Tradition!

19 02 2014

Why is it those who yell loudest about hewing to tradition care the least about history?

I know, I know. . . .





Ball of confusion

27 10 2013

Imma going to steal from myself.

TNC put up a post late Friday on Tony Judt’s Postwar, during which he noted that

Judt is not wrong to focus on property. Theft is the essence of atrocity—if only the theft of dignity and life. Indeed, where I forced to to offer one word to sum up black people’s historical relationship to the American state, “theft” is the first that would come to mind. Theft of labor and theft of family in slavery. Theft of life through lynching and pogrom. Theft of franchise in half the country. . . .

To which I wrote the following (alas, too slowly: he closed the thread before I could post):

The importance of property has been a sticky issue for (some!) of us pinkos. On the one hand, an orthodox Marxist would recognize the necessity of the proletariat seizing control of the means of production during the (ever receding) revolution—which suggests that (productive) property is pretty goddamned important. Yet on the other hand, a concern for property ownership can be seen as “too bourgeois”.

The agrarian socialists have been better on this than those who focus on industrial workers, not least because in the countryside the productive property is land itself: arguing for land/squatter rights (against absentee/large landholders) can thus be seen as a kind of socialist demand for worker control.

Anyway, control of one’s property is tremendously important for those who don’t live in those gloriously liberated post-revolution societies (which is to say, all of us), and I know damned few leftists who say “Ooo, I want to live in a commune!” The puzzle for we skeptics of capitalism is to figure out how to make a place for the centrality of property in human life without having property itself decenter the human.

I went back and forth on this, writing and deleting, and then just deleting, before I ended up with this. There’s no great insight involved, but it is a useful reminder of the troubles of the late-capitalist anti-capitalist sometimes-thinker.

Of course, we anti-capitalists who like stuff are not the only ones fighting our demonic contradictions.

I refer, of course, to the Jesus Christ Capitalists, those who seek the glory of the Lord in the financialized marketplace.

To give credit to Rod Dreher (something I do rarely enough), he at least recognizes that there are tensions between those who hold both to tradition and to free trade: however creative is the destructiveness of capitalism, it does effectively pull the pins out from beneath traditional society.

If those of us on the anti-capitalist left have to figure out what to do with property, well, those on the traditional right have to figure out what to do with capitalism.

None of this to say that there aren’t people on both the right and the left who aren’t already thinking and doing something(s) about this.

I try not to mistake my lack of attention to for others’ lack of effort.





Whoo-oop, just a little bit

1 07 2013

dmf is right: I gotta lay off the blogs that are leading me to screw myself into the ground.

Y’know, Sullivan with his Baldwin-proves-liberals-suck rampage (and before that, Clinton, and Palin, . . .). I don’t disagree with him (that Baldwin’s an asshole, and his Tweet, hateful), but jeez, make the point, and move on.

I mean, Alec Baldwin is an actor. An actor. That’s it. So you don’t like the people who like him, which gives you a chance to get all tribal and everything. Fine. We all get tribal some times. Just. . . own the tribalism, man, and stifle the it’s-the-principle! nonsense.

And Dreher, oy, reading him of late (Paula Deen, Trayvon Martin, liberals always and everywhere) is plucking my last nerves. The meanness, the double-treble-quadruple standards, the pissiness at pushback. . . .

Oy doesn’t begin to cover it.

~~~

Oh, and then there’s this.

Makes me so proud I work for CUNY.

~~~

There’s a difference between motive and intention, isn’t there? It seems that there’s a difference.

Motive is where something starts, and intention is where it leads, right?

