Mar 2, 2014

March 3, 2014: Assault on the Middle Class, State-Sanctioned Greed, Don't Agonize...Organize


Senator Corker is not alone in this headlong assault on the middle class.  Everywhere, across the country, diligent Rescumlicans are about the business of conducting a headlong assault on both the New Deal and organized labor rolling back a century of progress.  There’s Scott Walker in Wisconsin waging war on the public employee unions, Rick Snyder, a former hedge fund tycoon, turning Michigan into a ‘right to starve’ state further solidifying it’s position as the Alabama of the Midwest.  Then there’s John Kasich of Ohio, previous congressman best known for leading the impeachment crusade against Bill Clinton while in the House, now as governor of Ohio he first led a battle to savage public employee unions and, after the voters overturned the law by public referendum we now find him leading the fight to keep as many voters away from the polls as indeceny will allow.  Across America we see a concerted effort to wage war on the workers of this country, first by seeking to limit the ability of workers to organize, second by seeking to roll back worker’s hard earned gaines by , as Corker demonstrated, using real or imagined crises to wring draconian concessions from the working class, and lastly by seeking to protect their political backsides from an associated political cost by restricting access to the ballot box.  The result is that, as the aforementioned graph demonstrates, the percentage of the national wealth held by the middle class of this country is on the decline.

Bill Moyers featured as a guest on his PBS program last season former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.  Reich, now economics professor at Berkley, has recently published a book dealing with the state of the economy in the post-Bush era.  It transpires that the top 1% made off with 95% of the economic gains made since the crash of ’07.  Below is a graph illustrating the relative gains by each of the 5 economic groupings in recent years. 

 


If one were to further break down this income distribution, one would find that most of the gains within the top 5% went to the highest 1%, with the lion’s share going to the top one half of one per cent.  Meanwhile, as this graph so aptly demonstrates, the bottom 80% are falling behind. 

 
To see the impact of the state-sanctioned greed let’s look at what has happened to median income in recent years, but first a word of explanation for those unfamiliar with the arcane ways of the statistician.  Conservatives gloss over what is happening to the middle class by using income averages.  The average household income and the mean household income are not the same standards of measure because averages can, in this case, be misleading.  For instance you could put Bill Gates in a room with 40 homeless people and the average wealth of everyone in the room would be well over a Billion dollars. But if you measure by Median wealth and you would get a quite different and quite startling answer, for Median wealth would approach, in this example, near zero. For such measurements real wealth or yearly household incomes are measured by the median and by deviations from the median known to the statistically obtuse as “standard deviations”.  Think of the median as the true middle, like the median on the road.  Here, in this statistic, one can measure the relative position, success or the struggles of the ‘average’ american—that is the American Middle Class. 

 








As you can see, since 2007 the “average” or median household income has gone down by roughly $4,000.00 per year. The Middle Class has lost, in the wake of the recession, 7.8 or roughly 8% of its purchasing power.  So while the top one percent has made off with 95% of the economic gains since the last recession the middle class has lost nearly 8% of it’s income. Only belatedly has this administration begun to address this problem.
The consequences of allowing these trends to continue unabated is amply illustrated in the graph below.
 
 
The graph clearly shows that the percentage of the national wealth held by the middle class, adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars, reached its peak in 1968. A whole host of problems and issues arose in the 1970s from the election of Richard Outhouse Nixon to the Arab Oil Boycott, to the introduction into the labor force of the Baby Boomers (otherwise known as the ‘generation of swine’), which set the stage for the downward decent of the purchasing power of Main Street America.  What has been so troubling has been the governmental response, or rather lack of response to this trend.  In fact governance has mostly involved creating new and novel means to accelerate the trend either by nearly eliminating any semblance of ‘progressivism’ in the tax code, shifting taxation so that work is now taxed at a much higher rate than wealth, and by turning a blind eye when we are not turning back the clock on regulations (principally financial regulations) and anti-trust.  Here we see that administrations, be they Democratic or Republican have not altered the general shape of the curve, giving damning testament to the growing dominance to the now near dictatorship of Capital. 
 There is a solution to this, one that is best expressed by an old adage “don’t agonize…organize”
 
If you're part of the middle class, thank a union.
 


 
 


 

March 2, 2014: Mantra of the Swine, Quite Beneath Them, Genuflecting before the Angry Gods of Greed


In the summer of 2011 I was doing some work for a client in Athens, Georgia, a property management company specializing in rental properties in this university town.  Jim and I got into a discussion about the auto bail-outs.  I made the point that the Obama Administration should have met with the corporate boards of GM and Chrysler and made it clear that as a condition of providing the required financial aid that not only would the top executives have to go, without a golden parachute, and that the production facilities built overseas and the jobs that went with them would have to return to the territorial United States.  Jim heartily agreed with that.  Then I said that these jobs would, as a requirement for Federal assistance, be unionized.  That’s where we parted company.  “Oh no” was the response, “we don’t need unions”. 

