Tag: class

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Toward a Leftist Program for Working Class Consciousness by MrJayTee

click The original title of this diary was to be “Toward a Leftist Program by the Working Class, for the Working Class”, an neat, academic-sounding title reflecting an admirable goal: how can we, whatever our class background or position on the left, understand the needs and goals of working people in the United States and help to catalyze the development of a political program that reflects those needs and goals, one ideally led by the working class itself?

Looking at the critical ingredients of such a program, the lack of one especially stands out to me: the paralyzing absence of any significant consciousness among American workers of themselves as a class apart, one locked in a harrowing and historic struggle with the ruling class for the control of their lives and futures. The purpose of this diary, then, is to consider this problem in general programmatic terms using the thoughts proffered below as a point of departure.

Before going further, I hasten to note that I am not an academic, theorist, or long-time activist, just a working class guy and ecumenical socialist who was lucky enough to get a broad education. I am intent on understanding how my own class, so numerous and possessing a proud history of action and achievement, can embrace and use its own enormous power and what, if anything, the serious left can do to catalyze revolutionary working class consciousness.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Some Thoughts on Poverty and the Social Welfare State by NY Brit Expat

When the term poor is used and when we discuss poverty, there are commonplace definitions that we always rely on. To be poor relates to a lack of money or income. But that is a tautology in many senses; a definition that already presumes that poverty relates solely to income and while commonplace is essentially misleading. A far more useful definition of poverty relates to a broader range of things within a social context. Let’s begin with some definitions of poverty in the context of the modern debate on poverty:

Let’s start with that advanced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation:

“Relative Poverty – When we talk about poverty in the UK today we rarely mean malnutrition or the levels of squalor of previous centuries or even the hardships of the 1930s before the advent of the welfare state. It is a relative concept. ‘Poor’ people are those who are considerably worse off than the majority of the population – a level of deprivation heavily out of line with the general living standards enjoyed by the by the majority of the population in one of the most affluent countries in the world (http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-definitions.pdf).”

Additional definitions address the impact of poverty on ensuring accessing fundamental notions of rights, like the European Commission definition. In its Joint Report on Social Inclusion (2004) the EC defined poverty in the following way:

“People are said to be living in poverty if their income and resources are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living considered acceptable in the society in which they live. Because of their poverty they may experience multiple disadvantage through unemployment, low income, poor housing, inadequate health care and barriers to lifelong learning, culture, sport and recreation. They are often excluded and marginalised from participating in activities (economic, social and cultural) that are the norm for other people and their access to fundamental rights may be restricted (http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/poverty-definitions.pdf).”

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Workers, not Servants by Irene Ortiz Rosen

Today we are fortunate to have a diary describing the current condition of domestic workers in Mexico. This is an issue which has received increasing attention in the last three years. A long-time activist in the Domestic Worker Movement, Irene Ortiz Rosen,  is the Co-Founder  and Director of Collectivo Atabal,  an organization of activists and  feminists formed to defend the rights, dignity and demands of domestic workers in Mexico City. She is also the Co-Author of “Así es, Pues” a socio-economic study of domestic workers in Cuernavaca. A recent emigrant from Mexico, she approaches the subject from a global perspective which emphasizes the class and anti-imperialist aspects of the struggle as well as its patriarchal nature.

In the world of labor, a large group of women whose work is the maintenance of the homes of others is largely ignored-domestic workers. According to the ILO, there are more than miglior sito per acquistare viagra generico 50 mg spedizione veloce a Firenze 52 million domestic workers in the world.

west-ward prednisone 10 mg markings In almost all countries, domestic workers share the following characteristics:  1) invisibility; 2) migration; 3) low levels of education; 4) gender, ethnic and racial discrimination; and 5) the informality of their labor. http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=dove-comprare-viagra-generico-50-mg-a-Napoli These are all products of poverty.