Yeah, I think that’s right.

~~~

So I’ve been turning over this thought in my head about the whiteness of the GOP and arguments (click here for a Crooked Timber post that has the various relevant links) that Republicans don’t have to worry about being the party of the pasty.

I think they do.

I don’t have this all worked out, but it seems that in order for the GOP to be the White Party they’re going to have to entice voters based on their whiteness, and I don’t know how many folks think of themselves primarily as white.

This is the crumbling underside of the default standard of white: regular [i.e., non-academic, non-race-politicized] white folks haven’t had to think about their whiteness. To bring them to you, you first have to bring them to their whiteness, convince them that their whiteness ought to be their primary concern, then further convince them that their candidates will do the most to preserve their white privilege.

Yes, whitey-first appeals have worked and will continue to work in a number of districts, but I don’t see how this appeal can be expanded, largely because I don’t know how much white folks who aren’t already racialists really want to be racialists. I think white-first appeals would turn them off, maybe make them less likely to vote Republican.

Most Americans don’t want to think of themselves as racists—even the racists don’t want to be seen as racists—and aren’t in a hurry to separate themselves (in their imaginations, at least, if not always in practice) from their fellow Americans. We’re not always large, but an awful lot of us aspire to be.

I don’t know, I’m probably talking out of my nose. It just seems like  focus-on-the-whites is a losing proposition with many of those very same whites.

~~~

Okay, back to Dreher—but to one of those posts that make me go Hmm rather than AAAAAAARGHHH! Namely,  on the problem with ‘the right side of history’ arguments.

Someone as non-whiggish as me casts a similarly skeptical eye on those claims, but skeptic that I am, I go even further: If there is no right side to history (which there isn’t), why the fealty to moralities anchored deep within that history, i.e., traditions?

I mean, isn’t the advocacy of tradition based on a notion of the judgment of history (properly threshed, of course)?

More talking out of my nose, I suppose, and maybe these are really two separate things.

But I kinda think not.





Thanksgiving for every wrong move

24 11 2011

A repeat post from last Thanksgiving:

It’d take about 20 minutes before our dresses would be off.

My cousin A. and I, having been forced to wear something nice (and constricting) for Thanksgiving, would head into the den and whip off our dresses so that we could play—hard. While our mothers might have sighed over the sight of us scampering about in our slips and tights, at least they didn’t have to worry about stains and tears to the good clothes.

All of us kids would head upstairs, carefully closing the door behind us—the better to keep the adults at bay—before tiptoeing through our grandma’s bedroom to reach the closet door.

This was a great closet, mainly because it was less a closet than a long, dark, narrow passageway into the other bedroom. Who had a closet like this? It wasn’t a secret, but it felt like one.

The real treasure, however, was the attic, which we were of course and repeatedly warned against entering. Come on: you tell kids ‘don’t you go messing around in the attic’ enough times and of course that’s exactly what we’re going to do. It was dark and drafty and a little bit dangerous (all those nails poking through the rough wood) and had just the right ratio of stuff to space: a great play space.

There was an old Victrola in the attic, and while I don’t remember if this was Thanksgiving or not, one year my brother and A.’s brother somehow got that thing cranked up and going; we all fled as sound came out of it, giddy and afraid we broke it.

No, we did not dare tell the adults.

Another favorite was to grab a blanket and ride it down the (carpeted) stairs. The door ended right at the last step—no space or landing—so every time you bumped down the steps you’d slam into the door. This would the lead the adults to ask What are you kids doing up there?

Nothing!

You’re not sliding down the stairs, are you?

No!

At some point my dad and uncles would grab a couple of glass jugs and head over to the nearest bar for beer, although it seemed to take them quite awhile to go just the few blocks and back. But they’d always return, in good cheer and carrying the soon-to-be-emptied jugs.

Finally, it would be time to eat: Adults at the fancy cherrywood table lengthened just for this day, the kids either at a card table set up near there or in the den. The den was best: We had our own bowls of food, and could take as much or as little as we wanted, but, really, we could laugh and mess around and not have to worry about ‘behaving’ or ‘keeping it down’.

We’d all crash out for a bit in my grandma’s small front room, my aunts and uncles smoking and us kids waiting until the cherrywood table was made small again and the adults gave permission for us to take over the (much larger) dining room. The blanket came back into play, usually in some manner of us rolling ourselves in it and trying to chase one another around. If one of the adults was sufficiently, ah, loosened up, he or she would join us, and perhaps we could get them to slide down the stairs, too—only this time, with the door open.

