“Historian James Livingston examines the deep problem with employment in the 21st century – the broken relationship between work and income, and explains why we must look beyond capitalism’s intellectual decrepitude, and to the rising rate of transfer payments, if we are to reclaim our labor, our happiness and our time from the demands of capitalism.
“The end of work is in sight. The connection between work performed and character created, or work preformed and income received is absolutely unintelligible – so let’s get on with a society in which there doesn’t have to be a relationship between work and income. Let’s get on with what we used to call ‘Socialism.'”
James is the author of the new book, No More Work: Why Full Employment Is a Bad Idea from UNC Press and the Aeon essay Fuck Work.”
Common sense. It’s a double (actually triple) entendre. Brand is considered “common” in the English class system (yes, even though he is rich now) and is offering what I consider common sense political – and even spiritual – analysis. There is a third meaning as well to those familiar with Thomas Paine.
Of course, nothing he’s saying is new. Many have said it before and many are saying it now, but few have the access to media Brand has, and even fewer have his following. In media terms, his audience – the audience he carries around with him if you will – far exceeds even the most popular television show’s audience on its best night. For example the finale of Breaking Bad garnered a 6.6 million audience share. As of today, Brand has 7,366,715 followers on twitter – and I think it’s safe to assume that number represents a fraction of his fans worldwide who aren’t following him on twitter.
Not only is he articulate – often eloquent – concerning our current situation as humans on a planet increasingly controlled by corporate power and the politicians they pay for, but he has every skill needed to deal with media “journalists” and all of the various and sundry lackeys of the elite who populate our popular media landscape.
Aside from being a skilled debater (he would make a joke here), he is extremely quick-witted and capable of encapsulating complex thoughts in pithy “sound-bites.” While he has many other skills perfectly suited to communicate through the media, his most important trait is his humanity. Simply put, he cares about other people and believes people generally tend toward good impulses rather than ill. Again, there are others who appear in the media who still have their humanity, but Brand can communicate it better than most. They used to call it, “the common touch.”
So, who cares? Well, I guess it depends on who you are. Most people on the left have been trying to communicate some variation of these ideas for quite a long time now, with very little success. The prominent left’s reaction to Brand’s interview with Paxton is a testament to how fractured and divisive the left has become – and an object lesson in what some lefties do with their access to the media. Of course, some of this is airing dirty laundry, but now is as good a time as any if a certain faction of what’s left of the left wants to be on board for any actual popular resistance, let alone “lead” it.
On December 5th, 2013, Doug Henwood interviewed Fisher for his radio show and podcast Behind the News. Though there is a bit of academic language thrown around, I think he does a nice job of summing up the way I would. Essentially, he supports what Brand is doing in the media, rejects divisive “indentitarianism,” calls for putting class firmly in the center of left discourse, and for getting back to practicing solidarity and common cause.
I want to end here, but because we are where we are, it seems more of a whimper than a bang. These calls have been made before (though I sense more energy building behind the critique of identity politics). The truth is, we have to call out even those calls, because after a certain point, talk and theorizing will beget even more talk and theorizing if that is the bulk of left “action.” I am not diminishing the need for those things; in fact, acting and theorizing are not mutually exclusive – but we will eventually have to do the hard organizing work they did generations ago, because about half of us will have very few other options. This isn’t a static situation by any means. There will be another manufactured crisis. It will be worse than the last one. The same corporations will be responsible.
The elite have embraced Neoliberalism and are using a series of policies based on that economic philosophy to organize the entire world in their image. It is a world where everything is commodified, i.e., made into something that can be bought or sold, where everything owned by the public and everything for the public good is privatized and only exists to generate profit, where no one has privacy and everyone is a number.
While capitalists of the past may have had visions of world domination, it would be difficult even for them to conceive of how much capital has been consolidated and what those capitalists (yes, mostly in the form of corporations) have been able to do with that capital. They are utilizing a neoliberal agenda that enacts and enforces laws using politicians and global organizations to reorganize the very structure of our lives. From food and water to oil and jobs, from education to housing, our lives are being reshaped by global capital. This is the threat. This is what is happening before our eyes. They have more power and wealth than has ever existed in history and they are using it on people in the same way all over the world.
In the end, this may turn out to be their greatest weakness. If exploited and oppressed people understand the same thing being done to them is being done to their brothers and sisters around the world, they can begin to talk. When they talk, they can begin to organize, and then together we can fight the corporate power that exists only to exploit for profit. A worldwide class war perpetrated against working people demands worldwide solidarity and organizing.
