November 27, 2016
All of the public schools in the United States of America, from kindergarten through doctoral programs in higher education, should be free of charge and open to anyone with sufficient intellectual curiosity and merit.
Instead, the Republican establishment has doubled down on school privatization efforts, and our president-elect looks as if he will continue this form of despotism.
I admit it: as faculty at a public research university, I have a vested financial interest in preserving public education. Last year’s salary was $58,790, about the same as a fully certified high school teacher in the state of Ohio. Nevertheless, my conflict of interest cannot remotely compare with those of the “reformers” who want to bring profitability into a sphere that cannot function well under for-profit conditions. For-profit operations drive up costs for the consumer, while driving down quality and breaking yet another source of income for our dwindling middle class.
“There is no evidence for the superiority of privatization in education. Privatization divides communities and diminishes commitment to that which we call the common good. When there is a public school system, citizens are obligated to pay taxes to support the education of all children in the community, even if they have no children in the schools themselves. We invest in public education, because it is an investment in the future of our society.”
We are hardly “cartels,” as Paul Ryan has described us. Google “cartel” and you see the violence of Mexican drug lords. There can be a comparable analogy drawn from when our schools are weak –– students drop out, join questionable organizations, crime increases, and the teachers burn out one way or another. It is, indeed, a crime against American-style democracy to underfund and thereby slowly snuff out the public schools that make democratic thinking and voting possible.
The 21st Century offers too many complex challenges to then have schools and universities abandon their fundamental mandates in favor of religious-tinged “science” or sub-standard services while corporations make profits.
We as a country have foolishly put too many wolves in charge of our hen houses. It is time for us to intervene. Indeed, the future of critical thought and action, of class mobility and non-violent pursuits, in this country depends on it.
November 25, 2013
Facebook is what you might call a vulgar expression of that network, a vast human information-gathering service that interpenetrates business, art, personal, and public spheres with equal impunity. In this respect, Facebook is not unique: Google, Microsoft, Apple — these are all companies that have built business models around the harvesting and control of global information flows. The recent NSA scandal has only sharpened global interest in these for-profit surveillance industries, but only the naïve could have earlier thought that all the personal information supplied to these industries was simply being tucked aside somewhere, unexamined and encrypted. On the contrary, the dot-com crash of the late 90s more-or-less drove market models specifically toward the following end state: users are brought in with “free” products, and then the users themselves become the product. James Schirmer has recently described such “services” as “institutionware.” Here I excerpt his argument:
Institutionware is software that supports and maintains traditional ideas under the guise of providing a service. … The aims of institutionware: decrease user agency, increase user dependency, preserve market dominance, contain “features” … Institutionware decreases user agency and increases user dependency by demanding and reinforcing user compliance. … Institutionware preserves market dominance through a blanket of equivalence in systems and users. Even limited use propagates further use. … Instititutionware is about preserving the institution as it is and has been, enhancing/supporting rather than challenging/threatening.
To return to the idea of the network: there is an overdetermined quality to how we are seen today as being “plugged in.” What if the voluntary nature of our being interpenetrated by digital networks is fundamentally flawed? That is, Facebook would rather see us never log out, than see us engage in other forms of networking (face-to-face conversation, letter writing, reading each other’s books, etc.) What if, given our consent to be plugged into just a little, we have consented to a whole-scale strip-mining of our digital identities for profit? But this is not Facebook’s fault; it is, rather, a company “merely” trying to survive in an exceedingly regressive, reactionary business climate that privileges only establishment ideas and passes the consequences of “social change” onto the consumer, as per Ian Bogost’s idea of hyperemployment.
So many of us depend on Facebook, not only for information but also employment and familial contacts. So much of Facebook relies on such co-dependency, and our present-day obsession with the service (before it is replaced by something even more megalomaniacal) should give us pause about the kinds of drugs peddled here in the 21st Century. Why rely on chemicals, when the digital can give each and every one of us our fix for free?
Free for a price, of course.
April 30, 2012
Remember, above all else, that tomorrow is International Workers’ Day.
Unless you’re a big property owning industrialist, tomorrow is meant for you.
May Day now will always remind of the big party in Kreuzberg and the scuffles in Berlin while I was there in 2010.
I will spend my May Day watching German films and contemplating their labor relations, not out of pretentiousness or facetiousness, but because it’s the end of the semester and it’s also my job.
Those of you who have work, may God bless your good fortune and grant you the strength to fight for the appreciation you deserve.
Those of you without work, may you pour out onto the streets to show the world you exist and deserve a living wage.
We all do. Every generation does.
August 31, 2010
Long live The Guy in the Black Hat.
Three observations I made yesterday:
* Here’s a simple one: the Private sector could not manage to be regularly profitable without the Public sector. A corrupt Public sector hemorrhaging resources (i.e., capital, social, environmental, etc.) in large amounts is the only way we humans seem to be able to drive the large-scale Private sector that would generate the necessary profits to satiate our greed. Think about it. Hollywood is a dirigiste film industry, massively subsidized by assorted forms of federal and state-level assistance (Toby Miller, 2002). Nationalism and other forms of social imaginary generate imagined communities (Benedict Anderson, 1983) that it then re-processes into a system of consumer good distribution across networks. Private 4-year colleges benefit from being near enough to Public graduate universities to have access to its cheap, energetic graduate labor supply. And don’t get me started on Halliburton. Without governments there to round up the aggregate labor and exchange value of a populace, the Private sector might as well stay at the level of small to medium-size businesses. Instead, it is an engine quite clearly propelling us toward the End of Human Civilization.
* I may be destitute since my time abroad, but my ability to write and think has increased volumes since being returned to proximity of the UMass library. Give me a solid research foundation and I’ll live.
* Arcade scores are only three letters because kids can do so much damage with four-letter words.
Daybreakers (Spierig Brothers, US, 2010)
Everyone thought the premise on this movie was golden, let alone fitting for our times: in the near future, vampires have taken over the world, but now they are starving to death due to a lack of human blood to drink. “Society” deteriorates as resources dwindle. We rented it on behalf of several recommendations, as well as Kat’s natural affinity toward vampires. Neither of us were impressed by the film’s utterly predictable narrative, overwrought seriousness, flat acting (except from Willem Defoe), ill-timed and gratuitous gore effects, and disastrously stupid protagonists. I thought Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Sunshine, and a host of other good sci-fi media had moved us into the new era of “clever” protagonists, but apparently there are still some stragglers caught in 1998, including this film.