Uggh More Economic Woes

And the economy continues tanking. Northwest announced layoffs for 2500 workers, in all sectors of the company, ranging from pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants. Of course no union is putting up a fight because as I said before, airline unions don’t care or can’t put up a fight. Steve and Barry’s, a cheap clothing store with high end brands, is going into bankruptcy, perhaps full liquidation. Apparently its business strategy of loans, loans, and irrational growth was a smart idea. Despite racking in 1.1 Billion in annual sales, the company can’t pay its creditors. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are precipitously loosing value.

Once again the economy doesn’t seem to like normal people. At the first sign of trouble its layoffs, liquidations and attacks on one of the few low cost mortgage avenues. Though of course, no one is saying anything about it. The economy is hurting but, its “hurting” everyone. This is why when you read the newspaper they typically spend most of their time interviewing small businesspeople, not workers. Small businessmen typify that “middle class,” “middle America” resilient American citizen. It is funny how we all splurge for these people when by and large; hurting small businesspeople take it out on their employees. Gas goes up? Another get the axe.

In any movement of working people, we need to be wary of small businesspeople. They will always try to moderate the movement and turn it into some bland populism.   As capitalists, they want to join the big time owners.  They look at Warren Buffet types and orgasm all over themselves.  However the big capitalists are often throwing them out of their club, harming their business with big competition or even putting them out of business sending them back into the working class.  Thus its best to imagine small businesspeople as the big bully’s errand boy.  He thinks he’s big shit cause he’s in with big Murphy.  He idolizes big Murphy like a father.  But Murphy is always abusing him and making fun of him, sometimes ignoring him for weeks at a time.  Its an abusive relationship to say the least.

So what does this mean?  Well errand boy Jimmy really to kick down and to kiss up.  He domineers the little children, but damn, he knows when to tow Murphy’s line.  But when Murphy is being especially testy, Jimmy bands together with the other little kids to make demands on Murphy and Murphy usually accedes to those demands.  Of course those demands usually don’t help anyone but Jimmy.  And then after a few weeks, when Murphy has stroked Jimmy’s ego a bit, Jimmy goes back to being a little shit, kicking down and kissing up.

Teachers of the World Unite!

I’m still in Uni, but I’ve been contemplating becoming a high school (A levels and GCSE for you brits) teacher. I was curious what folk’s thoughts were on anti-authoritarians, anarchists, radicals etc. in the education field? The knee jerk reaction of most “anarychists” is to attack anyone that’s a teacher, because well, they’re”brainwashing” the kids and “telling them what to do.” Though I disagree. In many ways I think organizing in the teaching sector is as paramount as organizing in the military, in that it can serve to subvert fundamental functions of social control in a number of ways. Here’s a semi detailed list that I’ve come up with so far.

1. Secondary Education is the prime tool in the indoctrination of future workers and young workers into a system of hierarchy and exploitation. This is where we take young idealistic children and turn them into little automatons. Thus it’s important to have educators that utilize a radical pedagogy. By this I mean a classroom that encourages critical thinking and dispels various social myths. They can stop most of the “official story” from ever getting into these kids.

2. Anarchist educators can provide organizing resources to their students. They can hand down hard learnt lessons of organizing and struggle to help kids set up mass organizations and campaigns centered around student and youth concerns. Draconian security? Exhaustive standardized testing? Well, then its time to get those kids a “Troublemaker’s Handbook” and help them fight the power!

Any kind of collective action at that age can build up a sense of confidence in both the student and in young folk’s ability to make collective change. I know that when I was in high school, not long ago, our main problem was that we had no conception of direct action struggle. We funneled our frustrations into advocacy, or small subversive propaganda groups. I tried both, neither worked.

