Category Archives: culture

“narcotic earnestness” and the exclusion of working class people

from Le fond de l’air est rouge (1977) by Chris Marker

Two articles were published this week that featured similar takes on the emotional side of the socialist equation. Doug Henwood said he found the magazine-publishing left in Brooklyn encouraging because it offers an “intellectual seriousness without a narcotic earnestness”. Owen Jones wrote for the Independent saying that there’s nothing “personal” about socialism. What do they define as narcotic earnestness, as personal? Imagine a civil rights movement told to make racism “not personal”, telling people to settle down and see things logically for a change. Where’s the heart in it?

I suspect this lack of heart comes because of a distance from the idea. It’s no coincidence that people who are not workers, who have sometimes never even been workers, peddle these viewpoints of emotional disconnect and masculine affect. We would laugh off a white male who tries to tell us that feminism or anti-racism aren’t personal issues. A white male clearly has much less at stake in the fight against misogyny and racism than a woman of color. It would be no surprise to us if he could approach the situation without emotion – after all, what has he ever felt in his bones on the matter? So when a member of the privileged classes says that socialism is nothing personal, that narcotic earnestness is something to look down one’s nose at, we should have a similar reaction.

I believe that the reason the “new left” is pushed in the direction of academic dryness, blocked ears and inaction is precisely because those privileged classes, who have quite a different stake in the discussion, are the ones currently steering it. It’s a small, closed circle that is described by the New Statesmen as basically, “the wunderkind socialists of Brooklyn”. Workers are not included in this new left except as statistics and dehumanizing, baseless assumptions. Workers should be at the forefront of overthrowing capitalism, because they are the only ones who can do it. Those on the left who say “the left is dead” are, more often than not, those who benefit most as a class from the death of the left.

This is not to say the privileged classes who can afford to separate themselves so emotionally from socialism should be excluded entirely – far from it. But one should vigorously fight bourgeois ideas masquerading as “socialism” that spring from this source. If you cannot see the fight against capitalism as a fight to save your life, then you will never fight as hard. Without the inclusion of workers who have such a vital stake in overthrowing capitalism, the movement will remain on the pages of a magazine.

I happen to think that if there is such a thing as a “safe space” in this society, there should safe spaces on the left for people who are not bourgeois, people who come from working class backgrounds and people who are poor. I would like to see more workers’ journals, more workers’ panels. I believe that workers should be preferred recipients for writing and journalism grants. Workers are the ones who inevitably organize to accomplish socialism. After all, it is the people who have the most to lose who not only take socialism the most seriously, but also feel it the most personally. And workers know bullshit better than anybody; when you come around dispassionately speaking in a language meant to exclude them from things they care passionately about, they will turn their backs on you. Workers should be at the forefront of socialist ideology to defeat bourgeois ideas. Workers are the subject, not the object, of socialism.

Workers and the experiences of working people are erased daily in discourse on the left. They exist as statistics or as ignorant masses who need to be talked out of their own stupidity and shown “the way” by  wunderkind socialists of Brooklyn who (obviously) know more about capitalism than they do. It’s time to welcome workers into the discussion. They take socialism personally, they feel the blows on their bodies from capitalism daily. Most importantly, they bring the “narcotic earnestness” that pushes people into action.

Looking at what the average American worker consumes, very little of it represents their class interest. It is essential they be included in socialist discussions and organizing because they have the most to gain from socialism and because they can help articulate the heart in the theory.

I think the first step in this inclusion of workers should be for the rich to identify who they are on the left. I suggest a moneybag icon next to bylines of writers whose family wealth is more than $150,000. Doug Henwood, for example, attended Yale and makes his living as a financial advisor, yet is quoted in a story as offering authoritative views on this new left. There is nothing wrong with being born into money or having an advanced degree and speaking about leftism. It’s the “authoritative” part I take issue with. It’s the distance from the risk and reward and suggesting socialism isn’t personal, isn’t really about life or feelings, that poisons things. If one’s ideas aren’t bourgeois, there’s nothing to be afraid of by opening them up to challenge. If one can learn to speak to people simply and concisely, if one can listen well and not speak with condescension, then this is going to help. The art of self-criticism is lost on this generation of “new” leftists; we are terrified of critique or blacklisting ourselves out of academic institutions or publications. We tune out what we don’t want to hear, and hold tighter and more personally to our positions than we do to socialism. If we’re all on the same side, why the defensive posturing, why the lashing out?

