An oxymoron, probably, since blogging is all about saying something often. But there are times, becoming all too frequent, when the thought of dumping more words into the digital universe deters. What more can be said about the stupid, inane things we humans do?
My last post, which was a while ago, spoke to “amor fati,” or love fate. Pause a moment to think about this. If we reach the determination that shit happens because of forces too large to counteract, then we may consider ourselves truly free in a psychological sense.
Of course, one should avoid the conceit that one’s blog has any impact whatsoever. That, too, is liberating. If my words have no effect, then write for an infinite number of reasons, including the desire to see letters appear on the screen as you push buttons. Cool.
I am reminded by stuff lodged inside my noggin that the stars do occasionally align in our favor. Things get so bad that people take to the streets to shake up the status quo. But “popular movements” seem to be the stuff of history and unlikely to recur, primarily because not enough of us can find agreement on anything. There are so many causes and organizations and factions and media that all is quite noisy these days. So noisy that we’ve completely lost the signal. (My blog, like most others, simply adds to the digital deluge.)
Here’s a note to myself. Blog to keep busy or to improve your understanding of this or that topic. But don’t for a moment believe that you’re making shit disappear. The gods are very busy.
I came across the above phrase in reading a new book by philosopher David Blacker, The Falling Rate of Learning*. While education serves as a proxy to illustrate what ails us, Blacker presents a disquieting look at the folly of trying to fix an essentially dysfunctional system, the one in which we all live. In revealing the bad news, he suggests that we embrace, or love, fate, much like the ancient Greeks and Romans, who believed that shit happens, the result of some tangle between two or more gods. Thus, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Blacker argues that instead of wasting our time and energy working within the system to produce different outcomes, however laudable the effort and intended objectives, we should acknowledge the obvious—that those who benefit from the status quo have far too much power to allow for change that would benefit the Rest of Us. He writes:
…rather than wishing it [the capitalist system] away as we normally do via various psychological stratagems, we would do well truly to respect the overwhelming power of our situation and adopt a fatalism-inflected pedagogy of opportunism, one that watches, waits and seizes the moment when it arrives.
Can’t wait? Good luck with “the struggle.”
*The book’s title borrows from Mr. Marx, who argued that in the capitalist system there is a “tendency of the rate of profit to fall.” Indeed, Marx appears on nearly every page, though Blacker stops short of ideological purity. Marx offered prescient critiques of capitalism, but his prescriptions are either sparse or wrong.
My guess is that the U.S. will re-intervene in some fashion. I’m talking about Iraq. When a recent article mentioned, almost in passing, that we had “major interests” at stake, most of us knew the referent: oil.
Today’s New York Times headline speaks volumes:
Extremists Said to Take Control of Iraq’s Biggest Oil Refinery
As much as I love and devour baseball, I must say that there is no greater show on earth than the NBA finals. The two best teams comprised of the world’s best players duke it out to determine who will sit atop the heap.
This year’s championship series emphasized the collective over the individual. Here, system prevailed over stardom.
Basketball should be the ultimate team sport, requiring the careful coordination of five players to score at one end of the court and prevent baskets at the other. The San Antonio Spurs are all about “the system,” eschewing the inflated-ego syndrome of their opponents, the Miami Heat, who boasted “the best player on the planet.” He was good, per usual. But LeBron James’s statistical success exposed his colleagues’ fundamental weakness: they don’t know how to play together.
I’d like to believe that life could imitate sports, that cooperation would trump individual competition. But that wouldn’t be very American, would it?
In his book Capital in the 21st Century Thomas Piketty argues that the returns on capital have exceeded economic growth, that is, r>g. Let’s take a look.
Here is a chart showing the Dow Jones Industrial Average and gross national product since January 2009 (= 100).
I will come straight to a confession. I have no idea how those with capital continue to extract wealth from an historically under-performing economy. Moreover, how long can the above trends continue? If I don’t know the answer to the first question, I’m surely stumped by the latter, though I suspect that it involves some variation on a grand Ponzi scheme, robbing from the future to enrich the present.
If Chomsky is right, that “capitalism is suicide,” there will be an end to all this. I’m betting that it will not be a pretty one.
In responding to a U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that “good people” can’t buy guns for other “good people,” Digby writes:
I think this court has some splainin’ to do to the NRA and the ghosts of the Founding Fathers. If the 2nd Amendment is a guarantee of your unfettered right to bear arms in the same way the 1st Amendment is a guarantee of a corporation’s right to spend money then this doesn’t follow does it? If making gun buyers buy their own guns isn’t an infringement of their God-given liberty, I don’t know what is. The constitution clearly meant for guns to be traded and passed around like trading cards. And I think it’s in the Bible too.
Of course, the ruling was 5-4 with the commie-lib Hitler loving gun grabbers (plus Kennedy) in the majority so it really doesn’t count. Nothing a few more wingnuts on the court can’t fix.
In another critique of Robert Samuelson, who routinely offers himself as “punching bag,” economist Dean Baker writes:
If the economy were to get stronger the unemployment rate would fall to more normal levels. This would increase workers’ bargaining power and likely lead to a drop in profit shares. This means that if traders in stock anticipated stronger growth, it could be associated with a drop in stock prices since the decline in profit shares would more than offset the higher profits associated with higher GDP.
That stocks continue to rise suggests that investors expect feeble economic growth. Hooray, right?