Showing posts with label Hyperindustrialism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hyperindustrialism. Show all posts

04 February 2013

Looking Glass Jimmy Carter

Despite the fact that I really don't need more magazines, I couldn't help but get these. Six issues of Time and Newsweek from 1976 leading up to and immediately following that year's election of one Baptist Georgian to the office of President.

Initially I was mostly interested in USAmerican politics around the Vietnam War. The policy of containment during the Kennedy/Johnson regime is well known, but I became more and more interested in the outlying aspects. The genesis of our involvement there during WWII is little known, or the fact that Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to the draft evaders whom had moved to Canada during the war. I came to see Carter as an accident of an exhausted system. So tired of the apparent bellicose and divisive politics of the war years, the people seemed to want anything but.

Another interesting thing about these old magazines is the advertisements. Every fourth page or so is a full-page advert for liquor or cigarettes, and of the six I bought, one has a back cover ad for the former and the remainder for smokes. This was just five years after a ban on cigarette ads in television and radio was signed into law by Richard Nixon. It's interesting to note that as much as the one party decries government spending while the other slashes it out of some bizarre sense of laissez faire “tough-love,” cigarettes are one of the rare instances in which the consequences are continually acknowledged as communal. The very name of the bill, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act highlights the collective nature of the legislation. It’s just this sort of compassionate coercion that Jimmy Carter seemed to embody as the head of state. A close look at the history of his tenure reveals a more ambiguous picture, but as Capitalism increasingly tries to fragment and individuate society, driving us further apart from each other, Carter's brief tenure seems to me to represent a temporary shudder toward a more collectivist spirit.

During Ronald Reagan's first term he deliberately cultivated an image of masculinity and rugged cowboy-ness. He did this it has been claimed in order to differentiate himself from Carter who seemed soft, even feminine, wearing cardigans during several national addresses. One of Reagan's advisors has been quoted as saying that Jimmy Carter was America's first woman President, an interesting admonition considering that Hilary Clinton, wife of America's "first Black President" may (or may not) be considering a run in 2016. Clinton may have played the saxophone and nominally smoked pot at one time but he was hardly any kinder or gentler than his predecessors. Historians and economists have pointed out that he essentially implemented many of the legal and economic policies for which Reagan (and other conservatives) laid the philosophical and political groundwork.

Consider that under the newly minted trade agreements US produce companies successfully sued in the World Court. As a paltry concession to their legacy of colonialism, the U.K. had agreed to buy bananas from Jamaica at a generous price, but the US considered that 'unfair competition. He also implemented Operation Gatekeeper and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. By increasing twofold the INS (Now ICE) budget, and similarly the number of BP agents, the former effectively forced migrants east to cross the US/Mexico border in the desert where, as one Border Patrol officer clarified, more of them will die leaving fewer to require apprehension. The latter Act, as the name implies, makes poverty and getting out of it a 'personal problem' rather than a systemic and historical social problem.

Of course, the real "first Black President," Barack Obama might have a little more understanding of personal responsibility and the logical disconnect with work opportunities in a culture where people are subject to a 500+ year history of systemic (race,gender,ethnicity and religious) oppression. Nevertheless, he hardly has a better record on these issues. For just one example, presently "undocumented" Guatemalans (and Hondurans and Salvadorans) who are detained are flown all the way back 'home' at a cost to taxpayers of 12,500 dollars per person (numbering just over 76 thousand people in 2011 alone.) He's got a little under four years left to rock the boat, but so far Obama is not exactly a 'glitch' in the business-as-usual system.

Taking a closer look at the policies and politics of Carters term then is a bit like a look in the mirror. The “hope” to which the current regime has attached itself seems tempered by the realities of political inertia. If you want to play the game so to speak, you have to follow the rules. Carter for example failed to stem the flow of arms and assistance to the government of Indonesia which since 1971 had been actively engaged in ethnically cleansing and suppressing the independence of East Timor. He did cut off arms aid to the Guatemalan military dictatorship which at the time was ethnically cleansing the indigenous Maya population. (Israel and Taiwan eagerly filled the gap) Jimmy deregulated the airline industry which laid the groundwork for Reagan's infamous union-busting. He also deregulated the beer industry which allowed for the glorious birth of craft brewing which we so enjoy, particularly here in the North West but has also proved a boon to (inter)national corporations and distributors.
While he certainly had his faults and failures, I've come to see Carter as something of a glitch, a progressive hiccup on the long descent into neoliberal mass-penury. I'll admit then that my dire opinion of Capitalist politics vis-à-vis Jimmy Carter has been largely eclipsed by the incredible, and yes, profoundly compassionate humanitarian work he has done after leaving office. Something you can hardly say for any other President. So, you can see why I tend to be drawn to Carter as something of a rebellious accident. More or less fortunate perhaps but soon "corrected," nonetheless.