 This has been, by and large, the mantra of the generation of swine.  I cannot relate how many times I’ve engaged in similar conversations with my peers over the years and elicited the same response.  For reasons having to do with the prosperity into which we were born, the shameless education we received, and the collective greed and ignorance we have brought to bear, the Swine have, almost to a man, repeated the mantra of their collective corporate paymasters when it comes to issues surrounding the work place.  My response to Jim was, as it has always been, a polite variant of the question “What have you got against the middle class”? 

 It is not often taught in the schools anymore, in this sanitized version of our collective history organized as it is around performance testing; but today’s post-industrial middle class is a product of a combination of political will and organizing the labor force in the work place.  As the old middle class, founded on the family farm, was fading into history, the New Deal consciously replaced it with a new industrial middle class by not only instituting a far more progressive tax code, establishing the 40 hour work week, creating unemployment insurance but by also making it easier, with the Fair Labor Standards Act, to organize the work place.  Granted the power, instead of facing the opposition of government to bargain Americans by the millions joined unions creating higher wages, safer working conditions, vacations, pension programs and a relatively secure purchase on the growing American Middle Class.   

 No more.  In the last 40 years union membership has continued to decline as a percentage of the workforce.  Boomers, bidding a farewell to the stigmata of the “blue collar”, thinking that such collective associations too “working class” and quite beneath them, shunned the very idea of walking into a union hall.  This is America, they declaimed, where the individual stands alone.  Here one makes it with one’s own grit, determination, and character, it was proclaimed.  Here we stand or fall on our own merits.  And so, by the end of the century, the great American Middle Class, shorn of its collective voice and standing naked and alone before the angry gods of greed, finds itself under assault and driven to the point of looming extinction.

 Here is a graph, compliments of MSNBC’s “The Ed Show”, and published by the center for American Progress, showing the relationship between the decline of Union membership and the decline in the share of the national wealth held by the Middle Class:  Corker knew what he was doing when he stood on the Senate floor and demanded the diminution of the benefits of organizing the workplace.  He was simply genuflecting to his corporate paymasters, the angry gods of greed.

Feb 27, 2014

February 27, 2014: What a Corker, Race to the Bottom, Voodoo That You Do


“And now go do that voodoo that you do so well”

                     ---Harvey Korman as Headly Lamar in “Blazing Saddles”

 
Senator Bob Corker (Rescumlican Tennessee) is caught in a firestorm over attempts by workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga to organize under the auspices of the United Auto Workers.  It seems that prior to the vote by the workers over union certification, the swine from Tennessee was caught dutifully doing the bidding of his corporate paymasters by telling the workers that if they vote against unionization that Volkswagen would build more auto plants in Tennessee and the American Southeast.  Conversely, calling the UAW the greatest job killing organization in the world, he told the workers that if they joined the union it would threaten their already existing employment and jeopardize any further expansion by Volkswagen in the American South.  Using these fear tactics, the kind of voodoo the Scums do so well, the auto workers in Chattanooga dutifully rejected the union. 

 
This is the same United States Senator who stood in the well of the Senate and called for American auto workers, as a price for the industry bail-out in 2009, to be forced to give up their wages and benefits and join the ‘race to the bottom’ by working for the world industry wage.  The Senator, you see, stood outraged that American workers should have the temerity not only to demand by to compel a higher standard of living than the prevailing world rate.  No matter that the Unions had already given back many of their gains, particularly fringe benefits, the man from Tennessee was not satisfied and stood ready, willing and eager to use the financial crisis to wring landmark concessions from the working class.  This, it seems, is the recurring pattern.  Use a crisis, any crisis to give the screws one more turn on the working people of this country; and, if a crisis doesn’t exist, simply create one such as in using the debt ceiling to periodically exact more concessions from the workers and to further shred the safety net beneath them.   

 
This is not your father’s Republican party.  I cannot imagine that in my youth even the most recondite reactionary would stand in the Congress of the United States and boldly calling for radical reductions in income for middle Americans.  A few may have held those views, but none would have stood upon the national stage and so brazenly expressed them.  It is a mark of the times that a United States Senator can openly conduct war on the middle class of this country and not feel a sense of political insecurity.  This particular scum won his seat back in 06 by running in the tradition of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater airing disgusting and racially tainted television commercials against his opponent Harold Ford.  In a campaign reminiscent of another scumbag, Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, Corker savaged Ford with television commercials that violated every standard of decency, eking out a narrow victory.  Within months, knowing that his corporate paymasters would rapidly come to his defense he was calling for an end to hard won gains by the largely northern auto workers.  Now he feels safe to wage war on his own constituents.  I never thought I’d live long enough to see a United States Senator Stick pins into the hearts of his own people by openly celebrating their emerging poverty; but then it is a voodoo that they do so well.

