'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Program Notes 

There's always one consistent thing about posting on a blog. You always fall behind. Behind the news, behind that stack of books you've read and want to read, behind that list of movies you've developed based upon the reported buzz at festivals. At least, that's what happens if you are not a full-time, professional blogger, and merely seek to periodically give expression to your political and cultural perspectives.

And, then, of course, there's the fact that I have a 15 month old son who's predictably impatient, intensely observant and gets into everything. I try to post 3 or 4 entries a week, a couple of them more substantive than the others, but sometimes I can't find the time to do it. Accordingly, I thought that I would briefly describe some of the subjects that I intend to post upon the immediate future:

---I haven't posted any book reviews lately, partially because they are more labor intensive than remarking upon current events, but I do hope to post one shortly about Victor Serge's engrossing novel, Unforgiving Years, written in 1946 just before his death, published in French years later in 1971 and finally translated into English and published by the New York Review of Books in 2007. A nightmarish look back at the futile resistance of the anti-Stalinist left to Hitler and Stalin, and the horrible consequences of their failure that they anticipated.

---I am long overdue on this one, but I still plan to post about the importance of the credit crunch and its calamitous consequences from a left perspective. The extensive provision of subsidized credit to the middle and lower middle classes has been an essential feature of the neoliberal project that first emerged in the mid to late 1970s. The loss of it provides a long awaited opportunity for the left to organize around income inequality and the urgency of creating communal alternatives to the now shattered expectation that people can fulfill all of their economic and social needs through the marketplace.

---I have a partial draft of a review of Jia Zhangke's Still Life, an understated cinematic epic about the impact of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam upon Chinese social life as revealed through the personal stories of his two protagonists. Jia tells this story through typically distanced imagery and an elliptical narrative that places the construction of the dam, and the adaptability of the people of the region to it within a broader context of change within Chinese society. Maybe, I'll finish it, maybe I won't, we'll see.

---Perhaps, there will be some other book reviews as well. Peter Linebaugh's recent book, The Magna Carta Manifesto, is quite wonderful, one of his typically creative explorations of resistance to capitalism, as manifested in this instance through an exposition of the enduring influence of the forgotten charters of the Magna Carta that presevered the commons by regulating access to it. If I don't review it, read it anyway. Chris Carlsson's book, Nowtopia, published by AK Press in the spring, can be construed as a response to the challenge put forward by Linebaugh: how do we break the pernicious control of wealth and private property over us and reestablish a commons and sense of community that has long been suppressed? Carlsson also evaluates the activities of his subjects as a way of overcoming the inability to bring about social change primarily through an emphasis upon a class consciousness that has already largely disappeared. Again, don't hesitate to get it and read it even if I never get around to reviewing it. With activist politics dormant, and policies increasingly dictated by an unaccountable elite without any significant opposition (outside of the Middle East and South America, anyway), I tend to think that this is a good time for reflection based upon our interaction with art, sociology and just plain everyday life.

---Finally, there is the ongoing global food crisis. I suspect that we are only witnessing the beginnning of it, and so, I unfortunately expect to post about more horrors to come.

So stay tuned. Same bat time, same bat channel.

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