Tag Archives: postaweek2011

Cheap and Fast, but Good?

Known also by traditional codes like “the market,” or “the free market”, capitalism at its core truly is not the demon it has created over the last several decades.  Capitalism in 2011 isn’t an anonymously controlled market, which booms and busts and self-corrects the way classical liberals envisioned it.  It isn’t characterized by laissez-faire economic theory, wherein small businesses in small towns compete to see  who can create the best Product X.

That’s because capitalism unregulated gives birth to a far more sinister reality — Corporatism and Corporatocracy.

What’s that?  It’s why the biggest banks and insurance companies were indeed “too big to fail” during the early months of the 2008/2009 recession.  By the logic of the free market, those companies fucked up.  They should have failed.  The prevailing concept of market economics dictates that business booms as long as the quality of the product remains, well, quality.  And who insures that?  Government does, by regulating the ways in which businesses seek profit.  However, the last 30 years or so has evoked a general mistrust of government, and more importantly, a blind worship of profit — by any means necessary.

I don’t begrudge globalization for teaching us that the universe doesn’t revolve around the United States.  But I absolutely fault corporate tycoons for outsourcing American prosperity in search of cheaper labor and higher profit.  I fault corporations like Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer,  for being stocked with roughly 70% of products made in China.  No shots to the Chinese, but quality hasn’t traditionally been their strong-suit, quantity has. Thus, quantity translates as more to sell; more to sell means more money to be made.  And those product recalls for toys and food and cribs and playpens, they don’t matter much.  As long as you can get them for cheap, right?

I fault Agribusiness for turning food into a business, and disassembling almost entirely our personal connection to it — our ability to know with certainty that the fruits and vegetables and meats we consume were harvested in earnest.  They were un-fucked with seeds that grew out of un-fucked with soil.  I want to be able to trust that the fried chicken wings I go weak in the knees for aren’t the size of turkey wings because they’ve been injected with growth hormones, and matured weeks or months faster as a result.   You wonder why your little girl is damn near a D cup at 7?  Check your chicken, mama.  In the quality triangle — fast, cheap, and good — you only get two of the three.  And there are consequences to choosing unwisely.  If you haven’t seen Food, Inc., rectify that immediately.  It should change the way you look at food, and the way you look at business.  Here’s a little to chew on, til you get your Netflix situation together.

Corporatism is unregulated capitalism’s obnoxious ass baby.  The operative phrase here is unregulated capitalism, because the former doesn’t simply appear out of thin air.  Corporatism is a political construct.  It is the end-game of a ideological perspective that has whole-heartedly succumbed to the notion that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”  That is corporatocracy — business runs government, and so its purpose is to ensure the prosperity of  the profit — by any means necessary.  Or more directly, by ensuring that the officials elected to represent us in Congress, represent their moneyed interests instead.

Last year, the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money to air campaign commercials in support or in opposition of political candidates.  The problem here is that the cash cache of corporations outweighs cash contributions from individuals by leaps and bounds.  Succinctly put, a Congress elected by corporations has no incentive to be accountable to you, the individual.  If an energy company pays a significant sum to elect representatives in the Gulf Coast states, and they happen to be averse to stiff regulations on, say, off-shore drilling, then local and national elected representatives in, say, Louisiana/Mississippi don’t get to posture politically when the Deep Water Horizon explodes in the Gulf, sending millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  And no one, not even the company drilling has any idea how to stop it.  This is what happens when the motive is purely profit, and regulation gets in profit’s way.  The video below is worth watching to the end if you really wanna know what corporatism and corporatocracy looks like outside of ideological debate.

To be sure I am an unabashed capitalist, because I believe in good, better, and best.  I’m not completing a PhD to be on equal footing intellectually or economically with cats whose ambitions failed to launch.  But as a student of history, I recognize that the concept of capitalism went awry when politicians deferred to private industry in the interest of expediency, and then looked away when fast and cheap birthed shitty results.  Pay attention.  Profit isn’t always the bottom line, especially if the bottom 90-something percent of Americans are suffering because of it.


The Romanticized South

You think so?

Write what you know, right? Ok then.

