fragments of an attempted writing.

120 years ago today...




From Wiki:


The Coal Creek War was an armed labor uprising that took place primarily in Anderson County, in the American state of Tennessee, in the early 1890s. The struggle began in 1891 when coal mine owners in the Coal Creek watershed attempted to replace free coal miners with convicts leased out by the state government. Over a period of just over a year, the free miners continuously attacked and burned prison stockades and company buildings, hundreds of convicts were freed, and dozens of miners and militiamen were killed or wounded in small-arms skirmishes. One historian describes the conflict as "one of the most dramatic and significant episodes in all American labor history."[1]

The Coal Creek War was part of a greater struggle across Tennessee against the state's controversial convict-leasing system, which allowed the state to lease its convicts to mining companies to compete with free labor. The outbreak of the conflict touched off a partisan media firestorm between the miners' supporters and detractors, and brought the issue of convict leasing to the public eye. Although the uprising essentially ended with the arrests of hundreds of miners in 1892, the publicity it generated led to the downfall of Governor John P. Buchanan, and forced the state to reconsider the convict-leasing system.[2] In 1896, when its convict-lease contracts expired, Tennessee's state government refused to renew them, making it one of the first Southern states to end the controversial practice.



...On October 28, 1891, the committee representing the Coal Creek miners' interests announced they were resigning, denounced the legislature, and issued a subtle call to arms. Shortly thereafter, on October 31, a group of miners burned the TCMC stockade at Briceville and seized the Knoxville Iron Company stockade at Coal Creek. Several company buildings were destroyed or looted, but the stockade was spared. Over 300 convicts were freed and supplied with fresh food civilian clothes by the insurgents who urged the convicts not to commit any more crimes. On November 2, another group burned the stockade at Oliver Springs, freeing 153 convicts. In response to the outbreak, a second truce was negotiated in which the miners agreed to allow the return of convicts to Coal Creek and Oliver Springs, but not Briceville, TCMC president B.A. Jenkins had grown disgruntled with convict labor. The state dispatched eighty-four militiamen under the command of J. Keller Anderson to guard the convict stockade at Coal Creek and a small force to guard the one at Oliver Springs. Anderson constructed Fort Anderson atop what came to be known as "Militia Hill", overlooking Coal Creek via the Walden Ridge water gap, which was outfitted with a gatling gun, and the convicts returned to the Coal Creek Valley on January 31, 1892.[7]

Relations between the militiamen, most of whom were from Middle or West Tennessee, and the people of Coal Creek soured quickly. Merrell wrote to Governor Buchanan complaining of the troops' behavior, and for several months miners and soldiers indiscriminately shot at one another, with both sides blaming the other for provoking it.[7] In the meantime, Merrell and TCMC president Jenkins had made amends, and the two began promoting a new cooperative style of mining operations favorable to both miners and managers. By Summer 1892, dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including the New York Times, the Alabama Sentinel, and Harper's Weekly, had sent correspondents to the Coal Creek region to cover the conflict. Sentiment was initially pro-miner, although as violent outbreaks continued and militiamen were killed, sentiment began to shift.[3] The Nashville Banner called the miners "thieves, robbers, ruffians, and outlaws,"[1] while the Chattanooga Republican accused the state legislature of being "inhuman."[1] The two Knoxville papers, the Journal and the Tribune, initially praised the miners' decisiveness and derided the government's ineffectiveness, but their sentiments shifted after the stockades were burned in October 1891.[6][7]









Why do desperate third-wayers prefer Blonds?



After reading the (inevitably socially conservative Christian, usually Catholic) distributists get orgasmic after the publication of this fanciful article, I was pleased to read this on Phillip Blond, archsleazeballtory.

I'm not sure if the Mormon family values award given to a perpetual womanizer or the Playboy upholstery is my favorite bit, but surely the most telling with regard to the man's actual convictions about how wealth should be distributed is this:


Poorly paid staff had to wait for several weeks to be paid, while Blond withdrew £160,000 from the company in one year.


The Daily Mail has another good prowling pic of Blond here.

The conservatives in the UK are calling the demise of Red Toryism because of the scandals.

But let's remember the good ol' days:

Catholicmoraltheology.com praises Blond for his view which promotes "the Christian emphasis on creating a society with a shared sense of the common good within strong, local communities where an ethos of trust, mutuality, and an equitable distribution of resources and goods are valued."  If jet setting to meet hotties at a Sharm El Sheikh resort ain't a commitment to localism, what is?

The poor little Distributist Review loves Blond (he gets referenced there a fair amount).  For instance, John Médaille likes Blond's view that "the re-capitalization of the poor is the most pressing from the distributist point of view."  One can imagine Blond pelvic gesturing and shouting "re-capitalize this, bitches!!" at his unpaid staff as he heads off to catch the plane to Brazil.

OK, OK, I should quit while I'm ahead.

Pope Michael, that Southern peacock loving writer I'm not really that fond of, capitalist realism, ephemera...



You may recall that Thomas Frank devoted a fair chunk of What's the Matter with Kansas? to this guy, whose given name is David Bawden.

His website is here.

Bawden, in my mind, is an interesting case study in the interplay of social fragmentation and social homogeneity.  Watching this, I was struck at how similar Bawden's mannerisms and his approach to religion is to fundamentalist Protestants I knew in my youth and traditionalist Catholics and traditionalist Eastern Orthodox I met later in life.  There is no doubt a separatist homogeneity in American religious life (a social phenomenon which Martin Marty has written a great deal about).   At the same time, this corresponds with more and more "formal" fragmentation.

My thoughts on this matter are off the cuff and unfinished, so take this as a draft of sorts - I am initially inclined to wonder if there is not an operative milieu, or perhaps a social condition even, that is typical in the more fervent expressions of American libertarian tendencies - a drive to, unwittingly, embrace social patterns that are strikingly homogeneous, while at the same time the breaking down into ever more clarified and parameter laden camps.  Even in mainstream religion one sees this tendency among those with a "libertarian ethos."  Within, say, the Roman Catholic Church you have conservatives and traditionalists of various stripes who embrace social patterns very similar to their correspondent types in other communions.  Thus a neo-con/neo-Cath in American Catholicism shares mannerisms and habits and displays a lifestylization that is very, very similar to neo-cons within Eastern Orthodoxy, neo-cons within conservative Protestant groups, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, neo-cons within Judaism.  Libertarians in the RCC, EOC, Prot groups, etc., also tend toward this sort of easily categorized and objectively recognizable homogeneity.  Of course the same can be said of leftists and petit-bourgeois liberals across the religious spectrum, but this is less remarkable as they don't stress separatism or "rugged" individualism.

In certain Christian circles there is the tendency to view this sort of fellow as a Flannery O'Connor type character.  I don't think this is correct.

