Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tabs that Tie Things Together

It seems I've been reading a lot of revelatory writing on the interweb lately.

The first, from the Tumblr of David J Prokopetz, is short enough to quote in its entirety:

I think my biggest “huh” moment with respect to gender roles is when it was pointed out to me that your typical “geek” is just as hypermasculine as your typical “jock” when you look at it from the right angle.

As male geeks, a great deal of our identity is built on the notion that male geeks are, in some sense, gender-nonconformant, insofar as we’re unwilling or unable to live up to certain physical ideals about what a man “should” be. Indeed, many of us take pride in how putatively unmanly we are.

Viewed from an historical perspective, however, the virtues of the ideal geek are essentially those of the ideal aristocrat: a cultured polymath with expertise in a vast array of subjects; rarefied or eccentric taste in food, clothing, music, etc.; identity politics that revolve around one’s hobbies or pastimes; open disdain for physical labour and those who perform it; a sense of natural entitlement to positions of authority (“you should be flipping my burgers!”); and so forth.

And the thing about that aristocratic ideal? It’s intensely masculine. It may seem more welcoming to women on the surface, but - as recent events will readily illustrate - this is a facade: we pretend to be egalitarian because it suits our refined self-image, but that affectation falls away in a heartbeat when challenged.

Basically, the whole “geeks versus jocks” thing that gets drilled into us by media and the educational system isn’t about degrees of masculinity at all. It’s just two different flavours of the same toxic bullshit: the ideal geek is the alpha-male-as-philosopher-king, as opposed to the ideal jock’s alpha-male-as-warrior-king. It’s still a big dick-measuring contest - we’re just using different rulers.
The others are too long for that treatment, so just a few words on each one.

Financial critic and writer Helaine Olen, writing for Pacific Standard magazine, nails the reasons why so many of us don't rise up against income and wealth inequality. Reviewing three recent books, but particularly focusing on Marianne's Cooper's Cut Adrift, she ties it all together:
...affluent families...“upscale” their definitions of success, their expectations, and their senses of insecurity. They turn sources of minor—even comically minor—stress into obsessions. They worry about globalization, education, and keeping up with child-rearing families in Beijing (per capita GDP: $14,000).... [one] dad tells Cooper he once attended a cocktail party where Bill Gates (net worth: $82 billion) expressed fear for his children’s future in the globalized economy.

Downscaling and upscaling are, in Cooper’s telling, twin coping mechanisms for living with uncertainty. And they fall squarely into an American tradition of looking inward rather than outward for the causes of and solutions to our troubles. The self-help industrial complex does well in troubled times. The Great Depression brought us Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. More recently, surging inequality and the economic crash of the 2000s made The Secret, Suze Orman, and Sheryl Sandberg famous.
(I actually read Olen's entire article aloud to Daughter Number Three-Point-One when she was home at Christmas. That's just the kind of mom I am.)

Mychal Denzel Smith and Jesse A. Myerson, writing for The Nation, also tie many things together. They provide a three-part proposal to accompany the Black Lives Matter rallying cry, bringing together Khalil Muhammad's The Condemnation of Blackness, Ta-Nehisi Coates's The Case for Reparations, and the kind of thinking behind Matt Bruenig's calls for child income supports. Their article also reminds me of Martin Luther King's goals for the Civil Rights movement in the years before he died.

Finally, Dissent magazine recently ran a longish article about Reading, Pennsylvania, which is becoming a place of solidarity economics, from cooperatively owned businesses to community development companies and a city-owned bank. It ties together the work of Gar Alperovitz and the Democracy Collaborative, the Institute for Local Self Reliance, and Jessica Gordon Nembhard's book, Collective Courage, about the history of black cooperatives in the U.S.


And one late addition: This fun video that explains John Rawls's philosophy, tying in neatly with the Nation three-part proposal:

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