Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I like girls

Ever since I first became a heterosexual, I have always liked girls. I don't mean in the normal American way, where you pretty much hate them. How did "liking girls" turn into this pitched hostility toward them? If you don't "like girls" -- if you don't like them by virtue of your sexuality -- then you are free to actually like them. Which makes me gay, in a way, except for the sex part.

Somehow or another the sexual ideas I got about women led me to liking them comprehensively, not just in the restricted sense -- although when you are in different phases of your life this latter sense can take on a kind of primacy. Once your testosterone drops off a cliff, you can wisely observe that there is more to life than sex.

I'm very interested in parlaying the natural tendency of most boys to "like girls" into actually liking them. A lot of the reason I feel I can "get away" with being feminist comes down to the idea that, yes, I like girls. If you like girls, you care about them on some level. Well, that's true -- maybe it shouldn't be a big deal, but it's true. The "feminism" simply comes in as an acknowledgment of social injustice that women face.

There are many mornings I get up before dawn and hear radio broadcasts about missing women in Philadelphia and Camden, or unidentified bodies discovered in parks and parking lots which once belonged to women. I think it was only last summer or fall that there was somebody called the Kensington strangler; before that, of course, the Center City rapist. I know these were men who "liked girls" in the only sense that makes sense for most of us; now I hope we can agree on the inadequacy of its meaning.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Revolutionary roads

Che Guevara once said that the revolutionary must be guided by a deep and abiding love for humanity, though after three days in Bolivia he confessed that is nothing compared to a half-decent map. To be sure, the revolutionary life is hard, and all the more so without a portion of the proceeds. Far too often, one counts their deep and abiding love for humanity as their greatest asset, and only on one hand.

This raises an important question. Is the status quo really so bad? The answer will depend on who you ask and whether they brush their teeth with dedication. If your morning commute smells of hastily digested Indian food, that is another thing altogether. Once soda gets into the keyboard, there is no turning back.

A great anarchist propagandist once explained that all it takes for good people to act is the realization that their back is against the wall. This is especially true if the good people requested outdoor seating. What motivates each of us to be our brother's keeper will vary by individual, but it is sometimes best to keep him outside during football season.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Scary person wants to know how my day is going

In an alarming departure from my usual revolutionary routine, another person approached me this morning in what appeared to be a sincere attempt to discover how my day was going.

"Hey, buddy," he said at first.

Like so many interpersonal close-calls, it all began by making eye contact. My defensive strategy, nodding in robust agreement, proved inadequate even when combined with enthusiastic wheezing.

How this individual knew I was concealing something, when 99% of the population takes a grimace at face value, suggests a degree of tenacity amongst people who want to know how your day is going that I failed to account for previously.

The development could have far-reaching implications for my daily commute, including in this case my morning constitutional, when revolutionary spirit is best cultivated by thinking up clever ripostes for use in online forums.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nocturnal revisions

Not sleeping well. Dreamt I was an entrepreneur with a line of hydrant-shaped greeting cards for dogs called RSVPee-Pees that wasn't feminist enough for all the bitches. When it comes to going to the bathroom, you can forget that gender is a canine construct. But I should have known that lady dogs aren't going to buy good stationery just to turn around and pee on it, since the trait holds good in humans as well. I finally enjoyed modest success in partnership with Spencer Gifts, marketing to the lowest common dog denominator, which as it turned out included several members of the local Chamber of Commerce -- though this did little to curtail poops on my stoop.

Monday, May 23, 2011

There is still hope the world will end while we are still alive

I'll be the first to say I was pissed when the world neglected to end last Saturday night. Even though the sky got dark and the wind picked up, in retrospect it was a bad idea to keep ordering drinks just to postpone the check. This speaks to the bigger question of gas prices, and how as a society we expect me to be able to afford a bill like that -- I mean, seriously, people.

There's something to be said for a well-timed end of the world, but why a guy like Harold Camping should get bent out of shape about it is what I don't understand. The man sounds as though he already has one foot in the grave, and to look at him, the rest of his body, too. I wish old people could be more patient about letting their world come to an end, rather than insisting everyone else's must as well.

The actual end of the world is likely to be of primary interest to history buffs like myself, who will finally be able to conclude, "Yep, that sucked," in a definitive way, while transitioning into more positive activities, like not existing. It's the best chance we have of seeing meaningful change in our political system -- or a Phillies-Mets game without a riot. No doubt many things will be changed when the world comes to an end, including my shorts.