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Domestic workers make up an invisible workforce because their work is carried out in the private sphere, that is, the homes of their employers. Their contract is verbal, their work is isolated, and their mobility is common.

enter Generally they are migrants, usually, within their own countries. This is the case for indigenous women  and women who come from rural areas in Latin America.  And as the gap in inequality grows throughout the world, in the poorest countries the phenomenon of migration (usually without papers) is growing beyond borders.  That is how they arrive to United States and Canada, by informally working as House Cleaning Personnel, Nannies and Home Attendants. In New York alone, we are talking about more than 200 thousand people who are working under disadvantaged conditions due to their Undocumented status.



Their discrimination is shared with nearly all women, and its logic corresponds to the subordination of women in a patriarchal culture. Within the patriarchal view of the traditional role of women, their work is an extension of the reproductive role, which is considered natural for their gender.  

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We should not forget that women in general, as housewives and mothers, perform domestic work without any pay whatever. Consequently, their work is not considered part of the national economy despite the fact that it makes up about 20% of the GDP. If a woman looks for waged work, she enters the labor market in a disadvantaged way; forty-five percent of women domestic workers receive salaries that are 10% lower than salaries received by men for the same work.

Global economic policies that have impoverished the majority of the world´s population have brought women in all countries into  the public sphere. The women working in the public sphere then need to hire a domestic worker to care for their children and home. However, because they, themselves, are not paid well, they are unable to pay a fair  wage, even if they value the services being performed by domestic help.

On Mandatory School Busing here in Boston:

Unlike  many, if not most of the Southern areas,  Boston’s busing program was confined to the city limits,  which  was also partly  why Boston became so explosive during the mid to late 1970’s when  mandatory school busing was implemented there.    A Metropolitan solution was considered in a number of areas including Boston, but it got scrapped.   People in Boston’s all-white suburbs would not  accept it,  and Boston’s black  community, already small, and fearful that the limited amount of influence and power that they had, would be “diluted in the sea of suburbia”,  also rejected it. 

However, the Boston area also had a METCO program (I forget what the letters stand for), in which black students from Boston were bused in to a number of the outer-lying bedroom communities,  including my old hometown, which implemented METCO later.  The METCO program was a  http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=name-for-generic-lasix voluntary program aimed at inner city students from Roxbury,  Mattapan and North Dorchester who wished to participate in it,  and a great many METCO kids benefited by getting a better education at better schools in wealthier communities.

The Fallacy of Privileged Activism

I think what concerns me most about American society these days is how so many wish to commodify everything, especially other people.  The subject has weighed heavily upon me recently because I’m going to get married fairly soon.  I’ve been reflecting back upon the history of those I’ve dated as a means of judging larger trends in my development.  There were a few instances where I was valued more for my potential net worth than for my heart.  It is one thing to see the possibility of personal growth in a partner, but it’s another thing altogether to see them as a stock portfolio which has yet to mature.  People are not savings bonds or bank accounts.  The dreams of some involve the acquisition of funds, and to them, marriage is the perfect merger between conglomerates.  “Our” dreams are, in fact, “my” dreams with your financial assistance.  Woe be unto those whose economic star does not rise.    

Keeping It Simple Is Not Stupid

Recently I have been giving much thought to why Progressives and Democrats can’t seem to accomplish more than the bare minimum regarding desperately needed reform measures, even when they have the luxury of substantial majorities in both public favor and legislative representation.  The answer may lie in the prevalence of pointless, unwieldy levels of stratification.  With these comes an isolating sense of separation—individual elements of the base often have a problem pulling together with one voice, and, for that matter, do all who would deign to fit underneath the big tent.  

To many liberals, life must be overly complicated:  specialized committees, committees within committees, identity groups, splinter identity groups from larger ones, rules for the sake of rules, rules set in place when one unforeseen problem creates friction with anyone for whatever reason, exacting policies based on good intentions that soon become headaches for all, and many other examples.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Overlap is sometimes a good thing.  

As such, the true failing lies in the absolutely ridiculous complexity of how structure ourselves and how we have in many ways forgotten how to communicate with each other.  For too long, information and strategies that could be used for the benefit of all have been isolated within specific single-issue oriented groups, each with its own nomenclature and particular phraseology.  For too long, so-called experts carrying a briefcase, a PowerPoint slide, and a hefty speaking fee have been employed to enlighten other people of an unknown universe, when with major modification, we could easily understand the intersections and common ground which links us together, not the great unknown that keeps us at arm’s length from each other.  