 I have met a number of people raised in banal Christian middle class suburban settings (or those aspirant to such and able to keep themselves in some other form of saccharine social bubble) who ascribe Flannery O'Connor characterization to a wide array of eccentrics, which of course is a result of their inability to parse eccentricity - a given considering the human poverty of their life experiences.   Bawden, at least as he is presented to us in the media which describes and portrays him, is not a Flannery O'Connor eccentric for any number of reasons.  First and foremost the internet changes the whole game.  Flannery O'Connor eccentrics are particular and localized in their eccentricity.  Bawden seems genericized, and I can't help but think that the internet has something to do with this (though he did start his religious process that led to his enthronement prior to the internet).  Bawden, at least as we know him via mass media, is also a hell of a lot more boring and more mundane than an O'Connor character.

But the point for those who would O'Connorize any analysis of human eccentricity and quirkiness is that it, whether explicitly or implicitly, ascribes some sort of goodness and humanness to said eccentricity and quirkiness.  It's as if pretty much any hardcore eccentricity in this day in age represents a good akin to the good of an O'Connor eccentric.  That is a mistake.  Bawden gets things exactly wrong.  Where he is united with others (his homogeneity) he is a cookie cut product of the more mundane mechanisms of capitalism - the guy has virtually no personality outside of that given to him through mass media and a culture with a rather unmitigated relationship to mainstream mass media.  Where he is separated from people is his "formal" life - he and his flock of 50 throughout the world are the remnant set apart by God whose puny existence effectively renders the rest of the world hell fodder.  So Bawden is, by volition, formally excluded from 7 billion people, sans 50 or so, in a formality that is both ridiculous and serious, while informally very much united with the masses around him, via his and their consumption and formation in capitalist realism.

Human beings should be exactly the opposite.  They should be at least inclined toward (even if just intuitively) a formal unity with all other humans if not "formally" united to all of humanity (and there are any number of ways in which a person might do this in a manner that is essentially the opposite of Bawden's "formal" separation from nearly all human beings) and at the same time express their personal uniqueness and individual temperament and manner and interests via their choices of consumption and production and labor.  I am not here suggesting that this is easily done in a late capitalist context.  Perhaps it is most accurate to say that it is not really possible, and thus the social pathologies of the type Bawden embraces seem to be inevitable.  I wonder if the drive for increased fragmentation with regard to formal ties to society and humanity is in part a desperate attempt to be able to choose something that is perceived to be unique or idiosyncratic or radically subjective (and at the same time providing meta-level meaning).  Following Mark Fisher's logic in a post below, most people today intuit (at least) that their choices for this alternative music or that indy film or some organic food product or some other marco-beer to reject the microbeer are not essentially free expressions of human personality and temperament but are (to some significant degree) choices made in a context of capitalist mechanisms of manipulation and the homo consumericus social formation behind that.  Perhaps the person doesn't even care about all that or has never thought of it, as Bawden seems not to.  He just likes him some Jeopardy and Numbers like everybody else likes something of the sort.  He doesn't have and can't get actual personal expression and actual  individuality in his TV choices, or with regard to what he eats, or how he speaks, or his conceptions on culture and society and so forth.  His day to day activities like TV watching and eating and talk of society/politics/economics aren't going to be too much different from other rural Kansans/Americans and they are going to be formed by the same "outside" self-interested and manipulating forces.  But, he gets that radical subjectivity moderns hunger for elsewhere, in his papal white dress, his flock which seems to mostly connect via correspondence and online, his homespun marshmellow chapel, and his smugly watching 7 billion souls head toward an eternity of divinely appointed torture as God spares Pope Michael's twoscore and ten.  Of course, with regard to many of these impulses, Bawden really isn't that different from a disturbing number of American Christians - "formally" separated, but a religious psychology and impulse cut from the same cloth.

capitalist realism and rap. and beer.

This post by El P reminded me of this passage in Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?:


…For most people under twenty in Europe and North America, the lack of alternatives to capitalism is no longer even an issue.  Capitalism seamlessly occupies the horizons of the unthinkable.  Jameson used to report in horror about the ways that capitalism had seeped into the very unconscious; now, the fact that capitalism has colonized the dreaming life of the population is so taken for granted that it is no longer worthy of comment.  It would be dangerous and misleading to imagine that the near past was some prelapsarian state rife with political potentials, so it’s as well to remember the role that commodification played in the production of culture throughout the twentieth century.  Yet the old struggle between detournement and recuperation, between subversion and incorporation, seems to have been played out.  What we are dealing with now is not the incorporation of materials that previously seemed to possess subversive potentials, but instead, their precorporation:  the pre-emptive formatting and shaping of desires, aspirations and hopes by capitalist culture.  Witness, for instance, the establishment of settled ‘alternative’ or ‘independent’ cultural zones, which endlessly repeat older gestures of rebellion and contestation as if for the first time.  ‘Alternative’ and ‘independent’ don’t designate something outside mainstream culture; rather, they are styles, in fact the dominant styles, within the mainstream.  No-one embodied (and struggled with) this deadlock more than Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.  In his dreadful lassitude and objectless rage, Cobain seemed to give wearied voice to the despondency of the generation that had come after history, whose every move was anticipated, tracked, bought and sold before it had even happened.  Cobain knew that he was just another piece of spectacle, that nothing runs better on MTV than a protest against MTV; knew that his every move was a cliché scripted in advance, knew that even realizing it was a cliché.  The impasse that paralyzed Corbain is precisely the one that Jameson described: like postmodern culture in general, Cobain found himself in ‘a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, [where] all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum’.  Here, even success meant failure, since to succeed would only mean that you were the new meat on which the system could feed.  But the high existential angst of Nirvana and Cobain belongs to an older moment; what succeeded them was a pastiche-rock which reproduced the forms of the past without anxiety.

Cobain’s death confirmed the defeat and incorporation of rock’s utopian and promethean ambitions.  When he died, rock was already being eclipsed by hip hop, whose global success has presupposed just the kind of precorporation by capital which I alluded to above.  For much hip hop, any ‘naïve’ hope that youth culture could change anything has been replaced by the hardheaded embracing of a brutally reductive version of ‘reality’.  ‘In hip hop’, Simon Reynolds pointed out in a 1996 essay in The Wire magazine,

‘real’ has two meanings.  First, it means authentic, uncompromised music that refuses to sell out to the music industry and soften its message for crossover.  ‘Real’ also signifies that the music reflects a ‘reality’ constituted by late capitalist economic instability, institutionalized racism, and increased surveillance and harassment of youth by the police.  ‘Real’ means the death of the social: it means corporations who respond to increased profits not by raising pay or improving benefits but by …downsizing (the laying-off the permanent workforce in order to create a floating employment pool of part-time and freelance workers without benefits of job security).