Jan 12, 2014

January 12, 2014: Chat with My Shoes, Spanning Generations, Grow to Understand


Our daughter, who is now a mature young lady, has moved to Europe wherein she is pursuing her studies.  Referred to herein as “Shoes”, she obtained that moniker as an infant which began by my calling her, innocently enough, ‘my little two-shoes’, quickly shortened to simply ‘shoes’.  She hated the nick-name when she was young asking plaintively why I called her that.  “You are as comfortable to me as wearing a pair of old shoes” I recall telling her.  I knew that as she got older she would grow to understand.  What follows is a short chat I had with her this morning via Skype over the internet.  The conversation spans continents, oceans and generations. It is done in a bit of short-hand as any communication with souls who have long since got to know each other will be and begins by an exchange of photographs via the net and moves on to more serious subjects.  I include it here because it represents yet another furtive attempt to hammer out a collective understanding of where we have been, where we are, and where we may be heading.

 

[8:57:34 AM] Joe Camfield: hi shoes

[8:57:47 AM] Shoes: hey dad

[8:57:49 AM] Shoes: how are you?

[8:58:33 AM] Joe Camfield: I’m doing alright, fixin to go back to work over at Ducey

[8:59:03 AM] Joe Camfield: i got your message that you are back safe and sound

[8:59:35 AM] Shoes: that I am

[8:59:40 AM] Shoes: still on American time though

[8:59:50 AM] Joe Camfield: that’s got to be awful

[9:00:07 AM] Joe Camfield: especially when you’re trying to get back in the harness

[9:00:38 AM] Joe Camfield: oh for the days when the world moved much more slowly

[9:00:48 AM] Joe Camfield: the body and the mind could adjust

[9:01:00 AM] Joe Camfield: there was no jet lag when there were no jets

[9:02:23 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:02:24 AM] Shoes: yes

[9:02:30 AM] Shoes: we only hit icebergs and froze to death.

[9:02:34 AM] Shoes: I'm sending you the picture of Holly [Pictures of our dog, taken while visiting over Christmas]

[9:02:39 AM] Shoes: Kate was asking for

[9:03:06 AM] Joe Camfield: oh yes I’ve got some pictures we scanned i need to send you

[9:03:12 AM] Joe Camfield: how do you do it on this thing? [Request for intergenerational assistance]

[9:04:29 AM] Shoes: you can open the folder and drag the file into the conversation

[9:05:01 AM] Shoes: or in Skype, hit the little "plus" sign at the top of the screen, next to the "video call" and "call" buttons [Intergenerational response saves the day]

[9:07:27 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent eldred.jpg eldred.jpg ***  [Image of a flyer for an event celebrating the life of my cousin who passed away last August]

[9:07:49 AM] Joe Camfield: this is the Eldred flyer see if this works

[9:07:59 AM] Shoes: got it

[9:08:20 AM] Shoes: he was sweet

[9:08:26 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent 013.jpg 013.jpg *** [Image of Shoes and I riding an elephant at the Ionia Free Fair]

[9:08:45 AM] Joe Camfield: us dominating the Republican Party

[9:09:01 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent 014.jpg 014.jpg ***

[9:09:09 AM] Joe Camfield: me and my shoes

[9:09:15 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:09:29 AM] Shoes: sweet :)

[9:09:36 AM] Joe Camfield: i love riding the Rescumlican

[9:09:57 AM] Joe Camfield: not so majestic when you’re sitting on his head

[9:10:32 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:10:40 AM] Shoes: poor party

[9:10:58 AM] Shoes: I am curious to see how they will change as the number of minorities in America grows

[9:11:24 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent a01_vista_1950s_grpl.jpg a01_vista_1950s_grpl.jpg ***

[9:11:38 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent A1_VISTA_AERIAL_1950s.jpg A1_VISTA_AERIAL_1950s.jpg ***

[9:11:57 AM] *** Joe Camfield sent a02_vista_1950s_grpl.jpg a02_vista_1950s_grpl.jpg ***

[9:12:27 AM] Joe Camfield: here are some pictures of the Vista when she was built. [A Drive-In Theatre, now gone, located in Grand Rapids Michigan.  I managed the theatre between 1974-76]

[9:12:41 AM] Joe Camfield: i need to post them on that theatre website.

[9:12:56 AM] Shoes: you should

[9:13:02 AM] Joe Camfield: only pictures of her online at those sites are when she was rotting away

[9:13:14 AM] Joe Camfield: it was a magnificent facility in her day

[9:13:38 AM] Joe Camfield: had two marquees

[9:13:52 AM] Joe Camfield: capacity for over 1,000 autos

[9:14:13 AM] Joe Camfield: i actually filled the place a couple of times

[9:14:25 AM] Joe Camfield: hadn't been done in over a decade before i got there

[9:15:02 AM] Joe Camfield: my office was just to the right of the box offices

[9:15:11 AM] Joe Camfield: second floor overlooking the place

[9:15:23 AM] Joe Camfield: that’s where the pictures of matt sitting at my desk were taken

[9:15:28 AM] Shoes: awwww

[9:15:34 AM] Shoes: damn

[9:15:37 AM] Shoes: that's a lot of cars

[9:16:18 AM] Joe Camfield: yeah it was. Imagine cars lined up down that 440 foot driveway, out into the adjoining streets both ways and down the sides of the road waiting to get in.

