I find it often very difficult to disambiguate the self-interest of the devotees of science and their love and discovery when they start hinting at which government programs we should support. Anyone with the briefest familiarity with the history of science understands that the building up of knowledge is a hacking phenomenon. In other words, one should take with a bit of skepticism anyone whose research is funded by government grants when they argue politically. The fact is that today's university system is practically underwritten by the federal government. Do the research. There are only two universities in America who refuse federal funds. Why are universities so expensive, one reason is that they are so administratively heavy; federal forms aren't easy to fill out, nor are processes to comply with federal regulations easy to pay for. Some of that is a snake eating its own tail.
Can anyone who calls himself a scientist truly say that without government, the pursuit of knowledge will dry up? I wish I could find a couple neat references around here but I am impatient to get on with my day. But I once read an excellent essay that showed exactly how far afield so many credentialed researchers go out into obscure impractical realms. This was especially true about Physicists. To think about it, the idea of Higgs boson is fifty years old. Now that it's there, and has been presumeably forever, how many people did it really take to find it? And what difference does it make? How many bosons can dance on the head of a pin? How many superstrings in a Big Mac and Coke with fries? If scientists are so smart, why aren't they rich?
But seriously, I hear that one argument against Romney is that he supports federal block grants to states. These are funds with no strings attached. In other words, they bypass the federal grant application process and push that responsibility down to the states. Not good for some researcher who knows the federal process but not the local process, especially when they pursue research with no short-term benefits to the people around which they live. One does wonder occasionally why 'dark matter' matters when there are starving children. The same argument atheists use against the religious.
It is my experience that a goodly number of STEM experts are woefully lacking in their studies and appreciation of history, economics and religion as if theirs were the only knowledge worth pursuing, and it is from this simplistic prejudice that I find rather predictable and shrill doomsaying emanating from 'experts'.
Government funded scientists & university researchers do not have a monopoly on morality or knowledge. Think for yourself.
Austria's Felix Baumgartner earned his place in the history books on Sunday after overcoming concerns with the power for his visor heater that impaired his vision and nearly jeopardized the mission. Baumgartner reached an estimated speed of 1,342.8 km (Mach 1.24) jumping from the stratosphere, which when certified will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall and set several other records* while delivering valuable data for future space exploration.
ROSWELL, New Mexico - After flying to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon, Felix Baumgartner completed Sunday morning a record breaking jump for the ages from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger.
Baumgartner landed safely with his parachute in the desert of New Mexico after jumping out of his space capsule at 39,045 meters and plunging back towards earth, hitting a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20 minute long freefall. Baumgartner's jump lasted a total of 9:03 minutes. Countless millions of people around the world watched his ascent and jump live on television broadcasts and live stream on the Internet. At one point during his freefall Baumgartner appeared to spin rapidly, but he quickly re-gained control and moments later opened his parachute as members of the ground crew cheered and viewers around the world heaved a sigh of relief.
"It was an incredible up and down today, just like it's been with the whole project," a relieved Baumgartner said. "First we got off with a beautiful launch and then we had a bit of drama with a power supply issue to my visor. The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I'd just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I'd lose consciousness. I didn't feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We'll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be."
Baumgartner and his team spent five years training and preparing for the mission that is designed to improve our scientific understanding of how the body copes with the extreme conditions at the edge of space.
Baumgartner had endured several weather-related delays before finally lifting off under bright blue skies and calm winds on Sunday morning. The Red Bull Stratos crew watching from Mission Control broke out into spontaneous applause when the balloon lifted off.
* The data on the records set by the jump are preliminary pending confirmation from the authorized governing bodies.
Pictures: Joerg Mitter, Predrag Vuckovic, Balazs Gardi, Stefan Aufschnaiter
CLANG is the most interesting project I have seen in quite some time. It's an idea that is at least as large as Guitar Hero and I plan to participate fully. As many things as Stephenson does, his appearance in the Kickstarter video was pleasing and inspiring. I say inspiring because as long as I have been reading NS, I didn't expect him to be as personally involved in the implications of the larger themes of his writing as he is. What do I mean about his appearance? I mean his NeoVictorian attire. As you watch this video, note the action when Stephenson takes down a combattant with his cane. Very cool.
This picture is hilarious. It illustrates an interesting problem that political activists have. As part of my ongoing development of the Peasant Theory, I am interested in a kind of bottom line question which is 'Who is your Leviathan'? That question brings to the front, the issue of loyalty to the validity of an idea. But even before an idea is propagated, people have to perceive a problem. And so the Octopus Conundrum asks 'Do you have a leg to stand on?"
I mean everybody has an alternative, and that generally involves breaking one of the rules of the institutional they seek to destroy or reform. In the parlance of the OC, the problem is the octopus and the resources of the institution in question are the legs. It's easy to tear off a leg, because that's how political problems are presented. Our democratic political process comes ready made with legs ready to tear off. Just Vote No.
It's not very often somebody brings their own octopus leg.
I read Gore Vidal a little bit too young to make use of what he wrote or break too lofty in comments on his passing but there were a couple ideas that he has to want to be that I still recall the first was the idea of a scholar squirrel.
His rant against the cowardice of the professoriate was a great comfort to me in understanding how the prestige of various academics obscured the fact that there were indeed facts about history that they couldn't bear to present in full context. But that was about the extent of it and quite frankly Vidal in the end disappointed.
What annoyed me about Vidal was that he decided to take his pen and run away home, except that he made his home somewhere in Southern Europe. France or Italy, it mattered little. Essentially, he turned in his card and decided that America was no longer home. From that distance, lobbing rhetorical bombs reminded me of nobody so much as Stokely Carmichael aka Kawame Ture. I may not be forgiven for not keeping up with Vidal, but it's patently obvious to me that he didn't have the stomach for living in America. One wonders which cowardice is more odious, that which can't bear to be associated with America or that which succeeds in the fraudulent portion. Vidal criticized all the scholar squirrels, but then left them in charge of his ex-nation.
Considering that America hasn't self-destructed before his death, I guess Vidal's cowardice is all the more apparent. Then again, there may be some idyllic perfection in Southern Europe that we are all just too stupid to recognize.
Vidal was clearly at peace with the degradation of the nation he claimed to know so well. But isn't that the sort of Merovingian elan such an elitist native son given to the thrills of sexuality ought to be expected to possess? Nothing quite so awfully truthful as a sardonic old queen, eh? Especially about awful things that have the ring of truth. It doesn't make one a hero. Shakespeare's Aaron never told a lie and for his truths could spare the life of his bastard got off the evil queen. I suppose that's the best light to illuminate Vidal's legacy. He'd have us barf it all up - with the likes of Kofi Annan in charge.
The world does not, perhaps, need heroics nor courage. Gore Vidal might be a suitable boy for that world of boys and girls who needn't do anything but wish away war and sun themselves in Mediterranean light. But Rabbi Hillel said, when there is no hero, you be the hero. That calls for presence of mind and body and dedication to some risky propositions. None of which seem to be at issue for Vidal at his remove from a nation lying in the lee of the winds of property ownage, civil liberties strewn about like so many trailer parks.
He said, back in 2001:
Once alienated, an 'unalienable right' is apt to be forever lost, in which case we are no longer even remotely the last best hope of earth but merely a seedy imperial state whose citizens are kept in line by SWAT teams and whose way of death, not life, is universally imitated. Since VJ Day 1945 ('Victory over Japan' and the end of World War II), we have been engaged in what the great historian Charles A Beard called 'perpetual war for perpetual peace'. I have occasionally referred to our 'enemy of the month club': each month a new horrendous enemy at whom we must strike before he destroys us. I have been accused of exaggeration, so here's the scoreboard from Kosovo (1999) to Berlin Airlift (1948-49).
You will note that the compilers, Federation of American Scientists, record a number of our wars as 'ongoing', even though many of us have forgotten about them. We are given, under 'Name' many fanciful Defense Department titles like Urgent Fury which was Reagan's attack on the island of Grenada, a month long caper which General Haig disloyally said could have been handled more briefly by the Provincetown police department. In these several hundred wars against communism, terrorism, drugs or sometimes nothing much, between Pearl Harbor and Tuesday 11 September 2001, we always struck the first blow.
It's achingly familiar. How about this?:
Jews, blacks, and homosexuals are despised by the Christian…majorities of East and West. Also, as a result of the invention of Israel, Jews can now count on the hatred of the Islamic world. Since our own Christian majority looks to be getting ready for great adventures at home and abroad, I would suggest that the three despised minorities join forces in order not to be destroyed. This seems an obvious thing to do. Unfortunately, most Jews refuse to see any similarity between their special situations and that of the same-sexers.
Is there nothing but irony in Vidal's screeds against Christians and Christianity? Perhaps so. But you would think a more reasonable atheism would have emerged from his diatribes against the 'sky gods'. In that too, I took some measure of distance against monotheism. In fact, it more clearly places my initial discovery of Vidal back in the late 80s as I first gave the faith vs reason arguments full run in my head, as well as the delights of polytheism.
But there is no discipline but the aesthetics of those celebrities whose names don't leave our memories with the swiftness that their arguments lose their coherence over time. And we are left with nothing but memories.
I think of how obvious the minds I was raised on have failed utterly to recognize what liberties would be generated by those of us who have crafted bit by bit, the information revolution. I just have to grudgingly admit to myself that the men of letters have long abandoned the town squares they have claimed to defend. And now Vidal lies dead, another dead man whose letters will be decomposed, debated and deleted in his absence.
