Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wobbly times number 139

 Commodification is the process whereby our lives become synonymous with the production of cheapness dedicated to achieving market share. The essence of the concept of commodification lies in the process of turning the living into the dead, a 'thing'. A commodified Earth is a thing to be owned and exploited. A commodified worker is appears as a thing whose productive power is to be bought for wages in exchange for the product of work, soon to become a commodity for sale on the market in order to make profit. A commodified world is an upside-down world of bought and sold private property. Overturning the commodification of the world is turning the world right-side up; at the same time, it is the social revolution.

Zappa's vision didn't go beyond the rule of Capital. He was definitely opposed to what he saw as a leitmotif of modernity, 'cheapnis'. His was a kind of sardonic cry for quality in the age of mechanical reproduction.Unfortunately, Frank couldn't see that commodification and capitalism were joined at the hip.

We start with the commodity, this specific social form of the product, as the foundation and prerequisite of capitalist production.  We take individual products and analyse those distinctions of form which they have as commodities, which stamp them as commodities.  In earlier modes of production—preceding the capitalist mode of production—a large part of the output never enters into circulation, is never placed on the market, is not produced as commodities, and does not become commodities.  On the other hand, at that time a large part of the products which enter into production are not commodities and do not enter into the process as commodities.  The transformation of products into commodities only occurs in individual cases, is limited only to the surplus of products, etc., or only to individual spheres of production (manufactured products), etc.  A whole range of products neither enter into the process as articles to be sold, nor arise from it as such.  Nevertheless, the prerequisite, the starting-point, of the formation of capital and of capitalist production is the development of the product into a commodity, commodity circulation and consequently money circulation within certain limits, and consequently trade developed to a certain degree.  It is as such a prerequisite that we treat the commodity, since we proceed from it as the simplest element in capitalist production.  On the other hand, the product, the result of capitalist production, is the commodity.  What appears as its element is later revealed to be its own product.  Only on the basis of capitalist production does the commodity become the general form of the product and the more this production develops, the more do the products in the form of commodities enter into the process as ingredients.  The commodity, as it emerges in capitalist production, is different from the commodity taken as the element, the starting-point of capitalist production.  We are no longer faced with the individual commodity, the individual product.  The individual commodity, the individual product, manifests itself not only as a real product but also as a commodity, as a part both really and conceptually of production as a whole.  Each individual commodity represents a definite portion of capital and of the surplus-value created by it.

Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Marx 1861-3, Chapter 20

"At the origin of industrial society, based on the primacy and autonomy of commodities, of things, we find a contrary impulse to place what is essential - what causes one to tremble with fear and delight- outside the world of activity, the world of things.  But however this is shown it does not controvert the fact that in general a capitalist society reduces what is human to the conditions of a thing (of a commodity)."  

Georges Bataille, ACCURSED SHARE vol.I page 129

The reign of commodities is allowed because the subject becomes mystified as to the origin of the object : Wage-labour is not aware that it creates Capital.  Quite the contrary: it is generally believed that Capital creates wealth and provides jobs to wage-labour.  This is what Marx was writing about in the section in CAPITAL volume I on 'the fetishism of commodities' , the sort of 'camera obscura' world view taken as the norm under the rule of Capital and what Georg Lukacs was referring to when he used the term 'reification' and identified it as the mind trick whereby the subject>object relation was reversed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wobbly times number 138

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Henry David Thoreau

"Darkness thus surrounds two worlds that are distinct but always associated. The same horror banishes the sexual function and excretion to the same darkness."  Georges Bataille

How I see what causes so many neuroses in class society.

Remember the capitalist dictum: 'Find a need and fill it'.  

What humans need is more fucking with birth control pills and condoms i.e. we don't need an expansion of the population. Lack of fucking causes so many neuroses. It also creates needs which are filled in with the commodification of human relations i.e. pornography, generalised advertising and prostitution to name but a few. 

Humans are more like promiscuous apes, chimps and bonobos than monogamous apes like gibbons or alpha male, once a year mating gorillas.  Gibbons split off on the ape line 22 million years ago and also have sex about once a year.  Gorillas and orangutans split a few million years later.  The last of the apes to split off and the ones closest to humans genetically are the chimps and bonobos.  Chimps and bonobos are naturally promiscuous. Male chimps have the largest balls in the ape family. Gorilla balls are the smallest. Human males fit in between, still they are only a tenth the size of chimps and bonobos.  I contend that humans are as naturally promiscuous as our closest relatives in the animal kingdom are because of the size of the gonads. Larger gonad size, larger production of sperm. Female chimps usually have more than one male's sperm in their vagina. Male gorillas use body size to gather larger amounts of females under their control as they have less sperm and need more recipients. Evolution is funny that way. Humans can be mostly monogamous. It's an effort though as divorce statistics and the sale of sexual gratification attest. 

As the old saying goes, "Variety is the spice of life".  Our evolutionary history gives lie to the notion that humans are by nature, monogamous or alpha-male polygamous.  Within the official ideological cauldron of patriarchal forms of marriage lies a roiling mass of social and psychological distress e.g. infidelity, divorce, one parent families and the blues.

The human race has had thousands of years of problems with monogamy, historical proof positive that we are not monogamous animals by nature but that we are forced onto this Procrustean bed by class dominated society's patriarchal legal, moral and cultural norms.

"The pathology known as "hysteria" was named over two thousand years ago as a condition that affected women and had something to do with the willful difficulties of the uterus. Already in the times of Galen, a doctor who lived around the time of Jesus, medical experts recommended a "massage" of the genital area of women suffering from this malady, which relieved the symptoms and restored the women to health. It was commonly known from that time forward that hysteria was related to female sexual satisfaction although different societies responded to this problem in quite varying ways.

