Saturday, December 31, 2011

Most interesting events of 2011

Michael Moore in Madison

The political legacy of the great Wisconsin Progressive Robert LaFollette meets the Flint sit-down strike in the person of an Oscar-winning documentarian on the steps of the state capital.   On a winter afternoon—March 5.  And there are those who say the Midwest has no culture.

Angela Merkel as an SS Guard

During World War I in 1915, Thorstein Veblen wrote a towering monument to Institutional Analysis called Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution.  In it he argued that Germany had developed the way it had because it was the product of two conflicting forces—there was industrial Germany of cutting edge achievement and there was archaic Germany of Prussian militarism.  This nasty combination produced the Guns of August and, Veblen would argue, would remain a driving social force no matter the outcome of the War.  These days, Prussian militarism has been replaced by the Predatory bankers of Frankfurt but otherwise the dynamic is largely unchanged.  And when Frau Merkel sides with the banksters, other folks will notice the similarity to past German conquests.  Here is a stunning photoshopped version of Merkel as S.S. done by the Greeks who are having their lives destroyed.

I have created many posts on the story of Eurodammerung and a possible rollback of Predatory globalism during the year.  This picture is the best visual representation of this story so far.

Japan suffers tsunami / nuclear meltdown—Germany chooses a non-nuclear future.

Just when people were starting to consider nuclear power as legitimate solution to the overloading of atmospheric carbon, we have the worst nuclear disaster in history.

Fukushima disaster fallout spreads to the whole nuclear power industry

Possibly the most conservative government in Europe--Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union in Germany--has decided to phase out nuclear power by 2022. Folks, that is barely ten years from now.

Not surprisingly, the power guys are furious. They thought they had a deal to extend the life of their reactors are now they are being told the end is near. Besides, most of the proponents of nuclear power believed that with the necessary adjustments in the atmospheric carbon load to address climate change, they were the future. Even ultra-sensible Finland had bought into this argument and started building a new nuclear installation (scheduled to go online 2013).

Chris Hedges at Harvard

It took him until he was a grandfather to understand the reality of Harvard-yard liberalism, but now Chris Hedges gets it.  This clip is also included in one of our most popular posts written by Tony.

#OWS is joined by vets

Governments and other institutions of power tend to get wobbly when the Productive classes team up with guys in the military who think they are getting hosed.

Shutting down the Oakland container port (for 24 hours)

I am not sure the occupy folks actually understand the importance of those west-coast container ports to the neoliberal agenda. My guess is if some popular demonstration closes any of the big ports for over, say, 36 hours, we will see serious action by a heavily militarized police. Because the rich understand—no container ships from Asia and domestic car production ceases and Wal-Mart runs out of things to sell.

Death of Steve Jobs

The passing of Steve Jobs is not so important as what happened the next few days.  Monuments sprouted spontaneously in front of Apple stores.  Lots of reasons why this happened but one stands out.  Jobs made it his mission to get serious computing power into the hands of people who don't understand computers and never will.  He understood why people wanted in the computer-users club without needing to belong to the computer builders / fixers / programmers club.

As someone who has labored long and hard to convince people that the most interesting class distinction is between Producers and Predators, I take joy whenever there is an event to that perfectly illustrates that class theory.

Because his efforts made him insanely rich, both the defenders of Capitalism and Marxism like to hold him up as an example.  And they miss the point.  While Jobs might actually be a pretty good example of Industrial Capitalism, there haven't been many of those folks in this era of Finance Capitalism.  While most ambitious young people head to Wall Street these days to see if they can get rich through scams, Jobs was a throwback to old-fashioned type of industrialist who actually believed he was supposed to build a better product.  As a result, there was an outpouring of grief for a really rich man at a time when most rich folks are so hated, there is talk of guillotines.  This is a fascinating contrast.

Regular readers understand why I capitalize Producer and Predator—it's a theme of this blog.  And for a good reason.  Unlike most descriptions about society, I believe this one describes and predicts more about human behavior than any other.  In fact, I have spent a considerable fraction of my adult life attempting to describe the difference between these approaches to life.  In Elegant Technology, I devote chapters to the history of the conflict between the Producers and Predators, a cultural inventory of distinguishing characteristics, and a class theory.

The reason I bring this up is because we have recently had a striking demonstration of how folks react to the differences between Producer and Predator capitalism.  Briefly, Producer Capitalism is a strategy where the goal is to become prosperous by creating something very difficult, very well.  Predator Capitalism is the strategy of seizing through force and fraud the prosperity created by Producers.  Steve Jobs was an almost perfect example of Producer Capitalism.  When he died recently, people spontaneously erected little shrines to him around the world.  Wall Street, on the other hand, is the perfect representation of Predator Capitalism and the rest of us are so angry at them, some are actually mentioning the guillotine.  Turns out folks don't hate capitalism so much as they hate liars, thieves, cheats, and vandals—you know, Predators.

Steve Jobs was an almost perfect example of a Producer Class hero.  He had all the Producer virtues in spades—he spent every day trying to make his product better, he understood the economic value of aesthetics, and he defined his mission in life as making it easier for creative types to do their work better.  He even instinctively understood one of Veblen's more obscure concepts—The Instinct of Idle Curiosity.  This from Wired.
(Jobs) once recalled for me some of the long summers of his youth. I’m a big believer in boredom,” he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and “out of curiosity comes everything.” The man who popularized personal computers and smartphones — machines that would draw our attention like a flame attracts gnats — worried about the future of boredom. “All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.”
To illustrate the difference, see below.  It is part of my class analysis that was such a large part of Elegant Technology.  See the blue cone that represents the Producers?  Jobs would occupy the space at the very topmost point of that cone.

Anyway, here is the long-lost video of Jobs introducing the Macintosh to the world. It's like a rock concert—only this time the audience is reacting to the new possibilities of a computer for non-nerds.  Jobs was treating his audience to a whiz-bang show that touted the virtues of Apple as a company that Produced something really cool.  I'll be using Jobs as an example of embodied Producer Class virtue for a long time.

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