I have been reading about capital mobility and floating exchange rates and how the privatization of the educational system will bring an end to racial discrimination for 1.5 days and I needed a break so I came here to the co-op to get myself a “gigantic crunchy salad,” which I succeeded in doing and which I am at this very moment enjoying extremely. The ladies at the table next to me are enthusiastically discussing the “bulb show” they attended yesterday.
A side effect of all my reading within the realm of contemporary economic theory is that it has given me the opportunity to be surprised and gratified by the frequency with which Thomas Piketty uses the novels of Jane Austen to illustrate his various points about the history of capitalism. It is so cool to think of him reading those books and actually understanding all the weird money talk that I have always had so many questions about. He notes that no one in the novels bothers to explain what they mean by “income” or “sterling” or “guineas” or “in possession of a large fortune” or “entailment” because these things would have been so obvious to all readers at the time. But nowadays we are like, what, you need 1,000 pounds a year to be a rich person (yes, because that was 20-30 times higher than the average income)? Where does the money come from, since none of these people or any of their ancestors have ever had a job (land rent and interest on inheritance)? Why can’t Willoughby marry Marianne when he seems to be plenty middle class (he’s actually not; and he lives beyond his means; so he has to marry an heiress)? Why does Marianne “blush” when she details how much money it takes to live a “dignified” life (she knows she’s being extravagant)? Very interesting. Piketty also talks a lot about how revolutionary the French revolutionaries were in data collection. Amazing!
Specialized knowledge is so cool, it’s like it opens up these mysterious realms in various discourse that you didn’t even know were there. Like Piketty understanding all the weird references to entailments in Austen. Or like how I can read any 18th century novel and tell when someone is pregnant. It is an amazing gift, don’t thank me, I didn’t ask for this power.
I’ve also now read (most) all of M. Friedman’s great masterpiece, CAPITALISM AND FREEDOM, which is such an epic tissue of madness and outright lies that I was reduced to just writing “LOL” in the margin of almost every page (whoever owned the book before me more or less did the same, so I also find myself dialoguing with their marginalia a lot, like at one point they’ve written “rather, it enables economic power to BECOME political power” and I wrote “NAILED IT”). It’s amazing how stupid smart people can be. It’s the result of ideology, I guess. When you hold to an ideology, nothing matters, not facts, not empirical observation, not history, not the reports of billions of people who aren’t you, not graphs or charts, nothing. It doesn’t matter how smart you are in other realms of life.
It’s also pretty rough to read stuff he wrote in the 50s and early 60s, and then to read modern economic histories and see all the ways his ideas were actually just straight-up implemented in real life. You read him in 1963 and he’s like “seems like we should have a floating exchange rate because it would make everyone in the world slave to the U.S. dollar” [paraphrased, lol], and then you read Piketty or Harvey and they’re like “in 1975 the U.S. instituted a floating exchange rate, which made the whole world slave to the American dollar” and you’re like DAMN Milton Friedman, you sure got around! Or he’s like “what about a voucher system, instead of the government running our public schools, which is counter to the ideal of a free society?” and now we have that, and it sucks, and it does just what he hoped it’d do, namely siphon money from public education into the educations of the already-privileged (he said this was good, because the already-privileged are the ones who will go on to be good leaders and citizens, so it is right that they should receive the most subsidized educations, as they will end up doing the most public good). He’s over there advising Thatcher; he’s over here advising Reagan. We sent our army into Iraq to bloodily implement his suggestions for economic reform. It is harrowing. Just this egg-head at U. Chicago, scared to death of communism. And then he gets to, you know, redesign the entire country of Chile by force just to see if his principles will work (they didn’t). We have REMADE THE ENTIRE WORLD in his image, and there’s hardly a footnote in his entire book. Just a guy doling out unfounded opinions about how human behavior works! LOLOL I forgot to laugh
One of the funnier examples from Friedman w/r/t ideology making smart people stupid is how insistent he is that black people have benefited MORE THAN ANY OTHER GROUP from competitive capitalism (“LOL”). He demonstrates this again and again, with so many examples of black people owning property or whatever; one of his examples of how market forces insure the freedom of the oppressed is the “fact” that “by scrimping,” a poor black person can purchase the same exact car as the one owned by a rich white person. Nothing stops him from doing so! (= “freedom”). Anyway at no point does he mention, you know, SLAVERY. A.k.a. the principles of competitive capitalism brutally applied to the human labor specifically of black people. Was that example of free market principles MORE BENEFICIAL to black people THAN TO ANY OTHER GROUP IN HISTORY? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha HOW DARE HE THOUGH?!??!!! He also calls Ancient Greece (a slave state) “the golden age of political freedom.” So that’s ideology for you! “I know the great contributions of Ancient Greece to western society were only made possible by a massive force of slave labor BUT Ancient Greece was the golden age of political freedom.” Ideology resides in the phrase “I know, BUT.”