"The 19th century saw a great rise in the disease to the point of it being a near epidemic, at least among middle- and upper-class women. This was undoubtedly related to the heavily repressed sexuality of the era as well as to what Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English describe as the masculinization of industrial society (For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women. Anchor Books, 1978). In a world in which a reasonably wealthy woman's role is purely sexual and where sexuality is solely the realm of men, the greatest taboo was the idea that traditional coitus might not in and of itself satisfy the demands of women's sexual needs. Although many doctors of the time observed that over half of their female patients were not satisfied by their marital duties, they also were able, with a straight face, to declare this majority "abnormal" and in need of medical treatment.

"As in ancient times, treatment for hysteria consisted generally of manual manipulation of the womb area to provoke a "hysterical crisis" in which the woman convulsed and moaned and was relieved of her tension to the point of even being somnolent. In this way, women's sexual needs were deemed to be an illness and without ever using the word "orgasm" doctors of the time made a fine living with women patients who returned frequently for treatments.

"These treatments were so common and were consuming so much of the time of doctors that this actually led to the invention and perfection of the vibrator. The first vibrators were huge, expensive machines sold only to doctor's offices (and came with names like "The Chattanooga"). With this modern technology the time to treat a hysterical patient dropped from one hour to ten minutes, allowing the doctor to see many more patients in the same time. Needless to say, the medical establishment was quite enthusiastic.

"As the end of the century neared and more and more homes were connected to electricity, the technology of orgasm came into the home in the form of small, inexpensive vibrators. For the first time this technology was in the hands of the women themselves, but all mention of these machines carefully avoided mention of sex or orgasm. Instead advertisements gave glowing reports of rosy cheeks and youthful energy.

"Something, however, happened between the beginning of the 20th century and the 1920's, because suddenly the vibrator disappears as a product; the ads are gone from women's magazines and the manufacture of the products themselves seems to drop off. One possible reason, reports Maines, is that some early pornographic films from the 1920's show the vibrator as a sexual tool. This connection of the vibrator with sexuality made it impossible for women of the time to continue the charade that they were "just relieving tension," and the vibrator disappeared from the home.
The vibrator as sexual technology returned in the 1970's during the era of sexual liberation. In 1976, sexual therapist Joanie Blank opened the first store dedicated to vending vibrators in a women-centered, sex-positive environment, and which she called "Good Vibrations.""
K. Coyle

As for men, Wikipedia says, "As a general rule, an animal's penis is proportional to its body size, but this varies greatly between species – even between closely related species. For example, an adult gorilla's erect penis is about 4 cm (1.5 in) in length; an adult chimpanzee, significantly smaller (in body size) than a gorilla, has a penis size about double that of the gorilla. In comparison, the human penis is larger than that of any other primate, both in proportion to body size and in absolute terms."  I argue that these anatomical, evolutionary, adaptive characteristics are the material reasons why monogamy, polygamy, private propety and the political State are obsolete, indeed they are all contributors to multiple neuroses (including the sadistic tendencies/acts of cruelty passing for mutual erotic pleasure) we see displayed on a daily basis  and much unhappiness amongst/between humans.  The social psychology which class society generates  is one of submission the many and dominance by the few, the powerful, the class with authority to rule.

Women and men are anatomically evolved to fuck a lot. Just like bonobos and chimps, we don't have sex just to reproduce. Reproductive competition, when it comes, comes between the various males' sperm in the wombs of women who have chosen many partners.  The female womb itself is naturally attuned to selecting which sperm get through and are most likely to impregnate an egg.  Women, female chimps and bonobos (unlike say, the monogamous gibbons or harem-like gorilla females) don't 'advertise their fertility; they have what is  known as hidden estrus, making them ALWAYS ready to engage in sexual intercourse and indeed for tens of thousands of years before the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry, there was no human monogamy nor is there monogamy among chimps and bonobos. Children were considered to be part of one big family in hunter/gatherer groups.  There was simply no need to know exactly who the father was. 

I don't advocate mindless promiscuity. I advocate conscious knowledge of how we humans are anatomically constructed; how we've adapted over tens of thousands of years so that we can survive. What I'm saying is that the cultural constructs which flow out of the agricultural revolution beginning around 8,000 BCE are having negative effects on social relations between human beings, in particular between men and women. The need to be able to identify the male's offspring in order to reliably pass on the wealth the males have accumulated in patriarchal societies has bent human social psychology and made so many of us neurotic, unhappy, violent, bored and feeling unfulfilled. Monogamy and polygamy may have proven necessary social structures of civilisation when civilisation was necessarily based on the maintenance of class rule, private property and the political State; but is now proving an irrational, unnatural imposition on humanity.  

Since the dawn of patriarchy (some say around 10,000 years ago), we've been acculturated (mostlly through priestly admonitions from the legitimsed authorities of class society) into accepting monogamy as being natural and anything else as being 'sinful', wrong, low, primitive, barbaric etc.  However, as I've indicated, men and women in pre-class, pre-monagamous society couldn't tell whom a child was fathered by and paleo anthropolical studies demonstrate that most pre-agricultural societies were based on egalitarian power relations, within matriarchally oriented tribes.  Why matriarchy? Because only the mother could always be known; paternity was ambiguous at best.  Polyandry was more the norm than the exception.

Thus, monogamy/polygamy comes about as the patriarchal solution for being able tell which kids should get the male's property/wealth...most of these inheritors being males anyway and most of the property belonging to father males in the first place. Historically, males owned most of the wealth in class societies' version of civilisation.  In prehistoric society, what there was of wealth, was held in common in politically egalitarian, extended collective familial arrangements.  The need for the political State to legitimate and enforce class society's social relations of power and the unequal division of wealth by threat of violence is/was largely driven by the very unnatural, patriarchally driven forms of marrage: monogamy and polygamy.  Polyandry died out with the advent of class divided civilisation i.e. after the invention of agriculture and animal husbandry. After the creation of systems of surplus wealth creation, exploitive modes of production were set up by ruling classes which had the purpose of taking wealth and by extension, political power  from the producers of wealth: the slaves, the peasants and the workers.

