Posts Tagged ‘Media’

Sneering at dissidents: spiritual tonic for the modern bourgeoisie

June 11, 2010

As much as I love David McRaney for the challenge his blog poses to many of my misconceptions, one of his archived posts touches on a subject that winds me up.  It seems to be a cherished myth for those who would prefer not to reflect on the social and ecological cost of their lifestyle choices that there is no escape from the relentless onward march of global capitalism.  There is no rebellion one could engage in that impacts the big picture, no message one can communicate that isn’t fraught with hypocrisy and naivete, no behavior one can exhibit unmotivated by raw self-interest.

In McRaney’s (truncated, emphasis-added) words:

Wait long enough, and what was once mainstream will fall into obscurity. When that happens, it will become valuable again to those looking for authenticity…

You would compete like this no matter how society was constructed. Competition for status is built into the human experience at the biological level

You sold out long ago in one way or another. The specifics of who you sell to and how much you make – those are only details.

The subtext here is that the only way people can ever hope to express “authenticity” is by buying a shitload of pointless kitsch purposely designed for the “authentic” demographic.  Therefore, the story goes, we are all trapped.  There is no escape.

But what about simply being authentic?  It’s way cheaper and more effective than buying a T-shirt that says “I’m authentic!”  It requires only that we make a serious effort to determine what has real, immutable value to us and attempt to conform our behavior to whatever revelations unfold.

Adam Smith’s argument that pure self interest is the ultimate human motivator has captured the imagination of the bourgeoisie to such a breathtaking extent that competing philosophies are no longer seriously considered by most Western pundits, politicos and ideologues.  I suspect the idea is beguiling because, in a world where a minute fraction of the population sits on the lion’s share of the wealth, the notion that we can effortlessly advance the greater good simply by looking out for ourselves absolves us of shame.  If we can also embrace the delusion that it is impossible to free ourselves from selfish concerns, we can ignore claims that when “the self” is taken out of the picture, compassion flows as indiscriminately as rain and ethical behavior naturally arises.  We are not moved to contemplate how different our culture might be if it were structured around compassion rather than selfishness as long as we insist “compassion” is merely a deluded form of selfishness, from which there is no escape.

With the dogma of inescapable selfishness firmly entrenched, activists, dissidents and revolutionaries can be dismissed as childish, petulant attention seekers.  Even if some dissidents might have been partly motivated by lofty concerns to begin with, their message is entirely meaningless if it becomes popular or profitable.

Suffice it to say, I do not share this perspective.  I believe it is irresponsible, inaccurate, immature and empirically unsupportable.  While it’s true that the concept of individual self-interest underpins our current understanding of biological evolution, research makes it clear that selfishness is not our only motivator.  As it turns out, we are hard-wired to experience the joy and suffering of others as if it were our own.

As a dissident motivated by the desire to reduce the suffering of others, it seems obvious to me that the primary psychological force behind most forms of dissident behavior is empathy.  Whether for children laboring in unsafe factories, civilian victims of state violence, displaced or destroyed wildlife in a devastated biosphere or any other organism we believe has the capacity to feel pain or distress, we object because we feel it too.  It seems equally clear that the primary psychological force behind capitalism is indeed selfishness, exactly as its proponents would have us believe.  I have no idea how anyone is able to subvert their inherent capacity to feel the suffering of others when it interferes with their own personal gain, but I take great comfort in the knowledge that the pure selfishness embraced by the most passionate proponents of capitalism is not a universal and inescapable law.

To return to McRaney’s quote, if Ghandi could overthrow the British empire wearing nothing but a home-spun loincloth, surely there is more that is “built into the human experience” than “competition for status” and we have a great deal of choice in how we behave, regardless of how society is structured.  If the human psyche has a greater range of motives than pure self-interest, surely it makes a difference upon which specific values our society is constructed.  We have learned from our own experience that a society constructed on the principle of selfishness behaves selfishly.  It is not a great leap of imagination to propose that a society constructed on the principle of compassion behaves compassionately.

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Republican Sex Lives: Gabriel Schwartz meets Robbin’ Hooker

September 18, 2008

“In an interview filmed the afternoon of Sept. 3 and posted on the Web site LinkTV.org, Schwartz was candid about how he envisioned change under a McCain presidency.

“Less taxes and more war,” he said, smiling. He said the U.S. should “bomb the hell” out of Iran because the country threatens Israel.

Asked by the interviewer how America would pay for a military confrontation with Iran, he said the U.S. should take the country’s resources.

“We should plant a flag. Take the oil, take the money,” he said. “We deserve reimbursement.”

A few hours after the interview, an unknown woman helped herself to Schwartz’s resources.

The theft happened at the Hotel Ivy, a luxury hotel in downtown Minneapolis. (The Colorado delegation was housed at the Four Points Sheraton, several miles away on Industrial Boulevard Northeast.)

The theft occurred early on Sept. 4, hours after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gave her speech accepting her party’s vice presidential nomination. A police report said Schwartz told officers he met a woman at the bar and took her to his $319-a-night room.

“Victim reported suspect made victim drinks, told him to get undressed, which is the last thing he remembers,” a police narrative said. “Upon waking, victim discovered money, jewelry gone; total loss over $120K.” ” source

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!  Thanks, Richard for the heads up.  You made my day!

UPDATES!  Were you wondering what KIND of lawyer he is? Follow this Link, but be sure to have napkins handy for your tears of mirth and dribbled beverage.  Thanks to Graham Lineham for that gem, and this one where you can hear Schwartz’s insane political views straight from the horse’s ass.  I mean mouth.

The Best Movie I Never Saw… Yet.

August 23, 2008

Looks like it, anyway. It’s in the mail, in a manner of speaking. Can’t wait!

National Post: Liberal women doom their cause by refusing to procreate.

August 8, 2008

Peter Schweizer, in a National Post editorial, argues that conservative idealogues are destined to win the culture war because they make babies faster than liberals.

His argument is based on a tediously simplistic view of humanity where people can be neatly divided into two categories – “conservatives” and “liberals” – and an unspoken, obviously fallacious assumption the centre of the political spectrum is static. The statistics he uses to support his position come from “a 2004 US survey”. If these few factors don’t sound your propaganda gong, I don’t know what would.

I call bullshit.

I looked the man up. Sure enough, Schweizer is a research fellow at the libertarian “think tank” (a PR industry euphemism for “intellectual-sounding propaganda disseminator”) the Hoover Institution.

In his view, women who have been too busy contemplating social justice and overpopulation to get ourselves knocked up are just too selfish to do our civic duty and make babies like decent women should. Well I say you can go ahead and fuck right off, Peter. Why have babies of my own to advance my political agenda when I can win yours over with reason?

Surely liberals – a group that traditionally includes most of society’s activists, artists, musicians, homosexuals, philosophers, adventurers and visionaries – have ALWAYS procreated at a lesser rate than undereducated rednecks. And yet with every generation the centre of the political spectrum shifts mysteriously to the left. Slavery is gone! Women vote! Racial discrimination has gone out of style! Gay couples walk the streets unashamed! Boy I’ll bet that sure sucks for you, Peter. All that hard work getting your wife to churn out extra people to advance your personal political views and all we “liberals” need to do is write a few catchy folk songs and, sooner or later, the whole world sings along.

Why is an ostensibly “Canadian” paper disseminating American propaganda anyway? The least you can do is let us have us our own damn propaganda. Call up the Fraser Institute or something. Jeez.