While we needn't lose hope that the world will end while we are still alive, we mustn't be so self-centered about it. Humankind has practically guaranteed its own destruction -- and if not for ourselves, then for our children, and our children's children. Let us think of the end of the world, if not as a gift to ourselves, then as the legacy we bestow upon our progeny, the fruit of all our toils!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Other people pose biggest obstacle to the dissemination of my views

For too long have I labored before this 17-inch screen with its "cathode rays" so that the world might bear witness to the sagacity of my long-held views and deepest convictions. No matter what the hardship, no matter what the odds, I have steadfastly maintained my beliefs in the face of all evidence to the contrary. As if this weren't proof enough of their veracity, I have also broadcast them at every available opportunity, so that all might reap the benefits of my unique and unsolicited perspective. But no matter how hard I persist, I simply cannot shake the feeling that other people pose the single biggest obstacle to the dissemination and wide-spread acceptance of my views.

The first inkling I had of the great disservice other people might, no doubt in spite of themselves, be doing to the wider social promotion of my views was discovered in the course of an ordinary dialogue with my peers. Someone had raised the issue of gas prices in connection with the recent be-deading of Osama bin Laden. While I hastily summarized the last half-century of US foreign policy in response, our group changed direction as deftly as a school of fish toward the speculative bra-size of a passing colleague. Rather than endorsing the validity of my views, these people, who may be identified via physical and spacial demarcation as not me, scarcely bothered to listen. But because my views do not already comprise the very basis for their own, I fear that other people have yet to credit me appropriately nor proselytize anyone else on my behalf.

As already suggested, this pattern repeats itself online, where, in spite of my noblest efforts, people who routinely are not me do not do enough to make my private expectations of them a reality. By the same token, however, people who are me, like myself, find ourselves with no recourse but to shoulder this burden alone. Not only is this unfair, it doesn't work. No social movement based on collective action will ever succeed until everyone does the work that one person repeatedly insists everyone must do.

In order to ameliorate the harm caused by the failure of others to embrace my outlook and unerringly champion its appeal, the least that other people could do is stop being so damn effective at communicating their own. When a co-worker explained that the Tea Party acronym stood for "Taxed Enough Already," I thoroughly confused myself on a much better point about dialectical materialism in response.

"You talk like a professor," my companion said. "Do you like having a socialist for president?"

Now how the hell do you expect me to respond to a predictable conservative talking point like that? You see, it is futile -- and that is why everyone must begin with the same set of assumptions as mine if you people ever expect my views to be very persuasive, or celebrated in the manner that I speak for all of us in saying that they must.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Exhaust fumes are something that I breathe a lot of, and the shit is beginning to get on my nervous system

Exhaust fumes, whether administered at home or on the job, are something I am pretty sure I breathe a lot of. And while it's true that I have never been a finicky breather, I must nevertheless say that the shit is really beginning to get on my nervous system.

The main way that exhaust fumes really started getting on my nervous system was by a) the industrial revolution and b) being born into the same atmosphere 200 years later. Had I been born 200 years earlier, I would be telling you that syphilis is something that I've contracted a lot of. But that would make me even older than Nietzsche -- the original old school playa, yo.

If it weren't for the fact that exhaust fumes, and all the shit that is in them, are really beginning to get on my nervous system, I probably wouldn't care very much -- but the regrettable likelihood is that those fuckers most assuredly are. It doesn't help that the shit is totally toxic to 100% of aerobic organisms. I prefer to think of myself as a more sedentary-type of organism, but as luck would have it this is not the sense in which Yahoo! Answers defines their terms.

Of course, I can understand why the setting of fire to buried, dead organisms as a means of motive power might appeal to whatever jerkoff enjoys a monopoly on exhuming dead organisms. I understand the entrepreneurial spirit -- I really do. However, the last time I checked, modern innovation really hadn't done anything to address my principal concern, which has to do with exhaust fumes, how much I am breathing them, and how that shit is beginning to get on my goddamn nervous system.

Maybe I am biased by the knowledge that, whereas the Nazis called them "death trucks," the contemporary consumer sees in the same distribution model "a great time to put on The Little Mermaid." It could be that moving things from one end of the planet to the other, when they could instead be moved from one side of town to another -- all while riding the fleeting, viscous corpse of our ancestors -- makes heaps of good sense. But I just can't help but believe that I am breathing in a lot of the detritus, and that, moreover, the shit is beginning to get on my nervous system.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Good friend still prefers Cosmo to reading this blog, despite its revolutionary potential

A very good friend has confirmed that she still prefers Cosmopolitan magazine to reading this blog, even in spite of the likely role it will play in the event of a peasant- and/or proletarian-based revolution in the Northeastern United States.

