Tuesday, April 28, 2015

O, Baltimore

Giggles are getting stomped out.
Stern boots to the sternum of a chest filled with snickering
Smirks are suffocating
Cuz like fire, smiles need the oxygen of laughter to remain alive
But practical jokes lead to choke holds
So the infernos ablaze in youthful souls are flickering
Memories of pebble stone rocks and chalk lined hopscotch are stained with chalk outlined bodies and emptied glocks
Skittles and ice tea become devastating recollections
When lives are ended during adolescence
Mama’s tears never dry
Creating cracks cross her cheeks that crush her smile weakened by a trial that looks bleak
The essence of juvenescence is out of breath
Asphyxiated by the need to suppress Black happiness
Forever waiting to exhale in hopes that no one will catch them slippin’
Children, Submerged in societal troubled waters drippin’
Babies in muddy puddles drowning
Literally breathless
As mothers reminisce on nostalgic moments
Can you imagine
The last day you’ll ever see your child?
The last time cheeks kisses will dial the number to your heart
Cackling echoes still snug in the crevices of wall parts
The smell of joy still lining your neck from your last hug
A Last minute “I love you” entangled in footsteps out the door just because…
She showed her teeth a lot more then
Now perched lips match the lines on her forehead
I wonder how many times she contemplated
If only she had taught him to play less
To put boyhood aside and focus on staying a live as best you can
Cuz they play no games with skin containing too much melanin
Rocks against a brick edifice
Lead to a boulder of anger
Rolling over a young boys path
An off duty officer, mad at the neighborhood boys for disrespecting his house
He ran out wearing him humanity doused in ego or his sleeve
He know he got’s to teach these young boys a lesson so they’d leave his block be
Doesn’t sound like he was following police protocol to me
No cuff, no siren, no blue, no Miranda rights read, no idea cops be chasing you
Just plain old pursuit
So Chris run and hid like non-aggressive young boys do
Now Chris dead and officer protected by the badge
That was never displayed for view
Him grabbed Chris up in a sleeper hold till he turned blue
Till he Snatched the sunshine and starlets out his eyes
A smile, smothered by a stone cold grip
Till his lips were life less
Unable to muster nothing more
He remains a tombstone script
I wonder if the office took the time to meet his residents would this have happened
Chris only lived a few block away
But cops are trained to subdue and diffuse
Never to enliven or rekindle
The goal is to keep our communities dead
So his lungs he never breathed into…
Cuz when you put a black child in the hands of those blue suits sworn to serve and protect
They’ll strangle a smile into a hollow shell…
- Brion Gill, "How to Strangle a Smile" (2013)

101 comments:

Jen said...

What a tragedy.
What a mess...

Thersites said...

Amen!

Z said...

You live in Baltimore, don't you, FJ? Or in Maryland somewhere?

I'm so sorry for all of this.

FreeThinke said...

As they say in Sussex County, Delaware, "It's a schitten mess."

-FJ said...

I live just north of town. All my kids were born in the city, and two graduated from the Baltimore School for the Arts.

It's depressing.

nicrap said...

Is it really bad, then?

-FJ said...

Not in most parts of the city, just some of the poorer neighborhoods on the West side. I've never had any problems. The Charles Street corridor that runs from the Inner Harbor North to the Beltway is pretty affluent. I have to drive through the city every day on my way to work, but everything's good at 65-70 mph.

No, what's depressing is that whatever "neutral" relations there were between the races, those have now turned negative. It'll be years before the mutual respect and trust gets restored.

-FJ said...

I blogged a little on it here, if you want to get a feel for it on a "political" level.

WomanHonorThyself said...

so sorry FJ how tragic to see this in your own city! xoxoxox

Thersites said...

Indeed, Angel. Baltimore is a working-class town with an ever-diminishing pile of work to go round. It's about dried-up for the unskilled and under-educated.

Thersites said...

Alienation and Distrust haunt us all.

nicrap said...
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nicrap said...

I don't know how the average black person in America sees something like what happened in Ferguson ... does he objectively (?) assess the rights and wrongs of each individual case – will he not, rather, view it against the backdrop of violence his race has been subjected to historically, and interpret it accordingly? The guilt or innocence of one Michel Brown does not matter, he must conclude; it does not matter because America has a long history of violence against its minorities ... To talk of "abstract negativity" in this connection, therefore, is to deny this "history" (and by that i don't just mean something of the past, but what may very well have continued into the present and still form a substantial part of the black experience in America), which is the history of racism in America; it is like saying what we are witnessing today is without any roots in history: that if the average black person is today mad, it is not because of what he peceives to be concrete "historical" ills: rather, he is only mad at the world (in general), or at himself ... or maybe even just plain "mad" (madness proper, for what else "abstract negativity" really mean if not this?) Very convenient, i must say, for it diverts the attention from the continuing problem of race in America and obviates the need to discuss them.

p.s. i am glad you are safe, fj. These were some of the thoughts that came to me after reading the piece you had linked to. Sorry for the delayed response. :)

-FJ said...