There are two meanings of “taking it personally”, and one involves ego. A socialist should be eager to correct their ideological mistakes and take criticism from others. When criticism is painted as “trolling” and dismissed as “hysterical”, this is the ego talking. When the greatest stake you have in the conversation is whether or not you’re correct, then you have little to lose. The New Statesman article admits the socialist revival in Brooklyn seems to exist in the air, not in action, but fails to grasp that the lack of worker involvement, the beating heart of socialism, is why.

on somatophobia more generally, or, is “Food a haven for reactionaries”?

T’ai: I hadn’t even read the newest piece and I came to a bunch of the same conclusions about food politics today when reading this article on Gawker. Somatophobia and the fear of hunger.

Em: Yes, it’s horrible.

T’ai: Or rather, you don’t deal with the suffering or need by eliminating the instrument which suffers or needs. Wanting tasty food isn’t a curse. These people probably get angry when they involuntarily sneeze, or laugh. Optimizing nutrution is a great goal, but it’s really wrong to act like something that isn’t whatsoever pleasant to eat is anywhere near to optimal. It really does come down to a weird hatred of being bodied, or anything involuntary, like sneezing or laughing or orgasms.

Em: It’s a weird contradiction. Capital demands individual units, but people seek to discard their own units in an individualistic way. It’s possible that the individual desire to escape the body is the unfocused individual desire to escape capitalism.

T’ai: It’s true that it’s possible to be denied agency by immaterial things, like drug addiction. Which is why I think that “do what you want because it’s your body/drug politics” are stupid. But, like, that doesn’t make every single biological or psychological need a sort of oppression. Things like the need for food can be vehicles for actual oppression, obviously.

Em: Like through capitalism, commodification. All of those items: hunger, sex, disease, they have all been commodified.

T’ai: Yeah, there’s something very No Alternative about it. I feel like the sort of person who is into this displays a really weird desire to escape (and indeed destroy) the human body/condition as such; eliminating biological and psychological needs instead of fulfilling them, uploading one’s mind, and so on. There’s something that bothers me about a viewpoint that sees suffering human bodies (in whatever fashion) as a thing to be made obsolescent rather than a thing to be treated more respectfully and humanely.

Em: Even eliminating them! Eliminating suffering bodies is easier than treating them, for capital.

T’ai: Yeah…

ADS <3 KIDS

 by Iikka Vuorela, part of weird twitter and the rhizzone

Much like how run-of-the-mill nerds have fled the unsanitary physical world into the internet, My Little Pony, WoW and animé, so too are the academic hopefuls today hella eager to devote themselves to a Zizekian hodgepodge of social commentary based on irreverent anecdotes, film theory and Lacan, and generally anything postmodern and deconstructionist in favor of trying to consider solutions to localized, individual situations involving real human beings. There is a particular subject that feels, to me personally, hella overlooked: television. Another: babies, toddlers, children. Because of the former, the late capitalist world is more hostile, manipulative and alien place for the latter to grow up in. Moreso than anybody is willing to admit to themselves.

Most households still have televisions and children grow up in front of them, while the content has steadily gotten more and more sophisticated in manipulation. But this dilemma is no longer one that spawns discussion in the media, internet, academia, anywhere. Television is old news. And so, as it is being overlooked, the blame on the arrested development of the western youth has no target. So, the youth keep coming up with targets, using Lacanian analysis and Marxist theory to explain top-down the horrors of late capitalism, perhaps even intentionally distancing themselves as far as possible from the localized interaction they themselves were a part of years ago: the television and the toddler.