"No, I like your blog -- I really do," my friend stated.

Earlier that day, a link to a feature article at cosmopolitan.com appeared as a wall post in my friend's profile on Facebook. "Cosmo is so bad it's good!" was the accompanying text.

Notably absent, however, was any like-minded enthusiasm for this blog, despite what in recent weeks can only be described as the mind-boggling obviousness of its revolutionary potential.

"I mean, how many fucking times does a guy have to quote Karl Marx to be taken seriously around here?" I asked myself not for the first time.

Just how the philosophical and political legacy bequeathed by bearded, 19th-century misogynists has failed to keep pace with the international magazine's "Guy Confessions" and "Cosmo Gyno" sections is a question which remains unresolved in my mind -- and minds much like mine.

"Last week I literally spent 14 hours debating with someone in a comment thread about anarcho-syndicalism, and I wrote this great post about it, and my sister didn't even share it with all her Facebook friends," says another revolutionary internet blogger.

"If the average person can't come home from work and appreciate the fruits of what I've been arguing about online all day, we're going to be stuck with the tyrannical reign of a much more popular commercial media forever."

Monday, May 16, 2011

My bus driver is not doing enough to affirm my faith in the common man

Needless to say, I've been using public transportation ever since I first got interested in the common man. And, rest assured, most bus drivers uphold every romantic preconception I have for the public transit operator. But let's face it. Ever since my last bus driver retired, his replacement hasn't done jack shit to uphold my philosophical faith in the common man.

If you're anything like me, you may not feel especially communistical at the ass-crack of dawn, when you're freezing your nuts off waiting for the bus to go to work. That's why I always appreciated the curb-side manner of bus operator Ignatius Sizemore, who on arrival would always ask, "Hey, buddy. How's it hanging?" By this I always assumed he meant the low-hanging fruit of the means of production, to which I would respond, "Ripe and juicy, my fellow wage slave," for a collective chuckle. But this new guy. I tell you it would kill him just to say hello.

Now I appreciate that not everyone of proletarian stock must necessarily be a people person, but deep-fried Jesus -- this guy just sucks. Not only does he not deign to chit-chat, Mario Andretti over here likes to accelerate from 0-60 just as soon as you're inside the passenger doors. I'm all like, "What the hell, comrade?" But do you think he cares? Granted, I am not some elderly person trying to manage a week's worth of groceries. I won't expire from the experience. But does that mean I want to touch those overhead rails where the common man deposits his upper-respiratory surplus? And how about trying to read Marx's Capital on the land-based equivalent of a fishing trawler in the middle of the open ocean? You would think for humanity's sake this joker would at least want to accommodate that.

One area where my bus driver consistently applies himself is in the thorough examination of each and every female posterior which crosses his path. He has even been known to shake his head and exclaim, "Damn," in his deepest contemplations. But wouldn't it be better if this exploited soul put all that thoughtfulness toward a worldwide worker's revolution? I can assure you that, if he did, it would help reaffirm my faith in the common man -- the same philosophical faith in the common man, we must recall, which I have come to hold so dear. But I have to tell you, as things stand now, I just don't know what to think when it comes to having faith in the common man.

Let me conclude by reiterating the point that there are times when I really wish I could be better reassured in my aforementioned faith in the common man. My previous bus driver, Ignatius Sizemore of the Walmart City/Old Industrial Highway line, did a bang-up job when it came to that. But this new guy is just an unmitigated have-faith-in-the-common-man disaster, from which I have yet to recover.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The spectre of communism still haunts me, after all these years

Sometimes I feel like I've been waiting forever for the new communism to come out. That's going to be the one where everyone gets free medical care and an education, but you can still buy the things you want. I don't know a lot about it, frankly. Humanity hasn't set a release date.

The old communism had some problems. I once wrote a post called "What's bad about a good idea" that gets into the whole difficulty. The basic theme was that you get a very good idea -- like, people shouldn't starve, or something -- and then you pummel the crap out of everybody that gets in the way, er, your way. Of course, making sure everyone can eat is a very nice thing to do, and capitalism doesn't make it easy. But somehow niceness doesn't always hold up in the single-minded pursuit of niceness. More often than not, we're dicks to the people around us, while striking a generous pose toward things that carry no cost.

