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“Once I started to understand the nature of illegitimate structures of authority, I realized that people (including me) were not inherently evil or stupid, and that human nature (including mine) was complex and sometimes maddening, but not inherently aimed at the destruction of the world.”

—   Robert Jensen, Citizens of the Empire, (Jensen contra Gray)

“Folklore is the boiled-down juice of human living.”

—   Zora Neale Hurston

“Boredom arises from the loss of meaning, which in turn comes in part from a failure of religio or connectedness with one another and with our past.”

—   Margaret Visser, Much Depends on Dinner

“There is nothing more to say about the furnishings. They were anything but describable, having been conceived, manufactured, shipped, and sold in various states of thoughtlessness, greed, and indifference.”

—   Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

At that time, there was a series of assumptions everybody had to accept in order even to be allowed to enter serious public debate. They were presented like a series of self-evident equations. “The market” was equivalent to capitalism. Capitalism meant exorbitant wealth at the top, but it also meant rapid technological progress and economic growth. Growth meant increased prosperity and the rise of a middle class. The rise of a prosperous middle class, in turn, would always ultimately equal stable democratic governance. A generation later, we have learned that not one of these assumptions can any longer be assumed to be correct.

The real importance of Thomas Piketty’s blockbuster, Capital in the 21st Century, is that it demonstrates, in excruciating detail (and this remains true despite some predictable petty squabbling) that, in the case of at least one core equation, the numbers simply don’t add up. Capitalism does not contain an inherent tendency to civilise itself. Left to its own devices, it can be expected to create rates of return on investment so much higher than overall rates of economic growth that the only possible result will be to transfer more and more wealth into the hands of a hereditary elite of investors, to the comparative impoverishment of everybody else.

“[W]hat we are used to calling “the rise of the West” is probably better thought of, in world-system terms, as the emergence of […] the “North Atlantic system,” which gradually replaced the Mediterranean semi-periphery, and emerged as a world economy of its own, rivaling, and then gradually, slowly, painfully, incorporating the older world economy that had centered on the cosmopolitan societies of the Indian Ocean. This North Atlantic world-system was created through almost unimaginable catastrophe: the destruction of entire civilizations, mass enslavement, the death of at least a hundred million human beings.”

—   David Graeber, “There Never Was a West” in Possibilities

“[If] private enterprise works for profit and (practically) nothing else; if its pursuit of other objectives is in fact solely dependent on profit-making and constitutes merely its own choice of what to do with some of that profits, then the sooner this is made clear the better.”

—   E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

“Echoing Vincent, Terry underscored the importance of shifting more power and resources directly to people in communities with limited access to healthy food, particularly to people of color: “If the goal isn’t ensuring that the people in the community are eventually the program directors and [executive directors]…it’s just poverty pimping or part of the not-for-profit industrial complex.””

“Benjamin offered another attitude towards history — one in which we walk among the ruins of an already-present catastrophe, and the highest grace is a kind of vigilant mourning. “In all mourning there is a tendency to silence, and this infinitely more than inability or reluctance to communicate,” he wrote in 1925, but if “Melancholy betrays the world for the sake of knowledge,” in its “tenacious self-absorption it embraces dead objects in its contemplation, in order to redeem them.””

“But it could be true, in the information age at least, classes define themselves by their means of consumption.”

—   David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise