Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wobbly times number 96


I can remember a time when the sky was clear and you could see the stars at night. I was a child and you were IT. Tag! It was a time before pollution, before the 'growth' which led to smog filled skies, except in Los Angeles. Back then, jokes were made about LA's smog. Smog was something, THEY had. We'd never see it, unless, of course, we went to LA in 1955.

Capitalism cannot survive without 'growth'. In bourgeois terms,'La Growth' means more commodities being produced for sale with a view to increasing profits. Commodities produced by wage-slaves whose time is commodified. Before capitalism, there was no such idea taken as 'commonsense'. To be sure, we were not enlightened. Most of us thought that aristocrats were above the law and that we were subjects to their absolute control--mediated, of course, by religious authority. The ideology of 'growth' fills in a lot of the blanks in our understanding of what's happening to us now--as much or more than Christian, Muslim, etc. religious ideology, IMHO.

'Growth', includes the expansion: of the workforce/population, commodified wealth and living outside the parameters of ecological health. 'Growth' is also connected to increasing debt and speculation in finance markets for commodities like derivatives, real estate and credit default swaps. Just look at our rulers and opinion making public intellectuals go on and on their 'bully pulpits' about the need for 'growth'. Granted, there is also dispute amongst groups and individuals within the issues of 'growth' coming from various perspectives, some to stop it altogether and go back to some pastoral golden age or even as far back as a prehistoric standard of living. Still, the dominant idea our era is 'growth'.

'Growth has been linked time and again with the notion of 'progress'. This is old fashioned and is profoundly wrong headed in this day and age. Progress should always be linked to the notion of gaining more freedom. More freedom and the creation of more junk in a world sick with pollution are incompatible movements of labour. Labour needs freedom and freedom at this stage of labour's ability to create wealth means disposable time, not its incessant employment by a tiny class who want nothing more than even more money under their control after they've found a market for the junk we produce. On the other hand, it should always be kept in the mind that the call for more free-time is not meant as a conservative plea to breed slavish subservience to some new form of Puritan Idealism. We don't need no steenking ascetic priests!

There's no point in being uncomfortable because you're lazy. Inventories build up while workers remain unemployed because they produce too much. Insufficient demand hits the fan. Capitalism breeds the misery of unemployment, while those who are employed are under contract to give away their lives' time.

We all have different needs in terms of time for lounging around. I reckon in a co:operative commonwealth, with distribution of wealth, measured by one's labour time put into what had been determined democratically to be necessary, we'd only collectively need four hours, maybe only 2 hours working time per day, per four day week. We're being employed to produce a lot of crap now, which we shouldn't-oughta. That crap (most of it, just polluting our planet even more) takes a lot our collective time to produce--just in case you were wondering about how we'd live with the 2-hour day. Further, on the two hour day, I think we all should be able to take care of our private desires ourselves, in private if we wish. For instance, we could spend time in a wind surfing collective, which would save anyone not interested from the bothersome effort, for example in spending one's necessary labour time in wind sail production or spending more free-time determining how to vote on yet another issue concerning our society's social plan. Of course, most planning would just amount to an easy "repetez s'il vous plait": notation of what had been taken from the social store of goods and services. The private collective's own labour, eliminates the need for social consideration, except for environmental impact. The need is even now supporting an exploitation of wage-labour, why not labour-time freely given to facilitate its use?

Of course, what we have nowadays is a 'growth' in unemployment or underemployment. Unemployment leads to poverty in a capitalist society. Workers need employers to buy what they're selling--their skills. Wages adequate to support a worker are usually paid for a forty hour work week....at least forty hours. A lot of workers are not 'bought' because the employing class can't profitably employ them for forty hours or even at all which is another way of saying that even though workers are quite capable of producing wealth, it can't be sold therefore, these workers become part of the surplus population in the logic of the social relation of Capital. If wealth can't be sold, there is no point in producing it, even though there may be mass poverty surrounding the means of production. This is the logic of wage-slavery. This is the reality which is presented as being rational. Check this video out. Check out the informed attitudes. Is shorter work time with no cut in pay presented as an solution to unemployment? No. Why not?

1 out of every 7 Americans now rely on food stamps.

