Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Quote of the Week

The best intelligence test is what we do with our leisure ~ Laurence J. Peter Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Feeling Confined Lately?

Some processes eat away our rights, yet we can't see them in action. We feel the pinch, but accounting for our diminished rights and happiness is elusive to most.

I was reading today about the system of Enclosure, which existed in England and Wales between the 12th to the 19th centuries. Lands, whether in common hands or private lords' hands were held in common for the use of anyone who cared to farm them. During the Tudor period especially, lords discovered they could make more from the lands by grazing sheep there. Arable lands were now pasture lands.

The Inclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries took common lands out of public hands by escheat whether they were solely from common trust or were already privately owned and used by commoners. This system reached its zenith between 1760 and 1832. Middlemarch deals with land enclosures in service of another animal, the "iron pig" of the railroad.

Marxist scholars assert the act of enclosing space extended private yeomanship and created a landless laboring class who were forced to seek work in the new industries. Those were sheparding and shearing, and, from 1780 to the 1820's, factory work.

I see a new form of enclosure happening in industrial nations. It is the kind that sneaks up on us and is so insidious that we may not see it. It is a kind of virtual enclosure for the virtual age.

There is, to start, a physical delimiting of actual space. There are fewer public places where we can speak our minds. The ancient Greeks had the agora. We really have few spaces for citizens where we can speak our minds freely at any time. You need permits for protest marches. There are few Speaker Corners (London's Hyde Park). Colleges, libraries, and meeting halls are about all we have.

If we speak our minds and displease the owners of private property, they claim the power of private property. Owners can "trespass" you (notice how trespass became a verb about 2002). You can be trespassed lately for being rude to the desk staff or for complaining about policies. This is a way of shrinking individual rights and tightening the gag on freedom of speech.

You can even be trespassed for sleeping in the public library. And have you noticed that public libraries are letting the private sector creep in? There are cafes and restaurants in libraries now. The fees on copying have risen. I was also told I would have to buy a copy card for $1, which I could keep. The librarian said, "you get three free copies. Copies are 15 cents." That begs the question: what happens to the other 55 cents? The manager told me it goes for upkeep. Shouldn't we just pay for the copies? This is a public institution bilking the public for revenue just as a private company would.

A man I know suggested the city of Boston keep out the "troublemakers" by closing off the pedestrian thoroughfare section of Washington Street and covering it with a glazed arcade, such as the Galeria Emmanuelle in Milan. Maybe we should turn Boston Common into a private park, Sir, and have Verizon sponsor it.

Have you noticed that stadiums are now sponsored by companies? There's the Verizon Wireless Arena, the Tweeter Center, Gilette Stadium. This nomenclature tells the public that companies own more and more of our world.

All those security cameras create another enclosure of space and restriction of our freedoms. Surveillance keeps us in line. We don't have the same sense of freedom of expression or mobility.

Most of us have to work harder and longer to keep up with bills. We are getting shut out of our money, property, and leisure time while the billionaires and hudreds-millionaires, the new lords, are expanding their "estates."

It is not all virtual reductions. Lords are now finding ways to reduce the property and spaces of the common people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the lords of real estate. Instead of common land enclosure, we have mortgage forclosure.

What scares me even more than those developments is the true virtuality of land-grabbing. Information, which should be free and accessible to all is now restricted in ways. For about four years after the terror of 9/11 American news networks broadcast very few stories criticizing the Bush Administration, especially over the Iraq War.

Consider that the Web was, before 2000, the equivalent of the card catalog at the library, wherein most of it was text and images related to subjects. Starting in 2000 the advertisers caught on and, since then, it is a forum for ads. No matter what subject you tap in, you are bound to get an ad that may have nothing to do with the subject. In this way the Net is eroding free thought (as long as we comply). We have to use it as the expansive tool it is.

Let's be wary of how space, whether real or virtual, is shrinking at the hands of the lords of industry. We have more to lose than vegetables.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Problem with Finances

Now, I'm no Marxist scholar, but here is how a friend of mine who is put it. He said capital must realize itself for it to work. I found the below on the Web.

The product is therefore not only a commodity, but a commodity pregnant with
surplus-value." ...