Marriage is a cultural tradition which flows into the legal structures of class ruled societies. Publicly recognised, lawful relationships between men and women have been like that since patriarchy was found to be a necessary link in controlling property and inheritance of same after agriculture and animal husbandry were developed circa 8,000 BCE.  The mode of producing a surplus of wealth above and beyond personal need of the few is a foundation stone of class dominated civilsation and when conditions have been developed where it becomes possible for society as a whole to enjoy wealth beyond need, the material foundation stone of classless civilisation has been laid. It is when Capital as a social relation becomes recognised for what it is, a fetter on the freedom of the overwhelsming majority of individuals, that the rational bases of class society's foundations begin erode. 

It's perfectly possible (not easy though) to change cultural traditions i.e. recognising gay marriage by educating, agitating and organising within the culture; however, the class who rules will not change over implementing these measures. In the modern era, that's the capitalists and their buddies in the landlord class. Cultural change is what is happening now. Supporting cultural traditions is what social conservatives tend to do. For instance, I support marriage between as many people who want to be married to each other (gay or straight).  I even support monogamy as choice.  Why not? 

 Legalise polyandry now! That would be my personal slogan. However, I realise that this is a cultural change most people would not support at this point in history. La luta continua.  I do think that the whole cultural rumbling and grumbling about gay marriage contributes to the general historical transition social relations are undergoing nowadays, the transition from the monogamous (and polygamous) family, private property and the class dominated political State towards a free association of human beings who hold the social product of their labour in common and administer their collective wealth in grassroots, democratic ways, leaving their personal lives as a matter for individuals to design for themselves. Monogamy for most humans will ever lead to, "leading lives of quiet desperation" for the biological-evolutionary truth is that humans have an urge to satisfy their sexual needs within the variety of others they find around themselves. Thus, class dominated civilisation has become a fetter on freedom, an outmoded necessity worthy of sublation.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." G.B Shaw

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wobbly times number 136

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." - Edward Abbey.

It’s About Time

We came out of Africa
ages ago
We roamed o’er this planet
in various tribes
our numbers have grown
We’re hitting six billion
We don’t need any more
We need a rest
some disposable time
We’ve got enough families
and too many swine

We need a shrink
We’re working too long
driving for hours
with ring-toned
bright mobiles
stuck fast to our ears
jammed ‘twixt car bumpers
to-ing and fro-ing
producing more gadgets
than we’ll ever use

And what’s most of it for

To profit the powers
increasing their greed
immersing our planet
in fads become junk
twelve percent plastic
and toxic to boot

truth is still beauty
but look what WE’VE got
beauty’s become
a ware to be bought
a thing to be sold
In this day and age
cheapness’s the measure
of market-share gain
It’s just so much fools’ gold
What happened to leisure
Why so much pain
Come on fellow workers
Let’s turn the page

Our faire Sister is groaning
under this weight
We’ve created more wealth
than ever before
measured in money
and we’re still insecure
Output per worker
has shot through sky
do-dads are humming
boss profits are high
while needy go hungry
and poor children die
by thousands each day
because water is dirty
and boy is it scarce
The deserts are coming
the planet is warming
and pundits are talking

they’re talking ‘bout more

All for the bosses
More power for them
to grow their damn
and lest we forget
we’ll get more landlords
and rent hikes galore

Oh my god
can’t you see
by the dawn’s early light
Come on
all you workers
wage slavery’s a bore
It’s taking up your life
and taking up mine
Let’s make something real
something useful for us
for us and our planet
before we go bust
Let’s grow us some FREE-TIME
Give it a think
We’ve piled enough crap up
We need a shrink

"An era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted." Arthur Miller

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wobbly times number 135


After the abolition of the horrid wage system by the workers themselves, the transition from the lower to higher stage of a co:operative commonwealth takes place using socially necessary time (SNLT) as a measuring device.  After all, we're just out of a capitalist society and many people may still be hung up with notions of narrowly selfish individualism.  To prevent the fear of free-loading and the actual act, SNLT will show that we're all doing our part.  A modern communist society is large.  We simply don't and can't know everybody on the modern commons as we might have in our small 150 or less peasant communities in the past, before the commons was destroyed--pre-18th century in the Anglo Saxon culture.  At the current level of technology, SNLT could be recorded electronically.  A good or service would be enjoyed by swiping a card taking however many minutes it took to produce the good or service off an electronically stored balance.  Working in the production of goods and services would enable the producer to add socially necessary labour hours to the card as he or she put them in.  Those who felt a greater need for goods and services or even for work itself (face it...many people enjoy what they do for a living now, why would this not be the case in a classless society?)...these people could put more time into the social store of goods and services.  Those who did the least popular jobs could be compensated with say, double-SNLT being put on their cards e.g. one hour of underground mining equals two hours of working in a library.  But of  course, these matters would all be decided at the time by freely associated producers.  I am merely speculating and proposing from my own era.

This arrangement of using SNLT would make the whole production process transparent; it would leave the mystifications of mass commodity production behind, along with the wage-system which breeds it.  An individual producer could see that s/he was putting in so much time and just like everybody else, could draw that time back out of the common store as needed. Still, this transitional arrangement would lead to inequalities in access to goods and services; but not to classes as nobody would be able to pay others a living sum of SNLT to get control over the collective product of their labour.  Capital is essentially a social relation.  Capital becomes political as soon as one person controls/owns the labour/product of the other, in other words, instantly for as that happens, the one person is able to tell the other person what to do.  Having power over other people is the essence of political power and the foundation stone of the political State.  Socialist praxis is based on equal political power amongst all women and men living in a classless society.  There is simply no room for Capital in a transition to a higher level of a communist society.

The highest stage of socialist society that I can imagine is one where there is no longer a concern about whether someone is or is not doing a fair share of the work necessary to keep the community together and measuring SNLT or using it to obtain goods and services from the collective product of labour becomes superfluous.  Production of wealth for use with its distribution on the basis of need reaches its pinnacle.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wobbly times number 134

1:00pm, October 15th  Location: Forrest Place Murray Street Perth, Western Australia

 "The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as 'an immense accumulation of commodities'." Karl Marx CAPITAL volume I, page one.

We demonstrate our anger amidst the wealth we create. We are the 99%. We produce the wealth of nations. The 1% own what we produce and by virtue of the wealth they own, they run the political show. The 1% select the polytricksters the 99% are asked to vote for. This social relation of wealth and political power is based wage labour. The 99% are obliged to sell their skills and time in order to make a living. The 1% own the product of labour. The product of our labour is called capital. Its owners are the capitalists. The 1% are powerful because they own what the 99% produce.

The fact that 10% of Australian households own 45% of Australia's wealth while 50% of Australian households own only 7% of Australia's wealth is information which is unknown to most Australian workers.

Catch the Perthian Wobblies at the anti-Rulers' Fest demo in Perth on October 28th here

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wobbly times number 133


(by Jenny A and Mike B)

“It’s all their fault!” I’m just going to lie here and cry into my pillow!” Lance looked at his friend Jason. Jason’s eyes were delightfully sea-blue. The sea was a notion which you found in books, and the ideas you read about it would cause you to experience it differently than if you hadn’t read such books. Lance put his fist, hard into the pillow’s end and turned over. Jason slowly awoke.

Marsha reclined on the sofa. She was the ocean itself. Her swollen vulva pressed up against eight blankets. Lance wanted his attire to be significant – It had to “rock”. Jason caught Lance’s eyes for the eighth time. Eight was the number of an octopus’s legs. “Spydiferous octopussy!” Lance said it out loud. The significance of eight was therefore droll. In this instance, any fucking would be droll, and therefore pointless. Lance wondered, if in the overall scheme of things, there was a value to drollness “in itself” but then decided against that likelihood. He already knew, from his university undergraduate course, that there was no point deciding the indecipherable.

It was the fault of things being made too complex. There was no room to manouevre any more – the more you moved, the more life locked down on you until your existence became like a grid around your head – just like in “Matrix”. "One" was truly the loneliest number of the self-centred self.

There was a knock on the door. It opened. It was Jane. “I’m hungry”, she said. “I could eat a horse.” Horses were animals with manes and tails, and the hooves and teeth would have been too boney to eat, all at once. Obviously, then, Jane meant this assertion metaphorically, although in size and demeanor, she resembled an ass.

Context is everything. Jane made this assertion standing in a university dormitory. University dormitories signify desperation and consumption of way too much caffeine. They also signify pimpled faces and immaturity, by and large. Jane’s face was clear as she made this statement, thus signifying her manipulative tendencies as an outsider. Who would pay for this horse that she would eat? Neither boy thought he had it in him. They exchanged glances again – they, too, felt hungry.

Marsha groaned. “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” she proclaimed with a wince. Her groan signified devastation; her utterance, resignation. She had caught the ‘flu, only a week out of the end of winter. How would she ever finish her essay on postmodernism? Nobody seemed to care though. If they did, they did not know how to convey it. No, they didn’t. It didn’t really matter anyway, since wanting to communicate meant reinforcing the dominant ideals of patriarchy and Marsha fancied herself a feminist, par excellence. Gosh, circumstance was immutable. It was better to shut up and preserve the name. They could all eat later, when the time was right. The significance of the correct time would be known when each felt it, synchronised, within each heart. Then, independently, and yet together, they would make their individual ways, beyond the closed door, and outside the dormitory, into the great world, the great intertextual meta-narrative.

Nobody knew the significance of this more than Lance. He knew, somehow, in a way which can neither be explained nor represented, that they would eat Korean food that day. It was just something which came to him in a flash! There was just something about the meaning of it being winter, and the likelihood of them eating Korean. However he looked at it, he couldn’t get away from that notion.

“I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed!” cried Marsha. If I don’t get this postmodernist essay done, then I might have to repeat that whole course! Tears welled in her swollen red eyes. She looked pathetic. “If you want to play with us,” asserted Lance, “ you’ll have to do better than that! You look pathetic!” he added. “Why don’t you buy some decent mascara?”

Marsha certainly seemed to be upset. Her seventies hairdo added extra sincerity to her display of emotion, however Lance remained resolute. Something within him made him think that Marsha was just aiming for a subtle game of sado-masochism. Sacrifice and confess–he would make her sacrifice and confess. Perhaps, he would wear a robe and his black leather mask.

Jason had another game in mind, however. He had grave suspicions that what really would achieve the effect he’d been hoping to with Lance was a high heaping of some good Korean Kim Chee. Kim Chee was hardly acknowledged as an aphrodisiac, and only those who had rare access to a certain multicultural knowledge could possible gauge what they were really in for.

It was a barely known fact that Korean sailors ate Kim Chee. The cross textual reference was this: Genet had also written about sailors. This was a subtle point, to be sure–and yet not one which, objectively speaking, should be overlooked. This was to be a test of mental agility and sexual daring, all at once. Would Lance have the intellectual, je ne sais quoi, to realise what was being suggested, right in front of him? As both partook of the Kim Chee, surely a transition would overcome them? They would realise that they were both dead men, fated to take whatever options still remained to them – either to become like Genet, or die wondering.

