Thursday, March 10, 2011

Systemic Abjection and What is Wrong With America

I have been both moved and disturbed by political events lately.I have been moved by the voices and actions of workers who have rallied and turned out en masse to be heard, shaking their fists and declaring that they won’t be pushed aside or silenced by the corporate elite. I’ve been moved by teachers and public employees who have stood together and stood up for public education. I’ve been moved by Democratic legislators who have taken brave action in the face of a majority trying to advance an agenda created by and subsidized by the Koch brothers in an effort to save workers and teachers in America.

I’ve been disturbed by the outrageous lies presented by an agenda driven media. I’ve been disturbed by corporate interests who believe that wealth should be funneled up from the working classes into their pockets and I have been most disturbed by the many Americans who seem to agree with them.Every time I try to engage one of these people in a discussion I run into a brick wall. I run into this wall every time because the person I’m speaking to presents an argument that is predicated on the pervasive belief that capitalism and even worse, consumerism is good and just and that the free market will prevail. There have been so many things I have wanted to say about the immorality of capitalism, the flawed thinking behind free markets and the solution to both. I have been unable to articulate my thoughts.

Today I saw a post made by my brother in reference to the current political climate. Patrick, my older brother and one of the smartest people I know, eloquently expressed the thoughts I have not been able to articulate. He has given me permission to share them in the paragraphs that follow. I plan to reread them frequently and share them with as many people as I can. I hope those who read this will do the same.

Patrick writes: "It ain't necessarily so..." This current state of affairs that Christie has pointed out, incongruous and sickeningly stupid as it is, does not have to be nor do we need to continue on this path. There are no easy solutions, but consider this: " [I]t is vital that we prioritize systemic abjection [i.e. the underclass of poor] precisely in its status as necessary abjection; as something that, as Marx knew well, holds up the mirror to contemporary globalization and its fake cosmopolitanism." (Glyn, The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory,
40) In other words: "When I was hungry, you fed me; when I was naked you clothed me..." (Matthew 25:40) This means that in order to deal with the realities of the prioritization of resources in favor of the haves, we have to start by dealing with the realities of the abject, by prioritizing their needs first. Yes, to save ourselves, we must take the counter intuitive (in terms of current dominant-societal standards) action of really addressing the needs of the least in society. This also means that we must look at the exclusion of the multitude from access to the world's resources for what it is: selfishness, self-centered fear of not having enough. This is the inevitable outcome of unbounded free-market capitalism, and to correct this situation there must be an honest appraisal of our ongoing complicity in this condition of abject wretchedness, that the reason so many have so little is that too few have so much, along with an awakening to the truth that there is another option. These concerns of abject poverty deserve, nay, cry out for prioritization, not only because of the real suffering endured by these human beings, but because it is ultimately our concern as well. Human beings cannot sustain such selfishness that we are seeing manifested in the current state of the world; it is destroying us. Under the current self-centered, fearful system of societal construction, the number of those excluded from necessary resources will continue to grow as the selfish demands of those in control of these resources continue to increase imperiously and inexorably.

How do we stop this selfishness from destroying our world? One step towards a solution is to begin honestly assessing the level of influence that selfishness has over our own lives, and to start calling it out as we see it manifested in the daily activities of societal construction. These acts of the state legislatures are certainly classifiable as driven by self-centered fear. We have to relinquish our selfishness and stop the fetishization, the worshiping, of selfishness, of profit at the expense of others. This will mean a re-prioritization of the distribution of resources, a re-imagining of the world in which the goal of eliminating unnecessary suffering takes precedence as a path to release from the bondage of selfishness and the possibility of real happiness, rather than selfish comfort. But how can it be possible to overturn centuries of constructs of selfishness that have culminated in the present condition of late capitalism? First, by admitting that the suffering of the abject is truly unnecessary and contingent rather than the natural course of human existence. Then we must truly open ourselves up to to alternative option, which is society based on negation of suffering first, with happiness as a by-product rather than a goal to be pursued. Such a change of consciousness cannot be externally coerced; it must happen from within. But we can help each other, and the hope is that more and more of us will make the connection between our own suffering and its genesis in selfishness, and as we work individually and together to become free from the bondage of self-centered fear, this work will have a cumulative positive effect on the construction of a just society. The belief in the necessity of abject poverty, hunger, and exclusion from the world's resources will be exposed as itself a contingent construct. one necessitated itself by selfishness. We will see that this current state of affairs is arbitrary, contingent, and that it doesn't have to be this way, or as Porgy said it best: "It ain't necessarily so."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Celebrated Summer!