We’ve forgotten television. And who can blame us, what with how fast the internet grew? Who here is boring enough to still go on about the dangerous effects of television on our youth? Now it’s all about the effects of social media, ultra-realistic video games, sexting, internet porn and all that good stuff. Who even has a television nowadays, man.

I would argue that what has been completely missed by the population at large is that television still exists as the primary medium that capitalism uses to reach small children and that the harmful effects of it are supremely underestimated.
There are many other facets of capitalism that were new, or at least rapidly evolving, during the war and after it, such as the fast food industry, Coca-Cola (you mustn’t underestimate the incredible changes in western societies that soda pop alone has wrought), supermarkets, additives, rise of advertising and branding. These elements are now part of the past, their harmful effects on the psychology and physiology of children and adults universally accepted as a part of living in modern society. Such effects are casually shrugged off as something one must simply teach their child to bear. As far as ads, television and branding go, most people deny any brainwashing takes place in the first place. And the academia shrugs and says ‘Heh, sheeple will be sheeple’.

This attitude is probably unwillingness to accept the contradiction. How can television still have control over me, it is a thing of the old world? There’s Youtube now, and internet forums. No way can such an antiquated piece of shit have a hold on me psychologically. It does not and never did.

I am not claiming these to be arguments that media and academia have made. They are the reasoning we, in our hurry, give ourselves so we wouldn’t have to talk about television. Why would you want to, when what you know is the internet and Zizek. Where your strengths and interests lie, there you will seek to shine the spotlight and call to people ‘let’s find out more about this here, btw I’m an expert and my fees are very reasonable’.

But if you force yourself to think on the old, forgotten television, the reality of the situation is clear. We are more vulnerable the younger we are. When we were at our most vulnerable, during the first three or four years of our lives, everything else paled to the effect of the television. The light, the sound, the fast pace, the cuts, the people, the colors, the volume, the products, the cartoons, the music, the hypnosis and, of course, as the opposite, the numb reality we had to return to eventually. Nothing compared then, nothing compares now. Nothing except video games. But those are for later years. It’s fair to say that during the first three years of our life at least, television is king. And by the time any other medium has a chance to challenge it, it has already been accepted into the fabric of reality as a natural, unchanging constant.

Today, television is not something brought into the household, it is not an artifact discussed, examined, taught. Television is simply there, always. It’s there from the moment you first eye your surroundings while going hog wild on your mothers teat in the living room. Television is the air you breathe, and with it come the ads.

Ads and children. This is the interaction that sculpts us more than we’d like to think.

A child cannot discern the nature of an advertisement in any shape or form. It does not understand where the ad comes from, why its there in his or her home. The child does not understand why it is necessary for the network to air adverts, receiving ad revenue in exchange to fund the cartoons the kid loves. The child does not understand that the man telling you about the new product line isn’t doing it out of goodwill. To a small child the ad man’s unbridled enthusiasm about a particular brand of dish washing liquid comes off genuine. To a child the only reason the ad man could be so excited is the unforeseen awesomeness of the product. The child receives a simple message: this is a thing worth getting more excited over than anybody you’ve ever met has ever been. The child understands the message at the shallowest level possible: product good. So good we had to come into your living room and tell you directly. It’s brainwashing at its most basic, plain and simple. Later on in life the child grows up and doubts that he or she was ever manipulated. After all, they’ve grown up and learned the art of cynicism. Even if they were successfully manipulated in your early childhood, surely the damage was minor and in the long run without consequence. No way could my psyche be damaged irrevocably by something as benign as television advertising. This is the reasoning that people who spent their childhood in front of a television go through to arrive at the decision to not deny their children television for their first years. To keep television away until the kids will have grown old enough to be able to discuss its characteristics. I’d say it’s obvious that the damage is not minor, it doesn’t go away by itself and as it affects the vast majority of the population of every western country, the accumulated harm is innumerable.

I want to paint a picture of an oft downplayed horror in the life of a western adolescent at the age of two or three or something. I dunno, could be four or five or six. Here I’m writing about babies and know shit about em. Anyway the horror: the supermarket. Imagine yourself a child; before your eyes lay the endless spoils of capitalism, toy aisles unending, sugary goods in colorful packages under lighting so strong you can make out every detail and fine print. Compared to your dark damp murky moldy cavelike apartment your parents covered in furniture in faded cream and beige, everything looks so clear, colorful, crisp and lifelike; it’s as if every product on display jumped out from the glowing backlit screen of a television set and walked onto the shelves. This is it. This is where you’d end up if you could jump inside the television. It’s so beautiful. And never-ending. You can’t even see up to the highest shelves. Should you let go of your moms hand, a little pee would come out and tears would follow. How helpless you, how vast the supermarket. A sea of everything you want. And not only what you want. More. You don’t even recognize half of the things on display. Every other package introduces a product you didn’t even know you wanted. But it’s all variations on a theme. Look here, you haven’t seen ads of these products before but you can tell that they could have their own ads on the tube anyday now. The packages all have similar style when compared to their neighbors on the shelves. They all have brands. And brands cannot live without advertising. That must be it. You’ve simply missed their ads. More the reason to have it, to try out a brand you haven’t even seen ads about. What a thrill. And look at the amount of brands and things. The games, the appliances, the clothes, the bikes, the televisions, my god the size of the televisions. And the food, the candy, the soda, the types of bread, burgers, pizzas, ice cream, yoghurt, cold cuts, juices, on and on and on. There’s so much of everything it’s blowing your fragile little mind: so many brands and each brand more colorful and stylish than the one before it.

It’s no longer a daydream or an analogy. You have stepped inside the television. The ads were right, they were all right. The people were smiling for a reason. This is why the man in the ad was yelling, this is why everybody was jumping up and down at the thought of getting whatever the man was selling.

No way is all this the work of a man. Look at the size of this place. Who could alone build a store this big, who could alone keep these endless shelves stocked with products. Who could give life to cartoons, make these plastic figures and electronic gadgets with no uses discernible to you. It’s better not to even think about it. Maybe this is what everybody else’s life is all about. There’s hella families here isn’t there? Maybe everybody else lives here.

Maybe it’s the sugar from the candy your mom always gives you for the car ride here to keep you quiet, but there’s no denying the reality of the situation. You’re somewhere better than your own life in every way.

Every wish fulfilled, all wants met, this is the grea-

We’re leaving already? But the cart isn’t even halfway full. Look, that family has two full carts and the kid even gets their own to push around. This can’t be right. You don’t mean to say you brought me here to smell all these boxes, to press the PUSH ME’s, to fly from one daydream to the next, which I, a child, by the way, can’t discern from reality too well anyway, to hug the huge elmos, to read the descriptions of all the board games, to spell out the entirety of the disney dvd aisle, to greet all the kellogg’s animals and dream about the time it would take me to drink through all those coke bottles on display, and the end result is that were going home with just groceries. Why aren’t we taking more. They’re right there. You can just pick them up, there’s plenty room in the cart. I can tell you what we need, I saw some cool shit on the television. Hey. It’s not funny. Look at this shit, it’s right there. You can just pick it up, look. Look. Look. I just picked it up, I’ll put it in the cart. That’s it. Simple.

Teaching critical thinking at college level is too late. Writing books about capitalist realism is too little. All rhetoric is powerless. Indoctrination starts at the cradle and sinks so deep into the depths of the unconscious that it will never see natural light.

What a perfect boner we’re committing. Just try and tell people to give up television for the first few years you have a little kid the house. That’s not gonna happen. Don’t tell me how to raise my kids. I need my soaps. They’ll grow up weird if they don’t know what American Idol is by age four.