Some of my sources:
Clintonomic$: How Bill Cinton Reengineered the Reagan Revolution by Jack Godwin
Life and Debt
Man From Plains
Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era by Susan Jeffords
Truthout: Reluctant Migration: The Vicious Cycle of Debt, Deportation and Flawed Policy That Drives Central Americans Over the Border Again and Again 
Cascadia Solidaria

13 May 2010

Medical Empire

The idea of medical science as a project and projection of empire is something that is fundamentally anathema to U.S. self image of benevolence and democracy. Jeremy Suri, despite his conviction that the U.S. has always had the best interests of foreign populations and their “uplifting” at heart in it's actions abroad, might find it hard to argue against the overwhelming empirical evidence that medical research and subsequent treatment were employed when and seemingly only when the issues it sought to address were framed as problems or obstacles to the imperial project. Of course, Suri doesn't see the U.S. as "Imperial" at all. A case of "plausible denial" that would make his hero Henry Kissinger proud.

Modern medical science itself is much harder to disentangle than Suri's revisionist argument* (starts page 525) because it is so institutionalized within the frame of the benevolent scientific objectivity of modernism and liberal progress. In particular, the imperialism of medicine brings to mind the astronomical fees for medical care which appear to be in no small part a result on the cost of malpractice insurance. However, consider that the malpractice debate has been framed as a defense against subjectivity, against the individual doctor, thereby retroactively rendering the institution of medicine itself infallible. Specific people it would seem are the ones responsible for any lapses in the benevolence paradigm, and the field as a whole remains sacrosanct. Far less frequently is the question of a medicine or treatment as a whole questioned, because if mistakes were made it was within the frame of objective benevolence. One would nevertheless be hard pressed to claim that medicine is not fundamentally a positive project, not the least because modern medical norms are so strongly institutionalized, and it certainly does benefit a great number of people who would otherwise suffer from preventable illness and disease. My point is that it is largely assumed to be objective (as is most science "fact") when in fact it is very much a product of the cultural and historical context of its formulation and application.

My obtuse point here is that as long as the issue of medical science remains protected by the paradigm of objectivity it will be impossible to resolve the broad public health care issues that have plagued modern capitalist nations. It would seem then that providing widespread elective health care to the general public (rather than exclusively those who can afford it), which has everything to recommend it as far as I can tell, is to a great degree at the mercy of the paradigm of medical objectivity. Perhaps if the medicine could be re-envisioned as an ongoing project rather than an end result, which amounts to an understanding of the fundamental subjectivity of doctors, nurses, treatments, and patients themselves, then the actual benefits of health and medicine could be enjoyed by everyone who wished.

*this is the Google Books version and hence, missing some pages. If for some reason you actually read this far and are interested in the full Suri essay, I can send you a PDF.

07 August 2009


I'm still trying not to buy anything new after a year and a half. No clothes, or appliances or whatever else people buy that's new. Books and movies are standard used for me so that's not really an issue.
Food of course is impossible, though I try and scavenge discards what I can safely. (no easy task working in a grocery store with a massive waste factor).
But other than that I must admit I'm not going to buy used underwear. Honestly I've never seen used underwear for sale anyway, I don't think it exists, for good reason. But that leaves a reluctant consumer in a tough position.

So, that duly noted, where in the hell can a person get non-sweatshop, union-made underwear nearby? (mail order is a last resort)
Amricn Apairel excluded.

Dear reader, help, my shorts is starting to wear thin.

13 August 2008

Green is the New Bullshit

For some time now I think the term "Green", at least when used in the description of a product, has lost all significance. A coopted comodity, like punk bands on MTV, all the rebellion is gone.