“I know slavery was a direct result of global competitive capitalism BUT black people have benefited the most from global competitive capitalism.”
“I know Bernie Sanders has mobilized an enormous amount of populist support and energized the youth vote and has won a bunch of primaries BUT he’s ‘unelectable.'”
Anyway, it’s sure fun to learn about people and their neat ideas. As Adorno said, “thought is happiness even where it defines unhappiness: by enunciating it.”
WHOEVER DOES NOT LET [THINKING] ATROPHY HAS NOT RESIGNED
I shall’n’t resign! Instead I shall go to the antique store and see if I can find the kind of noodle spoon I want. Personal property is not the same as capitalist property so it’s okay
Anyway it’s SPRING BREAK, which means, in addition to reading a lot of truly soul-destroying work on the history of capitalism I am:
– chopping wood (use value)
– deep-cleaning the house (unalienated labor)
– generating a thousand reports for the administration (??? me sobbing quietly)
We also spend Spring Break watching all the movies my old man’s students are writing their final papers about. It is a really interesting project; some of the students identify really weird movies to write about, and it is fun to watch them, some of them for the first time (this amazing Japanese animated film called “Paprika” that is about dreams, e.g.), some of them for the first time in 20 years (Pulp Fiction).
Some of them are………….NOT GOOD
I would never have argued that Saving Private Ryan, for example, was a good film, even in the dog days of my youth when I was very susceptible to melodrama (Forrest Gump), but, after watching it again last night, I just feel like, was it REALLY that bad?? I didn’t remember it being as bad as it is. Spielberg (and his toady John Williams) is such a hack, it’s really astonishing. Aside from “Jaws,” which in my opinion is the greatest film ever made and one of only three good John Williams scores. Anyway he is the perfect filmmaker to be so beloved of our culture. He gluts us with our own mediocrity. SPR is so bad. We kept laughing and laughing and laughing and I would then feel guilty about my grandpa who fought the Jerries and who, for all his obviously-PTSD-influenced stoicism and lack of interest in the products of popular culture, would surely not have actively found the film funny, I mean, the battle sequences are legitimately upsetting. But then just as you were maybe starting to question whether or not war is really all that heroic DON’T WORRY, because just in time there’d be another lengthy Abe Lincoln quote or a close-up of some old man’s tearful face looking at a graveyard with a fuckin’ faded Old Glory wavin’ in the background and John Williams pooping out some noble trumpet call. The movie literally ends with Old Matt Damon hoarsely asking his wife “AM I A GOOD MAN,” which–as in so many of Spielberg’s films–is a moment that could have been mined for incredible pathos, I mean, that is grim as hell, a withered old man who blew up a thousand German teenagers and held his dying friends in his arms countless times revealing at the very end of his life that he is morally unsure about all that and wonders if maybe he is actually a bad man, a force for evil…but don’t worry, his wife just says yes he’s a great man and then he’s happy and all his white children cluster reverently around him, like, didn’t you watch the movie, Old Matt Damon? John Williams’s brass cues made it pretty clear that you are a good man and that it was all worth it!
Giovanni Ribisi is in that movie
Daniel Faraday from Lost is in that movie
Ted Danson is in that movie
Vin Diesel is in that movie
The guy from Se7en who fucks the girl to death with the barbed penis thing is in that movie
We also watched Titanic, which is a much worse film, even, except it is compelling to watch the extremely accurate rendering of the ship/the ship sinking. Watching this made me remember–when James Cameron won for best picture (!?!!ugh) he was widely mocked for asking for a moment of silence to honor the victims of Titanic, and then thrusting his award into the air and yelling NOW LETS PARTY TIL DAWN!! Ha ha ha ha I’m sure JJ Astor would be touched, not to mention the hundreds of working class people who were left intentionally locked below-decks because there weren’t enough life boats for all the rich people. Delightful
Help, My Research is Giving me Class Rage
Tonight we are going to a comedy show
I have been making a lot of popcorn
I’m starting my seedlings soon
I’m gonna grow watermelon, I don’t give a damn
The other night we were at the bar having a grand old time, talking intently about academia and its discontents; our syllabi and assignments; our challenges in engaging students; etc. I fell quiet for perhaps 5 seconds while chewing a bite of pizza, but it was enough time for my old man to go from being completely engaged with our conversation to being utterly engulfed in staring at his phone. It made me so mad, his instant transference of attention from me/our life/our reality to twitter or whatever he was looking at, so I snatched the phone out of his hand and said “oh what are you looking at on your phone?” in a rude voice. I then looked at his phone, and found that he had been reading an article titled “WHY THE HOMOEROTICISM IN ‘TOP GUN’ MATTERS”