[9:17:19 AM] Joe Camfield: you can see on the aerial view the size of the driveways and the two marquee locations.

[9:18:01 AM] Joe Camfield: I was 25 when they put me in charge of the place in a desperate effort to do something about declining business

[9:18:29 AM] Joe Camfield: hadn't filled more than a third of the place any more than twice in the last three years

[9:19:05 AM] Joe Camfield: it was 85 percent empty on average during weekends over the last three summers, during the peak of the season

[9:19:09 AM] Joe Camfield: and losing money

[9:19:20 AM] Joe Camfield: so they decided they would take a chance

[9:19:27 AM] Joe Camfield: not easy for a company like Butterfield

[9:19:34 AM] Shoes: indeed

[9:19:53 AM] Joe Camfield: I met with he vice president about a week after i took over

[9:20:24 AM] Joe Camfield: and basically he said told me that they didn't understand drive-ins and were at wits end....so here I was

[9:20:41 AM] Joe Camfield: it was a challenge but a lot of fun and very rewarding experience

[9:21:18 AM] Joe Camfield: especially since the place wasn't run down and falling down around my ears like what it was like at the Lansing Drive In later in my experiences

[9:21:38 AM] Joe Camfield: i left the place and the comany in 1976 to attend Boston University

[9:21:43 AM] Shoes: challenges are always a fun experience

[9:21:53 AM] Joe Camfield: yes they are

[9:22:35 AM] Joe Camfield: anyway how’s the job going?

[9:22:47 AM] Shoes: good, they're going to send me the whole package to work on next week

[9:23:04 AM] Joe Camfield: that'll get you up to your eyebrows

[9:23:52 AM] Shoes: yes

[9:24:01 AM] Shoes: schedules rarely work out the way they should

[9:24:18 AM] Joe Camfield: yes i know

[9:24:35 AM] Joe Camfield: I’ll save those materials on project management if you like

[9:25:08 AM] Joe Camfield: you doing any work on six sigma in relation to that?

[9:26:11 AM] Shoes: no

[9:26:14 AM] Shoes: but please do save them

[9:26:24 AM] Shoes: I just had way too many things to bring back more books

[9:26:37 AM] Shoes: nearly broke my back carrying the books in my backpack because my suitcase was too full

[9:26:43 AM] Joe Camfield: i remember Kate had to work on six sigma when she was doing the researches on project management

[9:26:59 AM] Joe Camfield: i helped by teaching her some statistics

[9:27:15 AM] Joe Camfield: yes i know

[9:27:21 AM] Joe Camfield: there are limits to travel

[9:27:45 AM] Joe Camfield: get a chance to review forrester's book? [Reference here is to a report issued by the “Club of Rome” in 1971 under the title “World Dynamics”.  It was the first full-scale computer simulation of pollution and resource and population variables projected out into the 21st century according to several world-wide response scenario’s, including what would happen if mankind did nothing]

[9:27:50 AM] Shoes: not yet

[9:27:54 AM] Shoes: I've been working on a paper

[9:28:16 AM] Joe Camfield: I don't recall how much they got into climate change

[9:28:40 AM] Joe Camfield: but the discoveries since the report came out have not made the prospects any better

[9:28:49 AM] Joe Camfield: most of the feedback loops are negative

[9:28:59 AM] Joe Camfield: such as the melting of the polar ice caps

[9:29:15 AM] Joe Camfield: release of methane from the permafrost

[9:29:16 AM] Joe Camfield: etc.

[9:30:11 AM] Joe Camfield: what i wanted to bring to your attention is that the climate issues are part of a larger set of interrelated disasters awaiting us until we come to terms with who we are in the greater scheme of things

[9:30:27 AM] Joe Camfield: and we've known this for some time now

[9:30:45 AM] Joe Camfield: in any case it could serve as a benchmark for the work you are doing

[9:31:07 AM] Shoes: indeed

[9:31:16 AM] Shoes: it will be interesting to see what the next IPCC reports say

[9:31:26 AM] Joe Camfield: wherein your study of eastern religions becomes increasingly relevant

[9:31:27 AM] Shoes: I'm currently writing a short paper on the relation between climate change and public health

[9:31:29 AM] Shoes: specifically public perception

[9:31:41 AM]  Shoes: I wanted to write about another topic but there's so little information available

[9:32:01 AM] Joe Camfield: it has always seemed to me

[9:32:13 AM] Joe Camfield: that the way to deal directly with the american male

[9:32:23 AM] Joe Camfield: in relation to climate change and public health

[9:32:56 AM] Joe Camfield: is to cite statistics on damaged sperm cells and the ability of the beer guzzling couch potato to reproduce if he doesn't get his act together