The Kim Chee had that hot pickled taste. It was true that it was made mostly of chili-soaked cabbage, but it was also made of love. Love was a concept which reminded you of warm and fuzzy things. Baby octopuses hidden under lettuce leaves, so cutely surprising. Christmas lunch with colleagues who you didn’t totally approve of... That sort of thing.

Lance decided to get into some heavy fucking. Just the thought of the Kim Chee and octopi under the lettuce leaves had done it to them, shoving it between the ass’s legs till he couldn’t cum anymore. Things were getting complex.... which was all to the better. Lance had decided to proposition Jason under eight or nine blankets. Eight signified love. Nine signified treason. Which was it to be? Certainly not ONE!

It was so hard to decide. Such is radical un-decidability. They agreed upon setting fire to the dorm instead. Only, Marsha was still in it.

What could be done? Was it an offence to female self-direction to set fire to the whole room with an actually, existing female in it? Or, was it more accurately a case of gay men’s jouissance? Neither point of view could be decided upon. A compromise would be to set fire only to the bed, in which Marsha was hiding, but it seemed a bit unfair, in terms of more conventional behaviour injunctions. Still, it was reasoned, as if by transcendent force, she would have a fighting chance, if the whole house were not on fire. Only her bed.

Midnight Oil, the band, was playing. They sung the song about beds burning, in order to protest the politics of, well, everything, but especially oppression. They sang:

How can we dance when our Earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning
Four wheels scare the cockatoos
From Kintore East to Yuendemu
The western desert lives and breathes
In forty five degrees

You could just tell that there was a great deal of anticipation in that song. One, ever so secret thing, you could surmise from it was that global warming was not a major issue. We would still be able to sleep ok, because “life goes on”. That insight had been taken to heart at an early age by both Lance and Jason as they listened to their mothers’ Beatles’ records. They knew it well by now -- it was “in” them, and that was totally normal, nothing to beat oneself up about: “Lord, liberate us from Fascism.”

A dog barked. The screams from Marsha’s burning lips – the text she spouted forth – must have been, according to some readings, horrific.

A knock came on the door. The police. A disturbance had been reported. Playing Midnight Oil at high volume had signified these dorm residents as being, “out of date” or was it, “out on a date”? What did it matter -- It wasn’t new. The postmodernist police wanted its free citizens to know that it was now the year 2005. Mayhem was ok, but would they please get with the programme.

The television came on just then via the remote control (Jane’s fat ass had just descended onto it.) Nobody knew what would happen next: Each were rivetted to their seats. Maybe this was “it” – the point when we we're all going to get “new values”. Instead a commercial: “‘Surf’ is a revolutionary new detergent”, it said – something which (from the jaded viewpoints of the students) was patently untrue. Having fringes (“bangs”, some would say) was revolutionary. Didn’t anybody know?

The T.V. news also went on to announce a textual reference – that thousands of women had been killed in “honour killings” throughout Jordan, but that was an uniformed, racist critique from a Caucasian cultural perspective that did not understand that they go to live with Allah. It was also a voice of technology speaking to their Daseins.  To claim to understand it all was wrong, wrong, wrong! It could lead to textual totalitarianism and concentration camps.

Real freedom was ... much like ice, really -- disconcerting enough to tolerate when it is freezing up your gums and mouth.  Impossible when it was placed onto your chest or belly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wobbly times number 132

It's the "Hooray for me, fuck you" narrow individualist principle of 'freedom' 
which has run amok in the USA.  As long as freedom is defined negatively, 
as top down political power of one over the other, all sorts of physical and
psychological interpersonal violence will be taken for granted as being 
somehow, 'natural'.  

Dominance and submission between humans is endemic within the greater
whole of class society in the world, from social relations between men and 
women, to power relations between workers and their employers.  
Dominance and submission ideology is actively expressed in 
racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia.  It also plays out in acts of 
violent crime between people--most of those people being
from the working class and lumpenproletariat. 

The above is not meant to deny that war is probably the greatest State 
legitimised interpersonal violence, all ordered by ruling classes and 
murderously obeyed by the ruled, mostly against each other inter-nationally.  
Finally, the greatest legitimised robbery in history is based on the wage system,
where in the USA 88% of the wealth produced by 90% of the people 
(aka the working class) ends up under the ownership and control of 
about 10% of the population (aka the ruling class). 

But on to the matter at hand, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT:

1.35 million people are prisoners in the USA.  Are they all violent criminals?

102,580 50.6% Drugs
30,756 15.2% Weapons, Explosives, Arson
24,311 12.0% Immigration
10,480  5.2% Extortion, Fraud, Bribery
  9,697  4.8% Sex offenses
  8,403  4.1% Robbery
  7,161  3.5% Buglary, Larceny, other property
  5,563  2.7% Homicide, Aggravated Assault, etc.

Drugs, Immigration, Extortion and Burglary categories aren't necessarily violent crimes at all. Immigration is a mixed bag: it's a growing category in part because it's easier to get a conviction; you arrest someone under suspicion of some other crime, then find out they are undocumented and file those charges instead.  How many of them are violent criminals?  No way to know.  Is it 0%?  Unlikely.

OIC, here's the source:

Sex crimes are not counted as being violent? Probably not.

See USC 18.109, 18.110 and 18.117 for details.

Anyway, there are three times as many violent criminals in the state prisons than there are in the *entire* Federal prison system.  The Federal system, while at historic highs, is a relatively small piece of the picture (15%?).

There are entirely too many people in jail and prison in the US; but, we must remember that more than half of them are actually pretty violent criminals.  Violent crime is a problem in the USA AND so is the 'War on Drugs' (begun during the Nixon Presidency) in terms of locking people up who should have the right to use whatever they want to use to have non-violent fun. 