While we don't see soup kitchens, it may only be because so many Americans are receiving food stamps.

Indeed, despite the dramatic photographs we've all seen of the 1930s, the 43 million Americans relying on food stamps to get by may actually be much greater than the number who relied on soup kitchens during the Great Depression.

'Living in harmony with the Earth' involves a conscious effort, even now--especially now. The ancients knew this, as conscious slaves to nature. We should know this because thinking of the Earth other than as, the only known habitable planet in the Universe, in the here and now, in the year 2011, is shot through with genocidal implulse. It always has been.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wobbly times number 95


Nothing fancy. Just me, sitting in the backyard under a blue sky, warm breezes flowing gently around my bare feet. Fresh laundry flaps nearby. Of course, the clothesline is out here, in the clear, in the open, reflecting sunshine. An occasional semi-aggressive fly zips by. Potentially murderous motor cars present my ears with low, annoying growls, long burps and distant gasps of air. A tinker-toy-like “Greensleeves” tune wafts in the distance, adding to the pollution. If only the ice-cream was genuine, hand made organic vanilla, chocolate and strawberry....if only, then...I might be more forgiving. The local train’s low whine, announcing its slowdown, makes its way up Wharf Street, sometimes cut out by a whirring, householder-sized power saw. Ah, weekends. Doves do their hootish cockle coos. Somewhere, there are child-bursts, small excited shouts. Somewhere. Somewhere an organ plays a few, medium-sized chords and then, silence... then, an annoying outboard motorboat sounding engine burbles, first fast, then winds down. It’s probably a chain saw or a small motorbike. Citizens are ‘at it’ in their neighbourhood.

Why is this fun? Why is being so tiny so much fun? Probably has to do with power illusions. We think we have power when we step on the accelerator. It’s true we bought the petrol for a certain amount of coin per litre. Powered by money, is that what we are? Power accelerating fun, also daring to get near that line, that line between exuberant life and the nothingness of death. That scary line. That line in the sand. That line that shoots adrenal rush; boosts our heart rate like an orgasm does. Oh to die, deeply buried in a cunt. That’s the way my male death wish turns.

To go or not to go?

Of course, not to go is the answer. Not to go so that one can go on. One can groan on. Oh morbidity. What a silly thing. All because one needs rest. Arrest it all! Stop it. Stop goes the weasel. Reflect. No serious revolutionaries have ever said, “If only I’d done more” on their death beds.

Have another toke.

Jets gulp clean fresh air
Chemically polluted rain falls

Somewhere, with sharpened beak, a magpie spears a field mouse. Taking the mouse up from the ground, the magpie scans for fellow thieves. Noticing none, the bird flies off-- dangling limbs and tail bouncing with the beat of her wings.

It’s blue skies and new birds, as spring flows into summer’s full glory. Sunflowers look like gangly teens, awkward in the wind. There’s unrest in the world too. Gangly teens are in the streets smashing Tory HQ. As yet, there is no mass, class consciously organised movement. Heck, it’s only 2011. How could we expect such a thing? It’s unrealistic. Of course, we’ll have to keep fighting to defend the gains of the past....indifference kills enthusiasm. From my observations, this seems true in most all human creative movement, lust included. Indifference and passion are incompatible, for indifference implies a lack of rational connection. Psychologically sensed alienation follows closely on the heels of indifference. When enthusiasm is continually rebuffed, hope becomes thin : The skies turn grey.

On the other hand, when enthusiasm is met with possibility, motion can gain speed for, “passion is catching”. So said The Great Shake’s Marc Antony to the crowd who gathered after Caesar's assassination. Marcus Antonius lived from January 14, 83 BC – August 1, 30 BC. Say his name. out loud. It's not said that often anymore. Yes, Marcus Antonius was 53 when he carked it. At the end of his life Marcus got together with the Roman political State's approved Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. Antony, who governed the eastern part of Rome’s territorial possessions, ordered Cleopatra to Tarsus in October 41 BC. –they soon united in passionate alliance. How much lust was involved can be left to the playwrights and, of course, our own imaginations.