Unions like the IWW with international aspirations never really achieved their goals. Now, the consolidation of capital by a relative few corporations and individuals using the same set of policies all over the world may have created the conditions for the first actual worldwide movement of people to come together and with one voice say, “basta!”
Click picture above to read Sam Sacks’ fine review of “Stay Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine”
This is what I have to say about it:
Well done man.
I like the approach of the authors as well as your approach to the review. The psychology of human action (or non-action) is an inexhaustible subject because we will never know precisely why we do things (or do not). This may be at the root of the brilliance of the play. It gives us a question to which there is no answer. Human beings are rational and irrational, and never the twain shall meet. While this is true, we are cursed at the same time with the need to know. We want certainty about why someone acts they way they do – and we are cursed again with a need to control how others act. Maybe that is at the root of some people’s need to create robots – and to make them appear more and more human.
I’ve always thought the question of whether Hamlet was crazy or not was as strange as the idea of temporary insanity. If one has little or no insight into choices one makes that hurt others and one kills and plots to kill, what is one? Sane? Is one sane if one has a good reason for committing condemnable acts? Is Obama sane for killing children with drones and bragging that he is, “good at killing people”? Insanity (or at least irrationality) and human actions often seem one and the same to me.
I enjoyed the Slings and Arrows clip – and that last brilliant clip as well. Erudite actors! Fun and edifying. And how fitting that Wells says, “…the first point about Hamlet is that he is a genius.” Well, of course that is what he would say! As your piece observed, Wells reading of the play revealed as much about Wells as it did Hamlet.
Another “must read” from Sarah Kendzior. She is on the right track.
At the end of the article, she offers this: “You can organize and push for collective change…”
I think it is necessary and has to be done now. It is clear that whatever we have done and are doing isn’t enough in the face of of this corporate assault on working people and every institution in the land. The corporate elite and the politicians they buy are implementing a neoliberal agenda
that is simultaneously creating the problem and making resistance harder than it has ever been. Corporations and the governments they buy are rapidly privatizing everything. They are “rent-seeking,” maximizing return, writing international trade laws, they are criminalizing poor and working people, stealing pensions, property – the list of crimes and venality seems to go on forever.
The “devaluation of people” Sarah writes of has roots in capitalism as well as neoliberalism. One has to understand both to know that while exploitation has always been key to capital accumulation, neoliberalism has been used to increase and systematize that exploitation. It is like a set of tools capitalists can use to extract wealth from individuals, cities, countries – in fact the entire world. In other words, yes, exploitation has always happened, but the consolidated power and wealth corporations have attained is unprecedented in world history. It is increasing. And they have what amounts to an organized plan, viz. A neoliberal agenda. It’s different this time. And we ignore it at our peril.
This is the (rarely reported) root cause of many of the revolts of the Arab Spring. Recently, in Turkey, neoliberal policies of privatization and the loss of public spaces sparked protest. Scratch the surface and you will find corporate interests and the politicians they pay for. In every English-speaking country, the neoliberal agenda has been forced on the “political process,” food, water, education – again, the list could go on for pages.
We need to understand what neoliberalism is as we organize to fight it. In the best Shakespearean manner, its greatest strength is its greatest weakness: It is a global phenomenon backed by many of the same corporate players. They are implementing the same policies all over the world, and through their oppression and repression, they are are radicalizing people world-wide.
They exist on greed – and the attendant fear that comes from knowing the consequences of their greed. That is why they are spying on all of us, why they are militarizing our police forces, why corrupt politicians shout down teachers, why the rich live behind walls and security cameras and lead lives almost totally separate from us (unless we’re waiting on them). They fear us. Because they know what they are doing is wrong.
Even now, as a small fraction of the earth’s population amasses most of its wealth on the backs of most of its people and the health of the land, they are more and more afraid. We have a small window, and when I look around the English-speaking world I know, I don’t see the urgency we need to have, I don’t see enough people making the intellectual connections or the necessary connections with each other.
People who are already activists and organizers need to organize under one banner. I humbly submit it should be one that is pro-human and anti-neoliberal. Then we need to organize the world, putting people before profit while fighting the neoliberal agenda. It may sound utopian or crazy, but I think it is eminently realistic – and I hope imminently realistic. Even if it’s not, simply accepting the path we’re on is not an option.
