Poverty—both individual and social—is a policy, not an accident.
November 16, 2018 9:23 AM   Subscribe

“The American commonwealth is shockingly impoverished. Ask anyone who’s compared the nine-plus-hour train ride from Pittsburgh to New York with the barely two-hour journey from Paris to Bordeaux, an equidistant journey, or who’s watched the orderly, accurate exit polls from a German election and compared them with the fizzling, overheating voting machines in Florida.” The Lie Americans Tell Themselves (TruthDig)
posted by The Whelk (93 comments total) 117 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not American. I don't think of myself as naive and I've been lucky enough to see a lot of the world in recent years. However, last year I spent two months driving around the American South, the trip was amazing but the dominant realization, easily, is that I had no fucking clue how much trouble America is in.
posted by Cosine at 9:37 AM on November 16, 2018 [67 favorites]


Cosine, Americans themselves have no fucking clue how much trouble both they and their country are in. Willful ignorance.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:51 AM on November 16, 2018 [51 favorites]


I literally just took the high speed rail from Paris to Bordeaux two weeks ago and I can confirm that it is clean, comfortable, quiet, quick, and cheap. Comparing it to taking the train from Orange County to Los Angeles is enough to make me weep.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:53 AM on November 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


I’ve been looking to see it put into words like this for ages. And obviously too late.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:53 AM on November 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


Aside from the many rent-seekers embedded in the U.S. economy, there's a certain pride at the bassackwards ways americans do some things.

For example, whenever somebody points out how screwed up voting is in the U.S., somebody else will invariably chime in with 'yeah, but we have to vote on so many things! And each county / city / cub scout den runs things their own way!' as if this was a good thing, a sane way to hold elections in a country that sees itself as some sort of example of democracy and civility.

There's a certain "screw it, we're 'mericans and that's how we roll" quality.
posted by signal at 9:55 AM on November 16, 2018 [34 favorites]


I just watched a friend's video of riding a train across China at 200MPH and weeped for the fact that our train to New York is not much faster than it was during the civil war.
posted by octothorpe at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2018 [18 favorites]


There is no one "America". There are multiple countries and experiences within the same country. The affluent elite rarely has to experience the problems and challenges experienced by those living in one of the other Americas.

As a non-American who works with Americans, this disconnect is what makes "American exceptionalism" so enduring.

For example, the American concept of "freedom of speech", where even progressives hold strongly libertarian views freedom of speech, has created tremendous problems all over the world, thanks to social media platforms developed and administered by Americans.

A little more humility should be in order.
posted by JamesBay at 9:58 AM on November 16, 2018 [61 favorites]


We don't do humility. Which is one of the problems.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:00 AM on November 16, 2018 [29 favorites]


The only way to teach a bully some empathy is to put him in the position where he needs to depend for his life on the kindness (not obligations) of others. Unfortunately getting America's elites into such a situation is going to really, really suck for everyone else.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:00 AM on November 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


The article sure ends abruptly. I was kind of hoping it would dig a little deeper.

That being said, I'm 40 years old and feel like I have been watching this country slide towards collapse my entire life.

The financial disparity in the USA is completely unbelievable. It seems essentially impossible to earn a living wage without a post-grad degree, nepotism, and/or training in a highly specialized field such as computer programming. Meanwhile the rest of just have to accept the pointless squalor that's been thrust upon us.

I really don't know what to do anymore aside from praying for guillotines.
posted by SystematicAbuse at 10:01 AM on November 16, 2018 [40 favorites]


America is not a country in the sense that European countries are countries. It's a huge group of individual states ruled over by a federal government held together with spit and bailing wire and it was set up that way on purpose. That anything in America works at all is a minor miracle.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2018 [52 favorites]


signal: "And each county / city / cub scout den runs things their own way!"

My kid's Cub Scout den only uses Diebold voting machines to make crucial decisions.

Why just last week, all 12 kids collectively put in 27 votes to go to camp in "Russia", wherever that is
posted by caution live frogs at 10:05 AM on November 16, 2018 [23 favorites]


I've been calling this phenomenon "Soviet America."
posted by gauche at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


The article sure ends abruptly. I was kind of hoping it would dig a little deeper.

There was a recent FPP (I think?) that dug a little deeper into how many Americans, while understanding they're getting screwed, don't have any real reference on just how much they're getting screwed. At the same time many people in Europe don't have any real reference on how bad Americans have it which explained why some didn't oppose austerity policies as strongly as they maybe should have. Unfortunately I can't find it.
posted by edeezy at 10:11 AM on November 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I can't find it right now but there was a compelling gif where international rankings were morphed between full statistics and the 2-4 quintiles (i.e. the middle 60%) for all countries. America plummets in those graphs. America isn't a society, its the shadow europe cast on north america, and it is proud to endure its abusive exploitation.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 10:12 AM on November 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


how many Americans, while understanding they're getting screwed, don't have any real reference on just how much they're getting screwed.

There's a black man with a black cat
Living in a black neighborhood
He's got an interstate running through his front yard
You know, he thinks, he's got it so good.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:15 AM on November 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


Aside from the many rent-seekers embedded in the U.S. economy, there's a certain pride at the bassackwards ways americans do some things.



A little more humility should be in order.



I don't think it's just pride. Certainly, that's a part of it—especially for those privileged enough to not be precarious or desperate—but I think a lot of it is that we Americans just don't know any better.

How would we? Almost all of our media is blatant propaganda. Very few of us have the time or resources to make ends meet, let alone travel abroad. A lot of us don't have friends at all, let alone friends internationally, and so everyone exists in a tiny bubble of attempting to cope with their situation. Corporations own our politics so it's not like those of us who want a better world can vote for a better world. Trust in everything, from our institutions to our neighbors, is almost nonexistent.

Hell, it's only thanks to Metafilter that I have any sense that a better world is even conceivable. (For which I'm eternally grateful.)
posted by ragtag at 10:21 AM on November 16, 2018 [86 favorites]


One of the most interesting juxtapositions for me is how differently Canada and the US regard not only freedom of speech, but also privacy protection.

British Columbia, where I live, has the strongest privacy protections at the state level in North America. We're comparable to the EU.