I've always thought Christianity and communism were kindred spirits in this regard. The Christian ethic, for example, is one of the most powerful ideas in human history. It's extremely popular, as an idea. Christianity as an institution -- yeah, not so much. The two are related in an important way, with the lasting relevance of one providing the moral cover for the other. But the Christian ethic survives either way, just like the need to address needless human suffering. Neither go away, ever -- at least not until they become a more normal part of who we are.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The destination of a dick

For some, this will be a repost of something Blogger ate two weeks ago. -- JRB

The guys from the Jersey Shore bring back memories of junior high school, when watching Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and lifting weights inevitably led to homosexual conversations with your buddies about heterosexual sex. Straight guys can get very gay with you, in fact, if you let them tell you all about the plans they have for their dicks; the epic adventures and classic confrontations that their dicks will take up -- the whole detailed dick itinerary. It can be quite exhaustive, taking into account many contingent factors that most dicks are unlikely to run into in the daily life of a dick.

I'm not going to pretend that a lot of the intellectual heft wielded by the boys of the Jersey Shore isn't devoted to charting the surest path to victory for their dicks. But I also won't pretend that this is unusual for many of the men I know, even at grandfather age. The Jersey Shore just happens to document this very well, and I suppose it can't come as much of a surprise that audiences are simultaneously horrified and enthralled by that truth.

Of course, it doesn't help that this is being attributed to a socioeconomic conception of class -- that this is how "guidos" behave, rather than "straight men" of all income levels, when the only meaningful difference is that salaried professionals wouldn't announce it on national TV. I can admire the honesty of a Pauly D or Situation far more than the supposed respectability of an Eliot Spitzer, who, whatever he wants to do with whomever, nevertheless betrayed the ones closest to him. I have yet to observe anything of that sort from our self-proclaimed sexual conquistadors, who for their honesty are condemned at the same time that the respectability of a Spitzer is restored.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Things bring us together

Because there's really nothing entertaining about me, on a given day, after any o'clock AM, the whole PM side of things can look pretty grim if you just, like, experience it and shit. That is why I prefer "a measure of something fermented," to quote from BusinessWeek's editorial on the fundamental human needs which a bin Laden-style Islamic caliphate could never supply. True that, my resource-extracting betters! If the planet must submit the scope of its biodiversity to a single organizing idea, might it at least be one in which alcohol is free to fulfill its exalted role? Even the communists had that much figured out: for them, banning God was more realistic.

In my household this only resolves half the problem, however, owing to an aversion shown by my partner to my choice of fine, high-quality, excellent and affordable boxed wine. And since Socratic dialogue over dinner only excels when both parties are trashed, perhaps it was only a matter of time before one or another mode of televised entertainment was regarded as a plausible means to "laugh at the same time" -- as someone once explained humor to me -- well into the evening hours.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Remembering your life

Lately I've been thinking about the general, so-called "dominant" culture as something of a disaster for interpersonal relations. It reflects many different kinds of inequality; many different kinds of "dominance." Whatever isn't dominant is less valued. For example, a lot of the self-expression we see in forums like Facebook are links to corporate material, because that gets far more social promotion than personal self-expression. Personal self-expression is less valued in and of itself; and this in turn leaves fewer opportunities within daily life in which to pursue it, to develop it as a craft. While there is certainly a value placed on personal self-expression once it reaches certain degree of sophistication, the problem for most of us has to do with getting to that point.

When personal self-expression takes a back seat to deciding whether "you" are a PC or a Mac, and relationships are formed around this basis, the end result is that we don't learn very much about each other, because we aren't referencing anything significant about ourselves. In my experience, this is just a fundamental problem of being in today's world: you can have a conversation with a total stranger yet already know the broad outlines of what they are going to say, because we're all saying the same things all of the time, whether induced by the news cycle or the rote repetition of the working day -- or by our responses to them. One reason why I've always appreciated funerals, and the "interruption" of death itself, is that it clarifies what is fundamentally important to people like a thunderbolt. No bullshit stands in the face of death -- how many things can be credited with that? The interposition of mortality into a dead routine becomes a reminder of life itself.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Social authority

At one level, you can watch how the cast of the Jersey Shore interact with each other. In what ways do they try to tell each other what to do? That's interesting to observe in any group of people. Anarchists always want to anticipate that, because within human relations it is pretty much inevitable. But what you want to evaluate is the claim to authority. Someone might tell someone else to clean the kitchen because it's their turn and a dirty kitchen affects everyone. Or someone might tell someone else to clean the kitchen because they are "the boss" and they decide what goes. Different people in the apartment might be "cool" with either or both scenarios. It can get complicated, but the point is that you want to think these things through in terms of who is primarily impacted and what their feelings are about it, while at the same time endorsing less hierarchical alternatives wherever "boss" roles are popularly entrenched -- as is often the case for sake of "efficiency."