The roots of contemporary, violent, interpersonal crime lie in the culture of narrow individualism, a culture which springs from the social relations of dominance and submission which pervade class society as a whole. I maintain that a classless society, where common ownership of the collective product of labour would be the norm; where the product of labour would no longer dominate labour as a commodity, alienated from the source of its production as a power over labour i.e. Capital, that such an association of producers would be free of most of the violent crime we experience today and certainly free of puritanical sadists running political States bent on punishing those who wish to live wild, free, libidinous lives. In such a society, equal political power between all men and women would be the norm. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wobbly times number 131

When an Old Woman Vanishes a Library                             Burns

Tommy opened his eyes.  A blue plane flash-flew ceiling high, passing just over his head.  As soon as it appeared, the plane vanished along with any memory of why it had been there.

He was awake now,  the covers felt good.  Frances lay warm, gorgeous and sexy next to him.  Tommy would have liked nothing better than to snuggle up next to her. But Frances had  to be up for job training by five.  Waking her with a cuddle, possibly poking her with his boney knees was not an option.  So, he decided to get up.

It seemed the coldest part of the day was blowing through the partially open bedroom window.  He moved in a semi-drunken, slow manner toward the bathroom.  Shock hit his body like a cold fist, as he splashed cold water over his face, scrubbing night’s crud from his eyes.  “Bald guys need to keep a wool beret around in the winter.”  This was but one of the many thoughts erupting in his head.

He put on his heaviest black sweater, his thickest sweat pants along with the olive green socks Frances had been issued during her stint in the Australian Defence Force.   Moving outside the bedroom, he carefully closed the door and tip-toed into the darkened living room.  He was finally able to switch the living room light on.   “When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.”  He spied his flip-flops on the rug.  It was 3am. “Damn, I thought it was closer to five.”  Tommy had become an inveterate insomniac. It seemed the only time he could write was in the wee hours of the morning when it was quiet and he could be alone with his imagination. 

Now properly, warmly, deliciously shoed, “coffee!”  He made his way to their drip style machine and began his holy morning ritual.  Three tablespoons of espresso beans into the grinder : water up to the  ‘seven’ level.  “Must be seven demitasse.”   As he pressed down on the mill’s cover, the electrical connection was made and it whined, constantly changing pitch turning the dry beans to powder.  “What begins with a whine and ends with a wine .”   After fingering the powder into the filter basket and switching the machine, on gurgling water began splurging over the freshly ground coffee, dripping thick-black into the glass pot.

 At the push of a button, the familiar “beep” and “whirr” of the computer booting up came on as  Tommy began doing his Cobra-trained, full push-ups.  “Chest to the floor. Twenty-five, twenty-six. Not bad,” he mused breathlessly.  Rolling his body over on the red, Turkish-style carpet, Tommy  crunched thirty sit-ups.  He stood up without using his hands and walked backed to the coffee maker, where he poured himself a cuppa.  From a condition of total destruction, his mind was now cooking with gas.

Once he’d shuffled back in front of the blue lit computer screen, he launched into the Internet.  He keyed-in his Yahoo password  and perused  news on his home page. 

“Nothing much unusual...ah Bob Hope died.  He was 100.  And some 22 year old American GI  bought it yesterday Iraq.  Wonder why we’re there?”

“Yankee, you die!” the old refrain from a black and white John Garfield movie passed through his mind.

 “But of course, oil. Here you are boys.  Here’s what you’re fighting for.   Hope was smiling as two bikini-clad starlets rolled out a barrel of crude.   And there was Bob, waving good-bye from a rising Army helicopter to his old theme song, “Thanks for the memories....”

An unkind thought, to be sure.  But hell, it was war and humour helped make the absurdities of same more palatable.  Hope knew that.  The joke was probably lost on the kid though.  Too young to know better.  Never to know better, really when you thought about it.  The kid lying there, bleeding, last thoughts about home, his girlfriend, fading, the pain, then nothing.  Sad really.  “But what could a ‘Poe’ Boy do, sep to play for a rock n roll band....stop it!”  he thought.

He clicked on  his e-mail setting.  Some postings from his various virtual acquaintances across the globe popped up on the screen.  M wrote from Brazil on the vegetarian list about sprouting alfalfa seeds and E passed an article on to the P list from “The Financial Times” concerning the ins and outs of the U.S. dollar’s lower exchange rate.  Then, one guy, who worked in advertising, said that the success of the industry he was employed in was more or less proof of the practical degree that behaviourism worked in manipulating contemporary society.

Tommy got up and got another cup of coffee.  He flip-flopped back to the blue sheet, which served as a curtain and gently moved both ends toward the middle so that he could see outside.  Starlit darkness ruled.

Most predators who eat people are nocturnal. It must be that the equation of darkness with evil is embedded there.  After all, it exists in African societies as well as elsewhere.”

 The cement balcony looked ice cold grey and dull.    “Must be something like seven degrees out there now.”  Walking back toward the kitchen, he grabbed   
his black wool beret impermeable from where he’d left it on top of the fridge the night before.  Immediately on donning it, he felt warmer.  “Funny that, about heat and bald heads,” he half-whispered to himself.

This time, he sat down for the duration, wandering off into his imagination,  writing until first-light began to peek through the thin, blue window sheet.  He immediately immersed himself at the foot of a gorge in pre-historic France.  Cro-Magnons spoke to one another in staccato tones.  They did not speak often.  This tribe was more reserved with speech than perhaps others were.  At least, that’s how he imagined it.

Then, the scene was gone.  After an hour-straight of typing, it was over.  Like the blue plane he’d awakened to, the images of pre-historic life vanished.  Perfect timing really, as Frances had just begun to stir.  He could hear ABC classical radio switching itself on automatically in the bedroom.  Music from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” wafted from the darkened door.

Frances stuck her head around the corner in a  t-shirt, greeting  Tommy  with an, “AbBa!”   She was a funny animal.