3. Education is a huge industry, growing by the minute. Capital is demanding higher and higher levels of qualifications for ever more menial jobs. Education is an industry we are sure will exist for the indefinite future. It’s not getting outsourced and it’s not getting any smaller. A strong network of anarchist and radical teachers can affiliate with other militant workers in the education sector, building real industrial strength. This not only builds class consciousness and militancy, but creates a mutually beneficial relationship between students and workers. Workers strike to help students walk out, and student riot to help workers picket. Most importantly, it sends a clear message to young folk that class struggle is universal and will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

4. Teachers get a long summer vacations every year. While a radical teacher could use this time for leisure, tutoring for extra money, travel etc. He or she could also use it as a resource for the class structure. Teachers are specially positioned to provide the volunteer hours necessary to build up new projects, and to support ongoing struggles.

I’ve often thought of creating a network of alternate summer programs for working class children. Something like a radical day camp/youth center. It would be structured on the Modern school movement of Francisco Ferrer. Children would self manage the curriculum, devoting learning and play according to their own wants and needs. With our summers free, militant teachers could provide the critical mass to get this project off the ground. Of course just providing extra bodies on picket lines, meetings, and other day to day needs of any people’s struggle, is a great advantage in and of itself.

Our Friends at Starbucks

Here comes the crunch! Starbucks has finally ended its pattern of cancerous growth. Today, they announced the closing of 500 stores and a possible 100 more, along with the termination of 7% of its workforce. As I once stated, this will probably shoot up its stock and the Wall Street Journal agrees.

The store closures are likely to please Wall Street, which has called for more store shutdowns and swifter spending cuts.

So what does this represent? Well it is the culmination of Starbuck’s general strategy. They have expanded and expanded throughout the US as if they were some kind of monstrous blob. But now that they’ve devoured the whole country and eviscerated their competitors, Starbucks is loosing profitability in some of its stores. This is not a surprise since they deliberately over saturate an area in order to drive out competitors. Starbucks directly owns its stores so branches don’t have to make money to stay in business. Now that most of its competitors have either died or adapted, Starbucks no longer needs its excess stores or its excess employees. The article concurs.

But last year, as Starbucks sales began to soften, it became clear that the company’s growth was cannibalizing its sales in a way that was threatening the chain’s success, as well as causing the quality at existing locations to slip. Analysts have said that Starbucks lowered the bar on selecting new locations in recent years.

This is oh so hilarious, as Starbucks has long clung to its reputation as one of the “best” places to work. Of course the kind folks at the IWW beg to differ. They’ve been organizing Starbucks locations for years now, with varying degrees of success. But one thing is always the same; Starbucks comes in to brutally bust that union as fast as a cheetah shot out of a cannon.

Starbucks never did and never will care about its baristas. People have deluded themselves into viewing this as some sort of benign company. No company is benign. Capitalism, no matter the form, is always exploitative. Often the friendliest of corporate images cover up the most sinister of corporate practices.

All the Time in the World

Here’s an essay on the modern manipulation of time and its affects on regular people. It’s a bit grandiose sounding, but it was written for a literary magazine, so cut me some slack.

Yesterday I committed a great modern day sin; I forgot my watch. Not just any watch, this was my Casio “waveceptor”, a digital and analog wristwatch complete with a daily radio update from the atomic clock in Colorado. It’s not an especially expensive watch but it is imperative that I remember to carry it with me at all times. Why? Because without the ability to reliably tell time, I can’t function in this society and neither can you. Modern industrial society dictates that we all must be wary of the time at all times. We as a civilization have become time obsessed. We’ve subdivided our days and nights into progressively smaller chunks of regulated and restricted time. Without a direct connection to this time matrix we’re left adrift in a complex dance we don’t know or understand the moves to.

The measurement and regulation of time is the driving force in any modern industrial society. So much so that modern societies break down most all-natural elements of time and in their dust create new and far more intricate groupings of minutes, seconds and nanoseconds. In earlier epochs life was measured and largely regulated by the seasons, day and night, the shape of the moon etc. You sew the fields in spring, ate salted fish during the winter and harvested the crops in the fall. When it was day you were awake and when it was night you would go to sleep. All very simple things.