When survival is touted as an aspiration, sacrifice becomes a virtue. But a hero is not a person who suffers. A suffering person is a person who suffers.
If you suffer in the proper way – silently, or with proclaimed fealty to institutions – then you are a hard worker “paying your dues”. If you suffer in a way that shows your pain, that breaks your silence, then you are a complainer – and you are said to deserve your fate.
But no worker deserves to suffer. To compound the suffering of material deprivation with rationalisations for its warrant is not only cruel to the individual, but gives exploiters moral license to prey.
Individuals internalise the economy’s failure, as a media chorus excoriates them over what they should have done differently. They jump to meet shifting goalposts; they express gratitude for their own mistreatment: their…
Click above to get important info on the NSA and you from this groundbreaking multimedia report from The Guardian. Not only is this a great report, I believe the format is groundbreaking and will be copied by everyone – everyone with the resources that is…
Click picture above to read The Believer article by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, “If He Hollers Let Him Go, Searching for Dave Chappelle ten years after he left his own show.”
One of the best articles I’ve read in a long while – and it happened to be the only confirmation I’ve ever seen of my thoughts about why Dave left Comedy Central.
Addendum: Dave Chappelle ascended to the mountaintop of comedy. He amassed the goodwill of billions and became a voice that people wanted to hear. He has since taken all of that and thrown it in the toilet. In a time of unprecedented inequality, war, corporate criminality, corrupt politicians, global warming, cops murdering black kids and adults with impunity and countless other horrors, Dave has chosen to punch down and belittle serious crimes while offering nothing original. And it’s not funny.
Can he still be funny? Sure, but his latest attempts at comedy are pathetic and bordering on cruel. He clearly thinks he’s the most macho of all the comics now – in fact, my guess is that he actually thinks he is fighting for comics to be able to say whatever they want. Well, he’s doing it wrong.
He made an extra to tack on to one of his Netflix specials. He tells a long anecdote about how he ended up sitting with a bunch (or let’s call them a murder) of neoliberal politicians at a stand-up gig. He talks about how well they all got along…and then he talks about how great it was to meet prince charles (who he was introduced to by gavin newsome). The episode ends with him meeting obama (who kamala harris had earlier asked dave to call). He’s telling on himself and he doesn’t even know it.
Chappelle has become a clueless, rich, mostly unfunny, celebrity who punches down and has no problem hanging with politicians who are greatly responsible for that oppression, because they do the bidding of the corporations and ultra-rich who purchase them. The saddest thing of all is that people are still eating it up. In the 70’s, Sammy Davis Jr. was pilloried (especially by black people) for running up to Nixon and giving him a big hug. Chappelle hasn’t done that, but he went on national television (SNL) and joked that he would benefit from the election of trump, and then he went even farther and asked people to “give him a chance.” He eventually had to sorta kinda apologize, but was given a pass by most people and all of his fans. There’s no excuse for this. Sammy wasn’t born into a family of scholars. Sammy never heard from the left or had much political knowledge at all. dave obviously knows very little about politics, but he should know better, and that is unforgivable.
To add insult to injury, he is a hypocrite (in his comedy act no less). He claims to know what it’s like to be poor and intimates that he grew up poor. Aside from the fact that he was never poor and has had money since he was 15, he has been rich for decades now. I’m not a fan of “cancel culture,” and actually believe its power has been overestimated, but dave has gone out of his way to cancel himself. Not because he is not “politically correct,” but because it’s clear he has chosen to side with his people, the 1%, against struggling and oppressed people. The irony in all of this is that he probably thinks he’s practicing the “sick humor” and satire of Lenny Bruce and Paul Krassner, but (again) he’s doing it wrong. Lenny and Paul used their talents to go after the rich and powerful and call out hypocrisy. dave is now using his talents to go after the poor and oppressed while hanging with the rich and powerful. It’s sad to watch, dispiriting, and disgusting enough to make your skin crawl – but apparently in the 21st century, all of this gets a pass as he collects his tens of millions from netflix and his fans cheer for more.
“There are only two or three human stories,” Willa Cather wrote, “and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”
The seesaw of history has thrust the oligarchs once again into the sky. We sit humiliated and broken on the ground. It is an old battle. It has been fought over and over in human history. We never seem to learn. It is time to grab our pitchforks.”
Click anywhere above to read the full article at truthdig