 Tommy answered by frying sliced potatoes and onions with the pan cover on.  He also put  bacon in and finally two eggs.  He opened some baked beans and placed them in the pan as well. When the potatoes were brown, he spread a small amount of barley bran and parsley over them.  Then he flipped the whole conglomeration over.

Tommy and Frances didn’t speak  Frances checked and responded to her e-mail, while absentmindedly eating her eggs, bacon and potatoes.   Tommy launched into the beans and potatoes spreading gobs of Farmland Tomato Sauce and Bornier’s Dijon Mustard over his fried spuds.

When they’d finished breakfast, they jumped into the car and drove to the train station. Frances’ trip to Joondalup would take thirty minutes, about as long as it would be  for her to drive there, plus there was the hassle of parking.

Tommy saw the usual gaggle of workers and students making their way to their expected, allotted places by 8 in the morning.  “Disturbed honey bees.”

When he got back to the apartment, he took a shower, got dressed and swept a bit.  The only thing he absolutely had to do was pay Frances’ credit card at the Post Office.  It was a fine day outside.  The prediction in the “West Australian” was that the temperature would hit 29.   Twenty-nine and partly cloudy was his  favourite brand of weather.

After pounding out a newsy letter to his daughter asking her what she thought of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, he folded it in half and half again and put in an envelope, sealing it with a lick of his tongue.  Then he wet the stamp and air mail sticker and carefully addressed it to Texas.          
Tommy did the morning dishes then stepped out, credit card and bill in hand, along with his letter to Solange.  Down the sun-drenched sidewalk he walked, heading for the Albany Highway some two city blocks away.  He turned right, making his way past the local news vendor, the music store, the clothing store, past Verlanda’s coffee shop, the Vic Park launderette and then crossed the highway to the Australian P. O. 

“Small line as usual,” he thought to himself.  Just another thing that he liked about living in Australia, at least Western Australia.  The post office seemed oh so much more efficient and friendly than the ones back the U.S..  And why?  Of course, it was because they were more adequately staffed.  It stood to reason.  But another, more amazing thing was that one could pay most of one’s bills there, including one’s credit card.

“Good day, sir.  How can I help you?” the woman smiled. 

“I need to pay my wife’s credit card.”

“Certainly sir.  How much were you going to put in?”

“A hundred.”

“Check or savings?”

“Savings.  There you go.”

“Thank-you.  Is there anything else?”



As he exited the flourescent lit P.O.,  he noticed a grey-haired woman sitting on the sun drenched sidewalk propped up against the shade of a wall of the Commonwealth Bank. 
“I say,” he said after crossing the Albany Highway, “you seem to have picked the right spot.”  Tommy was being half sarcastic, half serious.   Actually, he felt a bit powerless.  Charity was never an option for him.  He was poor and he knew it.  No illusions here, not for Tommy anyway.  The poor giving to the poor, sharing crumbs, this wasn’t the way out of the cycle of poverty.  Sure, you could be a good Muslim or Christian by being charitable.  But Tommy was neither and as far as he was concerned, charity only kept people from the kind of righteous indignation they needed to stoke fighting spirit.  Charity was not the same thing as solidarity in struggle.  Most poor souls, most of whom were workers or formerly employed workers never understood this dynamic and actually preferred the role of errant members of the flock who just needed a hand out now and again.  As he looked down on her in her in what seemed to him to be a passive position,  he felt a bit stronger.

 Tommy was prepared to walk on as he usually did when he encountered homeless people.   Then he heard the woman remark, “There’s no place like home, until you have to clean it.”

 “Excuse me!  Are you ok mam?” 
“What a strange thing to say,” he thought to himself.

She looked up and startled him again.  “What’s housework?  Just something you do that nobody notices unless you don’t do it.”    


“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more, don’t you know.” she muttered. 

“Are you ok?” he asked again.

“Yes.  I’m fine,” she said looking up through squinting eyes.  Two of her teeth flashed golden in the sunlight. 

“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”  Tommy asked.

“Don’t know,” she answered.  “I’ve been a lot of places in my life.”

“I mean, where do you live?”  Tommy asked.

“I live here,” she answered.

“Where’s here?”  he insisted.

“Just up the street....”

“I know where it was!  You’re the person living in the wash house,” Tommy blurted.

She looked up at him in earnest now.  “I don’t know that’s any of your business.”

“Brendan told me that there was someone sleeping in the wash house.  I saw you going down the driveway yesterday.”

“Ok, you got me,” she said.

“Hmm.  So, why are you doing that?”  Tommy asked.

“I need a place to sleep,” she mumbled.  “You wouldn’t begrudge me that.”

“No, no.  I mean, what in the world made you end up sleeping in our wash house?”

“Life. Besides, it’s not your wash house.  It belongs to the landlord.”

“Sure, ok, but what’s your story?” 

“I’ll tell you for a bottle of wine,” she answered with a twinkle in her eye.

“You got it,” he said.

“First the wine,” she grinned.

They walked like the most unlikely couple down to  Liquor Barn, where she insisted on a bottle of “Poet’s Corner” shiraz. 

“Got something to open that with?” he asked.

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that sonny,” she replied, pulling a jack-knife complete with cork screw out of her pocket. 

“You know, you don’t have bad taste in wine for a street person.”

“Look, this stuff isn’t that expensive.  I know what’s what with the reds though.  You alright about that sonny?”

“Look, I’m as old as you are.  How about laying off the sonny stuff.”

“Sure.”  She took a large swig.        

“Ok, how about that story.”          

“Okay mate,”  she said, sitting down on the kerb under a gum tree near a seagull infested parking lot.  “You see, it was like this,” taking another pull.   “By the way, why do you want to know?  You’re not a social worker or a cop or something, are you?”

“I’m just curious.  I’m a writer.  Stories hold great interest for us, do they not?.”