Destroy television. You personally have probably made the logical leap from ‘I’m no longer thinking about television at all and nobodys talking about it, its all Facebook this and twitter that now. Television barely exists in my life anymore dude.’ to ‘theres no reason to get riled up over television anymore.’ There’s plenty reason. More reasons are born every day. And they’re most born into the poor families, the ones most vulnerable, most likely to stay in front of television.
What kind of anti-television films do you remember? Cable guy? That’s it? It’s all always played out irreverently, maybe a minor character acts weird because their parents were never home and they grew up watching too much Leno. It’s never portrayed as a fundamental piece in disturbing the psyche of everybody involved. It should be. But we’re in denial. It’s hard to get riled up.

We do not dream of a just society. We dream of nothing, because the only thing we want to dream of has been sealed off as unnatural, monstrous gunshot wound of a thought shot into us by the omnipotent artifact we now pity as the major relic of the impotent, naive past. We won’t allow ourselves to dream of it, not ever. And so our dream will never be filled. The only thing we can and want to dream of, really and honestly as the children we are to our graves, is a happy meal.

the toxic language of entrepreneurship

What is an entrepreneur? The entrepreneur is an ideal type of market individual – a person who works for “themselves”, whose only boss is the ebb and flow of the market. As an example of this, a comment on Nate Thayer’s piece on the troubles of freelance journalism:

Nate. Sympathies, and dilemma noted. Journalists today are forced to be entrepreneurs, and negotiate business deals. Perhaps, if you offered them a much truncated piece with links back to a site on which you had ads that paid you, or they gave you a venue to sell something from which you made money (books, for example). So, it’s perplexing, yes. But the market is what it is and the challenge is how to sustain yourself while doing quality work.

Meanwhile, talk of entrepreneurism has also proliferated in the NGO/non-profit world, as exemplified by the latest trends in microfinance/microlending and in the language of organizations. For example, again, from Ashoka:

Ashoka is leading a profound transformation in society. In the past three decades, the global citizen sector, led by social entrepreneurs, has grown exponentially. Just as the business sector experienced a tremendous spurt in productivity over the last century, the citizen sector is experiencing a similar revolution, with the number and sophistication of citizen organizations increasing dramatically.

Rather than leaving societal needs for the government or business sectors to address, social entrepreneurs are creating innovative solutions, delivering extraordinary results, and improving the lives of millions of people. (Emphasis mine)

Entrepreneurship is another word for “take care of it yourself”. Even at companies where it is clear there is a structure of management, of wage labor, the language of individualism and personal responsibility is found:

Screen shot 2013-03-17 at 1.45.21 PMThe offices of LivingSocial, from a Washington Post office exposé 

Worldwide, the idea of taking care of it yourself, of working for yourself, of “personal brands” is gaining traction. What does it do? It destroys camaraderie  as all engage in competition with one another. Microfinance is not the silver bullet it pretends to be – it can tear communities apart. The rise of the independent contractor – the freelancer – correlates with the longest era of wage stagnation/loss in the last 100 years. The language of entrepreneurship also correlates with the plummeting rates of union membership in the United States, in spreading global poverty. Why do we keep hearing about this toxic idea of entrepreneurship, of “standing alone” and “taking responsibility for your own destiny” when we are more vulnerable on our own than ever?

At a time when the state and capital offer labor less than ever in terms of protection, security or even basic living essentials, we are encouraged to become stronger individuals and take care of ourselves – to blame only ourselves if things go wrong.

Knowing the audience? Django Unchained

???????

Quentin Tarantino finally made a version of Inglorious Basterds for me. I thought it a mite peculiar, the minor obsession with the gore fest about smashing Nazis over the heads with baseball bats, but about halfway through Django Unchained, it all finally clicked for me. I was born and raised in the South, where the grotesque history of race relations there is still a deep source of shame for me personally, even if I never took part in slavery, lynchings, race riots or segregation. But I live in its wake and I benefit from it, even indirectly. The effects of such a painful chapter of human history were plain to see in my day to day life and effects such as incarceration rates, poverty, and drugs continue to be one of the most shameful aspects of contemporary American life. It’s a wound that people try to ignore, even if it still causes pain as it is picked fresh every day. That this country was built on the backs of enslaved human beings and that their descendants are still treated as second class citizens by the system that has so clearly profited from their misery continues to haunt any American of conscience.