T.v. would be watched—there was usually some holiday movie on—and pie eaten. Other cousins who had eaten elsewhere might stop by, either for pie or beer, and we’d hang out until the traditional holiday walk.

Honestly, I don’t remember if this is something we did for Thanksgiving or Christmas or both (I think at least Thanksgiving), but we’d all bundle up and head out into the south Sheboygan neighborhood, a knotted string along shovelled walks. When we’d hit the highway the adults would call us close, then we’d climb the stairs to the bridge over the lanes. We got a nice shot of the lights of the neighborhood, and we’d wave at the oncoming cars.

And then we’d spit.

No, we weren’t (well, we weren’t supposed to be) aiming at cars. It was just our thing: We’d spit off the bridge.

So happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And may you get the chance where you are to spit off a bridge.





Thanksgiving for every wrong move

25 11 2010

It’d take about 20 minutes before our dresses would be off.

My cousin A. and I, having been forced to wear something nice (and constricting) for Thanksgiving, would head into the den and whip off our dresses so that we could play—hard. While our mothers might have sighed over the sight of us scampering about in our slips and tights, at least they didn’t have to worry about stains and tears to the good clothes.

All of us kids would head upstairs, carefully closing the door behind us—the better to keep the adults at bay—before tiptoeing through our grandma’s bedroom to reach the closet door.

This was a great closet, mainly because it was less a closet than a long, dark, narrow passageway into the other bedroom. Who had a closet like this? It wasn’t a secret, but it felt like one.

The real treasure, however, was the attic, which we were of course and repeatedly warned against entering. Come on: you tell kids ‘don’t you go messing around in the attic’ enough times and of course that’s exactly what we’re going to do. It was dark and drafty and a little bit dangerous (all those nails poking through the rough wood) and had just the right ratio of stuff to space: a great play space.

There was an old Victrola in the attic, and while I don’t remember if this was Thanksgiving or not, one year my brother and A.’s brother somehow got that thing cranked up and going; we all fled as sound came out of it, giddy and afraid we broke it.

No, we did not dare tell the adults.

Another favorite was to grab a blanket and ride it down the (carpeted) stairs. The door ended right at the last step—no space or landing—so every time you bumped down the steps you’d slam into the door. This would the lead the adults to ask What are you kids doing up there?

Nothing!

You’re not sliding down the stairs, are you?

No!

At some point my dad and uncles would grab a couple of glass jugs and head over to the nearest bar for beer, although it seemed to take them quite awhile to go just the few blocks and back. But they’d always return, in good cheer and carrying the soon-to-be-emptied jugs.

Finally, it would be time to eat: Adults at the fancy cherrywood table lengthened just for this day, the kids either at a card table set up near there or in the den. The den was best: We had our own bowls of food, and could take as much or as little as we wanted, but, really, we could laugh and mess around and not have to worry about ‘behaving’ or ‘keeping it down’.

We’d all crash out for a bit in my grandma’s small front room, my aunts and uncles smoking and us kids waiting until the cherrywood table was made small again and the adults gave permission for us to take over the (much larger) dining room. The blanket came back into play, usually in some manner of us rolling ourselves in it and trying to chase one another around. If one of the adults was sufficiently, ah, loosened up, he or she would join us, and perhaps we could get them to slide down the stairs, too—only this time, with the door open.

T.v. would be watched—there was usually some holiday movie on—and pie eaten. Other cousins who had eaten elsewhere might stop by, either for pie or beer, and we’d hang out until the traditional holiday walk.

Honestly, I don’t remember if this is something we did for Thanksgiving or Christmas or both (I think at least Thanksgiving), but we’d all bundle up and head out into the south Sheboygan neighborhood, a knotted string along shovelled walks. When we’d hit the highway the adults would call us close, then we’d climb the stairs to the bridge over the lanes. We got a nice shot of the lights of the neighborhood, and we’d wave at the oncoming cars.

And then we’d spit.

No, we weren’t (well, we weren’t supposed to be) aiming at cars. It was just our thing: We’d spit off the bridge.

So happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And may you get the chance where you are to spit off a bridge.