There’s no one quite like Noam Chomsky. An academic who did ground-breaking work in linguistics, Chomsky always approaches politics with a steady, dispassionate and detailed review of factual information, breaking down the areas in which normal people get screwed and detailing the ways in which the Powers that Be get away with it — and how they do it. Every morning over coffee, Chomsky starts his day by burning through a half dozen or so of all the major papers, reading them cover to cover with what must be a photographic memory because when he starts talking, it’s like the Energizer Bunny reading the Encyclopedia: Noam keeps going and going and going.
“Every minute, every single day, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans. In the name of profit and convenience, corporations are literally choking our planet with a substance that does not just “go away” when we toss it into a bin. Since the 1950s, some 8.3bn tons of plastic have been produced worldwide, and to date, only 9% of that has been recycled. Our oceans bear the brunt of our plastics epidemic – up to 12.7m tons of plastic end up in them every year.” Usually after reading something like this, you’d expect to be shamed into recycling more. Thankfully, those days may be mostly behind us, because anyone paying attention to plastic pollution is starting to understand that personal choices won’t stop plastic and the onslaught of waste and toxins produced by consumer capitalism. So long as a company can turn a profit, which is the engine that powers capitalism, they will pollute and pollute, until the whole world fails.
John Oliver had a fantastic bit on taxes, and I meant to post it on April 15th. I forgot, somehow, but then resolved to post it anyway, albeit a few days late. Now we are well into May, and I realize that I completely spaced this post. So even though this post may not have the same punch as it does on tax day, when we lament the amount of money that we have to pay to fund Trump’s increased security needs or Jeff Sessions’ quixotic renewal of the absurd “war on drugs,” it’s still worth taking a look.
Marx’s 200th birthday was two days ago. With two centuries in the can, I’d be interested to hear what ole Karl thinks of the state of things, though I imagine it would take him a while to get used to life in the 21st century, what with our smartphones, Netflix, and talk of life extension and artificial intelligence. Even so, I’m sure he’d find that he nailed it, so far as the basics are concerned, those basics being his critique of capitalism. Class struggle is still with us, capitalism is still self-destructive, and we are still told that there are no other options, that capitalism is the only game in town. Or, to put a spin of humor on it, “capitalism is the worst system out there, except for all the others.” (Winston Churchill) The great importance of Marx for us, today, is not so much about adopting “Marxism” (as system developed by Marx’s followers) as it is in uniting against the system of capitalism.
Quite the fascinating article today by Chris Hughes, one of the group of plucky young Harvard students who founded Facebook. In response to the recent Facebook fracas, Hughes suggests not merely that we regulate Big Data companies like Facebook but that we find a way to share the revenue with the pubic, with the users. Here’s how Hughes puts it: “the principle underlying it should be clear: companies that benefit from the data we voluntarily provide should be required to protect it and to share that wealth with the people who made it possible.”
Pretty much the entire Make America Great Again narrative is driven by the “American Way,” by a sense of exceptionalism and entitlement: We’re Americans, dammit and if we don’t have the highest standard of living in the world then heads are gonna roll! [Enter stage right, the orange billionaire, intent on “taking our country back” armed with his Tweets of Fire & Fury]
So pundits and politicians are up in arms about Facebook exposing our data. My question: what did we expect, exactly? Is there anyone still naive enough to believe that corporations are working for the best interest of the public? Did we expect that Facebook would forego the pursuit of profit and make the public good it’s sole priority? I suspect that most of us, the common folk, aren’t as worked up as the columnists and the talking heads on TV. We follow the money. We know why Facebook exists, and it isn’t for some hippie purpose of making the world a better place or to bring the world closer, as Facebook puts it in their mission statement.