I think that by "abstract negativity" Zizek is trying to say, "violence". When words can no longer express "meaning" (as in an hysteric), it is replaced by the abstract negativity of an outbreak of violence. In this sense I believe that the "abstract negativity" is the culmination of that history... and becomes what Zizek later terms "Divine violence". It doesn't care for the "specific case" or "circumstances"... it's a more general outpouring of emotion and actions (riots). It isn't tied to any "new" meaning (a revolutionary party). It's as Hegel states, "unsublimated."

At least, that's how I read it.

-FJ said...

The problem of race is to "sublimate" this emotion and "tie" it to a new order/cause... one in which "race" is no longer the cohesive and/or divisive element of the tribe.

-FJ said...

errata - substitute the words "dominant cohesive" for "cohesive" above.

-FJ said...

In effect, the "opposite" to what all the race hustlers in Baltimore are currently doing with their "Black Lives Matter" campaigns.

-FJ said...

A "non-divisive" organization would be carrying signs that read "Justice for ALL"!

nicrap said...

When words can no longer express "meaning" (as in an hysteric), it is replaced by the abstract negativity of an outbreak of violence.

Hmm ... how is it different from saying that he is just mad and doesn't even know mad at what, or whom? Do you really think that is the case? Rather, do you not think that he has a very concrete idea of history (real or imagined) directing his actions?

nicrap said...

...So that to talk about "abstract negativity" in this connection is to precisely take the attention away from that "history"? It is that "history" you must address if you want to resolve this issue and not some "abstract negativity", IMO.

-FJ said...

I think that the subject "knows" what is making him "mad" (the history). What he doesn't know in the short-term is how to express himself in "words", so instead of using words, he expresses himself in a multitude of directed violent actions (against whites or Korean shop owners in some cases, against stores/property in some cases, against the police in some cases, against neighbors one dislikes in some cases). It's a non-specific ally directed anger that can strike, "anyone" literally ("Divine" violence).

So, if you don't want the subject to "express" his anger in "violence", but would "sublimate" this anger into a non-violent, preferably "verbal" manner, you must be able to more precisely enunciate the nature of the problem. Is it racism? Is it lack of economic opportunities? Is it a "few bad cops"? Is it ALL of the above? You need to be able to "define" (in words) the "exact" problem.

So here's the real problem. You can't change "history", you can only change how the subject "interprets" that history. Slavery happened. Jim-Crow happened. In many ways, these were what we currently would call the "defining" events of African-American history. But is it "correct" for these to continue to remain as the defining events for the current generation of African-Americans. We have striven as a nation, to overcome this "history", to equalize access and opportunity. We now have a fifty-year legacy of affirmative action, where we have given African-Americans "preferences" in situations of academic and employment opportunities. We also have fashioned an extensive safety net that ensures a minimal social safety net for ALL of our citizens. Aren't these actions also a part of "defining history" of the African-American community?

My personal belief is that the problem is economic. The available set of economic opportunities has been decreasing throughout all ethnic communities. We have more people NOT working than ever before (in recent history). And this is creating a situation that exacerbates the communities social alienation and negates all the "progress" that has been made since '64.

-FJ said...

...and shoves the "history" of the more "ancient" past into the forefront.

nicrap said...

Tell me if i have understood you correctly: what you are saying essentially is that the violence we are witnessing (like all violence, of course!?) is irrational - in what sense? that there is no "reasoning" behind it, or that whatever "reasoning" there is is flawed? And then, what makes you so sure that the "subject" would accept your (the "analysts's") formulation of the problem over his own (in other woords, your version of "history" over his own)? In fact, how can you even be sure that it is not your formulation that is wrong? that it is in fact not you who are the "mad" subject [for you know what they say in Bible, that man does not live by bread alone, and you seem to think that he does (in saying that the problem is economic)]? ;)

nicrap said...

Time to hit the sack, fj.

Good night, my friend!

Gert said...

As a person naturally interested in the plight of minorities, the spectacle of mindless thuggery by African American ‘protesters’ was appalling to behold. By their cruel and destructive actions they unwittingly confirm stereotypical views already held by some non-blacks.

Various African American talking heads also failed to impress me (for the most part at least), due to their refusal to condemn the violence unconditionally.

It really is time for someone with a keen historical materialist eye to coldly analyse the causes of African Americans’ disadvantaged position on the socio-economic ladder and the reasons why they do seem to be the disproportional target of some Law Enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, the issue isn’t just politicised, it’s ‘ideology distilled’, so it’ll be a long time waiting for such studies, if they ever come.

If I were a US citizen the increasing militarization of Law Enforcement would also deeply worry me.

-FJ said...

I agree with you both.

@nicrap - Perhaps there is a consistent rationale for all the violence and its' apparent "targets", and I am missing it. And I wouldn't expect that many members of the African-American community would accept "my word" for it as an "analyst", the "Subject Supposed to Know", as my "subjectivity" is quite a bit different than theirs. But from the perspective of my own "subjectivity", I believe the problem to be one of economics, for I see the problem affecting my own community as well as the world community. The African-American community is, from my perspective, the "canary in the coal mine" of the American economy. And that canary is currently flapping around on the bottom of the cage, in great distress. And so yes, my analyses may be biased towards economic factors, as it is a shared component of the individual subjectivities that are our two communities. Either THAT, or I am just one hell of a crazy MF'er! ;)

@Gert - I believe that the studies have already been done (or at least attempted), but ideologies prevent the acceptance of their results and skew interpretations of them on both sides. When Murray/Hernstein wrote "The Bell Curve" they could have avoided all the controversy had they simply left out the one or two chapters at the end that dealt with race.