These commodities - "pregnant" now with
"surplus-value" - are "commodity capital." They must be sold - transformed into
money - to realize their "value" sufficiently not just to cover the "productive
costs" of wages, industrial materials consumed and the wear and tear of
production, but also to realize their "surplus value" sufficiently to cover the
capitalist's "unproductive costs" - such as overhead, rent, taxes, financial
expenditures - plus a profit. &

According to my friend, one problem with Capitalism is that its Capital is not going to be realized. That is because workers have less free time and smaller wages to spend. I added that workers need to be producers, but they also need to be consumers. They have less time and money to hold up the economy. We are not a big exporter, and so our markets can't expand outside our borders. We need money to be spent here, and that is falling.

I, myself, believe we will further lose our competitive edge due to the fact that workers have less free time in which to educate themselves with the skills of the new global economy. They should be taking adult ed classes, training programs, learning computer skills, and (God forbid) reading. The young are doing this, but the workforce is not only the young. We need to give more leisure time to workers for the sake of education. By the way, hobbies are productive in helping us learn.

So, more leisure time and greater wages will help us stem the loss of our economy. The key to a healthy, productive populace is a happy, rested populace. Let's start with that, and maybe later we can talk on Marx.

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Quote of the Week

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.~Thomas Henry Huxley Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Do We Really Want to be Number One?

I was reading an article in the May, 2008 issue of Boston Magazine. The Feature editorial was on power, apropos of this post. In the departments section is an amusing article called "Confessions" by Lisa Liberty Becker. It's on her own and parents opposition to all-day kindergarten in Concord, Massachusetts. It passed.

What struck me was her reference to "preschool tutoring" (page 92). What in the Hell is preschool tutoring? You know, I didn't even want to bother Googling it - sort of a tacit protest that such a monstrosity exists. I did anyhoo, and here is a preschool tutoring link. Now I can die. I've seen it all.

You may remember a feature on Nightline called "Inside the Cutthroat Preschool Wars" from 2006 on the savage competition of parents to get their children into elite preschools in San Francisco and New York City.

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker a few years ago (sorry, I couldn't locate) of one little boy telling another that he couldn't hang out with him now that Globalization has made free time more scarce.

The need to stay on top of the world is now petering down to the way we raise our children. Actually, it has since we've been on top (1918), but we always had the economic fat to fall back on. We generally left competition to Little League and that crucible of preparation for the adult rat race, high school.

But now, market forces brought on by Globalization; the rise of China and India; the Seven Tigers; and, let's not forget, the greater disparity in income distribution is causing some to throw their most precious assets into the marketplace. "My kid will have an advantage, even if it means all day kindergarten!"

Do we really want to keep up our standard of living if it means we can't enjoy life any more, are worked to the bone, and are possibly doing irreperable psychological harm to our offspring?

Maybe it's time we give up on our standard of living. Maybe it's time to get a new standard. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Where Will You Go?

I am always looking for discrepancies in religion. I think the Bible has to account for its contradictions with proper dialectics. Here's a case. If you are good, you go to Heaven when it is your time. If you are bad, well, you know. That suggests God and the Devil are parties in a kind of supernal court fighting for your soul, that they are subject to an independent system of justice. Therefore, God, wouldn't be the foremost power.

The next contradiction I found has to do with Satan. Why would he take delight in punishing evil souls? He celebrates, encourages, invites, and foments evil. He should want to promote those evil souls to demons.

Another trouble spot is in God's love. If God loves us so much, doesn't he love us in Hell? If we have free will, why can't we redeem ourselves from Hell and choose to love God? Why should our power of free will end when we depart our bodies? And why is this system finite? Systems change on Earth; they should be able to change in Heaven and Hell.

...just some thoughts Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thought of the Week

Humanity is what we practice when the pantry is full.

I said that Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Friday, August 1, 2008

Quote of the Week

Civilization is a slow process of adopting the ideas of minorities.

Herbert Prochnow Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Pat Robertson at the Forum

The Religious Right spews so much cant in the name of Jesus. You know, if they were alive at that time, they would have denounced Christ. Christ was a radical who defied Roman authority and had a new concept of wealth and human interactions. The Christain Right is composed of ultra-conservatives who try to conserve the old ways of power and of thinking. They would have followed Roman law to the Roman letter.

In Pat Robertson mimicry:

Roman friends, I want you to know that Venus loves you. And Venus loves you so much, she wants you to send 30 Derarii to The United Church of Pagan Idolatry. It will help with getting out the message to our young people to get invoved in any cults they so choose. And I want to say something about this seditious upstart Hippy, Jesus Christ. With all his talk of peace, and love, and universal brotherhood, he is corrupting the youth of Judea. Why, they are not making sacrifices any more. They're not attending orgies or vomotoria. What is happening to our morals? I haven't seen a golden cow in months.
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