Being a Southerner in a major city has made me acutely aware of what I appreciate about my heritage, and those qualities I loathe about it. When I moved to the DC metro area 5 years ago, folks knew immediately that I wasn’t from around here. I learned quickly that the ease of my smile was welcomed precisely because warmth is an unfamiliar character trait around these parts.  Likewise, the first time I visited New York a few years ago, I thanked a man for information and he called me back over to where he was standing to ask where I was from. When I told him I hailed from the great state of Alabama, he said to his comrades, “Told ya she wasn’t from here.”  I definitely took that as a compliment.

Moments like these provide great perspective.  Because to Yankees, southern hospitality represents a kind of charm and grace that you just don’t get everywhere.  We say “please” and “thank you” and “ma’am” because somebody somewhere along the way told us that that’s how decent people treat people decently.  And although my Southern sensibilities allow me to trust first, I don’t do so blinded by naiveté.  It doesn’t hurt me to give the benefit of the doubt.  But I keep my eyes peeled, just in case cats are in the business of mistaking kindness for weakness.  My armor has always been my earnestness.  And now that I’ve had the chance to experience being Southern from the outside looking in, I’ll shred my usual diplomacy for what my parents called “constructive criticism.”  Dear Dixie, I’m only telling you what I see because ultimately, I still love you.

At any rate, what I see most often is a purposeful acceptance of ignorance that flows as mightily as the Mississippi.  Sure, there’s some up North too, but Yankee know-nothings are more frequently confronted with the manifestations of their ignorance. It’s more difficult to degrade a person or a group of persons when you have to interact with them on a basic ass level everyday. It’s difficult to assume that all Arab-looking people are terrorists when one has invited you to his family’s home to celebrate a special occasion.  It’s more difficult to conclude that all Spanish-speaking people are “Mexican” when you work with a gang of Guatemalans … maybe I shouldn’t say “gang”, but you get my meaning.  It’s easy and cowardly to be against something that you don’t already know or understand.

Yet, not understanding and/or not knowing is never the ultimate offense; life is an exercise in learning and practice and refinement.  The true crime lies in the South’s prideful incredulity about change and progress. There’s an undercurrent of “this is how we do it down here; this is how we’ve always done it; this is how we’ll always do it.”  The former governor of Alabama echoed a similar refrain in 1963.  George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama blocking the path of progress, both literally and figuratively, for Black Americans and for Southerners.   I imagine that Wallace hoped to prevent Black students from integrating the University of Alabama, and White social psyches by proxy.  Because it’s difficult to perpetuate the “lazy,” “stupid” narrative about Blacks when they sit right beside you in Chemistry class — when they have the same opportunity as you to succeed just as much as you.  As soon as just one of “them” graduates with honors and just one of “y’all” doesn’t, then the superiority card you’ve grown so comfortable toting around, has a hole in it.  So does your superiority narrative.  And so does everything you’ve always known.

The isms — racism, sexism, gayism, anti-elitism — these are but one aspect of the issue.  I mentioned decency earlier, and I believe that’s the common delusion about southern hospitatlity.  It’s not unconditional — you get it unless and until who you are is something different from what they (the powers that be, whoever they may be) have determined is “normal,” and therefore acceptable.

Remember when South Carolina wanted to adopt the confederate flag as it’s state flag? No?  You’re right, that was a few years back. Remember, then, when the Governor of Virginia thought April would be ideal for a Confederate History Month?  Oh and just last May, the Texas Board of Education cited “removing liberal bias” from its textbooks when it approved a measure to rename the Translantic Slave Trade the “Atlantic Triangular Trade.” Because the term “slave” is, you know, too touchy. Too closely associated with an acknowledgement that “the way we do things down here” may absolutely be fucked up.

The intolerance for difference in the South is a tradition, as is the comfort with not knowing and/or caring about what an amorphous “they” do wherever “they” are.  The South will undoubtedly go kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and to its own peril, as it lags in virtually every indicator of intellectual, social, and cultural upward mobility.  Yeah, there are pockets of progress, but Atlanta simply isn’t synonymous for Georgia, neither is Houston for Texas, nor Charlotte for North Carolina.  Moreover, religion plays a huge role in this.  It’s no secret that religiosity is higher in the South.  Given that we tend to lend as much credibility to mysticism as we do to facts in the South,  I’m not saying that religion causes simple-mindedness, but I’m confident that it contributes significantly to it.