This sort of set up directly reflects the nature of academia, since the merits, weaknesses, and structure of pertinent concepts are hatched there and exhaustively vetted.  Just as I have recently discovered that the health care system available to low-income and disabled residents of Washington, DC, was written to be understood and effectively managed by policy wonks and the highly educated, not the poor and under-educated, so do I realize that so many of our grand goals are thwarted when they are neither designed, nor framed so that all might easily comprehend them.  

To cite a related example, when I am speaking within Feminist circles, I know that there are certain terms, overarching concepts, and abstract notions that one needs a thorough education, keen mind, and a willingness to research on one’s own time to grasp sufficiently.  Much emphasis is given to an everlasting critique of Patriarchy and cultural practices which place women in a subordinate role, and from these comes a thousand deep conversations and leitmotifs.  I can speak this language competently, with much practice, I might add, but I often can’t help but wonder if any of these worthwhile ideas and highly involved strategies ever get out to the working class battered housewife or to the sex worker standing on the corner of a bus terminal, prepared for another night of a dangerous way to make a living.

In my own life, part of the reason I have been able to keep my health from being as debilitating as it could be is that I had access through education and relative affluence to know how and where I could do my own research about the condition.  Now, years later, I can hold my own with any psychiatrist because I know and understand terms like selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, titration, GABA, dopamine agonist, and efficacy.  However, these terms mean absolutely nothing to the average person, who must trust fully in a psychiatrist who then must translate their needs, their symptoms, and their expectations for treatment into a regimen of medications that is inexact even in the best of circumstances.  

The likely outcome with anyone diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder is a tremendous amount of constant modifications, some slight, some major, and frequently a need to try an altogether new combination of medications, all of this in the hopes that one will stumble across the proper drugs in the proper proportion, eventually.          

We humans are a peculiar breed.  In the animal kingdom, one could argue that the average mammal attends to its own more readily and with less reservations than we do.  Without romanticizing the primitive, it would seem that no other species on Earth usually has such profound reservations about reaching out to assist others.  Though certainly other animals fight within themselves for food, mates, and resources, I often wonder if we are perhaps the most self-absorbed creatures the world has ever known.  

We are given the gift, by God or by whichever belief or unbelief you espouse, to have the gift of a very complex, and very advanced organ at our disposal known as the brain.  Yet, it seems to me sometimes that this supposed great gift can dispense evil and great suffering as easily as it gives rise to good and with it great gain for all.  

As a person of faith, I sometimes wonder if this basic concept is a credible interpretation of the beginning of time as expressed in the Book of Genesis.  So long as man and woman weren’t aware of the greater complexity of all things, they lived nakedly, blissfully in paradise.  But once temptation arrived in serpent form, suddenly they recognized that reality was not nearly so simplistic and easy to swallow.  Christianity and other religions teach that humanity was created in God’s image, and if that is the case, perhaps we are caught in some still unresolved eternal polar tension between our ability to sense and structure things in advanced shades of grey versus our relatively straightforward mammalian biological imperatives and compulsions.  Some have even implied that the human condition is imperfect particularly because we have divine elements seeking to function within imperfect organs, namely our brain.  

While on the subject, I am reminded St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  It seems that the church had fallen prey to smooth talk, false teachings, and a distortion of the faith itself.  Much of the passage I am about to cite, as you will see, is written quite sarcastically, its target primarily those who deceive others, not those who had been unwittingly deceived.

However, I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by its tricks, so your minds may somehow be lured away from sincere and pure devotion to the Messiah.  When someone comes to you telling about another Jesus whom we didn’t tell you about, you’re willing to put up with it.  When you receive a spirit that is different from the Spirit you received earlier, you’re also willing to put up with that. When someone tells you good news that is different from the Good News you already accepted, you’re willing to put up with that too.  

I do not think I’m inferior in any way to those “super-apostles.”  Even though I may be untrained as an orator, I am not so in the field of knowledge. We have made this clear to all of you in every possible way.  Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?  (Italics mine) I took money from other churches as payment for my work, so that I might be your servant [at no cost to you].  And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about.  You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!