The end of summer and the onset of fall has always been a time of conflicting emotions and upheavals in daily life. Part of me has always loved the sense of impending change and the crispness in the air. The end of the oppressive heat of this summer was welcome. The slow death of the flora is sad and unwelcome. Bob Mould said it best (as he often does) in the closing lyrics to "Celebrated Summer":
Then the sun disintegrates between a wall of clouds
I summer where I winter at, and no one is allowed there

Do you remember when the first snowfall fell
When summer barely had a snowball's chance in Hell?

That lyric always captures how I feel at the end of the summer.
Devlyn has begun sleeping in his "big boy" bed and has also figured out how to open his bedroom door. This means that several times during the night, he ventures into our room to demand a bottle or a snuggle. I'm hoping that as the fall season progresses Devlyn makes some changes and begins to sleep through the night.
Devlyn continues to be fascinated with all things musical. Among his current favorites are the old stand by guitar and a new addition, the giant piano keys that he operates by dancing on them with his stocking feet!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Breeze

We traveled to northern Indiana (Amish Country) to join several of my siblings and their children/ grandchildren for a week of family vacation. I'm not fully convinced that any actual vacation occurred. I know I was really looking forward to getting back to my social service job so that I could take it easy. My hope is that my son had a great time and can begin to build memories that will carry into his adult years. He really enjoyed being with his cousins, both young and old(er). He swam in the lake for the first time, he rode on a boat for the first time and he built his first sand castle.
I know that I carry memories from childhood of summers spent at the lake (but the lake was a different location every time). There is a soundtrack that accompanies those memories. My early summers occurred during the first half of the 1970's and that soundtrack reflects the music that pumped from my siblings transistor radios. I still remember my sisters applying copious amounts of baby oil to their skin while Seals and Croft's "Summer Breeze" crackled over the air waves courtesy of WOWO.
I try to be careful about what music works its way into my son's memories. Many of his cousins were listening to current favorites like Justin Beiber and the Jonas Bros. I hope Devo's memories are punctuated by the sounds of Rancid, The Clash, and Trombone Shorty.
These summer days are going to fade very soon. As the long hot days shorten and cool down I imagine Devo falling to sleep at night smiling about the time he spent at t he lake this summer with his cousins and aunts and uncles.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Zoo, The Pool and The Ting-Tings!

It has been a very busy summer and an exciting week in particular. Devlyn, Megan and I made our first trip to the Indianapolis Zoo. Devlyn really liked the aquariums and the aquatic life. He also liked feeding the giraffe. I was excited to see Devlyn recognize things like ducks, fish and "Meow-Meows".

As the days grow hotter and Hotter, Megan searches for creative and fun ways to entertain and stay cool. One of Devlyn's favorite past-times is being in the water. He has no fear of it and doesn't seem to be afraid to put his head under water. The toddler pool at Bryan Park is fun but on a hot afternoon when getting too far from home isn't an option, Megan is really good about filling up the wading pool.
Our summer music listening has continued to revolve around mod revival, early Springsteen, some smatterings of new wave and the sound track to Yo Gabba Gabba! One of the bands that appear on the show, and that Devlyn particularly likes are "The Ting-Tings".
It has been such an exciting and busy summer. I'm looking forward to the rest of it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Parotitis, Nova Mob and Laughter