Yet with the continuous evolution of civilization, time became more and more artificial. Soon religious holidays and days of religious observance were introduced by the priest or shaman caste. You had to worship in this way on this date at this time. That is if you didn’t want the gods to smite you. Then the state got involved and started dictating that citizens perform this duty (normally forced labor of some sort) for a certain period of time and that x group of people must attend schooling for y number of years. Finally with the introduction of commerce, the rule of the market dictated that people show up to work at this time, eat lunch at another time and leave for home at a later time.

All of these changes are quite minor in comparison to the current state of things. Our status quo is the complete management of time and the definitive meaning of that time. That is to say that in our modern society all time is an artificial vacuum, in which each second is measured and counted so that every waking moment of our lives is spent in some of predetermined activity at some predetermined hour. It’s a not a hard thing to observe if you look out for it. First examine how our means of production have smashed all natural signs of time. What ever happened to the night? In all other ages of human development, day and night held near hegemonic sway. Now the night is a mere annoyance, a nuisance to be fought off with headlights and batteries. We could live in a underground bunker and feel little different if that was what was required of us. It might be a bit psychologically offsetting, but we could deal. For those of us in “modern society”, the concept of seasons is on the way out too. Remember how people used to get cold during the winter? Even in their homes? And how during the summer people actually wore pants and heavy woolen clothing? Nowadays you pop the thermostat up or down and all is right with the realm. Oh sure you wear coat or a T-shirt when you’re out “braving the elements”, but so long as you stay within the artificial confines of the human “habitat” and keep on playing halo, you wouldn’t know the difference.

Without the normal barriers and guideposts the natural world provides us, society has unceasingly drove towards a time that is ever more complex and ever more controlled. Think about any portion of your typical day. You wake up at a prearranged time regardless of the weather or the absence of sunlight. You do so, not because you want to wake up, but because it has been declared that you must wake up this time each day in order to arrived at school at your correct prearranged “start time”. If this time clashes with your “life” you’re most probably scolded and eventually punished by those who set the “start time”. Meanwhile in school you spend your hours situated in a series of uniform blocks of time in specified and predetermined subjects. English 8th period, government 9th period math 10th period etc.etc.etc. Once more, if you do not follow this appropriate time frame, you are singled out and targeted by those in authority.

After school you go to work, and begin your “shift”. You may or may not spend specified periods of time within this “shift’ doing various assigned tasks. You might even get some “break time” which is exactly 15 minutes long, no more, no less. After ours of drudgery you finally reach quitting time at which it is acceptable to “clock out”. Of course if you violate any of these time regulations you face stiff sanctions. Nobody wants anyone to come in late or take off early.

Most telling is the concept of “free time”. Free time is possibly the most deceptive of lures that our controlling forces have thrown in our face. “Don’t worry!” we’re told. ”You’ll have plenty of free time once work is over,” This is unadulterated bull. In a modern industrial society there is no free time. All chunks of time already have predetermined lengths and predetermined social meanings. Free time is that time you think is ‘free’, but actually is more akin to indirect control by same societal forces that already directly control all other aspects of your life. Examine any portion of your “free” time and notice how much of that free time was spent either consuming commercial products, or consuming commercial entertainment. Most people would say that the vast majority of their free time is spent in this manner.

And yet where is the freedom in that? Buying consumer products feeds the engine of commerce, the same engine that already controls your workday and work schedule. How is this time ‘free’ if we spend it feeding the forces of oppression? Watching entertainment is not much better. Where’s the freedom and originally in using all your time and scheduling your whole night, around the public relations spewing of commercial entities? Are you really free when you spend every Monday at 10 PM watching “Medium”? What’s so bad about all of this is that of all these favored pastime activities, few can be enjoyed for free? Last I noticed Loews Cinema costs 20 dollars for a ticket with some popcorn and soda, how much does it cost to feel a truly enriching experience? 2,000? 20,000? Unless you’re someone that sets the meaning of time (Corporate executives, the pope, the president, etc.) you don’t have much of a chance to earn that kind of money.