And, even as American tech giants build and refine a global surveillance state, some Canadian companies are working hard to provide people with more ways to control their personal information.

Culture is important.
posted by JamesBay at 10:24 AM on November 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


Infantilism is rife in all segments of American culture. If the United States will not grow up, then it will disappear.
posted by No Robots at 10:34 AM on November 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


There was a scene in Jesus Camp where (IIRC) the woman who ran the camp was driving around her hometown and said something along the lines of how she was grateful she was to be able to live the “American way of life.” This was immediately followed by a shot of the part of town they were driving through, which was nothing but joyless nondescript chain stores as far as the eye could see, stores you could only get to by driving and parking in gigantic lots. Then she went home, where she (it seemed to me, anyway) lived quite a lonely life when she wasn’t at some sort of church-related activity. The point here is not to mock this woman’s life, but to point out that she appeared unable to even imagine a different, let alone better, way to live and took it as a given that the “American way of life” was, by definition, the best. I suspect she would not be very interested in learning about life in other countries unless this knowledge buttressed her American exceptionalism, and would shrink from and reject it if it didn’t.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:44 AM on November 16, 2018 [24 favorites]


Some of this has to do with how little many Americans actually travel and SEE the other parts of America (much less the rest of the world). Many never make it our of their own county, much less state.
posted by twidget at 10:44 AM on November 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


The pull yourself up by your own bootstraps mentality doesn't allow the majority of Americans to see that what social supports remain are good. You're supposed to be independent, do it yourself, succeed simply because that's the plan. But planning doesn't do it anymore, even for the people it used to do it for. You have to be born into a situation where the people you know have met the right people and can connect you, whether you have earned it or not.

And even now, when those social supports in the US are crumbling and hate crimes against people of my ethnicity are either on the rise or coming out of the darkness into the daylight, the relative safety I could offer in Canada is rejected, because America is still that THING, that magical thing, that my great-grandparents bought into, and we couldn't possibly leave.

I'll still be here when you have to escape.
posted by wellred at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


How would we? Almost all of our media is blatant propaganda. Very few of us have the time or resources to make ends meet, let alone travel abroad. A lot of us don't have friends at all, let alone friends internationally, and so everyone exists in a tiny bubble of attempting to cope with their situation. Corporations own our politics so it's not like those of us who want a better world can vote for a better world. Trust in everything, from our institutions to our neighbors, is almost nonexistent.

While perhaps true, these sorts of excuses elide over the naked fact that America is a nation founded and built by assholes. People who had no problem working other human beings literally to death (see Whitney Plantation post a little ways down the page). Who had no issue with starving, shooting, poisoning, raping, and stealing from the indigenous population they encountered when they got here. A People who have reified and codified (3/5th Compromise, Reservation system, Immigration Act of 1924, and on and on...) their rapacity and cruelty into a system that willfully inflicts suffering on the weak and then demands that the rest of us not only prop that system up, but actually celebrate it. We've always been a bad and cruel and stupid nation, and almost every halting attempt to reform ourselves has been met, historically, with resistance, intimidation, and terror.
posted by Chrischris at 10:53 AM on November 16, 2018 [66 favorites]


the thing i don't understand is how social democracies in europe can look at, say, the american health system, and then elect people who say "THAT. we need THAT over here"

i understand why the aristocratic elites in these countries want these things, but i can not wrap my head around ordinary people listening to them and then voluntarily voting for their own impoverishment
posted by murphy slaw at 10:58 AM on November 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


Americans themselves have no fucking clue how much trouble both they and their country are in. Willful ignorance.

Even for those of us who have a clue, how the fuck do we fix it when somewhere between 30-50% of the country will fight tooth & nail to keep things exactly as fucked as they are (if not actively pushing to fuck them more), and still trying to stay whole and sane in the process?

I mean, you can pick something and try to fix parts of the problem. But nobody that I've seen has a plan for fixing everything, nor can we all agree on what things are specifically wrong or what right would look like.

I'm not giving up, but I also don't know that anything I do is more than putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound.
posted by jzb at 11:05 AM on November 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


I love you people. Some of you may be dismayed when I tell you, you are my people.
posted by evilDoug at 11:13 AM on November 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


A lot of us don't have friends at all, let alone friends internationally, and so everyone exists in a tiny bubble of attempting to cope with their situation.

I've been an American living overseas for 20 years now, have also been on these here intarwebs for roundabouts 28 years, back in the days of gopher – I regularly browsed the French national library with it – and there is a flip side to this. Americans do.not.listen. to anyone not actually in the States.

I repeat: I. Am. American. I grew up in the US in an area without any sort of public transportation – the nearest bus line was a 15-mile drive from our house. The first time I took a bus, I was 18 years old and had to ask a friend how to ring for a stop. I didn't step onto a train until I was 19 and in Montparnasse getting on a train for Brittany. I had a 1972 Chevrolet Nova Super Sport, cherry red with fuzzy dice on the rearview mirror (I am not kidding and have the photos to prove it), drove that up and down the West Coast. I've visited 40 states, lived in Oregon and Alabama (yes), have family across the US and in Canada.

It has been 28 years on the web, and it has been 20 years of my fellow countrypeople telling me I don't know my own country because I live in France.

What other conclusion can anyone reach than Americans do not want to listen? Canada's right up north and they listen. Australia's out on the other side of the planet and they listen.
posted by fraula at 11:13 AM on November 16, 2018 [32 favorites]


Canada's right up north and they listen.

To be honest, we mostly just nod and make sympathetic noises while we're actually thinking about hockey or Rush or some other bullshit.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:23 AM on November 16, 2018 [54 favorites]


I will say something that is very unpopular on this website: We Progressives are losing America because-- unlike our enemies (Proud Boys, radical anti-abortionists, actual fucking Nazis)--we have taken violence off the table. Its like America has decided to re-fight the Civil War, but only one side takes up arms; the other side--OUR side-- has decided that fiery speeches and pamphlets will triumph over the bayonets, if only we keep throwing bodies in front of the murderers and shouting "See! See!" as they gun us down yet again. We pretend that our good intentions and powers of persuasion will somehow win the day, even though its becoming pretty damned clear that the dynamics of swaying public opinion are a piss-poor comfort when you're getting your head bashed in by a cinder block or dragged behind a pickup truck. I love and respect MLK and his ethos, but I think we are entering a John Brown phase in American history, and those of us that want a better future need to understand that right quick.
posted by Chrischris at 11:30 AM on November 16, 2018 [40 favorites]


how do you defend the proposition that a society can reach consensus without resorting to violence by indulging in violence?

for the fascists, every act of violence they commit validates their worldview; for people who believe in a just and civil society, every act of violence committed undermines theirs.
posted by murphy slaw at 11:44 AM on November 16, 2018 [38 favorites]


i can not wrap my head around ordinary people listening to them and then voluntarily voting for their own impoverishment

Why not? 50% of Americans who vote do it every time they enter a voting booth.
posted by tzikeh at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2018


Oh c'mon. Instances of right-wing violence aren't why millions of people voted for Trump, or for candidates who supported the evangelical/plutocratic Republican agenda over the past four+ decades.
posted by PhineasGage at 11:51 AM on November 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


I will say something that is very unpopular on this website: We Progressives are losing America because-- unlike our enemies (Proud Boys, radical anti-abortionists, actual fucking Nazis)--we have taken violence off the table.

Thank you. None of my leftie friends want to hear it when I say that the only way forward is violent. Every major progressive gain made in the U.S. has come with riots and violence. Marching in your local downtown with your knitted pink hat, your clever sign, and a cup of Starbucks gets us nothing. We need to redirect those energies into the things that have been proven, by history, to work.

(My parents were anti-war protesters in the late 60s/early 70s, who believe to this day that angry teenagers chanting rhymes is what cause the public's opinion to turn on Viet Nam, so going to marches is the way forward now. They don't like to hear what I have to say either.)
posted by tzikeh at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


I will say something that is very unpopular on this website: We Progressives are losing America because-- unlike our enemies (Proud Boys, radical anti-abortionists, actual fucking Nazis)--we have taken violence off the table.

Violence isn't what's winning for the right. It's money and power, and a willingness to do just about anything to avoid ceding power once it's gained. Mostly this is non-violent.

There may be a point where violence will be the only way to effect change but I don't think we're there yet.

Hell, we could drum Trump out of office in 72 hours if a sufficient number of Americans would simply link arms and refuse to work until he's out of office. Damn well believe that his backers and protectors would abandon him when it becomes clear that they cannot profit off others' work as long as he's in office. They can throw the police and worse at protesters but what are they going to do - come to everybody's house and drag them to work?

Where progressives fail is in realizing that the other side simply is not going to play by the rules, but will rewrite the rules at every opportunity to disadvantage others. They have also shown a willingness to unite behind anyone who will take them to power, whereas we'll instantly fragment (as seen this week with squabbles over Pelosi as House Speaker) because we simply can't focus on a big picture over smaller disagreements.

We also need to explore more in the realm of simply shunning people with extreme rightward beliefs. I've noticed so many social media posts and stories about "friends *whine whine* don't let politics get in the way" - almost exclusively from rightward folks. Nobody wants to date Republicans on Tinder. Nobody wants to invite asshole uncle Rob to dinner because he's going to spout off about Trump. We need more of that, much more.

We have many options that do not require violence. We should exercise them before we do not have options that don't involve violence.
posted by jzb at 12:00 PM on November 16, 2018 [72 favorites]


We'll soon look forward to the U.S. falling behind Morocco in high-speed rail service. Possibly even Uzbekistan.
posted by gimonca at 12:02 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hell, we could drum Trump out of office in 72 hours if a sufficient number of Americans would simply link arms and refuse to work until he's out of office.

and part of the weakness of the left right now is that we have failed to build and preserve the kinds of mutual support that would allow people to protest in this way.
posted by murphy slaw at 12:02 PM on November 16, 2018 [35 favorites]


While in my case it is far more symbolic than substantive, I have for some time invested solely in municipal bonds. This is how almost all infrastructure is built, maintained and replaced in our country. I privately invest via a mutual fund and civically vote for every bond issue that appears on my ballot. My grain of sand on the beach...
posted by jim in austin at 12:22 PM on November 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


America is still that THING, that magical thing, that my great-grandparents bought into

I mean.. is it really still?

That does suggest it once WAS. which.... compared to WWII Poland, sure I guess. If that's the bar you're gonna set for yourself.
posted by some loser at 12:26 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


But this wealth is largely an abstraction, a trick of the broad and largely meaningless aggregations of numbers that makes up most of what the business pages call “economics.”

I recognize that this is a jeremiad, but that sentence is so sideways that it's not even wrong, and it paints the author as an unserious dilettante.

Would you put much credence into public health suggestions by someone who puts "medicine" in quotes and refers to infection disease statistics as "largely meaningless aggregations of numbers?"
posted by leotrotsky at 12:37 PM on November 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


But this wealth is largely an abstraction, a trick of the broad and largely meaningless aggregations of numbers that makes up most of what the business pages call “economics.”

He's in for a heck of a shock once he figures out what money is.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:42 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


some loser: no one sets that bar for themselves. It's set for them.
posted by wellred at 12:48 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Scholars of civil war (not THE civil war, fellow Americans, the concept of "civil war") get very harrumpy when someone says that the United States is sliding towards civil war, because fundamentally civil wars happen in countries where a large portion of the population simply has nothing to lose and the United States doesn't fit that definition, and I think, just give it another 10 years when the oldest millennials realize they will never be able to retire and their health problems start piling up.
posted by Automocar at 1:22 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


When Brexit happened, my 20-year-od son said, "Well that's the end of the EU."

I laughed, and pointed him to Slavoj Zizek's discussion of how "Europe" is defined, progressively sliding north or south depending on who is defining. My own experience when I visited England was shock at how un-European it was. With continental Europe, I see more commonality culturally between a dock worker in Hamburg and an olive grower in Sardinia than I see differences. Language obscures those similarities.