Time will tell all as it rushes by us. It goes and we flow in our own directions which, when viewed in their partials and wholes, demonstrate pattern(s), a simultaneously learned and changed behaviour, spurred by our changed minds: Chattel slavery was once considered a norm of human society. With hindsight, this human movement will be known as, ‘history’. With foresight, the movement will be known by the varying experiences of its participants (however weakly or complicitly they play their parts), along with their ideologically driven adjectives, all preceding concepts expressing what the people of certain times and places are calling, “the struggle for freedom.” With hindsight, ‘World War II’ and ‘Palestinian liberation’ can both be very rationally construed as struggles for freedom. Of course this discourse is not meant to leave out the fact that there are other views history, some diametrically opposed. This is present and accounted for mostly within many conservative circles and from the left, amongst many anarchists and indeed, in even more specialised autonomous nooks and libertarian crannies.

Lived social relations are the stuff of history. And within the lives on which those social relations are based, a lot of time will have been spent on, "the frim-fram sauce with the aussen fay and chafafa on the side”. Rightfully so methinks. “Passion is catching” and life can be shorter than you think. Using your time to memorise dogma is undoubtedly a mistake. However, if your mind is bound up that way, you’ll probably never know it.

The only constant is change. This is a principle, not a dogma. Principles are more related to laws than ever developing, commonly held concepts like morality. It’s change-time. Even non-organic parts of nature exhibit change. From the BIG BANG, 13.7 billion years ago, when time started, movement also began and with movement came change. In this day and age, astronomers agree that most galaxies in the universe are moving away from each other at very great speeds—some of these galaxies are moving away from The Milky Way faster than the speed of light. Inflation has another meaning, the expansion of our Universe at a speed greater than light. There are galaxies beyond our 13 billion light-year vision which we’ll never see because of inflation. And there will be more of them. In future, in the far, far distant future, if change keeps going like it is now, we’ll only be able to see the billions of stars in the Milky Way. In the meantime, some galaxies will become closer and collide. Andromeda is scheduled to hit the Milky Way in three billion years. Which will come first: Relative darkness or some rare, chaotic colliding with plenty of near misses?

Think of it: You’re being pierced by neutrinos right now. Everything on Earth has been pierced by neutrinos for the four billion years of Earth’s existence. Change is built into the whole dynamic, from the Big Bang on. So is movement; and it all comes with time’s flow. Radiation is bigger than you think. Of course, organic nature has evolved more and more complex organisms, undergone mass extinctions and adapted to ever new environments in their wake. At the time I write, nobody has yet been able to pinpoint the moment when life began and in what specific organism; but it is accepted by most in the know (i.e. those who have done the measurements or are capable of deciphering them in scientific papers) that life on Earth began to establish itself around 3.85 billion years ago, probably as heterotrophs. Algae is a step up in complexity from this form of life. Algae comes in time; so do humans.

The laundry bathes in warm, sunshine wind from the East. Pollen count is driving the market for antihistamines in Perth. A jet rumbles in the blue. (I would prefer to consciously organise society in such a way that plane travel was much less necessary.) Jazz on the radio 24 hours a day, commercial and pledge-break free. Oh bliss...sometimes it comes down to this—the sensual moment, as it is, as you live it.

A lot of Hegel’s appeal comes from ‘moment’, used to describe: movement, time and the development of humanity, all in one. The moment is where we find ourselves in the temporal river and according to Hegel, we both assist the historical current and are moved by the totality of humanity’s effect on history’s direction: The current flows toward Freedom, The Absolute Idea or God, your choice. Hegel opposed chattel slavery at a time when it was legalised in the U.S.A. Hegel also chose to associate himself with the Lutheran Church. This was at a time when Beethoven was first presenting his Egmont to the public ear. The Egmont Overture is based on the revolt of nationalist Netherlanders against feudal Catholic domination by the Spanish monarchy. The Dutch were Protestants. The rise of capitalism and bourgeois democracy was on. Beethoven was a revolutionary in his time, a time when most of the world was still dominated by monarchist absolutism. I agree to disagree with him on the question of the importance of religious faith, especially in this day and age. His bourgeois political conclusions about: women, culture in Africa and other 19th century mythologies are all too revealing about his preferences for power arrangements amongst humans. Everyone is bound by the limitations of their time....everyone. Of course, I live over 200 years after Hegel. The greatest philosopher of the age of capitalist social relations died on November 14th, 1831 at the age of 61

