Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Ownership Society

So when I recently read about Jessica Krug cancelling herself, and then people piling on to double-cancel her, I was recalled to Adolf Reed demolishing false distinctions between gender and race transitions. He has less of a problem with cultural appropriation than he does with cancel culture. I have to say that I find his argumentation irrefutable. One of my daughters agrees with me, and the other calls Reed out for mansplaining, and me out for racism. 

I don't think that Reed denies structural racism in the least, any more than he would deny sexism and misogyny. His chore is to deny race and gender any distinction on the basis of 'nature.' Neither can be said to be valid natural categories; both are more a part of culture.

In the one case, sex is distinguished from gender, and in the other race is distinguished from any valid metric to determine human qualities. I believe the core of Reed's argument may be that it is as valid for someone to identify with a different culture as it is to identify with a different gender.

There are differences, of course. Everyone is embedded in a culture which includes all genders. Not everyone is embedded in every culture. So out of context, cultural norms may be called cultural appropriation as an illegitimate move. I think, perhaps, no-one would have any issue with a white person who has 'gown up' in black culture identifying black for that reason.

Perhaps the trouble comes along the way to the claims that academics argue. The author's personal history shouldn't matter to any argument, and the fact that it so evidently does and that we're all so easily misled undermines many of the claims that academia makes on our thinking. 

But is the crime committed by the one who takes advantage, or by the way the academic audience reads and judges?

Along the way it hits me pretty hard that what Dubya used to call ownership culture was his naive way to celebrate white supremacy. I don't think Dubya was by any means in the Trumpean category of nasty, but his behaviors did certainly serve the white powers behind structural racism. 

Now in my inchoate way, I'm finding it hard to distinguish between ownership of property and ownership of slaves. Robot help doesn't solve the problem. For a brief while, I thought it might. Moves in the direction of Universal Basic Income kind of thing. The problem is that some of us are always behind the renters' eight ball and some get boosted into the ownership class. 

Now in my case, I have only myself to blame, since I could clearly be an owner. It was a woman - my ex - who screwed me out of my start, but that was more me giving away the store on the basis of masculine guilt. I've never had much enthusiasm for American adversarial culture, whether in sports or politics, nor certainly in law. In law, that setup just tilts settlements in ways to help money win more often.

An identifiable underclass (dark skin does nicely) is essential for the legitimacy of an ownership society, which would otherwise look unjust. So are robots. Or in other words, I don't find much distinction between wage-slavery and the more literal kind on which this nation was founded. 

My sense is that we should rather celebrate anyone who wishes to identify as black, even when they don't have black blood. There is, apparently, much to envy and of course much to appropriate. It just shouldn't be a legit move for academics.

Those of us not in competition for the 'good life' are offered lots of freebies to make life easier. Many of these are in the form of mostly plastic now convenience containers, so that we can keep our hands clean and be assured that consumables are safe and untouched. Most of us can and do afford to "own" cars, as indentured renters. We hardly notice anymore that the costs are built in in ways insidious and destructive. 

Google search is hardly free. Plastic bags have at least started to cost something, and cheap gasoline mainly ensures that we won't have good mass transit any time soon. 

The question I want to ask is about what it would take for us to relinquish all this convenience and revert to wax paper, mass transit and wooden construction preserved by linseed oil based paints, so that the planet as a whole may thrive. Why are we so certain that our life-style would take a hit?

In my very own memory, time was that you could go to a nearby planing mill and get a window made to replace the one that rotted out because you were too lazy to paint it. Just now this is my agony as I try to assemble the tools and skills to rebuild old windows myself with a damp shop in my owner-grade offsprings' damp basement. It makes me sore every day, and mostly in the moral sense for that term.

Now they can't afford real craftspeople, who are priced to be available only to those who can essentially afford to own their property outright (meaning simply they have a positive net worth). The craftspeople might well be among the owner classes themselves, just as I was once a yacht owner (with negative net worth, of course). I did my own repairs. I'm pretty sure that wooden boat ownership is out of reach for the likes of me anymore. Especially given the cost of paint. If you can even get oil paint.

Oil paint was phased out to save the planet. Something about VOCs which made their way right back in and worse among the "water based" paints which replaced the poisonous good stuff. Plastics, Benjamin Bratton, plastics. 

Somehow, I think the overall ratios were perversely affected by well-meaning policies once those made their way through the capitalist imperatives on the way to market. All I know for sure is that my daughter has a cosmetics-sensitized debilitating allergy to whatever they put in latex paint to keep bacteria from growing in it. The chemical is banned in Europe, which is apparently somewhat less adversarial in its proclivities than we are. Slavery was never quite popular there.

Anyhow, all these are consciousness-raising matters. The recalcitrant Trumpsters will fight tooth and nail against any and all of them, while those more on the side of the angels have a really hard time connecting the dots to why these are all the same thing; racism, sexism, consumerism, landfill waste, HVAC and especially planes and automobiles.

Tesla lovers are right on a knife edge, but they are loving cars which tips them in the wrong direction. You certainly can't own a BMW and be on the right side of history. Nor a BIG HOUSE. Nor have servants.

I'm a servant to my children, and that's the way, perhaps, it should be, though I'm chafing just now by latent chauvinism from one in particular to whom there's no blood relation. No more could I identify as black, now that my sister tells me that 23 and me nixes any black blood. Yeah, like I should trust them.

A relation is a relation, whether based on blood or genes or just simple love, and it would never rankle without the love when the relation turns bad.

What I have to give to Trumpsters is that they seem to love their things; whether guns or cars or motorcycles or jet skis or speedboats. They seem to care for their things, just as those from whom they seem to be descended claimed to care for their slaves. Even as their slaves were forced to care for them.

I guess we all love different things. I love wooden things, and I once did love to maintain my wooden sailboat. Fiberglass is the same kind of cop out as plastic bags are. Plastic bags, remember, were only created as a way to create an industry which would support better profits for the very lucrative automobile industry for whom the useful stuff was otherwise just too expensive.

The lie that we've been sold is some version of maintenance-free. But no fiberglass boat - ever! - has outlasted a well-maintained wooden boat. And those disintegrated as gracefully as a body might.

That kind of industrial process - please appreciate the freebies that I offer you and please don't notice how they concentrate wealth away from you to the extent that you appreciate them - is identical to systemic racism. They are the same thing. You must deny that you are doing anything wrong to accept something that is offered to you freely, whether white privilege or plastic bags or Google search. If you can ignore the fact that these things are offered freely, then you are, by definition, an owner. You are a slaver. You suck.

So everyone sucks but me and I cancel you and then suck myself up my tuba and be gone. How cool is that?

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