Telling other people what to do takes a lot of different forms; it can easily spill over into telling people how to feel or what to think. One of the customary slights between women in the show is to call each other "fat," for example. "Fat" is something that takes on special vehemence in a patriarchal society when it is directed at women, so my partner and I were disappointed to see how readily women used it against each other. It's a very bad strategy, because society tries to tell every woman how she should feel about herself according to society's standards. In other words, when women try to use this as a weapon, there is nothing to stop anyone else from attacking them by the same means. It would be better to reject it as a weapon altogether -- to reject the legitimacy of any social authority that would try to tell women how to measure their self-worth, except on their own terms.

The conflicts between women on the show, like so much of the individual behavior we observe, can't be judged meaningfully until we place it in the larger context of social authority. These women didn't individually come up with the notion that calling each other fat could be strategically useful in a given context; they took the reference from what society is telling them all the time. So if you want to lament how immature Angelina or Snooki can be, you have to lament how immature mainstream society already is, since that's where they're getting it from. The same goes for all the awful things the boys get into, which we will discuss shortly. Their behavior may be their own, but the responsibility for this type of behavior is something that everybody shares insofar as we participate in the general culture.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Thug life

Even where professionalization filters some anti-social tendencies out, it's only doing so for the purpose of capital accumulation. There is a utility in having people behave decently toward one another, at least while they are at work, because it minimizes disruption. Maybe your job is not all about profit in a direct way, but our overall economy is, and that impacts everything -- including how you get your funding, no matter what you do.

The other point we have made is that we as individuals may endorse professional norms for our own reasons, if only because we believe people should behave decently toward one another in any context. Within the social life of the United States, that doesn't happen with as much organized consistency anywhere as it does within professional structures, where there is a cost associated with non-compliance. The problem in most confrontations outside of work is that people don't perceive any comparable cost -- for example, to the social whole -- and so look to maximize personal advantage in every encounter: we race other drivers, ignore the homeless, harass service-sector workers, anonymously bully others online, and so on. Even as a boss, our capacity to act any way we like is restricted at work; whatever abuse we dole out must be codified in a way that puts our employer's interests first.

When we talk about poor and working class cultures, on one hand we observe relative independence from what is coercive about professional culture. If we begin from the anarchist idea that "all authority is wrong unless it can prove that it isn't wrong" -- i.e. that it isn't, in fact, authority but one or another mode of responsibility -- this is something we should support. We should want to support people who reject capitalist professionalism for the specific reason that it tries to tell people what to do, or how to think about themselves, for a purpose that excludes their own welfare.

At the same time, autonomous social culture must be constituted to transcend what is decent about capitalist professionalism; which is to say, it will include some of the same elements: specifically, those which people regard as worthwhile irrespective of whether these also prove useful to power at a given moment. Every social instinct inherited from our more communal past has atrophied under the assault of contemporary industrial culture, conditioned as we have become to a war of each against all. But we find in working class non-compliance an autonomy without the organized consistency which could sustain the kind of values that go well beyond the forced decency of indecent relations.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Thugs in the club

Funny you should mention it, US foreign policy is a lot like the boys who go clubbing on the Jersey Shore. Both begin with the premise that everyone wants their magic wand all up in their business, because that's the only way that magic can happen. They court anybody and everybody who is "DTF" -- down to feel the magic -- and talk up anyone who might be. When things backfire, it's the person, not the premise, that has been wrong all along. For example, the CIA thought Osama bin Laden was totally DTF and, so long as this pretense was maintained, "really hot." It was only after the Cold War that he was rebuffed for being a grenade grundle chode. To which bin Laden was observed to retort: "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Go! for the throat

Given the choice between Navy Seal intrigues and my more customary preoccupations, I choose red wine.

"USA" is what I chant when I get out of bed every morning.