In the same way, language obscures the differences in the US. I consider that there are more cultural differences in the US than in Europe, but because you do not have to make any effort to be understood, the differences remain unexamined and comfortably perpetuated. The state based development of policy should lead to a Darwinian process of selecting the most effective and beneficial policies, instead there is a race to the bottom. (I think Amazon HQ2 should be in Flint, Michigan)
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 1:30 PM on November 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


I agree with the complaints about the American unwillingness to learn from others. As Carlos Fuentes said, "What America does best is to understand itself. What it does worst is to understand other countries."

But I think it's worth understanding that there's a reason for it. It may seem obvious that "Europe does things better than the US", but it used to be the opposite. We used to be more democratic: a Frenchman had to write a book to reassure his countrymen that democracy wasn't as bad as they feared. We used to be more egalitarian: capital wasn't nearly as dominant as in Europe, and as late as 1980 income taxes were higher here than in Germany or France. We used to have an economy where all classes advanced in income and each generation did better than the one before. Plutocracy ruined all that.

As for the article, it seems that by "Europe" the author means "France and maybe Germany", since he dismisses Italy as corrupt and doesn't mention (say) Brexit or fascism in Hungary. And France does a lot of things right, though the fact that Marine Le Pen got a third of the vote may be a clue that it's not completely unlike the US.

It's also pretty silly to compare the cost of building subways in New York City with that of building bike paths in Seville. Why not compare it with the cost of building subways in dense cities like Paris? The comparison is still against the US, but not quite so comically. Also, if you want cheaper subways, are you willing to employ fewer workers? One reason for Europe's lower subway costs is that it requires 1/4 the number of workers.
posted by zompist at 2:01 PM on November 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


Also, if you want cheaper subways, are you willing to employ fewer workers?
Yes? I don't see why this is a question. There should be jobs for everyone, but there's not a reason why public transportation budgets should bear all the costs of being a jobs program.
posted by LizardBreath at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


capital wasn't nearly as dominant as in Europe One interesting bit of history I got from reading “The S Word” was the discussion around the time of the American Civil war about the danger of the US becoming a “nation of employees” and comparing the wage slavery of the north to chattel slavery of the south.
posted by The Whelk at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have for some time invested solely in municipal bonds. This is how almost all infrastructure is built, maintained and replaced in our country. I privately invest via a mutual fund and civically vote for every bond issue that appears on my ballot. My grain of sand on the beach...

That's nice for people who have money, I guess. Most of us don't.

civil wars happen in countries where a large portion of the population simply has nothing to lose and the United States doesn't fit that definition

literally LOL right now. A significant portion of American citizens currently have nothing to lose. Unfortunately they have been pitted against one another for scores of years, and can't see over the fences between them in order to recognize their common cause. I don't foresee a civil war; I foresee violent chaos.

What America does best is to understand itself

This thread is hilarious.
posted by tzikeh at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


metafilter: the only way forward is violent
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


we have taken violence off the table... yup.

I found this amazing quote the other day by Karl Popper, a 20th century philosopher and it just gave me... I don't wanna say hope because I don't know if I have that, but maybe this idea that my anger is beyond some partisan bs.

"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."
posted by CPAGirl at 2:55 PM on November 16, 2018 [23 favorites]


let's try some kinda dialectical synthesis. Here's the lefty keyboard warrior line (he says, as someone who has succumbed to lefty keyboard warriorism on occasion):

> Thank you. None of my leftie friends want to hear it when I say that the only way forward is violent

And here's a discussion about the tactic of the general strike, and why we can't do it right now:

>> Hell, we could drum Trump out of office in 72 hours if a sufficient number of Americans would simply link arms and refuse to work until he's out of office.

> and part of the weakness of the left right now is that we have failed to build and preserve the kinds of mutual support that would allow people to protest in this way.


Here's the important thing linking these two lines of argument: what's required for violent action against the state or a general strike is what murphy slaw identifies as "mutual aid," and that I'd like to recast as simply being logistics. there's a famous apocryphal quote (variously attributed to napoleon, frederick the great, etc.), that goes something like "an army marches on its stomach." If you've got solid logistics — if your supply chain is intact and efficient and the folks at the front know the next shipment of food is coming, you have an army and you can win a war. if your supply chain is broken, you have a hungry scared mob and you can't win a damned thing.

What I'm trying to get at here is that whatever tactic for the overthrow of capital and the institution of democracy that you prefer (violent decapitation attacks, general strikes, relatively nonviolent protest, whatever), we all can agree on what tactic is most required right now. We need to be able to feed ourselves, at least for a while, without capital's support and against capital's desire. We need an intact supply chain that can channel the means of subsistence for a relatively long time to the people who are brave enough to give capital the middle finger, either with molotovs and kalashnikovs or just by staying home from work.

If you're down for the revolution, if you're down for the violent revolution, do remember that war isn't won by the folks on the barricades. It's won by effective logistics. so if you think the only way forward is violent, what you have to be doing, right now, before the overt violence starts, is coordinating with your comrades to make sure you can all help to keep each other alive even when capital wants you dead.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:57 PM on November 16, 2018 [71 favorites]


Oh, also, something I have found myself looking at a lot lately, are the Sustainable Development Goals on a global level and how each country is doing.

The 2015 data is laid out more simply, while the 2018 include nearly every country and has much more details like trend lines. In 2015, US was 29 out of 34... There it is, black and white, so like, what make America so exceptional ? I don't buy it anymore.
posted by CPAGirl at 3:06 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


Also, if you want cheaper subways, are you willing to employ fewer workers?
Yes? I don't see why this is a question. There should be jobs for everyone, but there's not a reason why public transportation budgets should bear all the costs of being a jobs program.


Approximately 50% of the costs for the NYC subway line are for land acquisition costs, and another 25% are for up-front engineering costs. The actual workers and diggers is only 25%. Yet another symptom of the problem. Yonah Freemark (the guy mentioned in the subway cost article) had a breakdown about a year ago - sorry can't find it.

Maybe the land is already public in European subway cases or maybe the acquisition costs are accounted for differently, I'm not sure its ever been studied.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:14 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I agree we're in trouble, especially with regard to neglect of our infrastructure, I think another lie Americas tell themselves is that everything is necessarily better in Europe. I mean yes, the TGV is wonderful and its incredibly stupid that the U.S. doesn't have high speed trains itself but as you'll notice as you roll out of Paris on that train into the banlieues, the contrast between rich and poor in France is obscene.