Now please don’t take this as a wholesale assault on the idea of time. Time is the 5th dimension of space. It’s a universal concept; you can’t just throw it away. However the complete hegemony of artificial time and artificially defined time is something that we as a society must address. Time is all that we have and to mismanage it for the benefit of a religious/state/corporate elite is the greatest crime against the human spirit. A truly free and prosperous society must acknowledge the need for extensive free time. Not a free time that merely mimics freedom but in reality bolsters the forces of control. But a freedom of the most exalted sort, where you can feel enthused and enriched every minute and every second. You may call it utopian, but what have you got to loose? More “free” time?

When Nobody Turns Up at the Ballot Box

Via radgeek, I discovered that the little town of Pillsbury, North Dakota recorded 0 votes this June. That’s right; the municipal elections garnered a hefty 0 percent turnout. This brought a nice smile to my face. Mind you, it’s a town of 24 residents, and the candidates were unopposed, but zero votes? The candidates were so lazy that they didn’t even vote for themselves!

What’s interesting is that the article doesn’t seem to care that the turnout was a goose egg. Its best summed up by the Pillsbury mayor:

“I presume things will stay the same,” Brudevold said. “We’re just a little village, and when you’re elected to one of those jobs, well, once you get it, you got it.”

Yeah, who cares? Cuase well, you know, there’s nothing wrong when the government is so pointless that even the candidates won’t vote. Either the citizenry has so little faith that they want nothing to do with the state, or the town charter is so pointless that no one can be bothered. I think we’ve got a bit of both.

On the Poverty of Suburban Unemployment: Why it sucks

Getting stuck at home for long periods of time is pretty enlightening. I guess having no money does that. Makes everything real clear. For awhile now I’ve fancied myself something of an absurdist. I savor in the idea that if the universe is absurd, that there is no real meaning, then we are radically free to choose and create the meaning for our self. The world becomes ours in a way that you don’t get with typical Christianity or any organized religion. I’ve always dovetailed this absurdism with a bit of Marx. Marx always pointed out that humans have an almost innate need to create and to do. It was our “species being” to sit there amongst the world and take action to change shit in some way

When you combine the two, I believe that you find something approaching a “human nature” or at least a general tendency. Humans find their meaning in whatever they wish. But in order to find that meaning they have to take action. They have to create that meaning, not just plot it out. Getting stuck here at home has brought this bit into relief. After a couple weeks of fruitless job searching I had already lost a lot of drive. I was stuck at home with very little to do, especially since most of my old friends were out of town. I live in an area that’s designed to keep out fun. People come here to raise kids and to grow old, but nothing in between. Young adults have very little in the way entertainment around here. The political message behind this is all very clear. Don’t think, don’t do, just stay isolated in your consumption. I’m gonna post more that a bit later.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to take action. I couldn’t really do anything. Sure I could write and read but I could not put my ideas into practice. I was brainstorming my meaning, but not living it. I was denying my species being. I was party to a general malaise, I just felt like blah. I didn’t feel strongly about anything. Of course it wasn’t some silly emo “zomg I’m depressed” moment it was just generalized anxiety. I couldn’t emotionally care, I was the same intellectually, but the wind had been taken out of my sails. Only after starting this blog, and working on some other projects have I suddenly felt a return to form. This is pretty obvious proof that absurdist/marxist POV. While I can chart whatever course of meaning I like, that course has no substance, no action behind it. It becomes another sterile intellectual pursuit, which explains a lot about most intellectuals. No wonder they’re so much like cold fish.

Meaning is intrinsically tied to emotion and action in life. We forget that cold logic gets us nowhere without emotion. It tells us what we want, and that’s the basis for most of our decisions. Anything we strive for in life, all the momentum comes from feeling. That’s why organizer is so important to any radical. Yes struggle is logical and clearly a necessity. But there’s an emotional component that’s also required. There are plenty of armchair Marxists and even a few armchair anarchists and by large, they don’t have the passion or the fervor for real revolutionary change. That requires hard, messy organizing because that hard messy organizing makes our ideas relevant. It creates the meaning behind them. Without experience in the trenches all our ideals will fall apart. We have to keep ourselves sharp and that means building what we want to see. For if we just sit around talking about it and writing missives, we’re doomed to disillusionment.