[9:33:09 AM] Joe Camfield: hit him in the nuts

[9:33:17 AM] Joe Camfield: or you won't get his attention

[9:33:38 AM] Joe Camfield: that's your politician father speaking

[9:33:44 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:33:49 AM] Shoes: yes

[9:34:01 AM] Joe Camfield: it will be laughed off otherwise

[9:34:18 AM] Joe Camfield: as some kind of left wing conspiracy

[9:34:24 AM] Shoes: same thing as changing reproductive rights to men's rights

[9:34:26 AM] Shoes: vasectomies or not

[9:34:27 AM] Shoes: etc

[9:34:29 AM] Joe Camfield: dedicated to sacrifice ourselves to the spotted owl

[9:34:40 AM] Joe Camfield: yes

[9:35:52 AM] Joe Camfield: unless you can convince them that the current practices threaten their ability to wantonly reproduce their inspired ignorance, they will see it as someone else’s problem at best, if they see it as a problem at all.

[9:37:14 AM] Joe Camfield: anyway it sounds like you are going to have some fu

[9:38:38 AM] Shoes: but it's interesting to see these things in the context of development, where technological innovation isn't such a priority

[9:39:15 AM] Joe Camfield: technology isn't an end in itself

[9:39:44 AM] Joe Camfield: which is one of the issues that is driving this thing

[9:40:50 AM] Joe Camfield: I think we need to dig up Marx's old delineation between market value and use value.  Simply because it has market value doesn't mean it needs to be produced, if the damages outweigh the benefits

[9:41:10 AM] Joe Camfield: Use value is the more important determining value

[9:41:20 AM] Joe Camfield: likewise with regard to technological research

[9:41:43 AM] Joe Camfield: simply because we can do it doesn't mean that there exists an imperative to do it

[9:42:12 AM] Joe Camfield: I’m reminded of Edward Teller's imperative to develop the hydrogen bomb simply because it could theoretically be done

[9:42:26 AM] Joe Camfield: it wasn't needed

[9:44:00 AM] Shoes: well, technology helps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and cleaner technology would be the key... it can also be used for research and analysis, helping to determine whether or not a city could benefit from utilizing green rooftops and whatnot

[9:44:11 AM] Shoes: but that's basically what developed countries can do

[9:44:44 AM] Shoes: what's needed in developing countries are easy and cheap ways to deal with climate change, but also to help them develop strategies and to be able to gain access to electricity in a green and efficient manner

[9:44:51 AM] Shoes: but also in a sustainable manner

[9:45:06 AM] Shoes: so if you're in a typhoon zone, no wind power, that kind of thing

[9:45:32 AM] Shoes: but the developing world uses mostly biofuels which are awful for the environment and only contribute to the problem

 

[9:47:05 AM] Joe Camfield: yes i quite agree.  Technological problems, and climate change, world population growth, pollution and resource depletion are all the result of technological changes, demand technological solutions. I wrote about that in my piece on Thoreau's "Walden" which I consider to be one the greatest pieces of literary pornography ever written [See my post on Walden in March of 2008]

[9:47:50 AM] Joe Camfield: there are no non-technological solutions to technological problems

[9:48:00 AM] Joe Camfield: the population is too large for that

[9:48:25 AM] Joe Camfield: consider water resources, food production and delivery as simple examples

[9:49:33 AM] Shoes: and where it's feasible, technology can help boost an economy as well

[9:49:45 AM] Joe Camfield: yes that's right

[9:49:51 AM] Joe Camfield: solar panels

[9:49:53 AM] Joe Camfield: etc.

[9:50:58 AM] Joe Camfield: the problem with a lot of "back to earthers" is that the solution is seen as a series of singular steps overlooking the larger impact.  It is mistaking the tree for the forest as it were

[9:51:46 AM] Joe Camfield: imagine putting, if you could, 6 billion persons, each family with its own 10 acres and a mule, burning wood for fuel.

[9:51:53 AM] Joe Camfield: the carbon output would choke us

[9:52:10 AM] Joe Camfield: i give you 19th century Birmingham England as a textbook case

[9:52:45 AM] Joe Camfield: to put it another way, many in my generation think, for instance, that wood fuel is clean

[9:53:07 AM] Joe Camfield: in fact it is no cleaner than coal inasmuch as both are carbon

[9:53:28 AM] Joe Camfield: the major difference is one is older and more compressed.