Since I belong to an abnormally large number of distributions, including the Kwaku Network which is that one I refer to from time to time as the black backchannel, I get all sorts of mail. I get Progressive mail from groups like Move On, and I get whatever CNN and the WaPo deem of special interest to black intellectuals and bloggers, I get mail from Stratfor and the Institute for the Study of War. I get mail on Israel and stuff from Libertarians. I get included in Data Warehousing groups, hacker groups, Occupy groups and organizational management groups. I get mail from Katrina contractors and Twitter spammers. I get mail from law enforcement and national security groups and just about every freaking retailer on the planet. I also get mail from oddball individuals including attorneys who think I'm their client, doctors who think I'm their patient, headhunters who think I want to work for their clients, and writers who think my blog is a good place for their creations. 99% of the time, I never respond. I just read this instead of ever watching network news. I get to know what I want to know.
But the other day, I got an email from one of the above groups which included a very tasteless and juvenile joke about saggin' people. (If you have a difficult time understanding, spell saggin backwards). I expect that the excrement will impact on the reticulating cooling device some time within the next week - or maybe not. That is because, although there is a public website where this sorry joke originates, I'm not particularly interested in outing the culprits. Interestingly enough, I find some ethnic jokes funny, but this one is merely pathetic.
So it struck me as something of a perverse test of nerve. Having been a race man for many years, I know very well what my tolerance for BS is, but it certainly varies from topic to topic. I don't particularly waste my time on the obvious, except when current events seem to demand obligatory seriousness. But what about you? Do you feel it is your responsibility as an x-person to speak out whenever something offensive or damaging to x-people is done?
For the moment, I am a spy in a house that harbors someone who is spreading tacky junk. I'm not particularly cool with it, but I'm also not making a fuss. Interesting position.
What if you lived in a country where people threw away perfectly serviceable technology? What if, with the mind of a 23 year old, you could build everything you needed to survive? What if, with information freely available on the internet, you could learn everything you needed to take care of yourself?
I thought about this when I was driving a BMW and the economy turned south. Why am I invested in this luxury, I thought to myself. I gotta make it simple. Doomsday scenario simple. Industrial strength, low maintenance simple. And that is what I've striven to do. It may be the only way to survive the next economic crunch.
BTW. I make my living expecting that the entire industry I grew up in decides to be cheap.
Apparently, we've all been living in the Higgs Field. This week it has been proven beyond the shadow of five sigmas. That's the kind of knowledge I prefer - I can take my time and absorb it, it's not going to shimmy away or change its stripes.
And yet now the Higgs throws us the long anticipated curveball, extending the chart of subatomic particles rather as the periodic table kept marching on through our lifetimes. The Higgs is now sticking out there making all of the previous standard model graphics out of date and breaking their symmetry.
So now what? The Higgs boson (and what letter shall it get?) now shows why fermions have mass, but it is not the graviton. So that search will have to continue. We understand that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, but.. if the universe is not moving does that make it have infinite mass? And why exactly does every field have a particle? Well, those are physics questions and they are interminable.
There doesn't seem to be any immediate practical benefit from this new confirmation as far as I can see. The Higgs only acts, apparently, on these fermions and only at Plank lengths. And there has to be further study on exactly what this boson does when it decays. Making it show up has taken lots of energy, so now they're going to continue to explode atoms and see how the boson goes on.
I'm even further intrigued by quantum confinement which is the theory that explains why three quarks that weigh only 8GeV when separated, weigh more than 50 times that when squeezed into a the tight space of a neutron. Quantum mechanics are frightfully non-intuitive.
What has all of this made you (re)consider?
Several years ago I entertained the theory that the Sun is God. It's a bit Fredkin-esque, but I'd like to repeat it for the purposes of archival.
Here's my idea. God is the Sun and everything we think about the God's mysterious ways can be encapsulated in the ways and means that the Sun does what it does. Except we are a bit too primative to understand what the Sun actually does, much less can we divine it's purposes. However thin the theology is, what is less questionable is the matter of physics.
If we can believe in evolution then we should be able to imagine the almost infinite combinations of molecule positions in the middle of a star's fusion. If it is reasonable to think of a star as a gigantic state machine, then at any moment, the position of all of its atoms could have meaning. What if the noise coming through the radio as the static created by the Sun was just a single word we simply do not have the capacity to decode? What if there is a message in that, not for us, but for other stars? Or what if divine intervention could be the work of neutrinos, or sunshine?
I would certainly entertain any proof of the sun being non-sentient, and I can think of a few ways to begin such a proof. When I originally thought of this, I thought of the entire outer layers of the Sun just being a protective shell around an Earth sized intelligence at its core. I'm not sure that it is within our power to disprove that, but then I wouldn't know exactly where to look. Well, actually, I'm too lazy to go disprove what I think to be a very cool idea, at least as cool as faster than light travel. Still, when you look, there are a lot of non-obvious things about the Sun.
The problem with the Sun god theory is that is rather inverts the anthropomorphism of the all powerful God. I mean it would be rather sad to think that what humans want, need and have defined as the mission and purpose of God was of little substance outside of our local volume of Solar System. We want our god to be God of the Universe, but what if he was just a dude in a planet sized reverse Dyson Sphere in the middle of Sol? Worse, what if he were a robot with a bad sense of humor left behind by a bigger robot?
If we found god-like powers in a local god, would we keep looking for a bigger god? I suspect the answer to that is yes, which is part of the twisted sense of humor embedded in human nature. But the point of all this speculation isn't to throw a curveball to our current theology so much as it is to contemplate the awesome compute power of a star-sized state machine. Just wow on that.
I hung out a little over at Dean Esmay's joint and said..
I'm talking about a formal movement started by Tim Wise. The basic motto was 'Treason to race is loyalty to humanity', but something of the ugly presumption was that whites had more to lose and more to gain by becoming traitors to their race. The multicultural angle bought into the idea of the term 'African American' = cultural whereas 'black American' = racial. And the intended target of this sort of multiculturalism was the undifferentiated white person who has unconsciously subjugated their ethnic roots to become white. 'How The Irish Became White' being the seminal text in this matter. So the Race Traitors and Tim Wise rode this angle on the premise that if you *ever* identified yourself as white instead of 'German American' then you were part and parcel of a racist conspiracy to demonize every white ethnicity in the Klan era. In other words, in order to become a 'real' American, someone in your family had to pass Klan muster around that time in the 20s, and nothing essentially has changed since then except that you are now unconsciously white. All of your frustrations with what America has become stem from your inability to rescue any authentic cultural value from the ethnicity you have disabused. So if you, mr whiteboy, were authentically multicultural, then you'd be just 'un-American' enough to understand where all the other 'un-Americans' are coming from. Thus your duty to a post-racial world is...blah blah culture.. blah blah. recognize other culture.. blah.
The problem with all of this is that it runs afoul of the premises of modernism and equality *without* regard to race and culture - some fundamental tenets of the idea of nationalism. But this problem gets ignored from the Race Traitor POV because American nationalism has contained so much racism. IE that 'true' nation has yet to be born..etc the melting pot melted white and boiled all the authentic flavor away.
This makes for a moral component to cultural identity which is precisely the goop on the bottom of every multiculturalist shoe. It requires a very tight parsing between race, identity, culture, morality and citizenship - a mix that two decades of American Studies *still* hasn't worked out. In the end their fundamental contradiction is with the Constitutional implication and legal explicits of Civil Rights Law. To wit, we are supposed to be equal *without regard* to all the identity parameters. Multiculturalists must say we are equal *with special regard* to all the identity parameters. And so they are stuck with the obvious flaws, like it's ok to say that you hate women if you are a gay man.
There is an idea that youth culture holds some meaning, or that it is even compelling. I know that this is an illusion but there are times when I forget. And so I have picked some difficult hobbies to remind me that the snobs do not retreat. One of these hobbies is history and historical fiction. And since I have given up my public spiritedness for the time being, I am trying to put what may be the illusion of democracy at arms distance as well.
I spent some time with my daughter yesterday, reminded that she very much enjoyed that fraction of 'Man on Fire' that she was able to stay awake for the other night. She told me that the film reminded her of how much most movies 'try to baby me'. My little girl remains mine, but not so little is she.
History is the story of power. We tend to forget that and behave as if people are as nice as they appear. American political partisanship is clear-eyed distrust of the other guy and projection. I have a little to do with that as possible, retaining the bad rightward habit. We pretend that nobody today is as bad a Gengis Khan. We pretend that smrgols don't do man in the middle attacks. We forget about the sewers beneath our suburbs, that shit does indeed roll downhill. We forget these things so that we can enjoy the little that we do understand, giving ourselves the comfort that our perceptions of the various melodramas presented for our amusement are true intellectual gifts.
What are we to make of the society that allows us such conceits?
I told my daughter that the British of Empire seem to know everything merely because they were connected to those who knew quite enough. When a first class berth on the P&O was what it was, perhaps they did know. Some of us pretend that we know of liberty better, but that may be the fool's luxury afforded to us by snobs who simply don't desire to mix it up with us.
And so is born a new rule. Snobs do not retreat. They are only beaten down and retire from the field with some honor.
When you know what you know, you have no reason to retreat. You have to manage your knowledge and your face. This is the lesson I will be teaching my daughter, because she admitted that she, like I, doesn't like to take anyone's word for it. She wants to know everything, and she hates the idea that she doesn't. Except she acts nice around people who don't. I'll try to teach her how not to - how to insist on what she knows to be true no matter what - how to survive the ostracism of the peasant class. How not to look too good nor talk too wise while being both.
I think that it is a private enterprise - like knowing your own and daily improving, yet hiding your kung fu. Once you know. Know that you know and do not retreat.
'Forest Boy' is what German officials are calling a 17 year old who claims to have been living in the wild with his father for the last five years. He has been in Berlin for a year since walking there on a five day trek, but still nobody can figure out who he is or where he's from. I found this out from the Guardian UK.
Well, that's not exactly true. I found this out from my Facebook feed. But when I clicked on this interesting story, Facebook blocked my path to the Guardian and asked me to confirm that I was adding a 'Guardian App'. Why? Because Facebook is ethical and they want you to know that when you click on something they can trace, that they are tracing you. And why do they trace you? Because they want to deliver targeted advertisers to YOU. Hmm. That business model seems vaguely familiar.
