I hate fucking off on the Internet. Putting aside politics and my feelings towards my company, my boss, and our clients, it sucks doing nothing all day. When I was 22 or so I thought it was funny. But this sucks. Anybody who wishes, for whatever reason, that they had nothing to do, seriously undervalues life. And this is not some protestant work ethic bullshit either. Even laying in a field looking at the clouds is a lot more of something than what I have done today.
I don't know if anyone else has made this argument. Probably. But I will, just in case. Fucking off on the Internet, though it may cost a company some productivity, may also increase worker discipline. It almost does with me. Why? When I fuck off on the Internet, I am inevitable lead to reading about and researching stuff. New synthesizers. New records. New pots and pans to replace the ones my roommates have scorched. And when I want something, I start thinking about how much it will cost to get it. I think about this in terms of paychecks, in terms of weeks. I budget, and I budget based on the amount of money I currently earn and I come to the edge of losing my sense of urgency about leaving this place, if only to ensure that I can have that thing that I want. Of course I catch myself. At least in terms of the connection between the need for stuff and the fact that I don't need to stay at this particular job in order to feed that need. As for the need itself...
I used to think, right around the time when I first ran into Marx, that there was some power that could be brought to bear via consumerism against capital. That buying smart was some kind of subversion of the wastefulness of consumer society. That buying smart on a grand scale would slowly but surely weed out the companies that poison us, the companies that compensate their workers unfairly, etc. Perhaps I could ascribe that view to the fact that, as an eighteen year old who had just moved to New York (I was back in DC six months later), I was having a hard time reconciling my politics with the vast and, honestly, exciting expanse of New York's commercial landscape. I was supporting myself for the first time and suddenly there was all of this stuff to buy, some of it necessary, even. But I lost those illusions quickly.
The ideal of the educated consumer is not an ideal subversive to capitalism, but rather its apotheosis. To be an educated consumer is to ascribe even higher value to the act of purchasing. It demands increased participation in the marketplace. While one may think that they are placing a higher burden on companies to produce products of better quality, in reality, it is the consumer that takes on the higher burden. Each purchase becomes almost an existential question. And as more people are compelled to think more about the purchases they make, those thoughts (with a little assistance from marketing and the politics of lifestyle) lead them to divergent places, allowing a more diverse marketplace of products to be supported, and therefore demanding even more research on the part of the consumer.
And yet, here I am, on the Internet, looking at saucepans.
It's obvious that the only solution is to run in the other direction on the treadmill, for that is the only way off.
There is some unreservedly good news, however. Obama is proposing substantial public investment. He would increase transportation infrastructure by 60 percent in the next six years, promising that four out of five Americans will have access to rail transport by 2035. (Though such plans continue to face stiff opposition from spend-nothing Republicans, as Florida governor Rick Scott showed in his stunt-like decision this week to return billions of dollars of federal financing that would have paid for high-speed rail in his state.)
iPads depress me. Most of the people buying them have computers at work. Most of the people buying them have computers at home. Isn't the time in between their only freedom in the day? Obviously, they don't deserve it if they have decided that that time should be occupied with another computer.
Among my many weaknesses as a writer and "political commentator" is that I have already come to a conclusion: that Obama is a center-right technocrat, who, while smart, seems to lack intellectual curiosity and a critical perspective that might lead him to solutions to problems outside of the ideologies of official Washington, the most pernicious of which is that "centrism" is a compromise between two extremes, instead of being another "radical" ideology itself, one that presumes that creating any long-lasting solution to any problem that afflicts this nation besides, of course, capitalist accumulation, would be undemocratic (of course, there is no long-term solution for the problems of accumulation, but at least they are trying). That he is slightly less radical than George W. Bush (though now that the budget has been published, this tiny bit of credit is much harder to grant) on domestic issues is cold comfort given his extension of Bush's foreign policy and his continuous attacks on civil liberties. Like Bill Clinton, Obama won his election on a combination of personality and a willingness to claim pragmatic, Republican policy as his own. And like Clinton, Obama's victory will be his alone; little good has and will come to the Democratic party, as, willingly or unwillingly, the gap between them and Republicans will continue to narrow and it will become harder for them to distinguish themselves, except, of course, when they are running against Tea Party candidates, who, even in defeat, will gain the victory of having compelled their Democratic opponents to move further to the right. This problem is compounded by the fact that Obama's administration is absolutely incompetent at apprising the American people of the few decent things that they have done.
It is a bleak conclusion but one which fails and will fail to give any credit for any positive accomplishments, and fails and will fail to draw the subtle distinctions between crappy and almost decent policy that, on a grand scale, seem meaningless, but, on a smaller scale, may matter to the lives of some individuals. But if that is my problem, the problem that the sentence quoted above reveals is even worse: a weird blindness to the general borne of an overindulgence of the particulars. Even if the Times' question is rhetorical, two years into Obama's administration, it is a silly question. But the answer isn't. Simply put, Obama doesn't want to do do what you want him to do, and, more importantly, what you think he wants to do.
If politics were a game, at this point, it would be (American) football, only without the possibility of touchdowns, field goals or punts. In the continuous discussion of what play to call, and how those plays are executed, the impossibility of scoring, of victory, of resolution of any sort, is unaccounted for. If victory is impossible, if neither team will win, then the game is just a distraction and the two teams, regardless of their animus, become de facto conspirators, boasting about the inches they have gained here and there as a way of distracting you from realizing that those inches are insignificant if there is no desitnation towards which they have brought us closer. To argue about Obama's decisions as quaterback of the team with the ball is to be commiserate with said distraction. Why does a football player play football?
It should be obvious to us, who can look back on the struggles for civil liberties that were waged in this country in the twentieth century, that anything good that was ever done was done outside of the political party system. Laws were signed once a significant portion of the populace supported them, and that support came from work not done by Democrats or Republicans, but by people. Legislation tracks changing beliefs; it does not change them.
Even though I will eventually be enticed, probably by the spectacle of the upcoming presidential race, if nothing interesting happens sooner, of going back to my boring link-plus-commentary ways (actually, even this fits that mold), I will be a bit sad about it. Having come to this feeling about politics, and the relationship between the political system and social change, I want to find something outside of it to contribute to. SNCC? CORE? BPP? What are the modern analogues? After living in DC and having worked with a few non-profits, I have no answer, as those groups seemed just as interested in playing cheerleader to the game as anybody else.
I hope he has a special announcement soon about something regarding words, paper, binding, a new round of answering the same questions over and over again in lots of different cities, etc.