If you’ll drift with me once more down memory lane, you’ll remember that Eddie Long and T.D. Jakes sure did lead Black folks to the George W. Bush promised land in 2004 after the latter’s fuck-ups were already quite clear.  He supported banning gay marriage though.  He wasn’t saying much about the dwindling prospects of middle- and lower middle class Americans, but that’s neither here nor there.  At least he would ensure that “the gays” couldn’t marry.  Unclouded by the the haze of religious rhetoric, folks might have seen that GDubs’ ideological perspective would also ensure that they couldn’t marry either — because the economy got fucked up while they marched in opposition to a matter that had absolutely no bearing on their own lives.  On the contrary, if the gays got married, then Bishop Eddie Long’s wife could stop feeling some kinda way about why her husband’s nails are always shiny, and why he prefers those tight ass shirts, and why his hair is so…like that.  He’s in the closet, honey.  And his last ditch effort at suppressing the gay was marrying your ass.

I’ve been asked many times if I would ever move back, and the answer has always been no.  While the sweet tea is still delicious, the accent minus that twang is still the most charming I’ve ever heard, and my Granny’s yard in April is still the most beautiful I’ll ever see, I can’t go back.  I don’t begrudge anyone who has the courage to go back and fix what’s wrong with where we’re from.  But, like all addicts, the first step is acknowledging that there is a problem.  The challenge and triumph of diversity allows to you to see objectively.  You’re able to measure who you are and what you think against something different.  And while you may not always capitulate to the other side, at least the experience of meeting someone who looks, speaks, or thinks differently than you has opened you up some.  It makes clear that how you do it, and how it’s always been done isn’t the only way to do it, nor is it always the right way.

Accepting that fact makes the South far more hospitable — to me anyway.

I Love It: Fotografia

Yes I Can Knock the Hustle.

I acknowledge that school aint for everybody.  People with exceptional talent don’t always need a classroom.

The operative words here aren’t mutually exclusive though.  There should be talent and it must be exceptional if you plan to make it longterm without some formal education.  Before the naysayers get going, I’m aware that there are exceptions to every rule.  But for every Lil’ Wayne, there are 100 Lil Larrys and MC Southsides on the come up, trying to make a name for themselves, too.  I’m not saying that MC Southside shouldn’t try to fulfill his dreams, only that his talent should match his lofty aspirations.  Or, he should be so charismatic that we might overlook his other deficiencies — like spelling, and speaking with some sense.  No, I’m not shittin on Waka Flocka!

Yes I am.  No seriously, watch this bamma.

He can’t read, “but he got ice tho.”  Insert *blank stare* and/or *vicious side eye* right here.

Over the last few years, most of the cats I’ve met who struggled through high school and dismissed college all together,  claim to spend their off time “in the studio layin down tracks.” And this is fine.  But unfortunately, what I’ve heard coming out of these “studios”… well let’s just say that cats might be better off aspiring to wash lettuce before moving up to the deep fat fryer.  Assistant Manager’ll be right around the corner, “and that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.”

That if I can do this, anybody can do this meme is a crock of shit.  You gotta be realistic about your chances, bruh.  Consider the context.  You know how many little boys want to be the next LeBron James?  Jay-Z?  You know how many little girls want to be Beyonce?  But for all the wannabes, in reality there exists only one.  Sure, there are gradations of greatness.  But really — who’s trying to be Beanie Siegel, or Manny Fresh, or Latavia “I went to prison, Phaedra” Roberson out this mug?  If you’re saying “Who?” right now, then I’m saying, “exactly.”  You’ve proven my point.

As you encroach upon those latter 20’s, it might behoove you to go ahead and put the pipe dreams away, and start working on ones legitimately within reach.

Big Boi of OutKast said:

“…Can’t gamble feeding baby on that dope money/might not always be sufficient/ but the United Parcel Service & them people at the Post Office didn’t call you back because you had cloudy piss/ So now you back in the trap/ just that, trapped.  Gon and marinate on that for a minute.”

Word Big Boi.  Word.  The hustle doesn’t pan out for everybody. Either be good at it and get the fuck on. Or get on with your life so you can be somebody to somebody.  Knowledge is power.