There once was a guy named Steve Case. You might have heard of him. People like me couldn't stand him and were amazed that so many millions would live in his walled garden. We wanted freedom, he couldn't deliver. But, he was a zillionaire and he had enormous clout in the world of online. Check out this story from Business Week in 1996:
Dressed in trademark khakis and open-collar shirt, Steven M. Case is the star attraction at the PC Forum. This annual March gathering of the digital elite, held at a resort near Tucson, is a combination of a three-day free-form think tank and schmooze-athon where the latest trends are dissected and, in the corridors or on the golf course, deals are hatched. The first time Case attended, a decade ago, he was an unknown 27-year-old entrepreneur pushing a chat service for owners of Commodore computers. He was, he recalls, lost in a crowd obsessing over which microprocessor would dominate. ``I felt like I was from another planet.''
Now, everybody wants to be on Case's planet. The ballroom is packed when he gives his opening-day speech, and wherever he appears, a knot of reporters, industry heavyweights, and wannabes gather. At this moment in high-tech history, Case is the man whose opinion is sought, the person everyone wants to make a deal with.
For it is Case's America Online Inc. that has shown how to turn a community of cybernauts into a mass market and how to successfully turn a computer network into a new medium for entertainment and news. With more than 5 million customers and 75,000 more joining every week, AOL is the most potent force in cyberspace.
So powerful, in fact, that the two greatest forces in computers and communications--Microsoft Corp. and AT&T--have handed Case lucrative deals aimed at boosting their own cyber plans. In exchange for pushing Microsoft's Internet browser software to AOL's millions, Microsoft has made an unprecedented concession: to bundle AOL software with every copy of Windows 95. Under an agreement with AT&T, the phone giant will provide a link to AOL from its new WorldNet service. That gives AOL an in with 80 million AT&T customers being offered WorldNet on a free trial. (Rivals Prodigy Services Co. and CompuServe Inc. quickly announced they are negotiating similar deals with Microsoft, and CompuServe on Mar. 3 signed a deal with WorldNet.)
``He's done a masterful job. Steve Case walks on water as far as I am concerned,'' says Roger B. McNamee, a general partner with Integral Capital Partners, a venture-capital firm. Indeed, given all the experts and rivals who have predicted AOL's great fall, its continuing rise is sort of a miracle. Ever since 1993, when the company launched the bold drive for market share that has brought it to this point, naysayers have predicted that Case would falter and AOL spin out of control.
So what is that? That's Zuckerberg. And who are the Facebook people? They are the AOL people of today. All of Zuckerberg's technology accomplishes one thing, which is to harness more millions of people in the same way AOL did for the previous generation. I don't know why it took me this long to realize it. But it won't change me, or my use of Facebook. I like what Facebook does for me, which is to keep me in touch with 600 or so folks who occasionally show up there. There is no way in hell, however, that I will click on anything in Facebook, and if I do, I will remember to make it counter-intuitive, ie, when Z's digital minions do their affinity probes, I'll be sure that it's spam. On the other hand, there's almost nothing I buy because of advertising so I'm rather immune anyhow.
I spoke to my prom date the other day. I haven't seen her in many years, probably once since 1997 when I moved back to LA. She's one of the up-out-of-the-way, which is to say that she has the kind of penchant for privacy of black American Old Money, although I'd have to check with Lawrence Otis Graham to see if she's still in the Boule. At any rate, she was prepared to lash my face with an undercooked fettucini when she heard that our prom picture from 1978 was up on Facebook. I had to protest that it was our pal Stewie who put it there, not I. Besides, my fro and glasses are so huge nobody would recognize her or the Minnie Ripperton -style Baby's Breath in her hair. Nevertheless, I was reminded of her and a number of other people I know who would rather rather attend a Klan rally than put their information on Facebook.
Many of them happen to be in the dark business, so that's perfectly understandable. If you have certain security clearances, you cannot be promiscuous with anything you know or do. Facebook just invites fly-by-night attention. But others perceive something sinister about it - even though the way they pass around smiley emails defies even half-baked security policy.
How do you use Facebook and what do you care about what they track?
I liked Jasmyne the first time I saw her. I can't remember exactly the circumstance, but on another occasion we happened to be in the same place at the same time. It was the end of the seminar and we were headed in our own separate directions but still on the same path at USC's campus. We shared some brief reflections on the event and suddenly she stepped into character and gave me an honest opinion. Most of the time ordinary people have to step out of character to blurt out some truth, but with us writers it's different. We have a mode that we go into where we are compelled to say exactly what we think and to describe exactly what we sense. We get all documentarian, and we know that we have to or else we'll be stuck with the burden of handling the truth alone.
As soon as she did that, I had one of those very rare impulses which tells me, hmm, I could be with this woman. And so I tilted my head and jumped into character with her all the time wondering when I might see her again. It has been at least two years and I haven't seen her, nor have I been looking for her, but I do remember the moment. For some reason, Iyanla Vanzant was mixed into the moment as well. Either I had just met her or was just about to meet her.
At the time, I was most definitely on the downslope of my media career. I had concluded that I didn't want to be spending my spare time climbing political and social ladders in order to make some impact on.. well that whole edifice of black edutainment of which Steve Harvey is King and TVOne is the institution of choice. Other people want it more than me, and I know how ethically difficult it is to navigate those pathways. I must confess that this is a Talented Tenth dilemma I have dealt with before and I essentially see no future in it for me. So I needed to stop dabbling and be serious about what I truly want to be serious about, which is my actual career.
Jasmyne is for real in the dimensions of a few of my other black media pals, Jimi Izrael, Lester Spence and Jennifer Longmeyer - of the most well known. In particular, they have genuine hearts and are in no way the sort of opportunists who prey at the hopes of the black Americans. These are people who walk into a room and see individuals, not 'a people in need of leadership'. I am proud to call them friends because I know how rare people with charismatic talents of the sort those three possess and wreck havoc in today's media climate. I would summarize it this way. There are not many people on this planet who can get onto the national broadcast media and not make a fool of themselves, and fewer still who can make a positive impact. Do not be fooled, that is a death-defying business. As one of Cobb's Rules states, never underestimate the intelligence of people in power. The long knives are everywhere.
Now I'm going to say something that I believe most people would think I have no right to say, but it is true about me in a way that Michael Jackson once sang, I can't help it if I wanted to I wouldn't help it even if I could. But I do not care about the personal pain of individuals. I'm a stoic, and I have always been prepared to be one. Like Spock, perhaps, and certainly as a writer as I have described above, I possess a certain emotional detachment from the sort of personal emotional drama that has grown into the minds of America. And it is that facility, plus my age and experience that finds me moved ever so slightly (enough to write this post, but not a whole lot more) by the tale of Jasmyne Cannick's that I think is going to make it's impact felt on a lot of people. You see I have had a best friend die of AIDS back when people basically died of AIDS. And I have had a brother die before his 30th birthday. I've gone through the process. And since 07, it seems, almost every year, someone close to me has died.
So for most of my adult life, since the age of 30, I have had the experience of dealing with grief and much of my personality is tempered with that. Who died and why? That's what I want to know. And I say that most of human activity that counts for something requires that grown ups are dealing in life or death decisions. Everything else is just shopping.
So let me jump then, directly into the drama that Jasmyne had to deal with. Here, she speaks of a turning point in dealing with an ex-lover who was withering away in a hospital:
What I did find out was that apparently her right leg basically went numb and I guess her mom had stopped by to visit her—because she was keeping herself basically hidden away from everyone. Her mom saw her and took her to the nearest hospital—again under the illusion that her daughter was suffering from “stress-related” health problems.
At the hospital my friend never told them her status, so while they were wasting time testing for this and that, she just let them knowing all along what was wrong. Why? Because she couldn’t let her mother, her “up in the front pew, every Sunday church going, sanctified and holified” mother know. She would rather die first, and was well on her way to doing so if you ask me.
Well, sorry, I can’t play that game and I told her that I was going to tell the doctor and the nurses immediately.
She almost had a heart attack.
I had to explain to her that they couldn’t tell her mother anything because of patient confidentiality. I had to explain that they weren’t going to treat her like a leper and that she wasn’t going to be shipped of to some remote area of the hospital and left to die alone.
She didn’t believe me.
If it was me, I'm hard pressed to say that I would remain engaged. I would struggle with it. People who are ill-prepared to handle the truth - even of their very own condition? Is every such death a slow suicide?
I am reminded of Sex Panic. There was a clique of gays who were so enamored of their own sexuality that even knowing that their riotous ways were a high-wire act, they would rather be so engaged until death, rather than grow old, boring and unsexy. But at least they had the bold sort of stupidity that understood the consequences. Self-conscious lemmings are, in that way a bit better off - they leap from the cliff with a 'Whee'' rather than a 'What?'. Jasmyne roping in her friend halfway down the cliff from a position of strength is admirable from the close up perspective. A life, after all, is a life. But how complicit is the person who runs with that pack of lemmings?
One of the reasons I excel at my solitary pursuits is that I understand the value of what I do, whether or not anyone else does. There are a number of parts of my life that simply need no ascent or recognition. This is not unusual - many altruistic people express the same conviction, with the exception that their actions are pointed to individual intervention. "If what I do makes the difference in just one life, then it's all worth it.", they say in defense of their seeming folly. So there is a carefully constructed edifice of thought I've been building here at Cobb and elsewhere and it has led me to certain unavoidable conclusions. One of these is that is that grim outlook.