Even those who do not believe in a higher power or in Christian terminology can understand the general message here.  To get down to the heart of the matter, our own selfish goals, ego, and pride are largely responsible for the complications that separate us from others.  When we throw up barriers for whatever reason, we cause others who might use our knowledge and insight as a helpful resource to stumble or to fail outright. The intent initially may not be to isolate information inside very specific spheres of influence or schools of thought, but very soon this is its inevitable end result.  

If we were speaking of a purely Christian point of view, we would concede that no believer should be discouraged from taking an active role in the faith, nor turned away from membership in the body as a whole based on any perceived deficiency or lacking of any kind.  Sometimes putting walls up is an unconscious decision made out of a desire for protection, sometimes it is a response to feeling unappreciated and discounted by society as a whole, and often it is a reactive measure that replicates itself a thousand times once established.  Like some untreated cancerous cell, walls and barriers become duplicated a thousand times over, leading to factionalism within factionalism, specificity within specificity, and minutia within minutia.  

The Left has adopted this formula time and time again under the pretense of being sensitive and accommodating to every possible group with a semi-unifying basic agenda.  But what this ends up doing is placing the individual concern first, and ignoring the basic humanity that draws us together.  The current generation in power embraced post-modernism with open arms, not recognizing that simply denoting a specific circle of influence means also that one ought to get to take the time to understand its core philosophy as part of the bargain.  

We can advance LGBT rights, for example, but if we don’t really make an attempt to listen, really listen to LGBT citizens and to their reflections and concerns, we are wasting our time.  Recently, a controversy has sprung up within Feminist spaces that criticizes men who make very ill-informed, very glib pronouncements of what the greater movement (and women themselves) needs to do.  These forceful pronouncements are almost always set out in condescending fashion, without, of course, truly understanding where women are coming from and without much specific understanding their particular grievances.  Some have denoted this as “mansplaining”.  

I do know the resolution of this issue ought be a two-way street, since any exchange of information needs both a talker and a hearer.  Though some may disagree with me, I also assert that Feminist circles would be wise to modify, but not water-down, nor soften their message to reach maximum exposure with the world outside of it.  This might be accomplished by consciously seeking to move away from the complications of heady terminology and abstract discussions.  This doesn’t mean voices should be silenced for any reason or that women ought not speak first and speak often in so doing.  Nor does this mean that the dialogue must be dumbed down.  What it does mean, however, is that that communication requires an equal sense of that which must be said and that which must be comprehended.  

I sincerely believe that women’s rights have a relevance and a pertinence which needs to be added to the daily discourse, but I do also know that doing so requires that it keep the extensive cerebration within itself and the cut-and-dry to those outside.  But lest one feel like I am picking on Feminists (which I am honestly not), this goes for every single-issue, shared identity, or niche group with liberal sensibilities.  Just because we seem to enjoy making things complicated for perverse reasons as yet unknown, doesn’t mean that we should.                  

The true failing in all of these cases lies in the absolutely ridiculous complexity of how we structure ourselves.  To reiterate once  more, for too long, information and strategies that could be to the benefit of all has been isolated within specific issue-oriented groups, each with its own nomenclature and particular phraseology.  This directly reflects the nature of academia, since these concepts are hatched there and exhaustively vetted.  In that profession, segregated subject areas and ultra-specific foci are considered necessities within a field of study to encourage subsequent analysis.  However, this particular structure is anathema to greater progress beyond the world of professors, scholars, and students.

The Poor Need Health Care, The Rich Need to Take Note

The circular firing squad over the defeat of Martha Coakley and what this means for the Democratic Party and Health Care Reform got underway a couple days ago.  I’ve said my bit, and have nothing further to add, but I’d rather address the potential challenges facing reform aside from the loss of a seemingly filibuster-proof majority.  It is now absolutely imperative we push forward and bring a bill to President Obama’s desk.  Our backs may be against the wall, but perhaps it will take abject panic and fear to rouse our complacent, weak-kneed Democratic legislators towards the goal.  If it takes the shock and dismay of a humiliating defeat to break the logjam, then so be it.  I’m not concerned with speculating as to how we got here; I am instead consumed with what we learned from it and how we will use this tough lesson to think of others and their needs rather than ourselves.  