Marching in your local downtown with your knitted pink hat, your clever sign, and a cup of Starbucks gets us nothing.

The Women's March that you're referring to remains the most visible protest against Trump and everything he stands for, that anyone's managed so far. But of course it was organized and done by women so automatically laughable and easily diminished.

Calling for ill-thought out violence against whoever you deem worthy of it in the service of replacing democracy with, again, nothing very well thought out or researched is of course, a much better idea. That will get us all in to a better position for sure.
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 3:48 PM on November 16, 2018 [35 favorites]


>Calling for ill-thought out violence against whoever you deem worthy of it in the service of replacing democracy with, again, nothing very well thought out or researched is of course, a much better idea. That will get us all in to a better position for sure.

citation needed for the claim that our extant system is a democracy. furthermore, citation needed for the claim that revolutionary positions are automatically not well-thought-out. (note: the relatively well-grounded assertion that violence against capitalism is currently futile is not evidence that revolutionary goals aren't well-thought-out).
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:53 PM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Woke up the day after someone stole my bike (the one I need to get to work) out of my backyard and went to try to return cell phone I had bought 20 days ago, only to be told they don't do returns after 14 days. During the process, I discovered I had been charged $80 for the 'complimentary' case the salesman had 'given' me. Also no-longer returnable. The manager confided, "there's nothing we can do." He waved a hand at the computer terminal, "The system won't let us return it. I can credit you half the price of the case." (I know this brand is available online for $20). I told him off in my calmest voice and left with my consolation prize. I almost felt as though I couldn't blame him or the salesman or the bike thief. But I could feel, almost palpably, the systems that caused us to try and extract as much from each other as possible.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamerica
posted by es_de_bah at 3:56 PM on November 16, 2018 [23 favorites]


Brain Sturgeon: The Women's March that you're referring to remains the most visible protest against Trump and everything he stands for, that anyone's managed so far. But of course it was organized and done by women so automatically laughable and easily diminished.

I'm a woman and I attended Chicago's Women's March; try again--this time without putting words in my mouth (though I guess you should get another shot given how you thought I was a man at first).

Yes it was visible. And? So? The Senate put a rapist on the Supreme Court. Trump, while he does attack everyone in the press, is particularly vicious about women and their (according to his tastes) attractiveness. Mothers are ripped from their children.

This is the problem with the kind of argument you and those like you put up: it was visible, so that means something. Except no, it doesn't, and never has, and never will. Finding large-scale marches pointless has nothing to do with whether I'm a man or a woman, or if I'm feminist enough for you. But please continue assuming you know where I stand on women's rights based on what I think about the effectiveness of organized protest marches -- especially since your more-feminist-than-thou self-congratulatory sarcasm led you to assume I was a man.
posted by tzikeh at 4:19 PM on November 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


as you'll notice as you roll out of Paris on that train into the banlieues, the contrast between rich and poor in France is obscene

Fifty percent of gofundme appeals are for medical costs. All of them are Americans.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:20 PM on November 16, 2018 [34 favorites]


Aim your violence at the right place, if you can find it. When Hillary Clinton said there's a vast Right-Wing conspiracy, I agreed. It's calculated. Deprecate the press, so that people have no benchmark for what's true. Prey on poorly-educated whites, encourage tribalism, racism, distrust of everything that might actually be good for them. The NRA was already drumming up passion for guns, which is awesome for gun makers and feeds into all sorts of weird Far Right shit. Demonize the poor, rename basics like Social Security as entitlements, inheritance taxes as death tax. Slash funding for education. Gerrymandering, voter suppression. The extraordinarily profitable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were and are not televised; televised war in Viet Nam made the difference. This has been a coordinated, sophisticated, planned effort. The result? The wealthy are much, much, wealthier. Have-nots have very little opportunity. The Very Rich are very well protected; they will not care if you burn things down, it will only be an inconvenience.
posted by theora55 at 4:20 PM on November 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


Some of this has to do with how little many Americans actually travel and SEE the other parts of America (much less the rest of the world). Many never make it our of their own county, much less state.

Travel options often constrained by personal/family budgets and a stingy vacation policy at work.
posted by she's not there at 4:23 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


The Very Rich are very well protected; they will not care if you burn things down, it will only be an inconvenience.

Unless I've missed some sort of Affluenza Genetic Mutation, the Very Rich still need food, water, electricity, etc. They will very much care if we "burn down" the means of delivery of these necessities.
posted by tzikeh at 4:24 PM on November 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


The Large Scale Marches here in San Francisco (two women's marches, one march for science) were invaluable for

1. helping everyone who participated OR saw the news coverage understand they are not alone in their fury at the current administration and state of national affairs

2. offering a venue where myriad acivist organizations signed up new advocates

both of which led to:

3. uncommonly high levels of direct action and voting all over California

which led to

4. many smashing electoral successes, including "a near-sweep of historic proportions" for the state's congressional delegation.

If it takes a pink pussy hat and a cup of mediocre branded coffee to keep warm while canvassing and knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors, I think those women (and men) deserve a salute, not derision...
posted by PhineasGage at 5:05 PM on November 16, 2018 [52 favorites]


okay fine let's get on all the lists.

if you want to throw a violent revolution, if you really really want to throw a violent revolution, you need a whole lot of desperate folks who are accustomed to violence and who'll be tossed into a meatgrinder if they don't revolt. prior art: spartacus's slave revolt, john brown's attempt to foment slave revolt, the bolshevik revolution, which largely depended on the presence in st. petersburg of a bunch of soldiers who very much didn't want to get shipped to the front to get killed by germans for no reason.

we have that in america, because we lock up a ton of people in prisons. so many people. such miserable prisons. if we're exceptional as a nation, we're exceptional because of our habit of mass incarceration.

so if yr srs about violent revolution, you're not making keyboard noises about denying the rich access to food, electricity, and water. that's not a feasible plan; the rich own the state, after all, and the state zealously guards their supply lines. if yr srs about violent revolution, you're supporting prison organization movements.

