Second Time as Farce

So…. I was half listening to a Polish news channel going on about the latest government tango with the EU. The current Polish government is doing dumb, stupid and crooked stuff with the courts and the EU isn’t happy. They replied to the latest decision from a European institution, according to which the creation of a review board for courts doesn’t guarantee judicial independence, by saying the board isn’t part of the courts and so the EU objection is irrelevant.

That bit of double-talk was roiling around in my head for a while and I suddenly realized that the current Polish government act toward the EU very much the way Polish (and other Eastern bloc countries) acted toward the Soviet Union: Do the bare minimum possible to prevent direct intervention while constantly testing the boundaries of what they could get away with.

I have no idea why it took me so long to spot the parallel (which is similar to the way Orban’s Hungary treats the EU). Of course the Soviet Union was a dangerous military power with a proven track record of intervening militarily when countries under their heel went too far and the EU is an awkward and toothless bureaucracy that can barely articulate real policies beyond more ‘integration’ that no one wants. So in that way the parallel is ridiculous (maybe why I missed it so long).

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Democratic Death Spiral

They just had the fourth elections in Spain in four years…. and the results will still be deadlock (and gains for a potentially nasty populist party). As this editorial points out, there’s almost no country in Europe where democracy works at present. I disagree with some of what the editorial says but it’s right in the outlines.

The big problem is that established parties have become estranged from voters and pursue their own policies (many of which are massively unpopular) and are surprised that they lose support to dodgy populists (yet refuse to give up unpopular policies).

The issues facing most European countries right now are simply not ones that one more general election (or 20) can solve because the leadership is hemmed in by commitments made to supra-national organizations like the EU (an extra level of alienation) and the political elite’s ideological devotion to the neoliberal agenda and the increasingly unpopular results that brings about for more and more voters.

It’s a deadlocked system that ultimately will have to lead to either politicians beginning to pay attention to choices made by voters or simply removing elections from the political mix (or depriving them of all meaning, possibly by the EU regulating what parties can exist).

Democracy still sort of works in Poland but it’s only in the initial stage of the neoliberal cycle (from unpopular to popular back to unpopular). Since it only began around 1990 about ten years after western Europe took the plunge.

 

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Feminism Will Rise Again

Again, I’ll repeat that feminism achieved all it could as a movement in the west by the late 1980s. At that point, the next logical move would have been to expand and address non-western misogynistic practices (of which there is no shortage in any geographical direction you go). But for a bunch of reasons they…. didn’t and ultimately doomed the movement.

First it retreated into obsessing about emotional trivia (aka ‘third wave feminism’). Then it began addressing the very same misogynistic practices it should have been fighting against (like burkas and public sex segregation). And then along came the unquestioning embrace of the transgenda agender and that was all she wrote (as they say). Womanhood ceased being about biological reality and the social constraints arising therefrom, but a simple declarative state. Saying “I am a woman” became a speech act that changed reality. Biological men began bossing them around and they took it (which should enrage old school feminists but who cares about them?)

My new theory on this is that it’s going to turn into a cycle. At this moment the remnants of feminism are actively (maybe unconsciously) devoted to sabotaging the social gains made by women until we’re back to 1954 so that they can start the second wave again because that was less grueling than the first wave and more fruitful than the third.

I never thought that feminism would turn into a movement version of an alcoholic falling off the wagon so they can painfully climb back on at some future date (or Earl who just got saved before relapsing back into sin).  But here we are.

 

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Socialism and Social Relations

I’ve been thinking about grocery shopping experiences lately, especially how they’ve changed in Poland since the communist period. I only spent a couple of months in the People’s Republic (and in a privileged position of a foreigner at that). I missed the first day of capitalism in Poland, but I’ve been here for a large majority of the time since.

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Socialism: Buying bread in 1981…

In the communist (more correctly ‘socialist’) period, shopping was a grueling ordeal. Long lines snaked out of any story that had something that people might want to actually buy and some things (like meat and dairy and sugar) were still rationed, if you could find them which was far from certain. There were private farmers markets but the prices were actually close to the real value of the goods (instead of the heavily state subsidized prices in stores) and most people could only indulge on special occasions.

Podobny obraz

Not socialism: Trying to figure out what to buy….

Back in the stores, the entire process was carried out by resentful salespeople who hated customers and who pounced on any hapless customer who made a mistake with abusive screaming. For shoppers other customers were the enemy that you had to defeat in order to find something and a strong vigilante culture prevailed in the endless lines in stores. Nobody went hungry per se, but finding food you wanted to eat was not something easily carried out (and shortages in stores were one reason that many people had to have at least one meal a day at their workplace).

There were ways around the shortages in shops and a thriving black market (often carried out in barter rather than worthless Polish currency) and a million small scams going on but just keeping food on the table amounted to something like a second job for many people and it wasn’t because they didn’t have money, people’s wallets were bursting with zloties but the path from farm to store was long and perilous and not many foodstuffs survived to make it onto the shelf.

In the turbulent 90s the shortages in stores were gone but replaced by a kind of savage capitalism that did not help matters and certainly didn’t make anyone more pleasant or polite. Things did slowly start to change after 1999 or so…

And now it’s a different reality completely. A few months ago on a Poland related forum another foreigner was complaining about rude salespeople in stores… and another poster (Polish) and I had to say we can’t even remember the last rude salesperson we dealt with (you used collect rude salespeople stories on a weekly or daily basis).

Taking note of my recent experiences: Once the aisle was blocked by a lady with a baby carriage and she smiled(!) and moved it out of the way before I could say anything. I started pushing someone else’s cart by mistake and the shopper using it smiled and laughed when she said it was hers (in previous years the automatic thought would be that I’m trying to steal something or take some hard to find item from her cart). A cashier (Ukrainian) pointed out that the expiration date of the cake I was buying is today and asked if I’d like to get another instead. The other day another cashier (also Ukrainian) asked if I was collecting the promotional stamps that can be exchanged for stuffed toys. I said no and that she could give them to the next customer (a woman with kids who was collecting them who thanked me and the cashier for passing them on).

To people who have had no contact with socialist Poland (or the immediate aftermath of socialism which was no walk in the park) it’s hard to convey just how revolutionary a change had to happen to turn the grueling and hostile process of buying groceries into a series of banal but pleasant social interactions.

It wasn’t socialism that made shopping a pleasant experience in Poland and socialism did not engender any social feelings of solidarity (pun intended) or concern for other people in the country. Of course the worst abuses of neoliberalism which has the elite trying to get people to eat process GMO plant slurry and bugs and live in slightly nicer homeless shelters before having their bathroom breaks monitored in the gig economy MacJobs aren’t much better. The extremes are obviously fucked beyond repair, what’s needed is something in the middle…

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Resisting Realignment

According the traditional model, only the opposition party can introduce realignment. In the US the New Deal paradigm was introduced by the Democrats and followed by both parties so that even Republican presidents governed like moderate social democrats focusing on government services.

The Republicans introduced Reaganomics (aka the Reagan Revolution) after Democrat Jimmy Carter tried and failed to introduce some elements of it. It has been the dominant paradigm since and is perhaps better called neoliberalism a. According to the model the Democrats need to introduce the next paradigm which will be more egalitarian and communitarian, serving capital less and citizens more.

But… that’s not what’s happening. The Bernie Sanders (realigning wing) of the party is being frozen out in favor of Elisabeth “Hillary-lite” Warren a fanatical neoliberal who, like Hillary Clinton uses cheap identity tricks as camouflage. Similarly in the UK Labour has become the open party of neoliberalism through its adoption of Open Borders idealism and disengaging the idea of citizen participation to opening elections to all residents.

The parties that should be leading realignment are leading the resistance to realignment. I don’t think that realignment away from neoliberalism which everybody but a small elite is thoroughly sick of can be stopped. But the transition can be relatively smooth (as in the Roosevelt and Reagan cases) or it can be a train wreck with vast human costs. The Democrats and Labour have disabled the brakes and don’t even see the landslide blocking the tracks. I think it’s gonna get a lot worse before it gets any better…

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Resistance Theater

People like protesting but when it comes to the climate, they don’t actually want the kind of changes that would be necessary to accomplish their supposed goals. That is why they’re careful to stay in the realm of general “Do something!” demands addressed to no one in particular. This helps them cultivate a self-image as progressive people who challenge authority without having to go without any of the modern goodies they’re addicted to.

Climate Girl’s yacht trip across the Atlantic is a good example. She took two weeks out of her busy schedule to sail to New York in a much ballyhooed zero carbon boat. Meanwhile, behind the scenes the stagehands (ie boat crew) are flying around like crazy effectively doubling the carbon footprint that she would have made had she just bought an airline ticket like a normal person.

I’m kind of a climate agnostic – I freely admit I’m completely unqualified to come to any kind of conclusion based on the conflicting data available. I do think, that any problem will not be solved by lifestyle changes (which cannot be implemented without North Korean style totalitarian compulsion) but by technological innovation and the real action should be in increased funding for new technological solutions.

The elite fly private jets to an idyllic spot in the Mediterranean to lecture everybody about how they need to live like Chinese peasants in the year 1971. Sorry. No sale.

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Man O’Sphere Discredited by Mano-sphere Stars

One of the random things I’ve been following for a number of years is that dome of weirdness known as the man-o-sphere (I’m trying to not attract any of them here so no links or names). Like a lot of political fringe groups they have a good point or two but it’s stuck inside a poisoned ball of insanity.

A big thing for them are absolute, metaphysical differences between men and women so it’s been interesting seeing a dust up between two stars that has turned into an ongoing soap opera (since June or so). Just a day or so ago one side released a very spergy robotic truth video about the dastardly deeds of the other side and that was followed by a live chat on youtube from the leader of the other side and a few sidekicks.

And what is fascinating is just how much like Jr High School mean girls the whole drahma is. It’s all “Well, he said that I said that Jimmy said that I told Bill and that was just end” and “Don’t even get me started on that lying bitch and his nonsense” and “You know I don’t gossip, so you didn’t hear it from me, but I think he’s mentally ill and may be taking drugs cause I had a class in that once”.

What’s most hilarious is the absolute lack of self knowledge. Guys who say that women are incapable of loyalty or honesty and only interested in social prestige are openly displaying a lack of loyalty, honesty and are in a total cat fight about who’s the queen bee of the menz rites hive.

Both have said they’re not goint to talk about it in public anymore… and already gearing up for more disclosures in a show that’s more fun than most fare on netflix….

 

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