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There’s a Story in Here Someplace

The Intercept has a recent article: Stock Market Swings Tell Everything You Need to Know About Our Rigged Economy

The recent Dow Jones fluctuations have very little to do with a legitimate fear of inflation. The stock market panicked largely because CEOs and shareholders fear that they’re losing their upper hand over a workforce that’s cutting increasingly into their record profits. The Fed’s response to that may well be worse for the average American than anything that happens on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange: It may throw workers who are already hurting under the bus in the name of a stopping something — inflation — that’s nowhere to be found. There’s an outsized chance it could even trigger another recession, as more dramatic rate hikes have been known to do in the past.

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Mascots Commissioned by Committee

What is Cultural Appropriation?

Do the CA Cops have their hackles raised by even having that question asked? Does it mean that only a person with bona fide genetics, having been raised fully within the culture, is permitted to comment on or write a story about, say, a cult like Bountiful?
Bonny Brooks, writing in Quilette on 30 Jan. 2018, and linked from Pandaemonium, suggests we shake our heads and rethink what is being done being blindly raising the CA flag.
Yes, there should be the occasional slap on the wrist for blatant commercial appropriation of culture, but:

We often call this a ‘cultural appropriation’ panic, but the animus driving it is reaching into the deepest crevices of writers’ private lives and personal histories. I call this the memoirification of literature; the lovechild of a justifiable call for more diverse writers and a social media marketing imperative, this drive to personal confession demands ever more particularised voices prepared to share their particularised testimonies under the banner of literary forms that are not, by definition, supposed to be testimony. And increasingly there are penalties for those who appear not to ‘stay in their lane’ and write endlessly about themselves.

There is no appeasing this impulse. In the last few weeks, I read an article asking who ‘gets’ to write fiction about sexual abuse and another telling writers how they must do so should they dare. The current zeitgeist for biographical vampirism is even pushing journalists reporting on issues of public interest to qualify themselves. As James Bloodworth recently put it, having fielded online jibes for writing a reportage book about low wage labour in Britain while not actually being (or no longer being, in his case) a low-wage labourer: ‘A peculiar thing about our age is that one of the easiest ways to get ahead is to talk endlessly about yourself. If you aren’t prepared to emote publicly about how ‘tough’ things were for you personally, you’re effectively at a disadvantage to those that are.’ Were his critics not sure what journalism is?

For those of us that have memoir-worthy backstories but are more memoir-averse, this trial-by-testimony approach to choosing and marketing literature is alarming. As it happens, I fit within several historically ‘spoken for’ and much written about groups. However I don’t write testimony and I do not own these issues. There isn’t one way to emerge from adversity, so demanding a paint-by-numbers approach to its portrayal is frankly childish, reductive, and philistine. Characters should be three-dimensional beings, not mascots commissioned by committee.

 

Image by Nasreen Pejvack from her book of poetry, Waiting.

A Letter From Inside

Detained in solitary confinement, Osman Kavala has been able to get a letter out.

When I was taken into custody on board returning from Gaziantep, I was not worried. I counted on that it would be understood immediately that the suspicions against me are unwarranted. Yet, my arrest and the accusations that led to my arrest came as a surprise to me…

…read more: Letter from Osman Kavala

Is Equality A Good Goal?

First, some definitions. “Equality” is what? Income; access to making income; material goods; time to enjoy one’s pursuits; treatment vis-a-vis others; treatment vis-a-vis authorities/gatekeepers; access to the necessities of life; and so on.

“Good” may be considered from the personal, family, community, social, species, biosphere perspective.

“Goal” may be a clearly defined end result; an achieved state or condition that extends though a period of time; a stretch goal; a general state or condition whose definition depends on a consensus arrived at by personal, family, community, social, species, or biosphere agreement; serendipity accepted as willful action.

Looking for something?

For most people the response would be, “It’s my ox being gored so that is how I will choose to see it.

In his opus, The Quest for a Moral Compass, Kenan Malik, in chapt. 2, touches on Plato’s views on equality and democracy:

A democrat puts all “his pleasures on an equal footing”, “always surrendering rule over himself to which ever desire comes along, as if it were chosen by lot”. Political equality inevitably leads to a coarseness of culture and to an anything-goes morality, a claim that finds an echo among modern conservatives.

The only society worse than a democracy is a tyranny. This is not the opposite of democracy but is rather democracy fully played out, a society in which every form of behaviour, including murder and disrespect for law, becomes acceptable.

Note that this was written before the current US President’s statement, on the campaign trail, that it would be acceptable for him to shoot a person on a New York street, or his subsequent disparagement of court rulings that were against his wishes.

In Ethics, Responsibilities & Sustainability, Robert Sexty, in chapt. 2, defines “equality of opportunity”:

The assumption that all individuals or groups have an even chance at responding to some condition in society.

Saxby goes on to say:

Many of those involved in Canadian business in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were attracted to Canada because there was less influence exerted by nobility, landed gentry, and a rigid class system in North America than in Europe.

He goes on to offer an interesting take on the difficult dichotomy between a capitalist system and the goal of equality of opportunity. Presuming that capitalism is self-defined as producing inequalities such as of income, the goal is switched to “equality of results”. Perhaps this redefinition is another way of saying, “It’s not the gun that kills…”

The human resources text, Strategic Compensation in Canada, by Richard Long, understandably avoids discussion of individual equality and moral or ethical implications therein. Long does define equity theory:

Employees’ base perception of equity (fairness) on a comparison of their contributions/rewards ratio to the ratios of others perceived as being similar.

The HR business requirement is, of course, to maintain harmony in a company and to promote effective use of employees’ capabilities to the benefit of the organization. This common understanding of “fairness” in a relationship seems to be the only universally agreed definition of equity that can withstand the contemplative slings of philosophers.

It has not been long, historically, since some people in society first turned their attention in specific ways to the possibility of a society that is predicated on non-privileged expectations like “liberty, equality, fraternity”. Or, in the USA, their 14th amendment to the constitution which states all citizens shall be afforded “equal protection of the laws”. In Canada, and in other countries that used the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a model, equality rights are clarified: “Everyone has the right not to be discriminated against by the government based on personal characteristics”.

These examples refer to an individual’s rights with respect to government action or inaction. The intent was to place on the table a template by which individuals or business entities were expected to model their non-governmental behaviour. It was subsequently found necessary in every case to enact legislation that went beyond the expectation of voluntary compliance.

Equality, however one defines it, is new. Its application in societies that have professed to adopt it has been spotty. But many writers and activists have gone further to say that some form of equality should be codified into law.

In factors such as health coverage, it is instructive to discover the dichotomy that can arise between constitutional equality and corporate profit. A 2011 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) study, echoed in 2017 with similar results, found that the USA stands out: “the United States spends two-and-a-half times more than the OECD average health expenditure per person.” (http://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/health-data.htm).

While all the other countries studied have some form of universal health coverage, only the USA does not. The cost per person for health care in the USA averages about $8000, while the OECD average is about $3500.  The profit motive easily trumps the 14th amendment right to equal protection under the law.

So, equality is at risk whenever it bumps up against the financial interests of privileged groups. Far from being a universal Right, equality is easily reduced to a glimmer in some unimportant eyes.

Can the topic be approached in a different way? If you can’t beat them, should they be joined? In Nautilus magazine, an engineer by the name of Venkat Venkatasubramanian offers the opinion that there is a mathematical formula for the ideal level of inequality (http://nautil.us/issue/52/the-hive/is-there-an-ideal-amount-of-income-inequality). The purpose seems to be finding that level of being held down by gatekeepers of the privileged groups in such a way that it does not bring out the urge to gather pitchforks.

It may be argued that the Occupy movement shows we have passed beyond that level. However, the sound of swooshing pitchforks that were heard in Paris of the 1790s are absent today. Outside of those involved in movements such the Arab Spring, those of us thinking about the subject briefly between our 2 or 3 jobs may have forsaken direct action for a more sedate round of periodic (and usually virtual) “activism”.

Is the formula correct? Perhaps the right level of inequality has been found.

Perhaps equality is not a worthwhile goal? Who really wants it, anyway?

 

Publishing and Dinosaurs

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Literary artists may wish to note, if it is of any interest, the plaintive honks of a scribe committed to a dying industry. He/she neither seems to be familiar with the current terminology nor how to read statistics.
From BC Bookworld, Summer 2017 edition, page 41:

Hardly anybody would listen, but we did tell you that ebooks were a trumped-up fad, mostly promulgated by self-interested parties, and the format is so obviously inferior to the feel of a printed book that it couldn’t possibly replace real books. According to Publishers Weekly, ebook unit sales from reporting publishers were down 16% in 2016 from 2015. The sky has not fallen.

It is the publishing paradigm that is failing.
“Ebooks” are only a component of the new paradigm, and to isolate one’s analysis to that aspect is to emulate the brontosaurus tribe who were looking up at a falling asteroid and saying, “That’s just a chunk of rock. It can’t do us any harm.”
Like Sears, Eatons, etc., the self-absorbed gatekeepers of a dying business model that are to be found in the remnants of “the publishing industry” seem to have learned skills that serve only to advance their narrow view of the world. Large and lumbering as they are, it remains to the brave adventurers of a different sort to dash around the plodding fossils.
There are a few in that traditional industry who have, in fact, moved on. But why would they mentor their fellow dinosaurs? The small, quick and agile publishers will keep their new knowledge to themselves, allowing the designated scribe-gatekeepers to pompously proclaim that the sky isn’t falling. We know, of course, that the only surviving dinosaurs are now known as “birds” – a radical departure from the lumbering behemoths of the pre-asteroid days.

SUPPORT BOTH THE BIRDS AND THE SCURRYING MAMMALS!

Pandaemonium – a Blog with Brains

If you would like to read a blog that asks you to think hard about your conceptions and preconceptions, take a look at Kenan Malik’s Pandaemonium. Kenan is a London-based philosopher, who, despite that description, lives in anything but an ivory tower:

“Pandaemonium”

Oh – watch out for that first comment, which is from me. Apologies for the convoluted train of thought.