Author Archives: jonesyokstate

About jonesyokstate

I study writing and rhetoric at Oklahoma State University. I currently study Visual Rhetoric and activist writing as I pursue a PhD. I also chair the punk area at the Southwest Texas American and Popular Culture conference. Rhetorics of Rebellion and Resistance captured my attention this year, and I am now focused on bringing Participatory Democracy into the classroom through the study of writing and local communities.

Eulogy for my father

Thank you all for coming to celebrate the life of my father, Buster Jones. Many of you knew him as a quarter horse jockey, who raced for over forty years in a sport where the average length of a career is less than five. Others knew him as brother, uncle, cousin, friend. To my brother and I, he was dad. One way we all knew him was as unconventional. He did things his way, and you found yourself admiring his take on things even if you didn’t fully understand them. Today, I am happy to share some facts about dad that might delight you and a few stories I have collected from friends and loved ones. I share them with you now, so that we might celebrate the way dad lived his life and reflect on the lessons we might draw.
    Dad died in a room full of loved ones. Over the last few months, my brother spent time with dad, encouraging him to walk and keeping him company when dad really needed it. In his last days, I rarely left his side. The wonderful staff at the Cherokee Nursing Center provided a bed for me, allowing me to be there when dad called out my name in the middle of the night — a reverse of the many times dad would come running to us after my brother or I woke from bad dreams. Dad would come charging through the shadows to check on us, every time we called out to him. That was dad, he cared about other’s suffering. My wife, Sara, recalls dad always asking about her aunt Lisa who lost the ability to see after a terrible car wreck. Dispite all dad was going through, he still asked about her. And he genuinely felt for my uncle Richard from mom’s side who battled the effects of diabetes, losing his leg, before dying a few years prior to dad. Despite his own troubles, dad cared so much for others that he kept them in mind while dealing with his own struggles.
    Dad was such a graceful athlete. I remember watching, one day, through the kitchen window as dad broke a horse. I witnessed just how athletic he was when this horse bucked dad what felt like ten feet into the air — I gasped, and started for the door, sure dad would end up with at least a few bumps and bruises, but before I even made it a step, I saw dad land perfectly on his feet and calmly walk over to the horse and start working it again. After seeing that, you can keep Michael Jordan, I knew what a real athlete looked like. Be like dad.
    Dad never missed a chance to make himself heard when he had something to say — this was usually a wisecrack or a perfectly timed phrase that he crafted just to annoy the hell out of you. He did this to my mom, my brother and I so often that we named the family dog after a nickname we had for him. We named the dog Skeeter because of the way dad would sometimes buzz in your ear like a mosquito. I see this same personality trait in my son, by the way. Henry gets the same look in his eye that dad would get when he knows he’s got you. I remember that dad was once obsessed with the song Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, and he would wait till you least expected it and sing the lyrics right in your ear: “I waannna beeee–” Dad, quit, “your sledgehammer.”  (Emma, when Henry annoys you, what he is really saying is, “I love you.”)
    That was dad. His musical tastes were surprising and eclectic. My friends are always shocked to learn that dad’s favorite band was the Bee Gees. Because he comes from the deep woods of Northeastern Oklahoma, they expect dad to like something more conventional, like, Conway Twitty, who dad liked but not as much as he did the vocal stylings of Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. Dad was always teasing my brother and me that disco wasn’t over, that it was coming back and coming back big. And Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and others appear to have proven him right even if no one ever actually refers to their music as disco. Do you dance to it? In a club? Then, it’s disco. Dad was right.
    Dad also had an uncanny ability to connect with children. Kids loved dad. They lit up whenever he was around. They ran up to him and clammered for his attention. And dad never blew them off. He returned their attention fully. He would joke with them on their level, usually evoking laughs but sometimes he got eye rolls in rejection of something that was too corny even for a six year old. He would play with them, get down on all fours with them. And these kids would love every second of it. And dad would love it, too. My cousin Cindi recently shared a story with me like this. My brother and I were only three, so I don’t recall this as vividly, but she remembers it fondly. Her dad had told her that my dad took all the money he won over his career as a Jockey and buried it somewhere in the backyard. When she asked dad about this, dad responded without missing a beat, “Sure it’s true. I never trust banks.” His confirmation sent Cindi, her sister Tina, and us out to spend hours digging holes in the yard in search of these legendary jockey winnings. Cindi recalls digging several holes all around the trees for hours, but finding only a single dollar bill near a bush in the backyard sometime after the sun had set. Cindi is sure that dad buried the dollar just for us kids to find it and finally come inside. She says she thinks of this story often and laughs.
      Dad’s sense of humor was epic. He told me about several pranks and practical jokes he pulled on his friends and fellow jockeys, but one stands out to me more than others. At the time dad was living in a small apartment with a friend during a major quarter horse meet in Iowa. The Iowa track had both slot machines and horse racing, so a lot of quarter horse people were spending a lot of time playing the slots. Well, dad somehow figured out that these machines were on a timer, so it didn’t matter how much you played, what mattered was when: certain machines would pay out at certain times during the day.  Of course, dad wasn’t going to let anyone know he had figured this out, not without having some fun first. He started small. He would be walking and talking with his roommate near one of these machines at around pay-off time, and dad would stop suddenly and look off into the distance with a blank stare. Then he would say, “Hold on a sec. I gotta do something.” Then calmly walk over to the slot machine and hit a small jackpot, leaving his puzzled friend trying to figure out how he just did it. This routine went on for a while. And his roommate couldn’t figure out the secrete to dad’s success. One day dad found an old wooden nickel, and made sure his roommate saw him tape it above his bed. Then every morning dad would make sure his roommate witnessed him rubbing the wooden nickel for good luck, then hitting a jackpot later in the day. I can only imagine how satisfying it was for dad to finally see his roommate sneak into his room and rub that wooden nickel, so dad could finally tell him the machines were all on timers.         
      Along with these stories are several seemingly trivial things about dad that I keep remembering. These little things might seem like they don’t matter, but to quote James O’Barr, “Nothing is trivial [when remembering a loved one].” I remember the little hop he had when he would break pool, with that custom pool cue of his. I remember dad’s special ability to take a perfect picture every time. No matter if it was a snapshot, a win pic, or a professional family portrait, dad would flash a perfect movie star smile while the rest of us would be stuck with mouths gaping open and eyes half closed. And I remember how very loudly he sneezed. His sneeze would frighten my friends when they stayed the night. And of course there is that very loud laugh you’d hear when something really got him.

