Making America Half-hearted

Following Trump’s example, we have seen Kathy Griffin and now Johnny Depp both make an outrageous comment or act in public then apologize. The apologies strike me as heart-felt as Trump’s apologies for comments he made during the election. It’s an entirely sad state of our society that is characterized by public figures who behave as impulsively as a teenager. They seem to have no idea of the consequences, or they simply don’t care about the consequences. Opprobrium be damned, it got a good chuckle and some attention, so why fret public backlash that’ll last maybe a week and a half tops?

I warned of this sort of thing before Trump’s election. I told people, especially one friend who was very supportive of him during his election and I believe still is, that he would delegitimize his office, making it something less than a position of reposed leadership. To be sure, I mainly thought his formal actions as a president couldn’t be trusted, that he’d let pride cause something regarding policy to go wrong. So far, there hasn’t been much of that, because he’s not running his own presidency. Anyone who thinks the same man to joke about his daughter’s appearence and gloss over sexually derogatory comments he then claims are common to locker rooms is also figuring out how to tackle child trafficking and negotiate foreign policy must believe one of the two is his real self, for he cannot be both. His temperament and pettiness during the campaign wasn’t washed away with his inauguration. If anything, his public speaking has drastically changed in tone because of those around him getting him to dial it down a notch. Yet the same ignorance can be heard when he speaks.

Trump’s deficiency in moral fiber will be something we have to live with for a while. I hope the rest of his presidency contains less focus on his or other easy points to attack with debased humor. I hope he also grows up once and for all.

Advertisements

Get yo Egg Crashed by Christopher Lasch

Some of the appeal of capitalism that has really become impossible for many people to resist is due to technology’s efficiency and the possibilities it apparently proffers. But anyone politically minded should reconsider that. Being an ethical consumer is not enough, not being an ethical producer who has successfully adapted to the current technopoly, the present world evermore dependent on technology. For technology is quite contrary to a lot of the ends that people seek. At the end of the day, it will not help us become stewards of the environment or fight capitalists.

Here is Lasch to tell it:

Conservation runs counter to our entire system of large-scale capitalist enterprise. It demands small-scale production, political decentralization, and an abandonment of our consumer culture. It demands a change in the way we live, not a new technology, even a “revolutionary” technology.

And more:

Everything we know about technological “progress” indicates, on the contrary, that it promotes inequality and political centralization. It commends itself to the masters of American industry for that very reason. Whenever we hear that some new technology is “inevitable” we should consult the historical record, which shows that technical innovations usually appeal to industrialists not because they are inevitable or even because they make for greater productive efficiency, but because they consolidate the industrialist’s power over the work force.

Honest to God

Some days I really do feel what Chesterton said about liberals and liberalism — that he believed as much as he ever did in the latter, but the innocent time when he believed in the former is gone. As I grow old and learn to grow content with contempt, I do find myself more pleased with liberals because they are angry with many of the actors responsible for much of the calamities conservatives bemoan. But for Fawkes’ sake, they do not know how to fix what is wrong.

 

Take the following exhibit. Rightly so, the author enjoins readers to rescind any sort of understanding of economics as a science as natural as physics — physics has laws, economics does not.

The most pernicious legacy of this fake physics has been to entice generations of economists into a misguided search for economic laws of motion that dictate the path of development. People and money are not as obedient as gravity, so no such laws exist. Yet their false discoveries have been used to justify growth-first policymaking.

I chuckled in assent reading a glib little sarcastic line: “Like a well-trained child, growth will apparently clean up after itself. ” I went on to mostly agree with the postulation that economics is in fact not like a well-trained child, that, in fact, “extreme inequality and environmental degradation are the result of policy choices, and these choices can be changed.” Bravo-mostly. I get nervous when people start talking about the environment, especially liberals, because these days no one seems to think the environment would perhaps be the first to benefit from a far simpler, less technological world.

Lo-and-behold!

Let’s take off the hard hat and give up on reaching for the economy’s control levers because they simply don’t exist. Instead, put on some gardening gloves, pick up a pair of secateurs, and start to steward the economic garden. And if you think that sounds laissez faire, then you’ve never done a hard day’s work in the garden: it calls for getting stuck in, digging, pruning, weeding and watering the plants as they grow and mature.

How can economic gardeners help to create a thriving economy, one that is inclusive and sustainable and will help to achieve the sustainable development goals? By following two core principles: make it regenerative and distributive by design.

Regenerative economic design ensures that instead of using up Earth’s resources, we use them again and again and again.