As I understand it, the least-non-mainstream group that organizes prisoners is the IWW. So congrats: you're an anarchosyndicalist now. hagrid_yr_an_anarchosyndicalist_harry.gif. The downside of being an anarchosyndicalist is that they're doomed. everyone kills them. like, everyone, all the time. The upside is they've got excellent music.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:11 PM on November 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


when a state no longer acts benevolently in the interests of its citizens it loses its monopoly on the legitimate use of force. out of the 4 characteristics of a failed state the monopoly on violence is the only one the US still holds.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:08 PM on November 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


We could potentially consider a more nuanced view. I've been told there is good reason to believe that MLK made progress because he was seen as moderate relative to those threatening violence. That a small number of suffragette dying of self-induced hunger made those who weren't seem moderate. I don't think it would take all out war to make change, but a more extreme fraction to make those seeking health insurance seem like moderates probably wouldn't hurt at this point.

The black panthers were organized, and provided support for basic services. Things that were much worse before then organized, not that had to be in place for them to organize.
posted by lab.beetle at 6:58 PM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you're down for the revolution, if you're down for the violent revolution, do remember that war isn't won by the folks on the barricades. It's won by effective logistics.
Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon

------------------

More a tripod of logistics, leadership, and bodies on the frontline.

Need all three, regardless of what form your war takes, who your enemy is, and the lay of the battlegrounds.
posted by Pouteria at 8:24 PM on November 16, 2018


That's nice for people who have money, I guess. Most of us don't.

I'm not a Daddy Warbucks. The initial buy-in was $3000 and subsequent additions can be as low as $1. Municipal bond funds generally return far better than Treasuries, CD's or money markets and are considered very secure and stable. Their returns are on a par with most annuities with the added bonus the distributions are tax exempt. They are a boring, long term, yawn inducing investment for the future. Not just your future but the future of the country as well. You will never get rich quick investing in municipal bonds. But then again, you will never become a pauper overnight either..
posted by jim in austin at 8:33 PM on November 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


come for the revolutionary rhetoric, stay for the advice about muni bonds
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:39 PM on November 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


The initial buy-in was $3000

Who the fuck has $3000?
posted by Automocar at 8:46 PM on November 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


Who the fuck has $3000?

Lying around loose? Not many. But over time? Maybe...
posted by jim in austin at 8:57 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


it helps to have been born in the mid-20th century, ideally the 50s or 60s. if you can arrange that, scraping up 3000 bux should be easy.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:15 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


then again, you will never become a pauper overnight either

Depends.
posted by praemunire at 9:45 PM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Who the fuck has $3000?

Probably a lot of people on Metafilter do. They might not want to admit it in this thread.
posted by riruro at 9:51 PM on November 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


There's a connection also between not being able to travel and the america-centric mass media. Yes, it took me travelling to all sorts of places and also the US to really see and internalise the difference but before I went I still did know at least a bit of the world if only those covered by the mainstream media. Like, thirdworlders didn't magically come out of the womb being able to bond about the Simpsons with Americans you know. There's more of us who have no idea how your municipal councils work etc* but we vaguely know of the major cities in the USA and that there's cultural stereotypes between all of them and we picked it up maybe from the dumbest memes, movies and news wire articles but that's definitely a sight more educated that an American may be. Which I didn't quite get why until I was in your country and a week went by and I was like, jfc, I haven't heard a single piece of 'international' news or cultural meme even casually.

*Of course it's not all perfect. One time in college I remember a half-serious conversation of us trying to figure out where are all these 'ivy leagues' and decided they're all in a place called Harvardlandia

As to calls for direct action...? I don't trust you guys to even get the next state right.
posted by cendawanita at 10:35 PM on November 16, 2018


I have $3000 to put into savings, easily. I'm not American, though, but Norwegian. However, I grew up solidly worker class in a small town. My parent had different jobs on the floor in a bus factory, vegetable processing plant, moving company and similar. Due to chronic illnesses both were out of the labour market around the time I was in my early teens. However, they have decent pensions and free health care, so they kept the house and I got a college education for free. My understanding is that in the US I would have been royally fucked. However, here I am, working, providing for my family, paying taxes, keeping the national GDP up. Keeping people down is costing the US a lot in the way of general prosperity. I love you guys, but I also despair for you.
posted by Harald74 at 10:47 PM on November 16, 2018 [39 favorites]


In a word, the rich got their hands on the government and turned it to their ends, as opposed to the ends of the people. Student loans? Come on, that shit is a total scam - bunch of guys made wicked fucking bank off that.

But it is still a democracy, and we still have the vote and the remarkably unrepresentative Congress is ageing itself out of existence.

How America speaks to itself though, the media, that’s where shit is fucked up. Or, if you’re looking to control the masses, working like a top.

Also, the last thirty years are Gingrich’s fault. That guy is a fucking traitor.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:58 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


It’s almost like keeping everyone scared, in debt, ignorant and one paycheck away from ruin was ...the point.
posted by The Whelk at 12:34 AM on November 17, 2018 [24 favorites]


a week after democratic blue wave election changes control of the house and we're arguing about it being hopeless? I mean, america has problems but one of them is the number of people *gasp* on both sides, who have no tool kit but tweets and bullets.

MeToo didn't raid an armory and assasinate Harvey Weinstein.

Ocasio-Cortez and Beto didn't have a street gang of armbanded thugs to get prominence

Pelosi isn't using a mutiny of sailors at Anapolis to take over west point

The reasons some of your lefty friends don't get the message about going Red dawn is because literally everything you have in life came to you via peaceful cooperation of strangers who like money and obey most laws, most of the time Or did you knife someone for the computer/phone you're using?

"instant wildcat national strik" "violent revolution" there are other choices, a those methods just won like 35 congressional seats.

Harumph.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 1:07 AM on November 17, 2018 [20 favorites]


The american system,is optimized for the wealthy for,whites, for cishetmale etc. But this is not the ghetto at warsaw, its not fight or die. donate your time, talents and resources to the thibgs that are working.

