Saturday, August 30, 2014

With The Movie Stars


Starbucks Coffee Company, Robertson and Beverly Boulevards

- Can I join you? It's noisy inside.
- And cold.
- Are you from the neighborhood?
- Yes. I grew up here. And you?
- I am here sometimes.
- Did you read that newspaper yesterday? Top center of the front page was a photo of three Hamas fighters dressed all alike in tight black t-shirts and combat pants, radiating strength like they came to this street execution in Gaza right from the gym. Sitting on the ground, literally in the gutter, guns to their heads, were five or six suspected spies, in cheap badly fitting blue jeans and sneakers, their bodies showing signs of lack of exercise and poor diet. Bad haircuts. The photo seems to be some kind of fashion statement.
- "Dressed to kill".
- Exactly. Next to the photo in the newspaper, top left on the front page, was a story about oversupply ruining the blood market.
- No!
- Yes. Turns out the market disruption was not because fit and nicely dressed killers in Gaza were too efficient but because doctors were too efficient and didn't need to do as many blood transfusions as before.  Every newspaper shows signs of carelessness like this.  I once wrote* about how even so august a journal as the New York Review Of Books does it. Nothing is connected, followed up. Did you see the story about Pakistan? The head of the minority party, with 20 percent of seats in Parliament, is openly calling for revolution, don't pay taxes, utilities, etc, this in a country with nuclear weapons and almost two hundred million people.
- When was that?
- Last week.
- What did they want?
- Less corruption and income inequality.
- I never thought I'd say such a thing, but greed has driven capitalism into a dead end. And no one knows what to do about it.
- I know. Other people know.
- Tell me then.
- It takes a good twenty minutes minimum. The short, pretty much useless version is that the idea of property has to be, not done away with, but challenged. Relation to things has to be made to serve life, not life serve maintaining a relation to things.
- I've got to go. What are you doing later?
- I never do anything.
- Would you like to have dinner with me at Madeo,?
- The movie star place? You eat there?
- It's my neighborhood restaurant.
- What time?


Madeo Restaurant

- I didn't think you'd be here.
- I said I would.
- We were talking about unequal income and I don't have any and you eat with the movie stars.
- There's a movie star just behind me.
- She looks familiar. Who is she?
- Jamie Leigh Curtis.
- What's so special about this place? The food?
- Yes. It's a family owned restaurant, a father in his seventies now, and his two sons. It's been here for a long time. What would you like to eat?
- You order for me.
- Drink?
- What are you drinking?
- Water.
- I'll have a glass of red wine.
- You said you write?
- For the past 3 years I've been publishing stories on the Internet. People read, a lot of them. Many write to me. But no one pays, no one becomes a friend. I want to quit.
- You have to wait.
- Numbers increase, but that's just statistics**. The reality isn't promising. The stories are being read like the newspaper we were talking about, no one expects any connection between them, no one wonders about the person behind them responsible for the connection they don't look for.
- Do you write back when people write to you?
- Sure.
- What do they say?
- They make it clear they don't want a connection.
- Don't want to pay or be your friend.
- One of my estranged brothers, half brother really -  half and full all my brothers are estranged -
- How many do you have?
- Five. The oldest of my three half brothers, they live in Thailand, last week sent me an invitation to connect on Linkedin. I accepted, and wrote him a message. He didn't answer. And just yesterday, a former editor of Adbuster's Magazine which founded the Occupy Wall Street protest a few years ago did the same.
- He didn't answer you either?
- I haven't written to him because I wrote to him before, during the Occupy protest, and was never answered.
- You should write to him.
- Maybe I should. I sit here looking at the celebrities and wonder, what good are they?
- They don't want to pay you or be your friend either.
- Yeah. But this Adbuster's former editor, he knows what to do with these people. He's retreated with his wife to a small town in Oregon, running what he calls a Boutique Consultancy. He offers to help celebrities direct their efforts for social change.
- For money.
- Money isn't mentioned. Consultants I guess get paid. Adbusters magazine was started by two advertising executives who got rich in Japan and retired to Vancouver to expiate their sins, using their advertising techniques against big business. Like in Pakistan this week, the Occupy movement was against corruption and income inequality. They wanted more money and better opportunity.
- Like you.
- Like me. They though think they can win the way they are going and I don't.
- Why not?
- Advertising techniques take advantage of a tendency people have, when led in that direction, to find security and power in their association with possessions. That relation to things, and to people seen as things to be possessed, makes people blind to what is outside, what is not theirs. It also makes people inconsequent, as they shift from one arena of acquisition and protection to another. The behavior involved in one sort of possession need have no connection to another behavior with another sort of possession, and that inconsequence is not noticed as it has no bearing on the fundamental activity of successful acquisition and securing of possessions.
- Advertising techniques make people blind to among other things corruption and income inequality and so unwilling to do anything. The Adbusters use the same techniques to remedy the problem. What's wrong with that?
- The problem in general with charity: nothing fundamental changes. The basic incorrect relation to things remains unchanged.
- What is the right relation to things?
- As I said when we met, our way now is to begin with property and base all law and custom on protecting it. We should begin with life, and see how we should hold onto things or not hold onto them to make life better.
- But we're not going to.
- Because we don't know how to talk about the alternative. It's difficult. Corruption and income inequality arise because people don't care about each other, and they don't care about each other because they don't see each other, and they don't see each other when they have no consistent use for each other.
- And people don't have consistent use for each other when they base everything on a fixed relation to possessions. But when don't they? Look: it's full in here now.
- And loud.
- Let's go sit outside in the garage and free up the table. You can take your wine.