What I have noticed in my own struggles to obtain low-income health insurance is how class and race ensure that government subsidized plans are underfunded and often dysfunctional, but money (or the lack of it) seems to be the most powerful determinant of all.  What many have noted is that basic selfishness is what threatens to derail any efforts towards changing the existing system—namely that people who have always had sufficient coverage do not understand the limitations faced by those who do not.  We can call that privilege if we wish, but that term has always seemed accusatory to no good end to me, and my intent is not to chastise anyone but to make many aware of the challenges in front of us that never get much in the way of attention.  In my own life, I can say that I have now seen how the other half lives for the first time ever, and I noted that they live lives severely impeded by the tremendous limitations and senseless complications of the existing system.

I have been unemployed or at least severely underemployed for several months.  As a result, I had no choice but to file for government assistance.  When I was finally granted food stamps I signed up as well for a local DC funded health insurance plan.  What I have discovered in the process is that since the Recession hit, social service agencies in DC have been swamped by new applications for every existing option currently offered.  According to one worker with whom I spoke, claims have tripled since the bottom began to fall out of the economy.  The system was barely able to manage the number of filings in more stable times, and now it has in large part ground to a halt if not slowed to a trickle.  New claims are supposed to be processed in no more then 30 days from approval, and I was forced to make several time-consuming, additional calls to the proper department to even get the coverage activated.  Those without the time or without the persistence likely will be granted nothing at all and this simply should not happen.  

My great point is that without the infrastructure in place, it doesn’t matter how many people to whom we grant coverage.  Ensuring that everyone can get their teeth cleaned, fillings filled, broken bones set, flu-like symptoms properly treated, diabetes regulated, or depression adequately under control is the ultimate goal, but we must also be sure to build a sufficient number of clinics, medical centers, doctor’s offices, dental hygiene practices, well-stocked pharmacies and all the rest.  They must be built in proper proportion to need and since humankind has never been able to curtail its zeal for making money at the expense of the health of the financial system, we need to devise strategies to build these things for both good times and bad.

In DC, the low-income, government-funded system forces the poor and/or disabled to a handful of centers scattered across the District itself.  Visiting a private doctor or specialist is not an option, since coverage is only granted to those who use these designated centers.  Likewise, pharmacies and medication dispensation function under the same parameters.  Using Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, or other commercial medication fillers is not allowed under the plan.  Though there are a score of specific pharmacies which take the DC plan, in my case, there is only one pharmacy in the entire District that fills psychiatric medication, and for me it is a 35 minute trip, one-way via public transportation and then by foot.  The pharmacy itself is attached to a Mental Health services clinic which is the sole site whereby psychiatric care is provided for a city of roughly 600,000 people.

Without enough workers to process claims, grant coverage, manage medical records, or attend to even the most basic of needs the system is essentially worthless or at least incredibly inefficient.  Without enough revenue allocated by governments from taxation or other means, it doesn’t matter how snazzy or up-to-date is any system designed to speed up or modernize the system.  Window dressing is window dressing.  Without the money to properly stock a pharmacy, medications will be obtained on a priority system and as such, meds that are rarely prescribed or are very expensive will rarely be on hand when needed.  For example, one of my medications, Parnate, is an MAOI inhibitor.  Parnate is a very powerful anti-depressant that is infrequently prescribed because with it comes potentially dangerous, even deadly side effects if I do not take care to abstain from eating certain foods.  As you might expect, it is not one of the more common prescriptions, but it is essential to my lasting health and quality of life.  A commercial pharmacy usually has it in stock, or if it does not, it can be quickly ordered or is certainly in stock at some other store in the immediate area.  With the government-subsidized pharmacy I must use, if that particular drug is available at all it is due purely to chance and luck, and if it needs to be ordered, it may be a week or more before they have it in stock.      