DACA recipient deportations and new familiy separations halted because protests got attention, people donated to NGOs which paid lawyers and won court cases. That nutball who shot-up the republican baseball game didn't do that, people who knitted pink hats did.

Do we win every court case, no.
Do we win every election, no.
Do we rollback every illegal immoral,unethical thing that 45 and W did... no. things are dark, yes.
Lets not give the alt-right or putin the civilwar/racewar they crave.

Only we can destroy us. It makes it no better if we destroy ourselves for a nice idea.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 1:33 AM on November 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


The reason many progressives won't agree that we need violent revolution, is that violent revolution won't get us the culture we want. We already live in a society where the guys with guns shoot whoever bothers them; switching around the hypothetical ideologies of the guys carrying guns is not the change I need.

The question isn't, "should we or shouldn't we use those tactics?" It's, "if we use those tactics, and we win, then what?" Violence can bring a revolution; it can't get a Democrat-majority Senate and SCOTUS.

And overthrowing the current bastards-in-charge won't fix the crushing poverty that infects much of the nation. 30-ish years ago, I lived in rural Arkansas for a few years - a small town with 500 people and 7 churches. I only knew one family that had neither electricity nor running water; I knew a few who had no indoor toilets, a few with well water only; many with woodstoves for heating in the winter.

No amount of fixing the government is going to directly address that level of poverty; it can't be fixed with money alone - it needs a complete cultural overhaul, with education and trusted advisers who can explain what the new options are.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:31 AM on November 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


Probably a lot of people on Metafilter do. They might not want to admit it in this thread.

I'm not rich, but I'm comfortable enough to have enough money saved that I could probably be unemployed for a year and keep up my current lifestyle.

Helps that I live in a country where it's far more difficult to go bankrupt through medical emergency than in the US, even if successive governments have been keen to change that.

The reality is that for many, if not most people here and in the US, even saving up a month's wages is difficult and that any sort of small crisis (fridge on the fritz, boiler broke down) could put them in the red again.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:40 AM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


No amount of fixing the government is going to directly address that level of poverty; it can't be fixed with money alone - it needs a complete cultural overhaul, with education and trusted advisers who can explain what the new options are.

Bet you money can buy you a lot of indoor plumbing and all that though.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:40 AM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Violence can bring a revolution; it can't get a Democrat-majority Senate and SCOTUS.

The argument is that they don't want a Democrat-majority Senate and SCOTUS because of said revolution. Neither institution has a lot of faith behind it.

There's an exhibition going on about Nelson Mandela in Melbourne I went to go see, and something I didn't realise is that Mandela was a violent revolutionary. He claimed as justification that violence had already been done to him and his people, and so violence was an acceptable response. He did the strongman gun pose and everything. History is written by the victors.

Violence has a place - unfortunately the enemies of self-determination are rarely persuaded by argument - and I think those who see violence as illegitimate are overestimating humanity's ability to capitulate. But there's a real fear there: there's not a lot of examples of violent revolutions getting a better country at the end of it compared to those that fall under the sway of a strongman or a fascist. I don't think this isn't the fault of the violence, though, but of speed.

Despite Mandela's efforts, South Africa is not much better off than it was under apartheid. Part of that was that it was the 90s and it was time for Klax developing countries to get free markets they couldn't regulate. We know now just how much work goes into making a country a good place to live. Obviously you need basic services like water, healthcare, security, infrastructure, and supply chains, and the tax system to pay for all of that. But you also need things like regulation: not too much, or you become like Peru where it took two years to go into business, so no-one officially did it, or too little, where you become like Albania, whose post-Soviet economy became almost entirely dominated by pyramid schemes. You need ways for the country to make decisions - not, like, voting systems, but how do debates actually happen, and how does the country discuss its future?

The problem with revolutions that sweep the board clean is that you end up starting again from scratch. Without those structures, strongmen and fascists, who import all those structures along with them, start to look like a real appealing option.

We've had a pretty good answer for a while where to start if you want to fix a broken system: from Ben Franklin to Mandela to Thomas Piketty, the consensus is that education - the best that you can - is the place to start.

In conclusion, take your guns to a meeting of the Texas School Board
posted by Merus at 3:52 AM on November 17, 2018 [17 favorites]


a week after democratic blue wave election changes control of the house and we're arguing about it being hopeless?

I mean, the last time the Democrats were in charge they stole a ton of the people's money and gave it to the banks.
posted by ragtag at 5:21 AM on November 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


it helps to have been born in the mid-20th century, ideally the 50s or 60s. if you can arrange that, scraping up 3000 bux should be easy.
It's quite easy to blame the Boomers, which are a massive demographic, for everything bad. It's also quite lazy. I'm a Boomer, and single/ divorced female Boomers are not necessarily living at the spa, with the bonbons. The surprise 2000 bill from the ER has me in a panic and that's after paying 750/month on insurance. Inter-generational hate, inter-racial, inter-religious, etc., hate is a great way to keep us from seizing back control. The bickering over who we'll accept in our revolution - are you intersectional enough? are you wearing the right tshirt? are your attitudes pure? - are an excellent barrier to seizing back control. I raised a child on my own financially, bought a tiny house, try to live decently. They're coming for my Social Security and Medicare. There are too many self-satisfied Boomers voting selfishly, feeding climate change. There are too many young arrogant men falling in love with nazism. There are not that many, but even one is too many, super-rich, powerful assholes who won't be done until they have every dollar and are lords in a land of serfs Focus your anger that's the only way it will be effective. Consider reading Nomadland; an awful lot of Boomers lost everything in the Great Recession.
posted by theora55 at 5:54 AM on November 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


While a few keyboard warriors were fantasizing about violent revolution, here's more on what actually happened in California, where the GOP is at serious risk of going extinct. With a supermajority in the State Legislature now, the Democratic Party will have to put up or shut up on issues that can be addressed at the state level, including taxation, health care, social services and more.

Before I am quite ready to go shopping for a black balaclava, fashionable combat boots, and a custom-engraved truncheon, I intend to regularly press my state legislators and my new Governor (yes, the former SF mayor who unilaterally decreed same-sex marriage legal and helped nudge the arc of history), to deliver on his promises and show that California (the 4th or 5th largest economy on the planet) is a model for a progressive future.

