}

Monday, May 21, 2018

Internet Wading: Think for ourselves


Now that I’m resuming Internet Wading posts, why not return to the original day, my “month day” as I set out to do four years ago? This edition has it all: Critical economic analysis, royalty, and interior decor.

The video above is the latest from Newsbroke, a product of AJ+, the digital arm of Al Jazeera Media Network. The host, Francesca Fiorentini, debunks the many rightwing myths about socialism, and in so doing exposes a truth about them: They’re mere propaganda talking points, not coherent arguments.

One of her best points is also one of the shortest: She mentions the rightwing talking point that the socialist stars among the world’s nations are small, so, therefore, socialism “can’t work” in the USA, and she points out that they’re essentially arguing that Americans can’t do “scaling up”. It was delivered in a mostly joking way—as truth often is.

Here in New Zealand, we also have rightwingers blustering loudly that “socialism doesn’t work”, etc., etc., which is absolutely hilarious considering they ALL have benefitted from and/or personally know people who have benefitted from New Zealand’s public education system, single payer national healthcare, the police, the fire service, the NZ Defence Force—I could go on and on and on, just like they do, but the facts are on my side, and they know it. They’re just spinning propaganda slogans just like the USA’s rightwing does, only maybe here there’s a less-gullible audience?

Maybe it’s just that the word socialism is too scary for Americans to even be willing to contemplate, let alone learn about or understand. Maybe they could look at the core problem.

“Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem?” was published late last year by Fast Company. It points out the sorts of the flaws in modern capitalism (or corporatism, as I call it) that most of us know, at least instinctively, along with some measures to fix a broken system.

Of course the first superstar critic (though not really in his lifetime) of capitalism was Karl Marx, a name that all by itself strikes fear, loathing and revulsion into the gut of most Americans from the just Left of Centre to the Far Right. In a piece published by Vice, Oscar Rickett explains why “Karl Marx Has Never Been More Relevant”. It turns out that those problems with capitalisam that most us know, at least instinctively, were first described or predicted by Marx. And yet few conservatives, moderates, or even traditional liberals have ever read his work—I never have, either, actually. So how can we be so sure that his work is of no value? We can’t—and we need to find out for ourselves rather than allow polemicists of any stripe dictate truth to us.

Related: "The meaning of life in a world without work" from The Guardian.

Related to all this, Caleb Crain wrote a long book review published by The New Yorker, “Is Capitalism a Threat to Democracy?” (print edition title: “Merchants of Doom”), which takes a critical look at: “The idea that authoritarianism attracts workers harmed by the free market, which emerged when the Nazis were in power, has been making a comeback.” He has issues with the book, and some of the underlying ideas, but also reinforces some. Put another way, readers are required to think about the topic themselves—these days a far more radical proposition.

Enough with all this thinking about the economic perils in front of us, let’s instead breathe the rarified air of royalty: The Royal Wedding. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t popular about Leftists, even here in New Zealand, where Queen Elizabeth is Head of State:


I’ve followed Morgan on Twitter for years, and have traded the occasional Tweet with him. Sometimes I disagree with him, most times I agree with him, at least in part. In this particular case, I thought he was a bit churlish, although, as another person I follow said in reply, “More than fair enough – but honestly, I've been muting folks who feel obliged to slide into my mentions to 'splain me about an institution whose flaws and abuses I'm perfectly well aware of. Thanks for not doing that.” Yeah, I suppose there’s that. To which Morgan replied, “Fair enough too. I mean, we all deserve some spectacles, and we can participate without being dupes about it,” which I thought was a better point than his original Tweet.

Another person (who I don’t follow, so no link) replied: “Yes, but the power of the symbolism – the mother descended from slaves watching her daughter marry the brother of the future king. Whatever the crimes of history, the message was in that moment.” And that, to me was the more balanced perspective.

A NZ Leftist said on Facebook, “Not watching the Royal wedding although I like them both and wish them well. I don't feel comfortable watching such extravagance (paid by the UK taxpayers I understand) while others live in poverty,” and adding later in a comment, “And if there weren't people living in poverty and important health and social services being cut by Tories the tax payers expense wouldn't bother me."

All of that suggests that some NZ Leftists hold more nuanced views on the event than it may sometimes seem. But there were things about the wedding that should cheer the Left’s bleeding hearts, not the least the American bishop preachifying to the staid royals and stiff upper lip upper class folks in attendance. But there were also smaller details, like this: “Why the electric Jaguar at the royal wedding was a symbolic step forward”. I actually had no idea that the Jag was electric: Our news evening bulletin yesterday didn’t mention it. But, I DO think it mattered.

Enough with Royal Weddings, royal arguments AND economics, time for something unimportant: “The Biggest Decor Trends The Year You Were Born,” which was published by Elle Decor in 2016. I just saw it today, when it showed up on my Facebook newsfeed, and after clicking through all the photos, I knew I wanted to share it. Economics? Sure. Politics? Of course. Current events? Yep. I like all those things. But I may like history—cultural and pop cultural history especially—just a little bit more. These days it’s a little less contentious, too—unless we argue over whether a particular look is awful or wonderful, but the “entire world” is already arguing over laurel v. yanny, so maybe we can skip decor arguments—this time.

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