"Nothing significant in human history has ever been accomplished without passion." G.W.F. Hegel

Agressivity is related to perceived material scarcity. I say, “perceived” because the material scarcity may not exist, other than as a numerical blip in the way we go about our business. And, to tell the truth, my perception is that we go about our business in exceeding strange ways these days. Capitalism is out of kilter with so much of a life well lived. For instance, it is growing dangerously, destroying the Earth by employing wage-slaves to produce toxicity. This sad state comes about mostly because the perception amongst the movers and shakers, the ones with the political power, is that ‘worth’ and/or ‘value’ have more to do with quantitative abstractions than living beings and what these beings find useful. To be sure, Earth holds a special place in this solar system. It is very useful to humanity; but humanity as a whole is not making the decisions about how to produce wealth without causing environmental degradation and natural resource depletion. As far as we can now determine, Earth is the only planet with life on it and is likely the only planet in the solar system which can sustain life as we know it without ‘terraforming’. Right now, we’re allowing a few people decide what will be produced and under what terms (with minor negotiations in the bourgeois democracies) and these people are not in the habit of allowing ‘use’ to trump ‘sale’. The question is: Why do we allow such a state of affairs to prevail on this very special place in the Universe, our Earth?

The answer is rooted in our survival instincts. However, some will say that it is because humanity is stupid. But that’s not it, because the answer to, “Is there an alternative?” is, “Yes. Common ownership of the collective product of labour with distribution of wealth measured by labour time”—see, it’s not that complicated. Agreed though. There are some people who are more intelligent than other people. It doesn’t follow that they are more politically powerful nor that they should be. So, the state of affairs is not so much due to stupidity as to its close relative, ‘ignorance’. Nobody talks about, “common ownership of the collective product of labour with distribution of wealth measured by labour time”. As a result, there is no dialogue concerning its implementation. Political power always has a voice and most times, is quite pleased, living within a politically ignorant milieu.

There are also subconscious forces at work which retard or block rational praxis and they are linked to survival instincts. Most humans are not fearless. They are aware of the power over them (which is at the core of political power); but they do not question it most of the time. To the degree that they do question existing, embodied authority, fear tends to kick in.

Why do we allow such a state of affairs to prevail on this very special place in the Universe, our Earth?

It’s not a moral problem as much as it is a systemic problem. True; there is a moral dimension. We’re not as perfect as what we might imagine possible. I think this is an inherent fault of Idealism: They hold perfection up to the mirror and discover fault in themselves—the portrait of Dorian Grey alongside their own reflection. Self-esteem is difficult to maintain with this mindset.
Back to the systemic. So, 2010 was the third hottest year on record. Climate change is also showing up in severe drought and flood statistics. Yes, I know statistics have particular realities behind them. It was a half a degree warmer this year than the average between 1960 and the 1990s. And then, there was the general attitude of resignation to the inevitable slaughter and possible extinction. Climate change as a result of all kinds of natural disasters have been the norm of the eons. Now, we’re helping another climate along by allowing our rulers to go on with their business.

After all, people are stupid and lazy, always have been. ‘Nuff said. Some call those responsible sinners others, sinful—a question of degree within a belief system, of which, there are many, all too many. Of course, lots of ideas are floating around, a belief system: political conservatism, religious teachings and so on. All can cascade, more or less unison, and produce waves of authoritarian psychological behaviours, resulting in non-consensual violence. But, even more deeply...in the substance of your daily life, there is the ever present reality of buying and selling. To buy or not to buy, that is the constant question to which most are lending our ears, at any one moment, inside the capitalist system. It is a call to value, price/wages/salary, profit, use, need, want, manufactured want, death wish and possible salvation?

On the other hand, there’s wealth, which equals stuff we can use and our own autonomy, our ability to spend our time the way we want to. The stuff is all those goods and services we produce in a day’s work. Stuff and time go together. We produce stuff over time, sometimes doing overtime and sometimes not getting paid for it. But the key thing to remember is TIME. No time dedicated to producing goods and services = no wealth. And whose time are we talking about? Those employed to produce goods and services, the working class. The working class is the producing class. Using their skills within certain time-frames, the working class produces all the wealth in the world not already found in nature.