So as I was cheering on the bloody escapades of our hero in Django, I suddenly considered that this must be how my German friends, who are also so deeply ashamed of their past, must feel when they watch Nazis get blown up on the big screen too. And how good for Tarantino that he’s figured out a way to tap into this deep cultural shame, and offer us all something of a therapeutic catharsis. Finally! I get to see plantation owners eat lead for their crimes. Tarantino doesn’t back away from the gore: we see slavery in all its bloody and grotesque splendor – men being torn apart by dogs, rape, dismemberment, castration, constant humiliation, and, through the portrayal of the collaborator Stephen, even the sometimes-deeper infection of the minds and hearts of the enslaved themselves. And just as we all secretly desire, the plot shifts from a story in the last forty minutes or so to the bloodbath we’ve all been waiting for.  The killing spree that takes place for the latter quarter of the film was inevitable – the hand that has been reaching for the gun for the whole film is let free. It feels terrible, in a way, to enjoy watching anyone be killed, but this is part of the glory. Not being able to fully enjoy it, though wholeheartedly supporting it, is the white liberal’s prize in Django.

Likewise, the character of Dr. Shultz affords the white viewer an easy buy in- he is also white, also horrified by the gruesome reality of slavery, but also uneasy at the gore and depth of the violence. His desire to help save Django’s wife and leave without incident is proof of this itself. But Django wants blood – indeed, he deserves it. While Shultz is unable to fully stomach the part of “mandingo-dealer” in order to accomplish his goals, Django himself has no issue with making the sacrifices of moral pride necessary to accomplish his vengeance and save his wife. While Dr. Shultz turns green as a man is torn apart by dogs, Django says that he is used to it, having been around Americans longer than his partner has. Could I ever tap into this source of rage and vengeance? Could I ever cheer at the screen while the slaveowner’s sister – blissfully ignorant of her brother’s darker crimes, a mirror of many where I grew up – was blown away in cold blood?

But then, maybe this film was not for me. This could be a deeper catharsis for those in the audience who were still beat down by this history, not in the abstract and shameful way that I was, but in socio-economic reality. So then, why was Spike Lee famously boycotting the film? Maybe the answer is grounded in the fact that a white man made this movie – it can always be excused as just another Tarantino gore-fest. If Spike Lee had proposed making a film about a former slave riding through the South killing white people, he would have been laughed out of Hollywood. No one would finance that. The controversy would be enormous, never mind how many times the dreaded N-word would be thrown at the audience. It is mildly controversial when a white man makes the film, but would be unthinkable if a black man did it.

Maybe this is where we should situate this film politically – the vengeance of Django is acceptable under the watchful eyes of Tarantino, but the same film would be too much, too real if it was made by someone such as Spike Lee, a politically outspoken black man. As Tarantino makes it, the historical irreverencies can be chalked up to an attitude that the movie can be read as apolitical – Spike Lee’s main contention with the film. In which case, I’m inclined to agree with Lee: is it possible to make an apolitical film about slavery in the United States without being grossly offensive?

Overall, the film delivers on skill and acting. It’s not as blood-and-guts as some of Tarantino’s other work, though the violence is still staggering. A cheer went up from the audience as a white overseer was shot on horseback, his blood splattering the cotton plants. The resentment still exists, and the effects of slavery are still felt all over this country. Is Django Unchained a sign of broader race relations in the states, or is it simply a way for people to feel better about themselves for a while before stepping back into the cruel reality of American life?

MY BLACK FRIENDS

 – from The Guardian story,
Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain bias
(ya don’t say!!)

how much tighter does the noose get?

The Debt Ceiling charade was perfect. No need for actual “shock” anymore, just create something. It doesn’t even have to be swallowed by the people, just make it convincing enough to put on television. Tie them up and cover their eyes and yell that a train is coming so they fork over their wallets without much of a fight.