I'm glad that there are lucky people. There are lucky people just like there are exploding stars, and the effects of the inevitable gift of chance gives us all a reason, like the birth of a nebula, to consider the eternal forces that mock our plans. But for the most part, the Universe remains constant with rules in effect that can be ignored but not avoided. As a stoic, I align myself with that which cannot be avoided, with the constant in the mainstream of the forces of life. And these alignments tell me that saving the life of a fool can make a lucky difference, but 99% of the time it is merely an act of individual choice. No monumental significance, no butterfly effect. Nevertheless, we humans are social creatures who are profoundly affected by certain types of drama. Awaiting Taleb's or Ariely's perfect term, I call them mental illusions. Like optical illusions, they are tricks and traps that lead us to believe that the true meaning of something is what we immediately perceive.
There is no way to percieve Jasmyne's heartbreaking quest as anything but noble. Unless you're me and you have the habit of jumping into the character of a writer who is compelled to say something else. Something not obvious but evident. Yes, I am the grim faced crank who plays video war games for entertainment. I am the hardcase who has figured out how we all go soft in peacetime, how in this new wonderful Twitter-filled world of Instagrams, nobody is showing photojournalism of screaming naked Vietnamese refugees any longer.
Everybody wants to be a lifeguard, because every once in a while, you get to save the drowner up close and personal. But...
I know that people like this guy want to make white Americans feel guilty about all the racism that is harshing the mellow of people of color. And of course everybody in the nation is in tune with the outrage of a single needless death. But you might wonder, given all of that, what kind of penalty the white collective hive mind should pay for its evil and sinister oppression. Well, how about death? Better yet how about suicide?
Turns out that in LA County, white Americans have been killing themselves off at double the rate of blacks and at triple the rate of hispanics.
Who would dare call this justice?
And in case you didn't know, there are about 17,000 murders every year in America. There are about 30,000 suicides. Satisfied?
I'm liking the mocking of English of the credulous. That's why I left it at 'the Trayvon Martin'. Anyway, since I've turned off my economic radar, I had to do a little remembering back on whom I used to read for those several years and I found the following off Mankiw's blog:
In fact, for blackification purposes, one might be curious to know that one such as myself is not particularly influenced by the fate of random black teenagers in random southern towns. So I swear to you this moment that I don't know the name of the any of the Jena Six and cannot recall the name of Shaquanda Cotton's Texas town. It was Texas, wasn't it? Such snuffed candles do not light my path through history with all due respect to John Donne.
However there are some blackfolks I've been considering of late whose fate seems lost to the hoodie class and their fetish defenders. As I might have mentioned, I'm spending more time thinking about aerospace, rocket science and the long now. A couple weeks ago I bought a 5 disc boxed set of video covering NASA starting with Friendship 7. I recall actually meeting several black astronauts when I was in college when such matters were important to me. But just to remind you where I'm coming from with regard to blackfolks... When I was a freshman, I went to the library and grabbed a copy of Who's Who Among Black Americans. There were something on the order of 35,000 entries in that book. I basically swore that day that my social involvement was done - if the only black people I met were people from that book, I would be perfectly happy. After all, I did have to get married one day. So I did in fact meet Guy Bluford, Ron McNair and Mae Jemison. And then that was done.
Several others are at Wikipedia which is of course doing a better job of putting such things in front of the public than any of the so-called black leaders. There are 14 who have been in space, 11 more than once. But on any day at any college campus, you'll probably find more professors who can sing the lyrics to Gil Scott Heron's "Whitey on the Moon" than name five black astronauts. Hell, I know the lyrics to Whitey on the Moon and I still haven't memorized the names. But my priorities are straight.
I'm secondarily impressed with the progress of my own family. My son has been accepted into the business program of Cal State Fullerton, which was legendarily run by a woman by the name of Jewel Plummer Cobb. No relation but her biography is no joke. Look it up one day. She too was about the hard sciences. We'll see about Boy, he's recently attracted to economics and Freakonomics in particular. The Scholar is insisting on taking challenging courses for her senior year as she bucks up her already nice GPA, and the Sprite is breaking her own records in track. She's a sprinter, hurdler and long jumper.
But I've come to meet another branch of the family that goes back to the old days in New Haven, who have been doing quite well for themselves for quite some time. I'll call him Uncle Mack because what I've come to know about him leaves me with little doubt that somewhere in one of his many closets is a full length mink coat. Uncle Mack lives one of the most exclusive suburbs in New Jersey in a castle of his own design. So far as I can tell those ceilings are 20 feet above ground and there's at least 6,000 square feet on the first floor. Uncle Mack wears French cuffs at home and reminesces about the days when Atlantic City was newly revitalized and high rollers actually tucked in their shirts. I brought up the Tyson Spinks fight on my iPad.
There used to be a club on Amsterdam Avenue that was all that when I lived in NY. I met Mike Tyson there and found I was a half inch taller. When you go back to those days, when Eddie Murphy filmed 'Boomerang', there wasn't a black American living who didn't have some metaphor of black power that didn't include Mike Tyson. He was the unstoppable force and the inevitable symbol. Uncle Mack loved to see him fight in Vegas and Atlantic City and had good seats, but not as good as some Jamaican drug dealers. There's always a bigger fish, but not always a better flavor. Uncle Mack has done better with his wealth than Iron Mike.
Finally, I've been considering the possibility that Condi Rice might find herself on Romney's short list for Veep. Either way, I listened to an hour long interview through the Hoover Institute and found how easily she grasps the motions of the geopolitical world. She is one of the great women of our time, who stepped up and made her mark. She has returned with passion to Stanford and is certainly the only living Secretary of State who bothers to teach undergraduates. I'd say the future is bright.
I know why it is difficult for some black Americans to keep their eyes on any prize worth having. They have been distracted by those in control of short attention span theatre, who are by definition not interested in knowledge. But I have plenty of confidence that human nature triumphs and that people will unplug from nonsense when the time is right. I'm not on a mission any longer to prove something or even exemplify something about a proper blackness. Like Popeye, I yam what I yam. I am a writer, and this is what I'm thinking about black America today.
Oh yeah, and I hear Tiger had a good game, and I realized that Ron Artest lives in my neighborhood, and I'm feeling Lewis Hamilton not being happy with 3rd place.
I hung out with an old friend the other day and he said some things that reminded me, although he's Jewish, of stuff my old black friends say all the time. It has a chorus that doesn't particulary annoy me, but it gets my attention. It goes a little something like this.
I haven't seen anyone get the chair that didn't deserve it yet.
No, I don't believe abortions should be so very easy to get.
And what kind of fool believes that you can spend your way out of debt?
That's how I feel, but don't call me conservative.
I should be able to send my kids to any school I choose.
Immigrants should be instant citizens if they pay armed forces dues.
Don't get me started about exported jobs, that always gives me the blues.
Just keeping it real, but don't call me conservative.
Yes I pay too much in taxes, and it doesn't make me feel any better if some millionaire pays more.
Public school education is a joke, and half the women on TV are dressed like a whore.
The federal deficit is obscene and nobody really knows the score.
You know that's the deal, but don't call me conservative.
Politicians must think I'm stupid to believe their every lie.
If Bin Laden had bombed the Statue of Liberty Afghanistan would fry
I used to like Obama, but now I'm not so sure about that guy.
That's what I know, but don't call me conservative.
I got nothing against gays, I don't see what's the big deal.
I pull my weight and I don't hate, you don't hear me squeal.
Some times I wish an ordinary guy could be the squeaky wheel.
Just call me Joe, but don't call me conservative.
They legalize maraijuana but not a new pipeline for gas
Going to the moon in a rocketship is now seen as a thing of the past
And all I hear about China is that they're going to own my ass
If I'm mad at that, does that make me conservative?
An artist named Natalie Bookchin has sampled Cobb Video as part of her project entitled "Now he's out in public and everyone can see".
Now he's out in public and everyone can see is an 18-channel video installation that weaves together found fragments from online video diaries in which vloggers recount a series of media scandals involving African American men. The multiple stories, originally circulated and enflamed by networks of corporate and viral media, intersect around themes of racial and class identity. Together they form a collective-told narrative that explores popular attitudes, anxieties, and conflicts about race. The work aims to create a critical context for otherwise isolated and scatter-shot online voices, drawing links, making connections, and locating tropes between individual rants, responses, and interpretations. The montage produced by the multiple monitors in the gallery space mirrors the composite story, as well as the composite racialized subject under scrutiny. Where the typical viewer of online video is a single isolated person in front of her screen, the installation produces an active social space where multiple viewers interact with and complete the narrative as they navigate the space.
Folks informed me yesterday that my mug was in the LA Times and so it is true. As far as I can tell, she's taken samples from my Kwanzaa Contextualized video shown below in its entirety.
I checked out the video last night and I think it holds up rather well after all of these years. I've essentially said just about all I have passion to say on the subject of Kwanzaa and as far as I can tell, the controversy has waned over the years. I can't tell for sure but I don't get many hits on that stuff as it swings around into focus - surely no comments. It's odd though that the video only has a couple dozen hits. I'll put this and that out on G+ and see what percolates up this week.
Meanwhile, Bookchin's other work that I was able to sample was very clever and smoothly edited. It was about people getting fired and I think it demonstrates the remarkable similarities that we experience in our encounters with trying to be useful. I'll keep an eye out for Bookchin.
I myself find cricket to be too damned dangerous, but I do love dressing in white. Here in Los Angeles it's about that time.
I'd only like to say that when I was a freshman in college, I was a transparently hard core preppie and for all the ridicule I suffered, I would have sacrificed a toe to be the dude on the cover of a Ralph Lauren catalog. I still have a pair of Rockports from back then and I cannot remember ever wearing them with socks. Now that I look at them, I see that I have finally wore a hole in the sole. Ah pity.
Clearly it has become no big deal for people like me to be our remarkable selves, and it's nice to have legions of homies just below us socially to affirm that our exceptionality is merely ordinary distinction, and not some freakish oddity.
Still, I prefer Eddie Bauer and Johnston & Murphy.
When I see reasonably intelligent and civilized young, single people who talk with upspeak my immediate reaction is 'Val'. For my international readers, a Val is short for Valley. You may be familiar with the term. If not, check out the YouTube.
So I watched this attractive young woman on television - one of those tech talk shows, and she started spewing about her experience at forgettably cutesy spelled dot com which was funded. Funded means you and 12 other twentysomethings with a cool idea managed to convinced somebody with 100 million dollars that you're worth 4.5 million and you have a year to prove it. And 85% of you fail, some spectacularly - meaning you make it for 3 years and get another 40 people and 12 million dollars and *then* fail. It's a story as old as most old dogs.
What surprised me was how instantly it occured to me that she and 12 of her friends would be an unlucky 13 as soon as she started speaking. The very idea of of spending about five million bucks on any endeavor headed by people with less than 5 years work experience, no kids, overpriced undergraduate educations and caffiene fetishes just seems ridiculous right off the bat. And yet we all know it happens. It happens a lot. It shouldn't happen much at all - but it's how a lot of us think about money and work.
There is a small part of me that wants to start a conversation: The only reason I'm not a Silicon Valley millionaire is because... But I don't want to go there or even think I'm going there. It just seems obvious to me that certain things ought to fail. I'm pessimistic today.
Progressive Insurance (run by a noted political Progressive) has introduced 'Snapshot', which is a device that you snap into your automobile to 'prove' that you are a safe driver. It obviously collects telemetry and throws your human experience over the transom to some digital Wizard of Oz algorithm that determines what discount you should get.
We have been notified by the City of Redondo Beach the dates, times and locations of Christmas Tree recycling. The Spousal Unit called in this morning to verify the times and then was prompted into giving her name, address and homeowner status. It started to sound like a 911 call, but we just wanted to know why the trashman didn't pickup the tree.
I saw an excellent quote today that was narrowly focused at the guys at Lytro, and it's something I had an inkling of when I saw the last video I watched of them. Check out the quote from G+:
I now coin the term 'short brains'. These are those folks who are bright enough to figure out that bourgios conventions don't necessarily apply to themselves, but have not enough respect for history and the way ideas, skills and powers manifest themselves through societies.
..I get frustrated when engineer-oriented folks try to design things without thinking about the history, legacy, existing interaction rituals, behaviors and relevancy to normal humans and basically make things for themselves, which is fine — but then don’t think for a minute about the world outside of the square mile around Palo Alto. It could be so much better if ideas like this were workshopped, evolved, developed to understand in a more complete way what “light field imaging” could be besides something that claims camera-ness in a shitbox form-factor with an objectionable sharing ritual and (probably — all indications suggest as much) a pathetic resolution/mega-pixel count.
Just so you know we are living in Orwellian times, you have to understand the codewords for the people who decypher the codewords meant for people who communicate in codewords. In other words, beware of calling people who look for race racist because it will get you called a racist. It's all a conspiracy. And now I am participating just to get a word in edgewise before the nonsense of this latest blather in the chatting classes goes viral.
You see, last week, Microsoft was awarded a patent for an add-on technology for GPS that routes you to where you want to go depending on what you wish to avoid or consider. Today those people are saying those people are enabling those other people to be what they already are, racist!
Long ago, before the GPS satellites were in place and only truck drivers for big logistics company, it was considered quite the computing miracle to get a machine to determine the shortest route between two points on a map. But now anybody can get that for free. Why not add value to map routing by including some crime stats or demographic stats or weather stats or traffic stats? Or better yet, to quote from the patent's text:
..resolving conflicts between an information source with a financial interest and an informations source without a finacial interst and producing a direction set based upon the information source that does not have a financial interest in providing the direction set; collecting information concerning routes of other people, and using the collected information to update the pedestrian-based rout in real time.
In other words, social GPS routing, so you can pick the way to the beach that your friends go, or so you can pick the non-profit route, or you can basically do the Aerosmith remake of your choice and Walk This Way.
I expect that the technology is obviously pretty cool, but since guys like me who are skeptical and analytical are a demographic minority, Microsoft and its licensees are going to need some cute and expensive marketing to overcome 'avoid ghetto' and its Orwellian 'racist' implications.
Of course we've been through this before with the NUDnicks, and we'll probably see it again from this shallow generation. But you know the technology is there so it's just a matter of time before it is wired to do what this
blockhead person suggests:
"A more useful app would be for young black men to be able to map blocks with the highest risks of their being pulled over or stopped on the street by police," Chinn said. "That phenomenon affects many more people than the rare occurrences of random violence against motorists driving through 'bad' neighborhoods."
How about the Ice Cube Social GPS?
It doesn't take more than a moment's thought to recognize that the blockhead gut reaction has already been satisfied by various Bulworthian ghetto tours. Or has gangsta video disappeared from the airwaves? And doesn't anybody remember the overblown Detroit meme? Isn't this all Michael Moore's fault anyway?
I riff off the following:
Imagine two rowboats, both adrift at sea. The first rowboat has no oars. They can see an island in the distance. Somebody calculates the distance to it, and the rate at which they're drifting, and concludes that they have only half the food and water they'll need for everybody to reach the island. The conclusion is obvious*: at least half of them have to be thrown overboard. And the sooner it happens, the fewer of them will have to die.
Now imagine the other rowboat. It has plenty of food and water, and it has oars, but it has a different problem: it's leaking, and fast. Somebody does the math, and they conclude that they can all make it to the island in the distance. But they can only make it if everybody who can row, rows, and if everybody else bails water as fast as they can, and if they cooperate in sharing the rowing, bailing, and resting cycles; if anybody is selfish, if anybody doesn't cooperate, nobody will make it.
Call the first rowboat "America." Call the second rowboat "the Netherlands."
That's the metaphor that came to my mind after spending a couple of days deciding how to explain Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, by Amy Schalet (University of Chicago Press, 2011). Even though the book has nothing to do with rowboats, and only indirectly to do with the overall differences between Americans and the Dutch. What the book is really about is the regulation of teenage sex by their parents. You see, as someone who grew up in both the Netherlands and the US, baffled by the differences between the two, and who went on to do her Ph.D. research in the sociology of adolescent/parent relationships, Schalet has dedicated an entire book to trying to explain a major difference between two different cultures that were substantially identical as late as the late 1950s: democratic capitalist republics who won their independence from colonial imperial masters around the same era, dominated by conservative Protestants, who went through the same Great Depression and two World Wars, and the same sexual revolution when contraception and antibiotics were made widely available, and the same economic shock after the OPEC crisis. But in the years after that, huge social differences appear, and Schalet concentrates, as her academic speciality, on one of them.
I generally don't like to compare America with little Scandinavian countries because I believe the the matter of scale requires that every sociological subject have a different class of solution. But...
It's easy for me to see that the concept of a 'proper family' is what's guiding parents. Speaking as an American with three teens living at home, my answer has been to stress abstinence before adulthood. I do not see any benefit whatsoever in allowing people who are not consenting adults to act as if they were. In other words, I use the term 'statutory rape'. In the same way, I don't particularly expect that the experience of a babysitting job adequately prepares anyone for being in the workforce. In short, my attitude about teen sex is that more people are talking about it than are actually doing it, and those who are doing it are doing it all wrong. The idea that taking all of the risk out of the consequences that might lead to a shotgun wedding or herpes via a safety net sounds Orwellian to me. I like the idea that sex is complicated and dirty - that getting naked is not easy and casual.
I expect at long last that the results of the sexual revolution in the West will turn out to show a skew in our societies as much as the One Child policy in China. It is inconceivable to me that the historical norm has been so out of touch with reality and that the benefits of feminism are simple but have been overweighted. In short, I don't believe in social liberation through sexual freedom, but rather through the evolution of property rights. Women and children are not property and freeing them from those traditional constraints were necessary and sufficient to greater liberty - however to assert the additional demands of radical feminism (ie to properly have men 'deal with their female side', or question the roles of men & women in family life) was a gross error with significant detrimental consequences for the concept of family. And I think it is becoming more clear that having women think of sex outside of marriage as a liberating thing has worked primarily to the advantage of polygamous men.
So the very idea that this is a lifeboat kind of situation begs the question of the centrality of sexuality in our humanity and exactly what sort of benefits we have gained by focusing on upending our attitudes and trying new practices. It is my opinion that focus on sexuality tends to be dysfunctionally individualistic, and so it is not surprising that it brings into question those sacrifices necessary for family stability. Why is teen sex so important? I think it has to do with the improper way many Westerners conceive of freedom.
What could be more ambitious, I was asked, than democratization of access and genuine objective meritocracy?
It must be the ambition of any rational people to establish and maintain such institutions that guarantee these goals for their citizens. But I want to overemphasize the necessity for leagues and limit the attention spent on the ideal of equality. I say you don't want one level playing field, but several. And those several level playing fields are classes.
When I brought this up with The Brothers the other night, Doc made it crystal in one phrase: That's what neighborhoods are for.
Civil libertarians everywhere are up in arms about the way in which the Obama administration has continued to extend and expand the ability to prosecute American citizens who are variously described as terrorists. The PATRIOT act has not been sunsetted, the TSA is still practicing its security theatre unabated, drone attacks continue without boots on the ground and even the law about how secrets are classified was almost classified.
Throughout all of this, hawks on the Right like me are mystified at the lack of continuity by Obama to speak about dealing with the enemies of America forthrightly as his predecessor did. And most recently I've heard that the DOD has termed the deadly attack at Fort Hood as 'workplace violence'.
My conclusion is that Obama wants America to have all the powers GWBush did, except he wants none of the political flack that comes with justifying those powers for the sake of Bush's Long War. The effect is simply worse for democracy, and for me it takes on Orwellian sinister overtones.
GWBush was a cowboy. Obama is a spy.
