Archive for June, 2010

The Green Economy

June 7, 2010

            In this blog’s November 2nd, 2009 post, Numbers And House, we looked at the place of numbers in the contemporary aesthetic, and how much they tell us about our culture and decision making process. In last week’s Spam Camouflage (5-30-10) we uncovered the incompatibility of the much touted “green” economy (of the future) and the actual “market” economy (of the present). The numbers missing from the aesthetics of the gulf crisis (and boy, there are a lot of numbers involved with that making and doing), or should I say the failure to “connect the dots” (we only do that with terror threats!) further undermines the compatibility of a “green” economy and a “market” centered one.

            “Oh, by the way” news reporting indicates that less than one percent of Louisiana’s GDP is supplied by fishing (shrimp, etc.). And that tourism accounts for less than 4%. But the oil related sector contributes over 16%. Do the math. The state as a business entity- you know, balanced budget, income enhancement, long term investment, etc.- you hear it all the time when school funding comes into play, social programs or parks, security, prisons, etc.- the state would still be ahead if the oil industry, which the state ostensibly regulates (licenses, taxes, collects royalties, etc.), would simply pay off all the folks that live along the coast and tell them to “Go Away!” (much as Alaska pays its residents yearly. OK, not to go away but to keep quiet and not rock the kayak so the arctic goose will continue to lay the golden eggs). Alright, the state would lose out on less than 5% of its GDP which would be offset by 5% of the oil related GDP. But that still leaves over 11%. And, over time, there is much more to be made off of oil than disappearing fish, and tourism. Besides, you can open a gambling casino just about anywhere and create a Vegas style beach environment to wax nostalgic about the passé Red Neck Riviera. The hit to the GDP from tourism would instantly be recouped in spades (literally). Such a display of fiscal savvy never goes unnoticed, or unrewarded by the ever watchful market. The state’s bond ratings, etc. would rise dramatically.  The “market” would “heart LA”.

            Yes Virginia, there really is a “green” economy.


Tea Baggers And Hippies

June 4, 2010

            What a shock! Tea baggers and hippies together on the same page. Aside from the obvious idealistic congruities, they share many of the same practices. In the 1960’s hippies were pretty ubiquitous. Ditto tea baggers in 2010. Driving the highways or streets of the 60’s meant eventually passing a car or micro bus festooned with hippie slogans and regalia. Ditto for tea bag proponents in 2010. For all the weirdness that the very thought elicits, it is the street that makes these street people family.

            The street, the place where one actually, physically encounters the other people co-inhabiting one’s environment. It may not be an officially designated public gathering place, a piece of real estate set aside specifically to be held in “common” (almost all space anymore is private, even that “belonging” to the public such as city, state or federal governmental property). It is wherever people pass each other and mingle such as shopping areas, small town sidewalks or box store parking lots.

            “Nonetheless we find that a new criticism adopting a position of opposition to what is considered to be established or conservative academic scholarship consciously takes on the function of the left wing in politics and argues as if for the radicalization of thought, practice, and perhaps even of society by means not so much of what it does and produces, but by means of what it says about itself and its opponents.” (Edward Said in an essay entitled Reflections on American “Left” Literary Criticism, from his The World, The Text, And The Critic, pg. 159). This seems to be an apt description of the “out to lunch” Left in contemporary American political activism. Said’s dated essay addressed the nature of the then current literary criticism. But it also says many things that inform today’s filiation of tea baggers with hippies. Consider some more of what he says in this essay, but reconfigure the literary criticism aspects with that of the Left in America and its voice today:

“What I am most interested in here is what, generally speaking, they produced intellectually: a type of criticism based principally on endless refinement.” (pg. 165)

            The Left’s principle critique of tea baggers is that they are unsophisticated and naïve (the hippies received the same epithet).

“In a unique and perhaps puzzling way then, literary modernity was associated first not with the present but with an immediate past, which was endlessly validated and revalidated; second, with the production of a virtually unassimilable secondary elaboration of a body of writings universally accepted as primary.” (pg. 165)

 “Moreover, the whole concern with oppositional knowledge (that is, a knowledge that exists essentially to challenge and change received ideas, entrenched institutions, questionable values) has succumbed to the passivity of ahistorical refinement upon what is already given, acceptable, and above all already defined.” (pg. 168)

            The Left returns continuously to the pre Reagan era. It refers constantly to the secondary elaborations of what all has evolved since then (just today the new October arrived announcing an all “Andy Warhol special issue”). 

“To a great extent culture, cultural formations, and intellectuals exist by virtue of a very interesting network of relationships with the State’s almost absolute power. About this set of relationships I must say immediately that all contemporary left criticism of the sort I have been discussing is for the most part stunningly silent.” (pg. 169)

“[s]eeing culture and art as belonging not to some free-floating ether or to some rigidly governed domain or iron determinism, but to some large intellectual endeavor- systems and currents of thought- connected in complex ways to doing things, to accomplishing certain things, to force, to social class and economic production, to diffusing ideas, values, and world pictures.” (pg. 170)

 “But this main point of course is the suggestive insight that thought is produced so that actions can be accomplished, that it is diffused in order to be effective, persuasive, forceful, and that a great deal of thought elaborates on what is a relatively small number of principal, directive ideas.” (pg. 170)

            In many strange ways the hippies of the 60’s were affiliated with the anti war movement, with the civil rights movement, with the Great Society, and radical changes in literature, visual art production, etc. But what held all of these together (other than the calendar) was the intense urgency and motivation to have these intellectual endeavors achieve fruition, to be actualized immediately, now.

“Furthermore, if the language of magazines like Critical Inquiry, Glyph, and Diacritics is brimming with sentiments of depth, radicality, and insight, there is rarely a paragraph expended on what in the way of ideas, values, and engagement is being urged.” (pg 172)

“What is lacking in contemporary oppositional criticism is not only the kind of perspective found in Joseph Needham’s civilizational approach to culture and society, but some sense of involvement in the affiliative processes that go on, whether we acknowledge them or not, all around us. But, as I have been saying over and over, these are matters to do with knowledge, not refinement.” (pg. 177)

            Creative outlets like Keillor, Colbert, Stewart voice the Left’s position within America today. In a “new” PC manner (could also be read as “polite, civil”), it “argues as if for the radicalization of thought, practice, and perhaps even of society by means not so much of what it does and produces, but by means of what it says about itself and its opponents.”

            It is the street, the “in your face” urgency and intention that makes siblings of the tea baggers and hippies. The Left is occasionally spotted there, usually at a sidewalk café waiting to be served.