[9:55:15 AM] Joe Camfield: anyway i'm trying to get a handle on all this to do a follow up on my last blog post

[9:55:21 AM] Joe Camfield: it's so simple and yet so complicated

[9:55:39 AM] Joe Camfield: and i thank you for your forbearance

[9:57:10 AM] Shoes: it is complicated

[9:57:23 AM] Shoes: even more complicated is fracking

[9:57:34 AM] Joe Camfield: yes i know

[9:57:47 AM] Joe Camfield: dick Cheney was a great advocate of it

[9:58:01 AM] Joe Camfield: This should be an indicator of what a bad idea it is

[9:58:11 AM] Shoes: lol

[9:58:28 AM] Joe Camfield: in that sense it isn't so complicated

[9:58:36 AM] Joe Camfield: but technologically, i understand, it is

[9:58:56 AM] Joe Camfield: but you have a textbook case here

[9:59:00 AM] Shoes: well yes because opposition to fracking is theoretical

[9:59:24 AM] Joe Camfield: of what happens when simple minds confront technologies

[9:59:38 AM] Shoes: it has its flaws but those have largely emerged due to the lack of regulation, which is the case with anything, but it hasn't been proven to be environmentally harmful in itself

[9:59:46 AM] Shoes: and it is cleaner than convention method

[9:59:53 AM] Joe Camfield: yes

[10:00:00 AM] Joe Camfield: but you hit it on the head

[10:00:09 AM] Shoes: the problem, aside from the environment, is that nobody can be 100% certain how much we have in reserves

[10:00:15 AM] Joe Camfield: no technology is without unforeseen consequences

[10:00:16 AM] Shoes: which makes it unreliable

[10:00:37 AM] Joe Camfield: i give you the automobile, the drive-in theatre, and the rise in illegitimate birth rates for instance

[10:00:44 AM] Joe Camfield: the question is social controls

[10:00:47 AM] Shoes: lol

[10:00:58 AM] Joe Camfield: mores, laws, customs, acceptable behaviors

[10:01:38 AM] Joe Camfield: adopting new technologies, which includes uses of drugs and chemicals, is a bit like going to war

[10:01:45 AM] Joe Camfield: you hope for the best

[10:02:19 AM] Joe Camfield: but you rarely, if at all, ever end up where you thought you would be once it gets underway

[10:02:39 AM] Joe Camfield: there are too many imponderables

[10:02:46 AM] Joe Camfield: too much room for variance

[10:02:57 AM] Joe Camfield: it takes eternal vigilance

[10:03:16 AM] Joe Camfield: which is one of the big reasons we create governments

[10:03:20 AM] Joe Camfield: it's what the word means

[10:04:20 AM] Joe Camfield: another collective misunderstanding of the Teabaggers

[10:04:36 AM] Joe Camfield: freedom only has meaning within the context of restraints

[10:04:45 AM] Joe Camfield: unlimited freedom is anarchy, rapine and plunder

[10:04:57 AM] Joe Camfield: Hobbes’ "State of Nature"

[10:05:50 AM] Joe Camfield: and so, as the founders said in the Declaration of Independence "That in order to secure these rights governments are instituted among men..."

[10:05:57 AM] Joe Camfield: so regulation is right and proper

[10:06:21 AM] Joe Camfield: and, as the constitution says "by all means necessary and proper"

[10:06:30 AM] Shoes: it shocks me that people oppose the EPA, no understanding of what companies were doing to our water before regulations were passed

[10:07:31 AM] Joe Camfield: yes and as soon as the next scandal appears great wailings and lamentations will be heard throughout the land wherefore a cry will go up "where in hell was the government?"

[10:08:06 AM] Joe Camfield: great conspiracy theories will emerge about how the government was hijacked by a cartel of villains....

[10:08:29 AM] Joe Camfield: bent on the exercise of evil for its own sake

[10:08:57 AM] Joe Camfield: only to discover that a group of lazy incompetent jackals had been put in charge and had been asleep at the helm

[10:09:15 AM] Joe Camfield: eternal vigilance had taken a vacation

[10:10:08 AM] Joe Camfield: which reminds me: Where in hell has the justice Department been?

[10:10:20 AM] Joe Camfield: Why no anti-trust actions since Clinton?

[10:10:34 AM] Joe Camfield: anyway that's another story

[Deleted here was a short discussion about posting this chat on this blog]

[10:13:21 AM] Shoesw: actually the paper I'm writing about talks about different perceptions across generations

[10:13:38 AM] Joe Camfield: yes and i hope you have good news to report

[10:14:07 AM] Shoes: well it's different from America, most of the people in these studies understand linkages because they can't flee to air conditioned palaces

[10:14:10 AM] Joe Camfield: for the generation of swine are not known to possess enlightened self-interest

[10:14:28 AM] Shoes: though I read a study about Malta, a highly-developed EU country, and like 15% of people have no idea what climate change is

[10:14:30 AM] Shoes: an embarrassment

[10:14:54 AM] Joe Camfield: actually I’m encouraged by those numbers

[10:15:36 AM] Joe Camfield: Robert Kennedy used to say that 25% of the populations were dependably against anything at any given point in time

[10:15:44 AM] Shoes: lol

[10:15:45 AM] Shoes: well but it's the EU

[10:15:54 AM] Shoes: and the EU is going on and on and on about climate change all the time

[10:15:57 AM] Shoes: that's what's so embarrassing

[10:16:03 AM] Shoes: anyhow

[10:16:06 AM] Shoes: I do have to write this paper...

[10:16:10 AM] Shoes: it's why I've been kind of quiet

[10:16:15 AM] Shoes: trying to find sources before I get started

[10:16:20 AM] Shoes: it's a short paper but I had to change my topic a few times

[10:16:24 AM] Shoes: now it's time to get down to business

[10:16:40 AM] Joe Camfield: Well it's time to get cracking

[10:16:44 AM] Joe Camfield: I'll let you go

[10:16:47 AM] Joe Camfield: miss you

[10:16:58 AM] Shoes: we can talk anytime this week, except Wednesday

[10:17:04 AM] Joe Camfield: cool

[10:17:04 AM] Shoes: I won't have a paper due :)

[10:17:16 AM] Shoes: I miss you too

[10:17:21 AM] Joe Camfield: it's nice to be in that position

[10:17:23 AM] Shoes: I'm more homesick this time than I've been before

[10:17:31 AM] Joe Camfield: i miss my bunny

[10:17:37 AM] Shoes: I miss you too

[10:18:13 AM] Shoes: imagine a bone-crushing hug now ;)

[10:18:18 AM] Joe Camfield: yes

[10:18:23 AM] Joe Camfield: loves you

[10:18:25 AM] Shoes: loves you too

[10:18:30 AM] Joe Camfield: bye now

[10:18:32 AM] Shoes: bye bye

Oct 13, 2013

October 11, 2013: Thoughts off The Left Field Wall, Dominance Over Nature, Implicit Contradictions


“The implicit contradiction of Marxism is that man can only overcome his own self-alienation by attenuating his alienation from his origins.”  ---from The Quotations of Chairman Joe

As a young lad studying in a parochial school, I was taught to loathe the teachings of Marx and Nietzsche.  Upon completing college I went about the business, in my mid 20’s, collecting the works of these authors thinking, to paraphrase Nietzsche, that they had to be worth something to be hated in so indecent a fashion.  The following was composed in the spring of 1977, a little more than a decade before the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Herein is a short essay encapsulating my critique of Marx as his doctrine pertains to the post-industrial world: 

 Alienation is at least as old as religion itself; which is to say that it may be as old as man.  In fact one could see religion as the manifestation of the first alienation.  Further, in contradistinction to our Marxist friends, the religious aspects of alienation have been transformed into economic and political alienation, coinciding historically with the secularization of the state and, later, the industrial revolution.  To put it more concisely, to understand current economic and political alienation, one must first understand religion; for the manifestation of the industrial system is itself the bludgeon we have fashioned to execute our preconceived values concerning man versus nature.  Religion gave us the postulate of man’s domination of nature, and the rise of the nation-state together with the industrial revolution gave us the means to inflict our dominance on an ever more massive scale.  Therefore to embrace the industrial revolution, as Marxism implicitly does, is to embrace the alienation of man from the natural order.

 As George Novack points out in his essay The Problem of Alienation, “The most primitive forms of alienation arise from the disparity between man’s needs and wishes and his control over nature.  Although they have grown strong enough to counter pose themselves as a collective laboring body against the natural environment, primitive peoples do not have enough productive forces, techniques and knowledge to assert mastery over the world around them.  Their helplessness in material production has its counterpart in the power of magic and religion in their social life and thought.  Religion, as Feuerbach explained and Marx repeated, reverses the real relations between mankind and the world.  Man created the gods in his own image.  But to the superstitious mind, unaware of unconscious mental processes, it appears that the gods have created men.  Deluded by such experiences—and by social manipulators from witch doctors to priests—men prostrate themselves before idols of their own manufacture.  The distance between the gods and the mass of worshippers serves as a gauge for estimating the extent of man’s alienation from his fellow men and his subjugation to the natural environment….Alienation is therefore first of all a social expression of the fact that men lack adequate control over the forces of nature” (1)

 These, then, is a short summary of orthodox Marxist teaching concerning religion and alienation, but let us subject these underlying premises to the close scrutiny of the natural order.  First, orthodox Marxism teaches the implicit acceptance of the domination over and the control of nature.  “For it is hard to deny that the potential wealth of society, the degree of satisfaction of rational needs, and the possibility of thereby eliminating the coercive mechanisms in the social and economic organization, have been advancing with giant strides for a whole century—and especially in the last quarter of this century—in what is called ‘industrial’ society.  Why should it be supposed that this tendency cannot result in a qualitative ‘leap’ by which man’s enslavement to the necessities of a ‘struggle for existence’ would wither away and his capacity to dominate his own social organization, no less that he dominates the forces of nature, would come to full flower” .(2)