And as a non-card-carrying "Tea Party" member, I can state that the militarization of the local police is of great concern in our community.... as are the presence of aerostats conducting direct surveillance.

-FJ said...

How can I be sure that my analyses isn't biased? I could try rotating my position from amongst the four subjective positions for the "discourse"... but who, other than Zizek, has the time for that? ;)

The riots are an hysterical symptom of "something", be it real and/or imagined. "How" it get's processed through the socio-symbolic is another matter entirely.

Give the symptom time, and it will "repeat" until it "gets it's own expression right".

-FJ said...

ps - Nite!

Gert said...

I’m a little surprised you bring up “The Bell Curve”. IQ is a largely discredited psychometric, there are serious concerns about its validity. And trying to attribute any ‘under-achieving’ to something that has definitional difficulties like ‘IQ’ alone would be highly reductionist.

In the ‘hard sciences’, no one would base one’s results merely on the study of such a poor measurand. The Social Sciences lag decades behind their ‘alpha’ counterparts, although with the advent of neuropsychology there is finally some catching up.

It has to be possible to conduct more comprehensive studies with safe guards to remove cognitive biases as much as is humanly possible. If Slavoj can, so can others! ;-)

As an example of an excellent yet dispassionate study of an ideologically loaded event, I would take Raul Hilberg’s study of the Holocaust.

Thersites said...

I'm not saying that IQ measures "intelligence." I'm saying that language is culture, and unless you can absorb and retain a culture's socio-symbolic in a reasonably rapid and complete/ comprehensive fashion, you won't find your "use value" to that society/ culture as great as those who can and do. And unless you are highly competetive and/or exceptionally motivated, your very unwillingness or resistance to to learning, adopting, processing and abstracting from those socio-symbolic systems will likely place you at a decided disadvantage relative to those who are more socially (and historically) inclined to adopt them.

In other words, you have to fervently want/desire to assimilate the culture and its' socio-symbolic systems, not resist and/or resent it, else you'll never become socially and economically competetive. And this is why, IMO, minority immigrants to the US who do, perform much better economically than many descendents of former slaves.

And yes, some descendants of former slaves do very well with a "separatist" non-assimating mindset (Michelle Obama comes to mind), but those cases are, IMO, exceptional and much too far and few between. They achieve success largely because they wish to rise to the top of their self-segregated "competing" culture's socio-economic elite, and so they rather "unwittingly" follow in the path of those who have, over time, more completely adopted a closer/ more similar variation on the dominant social-symbolic culture.

And so, many of those "cognitive biases" as you see them are, IMO, self-inflicted. DESIRE has much to do with one's eventual economic fortune. And believe me when I say that given America's history, few blacks wish to be seen socially by their peers as "acting white".

Thersites said...

...even if the economic rewards that accompany doing so might prove significant.

In the US Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus see's itself as the "conscience of the Congress". Theirs is a feeling of moral superiority that is largely pandered to by their white colleagues who find it perfectly acceptable to allow them to retain a sort of "poor man's dignity" which gives them the "cover" they need to buy and sell their own votes to the highest bidder with impunity.

Thersites said...

If you want to know what the Lacanian Strikes A (the signifier of a lack in the other) that translates between the Imaginary and the Real is, look to the process that runs between the Imaginary and the Symbolic. For all that neurology your so keen on, originates in the sublimation of drive into desire and the imaginary.

Thersites said...

bad link, above.

nicrap said...
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nicrap said...

Hmm. I will grant you this: America will have to move on, the average black american will have to move on, and leave the "past" (supposing it is really the past, and he may not agree with you on this) behind ... but does he have the necessary "ethic" for effecting the rupture (almost akin to a new birth), does the American society as a whole...?

I think this is where we part company, among other things. You seem to think enunciating the "problem" clearly will solve it, but ... the statement is itself full of problems. For one, whose "problem" are we talking about here? You seem to think it is his, it is he who needs "telling", since he is the violent "subject"...but is it also not true that the better part of violence has been directed against him? then tell me who is the "subject" here, and whose is the "problem"?

And just as much you want to enunciate the "problem" for him, he wants to do the same for you. His "reasoning" is clear, it goes thus: Black lives don't matter (the slogan is very specfic.) They didn't matter before, they don't matter now. Ergo: racism is alive and well.

You can enunciate all you want, my friend, and it will not make a difference ... unless both sides have the necessary "ethic" (to stop and listen to each other, among other things) ... in other words, we don't need "analysts", we need philosophers ... have any in mind? ;)

nicrap said...

p.s. Please don't be offended at my repeated use of "you". I don't write very well when i have to think on my feet at the same time (if i ever write well, that is.)

p.p.s. When i say "ethic", i don't mean bourgeois ethic ... that if he had job and worked hard and made money, he would have "sense". It's a typical bourgeois prejudice to equate money with sense. Nor is he the only one in need of sense. ;)

-FJ said...

I think what we are seeing in the "black lives matter" campaign is an attempt to re-enact the civil rights campaigns and marches of the 60's. IMO, much has changed since then, so why "repeat" the attacks on a problem that, IMO, has largely already been addressed? The hysteric "repeats", but this problem has already been enunciated in the "former" form. What THIS campaign needs to do is "differentiate" itself in some "constructive" manner. And an attack on "Bull Conner" is, IMO, an insufficient differentiation and falling largely upon "deaf ears" in the white community because as the specifics in even these "tragic" cases are showing, the police may be making errors in judgement, but they aren't applying the law in a racist manner. The 'victims" have not been innocent "Skittle" buyers. They are largely involved in some form of criminal activity and/or resisting arrest.

So what drives people into criminal enterprises? Not laziness. It is, IMO, a lack of lucrative alternative legal enterprises. And, IMO, those have all been "sucked out" of these communities by corrporate offshoring of unskilled jobs. There's a market for drugs and stolen property, but CVS has the lagal market wholesaling monopoly, and Mondowman Mall the other legal goods. How can a small corner inner city compete with them? And you know, both places offer only minimum wage opportunities to the community.

Yes I'm a bourgeos, and so I see most problems in economic terms. But even a clock can be right 2x a day.

-FJ said...

And as for the importance of adopting socio-economic symbols, as Lacan would say, "Les non dupes errent". The African-American community don't have to become bourgeos fundamentalists, but IMO, it wouldn't hurt them if they moved in "that direction"

-FJ said...

It has served the moinority Korean and Chinese communities exceeding well.

-FJ said...

Now we can argue that the numbers of laws have exploded, and so minorities (and the white majority) are suffering from their enforcement, but this hints at a broader "legislative" issue, not the police itself. They have little enforcement discretion... as the "President's" recent immigration enforcement Executive Orders have proven.

-FJ said...

And it is reforming these laws that privilege corporate forms over small independent businesses that I would "attack", NOT "law enforcement"

-FJ said...

We need to get back to a "natural" laissez-faire economy with isolated markets and away from a common global capital-centric market. In the case of markets, inefficiencies protect localities.

-FJ said...

And my philosophic and economic models are still somewhere between Slavoj Zizek, Peter Sloterdijk, the Tofflers, and Adam Smith.

nicrap said...

I have heard there was some development and not a few police officers have been indicted in Baltimore... what do you think?

Speedy G said...

If the problem "stands" as defined by the Black Lives Matter crowd, we're in for a drowning in the whirlpool of Charbydis and repetition.

Speedy G said...

What do I think?

I think that the City of Baltimore is not nearly as self-aware as the Athenians. For they refuse to acknowledge their own complicity in the injustices being perpetrated, that they are all complicit in playing a "not-so-innocent" part in the Thargelia.

Speedy G said...

Note that in the picture frame of the officers charged with the crime in the link, lies the "objet petit a"... (3) whites, (3) blacks... Perhaps now the "racial" dimension to the problem can "negate" itself...

The objet petit a is that which should be excluded from the framework of reality, that whose exclusion constitutes and sustains the frame of reality. What happens in psychosis is precisely the inclusion of this object into the framework of reality: it appears within reality as the hallucinated object (the voice or gaze which haunts a paranoiac, etc.), with the logical consequence that this inclusion leads to the loss of reality, that the subject's 'sense of reality' disintigrates.

"The Ticklish Subject"

Gert said...

“For all that neurology your so keen on, originates in the sublimation of drive into desire and the imaginary.”

For too long Freudian psychology tended to see the mind as a ‘black box’: input goes in, output comes out and the observer/scientist then tries to guess the processes that turns one into the other.

As someone who has been doing science by taking black boxes apart, then working out what they ‘do’, I’m really not keen on that approach.

So I expect things to move forward again when we start looking at a brain/mind more like a (very complicated) machine.

Mainly through Zizek (via Lacan) I’ve improved my understanding and appreciation of Freudian thinking but I doubt I’ll ever be a Freudian at heart.

As regards African Americans lower average position on the socio-economic ladder, you seem to invest an awful lot into a perceived lack of assimilation. From an outsider’s perspective I just don’t see it. Your example of Michelle Obama I find truly bizarre: hard to find a couple that’s more assimilated, economic ambitions included, than the Obama’s.

”Yes I'm a bourgeos, and so I see most problems in economic terms.”

Actually, that’s a Marxist perspective (and I subscribe to it). “First you eat…”

Gert said...

”So what drives people into criminal enterprises? Not laziness. It is, IMO, a lack of lucrative alternative legal enterprises. And, IMO, those have all been "sucked out" of these communities by corrporate offshoring of unskilled jobs. There's a market for drugs and stolen property, but CVS has the lagal market wholesaling monopoly, and Mondowman Mall the other legal goods. How can a small corner inner city compete with them? And you know, both places offer only minimum wage opportunities to the community.”

Nothing to disagree with here. I would go a little further. In a society (‘Western neoliberal’ but not limited to that model) where literally everything is owned by someone (else), the poor sod who falls on hard times and can’t find legal employment or has no entitlement to ‘benefits’ has no choice but to resort to acquisitive crime.

-FJ said...

Read her Senior year thesis from Princeton. Then get back to me if you think I lead you astray.

nicrap said...
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nicrap said...

So you believe they are pharmakoi. Hmm...very neat.

(Btw, are you familiar with the concept of sacred king, especially Frazer's interpretation of it? )

Birth
Re-birth
Purification
sacred king (sacrificial victim)
pharmakoi (which was really a purification ritual held on the first day of Thargelia, an agricultural festival.)


And at the root of it all — magic (or, more precisely, sympathetic magic or imitating magic: The sacred king, the human embodiment of the dying and reviving vegetation god, was supposed to have originally been an individual chosen to rule for a time, but whose fate was to suffer as a sacrifice, to be offered back to the earth so that a new king could rule for a time in his stead.)

So perhaps America has re-discovered its faith in magic (as a condition of its re-birth.) ;)

Thersites said...

Yes I do and perhaps the "humanities" are NOT the "sciences", but true opinion can be as useful as truth.

Thersites said...

"Nails" on which to hang a portrait of Daedalus (Plato, "Meno").

nicrap said...

:)

Jen said...

So, forgive me for jumping in so late. This issue is just...bewildering to me.

Nicrap said....
"..So that to talk about "abstract negativity" in this connection is to precisely take the attention away from that "history"? It is that "history" you must address if you want to resolve this issue and not some "abstract negativity", IMO."

My question is this: what kind of attention does America's past with slavery need at this point? (I'm really asking.) Every child in America has extensive education on the history and evils of slavery. If anything, we grow up feeling that we were the only people evil enough to do such things. We are imbedded with a sense of white shame and guilt. How do we move beyond the shame and anger? What would be enough? I want someone to answer that question. It's not enough to acknowledge history. We've done that. Ad nauseum.

If violence were the only expected result of an act of evil perpetrated on a group of people, any societal group would be justified in a victimhood mentality coupled with violence.

I'm not saying that there can't be some understanding towards people for being angry when an injustice occurs, especially given the history behind it. But does that make the violence justified?

And does the violence in Baltimore and St. Louis advance the cause of blacks in America? Or does it just further push people into alienation and perpetuate the cycle of racism? (in ALL directions.)


I think that the idea of "community leaders" is no longer working. It's going to take families teaching their own children how to handle adversity in order for this country to move beyond black and white. Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would want done unto you."

I am persoannly sick of all things "racial".

Thersites said...

You won't find much disgreement from me. In this case, I see "race" as a proxy for "class." And so when protestors attack a group of whites on Eutaw Street near Camden Yards Stadium before an Orioles game, I don't see it so much as a black on white attack so much as a "displaced unemployed worker- have-not" on "employed worker - have." The point is that IMO, "race" in this case, is being used symbolically, but also improperly. So if the protestors want to strike out against injustice, burning down a CVS Pharmacy makes a lot more "sense" that punching someone who has a job, or denouncing the police, who are only doing THEIR jobs.

As for "families", you won't find many of those in the Sandtown district of West Baltimore. Mostly unsupervised kids and single mom's there. The unemployment rate is over 50%.

So no, the history is being used as a "cover" for both Left and Right politicians. The truth is, the economy is cr*p, and the people of West Baltimore no longer have prospects of ever gaining employment again. Their "use" to society has been reduced to pure "consumer".

But in America, even the corporate CEO's are proletariate earning a surplus wage. They aren't the "owners" of the corporations they run.

You're right, the issue should be Justice, not Justice for Blacks. The racial elements of the situation merely confuse and detract from the underlying issues that need addressing. And the politicians have NO intention of addressing them. Cuz in the end, they;re all "proles" just doing their jobs for an hourly wage, like the rest of us.

Joe Conservative said...

:P

Jen said...

I guess the whole situation was just a ticking time bomb.

Poverty and unemployment are such huge issues that won't go away with wishful thinking.

:(

Even in South Dallas where crime and poverty are the worst, we have nothing as bad as what you've described here.

Jen said...

Still, I gained a new perspective on the racial aspect of it. I hadn't considered that race was a proxy for class.

Thersites said...

Well, we're almost all "proles" now, so I'm not even sure that "class" is the appropriate term anymore except in terms of separating "working proles" from "displaced proles". The money all disappears into corporate holding accounts which tend to remain "uninvested" as the existing "system" pretty efficiently hoovers out the vast majority of the money that returns to the communities in the form of wages and taxes. Apple, all by it's lonesome is sitting on near $200b. And without re-investment in areas like Baltimore, the problem of under-employment isn't going to go away (and Apple will likely invest in the Far East, NOT Baltimore).

There are no easy answers. But we DO need to find ways that allow the underemployed to earn a LEGAL livelihood... becuase it is only in the "illegal" arena that Baltimoreans can remain "competetive". And so, they are also much more likely to be drawn into confrontations with the police. Catch-22.

Thersites said...

Eric Garner, who the cops strangled in NY was selling onesie cigarettes... and the cops were cracking down because the "city" wasn't getting it's cigarette tax-cut.

NYPD officers approached Garner on suspicion of selling "loosies" (single cigarettes) from packs without tax stamps. After Garner told the police that he was tired of being harassed and that he was not selling cigarettes, the officers went to arrest Garner.[15] When officer Daniel Pantaleo took Garner's wrist behind his back, Garner swatted his arms away.[16] Pantaleo then put his arm around Garner's neck and pulled him backwards and down onto the ground.[17] After Pantaleo removed his arm from Garner's neck, he pushed Garner's face into the ground[18][19] while four officers moved to restrain Garner, who repeated "I can't breathe" eleven times while lying facedown on the sidewalk.

"I can't breath," no sh*t!

Thersites said...

So IMO, this isn't about race. This is about being able to earn an honest living.

nicrap said...

Okay. Let me begin by saying this: That so far i have only been engaging with Zizek's thesis and at no point have stated my own thoughts. And i think he makes a blunder in supposing that the violence in BAltimore is an expression of "abstract negativity", as though the average black person has no conscious, even concrete, idea directing his actions: the average black person thinks he has been wronged, "historically" (by which, i would again like to emphasize, he don't just mean something of the past, rather something that is very much part of his experience even today.)

Is his thinking flawed? maybe...we have a superstition here that ghosts have their feet turned backwards. Maybe, in always looking back to the past (supposing it is really the "past"), he too is living a ghost-like existence and should really move on...I don't know. But to totally "deny" this thinking, to say that it is either non-existsent or has no basis in reality ... well, that i think is just to add insult to injury and would make the matters only worse.

He thinks it is about race. You don't think so...very well. But at least fist recognize that he thinks differently, that he at least has a concrete, coherent thinking ... then maybe you will have some success trying to tell him what it is really about. Like i said: do we have the necessary "ethic" (to listen to each other, to recognize the truth of each other) or do we not? Or, do you think truth is not an "ethical" matter at all? ;)

nicrap said...
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nicrap said...

...without necessary "ethic", we only end up talking past each other. And i see exactly that happening with most of what has been going on, and by that i don't just mean in your part of the world.

nicrap said...

You asked me: what kind of attention does America's past with slavery need at this point?

Let me ask you instead: how have you been dealing with it so far? except for passing laws, establishing authority, and creating institutions - in short, "institutionalization" ... That has been our answer to every "problem" for last 400 years. We even think it sufficient for virtue, the only "ethic" that have, so to say. So if you want racial tolerance instilled in kids, let's have Black History Month (one example of what i mean by "institutionalization, among other more obvious things.) The laws of the heart and the laws of the State at last identical ... But they are not, are they? For one, the latter only promote an appearance of virtue and, in some cases, the very vice they were sought as a guarantee against ... exactly their legacy in this particular case. Instead of promoting peace and tolerance and love as they were sought to (among other things), they have promoted shame, and anger and violence. On both sides. What you need, therefore, is a different "ethic". Have any ideas? (mind you that you don't just seek for it in black families!) ;)

nicrap said...

...So with all due respect to Fj, i really don't think it's about economy. For, like i said before as well, it's a typical bourgeois prejudice to equate money with sense (and vice versa.) Neither the rich are all happy and non-violent, nor all poor discontent and angry, and violent. Rather, i think (and i know how naive i sound) it's about the "ethic" ... about not having the necessary "ethic" (for the one we have has failed completely.) That's my view of the matter, anyway.

nicrap said...

...but even if it was about economy, it would still be about the "ethic" that makes it all about economy, this and everything else (how is that for cryptic, eh?) ;)

Joe Conservative said...

Yes, I agree, the African-Americans feel BOTH wronged "historically" by the racism of the past AND wronged today. I merely argue that "what" he is being wronged by today has little to do with "racism" and EVERYTHING to do with "corporatism".

You ask if the "ethic" has changed. Despite all the charges and accusations of "racism" you'll find in the political blogs, it is my contention that it HAS changed tremendously. Both the "government" and "corporate" work place in America today is HIGHLY diverse. There are still MANY occupations where the demographics do NOT match the communities at large, but these are largely the occupations that require PhD level workers, Medicine, Law, Engineering, Science, and what you would call "Hi-Tech".... those occupations that require a significant dedication to the cultural-symbolic and cannot be performed by "unskilled" hourly workers.

On the "negative" side, other matters of "ethics" have also changed. Over 70% of births to mothers in the African-American community are out-of-wedlock births. In other words, the mothers are dependent upon the State for support, as opposed to an "employed father". This number has also exploded in white communities, and is close to 30%.

Joe Conservative said...

I work at NASA outside of Washington, DC. We are a very Hi-Tech aerospace operation, yet many of my co-workers are African-American. The head of NASA, Charles Bolden, is an African-American. He has a degree from the US Naval Academy and a Masters from USC in Systems Management. I have a degree from the US Merchant Marine Academy, and a Masters from USC in Systems Management. Our educational backgrounds are very similar, although he's about 5 years my senior. The fact that he is an African-American is no longer a "negative" here, you can rise to become President of the country, if you have the ambition, dedication and commitment.

Joe Conservative said...

Now I must admit, too many African-Americans fail to share Director Bolden's "ethic" of being married, committed to his career field, and willingness to be "perceived" as "acting white". But it does, IMO, pay-off "financially".

The laws of the heart and the laws of the State at last identical ... But they are not, are they? For one, the latter only promote an appearance of virtue and, in some cases, the very vice they were sought as a guarantee against ... exactly their legacy in this particular case.

I agree. They are not "identical". There is still much "resentment" on the part of blacks, who feel that they were denied access, AND whites who feel that they are currently being 'passed over' for promotions so that corporations and government agencies can report diverse workforce numbers (women AND minorities) at all levels of employment. So it is no accident that the nation's affirmative action policies have lead to over 60% of undergraduate students being "female". The employment preferences have been driving enrollment for quite some time.

Joe Conservative said...

But regardless, I contend that most Americans are "ethically" committed to becoming a culturally diverse country, so long as there is a classically-liberal and tolerant leit-kultur that condemns overtly racial and/or religious predation shared by ALL of the nation's inhabitants.

Joe Conservative said...

But what about "corporatism"?

Although corporations do much to ensure the employment of a "diverse" workforce, they have little care for ensuring that the average employee receive a "fair" "surplus-wage". They are largely committed to paying a premium for loyalty, but they are not very much into distributing the corporations "profits" to corporate employees outside of the directorship level. Even shareholders get little "return" from their investments in terms of "dividends". Shareholders make their money when they sell their shares (change in market value). And right now, companies are holding onto their cash from profitability so as to predatorally consume one-another and increase their market-share monopolies and profitability THAT way.

Joe Conservative said...

IMO, the more of this money we can get into the hands of small businesses, the better. And if this means "penalizing" corporate size, the MORE, the better, IMO.

nicrap said...

I agree. They are not "identical".

No, my contention is they can NEVER be idential, for the reason i have given above, viz., that what the laws of the State promote is not so much virtue but only an appearance of it ... and, in some cases, even the very "vice" they are sough as defense against.

I think we need an altogether new ethics, fj, for the simple reason that "institutionalization" has failed ... In most cases, it is THE problem, and very rarely the answer to any problem. Does bourgeois "ethics" fare any better, apart from "intitutionalization" which is a aprt of it? Again, my answer is no, but you already know that. ;)

nicrap said...

I don't know why i have been using the singular "ethic" all this while when i probably all the time meant an "ethics." Excuse the confusion it may have created.

Joe Conservative said...

what the laws of the State promote is not so much virtue but only an appearance of it ... and, in some cases, even the very "vice" they are sough as defense against.

I agree, the State, IMO, is becoming a large part of the problem. But Adam Smith (classical bourgeois ethics) ALWAYS argued AGAINST State-based economics (mercantilism) where commodities and products were exchanged under the threat of gunships and military force and payments were ultimately paid with debased currencies and coinage. Bourgeois ethics were, IMO, "merged" in a nascent America with "Puritan" ethics. In the years since the founding, both that "Puritanism" and "bourgeois" ethic has largely eroded away in favour of something more akin to State-capitalism and mercantilism.

Joe Conservative said...

That "ethical mixture" served America well in the early years, as the bourgeois elements were extremely "independent" minded, but today, people fear that independence and prefer risk aversion and the safety of corporate/ government employment.

Joe Conservative said...

Bourgeois "ethics" favour risk taking and independence, NOT social responsibility and charity, so you can't go "too far" in that direction if you need to treat large groups of citizens as "charity cases" instead of opportunities for "exploiting them" as "labourers."

Joe Conservative said...

...and as bad as the latter might sound, it actually works out rather well for ALL parties, even the "exploited" ones.

nicrap said...

But Adam Smith (classical bourgeois ethics) ALWAYS argued AGAINST State-based economics (mercantilism) ...

That's just one part of it, my friend. And it's not even surprising that the one area (of human experience) where they sought fewer laws and less "authority" was economics. And even that is not entirely true. We must not forget the various houses of correction (or, workhouses, as they were called in England, Zuchthaus in Germany, 'Hôpital général in France) that opened all over Europe during 17th and 18th century, that had at least at first a certain economic significance. However, their true signifance was ethical, and it is in that area (public morality) that you would see (state's) greatest imprint.

p.s. You are absolutely right about puritanism, and if you are familiar with Weber's famous thesis "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism", you will know that bourgeois ethics are essentially Puritan ethics.

Joe Conservative said...

Let's just say that at the time of American colonization and Adam Smith's writing, the English "State" was moving in the direction of State Mercantilism, and the American colonies were "resisting". The British East India Company had largely been nationalized as a result of the Bengal famine of 1770, and the Crown was seeking to "offload" her surplus products upon the American Colonies. Smith wrote in 1176, the same year as the American Declaration of Independence.

I liken "Bengal - 1770" as to "Baltimore 2015".

Joe Conservative said...

We're not NEARLY to that catastrophic point, of course, but the people of Baltimore, like the people of Bengal, no longer have the means with which to sustain their own existence.

Gert said...

FJ:

I don’t like MO’s language in that thesis at all. Never been a fan of ‘Black Power’. I see struggles more from a Universalist PoV.

But to brand her a ‘segregationist’ seems too strong to me. She uses language that’s used on BOTH sides of the aisle: ‘Black community/race’, ‘White community/race’ etc etc.

It’s also a rather old document, one has to wonder how relevant she still considers those scribblings today.

I fully agree that the main problem is an economic one, lack of opportunity to earn a decent wage, thanks largely to corporate greed/neoliberalism.

Gert said...

”Yes I do and perhaps the "humanities" are NOT the "sciences", but true opinion can be as useful as truth.”

The most elegant theory derived by Pure Reason is only validated by Empiricism though. Einstein’s monumental achievement [Relativity] would simply have remained an object of interesting (and probably intense) debate to this date, if it hadn’t been for experimental verification.

nicrap said...

That "ethical mixture" served America well in the early years, as the bourgeois elements were extremely "independent" minded...

They were not "independent" minded, they were "religiously motivated" (see the idea of "calling" as discussed by Weber) ... this is where Christianity turns modern. And it is precisely of this turn that Weber writes: The pioneers of modern economic order were, he (Weber) argues, parvenus who elbowed their way to success in the teeth of the established aristocracy of land and commerce. The tonic that braced them for the conflict was a new conception of religion, which taught them to regard the pursuit of wealth as, not merely an advantage, but a duty. (From the introduction to Weber's aforementioned thesis.)

nicrap said...

I liken "Bengal - 1770" as to "Baltimore 2015".

I think a little "Diogenes" never does any harm. ;) At least that's how i like wrap up my day. So:

He would often insist loudly that the gods had given to men the means of living easily, but this had been put out of sight, because we require honeyed cakes, unguents and the like. ;)

Good night, my friend!

p.s. this "I'm not a robot" business is a big pain in the neck, especially when your internet has been erratic for days. :)


Joe Conservative said...

Yes, perhaps "segregationist" is a bit too strong, but there has always been a "Black Independence" strain in the African-American community, since the days of Booker T. Washington vs WEB DuBois.

And yes, you need an hypothesis and a means of disproving it. Unfortunately, some hypothesis, like Freud's, never had the latter, as all anomolies fell into the category of "the repressed".

Joe Conservative said...

Michelle Obama obviously followed in the DuBois strain of African-American thought, and not the "cooperative" and "integrative" Booker T Washington strain.

Joe Conservative said...

@nicrap. What you say sounds likely... that their Puritanism" gave them the backbone to chose "Independence" despite the difficulties and institutional obstacles arising from such a choice.

nicrap said...

:)

Jen said...

What you need, therefore, is a different "ethic". Have any ideas? (mind you that you don't just seek for it in black families!) ;)

----

In all honesty, Nicrap, it is this:
"Do unto others as you would have done unto you."

nicrap said...
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nicrap said...

"Do unto others as you would have done unto you."

But that's just a precept ... The fault is mine. I have been using the singular "ethic", when all the time i meant an "ethics", i.e., a whole system of morality.

Let me ask you a question (by way of making my meaning clearer): how are you going to make sure that people follow the precept you were so good to quote above? What "mechanism" will you use? Our answer for last 400 years has been (not necessarily with respect to above precept but generally): make laws, establish authority, create institutions ... but it doesn't work (for the reason i have adduced above, among others.) We need something else ... precisely, a new "ethics." (When i say "new", i don't mean brand new. It could be something we may have known previously but "wilfully" forgotten.)

-FJ said...

The whole progress of the subject is then oriented around the Ding . . . the first outside. It is clearly a probing form of progress that seeks points of reference, but with relation to what? — with the world of desires. It demonstrates that something is there after all, and that to a certain extent it may be useful. Yet useful for what? — for nothing other than to serve as points of reference in relation to the world of wishes and expectations; it is turned toward that which helps on certain occasions to reach das Ding. That object will be there when in the end all conditions have been fulfilled — it is, of course, clear that what is supposed to be found cannot be found again. It is in its nature that the object as such is lost. It will never be found again."

- Lacan, Ethics

nicrap said...

Heh. he doesn't make much sense to me here, Fj. Maybe because i am not familar with his works. :(

I think all i meant was: Having a percept is not enough. People need to follow it, too ... which is why we had "philosophers", religious miniters at one time. But it has all changed now. Now poltics (via laws, institutions) is driving most changes and has replaced religion and philosophy as the main agents of change (even in ethical sphere.) It is this new (400 years old, to be precise) "ethic" of "institutionalization" that i believe to be at the heart of our present problem.

...As an illustration of It, lets us take the example of affirmative action. Has it made some of the lives better? yes. maybe. I don't know. Depends on what you call "better". However, it has at the same time created a problem of trust between the two communities, and that may yet be its most lasting legacy ... believe me, for i speak from first hand experience. ;)

nicrap said...

Correction: ...believe me, for i TOO speak from first hand experience. :)

-FJ said...

That's an interesting link. I didn't realize that we were not the only country to institutionalize such moral hazards. I'm a firm believer in negative liberties and abhor these "positivist" approaches to correcting perceived inequalities.

And Lacan's "ethic" is to not compromise your desire. And I'll admit, I don't understand the implications yet, although I do admire the spirit of Antigone.

nicrap said...

That's an interesting link. I didn't realize that we were not the only country to institutionalize such moral hazards.

If you had slavery, we had this.

Joe Conservative said...

Some form of cultural homo sacer seems to be the rule, and not the exception