A strong breeze of green industrialism broke through all that clear, brisk air of sober reasoning and criticism. The blog I found the article on quoted that first paragraph and I indeed found the solution to be laissez-faire, but I persisted. I figured, if the author encouraged some personal responsibility in doing things themselves, that could be fine. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean the exact things she went on to describe. Some day, you’re going to find her words in the mouth of some actress narrating a commercial for Microsoft: “We learn to work with, not against, the cyclical processes of life, including those for carbon, water and nutrients. ” It ought to be said that isn’t a bad sentiment, but it’s good depends on the speaker.

At present, we have one who essentially wants things to stay the same, but with the addition of green technology.Like always, the prescription begins with a hint of something that might actually cause society to change, but note the ending words:

Distributive economic design, in turn, ensures that value created is spread far more equitably among those who helped to generate it. Think employee-owned companies – such as the John Lewis Partnership and Unipart – that reward committed employees rather than short-term shareholders. Think community-owned renewable-energy systems that generate electricity along with income for community purpose. Think creative commons licensing that enables valuable innovations, like those of the Open Building Institute, to be shared, improved and used without end.

In Saecula Saeculorum. Amen. For the true hope of liberals is a future without end that has forever, once and for all, eradicated the errors of the past. This kind of desperation I have identified with and, again, currently empathize with. But to hand over those hopes to those working start-ups, “institutes,” and businesses is to essentially give them up. These things are rarities because that’s not the way that economically minded, profit-motivated people think. I have very little doubt that in the near and even distant future, we will still hear from liberals talking about this or that collective or business that just seems to get it right, and that we should look to them for an example of the future. Liberals have been doing this for I do not know how long. At least since the popularization, insofar as there was one, of communes.The sexual revolution was wrought with this esoteric sense of the inevitable. It continues up to this very day as LGBT and gender fluid persons are pointed to as examples of how we should all come to see gender and sex. But these people remain a rarity for a reason. Something about what they believe doesn’t change the rest of society. With regard to economics and business, those that undergo their work with a different ilk of principles have not changed capitalism, they have found space to operate slightly differently within it. Those people will still need places to operate, so they will need contractors and developers; they’ll need to borrow money to start, so they’ll need banks. And suppose that there will be a great amount of them in the future. All that means is even more money will be going to contractors, developers, bankers, and investors. So far from changing anything, they’ll provide a more charismatic face for the same voracious beast with all the world as it’s prey.

And indeed their goal will be to provide ethical or moral comforts “improved and used without end.” They’ll be there to say, “Capitalism is good and here to stay,” whether or not those words ever come directly from them. Nothing will change, the poor will still be a vulnerable lot of folks desperate for the comforts of the well-off. The Market will still be slow to accomodate their lack of purchasing power. People will still be distant and focus the majority of their time on work (a great many will easily take to the idea that they are helping society “go green” and become “sustainable”). Robots and sweatshop labor will still produce all of our gadgets and technology. And there may be new miseries that come from a misguided arch of progress.

The writer goes on:

So how can economic policymakers be more like gardeners in their approach? They should think of policy as an adapting portfolio of experiments, says Eric Beinhocker, a leading thinker in the field of evolutionary economics. We should mimic nature’s process of natural selection, which can be summed up as diversify-select-amplify: set up small-scale policy experiments to test out a variety of interventions, put a stop to the ones that don’t work and scale-up those that do. Nobel-prize-winning political scientist Elinor Ostrom agreed. “We have never had to deal with problems of the scale facing today’s globally interconnected society,” she wrote. “No one knows for sure what will work, so it is important to build a system that can evolve and adapt rapidly.”

Having once denounced the applicability of the logic of natural sciences into the realm of economics, the writer now believes we should nonetheless do exactly that. This time we ought to more or less start experimenting, as if we could eventually extrapolate and generate a theory that can be applied across so great a scale as the entire globe. Having begun saying there is no law that exists, we now see the writer advocating a course of action that presupposes that there is.

And the experimenting part really strikes me as arrogant. We ought to begin experimenting, as if we really have that time to waste, as if nothing worse can happen than whatever threats are admitted by economic theorists. As if we weren’t already experimenting enough because we’ve given up on applying tested and tried knowledge and experience.

The scientist’s admission that we “have never had to deal with problems of the scale facing today’s globally interconnected society” conveys a humility quickly abandoned with the words that we have to “build a system that can evolve and adapt rapidly.” Out of one side of the mouth, we are warned; out of the other, we are promised the sky. Systems do not evolve and adapt rapidly, mainly because they’re systems. A system is not meant to evolve and adapt. At least not quickly. Moreover, any global system will adapt slower than I believe the patience of a scientist such as this one can endure.

The article ends with a note of irony that is curiously naive.

Better still, every one of us can have a hand in shaping the economy’s evolution. Not just in how we shop, eat and travel, but in how we volunteer, invest and protest. In how we set up new businesses, save for our pensions, license our inventions, and power our homes.