Madeo Restaurant, Underground Parking

- I guess you've done this before, sit out here.
- Many times. There's one of the sons...
- Bringing us a tray of cookies. That's nice.
- Another glass of wine?
- Sure.
- Back to what you were saying: When do people have use for each other?
- As long as people see the world as a giant possession to be split up and adapted in any of an infinite number of ways, it's not going to happen. People see each other, have use for each other, not when their goal is the remodeling and re-partialing out the world, but happiness directly.
- As opposed to happiness somehow out of possessions.
- Yes. Happiness in love, sympathy, friendship. When we see a stranger in trouble, and we are working out our own way to happiness and are not there yet, we know we're losing the chance of his help and collaboration, we're losing a resource and we feel it.
- But in practice, in the real world, the Adbusters editor selling his advertising tricks gets the money and connections. What do you get?
- The satisfaction of being right?
- You promised me a twenty minute explanation of what you know how to do.
- Greed and the end of capitalism. Ok. The wine is making me tired. The solution is obvious and not at all helpful. Redistribution of wealth, back in the direction of equality already achieved before the recent intensification of greed and corruption. A place to live and food to eat for everyone. Outlawing of wage employment as part time slavery. Then voluntary cooperation and sharing in the profits of all enterprises, the arrangements of which are entirely flexible, not locked to any one view of how the world should be. You're not satisfied, right?
- Right.
- The real problem isn't figuring out what comes next, but how to get there, what to do now about the present greed and corruption.
- And?
- The billionaire setting up clinics and saving lives displays the same ignorant megalomania as the serial killer taking lives. They aim to possess souls, to acquire soul property and have the property of being owner of souls ascribed to their character. Since no one really wants to share anything, the charitable billionaires, who are no exception, have the real goal of maintaining monopoly*** power, whether material or "spiritual", over the rest in order to enforce their will. The situation is inherently inconsistent and unstable. It's not property that has to be shared, but life. Property is unimportant. When enough people know what a good life is and the danger it faces they'll work it out.
- Let's hope.

P.S. "It is clear to me more than before that imagining the world as “system,” as a negative, hostile system (a symptom that is typical of schizophrenia) prevents any opposition to it except in an irrational, self-destructive raptus; whereas it is a correct principle of method to deny that what one is fighting can be a system, in order to distinguish its components, contradictions, loopholes, and to defeat it bit by bit." (Italo Calvino)

Further Reading:
Occupy Is Going To
Listen, Revolutionaries
The New York Review Of Books Reviewed
** Propaganda
*** Freedom Rising And Falling