He is as slippery now as he was back then. It is his worst fault. He is the Situational President.
|Edited by M.D.C.Bowen
last updated January, 2003
The following is a list of the only black people that count in America. You know it, I know it, so let's just get over it and admit it. You want details of why? Check out the Isbell Theory below. You want it more scholarly like? Try Bell's Rules.
|OJ Simpson||Johnnie Cochran||Colin Powell||Thomas Sowell||Shelby Steele||Michael Jordan||John McWhorter||Bill Cosby||Condi Rice||JC Watts|
|Alan Keyes||Maxine Waters||Louis Farrakhan||Jesse Jackson||Al Sharpton||Khalid Muhammed||Cynthia McKinney||Spike Lee||Charles Barkely||Denzel Washington|
|Halle Berry||Barry Bonds||Willie Horton||Will Smith||Puff Daddy||Tupac Shakur||Cornel West||Skip Gates||Oprah Winfrey||Tiger Woods|
|Ward Connerly||Chris Rock|
Each of these individuals represent some opinion, character flaw or character strength against which all African Americans are judged.
The Isbell Theory
Charles Isbell October 1995
There is a Black Leadership vaccuum... but it's not for Black folks, it's for White folks. The leader and messiah being sought is *not* being sought by Black people, but by White people. The mainstream wants a national Black leader--a spokesperson really--so they can have someone to point to, someone to reason with, be angry at, hold onto, respect, hate or whatever, but make no mistake, it is a leader for *their* sakes, not for the sakes of Black people. By contrast, Black America is happy to go on being the non-monolithic people we've always been and to address our issues locally, individually and internally. I don't think we have a messiah fixation or a particular desire for a national leader.
Sure, Jackson is respected for having done something and some folks will follow him, but that does not a Black National Leader(tm) make, as should be obvious. Farrakhan is respected as the head of an organization that has shown some concern for the community and has actually made some inroads in addressing a particular set of problems and some folks will follow him, but so what?, that still does not a Black National Leader(tm) make. Colin Powell? Oh, please. Cochran? Oh, he won one for the gipper, but a spokesperson? Sorry, I don't want one, I gave at the office.
Having said that, I should point out that what Blacks do seem to searching for is a symbol--not a person--that makes our oppression clear. The Rodney King beating is a symbol that says "SEE! We told you about the cops!" but nothing more. Mark Furhman serves the same purpose. It is important to realize that this is a search for an event so powerful that White folks cannot ignore what we know is true; it is *not* a search for a leader, a Moses, a Messiah.
Now, to the extent that an individual can articulate our frustration, our fears and make the event clearer, we are grateful, but I don't think we're really searching for a person to do that because, well, there's no leadership vaccuum we need filled.
Why is all this important? Well, it says something about the way the nation views its Black population. We are, essentially, aliens, a group whose experiences, culture and world is so foreign--and monolithically so--that the rest of the country needs some person to bridge the perceived gap.
Sadly, there is a gap of perception, but there isn't a person who is going to articuate it for America and make it plain (especially since this isn't even what the country wants; the country wants a Black leader who will make Black people understand the country, not the other way around). The only way to fill this gap is to listen to the masses and what they are saying in common and in discord to you everyday, not to look for one voice to provide you with a soundbite. The only way to deal with this gap is accept your own responsibility in bridging it.
As to the MMM, its center role in all this is ironic. For Farrakhan, this may have been about White America--I don't know and I don't care, really--but for the rest of the folks there, this wasn't about White folks at all. It was about Black folks. I don't think we were sending a message to White America, though there is one there for White America, we were just talking amongst ourselves. America, we were just talking amongst ourselves.
The reason is plain. There was a sale on Powerade at Smart and Final and so I bulked up. I'm very sure that I'm getting at least 40oz of hydration a day by drinking two bottles. That and my Red Bulls.
So it occurs to me, as I'm running through Charmin that in countries without toilet paper, the squirts must be an order of magnitude more.. umh, well shitty. Especially in those countries where young children dehydrate and die from diarrhea. So if I didn't have Handi Wipes handy, I would probably want to drink a lot less water and eat a lot more meat. If I gotta poop and hand-wipe, I want to poop out pebbles.
So there's my Freakonomic question for the day. Does the diet in poor countries skew towards foods that make pooping more round, firm and fully packed, or maybe do they prefer a more liquid consistency? Or does the left hand not even enter into the general vicinity of the question?
I watched a lecture by Richard Stallman this morning and it was brilliant, and then I watched another by him and it was awful. The difference was that in the first one he was summarizing the lessons of his work and life and in the second one he set himself up as an example.
The problem with self-righteousness is related to another problem that I understand but have not yet given it a term. I'm usually pretty good at doing so, but this particular phenomenon escapes my ontology. It will take a minute to explain.
We all know that hackers can own our computers. But they don't. Why? Because we're not worth it. And even if they steal 10 million credit cards, it's not really a profitable business. Why? because the average Joe doesn't have that much credit. We are beneath the radar. It's safe to be ignorant because ignorant people aren't particularly dangerous. That's the phenomenon. Let me describe it one more way. If you are the ordinary Joe and you wear jeans and a t-shirt it's not a scandal, but it would be if you were a UN diplomat.
Let's call it, for the time being, the Class Boundary Scrutiny Problem.
Stallman, in his odious lecture was explaining how Apple Computer was closed and proprietary and for that reason he would not even accept an iPad as a gift. He did a little browbeating of a person who brought up the question about a jailbroken iPhone, the questioner was being a little obsequious and Stallman was being a little self-righteous.
When you are a tenured professor, you have the luxury of time to develop the skill of not using many cultural idioms. You can speak directly from knowledge without the necessity for idioms. But for most people in the world, we are trying to find ways and means to secure our lives. And the world is very complicated and doesn't readily yeild up sinecures like tenure. So we search. And in our searching we communicate with one another trying to make sense of our lifestyles, our religious, politics, diet, exercise, educations, job skills. There's a lot of information to process. But we'll alwyas be ignorant of something and until we reach the point at which we might be a tenured professor or acknowledged expert, there is always some detail or nuance that we do not know. We are in an inferior class of skill or knowledge. But that is acceptable because of the Class Boundary Scrutiny phenomenon which makes us good sports almost by default.
Except Stallman didn't respect that. He said, you should be like me. He is the diplomat scandalizing the Joe for his denim.
This is not about Stallman per se. It is about whether or not people can be safe in their ignorance. I say they should, according to gerneralizable class boundaries.
You see, I have a choice on a Saturday night to go out and watch a popular movie in theaters, or stay home and watch videos of Richard Stallman and write arcane essays about my insights. The former unites me with the masses, the latter alienates me. Well, let me qualify that. Knowledge alienates only when it is applied with discipline. But whether or not that discipline is applied, I at least have an additional layer of dissonance between myself and others who are not possessed of that same knowledge. That is because it takes me time to learn it and it takes me time to explain it to those who have not learned it. That's the minimal amount. If I apply the discipline as Stallman does, it seems like self-righteousness until I preach.
So today, the young man in the video and I both learned a lesson about the fact that certain chipsets, hidden within machines that might claim to be open, are not in fact open. Stallman bragged about his open source BIOS. The very idea of having an open source BIOS never crossed my mind, and I'm a programmer. Naturally, if I applied the discipline, then I alienate myself not only from Apple fanboys, but from the people who are completely satisfied with Apple products.
You see, if you are of a certain class, you have complete freedom within that restraint. How then could you be equal to any other human at a higher level? You cannot, but you pay the price with the implied contempt of the superior class, and you reap the benefit of the neglect of the superior class. You are not important enough to merit attention, and thus escape the brutal scrutiny of a would-be peer. Unless, you find someone who, like Stallman in the second lecture, is unctious with his contempt. Those are harsh words to apply to that particular lecture, but since much worse has been said about Stallman, I only use it to make clear the social nature of such a class boundary transgression.
BTW, when I think of the epithet 'bastard' this is exactly what I mean. A bastard, someone whose father doesn't recognize them, is the recipient of the worst kind of contempt. The bastard never gets the benefit of the doubt, is obsequeous and defensive at once. At some point they either transcend and find peace within themselves or they become a Bastard, which is someone who harries the newbs without mercy. A bastard is thus a person who possesses no grace and offers no quarter.
So you see in this regard we do and should use class to protect our honor and our ignorance. We can merit this by not being salf-righteous bastards but still make efforts to reduce the dissonance between ourselves and those who are more or less informed. It works both ways you see. You cannot assume that simply because something complicated that you don't understand is not going the way you expect, that you should immediately whip out the torches and pitchforks. As Chris Rock said, that's when 'keeping it real goes wrong'.
Hey. Look me over. Tell me do you like what you see?
The difference between me, Prince and Steve Jobs is that those two care and I don't. I wouldn't write a song with a chorus 'Baby I'm A Star'. And I wouldn't pitch a hissy fit if somebody took my image out of my control. It turns out that there's a great line from De La Soul's 'Bitties in the BK Lounge' that says "I've got too much family to heed your threats". That says it all.
So when my existential partner Y asked me to write a few hundred on the subject in the Title field, I had to determine that I was going to do it as a favor and also because the chances of getting somebody like me to write is very slim - and people are going to assume too much about what I assume the others are going to write. But it's not because I particularly care about black images or what people are or are not doing to insure that there is some minimum level of black participation in this or that activity. That's so Bicentennial.