That's no surprise, anything that has ever been seen to have a grassroots popularity is snatched up by corporate America and resold for private profit.
But "buying Green" to me has such a stink of hypocrisy that I find the whole concept malicious. I don't care how much medical waste you recycled to make that traveller coffee mug. It took more energy and resources to produce the original products (recycling requires priour consumption and waste), to break them down again, and remake them into the new product (which is often not 100% recycled, so it consumes even more energy and resources) that you've completely voided any advantage of buying "recycled".

I'm not against recycling, but it's a half-measure at best, and it does not clear your conscience and it does not let you or Bono off the hook.

What it is is a Consumable Image of Compassion. Vanity has no place in social justice. If you're concerned that people think you're progressive, or see you as such, you're insincere. It is however important to tell people what you're doing, because it generates interest and thought where it once hadn't been.

Buying green in the firstplace requires buying(consuming resources and energy), which is at it's root the antithesis of environmentalism. It's a hollow token gesture that clears a shallow conscience and requires no greater commitment or thought or concern than a Free Tibet bumper sticker or a "free range" egg.

22 April 2008

Moral Considerations on Building "Green"

I just listened to a story on the radio about a person who spent five hundred thousand (500,000) dollars to remake their home in a “green” (environmentally friendly) way.

Building green is fine, it’s nice to design your personal home to be energy efficient and made from recycled materials, and I support that. It reflects however, a very limited perspective. It reflects a very privileged point of view in which the rich and generally, more educated are able to flex their economic muscle and show off their financial ability to “care” about the environment from an elitist point of view.

Certainly, I would not accuse any of these privileged people of intentionally attempting to display their wealth. However, would it not be more constructive, more conscientious to consider, and address the social practices, which perpetuate non-green construction?

I can understand the desire to create a home which caters to your desired level of comfort and luxury, however, I do not understand the disconnect between personal satisfaction in ones financial ability to be “progressive”, and the moral obligation to address the social issues on a larger scale.

Fundamentally I believe that addressing the issue of social practice, if one has the finances, and desire to use them in an environmentally innovative and positive manner, overrides the rather selfish motive of surrounding yourself with a green bubble as it were.

Is it more functionally effective (considering the universality of the issue) to contribute to a microscopic isolated solution, than to contribute to a step towards macroscopic inclusive solution?

The solution proposed by green construction totally discounts the great mass of the population, both in the rich and privileged societies like the United States, as well as the less privileged, such as much of Africa etc., who simply cannot afford to, or don’t have the context to “build green”, (or already do in the form of “primitive” dwellings) yet are betrothed to a global capitalist culture dependant on ever-ending consumption of resources. Furthermore, is the recycling, repurposing and reuse of products actually more environmentally friendly of building with new "green" materials? Is it more cost effective in the short term, long term?

If one abandons the poles of selfishness and selflessness, and one considers both approaches to the issue as valid, there must necessarily be some compromise between placating the self-conscious, and the conscience.

25 November 2007

Perpetual Textualization of Thought

I gave myself a good 8+ hours of sleep last night in anticipation of todays keyboard session. I'll leave analysis of payoff to third parties but overall, the writing was more or less a success.
Roughly seven plus hours in front of the keyboard yielded a more or less complete paper which I can edit and polish over the next two days with the help of several friends. I managed to listen to the first 6 of the 7 disc Sonny Rollins Prestige box set while doing it. I've found that music with lyrics distracts my brain. Hmmm funny about language. Took a few breaks to finish up a review of an Israeli film, Private Maneuvers which featured this relaxing vision of patriarchal sexual objectification...
The review is at:
The surprise epiphany of the day was the understanding of the system of Hyperindustrialism which is actually a somewhat theoretical cultural system that we haven't discussed much in class. We'll see if my analysis is correct(according to Mohammed) when I get my paper back. Whew, that was bothering me. I'm not sure if four Happy Hour rounds at Hattie's Hat can be blamed for this momentary flash of smarts, or if it was the fact that I ate virtually nothing all day.
Horay for Hyperindustrialism, my previous labor secured a full day of key punching brain leakage and distilled spirits.