We can change the world, we are told, not by simply being consumers, but by being slightly different consumers. All posited areas of change, except the licensing of inventions, are pure and flat means of consuming. (While licensing inventions implies a need for production, the author doesn’t seem to understand that we already have far too many inventions and people desperately trying to make anything to get a buck.)

It would do these types well to watch more Black Mirror. In the meantime, I can only suggest that it is not greater, ethical/moral innovation which the world needs, but simplicity. The environment could be greatly helped if more people spent time planting seeds in their garden and less time away from home, driving back and forth to jobs, vacations, and stores. People would be happier and healthier. But I am afraid the liberal has been caught and reeled in by the glitz and glamour of capitalism. Their imagination handicapped. They can foresee no future except one wherein we have what we have now and in even greater amounts, with far superior efficiency, and none or little of what by which we currently feel enslaved or besieged.

I’ve Seen the Future

And it’s an anime episode of Black Mirror

To use the store, called Moby, you download an app and use your phone to open the door. A hologram-like AI greets you, and, as you shop, you scan what you want to buy or place it in a smart basket that tracks your purchases. Then you walk out the door; instead of waiting in line, the store automatically charges your card when you leave (Amazon is testing a similar system). The tiny shop will stock fresh food and other daily supplies, and if you want something else you can order it using the store’s artificial intelligence. The packages will be waiting when you return to shop the next time. When autonomous vehicles are allowed on roads, the store could also show up at your home, and the company is also testing a set of drones to make small deliveries.

https://www.fastcompany.com/40429419/this-tiny-grocery-store-is-mobile-self-driving-and-run-by-ai

Morning Chat With a Cop

This morning I spoke with an deputy employed by the LA Sheriff’s department who was black and, from what I gathered, a good father. I was having my car detailed in a parking lot when he slowly approached to inquire about the car detailing business. Later on the guy detailing my car, Key, told me that he makes sure his sons work hard. From talking to the deputy, he sounded like someone who himself works hard and takes his job seriously.

I couldn’t help but ask him what he thinks is the cause of police brutality and the conflicts cops get into. He said it depends on how seriously a cop takes the job and their training. He firstly began by saying you have to remember everyone is human, which I was glad to hear. He then went on to say that when they get into a certain situation, they have to remember what they were trained to do. They have to recall the tactics for de-escalating a situation that they were taught. If they didn’t take the training seriously, or don’t take the job seriously, then any number of things can go wrong.

Much of what he said reminded me of what I’ve learned about teaching. If a teacher only wants to get paid, or doesn’t truly care about their students, then the minute something goes wrong they may either quit or overreact and mishandle the situation. The same thing can be said for many situations. But the chief point is that at the center of any conflict, there are people who have decisions they have to make. Much more can be said, but nothing will be understood unless that much is comprehended.

Black Mirror as a Truly Conservative Show

I had a whiff of a hope when I set out to watch Black Mirror that it would be a truly conservative show. I know that title is heaved at every impulse from the right, each time with the dim hope that it is true, and each time at the sight of something that gives our culture cause for pause in it’s incessant march forward in the mighty name of Progress.

But with Black Mirror, I get a deeper sense of the gravitas I’d expect from conservative artists, writers, and filmmakers. What I would say makes for conservative art is the indication that the good we have discovered and kept is too easily lost. With Black Mirror, I get just that feeling. In fact, I get the feeling it already has been lost and we may continue losing it if we continue in this way. Yes, people will have food, shelter, sex, friends, families, the right to vote, a sense of humor, and a black mirror of mass communication in every room and car, but yes we may also humiliate one another to ends we couldn’t foresee until we actually do so, we may forget the humanity of the unjust, we may have passionless sex because we’re so desensitized to one another and hold a secret wish to live in the past, we may allow ourselves to become dependent on an artifice to convince us that that past is not gone, we may become entrenched by those black mirrors on which a ceaseless admixture of our dreams and our basest desires plays to remind us to continue working for nothing but the opportunity to survive.

The director of the show, Charlie Brooker, said in an interview that the show is about ” the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy. And if there’s one thing we know about mankind, it’s this: we’re usually clumsy.” No there is no platform for the Republican or Conservative party. No he isn’t saying end abortion. No he isn’t saying make the market free and go to Church. However, the show he’s helping to create is a part of a deeper part of what it means to be human and to live in an inherently tragic world — or, rather, a world inclined to tragedy. Hence, every show I have watched so far ends with characters in a place no better than the one where they started. Conservatives have often been accused of being naysayers and against progress. I wish they would do so with the poignancy of Black Mirror. They might actually convince someone that morality — an “artifice most fragile” as Russel Kirk said — can be lost and so can all the rest of what we’ve gained through centuries of liberation, war, recovery, farming, religious devotion, education, etc.