Tag Archives | Society

Our New Economy Of Guard Labor

revolution

Via the Baffler, David Graeber on the possibilities of revolution and the increase in “guard labor”:

Under no conditions can alternatives, or anyone proposing alternatives, be seen to experience success. This helps explain the almost unimaginable investment in “security systems” of one sort or another: military…intelligence agencies, militarized police…a massive media industry. Mostly these systems do not so much attack dissidents directly as contribute to a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity, life insecurity, and simple despair that makes any thought of changing the world seem an idle fantasy.

Yet these security systems are also extremely expensive. Some economists estimate that a quarter of the American population is now engaged in “guard labor” of one sort or another—defending property, supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line. Economically, most of this disciplinary apparatus is pure deadweight.

In fact, most of the economic innovations of the last thirty years make more sense politically than economically.

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Did The Internet Destroy The Middle Class?

destroy the middle classVia Salon, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier puts forth his argument that it is so:

The photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. The number of people who are contributing to the system to make it viable is probably the same. Instagram wouldn’t work if there weren’t many millions of people using it.

So there’s still a lot of human effort, but the difference is that whereas before when people made contributions to the system that they used, they received formal benefits, which means not only salary but pensions and certain kinds of social safety nets. Now, instead, they receive benefits on an informal basis. And what an informal economy is like is the economy in a developing country slum. It’s reputation, it’s barter, it’s that kind of stuff.

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Landmark CCTV Case in Australia: Government Seeks to Change Law to Resume Surveillance

This sign is under surveillance
Image by lonely radio

Last week (2nd May), in the midst of Privacy Awareness Week [1], an Australian campaigner, Adam Bonner won a landmark decision against CCTV cameras in New South Wales [2]. The decision did not rule that the cameras in the town of Nowra should be switched off, but instead ordered the local council to stop breaching the Information Protection Principles of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act. Remedies were suggested by the Privacy Commissioner but suffice to say Shoalhaven council has switched the cameras off whilst deciding its next move.

The decision of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal New South Wales ordered that:

1. The Council is to refrain from any conduct or action in contravention of an information protection principle or a privacy code of practice;

2. The Council is to render a written apology to the Applicant for the breaches, and advise him of the steps to be taken by the Council to remove the possibility of similar breaches in the future.

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Skyrocketing Demand Leads To Bullet Shortages Across The United States

bullet shortageBetween the military, the police, and paranoid citizens, America is sucking up the supply of gun ammo faster than manufacturers’ factories can churn it out. Via Fox News:

Demand for guns and ammunition has cleaned out stores nationwide, leading to waiting lists and early morning lines outside of gun and sporting good stores for ammunition shipments. Common calibers routinely sell out within minutes of appearing on store shelves and prices have soared as much as 70 percent.

After the Newtown elementary school massacre, gun enthusiasts have packed stores, buying as many firearms and as much ammunition as they can find. Moves to expand background checks and limit firearm and magazine sales have added to the hysteria.

Ammunition manufacturers are struggling to make enough and have hundreds of millions of dollars in backorders. They’ve added hundreds of employees and equipment and increased overtime, and, in some cases, are running factories around the clock.

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China Releases Its 2012 Report On Human Rights In The United States

human rightsIt may be a bit ludicrous for the Chinese government to criticize other nations over human rights, but that doesn’t mean that their observations are wrong.

Via China Daily, excerpts from the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China’s report titled “Human Rights Record of the United States in 2012,” released a week ago:

The State Department of the United States recently released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, posing as “the world judge of human rights” again. However, the U.S. turned a blind eye to its own woeful human rights situation and never said a word about it.

In the U.S., elections could not fully embody the real will of its citizens. Political contributions had, to a great extent, influenced the electoral procedures and policy direction. During the 2012 presidential election, the voter turnout was only 57.5 percent.

The U.S. has become one of the developed countries with the greatest income gap.

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More Adults And Families Turning To Communal And Cooperative Living To Save Money

Conservatives may worry that moral decline is destroying the American nuclear family, but in fact economic reality is rendering it impossible and obsolete. CBS News writes:

With the cost of living on the rise and showing no sign of slowing down, total strangers desperate to save money are moving in together. Two million Americans over the age of 30 now live with a housemate or roommate, and shared households make up 18 percent of U.S. households – a 17 percent increase since 2007.

Older adults and even families are using this method to pool their resources. And the new communities are redefining the modern family.

One group of women sold their homes and bought a house together in Mount Lebanon, Pa., after they all got divorced. “It made amazing economic sense,” said one of the women, Jean McQuillin. McQuillin, Louise Machinist and Karen Bush call their home a “cooperative household.” They share the common areas of the house, chores and expenses.

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28 Percent Of Americans Believe In Global New World Order Conspiracy

Belief in powerful shape-shifting lizards is also trending. Public Policy Polling has released the results of a telephone survey this past month of 1,247 registered voters which measured belief in various conspiracy theories. Findings include:

• 21% of voters say the US government covered up a UFO crash in Roswell, NM.
• 28% believe a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order, .
• 20% believe there is a link between vaccines and autism.
• 7% think the moon landing was faked.
• 13% think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ.
• 14% say the CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities in the 1980’s.
• 4% say they believe “lizard people” control our societies.
• 51% say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination.
• 5% believe that Paul McCartney actually died in 1966.

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Do Rules Save Our Lives By Destroying Our Brains?

Is civilization the mind’s attempt to commit suicide? Via the Institute for Emerging Ethics and Technologies, Piero Scaruffi writes:

Ultimately, the most structured society will be a society in which every action has to comply with some rules, i.e. its citizens will de facto be robots with no brains. Why does brain/mind want to get rid of brain/mind?

Every animal tries to create some order around its natural environment. Likewise the history of human civilization is largely the attempt to control nature and structure life. Human societies are environments in which the chaos of nature is greatly reduced. This allows for humans to predict the future and therefore minimize threats to their survival.

One chaotic component of nature is humans themselves, the interaction among them. Societies invent rules and regulations to order and structure the interaction among humans. The process of turning children into adults is largely a process of forcing them to obey rules, from “good manners” to language itself.

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Third, Fourth, and Fifth Genders In Cultures Around The World

Via PBS, a fascinating tour around the globe of societies which did not or do not recognize a male-female gender binary:

On nearly every continent, and for all of recorded history, thriving cultures have recognized, revered, and integrated more than two genders. Terms such as transgender and gay are strictly new constructs that assume three things: that there are only two sexes (male/female), as many as two sexualities (gay/straight), and only two genders (man/woman).

Skoptsy were a Christian religious sect with extreme views on sex and gender. The community, discovered in 1771 in Western Russia, believed that Adam and Eve had had halves of the forbidden fruit grafted onto their bodies in the form of testicles and breasts. Therefore, they routinely castrated male children and amputated the breasts of women to return themselves the the state prior to original sin. Sex, vanity, beauty, and lust were considered the root of evil.

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When Does Democracy Turn Into Despotism?

Created by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films in 1946, the still-thought-provoking short PSA Despotism & Democracy doesn’t exactly paint our current prospects in a positive light:

Measures how a society ranks on a spectrum stretching from democracy to despotism. Where does your community, state and nation stand on these scales?

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