our homes and watch TV on stations owned by defense contractors and right-wing ideologues.

Is wearing a lapel pin fighting the fight?

Tim said...

Hi there Peggy! As one of the lowest forms of political life to ever crawl out of the pond and stand up on his own hind legs (gasp! a moderate republican), let me assure you I'm not against OWS or the Tea Party (which is the flip side of the same coin). Like I said, I just find them both depressing. In all the rhetoric, I find very little genuine humanity. There is no Noble Opposition only The Enemy. I'm from a divided family so I'm probably just dreading having to go home for Thanksgiving. Pray for me.

peggy said...

george, i believe talking about it makes a difference. as much as 'awareness' is bashed around the head, it is the first step in a process. it shouldnt stop there though. a pin can be an easy cop-out. but it doesnt have to be. silence can be an easy cop-out. and it is. i think it is good that people talk to each other. and not get talked down on by people who got their own best interests at heart. sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and make yourself heard, all in a peaceful way, of course. thats the good thing about democracy - you actually can if you want to. or maybe thats all naive theory... ive seen some ugly video footage (madrid may 2011, oakland, athens etc.) which somehow reminded me of footage recorded in the west bank...

hey tim, i agree with your evaluation concerning the two movements in that they both are fuelled by the economic situation. but i do find the tea party to be heartless, ego-centric and full of inane rhetoric... i dont think that about ows. yet. the occupy movement got no leaders really (isnt that what the tea party in its final consequence also wants, maybe you are right, ha). btw, i find it ironic how, since its been initiated by adbusters, ad-related organizations want to hijack it. be it boguskys fearless or a boulder digital works / fearless website which mimics to be a global hub for it all... talking about The Enemy in this context reminds me of a book title by chomsky: "profit over people war against people"... and concerning thanksgiving, i suggest you all pray together ;)

sorry for hijacking your blog, george.

Unknown said...

I agree with you George, that those little pins and armbands and such have come to conveniently make us feel they are contributing meaningfully, when it's just an easy and "safe" and cheap way to sort of take sides without sticking our necks out too far. That's obviously a luxury way of protesting, or contributing.
No consequences other than losing some pocket change. Only when the pain is unbearable, when enough of us get really desperate, may we see real action. That may not be a nice thing.

Tim said...

Thanks Peggy! We will. Fight the good fight.