“I see.  Ok.  Here goes.  You’d never know it to look at me but once I was a nice lady.  I had the whole shebang, a husband, a child, a house, the whole shebang.  Everything was going along just fine.  Chuggingly well, really.  Then, it happened.  My husband got layed off from his welding job at the plant.  He’d been working there for fifteen years.  Ever since his mid thirties really.  Well, that put the old financial kybosh on our lives, ‘cause try as he might, he couldn’t find another job–leastwise none he’d take.   When you reach your fifties and beyond the party’s over in the old job market.  He tried though.  I’ve got to give him credit for that. 

“Anyway, we had house payments to make and I had the bright idea to send my son to private school.  Only the best for our son. 

“We’d agreed to that.  Well after I pestered my husband some, we’d agreed.  He really didn’t really fancy it.  Never did.  Well, I wanted my son to have better than we had.  I wanted him to have something more than a crappy welding job like his father.  So, it was off to private school.  The point is that what with his layoff and all, we were beginning to hurt.  Our savings were cleaned out after the first month and bills started piling up, not to mention the already existing credit card.  I decided to start looking for work.  Jack didn’t like that.  He didn’t want me working.  But I told him, someone had to find something, so’s we could  pay the bills.  The bank wasn’t going to let us keep the house for nothing and then there was our son’s private school.  He threatened to take Jimmy out of the school to save cash.  Well, I wouldn’t hear of it.” 

She stopped for awhile and looked around at the traffic, birds and people passing by.  After a few more swigs, she continued.

“In fact, I did manage to find some work at the local Coles.  But they were only paying me $11 an hour.  We needed more than that, just for groceries.  So, I kept looking.  Then one day one of my workmates, a woman, read me this story in the “West Australian” about prostitutes.  I couldn’t believe what they were being payed.  I thought, why not give it a try.  I mean, sex had become something I more or less did as a duty for my husband.  I really did it without wanting to.  Why not do the same thing for $200 a pop?”

She stopped talking and sat silently on the kerb, fingering the label on the wine bottle.

“In fact, when I finally did get in the whoring game–oh mind you, it was a respectable place with lots of respectable men coming and going–but when I finally did get in to the whoring game, I met a lot of women who were like me or who were unlikely candidates for this kind of work.”

“Really?” Tommy asked.  “Who?”

“College girls.  I even met a woman who had done her PhD and who hadn’t been able to find work in her field yet.  She said that she’d more or less worked her way through school this way and she saw no reason not to continue as long as the need arose, so to speak.”

“And who else?”

“Wives.  Lots of wives, supporting their kids and or husbands or both.  I found others in my position there.  It was a good house.  No disease.  Lots of respectable Johns, really they  were.”

“Well, what happened?”

“My husband began to get suspicious.  I mean between footy matches on the telly.   I was able to keep sending Jimmy to school and pay the mortgage.   He’d say, ‘How much you making there at Coles anyway?  I heard they don’t pay much’.  You see, I’d kept my old job as a cover.”

“And then?”

“Well, and then I told him.  I broke down.  I cried!”

“And his response?”

“He hit me.  He hit me hard and then he walked out.”

“What do you mean, ‘he walked out?”

“He left me with a black eye.  I didn’t know where he’d gone, but he left.  I think he ended up in Melbourne.  I’d stopped crying for good by then.  I was only trying to make sure that my son got a good education and that we’d have a nice house for him to come home to.”

“And your son?”

“He found out too.  My husband made sure of that.”

“And what did he do?”

“He was so ashamed.  He screamed at me, ‘Mommy, you’re a whore!’ He wouldn’t speak to me.  For weeks, he locked himself in his bedroom and wouldn’t come out.  My childless sister in America found out about the whole thing.  I think either my husband or son e-mailed her or something.  Anyway, she and her husband flew to Australia and got a whispered court order.  They live in America.  They took him away.  It broke my heart,” she said taking another swig.  “I told them, I told the law that I’d never go back to prostitution.  Soon after my son left, I lost the house.  I’d lost everything, everything that really mattered to me.  It broke my heart.  And so, I’m here.”

“How long ago was all this?”

“Oh, it’s been years.”

“Have you ever seen either your husband or son again?”

“Never saw them again.  They don’t want to see me.  My son goes to Harvard Business School now.  My sister makes sure I know those insipid things.”

“And prostitution?”

“Gave it up permanently when I went on the road.”

“I can’t believe this happened to you.  You sacrificed your integrity for them and they ditched you.”

“Seems all to typical,” she said.

The kerb side conversation fell silent.  What more was there to say?

Trust could exist.  Solidarity could exist.  Even charity could exist.  But what the hell.

If hardly anybody could be counted on, what could you do?

The gulls flew around now and again and the occasional car pulled into the parking lot.  She drank the last of the shiraz and without another word made her way down to the Albany Highway.  Tommy ambled back to the apartment and found the door open. 

“Where have you been?” Frances asked.

“Paying your credit card,” he answered.

That night Tommy dreamt that he was in a forest with three other people.  They were wondering how to warn another group that something bad was about to happen to them.  The trouble was that they were so far away from those people, none of them could think of a way to get to the people who were in danger in time.  Tommy felt a surge of adrenalin go through his body and he jumped, staying in the air for longer than he had expected.  He reached the top of a tall tree and pushed himself upwards and forward again and again to other, further trees and on until he reached the place where the people in danger were.  He shouted to them and awoke in the dark.  Frances kicked him in the knee then pushed him over and told him to stop snoring.  After awhile, they both went back to sleep. 

The next morning, when the Sun had come up, he took the garbage out.  On the way back to the apartment from the trash barrels which were located just outside the wash house, he checked inside.  The woman’s sleeping bag was gone.  She’d vanished.

Nobody ever saw her in Vic Park again, not even Brendan--Brendan sees most everything which goes on around these parts.