In the end, it was precisely hip hop’s performance of this first version of the real – ‘the uncompromising’ – that enabled its easy absorption into the second, the reality of late capitalist economic instability, where such authenticity has proven highly marketable.  Gangster rap neither merely reflects pre-existing social conditions, as its critics argue – rather the circuit whereby hip hop and the late capitalist social field feed into each other is one of the means by which capitalist realism transforms into a kind of anti-mythical myth.  The affinity between hip hop and gangster movies such as Scarface, The Godfather films, Reservoir Dogs, Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction arises from their common claim to have stripped the world of sentimental illusions and seen it for ‘what is really is’: A Hobbesian war of all against all, a system of perpetual exploitation and generalized criminality.  In hip hop, Reynolds writes, ‘To “get real” is to confront a state-of-nature where dog eats dog, where you’re either a winner or loser, and where most will be losers’.

…[In the case of gangster rap], capitalist realism takes the form of a kind of super-identification with capital at its most pitilessly predatory, but this need not be the case.  In fact, capitalist realism is very far from precluding a certain anti-capitalism.  After all, and as Žižek has provocatively pointed out, anti-capitalism is widely disseminated in capitalism.  Time after time, the villain in Hollywood films will turn out to be the ‘evil corporation’.  Far from undermining capitalist realism, this gestural anti-capitalism actually reinforces it.  Take Disney/Pixar’s Wall-E (2008).  The film shows an earth so despoiled that human beings are no longer capable of inhabiting it.  We’re left in no doubt that consumer capitalism and corporations  - or rather one mega-corporation, Buy n Large – is responsible for this depredation; and when we eventually see the human beings in offworld exile, they are infantile and obese, interacting via screen interfaces, carried around in large motorized chairs, and supping indeterminate slop from cups.  What we have here is a vision of control and communication much as Jean Baudrillard understood it, in which subjugation no longer takes the form of a subordination to an extrinsic spectacle, but rather invites us to interact and participate.  It seems that the cinema audience is itself the object of this satire, which prompted some right wing observers to recoil in disgust, condemning Disney/Pixar for attacking its own audience.  But this kind of irony feeds rather than challenges capitalist realism.  A film like Wall-E exemplifies what Robert Pfaller has called ‘interpassivity’: the film performs our anti-capitalism for us, allowing us to continue to consume with impunity.  The role of capitalist ideology is not to make an explicit case for something in the way that propaganda does, but to conceal the fact that the operations of capital do not depend on any sort of subjectively assumed belief.  It is impossible to conceive of fascism or Stalinism without propaganda – but capitalism can proceed perfectly well, in some ways better, without anyone making a case for it.  


- bold emphases mine.

Fisher goes a little stodgy old white British guy with his take on hip hop and "gangster rap" here, but aside from that I like his points.  I wonder about the phenomenon of white suburbanite kids listening to the more extreme rap - is this a phenomena wherein they are listening to the mainstreamed presentation of a message that is framed as non-mainstream and representative of experiences outside of capitalist success (even as the rap artists are successful businessmen or trying hard to be) - an act of listening and consumption which is intuited to offer some sort of 'corrective' or mimetic recapitulation via empathy that (so the intuition goes) enables the suburban white youth to get an 'authentic' taste of 'real' humanity (thus escaping the banality of his suburban existence) by embracing this 'fuck the man' message of a man getting paid well by the man?  Of course such an activity prepares that white suburban youth to become a good servant of a corporation, even as the youth 'feels' the very opposite.

So many fully operative contradictions, leaving us embracing what we didn't mean to embrace at all.

Now think of the hipster PBR drinking phenomenon (next it will be trust fund kids making a point of hanging out at Walmart on Friday nights) - because drinking microbrews carried an anti-macrobrew self-awareness to it that was easily co-opted and capitalized upon, you have the phenomenon of hipsters drinking macrobrews to reject the microbeer drinking qua social rejection of macrobrews.  The important thing isn't the beer, it's the rejection, which, of course, is nothing more or less than an embrace.  Now, I have friends who will protest "I've always enjoyed both macro and micro beers - I've always embraced both!"  [They usually follow this up with the apples and oranges language - They like each for different reasons, etc., sort of like how these same folks wear Levi's for one occasion and Dockers for another.]  Great, in the end you've drunk a lot of both macro and micro beer, as has the hipster, drinking micro in his first rejection and macro in his second (or more than likely drinking both all the time like you, the micro to suit his bobo tastes and the macro to suit his fashion, changing rejections to suit the occasion).   The perceived social/commercial "tensions" between macro and micro beers, and even the consumer choices "between" the two, are superficial.  The choice between macro and micro beers is a new variation on the "tastes great! less filling!" debate - it is a "debate," a social/commercial tension, manufactured to increase sales - no matter what you choose, your money goes to capitalists who sell a product, and whose one immutable goal is to make a profit selling a product.

red flag hymnography



Jim Connell, the Irish Socialist, wrote the labour anthem The Red Flag during the London Dock Strike of 1889.  

For you religion and labor movement trivia buffs - that strike saw the heavy involvement of Cardinal Manning and was indicative of the coming turn of the Catholic Church toward labor which would be somewhat codified in 1891's papal encyclical Rerum Novarum.  Of course, that encyclical states that capital and labor need each other and defends capitalist conceptions of property, and it started a now 120 year old Catholic tradition of barking at capitalism without biting it, a tradition still going strong this very day.  Hilaire Belloc was 19 years old when the London Dock Strike occurred and he was close to Manning.  This no doubt influenced  Belloc's later distributivism, which is perhaps the most sentimental take on the reform of capital ever concocted.

Anyway, back to Connell.

You'll note that The Red Flag is sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum.  Connell wanted it sung to the tune of The White Cockade.   I think that the lyrics work well with either tune, but I think I might prefer it sung to The White Cockade.

Connell was born in 1852 in County Meath, in the village Kilskyre, north of Kells.  He was an IRB member, a docker, and a union organizer and later a labor journalist.  He died in 1929 in South London, where he is buried.

From his memorial stone in Meath, with verse Connell wrote:

Oh, grant me an ownerless corner of earth,
Or pick me a hillock of stones,
Or gather the wind wafted leaves of the trees
To cover my socialist bones,
Jim Connell

Absalom


I first discovered what was killing these men.
I had three sons who worked with their father in the tunnel:
Cecil, aged 23, Owen, aged 21, Shirley, aged 17.
They used to work in a coal mine, not steady work
for the mines were not going much of the time.
A power Co. foreman learned that we made home brew,
he formed a habit of dropping in evenings to drink,
persuading the boys and my husband—
give up their jobs and take this other work.
It would pay them better.
Shirley was my youngest son; the boy.
He went into the tunnel.

