January 20, 2017

Apropos of nothing again

I'm a philosophical fan of American pragmatism, especially of the William James variety. Not sure how I feel about John Dewey, but I'd probably like him better if he would have been a better writer. I've also read a few by the late Richard Rorty, who died in 2007.

Some lines from his 1998 book Achieving America have attracted attention lately. Here's a slightly condensed version:

[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
Jeez, good thing that didn't happen, right?

You can read more about Rorty's prediction here.

January 16, 2017

Of Dr. King, poverty and hypocrisy

As the nation marks (it's hard to say celebrates these days) the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., I started thinking about the many things Dr. King had to say about poverty, of which this is one example:

 “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”
and this is another:

"...it is obvious that if a man is to redeem his spiritual and moral ‘lag,’ he must go all out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life.”
and this is another:

 “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”
The observation of King's birthday provides the occasion for conspicuous displays of hypocrisy perhaps outmatched by only a few religious holidays.I'm sure quite a bit of that was on display in WV's capitol today even while that body prepares to ramp up the war on poor people that is the subject of this Jacobin article. 

I think it's going to be a long winter. Maybe even literally.