From where I sit, there are people who get it and there are those who don't. The 'it' to which I refer is the arc of computing and the imperatives of changing the way humanity communicates, creates and thinks digitally. That's what this revolution is about. I'm one of the people who get it, and that is because I have a great deal in common with hackers like Steve Wozniak. But it takes zillions of dollars to implement visions of what's been in the air since Vannevar Bush. Which is to say the 'it' is as easy to understand as 'Put a man on Mars' or 'Put a babelfish in my ear'. I think there are at least a million people like me in America (which I suppose would put me in the 1/3 of 1%), and on the whole we get paid very well to do honest work engineering the digital future step by incremental step. But we don't get the zillions. Then there are 'great men' as in 'great man theory' who by a combination of extraordinary circumstances (I'm thinking very much of Outliers) get to make a fortune or two along the way to that future, stacking up dollars from very pedestrian projects, like licensing email servers, or building yet another app to 'connect' you with your 'friends'. Some days I wish I was one of those who get paid to get it, but I threw my lot in with Xerox, and you know that story. Inevitably, somebody starts counting noses and bank accounts by race in order to confirm or dispute the orthodoxy about racial progress in America. Yes there is a digital divide. I just described it.
Maybe I should have said that I have more in common with Cliff Stoll or Dick Feynman. Or maybe like Tim Berners Lee or Torvalds in building Git, I'm trying not to bask in glory. Either way, I'm like the many more millions of Americans who dreamed about being an astronaut back in the days when nobody made snarky jokes about the Marlboro Man, and when Buddy Baker drove 200 miles per hour without an airbag. Like them, I find great satisfaction, in a job well done. I'm a builder and I like getting the details right.
When I started programming my version of Eliza in Basic, automated the high school elections and wrote a CB/Smokey & The Bandit Trucking simulator in Fortran IV all before my 17th birthday, nobody knew you could make money programming computers. There was no such thing as an undergraduate degree in computer science, and nobody was encouraged to play unless you were one of the kids in Seymour Papert's kindergarten. I was odd then; I also 'got it' the same way many of us 'got it'. But I didn't stand up and cheer for Giordi LaForge, and I never called Benjamin Cisko a role-model. All us computer geeks had an image problem, but there is no way to communicate through any sort of mass media what it is like to finally get that program to compile, or to get that database query running in 1/20th the time. You know what just happened a few weeks ago? I got the creator of Fortran Man to comment on my blog. That's exciting. I've been watching Dirty Jobs on Discovery Channel for years. Nobody has ever done one on tape apes.
When you decide that you are who you are, it's nice to have a few people recognize you in truth. Even though none of us have been to Mars, I have no doubts in my mind that I am the man I was raised to be, and most of my modest ambitions have been fulfilled. In short, I don't see how I could possibly be angry that I am not some man that I am not - which is inevitably the kind of benchmark these racial nose counts end up counting. If racial equality means I have to be Larry Ellison, well you need to ask that question to Chuck Phillips, who - as black as he is, hasn't reached out to me or anybody I know.
I happen to think of the social web as an enforced ignorance of Dunbar's Number - except that it's monetized. Every day somebody is adding me on Google Plus or Twitter because I'm one degree of separation from certain individuals who have thousands of 'friends'. Hip hooray for those who have figured out how to monetize friendships - you will get the audience you deserve. As for me. Well, I actually do like to spend time with my family. And now I'm going to do just that. Here's the picture. Tell me that I'm wrong.
Yeah, I got root. But more importantly, I got roots.
Now I'm going to try to deal with the counterfactual which I would describe in the form of the following challenge. If someone were to offer me 2 million dollars to do a black startup, would I take the money? The answer is hell no, and the reason can be described in one word, Solyndra. I know how race works in this country, and I understand the presumptions about accepting money for trading in on you position in the race. You now have 2 million reasons to represent, and for me, that would become the biggest payday in my life. Eddie Murphy can afford to do that kind of clown movie, I cannot. I could never face my family saying I got paid for my looks and that's how I'm feeding you. Are you kidding me? And I know all the appropriate qualifications, but I couldn't stand the association or whiff of impropriety. To tell the truth, I couldn't even do it for black politics - and I was there.
Years ago, long before and during the great academic battle known to insiders as Bernal vs Lefkowitz, black American academics were rather open in their admission that there was a great project afoot. The project was historical revisionism, and as I gather its intent, the idea was to occupy higher chairs of academic authority much the way that a prior (actually the same) generation occupied campuses during the 60s.
The slogan of the movement was "Only when lions have historians - will hunters cease being heroes." And so the project to turn 'Eurocentrism' on its head with some Afrocentrism began in earnest. This occurred somewhere around the mid-80s when it was no longer seen as particularly novel for there to be any black American college professors. It was just before the start of the Cosby Era when I, and thousands like me made our ethnic presence known, welcomed or not, into and beyond the mainstream of American culture. No longer was it just John Landis producing Michael Jackson, millions of Americans were recognizing black talent in just about every walk of life. I took all that for granted, never doubted that this was the proper America. It was progress, to be sure, but I was as convinced that such progress was inevitable as I was about the computer's growing role in society.
I paid close attention to the leonine historians, the growing acceptance of Multiculturalism and the extent to which black culture was indeed something unique or just a rhetorical figleaf for raw racial interests. There was a lot to sort out. Splitting the difference between race and culture for me was like the debate between nature and nurture in the realms of describing intelligence. And much of that went by the key term of essentialism. There was and remains a fundamental difficulty with Americans navigating these roads for any transcendant reason, and that is basically the answer to the question 'who do you think you're talking to?'. The leonine historians considered themselves speaking truth to power and often purposefully went into dialect to make their points. You could call them dog whistles or crypto. but usually the message fell into the old rhythms of race raising rhetoric - for, of and by black Americans. So long as there was more than one group supporting such matters, as eventually became the status quo for American Studies, nobody would look too closely at the essentialist contradiction at the heart of the matter.
There is no literature for me, there is only literature. There is the stuff that inspires and that which transcends, or maybe it's all just a bunch of words. No matter what the truth of humanity is, it cannot be easily reconciled to specific literature. Today, the matter is too dispersed. You cannot tell with any objective accuracy what literature people are using in their heads to get along in life. So what the purposes of literature are, is subjective, as is most critical evaluation of it. You know good literature when you see it, and so too you know what stinks. Is it just a matter of taste? I tend to believe so. Just as I don't believe that in history, the 'great man theory' applies. I don't believe that particular artifacts of literature make or break a cultural center of gravity. The allies won WW2, but it might have easily have been Patton, or Montgomery who carved up Italy from North Africa. It doesn't much matter which.
So when I think about what literature is 'necessary' for the advancement of ideas in support of a culture angled towards the politics of anti-discrimination, it doesn't much matter to me whether that literature is produced for a white American audience or a black American audience. From where I stand, it doesn't much matter if it's directed at Americans at all, living or dead. There is some essential truth that the literature must present and as far as I'm concerned it is either good literature or it is not.
It brings me to question the surviving purpose of the leonine historians. And that is because now I am a crafty older man, I'm interested in finding out how wars are survived. When human beings survive war, then that is a good thing. Does it matter if it's Patton or Montgomery who wins? Only symbolically for those of us who are merely instructed in the history, long after memory no longer serves.
My cousin Star lives in a high rise apartment building in Manhattan. She's a commercial real estate broker, five foot ten and stunning. The first thing you notice when you walk into her pad is the large painting she made in the style of Basquiat, and secondly if the blinds aren't drawn, the New York skyline. I hung out with her for a week and learned a lot about her, and our family that I never knew. What I appreciate about her is that she is excruciatingly honest and not shy about anything. Of course she has a marvelous sense of taste and an engaging personality, but there are many things about us that are radically different. What I love about her is hard to define, but it's stronger than ever.
This essay is about identity and some of the ideas I will take when I start looking at the right way to implement identity management. So the first reference you might want to consider is The Last ID.
It took Star all of three days to get to the point at which she was comfortable enough with me to perform two very annoying acts. The first was to force me to watch Loose Change, the hiphop video / obiter dicta comspiracy tape about who was actually behind the 9/11 attacks on America. I didn't realize that my cousin was a Truther and it took many hours for me to discover this, as close as we are. All the while we were watching this video that she had obviously not watched herself in many years, she kept voicing impatient concern that this might not be the proper version of the documentary. So while she is fundamentally on the Truther side of the equation, perhaps what she recalls being more convinced by something other than the exhibit in question. The second annoying act was for her to read, given my birthdate, my full horoscope and assert with confidence that it was quite accurate. In fact it was.
I could go on about other evidence I have to support my prejudicial notions about the practicality of Star which is hindered by such poisonous superstition, but she's more than good people, she's family. And today, all of that evidence is none of your gluten-free business. In a town where advertisements for Moving & Storage have taglines (I am not making this up) "Rick Perry: That voice in your head is not God", she fits right in.
I don't fit right in anywhere. So when I think of social media, as I often do, and in response to many such questions I reply "I don't have any friends." So when I consider what's missing from social media and identity management it is the extent to which it does not identify the importance of certain of your traits with any bidirectional weight.
If I cared as much about 9/11 today as I did when I was reading 'The Man Who Warned America' or 'The Looming Tower', I would have found my sojourn in NYC unbearable. As it stood, as I was referencing my iPad during the movie, I had a hard time recalling the name of that first book. If I had known somebody who died there that day, as Star did, the significance of the 'Truth' would be greater to me. So how could I adjust my affinity to such a 'friend' and still actually love her? It's easy to do in real life, but not done at all online. Star didn't even know what a Truther is, so it would not be something she would put in her profile for me to accept or reject in the first place.
The context for what I'm attempting to describe as an affinity system goes under the label 'WWID' for What Would I Do? And the first thing that I say about it is that it is a self-generated 'purity test' whose results you own and then selectively publish.
As oldheads on the internet know, one of the first viral documents was the Armory Purity Test. I took it about 22 years ago - that's an old document by internet standards. Well, it actually precedes the WWW; it was on USENET. (USENET seemed so huge back in the day). So if you bother to take the test, you will recognize peculiarities about the set of questions. But what if everybody were the author and everybody were the test takers and all of the results could be stored in a document under your control? This would be the beginning of WWID, except of course that there would be literally hundreds of such tests and many thousands of questions brought to bear. One could imagine, based upon the matter of 9/11 one such test with 500 questions.