       My heart   my mother   my heart   my mother
       My heart   my coming into being.

My husband is not able to work.
He has it, according to the doctor.
We have been having a very hard time making a living since   
       this trouble came to us.
I saw the dust in the bottom of the tub.
The boy worked there about eighteen months,
came home one evening with a shortness of breath.
He said, "Mother, I cannot get my breath."
Shirley was sick about three months.
I would carry him from his bed to the table,
from his bed to the porch, in my arms.

       My heart is mine in the place of hearts,
       They gave me back my heart, it lies in me.

When they took sick, right at the start, I saw a doctor.
I tried to get Dr. Harless to X-ray the boys.
He was the only man I had any confidence in,   
the company doctor in the Kopper's mine,
but he would not see Shirley.
He did not know where his money was coming from.
I promised him half if he'd work to get compensation,
but even then he would not do anything.
I went on the road and begged the X-ray money,
the Charleston hospital made the lung pictures,
he took the case after the pictures were made.
And two or three doctors said the same thing.
The youngest boy did not get to go down there with me,
he lay and said, "Mother, when I die,
I want you to have them open me up and
see if that dust killed me.
Try to get compensation,
you will not have any way of making your living
when we are gone,
and the rest are going too."

       I have gained mastery over my heart
       I have gained mastery over my two hands
       I have gained mastery over the waters
       I have gained mastery over the river.

The case of my son was the first of the line of lawsuits.
They sent the lawyers down and the doctors down;
they closed the electric sockets in the camps.
There was Shirley, and Cecil, Jeffrey and Oren,
Raymond Johnson, Clev and Oscar Anders,
Frank Lynch, Henry Palf, Mr. Pitch, a foreman;
a slim fellow who carried steel with my boys,
his name was Darnell, I believe. There were many others,
the towns of Glen Ferris, Alloy, where the white rock lies,
six miles away; Vanetta, Gauley Bridge,
Gamoca, Lockwood, the gullies,
the whole valley is witness.
I hitchhike eighteen miles, they make checks out.
They asked me how I keep the cow on $2.
I said one week, feed for the cow, one week, the children's flour.
The oldest son was twenty-three.
The next son was twenty-one.
The youngest son was eighteen.
They called it pneumonia at first.
They would pronounce it fever.
Shirley asked that we try to find out.
That's how they learned what the trouble was.

       I open out a way, they have covered my sky with crystal
       I come forth by day, I am born a second time,
       I force a way through, and I know the gate
       I shall journey over the earth among the living.

       He shall not be diminished, never;
       I shall give a mouth to my son.

- Muriel Rukeyser, "Absalom" from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser.

demands, part one.

A friend pointed out to me this dismal post from Dave Ramsey on OWS.


No demands?  No message?


Found in 10 minutes using Google:


Here is the first official statement from OWS.  Herein the protesters do officially state why they are protesting, and while it doesn't make specific demands per se, it doesn't take a PhD in literary criticism or a background in decoding the Enigma machine to infer from this statement what some of the demands are likely going to be. And the statement certainly constitutes a message on the part of the whole of OWS.  


Here is a list of proposed demands from OWS, which are currently being debated informally online, and will be debated formally within OWS general assemblies.  You can follow debate on the forums on the website, or, hell, if you are a well paid pundit writing multiple posts/articles on OWS, you might actually go down to OWS and observe the GAs when they get debated there (I know if I were a right wing pundit who was paid to analyze American political currents I would be doing just that).  The OWS demands working group made the mistake of releasing this list of proposed demands to the New York Times prior to it being made known to the OWS general assembly, which pissed off a lot of OWSers, so we'll see how this goes.  The strongest anarchist element of any American Occupy location seems to be in NYC.  But it seems from easily found online forum texts and from written accounts of working groups and general assemblies that the anarchists in NYC have been surprised at how well these demands resonate with people involved in OWS. 


Here is the first declaration of Occupy Memphis.  I note this one because I am from Memphis.  In it you will find demands.  Broad demands?  Sure.  Hopelessly hopeful demands considering Occupy Memphis is lucky to have 30 protesters spend the night at the occupation on a weekday night?  Yep.  But some pretty clear demands nonetheless.  The declaration also clearly constitutes a message.  


Start googling various Occupy locations and you'll quickly find that most Occupy locations have stated the reasons for their protest and those stated reasons are more precise than "we are upset." A number of Occupy locations have also stated some demands.  Occupy Chicago has made twelve somewhat specific demands dealing with national political matters (I say "somewhat specific" because demands such as "forgive student debt" could mean any number of things in terms of the who pays and the how it gets forgiven).  Occupy Madison has made 6 broad demands.  All of this can be found via Google in a matter of minutes.

on the intellectual basis of OWS; cont'd, again.....

here David Graeber explains his take on anarchism at some length, describing himself as a small "a" anarchist.

An interesting read.

OWS debate, transgendered concerns, Occupy proceduralism, usual ephemera....


a debate on #occupyws from Jacobin on Vimeo.

This has been going around a lot.  It starts out rather slow but ends up being a decent debate between anarchists and collectivists.  Obviously I tend to agree with Henwood and Dean.

The anarchist notion that expressions of autonomy (nothing hierarchically above "well, for me this movement means...") and taking up space (as in Zucotti Park) and aversions to commonalities are victories in and of themselves - this strikes me as the concerns of a privileged, decidedly petit-bourgeois left.  Let's face it, there are two types of people who have time to go camp out in Zucotti Park for weeks on end - those with considerable means, and those with very little means.  Most people who need health care, and/or who are mired in debt, and/or are food insecure, and/or who are underemployed or have seen lessened or stagnated wages, these folks aren't going to prioritize autonomy in the manner that anarchist Manhattanites do or demand autonomy to the degree than anarchist Manhattanites do.

The vocal aesthetic of the manner in which Natasha Lennard uses and pronounces the word fuck could not possibly reinforce the caricature of anarchist intellectual more.

Henwood's comment about believing in representative democracy because "most people don't want to spend their lives in meetings" resonated with me, particularly after listening to discussion at the recent general assembly of my local Occupy Memphis group Monday night.  There was disagreement regarding whether or not the word women's in women's caucus (the women's caucus had met the night before for the first time) was exclusionary of transgendered people.  After a half hour of discussion about other potential words and their relation to gender constructs and a whole host of other identity politics issues no consensus was reached (though it seemed for a while that the rule that anyone who self-identified as a woman could go would be adopted, but this of course glosses over all the problems inherent in the word women, etc., etc., ad nauseam), and a later meeting was scheduled to deal with the issue. I didn't stay for that later meeting, but I heard it lasted a good length of time, and a decision was finally reached that the feminists, the homosexuals, the transgendered, and everybody else in the group could all live with.  On the one hand, there are people there whose experience in life is such that they are used to "having no voice" or having their "voices" squashed, and I think it a good thing that they be able to have some experience of self-determination within a collective.  Good on them.  I don't care what they call the women's caucus, and most of the people I know who have been born male but came to self-identity female would have been very happy to attend a caucus called a women's caucus if they felt welcome there, and I am sure such would be welcome to the caucus in question because in my experience nobody is made to feel unwelcome at any Occupy Memphis event.

But man oh man (sorry for the militantly sexist colloquialism), for a group that is organizationally anarchist, damn there is a lot of proceduralism - at every turn there is discussion about group decisions and the decision making process and what had been decided and what we're supposed to do now in light of previous general assembly decisions and there is all this procedural jargon (and hand motions even) peculiar to Occupy Everything and lots of people pointing out when procedure hasn't been followed and so on and so forth.  This might be "empowering" to some people for a spell, but as someone who hates meetings and proceduralist minutiae, I would not want to spend my life in an Occupy My Neighborhood or somesuch where we had to constantly work through every damn issue via radically democratic consensus methods involving a lot of time spent on procedural dross and my anal next door neighbor who likes to call the city when my grass is "too tall" now correcting me every time I made some procedural mistake at the Occupy My Neighborhood general assembly.   Then again, I appreciate the fact that the general assemblies are subversive to the extent that they create something of an alternative government for people whose "official" government is inaccessible to them.

But, to be honest, what it really comes down to for me is that the people who chant "whose park? our park!" over and over again have agreed to the city ordinance not allowing alcohol in the park - how utterly unsubversive and it's been too cold to be outside without a flask handy.  I mean, for anarchists some of these people really like rules - they just want to have first hand experience in the rule creation process (it's as if the city's rule against alcohol in the park is "baptized" because the general assembly agreed to the rule).  Personally, I'd rather have fewer rules governing my personal behavior (use the wrong hand motion in a general assembly and watch how many point-of-orders you get, sigh), and less talk of rules altogether, but, as the kids say, whatever...

The point the guy in the audience makes (starting around 1 hour 4 minutes in) about the unions destroying the protest movements in WI is apt.  This is one point that the Henwood and Dean don't get far enough into - if we reject anarchist autonomism and the mere occupation of space as a means of decoding subjectivities which have been forced upon us by authoritarian structures in society, and we insist on clear and precise demands, how do these demands not then get co-opted into liberal political machine structures (union bureaucracies, the Democratic Party, etc.)?

Of course, most of the things debated here were debated operating under the working assumption that Occupy Everything is an actual movement, and I agree with the guy in the beginning who said that it is not yet a movement.  I think most of the old left assume that this not-yet-movement will fall apart and that its import will be that it helped further radicalize some people, that it brought social agitation to national light, that it built solidarity among those arrested or beaten up a bit by cops, and so forth.  Every revolutionary situation is preceded by a lot of "failed" protest phenomena.  It'll all come out in the wash.

asshattery

"What I find amusing, as does Myers, is the conceit that anybody in this country gives a rat’s ass what novelists and artists think about anything political."

and

"Writers should be very, very wary of joining any march, in reality or on paper, for any cause other than freedom of speech. Beware the crowd."

from here.

This from the guy who for some months seemed to have no other job than to serve as a pseudonymous blogger attacking the enemies of his embattled Manhattan Declarationist bishop.  Apparently the conceit that anybody in this country gives a rat's ass what a list of clerics and religious pundits think about anything political is a worthwhile conceit.  And apparently a writer joining the pixel march of defending his embattled Manhattan Declarationist bishop against the evil horde of the supposed homosexualist onslaught is not something to be so wary about.

the weathermen rained on the parade.

Two posts on protests and violence: Why non-violence?, and Fetishization of Non-Violence or Ostracization of Violence?

I left the same comment on both.

two realities?

Farrell Dobbs, a Trotskyist worker who played a leading role in the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters’ strike, one of the most important rank and file-led strikes of the era, answered the naysayers against workers’ capacity for struggle like this:
Wiseacres of the day spoke pontifically about the “passivity” of the working class, never understanding that the seeming docility of the workers at a given time is a relative thing.  If workers are more or less holding their own in daily life and expecting that they can get ahead slowly, they won’t tend to radicalize.  Things are different when they are losing ground and the future looks precarious to them.  Then a change begins to occur in their attitude, which is not always immediately apparent.  The tinder of discontent begins to pile up.  Any spark can light it, and once lit, the fire can spread rapidly.
- from The Meaning of Marxism, by Paul D'Amato.

There is an old true story told about financier Jay Gould. When asked what he would do if there were ever a threat of a genuine revolution in America he answered, “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.” This is not a facetious statement. He was deadly serious because this tactic always works. It has been refined since then to encourage letting off steam rather than letting off gunpowder, yet it is generally the same.

- from here.  

on the intellectual basis of OWS; cont'd...

The Chronicle on the matter - Intellectual Roots of Wall St. Protest Lie in Academe: Movement's principles arise from scholarship on anarchy.

protest aesthetics: whine vs. fist

American protest aesthetics:

 Apparently pepper spray excites more than just the face.
 Does this person have any neck muscles??
Punky Brewster's sinister radical side.


Non-American protest aesthetics:

 Alternative use for red flags.
 WarNerd says it's the less bright kid that gets abandoned by his friends without knowing it in these situations.  But I don't think that is the case here.  I'm sticking with the opinion that this kid is just plain old bad ass.  That or he had something he really didn't want to admit in a game of truth or dare.
Not in need of comment. 


OK, sure.  The above is a bit of a simplistic contrast, but the culture and mass psychology of American protesting do seem to breed the whining of whiners.  I now have seen dozens of photos of police arresting Occupy protesters which used the word "brutal" in the description (I'm not talking about the pepper spray photos here).  In a minority of these photos the police were being mean, using more force than necessary for compliance, and so forth, but in none of them were they being brutal.  When going to a direct action which involves meeting police, one has to expect that the use of police force is a possibility.  One might then muster some fortitude and some, ahem, fight.  But instead, in American protesting circles, the cult of the victim is brought out and deified.

The game is something like NBA basketball - as soon as you barely get touched you fall over and scream "FOUL!!!"  In this case the refs are the American public.  And in a certain sense this game works - the Occupy movements went from obscurity to national attention in part because of the stupidity of police forces in using unneeded levels of force.  But, I'm not sure what I think of this game's potential longterm benefits to the working classes.

I, for one, think this endemic of protesters claiming to be the oppressed and then moaning "you're hurting me, stop it, stop it" when touched by a police officer is actually counterproductive in a class war, in the long run anyway.  [Of course, the Occupy protests are perhaps not in any meaningful sense acts of class war - they might be pre-class war; plenty on the left hope they develop into class war; but thus far it remains to be seen what comes of them.]  The point of protests is to empower the working classes.  The point is to confront capital with the the belief that the working class has within its power the ability to destroy the shackles of wage slavery.  Look at the labor actions from 1877 to the 1930s which inspired workers across the country.  The overwhelming aesthetic of the labor martyrs and famous strikers was the image of men and women who were solid, fierce, and essentially saying - "go ahead, beat me, kill me, you will only make us stronger in doing so - you pathetic dirty bastards."  Even when that wasn't the case (and it surely wasn't always the case) - that was the image American labor sought to promote of itself to its members.  Those were labor strugglers reared on narratives like that of Joe Hill, who told his supporters when his execution was imminent "Don't mourn!  Organize!" and when facing his firing squad, yelled out the piss and vinegar command "fire!" as his last word.  Now we in the American left are being taught to intuit that a pepper sprayed pertly nippled hipstress screaming and writhing in pain, the perfect victim, is the apotheosis of class war suffering.  Good grief.

One can hardly hope for things being much better on the local front with training sessions like this in the works (multiple times in the next week, and promoted as "free" in the local Occupy circles - like, uh, seriously, who pays cash money to be told how not to hit someone and to chant "peace!, peace!, peace!" with the crowd when someone is getting worked up??).  And then this dismal bit of hipster religion, promoted on the local Occupy FB page to "help us prepare."  The next thing they asked us to read was a chart explaining the Quaker decision making process.  Whew.

Thinking of Rep. John Lewis not being able to speak at the Occupy Atlanta because he didn't have time to wait for the consensus procedure to get to him at the Atlanta general assembly.  Lewis was very gracious about it, saying he knew and understood such processes, having come up in SNCC.  This got me to thinking that in SNCC part of the reason for radical egalitarian procedures was that you had a lot of blacks and whites working together who didn't have much experience in decision making processes which involved racial diversity.  In other words - the radical egalitarianism was itself focused on a specific social pathology - that being whites used to telling blacks what to do, or at least having been raised with the intuition that blacks need whites to tell them what to do.  Given that history, there is something of an irony when a similar egalitarian process ends up keeping a black civil rights and protest elder from being able to speak.

I recently read an account (I now can't find the link) of the night the police looked like they were going to break up Occupy Atlanta protesters at Troy Davis Park, but then ended up not doing that.  It was a very well written post and in it the writer reflected on the "baby steps" that have to occur in the development of protest psychology.  In spite of all I have written above, there is some hope for that coming out of the Occupy movements.  It is generally a good thing when protesters get arrested together.  It radicalizes them and increases solidarity.  This writer was talking about how a number of the people prepared to get arrested in Atlanta were not "professional protesters" but people who had little or no protest experience and a month ago would not have dreamed of getting arrested in a political protest.  To the extent that the Occupy movements increase the number of people who fall into the camp of those initiated into the mass will to confront capitalist power, I'm all for it.  I just hope they move from the aesthetic of whining to the aesthetic of fist somewhere along the way.  In a non-Occupy related protest this week some Milwaukee Ironworker's union friends of mine were arrested protesting the refusal of a local Rep to vote for the Jobs bill.  Whatever one thinks of the usefulness of such a protest, it did result in a widespread display of solidarity and support among the ironworkers, and is the sort of thing (not sanctioned by union leadership, of course) that helps radicalize the rank and file of that union.  We need more of that.

So, ironically, I support the Occupy movements in theory (and in practice, as I prepare to go when they get started here in Memphis), but I also hope that the police come down somewhat hard on them and that there are a plethora of arrests.  Facing choreographed police action builds solidarity, and demands some organized discipline among protesters.  Such group experiences breed radicals.  Fine and well then.

on the intellectual basis of OWS...

David Graeber in protest attire.  Photo found here.

Understanding the Occupy Wall Street movement has been characterized as damn near impossible - how do you meaningfully parse a loosely associated group of frustrated persons unified by themes of gripery?  Or so most media and pundit outlets (including a lot of Leftist pundits) have it.

But this is simply wrong.

Whatever one thinks of OWS and the emergent Occupy protests nationwide and worldwide, it has an organizational structure and a protest culture and an ethos that is entirely understandable and has been the subject of analysis.  The people behind OWS were, most of them anyway, people with various degrees of involvement in the WTO protests.  Naomi Klein has written many popular articles, essays, and a book on that, and many of her descriptions of the culture, ethos, and "theory" in WTO camps easily applies to the OWS movement.  But if you really want to understand OWS, you need to read two works by radical anthropologist David Graeber:

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

and

Direct Action: An Ethnography

Graeber has been a part of the OWS movement from the beginning, planning stages.  When you read OWS literature on their organizational structure and process, it is like re-reading Graeber's works above in abbreviated form.  The culture and ethos of OWS are also exactly the sort of thing Graeber describes and analyses in his books.

There is no doubt in my mind that most of the disaffected youth showing up to OWS and other Occupy protests don't know this.  Most of them are completely unformed by radical political circles and radical political theory (including anarchist practice and theory).  But this hasn't stopped the mechanisms in place which are through-and-through the sort of anarchism Graeber has parsed like no one else.

Now, one caveat.  What is said above is certainly true at the larger Occupy protests - OWS, Occupy LA, Chicago, Portland, etc.  It is less true in some of the smaller outlets, particularly in certain regions.  Because of the consensus model used, to retain that WTO-to-OWS particular anarchist ethos seems to require a significant number of persons with those sensibilities present at the beginning stages.  But in areas where there are not so many persons with those sensibilities or experience with those sorts of protest cultures, the OWS model can be prodded to veer in other directions, or get caught up in debates which can create a "theory" quagmire for a local protest.  Here in Memphis there are a number of Ron Paul disciples involved in Occupy Memphis, and debate has occurred on whether or not ending the Fed should be a basic part of the Occupy Memphis platform.  This is no surprise as the Paulites are very active in Memphis and the South is, of course, infested with white people who love Ron Paul (and, for whatever it's worth, the Occupy Memphis working groups and general assemblies have been whiter than a loaf of Wonder Bread, which has created some angst considering the irony of a bunch of white people claiming to represent the 99% in a city that is less than 30% non-Hispanic white).  Perhaps the libertarians have more influence only in those areas lacking anarchist troops on the ground.  Perhaps this will result in splits within the Occupy movement.  For instance, in Dallas, there is both an Occupy Dallas, and an Occupy Dallas Federal Reserve (read more here, and note that the OWDallasFedReserve Facebook page links to libertarian and 9/11 truther Alex Jones' website).

But aside from that caveat, I think the intellectual and theoretical basis for OWS is undeniably there, and that we are talking about a theoretical tradition that is much more developed than most commenters on OWS seem to understand.

I write this as a communist who, though a Wobbly, is not an anarchist and is inclined to choose Marx and Engels over Proudhon and Bakunin.  But, disagree with the anarchists on some matters or not, they have a theory and a functional protest praxis, and this should be acknowledged by pundits and intellectuals who presume to articulate a meaningful assessment of OWS.

Update: More on the Paulites within an Occupy protest.

1831 spotting; Penderyn


Another red 1831 flag, this one flown at the Tower Colliery closing march, in Hirwuan, Wales, 25 January 2008 - the day the last deep mine in Wales was closed.

Hirwuan is in the Cynon Valley, where Dic Penderyn lived.  The village of Penderyn is very close to Hirwuan.  Since 2004 when Wales ended a 100+ year distillation drought, Penderyn has produced Penderyn Whisky, at the Penderyn Distillery, the only single malt whisky produced in Wales.  Penderyn Distillery is said to be the smallest commercial distillery in the world (I think that is said of several distilleries).  The Distillery was started by a successful steel industry exec turned organic farmer (imagine that, another organic farmer from the ranks of those who earned their capital the ol' fashioned way).  I've never tasted Penderyn Whisky, and I suppose I would like to someday, but should I ever there will be that tinge of sadness that the Cynon Valley, one of the most famous coal mining locations in the world, traded the trades for boutique businesses which cater to the petit-bourgeois.  

Che, R.I.P.





In memory of the 44th anniversary of Che's execution, I offer this post from my old blog:


If you are like me you had those moments where you ask yourself, "why is it, when I'm drinking Guinness, that I so often think of Che Guevara" and, if you're even more than me, you might have written it off as residual anger from when that multinational corporate monstrosity that also owned Burger King bought out Guinness and turned it mediocre, and thus the thoughts of Che must just be a sublimated hope for their kind to be ended, etc. But, no, that's not it. You think of Che when drinking your stout because Che was a quarter Irish. Indeed he is sometimes revered in Ireland, as you can see above. His grandmother (most accept this) was Anna Isabel Lynch from Galway, and his father (whose surname was Lynch - Che's legal name did not contain either of his parents' surnames but it was often written with Lynch as the last name) once stated that "the first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels." Perhaps this explains why American 20somethings are prone to both wear Che t-shirts and love the IrishCelticDisneylandish theme. Though when I was in Ireland the young Americans there certainly did not seem to be communists, flopping their parents' credit cards about as they did. Anyway someday I might just fulfill my dream of going to Cuba and when there, I think I will drink a Guinness in honor of Che.


-------------------------------------------------------------------


I also like this story (from Wiki), of Che after having been caught, and after having spat in the face of a Bolivian admiral, he flirts with a local village school teacher and calmly agitates for revolution:

The following morning on October 9, Guevara asked to see the "maestra" (school teacher) of the village, 22-year-old Julia Cortez. Cortez would later state that she found Guevara to be an "agreeable looking man with a soft and ironic glance" and that during their conversation she found herself "unable to look him in the eye", because his "gaze was unbearable, piercing, and so tranquil." During their short conversation, Guevara pointed out to Cortez the poor condition of the schoolhouse, stating that it was "anti-pedagogical" to expect campesino students to be educated there, while "government officials drive Mercedes cars" ... declaring "that's what we are fighting against."

O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd; and the possible Welsh origins of the red flag.




One sees '1831' on a lot of Welsh labor flags and banners.  This is in reference to the British government murder of Welsh labour martyr, trade unionist, and coal miner Dic Penderyn.  See the Dic Penderyn Society site here.

Here is a lovely Martyn Joseph song concerning Dic Penderyn:



I don't know why the flag in this video is shown as blue, every description of the flags at the Merthyr rising I have read describes them as red.  Indeed, Wiki's page on the Merthyr Rising states that this was "the first time in the world the red flag of revolution was flown" - though it unfortunately gives no citation for that.  The page on the red flag at Wiki seems to contradict that, as it describes the red flag as a Jacobin symbol of French anti-royalist martyrs.  I suppose Merthyr might have been the first use of a red flag in a specifically labour self conscious as organized labour oriented revolt against bourgeois power.  I'll have to investigate this more seriously as time allows.  I like the idea of the red flag having origins connected to the Welsh people, Welsh red, and the red Welsh dragon.  I think Paul Robeson would have greatly appreciated that.

There is this brief video which mentions the use of the red flag (washed in the blood of a calf):




Lastly, this song commemorating the Merthyr uprising.  You can't really understand most of the words, but the beat is sort of there and it seems like they are having fun:



For some reason I find this dystopianly beautiful (pvc-skeletoned wind powered robots = dystopian aesthetics??) and reminiscent of P.D. James' Children of Men, which was dystopian, but not beautiful.  You can order a Strandbeest assemply kit here.  An old friend of mine was a neuro-robotic engineer; he would have loved this.






3 from Nina Simone's Protest Anthology album.

divisiveness watch...



I've been thinking recently about how increasingly one sees social and rhetorical divisions arising in places where it was not as pronounced prior to the last 18-36 months.

In some of the literature from religious and civic groups that passes my way, I have noted a number of religious and civic leaders stressing the fact that these are troubled times and that there is a "danger" in embracing divisiveness and losing one's foundation or taking the eye off the prize or embracing some form of extremism that is unhelpful to the group in question, etc.  This is normally followed by some sort of admonition to stay the course and not to let the trials of the current times distract one from whatever heavenly or civic goals the given group sees as its reason for existence.

I've been wondering if a substantial number of community leaders are noticing a hardening of sorts among their rank & file with regard to approaches to or postures toward the social and economic and political phenomena of our day.

With that in mind, I was struck when I heard on NPR yesterday afternoon, whilst driving to school, their obit for Derrick Bell.  What particularly struck me was this:

"I think that you have to risk divisiveness in order to really make points," he told member station WAMU in 1996. "The people who are not divisive are both boring and they're often enough not saying anything!"
I wouldn't want to make a universal rule out of Bell's observation.  There is a need for unity and solidarity among human beings in order to get anything worth doing done.  There is perhaps a certain nod to dialectic tension as a means of getting to truth in his connection between division and making "points," but then again it could be also read in a pomo sense of endless divisiveness.  But I think what he is perhaps suggesting is that in the context of already existing divisions, particularly in a context wherein we all (or most people anyway) at least intuit the existence of those divisions, to not be divisive is to doom oneself to not doing or thinking anything of substance.

A relative of mine yesterday used the phrase orthoJobsy in reference to that fact that in her immediate religious milieu, it was a matter of (almost?, seeming?) dogma that Steve Jobs is to be praised to no end.  Perhaps she had a few drinks in her, but when she suggested that she could give a rat's ass about trendy bobo Apple products and its Reed College dropout, ashram trotting, hipster billionaire who is perhaps the epitome of exploiter benefiting from insane commodity fetishism (in the most superficial sense of that term), she felt the wrath of the righteous.  In that and several other virtually identical discussions following Jobs' demise, the lines were drawn hard and fast, and you had the usual comments about nets outside Chinese factories and the good ol' - "everything you buy is from China, so who are you to single out Jobs?"  Nothing much to note there, except that it seems to me in recent months this sort of "typical" economic/political division has taken a decidedly more antagonistic turn.  It's not news to say it, but there has been an increased coalescing of people disgusted at the mere mention of suicides in Chinese factories, and an increased coalescing of people itching to tell billionaires and their fans where they can go.

Other phenomena which exhibits these sorts of divisions are the discussions concerning the Occupy Wall Street protests.  There are certainly not two simple sides on the matter.  Some people don't care at all.  Many on the left are not supportive of OWS really but are at least sympathetic to youthful idealism and energy.  Others on the left hope to exploit the movement and George Sorosize it.  Some on the right see it as pointless but harmless.  But many people, I think more than would have been seen prior to this recession and perhaps prior to the last 12 months or so when it became pretty apparent to a lot of folks that this recession is now a state of "permanent reality," are given to express either outright intense hostility toward the protesters (as in an almost if not entirely visceral sort of anger), and this is met by a (smaller?) number of people who are genuinely quite sympathetic to the protesters and hope something comes from their efforts (whether or not they agree with all the methods or lack thereof or believe the protests will likely amount to anything).  My point is not to discuss the protests here, just to note the increased division that discussions regarding the protests convey.

It seems that a significant and increasing number of Americans now believe that American society is irrevocably broken and fragmented.  Such sentiments have long been a part of American social and civic life, but there is a notable increase and fervency in that posture today.  Coming out of this economic crisis, if we do come out, we will be substantially different than going into it.  The totem religion that is the American conservative movement is stronger than ever before.  The concentration on winning state legislatures has been hugely successful, and the conservative propaganda machines have never been stronger (Democracy Now! et aliae ain't getting to the masses by comparison).  The Tea Party controls the Republican Party at the ground level and has so quickly and efficiently turned the Party to the right that it is now clearly not to be taken as a political or social joke.  Despite years of talk about a diminishment of religious right power,  on state levels the religious right is more powerful than ever in many states - even in states where 15 years ago it was inconceivable that the religious right would be playing a significant role, take WI for instance.  The Democratic Party has caved (per usual) and is now, on economic issues, flirting with economic policies than many centrist Republicans would have rejected a generation ago - the rightward shift on everything but identity politics in the Democratic Party has been swift and efficient.  The Clinton fiscal centrism paradigm applied to a political situation wherein the Tea Party has the momentum and sets the terms of the debate, shifting what counts as "center," has rendered the Democratic Party meaningless in terms of positing any coherent economic policy.  It seems fairly certain the a considerable rightward shift and dismantling of "entitlement" programs is coming, with increased austerity measures and an increase in pro-corporate policies.

One of the things I have noted in this time of heightened awareness of political and economic transition is that even people who have been decidedly apolitical or generally disgusted by all things political have increased their expression of disgust (which is some form of engagement, however minimalist).  In the context we are in today, such persons find it harder and harder to dismiss and ignore political and economic debate - if for no other reason than the fact that they encounter more people in their daily lives (in person or via electronic media) that bring the debates to them.  This also increases and expands the milieu of divisiveness.

There are real, objective divisions in our society that are phenomena that are of increasing social concern (and by concern I don't mean to suggest an agreement with regard to the issues), and existential concern to a growing number of Americans - divisions such as those who have access to health care and those who don't.  Those who are underemployed and those who aren't.  Those who have seen significant reduction in wages in recent years and those who haven't.  Those who are food insecure (or worry about being so) and those for whom food insecurity is not an issue.  Those who have been through a foreclosure process (or have reason to fear such) and those for whom foreclosure or shelter insecurity is not an issue.  These sorts of divisions, do not, of course, correspond neatly to political or social views, but the increased consciousness of these sorts of divisions within the culture facilitates expressions of divisiveness of the sort perhaps Derrick Bell was getting at.  Correspondent to all of this are as of yet vague but growing sparks of social hostility toward the rich, Wall Street, etc.

Most Americans are not going to watch Inside Job or read Richard Wolff or hear Elizabeth Warren.  But most get some trickle down version of those narratives, and it seems a substantial number pretty much get that they've been royally screwed.  That they then go any number of directions with this information, or, more likely, go nowhere at all for the moment is neither here nor there.  This narrative, this information regarding screwery, is another provoking factor in the increasing division - it helps facilitate further divisiveness and inclinations towards divisiveness, even in people not yet inclined to do so much as voice divisiveness or act in a divisive manner (such as, say, confronting a police officer at a protest, or participating at a sit-in at a Bank of America).

This increased societal divisiveness and the overarching milieu of divisiveness doesn't suggest any particular societal trajectory.  But it does encourage instability of existing social orders.  Old Leftists and anarchists note that an increase in divisiveness does correspond to an increase in the likelihood of, or shall we say an increase in available social space for, spontaneous mass action.  Whether OWS becomes a mass action of substantial size and substance remains to be seen, but whether or not OWS "succeeds" is beside the point - with any given radical transition or attempt at radical transition there will be many fits and starts.  Even if OWS and every other mass action were to fail to garner serious mass support, you could still see this spirit of divisiveness have peculiar societal effects - perhaps a broad social recognition that the "American Dream" is a perverse myth and the notion that every worker is a potential entrepreneurial millionaire an example of pure quackery, with said social recognition resulting in a diminishment of the former American "work ethic" resulting in broad reductions in worker productivity - a new homo americanus or somesuch.  Or perhaps something entirely different.  I am convinced that increased social divisiveness is worthwhile and, in a sense, truthful, when there are clear and profound material divisions within a society.  And I very much agree with Derrick Bell that a lack of rhetorical and 'practical' divisiveness in light of real, objective material and social divisions is one important factor in the breeding of that particular banal boredom of late modernity.

And while on divisiveness, I can't think of divisiveness without thinking of division, and when the word division comes to mind I can't but recall the lovely Division Street: America by Studs Terkel (see also here for some audio).   A state of division begs Florence Reece's question.  Terkel has a way about his work in which he, without even asking the question, forms the intuition in such a manner as the answer to it becomes more sound and resolute.