My mother is divorced. Her retirement account was shot up during the last market crash and she is 62 years old. She makes $50,000 per year as a professor teaching college-level writing to students who think “Afghanistanian” is a word. She can’t sell her house because  three houses on her street are in foreclosure and the shoddiness of the property – built as an asset to be swapped out every five years instead of being built as a home – needs leaks fixed, flooring replaced, etc. The next housing bubble is coming in 2012 as the short-term fix to the ARM schemes phase out and interest rates get jacked up again, and her house will once again be worth less. As entitlement plans get hoisted up to be sacrificed on the alter of austerity, the blood of seniors fueling more wealth accumulation at the top 1%, even her modest social security check – $16,000 per year – will be in danger. Healthcare costs continue to rise, and it’s possible my mother might not be able to afford to live as long as her parents did.

I’m 26 years old and I’ve never made more than $25,000 per year – and that peak was in 2007. I’m over $30,000 in debt for school and don’t have health insurance. Since I’ve been able to vote, I’ve seen a number of local and national elections stolen. I was lucky enough to be accepted into a good school overseas for a Masters program, but there is no assurance that my education will land me a job – especially in this economy. It’s a gamble, and my debt will grow. I’m at the age to start considering a family, but who can afford a family nowadays? Two screaming kids, two working parents, a shot-up education system, etc. The prognosis for my generation is grim. The possibilities for any kind of youth action to take back our government are few. I am disenfranchised. I can holler to my corner of the world in a blog online, but what good does that do us? We vent our frustrations but find no solace in it, no succor in complaining.

Yet I have it easy! I have it good! What of those who work in the fields without documents, those who work two jobs in a single parent household, those who are ill and hungry?

Soto is paralyzed from the shoulders down but does not let that keep her from doing advocacy work for people with disabilities at a Los Angeles independent living center. Using her mouth, she can operate a computer trackball and type numbers into a phone with a Popsicle stick. Several times a week, an aide helps her into an electric wheelchair so she can take the train to work.

Most of the $800 she earns a month goes toward work expenses, including paying someone to feed her lunch. She has relied on $723 a month in SSI to cover rent and utilities. In July, the state reduced its portion of the grant for single beneficiaries like Soto to the federal minimum, shaving $15 from her income.

The same month, the state began charging Medi-Cal beneficiaries copayments of $5 for prescriptions, $50 for emergency room visits and up to $200 for hospital stays. Soto has five prescriptions and went to the hospital four times last year. “That can really add up,” she said.

But the cuts that worry her most are those to the In-Home Supportive Services program, which is paying for about nine hours of care a day. The two women who have been assisting Soto for more than a decade have told her they will have to look for other jobs if their hours are cut again. Without them, she fears she would have to go into a nursing home.

“Oh, my gosh. That’s no way to live,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to continue working. I would lose my quality of life…. I think I would rather just die.”

– LA Times

When did America start thinking like Israel? Since when did we decide the most important thing was just making it as far as tomorrow? Was it Reagan and his talk of rapture coming? Will Jesus descend and wipe away our debts and oil spills?

Does anyone have any ideas? There’s a movement from Adbusters of all places to occupy Wall St. on September 17th. Yet Wall St. is more fortified than the White House nowadays. The rich of this Gilded Age are isolated and live in jets and fortresses. They don’t just hire security – they hire media firms and think tanks and create a culture of docile security. Our prisons are overflowing and our heads are empty. We elected a man who ran on “change” and he delivered us more of the same but in the way of a grotesque pornographic minstrel show for the rich. Do we see how tight the noose gets before we start thinking how to get out of this? I’ve been toying with ideas around grassroots democracy at local levels, community (re)building on small scales as the Great American Federal Age fades to a fiery sunset. Youth empowerment, that sort of thing. There needs to be a foundation of civil society for that to work, though, and I fear it’s all been shot to hell by secular self-medicated psychiatry. At least, this is what my mother tells me as she grades papers. It’s what I see in the educated, unemployed, and going-nowheres, the depressed and dejected activists who had to move back home. So, seriously… does anyone have any ideas?