Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Inalienable Right To Be Completely Useless

 1899: Chicago

"The Theory of the Leisure Class"

Economist and social critic Thorstein Veblen publishes his sociological treatise revealing the most admired traits of propertied elites: "ferocity, self-seeking, clannishness and disingenuousness - a free resort to force and fraud."

Such desirable attributes permit the wealthy to live solely to provoke envy in others. Rich "ladies" eagerly embrace a decorative standard of helpless femininity. Slinking human trophies of money to burn, these useless appendages of male egotism proudly lounge about in fur-draped passivity - perfumed, painted, powdered, and pampered. Who doesn't want one?

"Their" men dedicate themselves to pointless passions like fox-hunting and coin-collecting, diversions likewise bespeaking riches vast enough to be openly wasted. A battalion of doting servants advertises the "master's" unique freedom to limitlessly consume without doing anything useful. 

The sacred duty of the Leisure Class, instructs Veblen, is to retard social evolution and preserve the obsolete social forms that confer invidious distinction. For those of a practical turn of mind, he offers this insight into getting ahead under capitalism: "Freedom from scruple, from sympathy, honesty and regard for life, may within fairly wide limits be said to further the success of the individual in pecuniary culture."




Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, (Viking, 1967), Chapters 3 and 4

Friday, October 8, 2021

Legalienate Shocker! Wisdom Appears in a High Place . . .

"The best way to dominate and gain control over people is to spread despair and discouragement, even under the guise of defending certain values. Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion. Their share of the truth and their values are rejected and, as a result, the life of society is impoverished and subjected to the hubris of the powerful. Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and counter-charges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation."


                         ----------Pope Francis

Friday, October 1, 2021

We Are More Than Our Ethnicity, Race, Religion, Gender, and Nationality, Much More

" . . . to accept nativism is to accept the consequences of imperialism, the racial, religious, and political divisions imposed by imperialism itself. To leave the historical world for the metaphyiscs of essences like negritude, Irishness, Islam, or Catholicism is to abandon history for essentializations that have the power to turn human beings against one another; often this abandonment of the secular world has led to a sort of millenarianism if the movement has had a mass base, or it has degenerated into small-scale private craziness, or into an unthinking acceptance of stereotypes, myths, animosities, and traditions encouraged by imperialism. Such programs are hardly what great resistance movements had imagined as their goals.

 " . . . it is impossible to avoid the combative, assertive early stages in the nativist identity - they always occur: Yeats's early poetry is not only about Ireland but about Irishness - there is a good deal of promise in getting beyond them, not remaining trapped in the emotional self-indulgence of celebrating one's own identity (emphasis added). There is first of all the possibility of discovering a world not constructed out of warring essences. Second, there is the possibility of a universalism that is not limited or coercive, which believing that all people have one single identity is - that all the Irish are only Irish, Indians Indians, Africans Africans, and so on ad nauseam. Third, and most important, moving beyond nativism does not mean abandoning nationality, but it does mean thinking of local identity as not exhaustive, and therefore not being anxious to confine oneself to one's own sphere, with its ceremonies of belonging, its built-in chauvinism, and its limiting sense of security."

"In any case nativism is not the only alternative. There is the possibility of a more generous and pluralistic vision of the world, in which imperialism courses on, as it were, belatedly in different forms (the North-South polarity of our own time is one), and the relationship of domination continues, but the opportunities for liberation are open.  . . . In this phase liberation . . . is the new alternative, liberation which by its very nature involves, in Fanon's words, a transformation of social consciousness . . .. " 


--------Edward Said, Culture And Imperialism, pps. 228-230