Tuesday found me returning to the walk-in clinic with swelling in my jaw. The Doc told me it was Parotitis. I'm glad they knew what it was and that they gave me a scrip for a stronger anti-biotic. When my wife, Megan saw me she said I looked like John McCain. Now, the 103 degree fever I had on Monday and for most of the previous weekend did not keep me home or in bed. As Megan pointed out though, my vanity lead me to cancel all my appointments and stay home for the day on Wednesday. I hope the swelling goes all the way away before I have to cater a wedding this weekend.
I woke this morning feeling good and rested. Devlyn only woke up briefly last night and was able to return to sleep within an hours time, thus only briefly interrupting my sleep. I felt so good and relaxed as I started my day that I was able to put some music on to set the mood for the rest of the day. I wanted to reach into the back of my music collection for something good, but out of the ordinary in my daily listening regimen. I settled on the Nova Mob (Grant Hart) album "The Last Days Of Pompeii". It is a great rock album with a narrative of sorts, kind of reminds me of the best parts of Zen Arcade.
I don't know if it was the sounds of Grant Hart's voice or the good night sleep but Devlyn and I were able to get a little play on before he went to daycare. We played "Hide and Chase" which consisted of him running to the same spot in the kitchen while I "Chased" him and caught him, giggling in a lump on the floor, carried him back to the couch and started the whole game over again. The sounds of his deep, belly laughs are the greatest sounds ever to fill the universe.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Aqua Fun, Fevers and a new Drum Set

Devo and his bestie Henry, went to the new Splash Pad (one of two things that makes living on the west side of town bearable) on Memorial Day. Both 'lil fellas had a great time running through the water and being sprayed by all the different fountains. I was proud of Devo and Henry for being brave and trying new stuff so readily. The more the two of them hang out together the less they engage in parallel play and the more they play with each other. Henry can even call Devo by name!
The rest of the week was not so great. Devo ended up getting sick with an ear infection and at one point had a really high fever. His first round of antibiotics caused an allergic reaction but as of the end of the week he is seeming to feel okay. He even spent some time with aunt's Sherri and Margaret while Megan and I had a great dinner at Le Petit Cafe.
We retrieved our drum set from Chris' house and set it up in the basement. I moved a floor tom and a crash cymbal over by Devo's exer-saucer. Man that kid went to town! HE can almost keep a beat. I hope he continues to enjoy the drums... in my experience, if a person can play the drums they will be in demand. Bands always need drummers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Esperanto, Molars and "Who's Next"

I was playing a game with my son today. I would call it "hide and seek", Devlyn would call it "crawl under the crib and laugh really loud as my dad crawls in after me while making funny sounds and grabs at me but somehow misses me every time."I had the radio on in the background and caught a snippet between absurd "monster" noises and toddler howls. The snippet was about Esperanto. I have caught vague references to Esperanto before but have never quite understood what it was. I looked it up and was intrigued to find out that Esperanto is a constructed language that was designed to be politically neutral. It is fascinating and I am going to try to learn to speak it and hope to teach Devlyn to speak it as well.
The past two nights (and probably tonight as well) have been horrible for 'lil Devo. He is working on getting some molars in and he appears to be in a lot of pain. He hasn't napped well and he is eating even less than he usually does (he's kind of picky). All of this has made him kind of surly the past couple of days and this morning, in protest of being put in the pack and play, he banged his head on the wall and made me worry that he would hurt himself, luckily he did not.
On a happier note, I picked up a vinyl copy of The Who's album Who's Next. This is one of my favorite albums and it is significant to some people because Townshend used early synthesizers and modified keyboard sounds throughout this record. As I was playing the album on the stereo in the living room, Devlyn began to dance to the synthesizer introduction of the track "Baba O'Riley". I love Devlyn's reaction to music, especially the music that I enjoy. I can't wait to put some New Wave music on tomorrow and have a little dance party with Devo.