But most of all I remember the type of father he was. The philosopher Slavoj Zizek, feed up with the emergence of what he calls the new age, postmodern dad, has this to say about modern fatherhood:

Let’s say there is a small child and a father who wishes to visit a grandmother. The traditional authoritative father will simply say, “We are going. I don’t care if you want to or not, your grandmother loves you, so we are visiting her.” In the same situation, the new age, postmodern dad will say to the child, “I want you to know if that your grandmother loves you and that she is getting older and that means we may not get a chance to see her again. I want you to visit her, but the choice is yours. Only visit her if you really want to.

Of the two, Zizek prefers the more traditional father because he considers the false choice offered by the new age father to be dishonest.

Well, dad was neither of these Fathers. He was neither the authoritative totalitarian nor the manipulative nuisance. He was unconventional as a father, just as he was unconventional in most things. Where a traditional father might parent under the model of “spare the rod, spoil the child,” dad rarely punished my brother and I. When he did, he would sometimes even apologize. More conveniential parents might think that would lead to spoiling children, but something else happened. Instead of trying to mold us into smaller versions of himself, dad let us grow up without having to justify our path to him. I was never made to feel that I had to earn dad’s pride, approval, or love. He gave these freely, and I remember him sticking his head in our room at bedtime to say he loved us and that he was proud of us. He loved us unconditionally. And even though I would sometimes be baffled by what he meant when he said he was proud of us — even though I would wonder to myself, “proud of what? I didn’t do anything special.” I now understand that his pride was given unconditionally, and I could never do anything to lose it.

Dad’s unwavering sense of unconditional love is something that I will continue on to my children because love isn’t something you should never have to earn or worry about losing. Love isn’t a thing you can hold in your hand.  Love is free. Dad understood that. I understand that. And I hope my children embrace this lesson too because it is the most important thing I learned from him.

Thank you all for joining us here today.

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Decolonization is not a metaphor

Decolonization is not a metaphore. Very interesting perspective.