Regarding visits with a GP, specialist, or other specific health practitioner, some clinics and centers accept walk-ins or schedule appointments within a reasonable time frame.  Some do not.  For those who need surgical procedures or more invasive treatment, one might be expected to wait months.  When I still lived in Alabama, there was approximately one Medicaid-accepting clinic for the entire state that performed the procedure, and as such when it came time for me to have a very routine, non-invasive treatment, I was booked four whole months in advance.  In more affluent, usually blue cities and states, the wait time is often less, but it can still be a bit on the lengthy side.  As for me, I found to my utter dismay that my coverage was terminated before the procedure could be even performed after the clinic filed and billed Medicaid for the cost of the preliminary screening.  Someone must have realized that to save cost I was not what they deemed a “high-priority” need and thus I could be safely removed from the rolls to save money in what was a system already in danger of being completely depleted of funds.    

An important distinction needs to be drawn here.  The DC-based coverage I have been talking about is different from Medicaid or, for that matter, Medicare.  This coverage augments or seeks to provide coverage to those who either have Medicaid/Medicare or cannot get approved for it.  This is why the rules, parameters, and hoops to jump through are more severe.  Medicaid usually allows a person to pursue more orthodox means of seeking treatment.  Though some medical practitioners do not accept it because it usually pays out less than a gold standard coverage plan through a private insurer, many do.  Again, money is a big factor at play.  If Medicaid were capable of paying out at a sufficient rate, everyone would take it.  If it wasn’t at times forced to pay out much later than a private carrier or even being forced to issue IOU’s when monetary shortfalls and partisan bickering delayed enactment of a satisfactory state budget, then it certainly would be on par with usually employer-based coverage.

Yet, it is very disingenuous at best for those who oppose health care reform to stubbornly dig in their heels and express haughty indignation that they are NOT going to have “the government” take away their right to choose their doctor.  The only way this would ever happen for most is if they lost their insurance altogether, lost all their personal savings, and lost the ability to come up with the money to see a well-compensated physician and/or specialist.  Their worst-case-scenarios and numerous reservations are true only for those living in abject poverty, or at or below the poverty line.  The wealthier among us have any number of lifelines, be they family, co-workers, friends, fellow members of a particular group or club, or other sufficient means.  Those at the bottom have none of this upon which to rely.  Friends, family, and others are just as impoverished and less fortunate as they are, and they have no choice but to take and use what they can get.  And taking what they can get means dealing with a system that is convoluted, needlessly complex, inconvenient at best, and regimented to such an authoritarian degree that even obtaining the minimum often is an exercise in debasement.

If ever we had a need for revolutionary reform and change, now would be it.  Decades after a declared War on Poverty, we still have many battles ahead of us.  We haven’t really given this matter anything more than perfunctory attention, and we haven’t really allocated resources of any significant means to this very pertinent cause.  Doing so would require us to understand exactly how fortunate we are to have been granted, by complete luck and chance, the socio-economic status of which we were born.  For some quirk of God, fate, or nature we do not get the right to choose our parents or to choose our upbringing.  But we do have the obligation to see to it that those for whom daily adversity is not an abstraction have the same rights that we frequently take for granted.  I am not seeking to lecture, nor to hector anyone, but rather to strongly emphasize that our continued success as a people, a party, and a movement demands that we seek to assist the poor and the less fortunate.  Our wallets, billfolds, and bank accounts couldn’t open fast enough to provide aid to suffering Haitians.  If only this were possible for our own poverty-stricken citizens, many of whom struggle through conditions not that dissimilar to those we now view through heart-wrenching news reports and graphic photographs.  After all, it might be you someday who faces the disquieting realization that our health care system is designed for the wealthy, by the wealthy, and in so doing realizes just how much you took it for granted.

An Apology from an Unapologetic Sports Fan

I rarely write about sports because to me they are a fun distraction from more pressing matters, one ultimately of far less importance to the grand scheme of things.  To be sure, I’ve always been aware of the base inequalities lurking underneath the surface, whether it be the pro players who make obscene amounts of money to play a game or the college kids who are treated as prized endowment cash cows for their individual universities, colleges, or conferences.  Though I watch the games, once they have drawn to a conclusion, I turn off my television or internet feed and go on about the rest of my life.  What has always troubled me the most is the extent to which some will pursue the minutia and exacting analysis of fandom, which if applied with even half the effort and half the obsession to a cause that would make strides to say, educate the illiterate or aim to reform a societal malady of choice, would produce impressive results.