I propose a system of such generalizable tests with each individual question indexed and tagged and then correlated into bunches. These bunches over time may vary but the more popular questions will tend to be central in them. People will then take these bunches of tests at their leisure, answering one or some fraction of all of the questions and have their answers under their secure control. Then for the purposes of affinity, the user of the system may publish results under an anonymous avatar linked to their Last ID in order to make matches.
Tests may be generated for any purpose. They may be job appliations, consumer preference surveys, political push tests, religious fidelity tests, entrance exams, special knowledge competency tests, psychological profiles, intelligence tests or medical diagnostics. Anywhere there is a question with an answer that in some way can be used to identify some personal trait of an individual, this system can be employed.
I am not your friend. But there is probably some subject upon which we could communicate a great deal for a couple of hours. I am trying to avoid short painful conversations, and engage long fruitful discussions. This tool would help a great deal more than Meetup + Facebook.
I've been annoyed by the flock of uninteresting people who have added me to their Google+ circles (probably under the caption of 'asshole') as I have made my snarky comments about 'OccupyWallStreet'. I have a message for them. The map is not the territory.
There may very well come a day this year when more people find a reason to get up, paint a sign, show up and yell in unison to the tune of marxist demonstration than to football games. I'm not particularly annoyed about the fascinating stupidity of football and the vast amounts of time and money the media spend covering it. So it follows that I shouldn't be annoyed by the much smaller crowds who are nowhere near as loud making their noise all over America. But there is something about the significance of people on the streets that cannot very well be ignored, despite the simple math and the apt comparison.
What one hopes, as one always should, is that these vagrant outraged citizens can find some way to organize their passions constructively and integrate that into the proper channels of power and influence. After all, getting rid of the Federal Reserve is not something anyone possesed of wit attempts at those buildings. They do have bollards and armed guards because that's where the money is. But I suspect there will be many foolish attempts which will make for a good highlight reel.
My liberal colleagues are always searching for 'teachable moments'. But why Ron Paul has come to hog some center of this attention demonstrates a defective syllabus. And I'm not too sanguine, given the sort of verbiage attaching itself in sympathy with this movement, that economic education is underway. But, that's what frenetic energy does. Maybe they will get some new and coherent candidates to pipe up.
In the meantime, they're just stinking up the joint, but that's what peasants do.
After reading your Op-Ed column on Dr. Martin Luther King in the New York Times, I felt compelled to sit down and write you a letter. Since the conversation that I want to have with you is about public matters i.e. the fate of our nation and the Presidency of Barack Obama, I decided to make it an open letter and put it on the internet so everyone can see it. I feel it is my duty to respond to your column because you are such an influential public intellectual and moral scold people listen when you speak. Like E. F. Hutton on finance, you da man with many people on matters of morality and politics. Since I have publicly pledged to praise saints, celebrate heroes, unmask charlatans and chastise scoundrels I could not remain silent. You have all the trappings of intellectual and moral authority – Harvard education, PhD, author of influential texts, able orator, Princeton Professor of Religion – but the more I watch what you are doing with these powerful assets…I fear you are squandering them my brother, and you are in danger of hurting us all with your folly.
So I just finished skimming the US Air Force document on handling civil unrest, which outlines things like tactics for all levels of protest. The cool paragraph tells the story of how the planners of a protest decided to use women, children and the elderly as the body of the protest and called in media, expecting to get great coverage of riot cops busting putatively innocent heads. Instead, the Air Force sent in uniformed female officers who were unarmed.
But the other thing is that I read all of the tactics and came to understand how three months of training could turn any reasonably fit man into a riot cop. And starting with the 36 inch riot baton, a helmet and a sheild, much could be done to suppress random violence. Random violence is what you can expect from a mob - anything more would be dealing with terrorists, which is what I would be by certain definitions, aware as I now am about US Air Force riot control tactics. Fortunately I'd much rather drive a convertible hot rod than go to anarchy school.
On the smarter end of the engagement, I thought how exactly I might go about diffusing the pretense of civil protest, and while it runs quite afoul of the typical tactics and one strategic rule of riot control, I can't resist its possibility.
Imagine that first thing in the morning of Day Two of the purported riots. You, as The Man, erect the following: In a large town square close to where things are burning and bricks are being thrown, you setup just that kind of unarmed female circular cordon. In the middle of that cordon, you have bright lights and cameras going 24/7 focusing on a dais setup in the middle. On the dais are a dozen judges, also preferably female and elderly hearing complaints from the crowd. If you have a complaint, then you must come in front of the lights and speak in public inside the cordon. Protesters are then realtimed into the permanent record.
How long could violent protesters garner any amount of sympathy from the public if such a dais were maintained?
I couldn't make this up. What if you had an entertainer who was a combination of Bobby McFerrin, Robin Williams, Tay Zonday, Bobcat Goldthwaite and Stephen Wright? You'd have Reggie Watts on a bad day. This man is completely and totally spontaneous - even moreso than Eddie Izzard, but without Williams' mania. OK. Enough 'splaining. Just check this out.
If there is anything true about the epithet 'sell-out' it is that it doesn't take much financial renumeration to pull former comrades heads out of the collective ass of the collective. I prefer the term 'pinche vendida', which is most appropriate to the drama of the petit bourgiosie.
There is a principle fallacy that I believe most Westerners adhere to and I am investigating it because of its many corruptions. Interestingly, it comes from a gut instinct I learned as a black nationalist in distrusting white liberals. The fallacy is that the middle class via political activism can make the poor into middle class. It ain't true, or at least it cannot be done without the sort of transfer of wealth on the pain of riots or similar legal fiat that I find reprehensible. At least some radicals have the honesty to say thier intent is to afflict the comfortable, another euphemism for "(fuc | soa)+k the rich". Understand that I find such honesty and aim to be an honorable calling, but make no mistake, I'm not on that side.
With this in mind one must qualify any political program whose honest goal is 'upward mobility' for the masses (read 'deserving poor'). For the socialist program there is that interesting matter of race, and this is where the histogram above comes into play. Notice the particularly long tail of the households doing more than $75k. This is something I believe to be uniquely American, but I'm open to dispute about that. Still the real meat of this graph is the purple part with the 60% of American households doing less than 57K in 2005 dollars. I boldly assert (and here's where you can dispute me again if you care to) that this is where the Left is focused and sniffing up the ass of that Left, the mainstream anti-racists of America. The reason is because it is in this realm that racism has its greatest effect on the fortunes of Americans.
As anyone with a racial agenda will quote you, there is a well-known economic statistic about the fortunes of the white high school grad vs the black collegian with two years of undergraduate studies under their belt. I would be happy to remind you that people with such educational prospects, by and large don't often get past the 60%. I would think it amply fair to say that those people are about average. So when, on average, the white dude with highschool and the black dude with college are compared and this is given as proof of how racist America is, you are likely to get a shrug from me. Why? Because that level of achievement is not something I find particularly inspiring. But let us give the Leftists their due. In fact let us stipulate that this is the core of economic racism in the United States.
Those of you familiar with the film Brazil and Orwell in general should understand quite well how much energy has been spent spelling out the effect of dystopic authoritarianism on the fate of the common man. It is of course reasonable that the Left and Right focus on that meaty part of the histogram in the context of democratic politics. So how much social mobility does the entire program of the socialist program get to the meat of the American public? I'm going to be hugely generous, and say 25% And I'll tell you why I'll say 25% - because it's outrageous to think the American public wouldn't vote themselves a 25% raise if they could, or that socialists would smack down the capitalists among us to foot the bill if they could. While I'm at it, let's take a look at what credit the Left gives itself. If you pile those 150 things on top of each other do they add up to a 25% raise? Go ahead and add them up - it's really a great list.
But I bet you that if you ask a black partisan how much of that benefit goes to their constituents they will still come back with a demand for the same half dozen things. Better education. Better jobs. Better healthcare. Better housing. Better policing. Better political representation. And they will tell you the bottom line is that right in the meat of that demographic a 25% raise would deliver all of that. Take a poll yourself. Ask a householder at 57K how much of that big list he'd give up for a $14,000 raise.
So what good does all the anti-racist agitation of the Left do their constituents? Very small marginal amounts that can only be measured in pyschic dimensions, which is about all the comfort I think they can give, because any marginal benefit to a middle aged householder in the meat(grinder) of the American economic demographic is good patronage. So if someone can be convinced that racism cost them a $2000 raise, well that's catastrophic economic structural racism - not really but you certainly have the attention of somebody in the the 57K demographic.
How racist is the American Left? It doesn't matter because it's all relative. Like the hunter who doesn't have to outrun the bear, the American Left only has to be less racist than the American Right, by whatever measure because in the middle it's a game of inches. One notch over on the histogram is world historic for the man in the middle, and it is quite simple to show the operation of simple bigotry as monumental to the man of modest means. Black kids locked out of a country club swimming pool in suburban Philadelphia? Huge for the man in the middle. Monstrous for the poor. Asset forfeiture for stop & frisk in a single corrupt police force. Tragic for the man in the middle. Obscene for the poor.
It doesn't matter whether the Left or socialists stop this bullcrap. It matters that they draw attention of their potential constituencies to these pint-sized atrocities. It matters that they will attempt to work on behalf of the poor who may not actually be beset by these problems, and that they will proclaim loudly that a $500 beef is RACIST!!!
It has been a long time since I've been interested in anti-racist activism, and I have despaired of any hope. I recognize that the rhetorical patronage delivered by race hustlers is all that gets delivered. And I also understand what they fear the most, which is that by and large Americans in the middle won't give a damn about race. But it doesn't take much racism at all to keep them in the victimology business.
Kinda makes me yearn for the days of black power.