Unsettling America

By Eve Tuck & K. Wayne Yang, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society, Vol 1, No 1 (2012)

Our goal in this article is to remind readers what is unsettling about decolonization. Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. The easy adoption of decolonizing discourse by educational advocacy and scholarship, evidenced by the increasing number of calls to “decolonize our schools,” or use “decolonizing methods,” or, “decolonize student thinking”, turns decolonization into a metaphor. As important as their goals may be, social justice, critical methodologies, or approaches that decenter settler perspectives have objectives that may be incommensurable with decolonization. Because settler colonialism is built upon an entangled triad structure of settler-native-slave, the decolonial desires of white, non-white, immigrant, postcolonial, and oppressed people, can similarly be entangled in resettlement, reoccupation, and…

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Misrepresenting the White Working Class: What the Narrating Class Gets Wrong

Very thoughtful analysis of the white working class and it’s depictions made be the narrating class. It contains an account of what is know as the To Kill A Mockingbird fallacy which it claims helps support others types of systemic oppression.

Working-Class Perspectives

Most of the time the white working class is invisible in the U.S.  But during elections there is a flurry of attention to this “demographic” among political reporters and operatives, and as a result, also among the millions of us who read, listen, and watch their reporting, analyses, and endless speculation about who is ahead and behind and why.

I’ve been watching this phenomenon since 2000 when Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers first revealed that  a large chunk of the American electorate is white and working class.  As it has migrated from social scientists, with their “operational definitions” and facility with math, to pundit world, however, loose stereotypes and class-prejudiced assumptions have been growing exponentially.   It’s becoming a low-level one-sided cultural class war where what Nadine Hubbs calls “the narrating class” blithely assumes that working-class whites are “America’s perpetual bigot class.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Connie Schultz noted how many…

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“Don’t act now!” Hillary’s reactionary rhetoric

In Rhetoric and Reaction, A.O. Hirschman traced three types of argument designed to stop progress down through the ages: the perversity thesis, the futility thesis, and the jeopardy thesis. Hirschman showed that these arguments are deployed to disrupt the logic of progression, but close analysis reveals their fallacious nature. Further, Hirschman ends his book with a close look at the opposite side. Devoting a few chapters to an analysis of the rhetoric progressives deploy in order to spur action.

Right now makes the perfect occasion to get reacquainted with this book and Hirschman’s theories on rhetoric and political theory because the future of progressive politics in America hangs in the balance, as the Iowa caucus heads for a photo finish between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Each candidate seeks the progressive vote, so one would expect to hear arguments bearing resemblance to the type of rhetoric Hirschman analyzes in the closing chapters of his book. However, an application of Hirschman reveals the hidden reactionary structures of Clinton’s recent arguments concerning healthcare.

Why does so much Bernie backlash from the liberal democrat crowd rely on reactionary rhetoric?

Albert O. Hirschman wrote about three types of reactionary rhetoric that have been launched against progressive ideas throughout the history of democracy. (1) the perversity thesis — any action to improve the social, political, or economic order will cause the opposite result. (2) the futility thesis — attempts at social, political, or economic transformation will produce no change in the status quo. (3)  The jeopardy thesis — the cost of change is too high; attempts to change could cause us to lose what we have fought so hard to get.

And Hillary has deployed each of these reactionary arguments in the past. We  might see Perversity in the statement that Bernie’s healthcare plan might end up harming the very people he wants to help by raising taxes. We might hear Futility in the statement that Bernie’s healthcare plan will not pass congress after he is elected. And, we might hear Jeopardy in the statement that Bernie’s healthcare plan might cost us Obamacare and cause us to lose what we fought so hard to win.

Today Hillary Clinton delivered an argument that twisted two of Hirschman’s reactionary arguments and reversed the logic on a long standing progressive standard. Hillary said that single-payer healthcare would never, ever happen in the U.S. In the closing chapters of his book, Hirschman wrote that one type of progressive argument is deployed to spur action in an unlikely way, through destiny. He called this the “history is on our side” thesis, and one can see it vividly in the recent arguments for the legalization of gay marriage. Those opposed were said to be “on the wrong side of history.” Here is how Hillary framed her opposition to Bernie’s promise to deliver single-payer healthcare. From CBS news:

“I want you to understand why I am fighting so hard for the Affordable Care Act,” she said at Grand View University after hearing from a woman who spoke about her daughter receiving cancer treatment thanks to the health care law. “I don’t want it repealed, I don’t want us to be thrown back into a terrible, terrible national debate. I don’t want us to end up in gridlock. People can’t wait!”

She added, “People who have health emergencies can’t wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.”

This message is remarkable from a Hirschman perspective for a number of reasons. Easily noted is how it reverses the progressive logic of history leading toward progress, but what Hirschman provides access to is the ways in which Hillary’s argument barrows from reactionary rhetoric to shut down efforts for progress. One expects this type of framing from the right, but seeing here, in an argument to fellow Democrats attempting to persuade them to vote, should cause many on the left to throw side-eye.

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Hirschman allows readers to see how Hillary has knotted a rhetorical pretzel, twisting the perversity thesis and the jeopardy thesis together in order to call the audience to inaction. Hillary appears to say, “Don’t act now!” The message drips with urgency. And not only that, but it also makes future action appear at best foolish and at worst immoral. But does it stand up to scrutiny?

For us to believe Hillary’s warning, we would have to believe that Bernie would allow Obamacare to be revoked before having single-payer set up. It is a stupid monkey who lets go of one branch before having the next one firmly in their grasp. I don’t see Bernie doing this. In addition, we would have to believe that nothing can remove the Republican majority in Congress. Hillary’s doesn’t sound like a message that a progressive would make.

No matter the out come in Iowa, it is important to note this rhetoric because it displays an ethos of the progressive party in the years following the banking crisis, the Occupy and Black Lives movements, and citizens united. Recently, the U.K.’s Guardian exposed that less progressive, new Democrats feared a Bernie Rebellion in their party.

This paraphrase of Hirschman advice following his exposure of the limits of both Progressive and Reactionary rhetoric captures his call well.

The baneful consequences of either action or inaction can never be known with certainty but our reaction to either is affected by the two types of alarm-sounding Cassandras with whom we have become acquainted.

However, Hirschman does note the power of suggesting that history is on our side. And we have seen it with the victory of gay marriage. And yet, Hillary has ended history itself. There can be no more progress with Hillary.

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Confederate Flag wavers don’t need a seat at the grownup’s table

Often times, liberals can be liberal to a fault. Waving the Confederate Flag is an invitation to F*ck off! So, why do so many liberals feel bad about offending these people?

Just take a look at this article from NPR.

Liberals are so worried about offending people that they actually feel bad for the person telling them to F*ck off. They want to reason with that person, allow that person a voice, an equal say in what counts.

But nothing short of total agreement with that person will work for the F*ck-you crowd. So don’t bother.

If black people and left-intellectals are dis-invited from the concept of Southern Haratiage due to waving a knowingly racist flag, then they only way to conceive of a Southern Haratiage is White’s Only.

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"No. It's okay, we have black friends...none of them are with us today, but still..."

White’s Only is the only possible message left that can be sent with that Flag. This, despite that fact that the sender might have a personal attachment to the symbol.

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"Oh, no. You misinterpreted what I meant when I said "F*ck Off!" I was using the term in the way that me and my friends used twenty years before you were born. So, really...when you think about...this is all on you."

When the Confederate flag is displayed, how many black people feel welcome in that space?

The people waving it have always known that it could be taken to mean “you’re not welcome here.” Removing the flag is an invitation to start a dialogue not silence one.

What is Southern Haratiage if it is not White’s Only?

We can answer this question now that the Confederate flag and all it’s F*ck-you-ness has been exposed and removed. Same goes for all Indian mascots and even those nicknames with disturbing racial implications like, say, OU Sooners. *went there*

We need to learn to stop inviting people into the conversation who don’t want to have one.

That might sound counter-intuitive, but only in the way that sentences bounce around in empty skulls where circular logic is the only logic that can ever occur. Such as: the “intolerance of tolerance,” and other right-wing paradoxical phrases.

I don’t think being progressive means allowing the F*ck-you crowd a say in things. And I don’t think it means seeking compromise with people unwilling to compromise, who are soooo obviously anti-democratic.

We can’t say things like: “Women’s rights are very important, but they seem to upset those poor Gamergate fellows. So, let’s try to meet them halfway.”

No. Let’s drop them like the bad habit they are. Let them throw their fits. They obviously don’t want to be around people different from them, so what difference does banishment really make to them. These people want to wave that despicable flag in their lone cabin in the woods? Great! We know who to avoid.

At this point, only the disrespectful are making arguments for these types of symbols. This means we have persuaded all the people who can possibly be persuaded.

It’s time to stop listening and start celebrating.

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White Fragility: How to spot it and what to do about it

White fragility includes fragility of all privileged individuals. Onset fragility is experienced when privilege is threatened or taken away, and we see symptoms of fragility appearing in cis-gendered, male, straight, able-bodied people because “white” (tracing the history of the term when applied to people) merely means privilege.

Early onset fragility can be cured with critical thinking focused on social hierarchy. But acute fragility in adults might only be able to be treated. Sadly, we might only be able to make these people feel more comfortable.

Below, I will explain how to diagnosis fragility by analyzing recent statements concerning current events. These statements are symptoms of white fragility and not, as commonly assumed, misapplied logic or an inability to see reality.

White Fragility?

White fragility is the inability to deal with stress brought on when societal structures are understood to provide unearned privilege for certain individuals — individuals who thought their position in society was the product of “hard-work” or “clean living” — while other people suffer the blight of second class citizenship.

White people feel stress when they encounter the growing consensus that egalitarianism can be reached through the efforts of organized people. Actions such as taking down symbols that perpetuate harmful myths or striking down laws designed to discriminate against minorities can result in early onset fragility in white people.

The stress caused by events like these result in stress for white people because, as Dr. Robin Diangelo has pointed out, white people often mistake comfort for safety. A white person might feel uncomfortable in situations where they have to face their own socially constructed identities, but they will say they feel unsafe. They want a “safe environment” in which to explore notions of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, class, and body diversity.

This really means they don’t want to discuss these things unless they are allowed to pontificate about them with others who share their own race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, class, and body type. They don’t want to encounter a different opinion or even a different set of facts from the ones they have internalized because doing so makes them feel unsafe.

Ironically enough, white people suffering white fragility are suffering less stress in their current encounter with, say, race than the people they complain about. Some people are forced to face their racial identity on a daily basis by partaking in actions as simple as turning on the TV. And this is usually not a pleasant experience because their racial identity is usually presented as inferior to the identity of the privileged. Ironically, white people are usually presented as heroic or dynamic people. So in most cases white people can escape stress by doing the thing that causes stress for others. White people can turn on the TV and not even think about it.

Because they are so often presented as heroes in popular media, whites are often driven to bust into ongoing conversations in a misguided attempt to fix things.

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Because white people mixup safety with comfort they will act as though their very lives are at stake when they see a loss in unearned privilege. You might hear them apply war terminology to the discussion with phrases like “War on Christians/Christmas” or “Social Justice Warrior.”

Faced with the irony of this situation, you might be compelled to react in a manner something like this:

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Please don’t roll your eyes, doing so will only exacerbate the situation. The same goes for when they accuse the person or persons in the minority position of being “overly sensitive” or “whining.”

I know. I know.

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White people suffering from White Fragility will be better served if you simply help them relax. You can start by reminding them that there are still several things remaining in the world that they like.

What to do about White Fragility

Reminding them of things like Target Supercenters can relieve the imaginary stress they suffer from the thought of gaining very real advantages over real people because of imaginary identities that are largely constructed by people other than themselves merely so others can suffer indignity.

Target Supercenters are perfect because they can help remind them of so many others things — things like: $1 bargain bins, tiny shampoo, and designer towels. Help them imagine themselves strolling the aisles of a Target Supercenter, where everything they could ever want is neatly categorized and shelved.

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You would never find buffalo wings in the CD section next to the Greatest Hits of Genesis, would you? No. Not at Target. And there’s a Starbucks right there in the same store!!!

So, when you or someone you love suffers white fragility because of the rise of “special rights.” Don’t try to explain to them that special rights is a misguided understanding of what is going on because minorities simply want the same rights that everybody else says they were born with. Instead, help them chant:

There’s still Target. There’s still Target. There’s still Target. There still…

If things really get bad, help them lie back and think of Sam’s Club.

Whatever you do, don’t tell them about the coming socialist insurrection. If they feel this way about losing invisible privilege, there is no telling what will happen when they learn about the myth of the invisible hand of the market.

One final tip: if you are still having trouble understanding white fragility, it helps to think of Captain Hammer from Doctor Horrible’s Sing A-Long Blog. Remember when he was zapped and lost his powers of invulnerability, leaving him unable to do anything but  writhe in pain and whine and whimper?

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Yeah. It’s like that.

Having never had their safety put in jeopardy by forces beyond their control based on arbitrary placement of their sense-of-being along a social hierarchy that only serves to de-legitimize claims of victimhood in the first place, white people feel they are in real danger when they face the possibility that their advantage is imaginary.

White Fragility can be treated. But it will take collective action, and we are talking about people who think they are special, unique snowflakes so…

The best thing to offer is a knowing nod and a helping hand. They can get through this. And once they see only harm can be gained through social hierarchy, things will get better for everyone.

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Viva l’etat de la Police

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This brave riot cop saved society from a ruthless hoard of striking students — students who wanted to attack hard work, a basic building block of society! The students were striking against fair and just austerity measures enacted by the ruling elite of our neoliberal oligarchy.

This hero cop can be seen firing a teargass canister into the face of a mob member at pointblank range. He has been reported to have performed the method on at least one other student striker. His innovative use of weapons intended to administer chemical warfare on his own fellow citizens should be praised.

Below the protestor is pictured weaky accepting help from a total stranger –no doubt at tax payer cost.

Please, if you see anything like this happening, take pictures of these valiant efforts to protect our rich from future tax increases.

Taxes, as many of you know, are nothing more than violence deployed by the mob. Our rich and powerful rulers deserve better than to have a gun put to their heads just to provide a basic standard of living for a bunch of lazy students who having nothing better to do than learn about things like power structures and civil rights and critical economics and other pointless absurdities.

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These students should bless our neoliberal god-heads for selflessly cutting taxes on the rich and rewarding hard work rather than punishing it.

Remember:

A raising tide lifts all boats, and those who have their heads underwater now should not be looking for a life raft or a ring buoy; those things cost money —  making people, who can easily afford such things, pay for them is a violent act that should not be tolerated.

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If you find yourself drowning, just swim harder.

Viva l’etat de la Police!

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The depleting field of f*ucks

field of fucks

Recently a friend was made fun of for posting the above picture because it somehow exposed him of *gasp* valuing property.

I think such a points exposes quite a bit about how people miscommunicate on political/economic issues today.

Let me define some basic terms that are thrown around a lot, before I start to analyze how they function using the rhetorical concept of God/Devil terms as theorized by Richard Weaver and Kenneth Burke.

Capitalism is not based on choice or freedom or hard work or upward mobility. It is based on private ownership. That’s all. This is what Marx meant when he coined the term. He predicted that this trend, which was emerging like a bad spirit at the time he lived in, would spoil the so called free market, leaving us in a second age of feudalism. I think, with the rise of state sponsored corporatism, we can all agree that Marx was right about this prediction. We might disagree about what to do about it. (Also, there is debate about the origins of this term, so it is important to mention that. I believe, like most attributions of coinage, that term actually precedes Marx.)

Communism, is the collective ownership of the Means of production. That would mean that everyone owns the field and can grow their own fucks in that field. They would be morally obligated to share those fucks with whomever needed them.

The problem, and Marx is unequal in his superiority of thought here, is that when we look at human nature we see both good and evil. Why? Marx theorized that, like evolution, humans nature adapts to the environment where humans live.

So…

Change the environment, change human nature.

But, should we do that with government or through volunteerism? A question like this (and I am oversimplifying to save room) exposes the basic disagreement that gives us all the various schools of thought on the left.

Socialism is one way that the left has tried to put left-wing theory into action. Socialism is based on the idea that there is no such thing as human nature. It is a way of breaking from the limits of a binary argument that just turns endlessly in circles: humans are basically bad at their core. No. Humans are basically good at their core. Socialism is designed to break those limits and see human nature as environmental. Grow up in a dog eat dog world, become a dog eat dog person. Grow up in an environment where a gift economy exists, become ready for the stateless society of communism.

Michael Hardt gets into this when he discusses revolution in a rowboat…seemingly to show off his biceps. But hey, I would show those off if I had em, so I won’t be too much of a prick about it.

Most everyone today confuses socialism the theory with socialism as practiced by the USSR.

We have bad feels about the USSR because of 80s films like

Red Dawn

and Rocky IV

The Soviets did not and do not have a lock on communism because it never reached communism. And if we trace the term historically, we see that Soviet style socialism emerged through a suppression of their (wait for it) left wing. The soviet’s suppressed the left in order to conduct their socialist experiment. (I am not alone is this reading of history, though I am aware of several counter arguments. My view is accepted as valid by many though. And that is why you hear a lot of people talking about Trotskyism and Italian Neo-Marxism and Rosa Luxemburg and autonomous Marxism, not to mention all the strands of left-wing Anarchism. Believe I could go on and on about anarchism. But I will stick to Marx and Marxism because I think a general audience has at least some experience there.)