On the possibility of a class coalition

This diary hopes to explore the possibility of a class coalition, in anticipation of the class battle which can be expected around “entitlement reform.”  First I introduce the topic, then I define “social class,” and lastly I discuss what sort of class coalition we need in this era.

(now up at Orange!)

Movie Review: Miss Julie

At least one major network has recently devoted much time to advancing and promoting women’s rights, and it is in that spirit that I offer this post.  Gender discrimination, in particular, is complicated to the extreme by the fact that gender as a construct is so loosely and inexactly defined.  What constitutes “masculine” as well as “feminine” leaves more than ample room for debate and indeed it varies considerably from person to person.  Moving targets are notoriously difficult to hit.  We might define gender the same way Justice Potter Stewart famously remarked about pornography:  “I know it when I see it.”  Perhaps, but looks can be deceiving.    

Recently I watched the 1951 Swedish film, Miss Julie, which was based on the play of the same name written by August Strindberg.   Strindberg’s tortured psyche and resulting tumultuous love life must certainly have factored in to the equation, as he sees the relationship between men and women as being a combative, loathing affair in which both sexes are driven together only by carnal lust.   The two main characters, Miss Julie and her nominal lover Jean, spend the majority of the film variously exchanging insults, spilling forbidden details of each’s dysfunctional childhood, while desperately striving to keep away the barely concealed desire that so strongly pulls them together.   This, to Strindberg, is what characterizes every romantic pairing at its basest core.  The war between the sexes is just that, war, and a particularly bombastic affair where victory quickly gives way to defeat.

While I might not agree with said statement, I do grant that the playwright does deserve some praise for being ahead of his time to some degree.   Power dynamics, particularly those regarding types of privilege are explored in much detail, especially the means by which gender inequality trumps class distinction and vice versa.   Miss Julie holds power over her working-class, though highly educated lover because her background is aristocratic.   Jean, however, has power over Miss Julie because he is male and is not restrained by upper-class values.   Ironically, the aristocracy is shown to create its own needless restrictions and its own cages, and though the working-classes might have less money or influence, they also live lives of greater freedom than their social betters.   As for Jean and Julie, their flirtation is as much about control as it is about lust, and in it neither character wins the upper hand for very long.   Instead, we the audience are left with a maddeningly unresolved squabble that, by the film’s conclusion, is never really put aside.

As a feminist, however, what I found most appalling is the presentation of Miss Julie’s mother.   She was not a part of the original play and was instead added later by Alf Sjöberg, whose screenplay also fleshed out the character of the count considerably.  A woman who comes across as a sadistic parody of first-wave feminism, her character reads like a laundry list of male privilege paranoia.   For starters, she broaches propriety by being unwilling to get married because she does not wish to be seen as her husband’s property.   Loathe to give birth or to be a mother, she nonetheless becomes pregnant, while plainly hating the child that emerges from her womb.   Her daughter is forced to dress in boy’s clothing, forbidden to play with dolls, or to embrace even the most modest of female gender roles.   All of this is meant, as the playwright asserts, to prove that women are equal to men.   However, these draconian tactics lead to much misery and confusion for the child who finds traditionally male pursuits like hunting or plowing a field either perplexing or impossible.   She is therefore raised as a boy would be, learning the same chores and same societal obligations as would a male offspring, though the implication is that gender role distinctions to some degree exist for a good reason.  The mother’s designs even fall upon the workers of the estate.   Women servants are required to perform men’s work and men servants are required to perform women’s work.   Neither does so competently and before very long the family is nearly penniless.   It is then without much surprise that Sjöberg notes how much Miss Julie’s mother hates, fears, and mistrusts men and seeks to pass along this same perspective to her daughter.  The mother’s belief in radical feminism crosses the line from empowerment into misandry and it is this gross distortion of feminism that still finds its way into modern conservative discourse, particularly in the bluster of Rush Limbaugh’s frequent rantings about so-called femi-nazis.