Ah but nature. What a wonder! And we should be damn glad that we’ve still got a bit. Yes siree. We’s jus about the luckiest people in the solar system. Seppin’ they (some of the ones who own the collective product of our labour) not so long ago kilt an 80 square mile patch of sea life in the Gulf of Mexico. Lordy, what we gonna do?

Ok, as soon as you start bringing up questions like this, the inevitable response is going to be about how we need to protect our right to own guns. Why do we need the right to bear arms? The serious answer is that some of us need to be able to keep our hunting skills. And there’s the fact that we need to be able to protect ourselves from the political authorities, other potential psychopaths and criminals on the make. Lots of people are after a piece of the action i.e. us and our stuff, what little wealth we have. For you know, we (most of us i.e. the working class, 90%) create a whole lot of wealth--relatively little ever trickles back. Remember, wealth includes disposable time. Why is it that 88% of the wealth which 90% of the people are engaged in producing, ends up in the control of 10% of the people?

Of course, 10% of the people also have political power over 90% of the people. This state of affairs puts a crimp in the meaning of democracy. These distorted power relations reflect in behaviours of people caught up in the system. Among other onerous jobs, maintenance of the status quo becomes a job for wage-slaves hired in the police, military and prison industries. Not that all wage-slaves don’t contribute to that special social relation of our times, Capital. Like Frank Zappa quipped, “Do you like it? Do you hate it? There it is, the way you made it.” Even if the oft dreamed of ‘justice’ finally arrives in the shape of an equality of classes, with an equality of wages, the political system of dominance and submission remains the order of the day. Roots produce shoots. A constant hacking is demanded from the Idealists. But, it’s a systemic problem, brothers and sisters; the wage system needs uprooting. Not being done, fellow workers. Nope.

"With the seizing of the means of production by society production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer."

Engels wrote that in the very late 19th century. Socialists who have read, understood and agreed with Engels and Marx, cannot possibly agree that socialism has yet come into existence. Yet, many self-described anarchists, communists, socialists, liberals, conservatives, theocrats and fascists agree that socialism has existed and indeed, exists today. To be sure, the workers remain wage-slaves in these socialist States; they do not control or socially own the collective product of their labour. In fact, the product of their labour is bought and sold on the market for a price, just as their labour power is. The commodity has mastery over the producer; wealth remains alienated from the control of its producers. While they may have been told that they have; society actually hasn’t seized the means of production. The means of production and the collective product of labour are in the hands of a class apart from the majority.

After ten years in Australia, I can say, “I like it.” I have no illusions about the fact that limits to democratic power in Australia exist. In some ways, Australia is ahead and some behind in humanity’s trek toward more freedom. Australia’s police are less vicious and its legal system less focussed on prison time for relatively high percentages of its population. The opposite is true for the USA. To be sure, racist power structures persist and result in a much higher percentage of mostly male Aboriginals ending up in prison, way more per-capita than their fellow citizens in the non-Aboriginal population. Still, prison terms tend to be much less lengthy for all than in more punitive societies like the USA.

How long do I stay out in the backyard on any one day?

About one Toshiba Satellite laptop battery’s worth. Then, it’s ‘save the work’ and back inside.

“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” Kind of strange when you think of someone saying and singing this like they did back in 1942. Not as much fervour these days. Terrorism really is the phoney war we were sold by some in the press from about ’39-’40. Doesn’t stir the fervour. Back then, we were under real threat of being overrun by a bunch of neo-feudalist lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur. And they had tanks, guns, aircraft, armies and navies as good, if not better than ours. What to do in such a situation other than to fight back, for fight you must when confronted by such arrogant bullying. I’m perfectly aware that the capitalists made a lot of money from WWII and that the situation improved immensely for the rulers of the political States who won the war. But, I maintain, we won too. Workers won, in the sense that they didn’t have to live under total fascist domination in most capitalist political States, although a clear majority would say that the workers were way less than free than they could have been in the Marxist-Leninist Party dictatorships. Of course, illusions of how free one was accumulated like Capital in the non-Communist political States. The struggle for democracy and against absolutism continues.