Free Market economy is what is written about in A. Smith’s Wealth of Nations. His theories are really not that bad. In fact, it might even be nice if we tried them out. We have never really done that though. And if we actually read Smith, we will find that many people today would call him (wait for it) a left-winger.

We need to be much more careful about how we define these terms because many have become what we in my field call God Terms — basically empty floating containers that are equated with things we already value and allow us to read into them all the good feelings we have for something else.

You might, say, value Free Markets because you like freedom. Never mind that ushering in low taxes on the rich and zero to no regulations on the market privileges Capitalism and not what Smith wrote about. One could even imagine an argument that provides for a multiculturalism: No you do not get to discriminate against another person just because you own a business. It’s Wealth of Nations not Wealth of Wealthy people living in a Nation. But there is still that very real blind spot that Marx pointed out. That blind spot still needs to be dealt with.

Other terms have become devil terms. They are associated with things we already hate, thus they guide us to hate that philosophy without actually learning anything about it.

Here is what is funny to me. Capitalism started as what could be called a devil term (Marx has a real definition, he isn’t blowing smoke. Put the term did become a devil term of sorts when it began appearing in propaganda.) It described in Marx’s view a blind spot in economic theory. Basically, free markets end up being great for those who own but not for anyone else.

No one took this blind spot into account for a long time, and eventually the term Capitalism became a god term and ushered in a huge Stock Market crash.

Socialist ideas saved us. But Capitalism remained a God Term somehow.

Communism went a different route. It began as a God Term then became a Devil Term and was used to erase the New Deal and BAM! We get another big crash and corporate socialism was used to ‘fix’ it. And yet, communism remains a Devil Term while Capitalism remains a God Term (at least they remain in those categories for the general public. This is a general view of how US society views these terms.)

Every once in a while someone will come up with a new term to address this problem of corporate feudalism. But it is roundly and soundly beaten up as just being socialism or communism.

This being the case, should we keep trying to come up with new ideas at the risk of having them refuted as communist? Or should we try to reclaim the term Communism and show people why these ideas will help create a more equitable world?

I also think we need to discuss what our main definition of left-wing is. Do we see a central tenant as: Central planing will correct human nature and prepare us for Communism. Or do we see Workers owning the means of production as central? Perhaps we see the central idea as something different entirely. Maybe the problem is an obsession with the basic notion of centrality.

I don’t know, but I would think that the discussion would be good to have.

We should also do that for the right. Just what is it about the right that makes it the right? Faith in authority? Tradition? Is the right always already a product of its environment and thus incapable of thinking critically about that environment, left only to see all attempts at change as a direct attack on traditional values?

Surely not.

Perhaps the right’s central premise is merely to look before one leaps, that change is not something that should be entered into lightly and that to be right-wing does not mean merely to be opposite of left-wing, that to be right-wing does not mean abstaining from change at all costs.

I don’t know. But we should find out soon because I am quickly running out of fucks to give…

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Become a monthly sustainer at In Other Words!

In Other Words

Dear Friends,

Thank you. When we faced store closure this past year, we reached out to you, the community that has always been the true strength of In Other Words.
When our community learned of our volunteer and financial needs, you opened your hearts.

Your incredible outpouring of support with over 40 new volunteers, 6 new board members, and over $14,000 raised through our Indiegogo campaign was truly moving.

On November 8, the Board of Directors committed to stay open at least until December of 2015. We are thrilled In Other Words will remain one of 11 feminist bookstores still in operation in North America and the last one open on the West Coast! However, our work is not done.

In order to ensure the future of In Other Words for years to come, we need your support.

We ask that you and your friends commit to becoming…

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Dear President Hargis

This is an important moment.

Dear President Hargis

December 30, 2014

Dear President Hargis,

It is with deep disappointment that I feel compelled to write to you after our meeting earlier this month, when we were supposed to discuss my safety after I received a death threat on campus. Yet I am left with no other choice, as you made it (explicitly) clear at that meeting that my presence is no longer welcome in your office. I was shocked to walk out from your office not with your unconditional support, but with you literally upholding my marginalization as a threatened student. When students of color like myself are targeted by gun threats and black students receive lynching threats, the university president—who sets the tone for everything that happens on our campus—should not respond by trivializing the attacks or shaming a targeted student for speaking up. You have left me and others like me with no choice but to…

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