Returning to the film, it is at this point, unsurprisingly, that the established patriarchy attempts to re-establish control and save the day.  Her husband, Miss Julie’s father, is a well-meaning and kind-hearted count who patiently tolerates his wife’s behavior until he takes a firm look at the balance sheet.   At this point, he insists that a more traditional means of both raising a child and conducting business will be employed.   He liberates his daughter from boy’s clothing, dressing her in what he believes to be gender-appropriate fare.   He arm-twists his wife into a marriage ceremony and exchange of vows, much to her extreme distaste.   However, he fails to take into account her perfidy and bitterness, as she sets fire to the estate, forcing the family to take on more debt and leaving them without a place to live until the Count finds the means to rebuild.  She then suggests that her husband should borrow money from a close personal friend, one that she happens to be having an affair with, no less.   The money borrowed is secretly her own that she has hidden away, but she lies deliberately to entangle her husband into an economic arrangement that could have been otherwise avoided.   The Count discovers what she has done, but due to the insidious nature of the transaction cannot file charges or seek justice.

Strindberg’s own views were frequently perplexing and capricious.   At times in his life he advocated for women’s suffrage but also made misogynistic statements that completely negated his original position.   He was, quite unsurprisingly, married three times, each of which ended in bitter, acrimonious divorce, due in large part to the fact to the fact that he was hypersensitive and highly neurotic.  It is easy for us to come down harshly on those who make anti-feminist statements or who state shocking offensive opinions.   Criticism is always justified, but I try to, as best I can, take into account the circumstances and the state of mind of those who make patently inappropriate public as well as private statements.  Words do matter, as do statements of brazen misogyny and unrepentant sexism, but without excusing such behavior, I do seek to find its root in an effort to formulate a solution.  The past several months have shown a marked uptick in what seems like a perpetual cycle of insults, retorts, charges, counter-charges, and the like.  I know this sort of behavior goes along with the territory but I still wonder about the ultimate impact.  Whether our dialogue is somehow coarser now than before I can’t say and whether our children are more or less inclined to violence is a matter of debate, but the fact remains that so long as we fail to seek a common humanity, we’ll always be at war, not just with our enemies, but also with ourselves.  

Right to Left: Two Paths You Can Go by

Yes, there are two paths you can go by

But in the long run

There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

And it makes me wonder.

It is conventional to express the political spectrum in a linear fashion, running from “far left” to “far right”.  This conventional view thus requires that if you are trying to “reach out” to people on the other side of the median, to try to bring them over to your side, one must necessarily do so by building a path through that middle ground.  Thus the Democratic political establishment spends a great deal of time shushing the liberals and the left for fear that we might scare off center-rightists being gently escorted through that moderate minefield.

But reality is that the political spectrum isn’t so one-dimensional.  It is more a circle, or even a sphere, and as an online column published today by a former Reagan Administration official illuminates, there is another path you can go by, a back way, a hidden portal, when you decide to change the road you’re on.  It’s the path that takes you from far right to far left, and it’s a path I know well, the one I myself traveled to become a leftist.  Come on over, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

miglior sito per acquistare viagra generico spedizione veloce a Genova h/t to rjones2818 for the link that inspired this piece.

The Class War: Income Inequality Is At An All-Time High

There are Two Americas, the wealth and the rest of us:

Income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high, surpassing even levels seen during the Great Depression, according to a recently updated paper by University of California, Berkeley Professor Emmanuel Saez. The paper, which covers data through 2007, points to a staggering, unprecedented disparity in American incomes.

snip

Saez calculates that in 2007 the top .001 percent of American earners took home 6 percent of total U.S. wages, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000.

As of 2007, comprare viagra generico 100 mg a Firenze the top decile of American earners, Saez writes, pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that’s “higher than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928, the peak of stock market bubble in the ‘roaring” 1920s.'”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

The entire paper is available here:

http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez…

From Saez’s paper:

[W]hile the bottom 99 percent of incomes grew at a solid pace of 2.7 percent per year from 1993-2000, these incomes grew only 1.3 percent per year from 2002-2007. use of accutane durring alchohol As a result, in the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top 1 percent captured two thirds of income growth.”

Paul Krugman comments that it was “Even more gilded” than we thought.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c…

The charts from Saez at Krugman and HuffPo say it all.

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