 The problem of central concern here is that the domination and control over nature by man has itself become the central linchpin of Marxist theory; for the Marxian remedy lies precisely in the acceleration of this control.  For according to Marx and his disciples the alienation and self-alienation of the individual can only be overcome by way of “increasing general conditions of abundance of material goods, the principal goal of production becomes that of producing fully developed individuals, creative and free. In proportion as man becomes the “principle productive force” through the enormous extension of scientific technologies, he is less and less directly “integrated” into the production process.  In proportion as ‘living labor’ is expelled from the production process, it acquires new significance as the organizer and controller of this process.” (3).  In this capsulized form we find the adherence of Marxist philosophy with adopting the growth syndrome of Western technological societies.  Indeed, for the Marxist, the only avenue toward the overcoming of alienation is the shopworn expedient of ever increasing production of material wealth or, to put it bluntly, massive increases in GDP.  Indeed Mandel’s apology for the obvious failure of the Socialist countries efforts to address themselves to this problem stems from their collective failure to increase the material output of their respective economies.  With this in mind, let us return to the previous statements concerning man and his control over nature as they relate to the problem of alienation.

 It seems that Marx was well on his way toward unraveling the problem, but then fell prey to the primitive form of alienation”, says Novack, “arise from the disparity between man’s needs and wishes and his control over nature.  Although they have grown strong to counter pose themselves as a collective laboring body against the natural environment, primitive peoples do not have enough productive forces, techniques and knowledge to assert mastery over the world around them”.  It was out of a desperate desire to control nature that man created god.  It is the creation of god itself that is the hallmark of alienated behavior, for here man confuses the part with the whole, her man makes himself the measure of all things.  Likewise is not the separation or ‘gap’ between needs and fulfillment that creates alienated behavior, rather it is the pathological introduction of the concepts of ‘control’ or ‘dominance’ that creates truly alienated activity.  Thus, man was acting in harmony with the natural order when he counter posed himself vis a vis

Nature but as soon as he sought mastery over the world around him, he embarked on the road of futility.  As soon as he sought mastery over nature he declared war on all his natural instincts, on his animal origins, on his life support systems.

 The Marxist avenue to the ‘transcendence’ of the human problem of alienation itself rests on the domination and control of both nature and human nature.  For Marx the human being is only fully realized through labor.  The fully developed human being is a creative soul whose creativity can only be realized through production.  A tree, said Marx, has value only when it is studied by a scientist or transformed into a piece of furniture or a home; when it is an object of scientific inquiry or cut down and cut up and bent to human purposes.   

 Such ‘transcendence’, it must by now appear obvious, itself rests on the alienation of man from the natural order.  That is on the control, indeed on the exploitation of the earth.  ‘Transcendence’ rests on the reckless adherence to the growth syndrome—indeed growth at all costs—even to the implicit acceptance of the industrial revolution.  This blind acceptance of the industrial order, this faith in technology must itself belie a belief in the major presupposition of the industrial revolution—that is on the transcendence of man from the natural order through the domination and control of nature.  Is it not obvious that such ‘transcendence’ of alienation is itself based on pathological alienated activity?  It appears that Marxist philosophy concerning the transcendence of alienation, at this level, betrays an adherence to the fundamental basis of religious alienation.  That is, it is not the separation of god from man that is alienation, rather the creation of god itself.  So too it is not the separation of man from the technological/industrial order that is alienation, rather it is the creation of technologies in order to dominate and control nature that is the essence of alienation itself.  The industrial order was created in order to make manifest man’s alienation from the world by seeking dominion over it.  The liberal, socialist, leftist teaching is, in the broad view, nothing other than a secular religion for it seeks to create a material heaven on earth and it can do so only by declaring war on the natural order and on the earth it rests on. 

 Marx said that all generations stand on the shoulders of their fathers.  In this sense we are all the victims of the institutions and values we inherit.  The avenue toward transcendence of alienation must begin with the industrial/technological state.  However, if it is the industrial/technological order that has produced the highest form of alienation, based as it is on the alienation of man from nature, it is not logical to conclude that the acceptance of that alienation through adherence to unlimited industrial growth will solve the problem.  While Marxian solution may solve certain aspects of the alienation between men, it does nothing to solve the problem of the alienation of man from his eco-system, and from his natural origins.  In short it does nothing to solve the problem of self-alienation, that is, alienation from natural man.

 In any case as the industrial order presses against the barriers of resources and energy as well as creating massive problems with pollution, waste disposal and population growth, the Marxian dream of the transcendence of alienation through postindustrial growth will be revealed for what it is.  Industrialization, like religion, reverses the real relations between man and the world, our task is not to control the natural environment, but to control the industrial/technological revolutions.
 
________________________

 
      1.     Novack, George “The Problem of Alienation” in George Novack and Ernest Mandel The    Marxist Theory of Alienation New York, Pathfinder Press, 1973. P.66

      2.     Mandel, Ernest “Progressive Disalienation through the Building of Socialist Society Or the Inevitable Alienation in Industrial Society” in The Marxist Theory Of Alienation. P. 46

      3.     Mandel, Ernest. P.42