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What young people buy isn’t the best way to understand them, [Malcolm] Harris argues, since they don’t control what’s for sale. What’s more pertinent is their relationship to labor, which is “a bad one.”

Millennials are ordering from Postmates and they’re the ones doing delivery for Postmates, he points out. Service work constitutes a higher percentage of American labor than it has in the past, which means more “affective labor, the work of feelings,” is required of today’s workers. “That can be a strain on your ability to perform socially.”

“Wages are down, exploitation is up,” Harris says. “A heavy divergence between productivity and the wage rate is what characterizes the millennial experience more than anything. Being exploited, that’s going to make you want to stay home.”

Kaitlyn Tiffany on the tired Millennial.

2020-09-27T08:22:29+10:0028th September, 2020|Tags: culture|

Blue plague.

Most of the cops I know retired out long ago. They were good cops. They honored the Badge. But there’s a reason they got out when they did. They tell me that policing has changed. They tell me about the corrupt guys who are dealing drugs, seizing property and acting like street gangsters. They tell me about the heavy steroid use that is turning some cops into ‘roid raging monsters. They tell me about the guys who didn’t have the cojones to join up to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan who are now playing “soldier” on the streets of America instead. They describe the sadists who figure a badge gives them the right to beat in the heads of anyone who “crosses” them. They emphasize with the cops who are basically good guys who joined up to be the heroes and protectors of their neighborhoods, but who are ground down by their corrupt gangster wannabe co-workers, the police unions who shield the bad guys no matter what they do, and the higher ups who still subscribe to that devil’s bargain.

Mike Pondsmith on cops.

2020-09-07T08:54:52+10:0025th September, 2020|Tags: culture|

Inside riot.

Relatedly to questioning the lionization of nonviolent protest, an anarchist’s look inside the Siege of the Third Precinct in Minneapolis.

Regardless of what you’re personal line of tolerance for violent protest happens to be, it is very much worth noting that one of the key, intentional strategies to defang protest movements in the last generation or so has been to centralized them. The more “organized” and “official” a protest is, the easier it is to control, threaten, disperse, and regulate. So… just something to keep in mind.

2020-09-07T07:59:21+10:0024th September, 2020|Tags: culture, politics|

Performative virtue.

The social narrative of the United States locates virtue in whiteness; its power and entitlements are justified by white altruism, white benevolence, white entitlement. We see black trauma turned into white virtue signaling, a process to which the murder of Floyd has already been converted. Social media features a plethora of white people who are—all of a sudden—justifying their every decision: a firing they may have seen coming, a donation they may have given, a phone call they may have made, as stemming from their deep-sprung empathy toward black people. Crowing for themselves under the pretext of feeling for Floyd, they are underscoring again just how good (and hence deserving of commendation) they are.

A useful counterpoint to this habit was given by Cornel West in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper this week. Speaking immediately after George Floyd’s funeral, West described the black tradition of marching for justice without words of hatred or revenge. He described the insistence on freedom for everybody as a “grand gift to the world.” “White America ought to give black people a standing ovation,” West said. “After four hundred years of being terrorized, we refuse to create a black version of the Ku Klux Klan.” West noted that Floyd’s funeral in Houston was marked with uplift. “You can put us down, but you’re not going to put us down in such a way that we’re going to hate you, because you become the point of reference.” The presumption of goodness cannot be allowed to rest with white America. But if Gandhi’s precepts for British India modeled anything, it is the fact that it is not enough for the oppressed to actually be good; they are continually asked to perform their goodness, to prove it against the decrepitude of the other side.

Rafia Zakaria on virtue.

From a broader article looking at Gandhi’s model of non-violent resistance, specifically in light of the criticism he received at the time from Jewish activist currently struggling against annihilation in Europe (what form of “nonviolence” or performative virtue could have stopped the Holocaust?).

One of the things that was kind of… eye opening to me when I first encountered it was that the narrative white Westerners have about Gandhi and the narrative a lot of actual South Asian people have… do not match up. Like. At all. For a variety of reasons, not all of them “good” per se (ref. parochial nationalism), but still…

2020-09-07T07:18:55+10:0023rd September, 2020|Tags: culture, politics|

Middle-class lies.

In liberal democracies, the entire justification for a country’s legal structure is, typically, some kind of ideal of human freedom and liberty. The American bill of rights begins with the freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly. In practice, the assembly of people that gather in order to protest – which is the very essence of what is supposed to be American – is considered less legitimate than an assembly of people who want to sell you something.

You point this out to most middle-class Americans, they seem incredulous. Poor ones not so much, they don’t assume the rules are fair. Anyway: they’ll say “but of course you have the right to assemble, you just need a permit, what’s wrong with that?” So you have to say “all right, if you have to ask police permission to print something, that’s called not having freedom of the press. If you have to ask police permission to say something..” And they’ll say, “but that’s different! There are traffic issues. You can’t just gather. It gets in the way of people walking down the street” Which is funny, because I don’t remember anywhere in the constitution it says anything about the right to unimpeded traffic flow.

David Graeber on power.

This is a minor quote from a very wide-ranging interview; Graeber talks about Occupy, centrism, the pandemic, techno-utopianism, debt, the environment, anarchism, natural disasters, and capitalism, among others.

2020-08-24T10:30:34+10:0012th September, 2020|Tags: culture, politics|

The old communalists.

A brief primer on the counterculture: there were actually two countercultures. One, the New Left, did politics to change politics. It was very much focused on institutions, and not really afraid of hierarchy.

The other—and this is where the tech world gets its mojo—is what I’ve called the New Communalists. Between 1966 and 1973, we had the largest wave of commune building in American history. These people were involved in turning away from politics, away from bureaucracy, and toward a world in which they could change their consciousness. They believed small-scale technologies would help them do that. They wanted to change the world by creating new tools for consciousness transformation.

This is the tradition that drives claims by companies like Google and Facebook that they are making the world a better place by connecting people. It’s a kind of connectionist politics. Like the New Communalists, they are imagining a world that’s completely leveled, in which hierarchy has been dissolved. They’re imagining a world that’s fundamentally without politics.

It’s worth pointing out that this tradition, at least in the communes, has a terrible legacy. The communes were, ironically, extraordinarily conservative.

When you take away bureaucracy and hierarchy and politics, you take away the ability to negotiate the distribution of resources on explicit terms. And you replace it with charisma, with cool, with shared but unspoken perceptions of power. You replace it with the cultural forces that guide our behavior in the absence of rules.

So suddenly you get these charismatic men running communes—and women in the back having babies and putting bleach in the water to keep people from getting sick. Many of the communes of the 1960s were among the most racially segregated, heteronormative, and authoritarian spaces I’ve ever looked at.

Fred Turner on counterculture.

… sound familiar?

2020-08-23T21:03:18+10:006th September, 2020|Tags: culture, tech|
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