And if they don't deliver, I will see y'all at the barricades in a few years. I'll even bring the first box of donuts...
posted by PhineasGage at 7:24 AM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


The collective decision to defund infrastructure in this country is really strange, and such a reversal of the previous century or two. Regardless of whether you are left or right wing, letting the infrastructure crumble is just short sighted.

Who the fuck has $3000?

Anyone who buys a gaming computer or a fancy bicycle? I mean, it's a substantial chunk of cash, but we are not talking 1% kind of wealth here.

Marching in your local downtown with your knitted pink hat, your clever sign, and a cup of Starbucks gets us nothing.

Marches alone don't make change, but there is a direct line from those marches to the midterm election results we saw the other day.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:04 AM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


If this comparison of infrastructure spending as a % of GDP is accurate, America doesn't spend as much on infrastructure as many of its peer countries... but it does spend proportionally more than France or Germany, which both seem to have better infrastructure overall. Perhaps that money is just being spent less efficiently or on projects that are less visible?

I do think states like California and New York have an opportunity to lead on these issues. In theory, wealthy, liberal states have the resources necessary to build public infrastructure that surpasses Europe's. Of course, it's not so easy... but if it could be done, it would be a powerful example of what's possible when the government invests in the people.
posted by Kilter at 9:08 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


From my position north of the US border, I sympathize a lot with the problems discussed here.

All I can offer from my perspective is that I do not know how it will be easy to affect significant change when ideas are so constrained by your rigid framework of just two political parties. There just isn't enough "slots" in that framework for all initiatives and points of view. And too many people seem to vote out of identity, tradition or habit, leaving relatively few voters aware enough to vote on policy or issue.

I'm also no fan of fixed election dates, forcing people to vote on every position from president to dogcatcher at one time. And the deliberate voter discouragement that goes on; here in Canada, I've voted in every election for the last ~30+ years and there were many convenient polling places, and I've rarely spent more than 10 min in a lineup to vote.

So I guess I'm basically prattling on about our parliamentary system. But my main point remains that I think Americans need to be more ready to organize primarily around policies or goals, and less trusting of either major party to further your cause.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:13 AM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Just saw this. The very wealthy can, and do, escape the consequences the rest of us endure.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


how do you defend the proposition that a society can reach consensus without resorting to violence by indulging in violence?

for the fascists, every act of violence they commit validates their worldview; for people who believe in a just and civil society, every act of violence committed undermines theirs.
posted by murphy slaw at 11:44 AM on November 16 [19 favorites +] [!]


"Can" is not the same thing as "must".

The unwillingnss to commit to a non-intellectualized politics is a sign, to many, that progressives don't really believe in their beliefs. along the lines of the glib "no atheists in foxholes" argument, that only the comfortable can afford to be progressive, the rest of us live in the real world, that has violence whether you want to have violence or not.

And it's true, most/all people do not choose violence in their lives, it is merely a matter of fact.
posted by eustatic at 10:59 AM on November 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


literally everything you have in life came to you via peaceful cooperation of strangers who like money and obey most laws, most of the time Or did you knife someone for the computer/phone you're using?

The term revisionist history gets thrown around a lot but I feel comfortable applying it here. The wealth the US and a lot of other places was not built on peaceful co-operation. It's built on genocide and colonialism, empire and exploitation. Maybe we didn't stab someone ourselves, but there's a lot of stab wounds nonetheless.

Even putting aside settler status, putting aside everything outside the borders, it's still a story of slavery, of an economy that depend on women's unpaid labour, of the myth of fair contract, of union halls burned down and of millions behind bars.

There's still child slave firefighters going at it as we speak in California, to my knowledge.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:47 AM on November 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


Bet you money can buy you a lot of indoor plumbing and all that though.

On the one hand: Well, yes, obviously.

On the other: For most of those families, if you hand them $15k (or whatever the current cost is) as the expected cost of installing a toilet instead of using an outhouse, they're likely not to spend it on the toilet. They're going to fix the ailing car, buy boots for winter that aren't patched with duct tape, cave to the kids' demands for new-not-goodwill outfits for once, and maybe buy a tv big enough to watch from more than six feet away. Maybe they'll splurge and buy a small freezer so that when they go hunting in fall, they don't have to give away half of the meat. They don't need proper indoor plumbing; after all, they've been surviving just fine without it for this long.

So instead, the gov't may have to mandate how the money gets spent - at which point, they get swamped with arguments about "why the hell are you wasting thousands of dollars on fancy house upgrades when what we need is food and clothes?"

There is no infusion of money that makes everyone more comfortable, safe, and healthy, without disrupting the culture enough to cause a lot of backlash. I think the infusion of money should get done anyway. In a few years, they stop grumbling, and the higher standard of living becomes the new norm.

But in the meantime, every politician who approved the change gets voted out. So of course they don't make these kinds of changes, even if they "want to help;" they want their own career more.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:58 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes, US wealth comes from stolen land, stolen labor, bombed out competitors. Unspeakable crimes that must not be forgotten, reparations must be made, crimes that continue to this day. And yes, your food and phones are generated by those crimes. The layers of middle people between the mine and factory and your phone... are you using violence to get your phone from them or is there a world wide system of cooperation. Because you could pay miners and have them work in safer conditions, you could pay workers and have them work in safer conditions. The exploitation and violence in the phone production system isn't essential, like electricity, its selfish, like profit margins and the excited amigdalas of petty managers. Non-violent production of goods and services is possible, is ubiquitous, and the violent production of goods and services is optional, anathema and the problem.

Buying a phone does make you responsible for the slavery and, abuse that goes into it BECAUSE its a choice with other options. There is no meat eating without harming animals, there are shoes not made by child labor, buy those.

OK, i'll let go of this thread and stop ranting. A better way is possible by peacefully cooperating with those doing things the better way and helping them maintain and expand their sustainable and fair practices instead of stabbing one overseer and being surprised that the plantation just hires another. Violence hasn't won the war on drugs or islam. killing people without changing the system just churns the labor pool.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 1:17 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


« Older "Art is not a plaything, but a necessity,"   |   Here's Why Tires Are Black Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments