Thoughts on the Cherokee Blood-Feud, or Anthropology is Only Fun Till Someone Puts an Eye Out!

This is a fascinating piece (with an irresistible title!). It reminded me of a documentary film called Push Back (or Pushback?),  Payback by Margaret Atwood. It’s a difficult film to remember because it’s a little all over the place, but one segment concerns a blood feud in Albania of all places. The consequences of the patriarch of this little family in the Albanian mountains having killed a neighbor over a dispute involving land was that every member of the family was marked for assassination if they left the property. The entire family, in other words, was serving the murder sentence. As “northier” says, this is not an anomalous form of justice; this is the apparent human default. Are there other animals that behave this way? Or is this sense of debt unique to us?

David Graeber touches on this in his history of debt. But northier makes an interesting observation about the collective guilt shared by the customer support staff operator (who’s often half a world away from the actual perpetrators of banking chicanery) with the whole corporation, at least in the view of the irritated customer.

Really interesting food for thought here.

northierthanthou

…and of course that is when it gets really interesting.

By poking an eye out, I am of course talking about a special sort of moment one gets from time to time in the study of anthropology, at least I do. It’s the sort of moment when some cultural practice causes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and your stomach tries to dig its way to China (or Antarctica, as would be the case here in Barrow). I’m talking about that kind of moment when you encounter something in an ethnography that just seems like too much. So, you sit there and ask yourself, “How in the Hell could that be anything but wrong?” And for a little while anyway, your mind just doesn’t want to travel down that road, the one that leads to understanding the practice in its own context. You’d rather just say ‘no’. Hell, you’d…

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Another blast from the past

“[M]odern democracy is at the service of global capitalism. We will not be voting our way toward a more humanist redistribution of resources, least of all if the market does not require it. Similarly, when we voted for Obama in 2008, we did not really vote for what we had the audacity to hope we were voting for, nor for change we really could believe in. We were voting, simply, for the choice the Democratic Party, through its intricate, arduous and obscenely expensive vetting process, presented to Democrats and Americans as the titular head of its party. We were not voting for any ideas other than the usual handful that get talked about endlessly in media that also owe their existence and wealth to global capitalism. We get what global capitalism pays for and wants and needs in that office to further its aims and agenda (of enriching the rich and distributing resources toward that end).”

Tragic Farce

I call myself a Democrat because that’s how I’ve been registered all of my voting life. In fact, the older I get, the more disconnected I feel from that label. I don’t want to register as an independent because, Bernie Sanders notwithstanding, I can’t get over the prejudice that American independents are all right-wing at heart. Was it George Wallace’s American Independent Party that instilled this in me? Who knows? It’s beginning to feel, however, that the correct radical stance in this disintegrating context is to not register or vote at all. A vote begins to feel like acquiescence to the corruption.

Did Democrats or any other Obama supporter vote for the fiasco of the last month, culminating in the supreme surrender by our audacious leader last night to the anti-democrats of the Republican Party, bypassing the leaders of his own party to give the (fictional) partisanship-loathing centrists of the…

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Blast from the past, but it seems relevant still

 

“It appears that the inequality gap in the US has been caused by a combination of legalized looting of public resources by the financial class and tax policies that have favored them above all other classes in the society. This is, in effect, a government underwritten redistribution of wealth away from the bottom 99% toward the top 1% and, therefore, it would seem to violate the Paulist principle that starts this article.”

Tragic Farce

4. Government may not redistribute private wealth or grant special privileges to any individual or group.

–from The Ten Principles of a Free Society

Continuing my gradual critique of Ron Paul’s Ten Principles, the next in line is relevant to what I’ve been talking a lot about these past few weeks, the great impetus behind #OccupyWallStreet: income inequality.

It’s significant that the godfather of the Tea Party movement (the original form of it, anyway) includes wealth redistribution in his principles of liberty. It points up an area where these two movements can either come together or get driven apart.  There’s no question about where #ows stands on this point. Income inequality is a key symptom of the disease #0ws arose in response to, and one of its goals, I would argue,  is to force a correction of what it views this to be: a moral wrong. If Paul is…

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#Frankenstorm and the Way We Talk About Climate Change

Andrew Revkin, in his Dot Earth blog for the New York Times, has been writing a lot over the past few days about the relation of global warming/climate change to the ferocious late-season appearance of #Frankenstorm Sandy, which flooded lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, tore up the Jersey shore, killed some 40 people in the US and left more than 7 million on the East Coast with no power for several days (not to mention the overlooked damage it wrought in the Caribbean before smashing into Delaware on Sunday). Many of his readers (including climate activist Dan Miller) accuse Revkin (who is a science journalist and not a professional scientist) of taking too cautious a tack on climate change generally and on human responsibility for the increase of North Atlantic storm activity in particular. Continue reading

Tax Increases or Books: A Library Fights Back

This video tells the tale of how Troy, Michigan’s public library cleverly and successfully fought back (with the help of an ad agency) against a Tea Party effort to shut it down in lieu of authorizing a 0.7% tax increase to keep it open. This story is probably a common one in the age of austerity. Although the election was almost two months ago, this is the first I heard of the campaign.

I’d like to believe that the Tea Partiers are sincere in their chagrin over the sense that they’ve lost control of their government. We on the left certainly can understand that. But they repeatedly show poor value judgment, as in this instance in Michigan. They can often seem to embody Oscar Wilde’s quip about a cynic knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. But they’re witless cynics if they don’t know that 0.7% added to a yearly tax bill is a very small price to pay for a library.

Jill Stein on Change: Not Just Something to Believe In

If Pres. Obama and the Democrats talked this talk and walked this walk, they would be giving me something to vote for. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what Jill Stein of the Green Party is giving me.

Who’s the Status Quo Candidate?

Since David Corn and Mother Jones (with the help of James E. Carter IV and an an0nymous videographer) have exposed Mitt Romney as a major spoiled preppy ass, the Republican presidential nominee and his cheerleaders on the right are valiantly trying to make lemonade with the explanation that Romney’s rant against the 47% who pay no income tax was actually a eulogy for personal responsibility. He has even said that most Americans “would like to be paying taxes” (unlike himself?). On the other hand, Romney is also using this “teachable moment”  to criticize the notion of what he and his Republican parrots (or puppeteers?) disparagingly refer to as “redistribution,” which they claim Obama once professed to “believe in”   during a speech at Loyola University in 1998.  (“[T]he trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody’s got a shot,”  they say Obama said.) Continue reading

Spitzer, Taibbi and Kelleher on LIBOR: Breathtaking Corruption Among Biggest Banks

There’s a huge scandal going on in the banking world that most people (myself included) are probably having difficulty really grasping. You’ve probably seen the word LIBOR and the names Barclays and Bob Diamond in financial news headlines, but you would be forgiven if you didn’t take the time to wrap your mind around what those stories are about. Eliot Spitzer, former NY governor and current Current TV host, with guests Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and Dennis Kelleher, a former K Street lawyer now working to reform the banking system, lays out the scandal a little more clearly in this brief clip.

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Graeber: “In America…the Entire System Is Built on Legalized Bribery”

This video interview with David Graeber of Occupy Wall Street by Italian activist, comedian and blogger Beppe Grillo covers a range of subjects this blog has also covered, focusing on debt, political power and direct democracy.  The questions appear in written Italian, but most should be fairly clear to anyone with high school-level familiarity with the romance languages, and those that aren’t Graeber answers very straightforwardly and clearly. (One thing he discusses that I’m not familiar with is the Italian 5 Star movement, of which Grillo is a leader.)

Graeber’s view of the American system is essentially captured by the quote which is the title of this post. I think it’s an accurate view. What do you think? I also greatly appreciate his proposed antidote to  the poison in the US system, which is for the people to act as though they are free and have power. That is what Occupy Wall Street is all about.

Does the Left Have a Patriotism Problem?

[I]t should not be lost on anyone that it is conservatives who typically carry around copies of our Constitution in their pockets. It is the Tea Party that refers relentlessly to the nation’s Founders. The movement’s very name invokes a key event in Revolutionary Era history to imply that there is a kind of illegitimacy to the current government in Washington akin to that of a king who once ruled the American colonies far from our shores. Representative Mike Pence of Indiana perfectly captured conservatives’ inclination to believe that their entire program is a recapitulation of the nation’s founding documents. “There’s nothing that ails this country,” Pence told a 2010 meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, “that couldn’t be fixed by paying more careful attention to the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.”

While the right was talking about history, liberals were talking about—well, health-care coverage, insurance mandates, cap-and-trade, financial reforms, and a lot of other practical stuff. One can offer a sympathetic argument here that progressives were trying to govern in a rather difficult moment and didn’t have time to go back to the books. But the left’s default was costly, and it was noticed by an editor of this journal in the spring of last year. “Beyond the circumscribed world of academic journals and conferences,” Elbert Ventura wrote in these pages, “history is being taught—on TV and talk radio, in blogs and grassroots seminars, in high school textbooks and on Barnes & Noble bookshelves. In all those forums, conservatives have been conspicuous by their activity—and progressives by their absence.” Ventura ended with this alarming coda: “If we don’t fight for history, progressivism itself will be history.”

E.J. Dionne, “Why History Matters to Liberalism

It’s almost accepted as a truism that people on the right in the US are more patriotic–or, at least, more comfortable with expressing patriotic sentiment–than people on the left. This is not too controversial a notion on left or right, though you will certainly find many in the Democratic Party full-throatedly denying that it’s based on fact. Liberal Democrats, they say, can get just as teary-eyed over “The Star Spangled Banner” as the most politically constipated Bircher. You will also hear among a certain kind of Democrat the sort of argument you hear among liberal Christians comparing themselves to fundamentalists, about the ersatz nature of right-wing patriotism compared to “real” liberal patriotism.

But I think most people would agree that those on the right are far more comfortable wrapping themselves in the flag than those on the left. To test that, ask yourself how you think the fellow in the photo below would feel about corporate tax rates, government regulation of companies’ CO2 emissions, federal investment in renewable energy sources or subsidization of early childhood education in the barrios of our Southwestern cities.

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