Briefly, here is a sketch of the historical trajectory of how we view who is a productive working person and who is not. From the late 16th century, white settlers were seen as productive and virtuous as they toiled to make the land yield sustenance and wealth. Native communities were seen as less industrious and worse, as ‘idle.’ There was a theology behind this notion of cultural 'idleness.' English preachers declared that God intended for people to fully exploit the land.
Perusing Facebook today, I noticed several Labor-Day-themed messages. Many of these were variations on the "brought to you by the Labor Movement" theme: weekends, occupational health and safety, paid holidays, an end to child labor, retirement security and more. All great things. And I thank those who fought for these changes and benefits. At a time with most of these gains are under threat, it is important to remember the struggles that made such gains possible.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act, I've been sifting through a sea of commentary, looking for a way to distill and contextualize various responses to this tragically regressive ruling. This morning, I found what I think is the most trenchant analysis, from Makani Themba of the Praxis Project, who posted the following on Facebook. It is well worth circulating broadly and widely:
The neoliberal political-economic model has failed in its own terms. This was true in 2008 when the global financial system nearly collapsed. Five years and many bailouts later, it is still true. And yet, the national and global leaders who make decisions about economic policy continue to act as though neo-liberalism works.
An IRS scandal is a real gift for anti-government conservatives. The current source of scandal, involving the way in which political groups across the spectrum take advantage of a non-profit tax status, needs some massaging if it is to tap populist ire. It’s not really very salacious, when you get down to it. So what’s a scandal-hungry conservative to do? Embellish, redirect, make it about individuals and audits –– something that sends shivers up our spines.
With all the attention that Margaret Thatcher has gotten since her recent death, I have been reminded of my favorite cultural theorist in the UK --- Stuart Hall --- who has written extensively about Thatcherism. To shed light on what Thatcher's legacy means for the current political and economic crisis, I recommend a recent conversation between Stuart Hall and Doreen Massey published in Soundings.
Some have made fun of it as a sign of parochialism but “We are all Bostonians” feels like an appropriate sentiment to me right now. As I walked through the Boston Common and Public Gardens yesterday, I saw more press and police in one place than I’ve seen in a long while. I also saw lots of people being kind to one another. Some were giving out flowers or flags. That evening, as I attended a peace vigil, I felt pride and love for my adopted home.
Extraordinary times, such as a revolution, bring out talents and creative capacities that tend to lie dormant during more ordinary times. In the late 18th century, Thomas Paine believed the U.S. Revolution would lead to a new kind of democratic governance that “bring(s) forward, by quiet and regular operation, all the capacity which never fails to appear in revolution.” This vision of participatory-democratic governance that draws upon the experiences, knowledge and passions of every citizen has all but faded in contemporary U. S. society.
What the 1% is saying to the rest of us: you can keep your guns. We’re coming after your butter. Could it be that we are playing right into the long-term agenda of corporate-conservatives? Sequestration gives them a huge leap forward in their forty-year effort to dismantle the safety-net and syphon more of our common wealth into the hands of the few.
The ideological implications, in the long-run, also are clear: we have no alternative but to impose some form of austerity on the 99%. We all have to ‘tighten our belts.’
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