While I’m on a meta…
October 24, 2010 Leave a comment
Just wanted to note this post by La Lubu from last year, about Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. It is this last bit that works as a general statement, something I find truly bewildering when I encounter Americans who hold that raw social Darwinist selfishness is “human nature” (which is why they have to constantly argue for it, to produce the very behaviour they consider “natural”):
To be real: the commentary that my daughter and I raised back-and-forth with one another throughout the film? That’s how I was raised, too. Old-school labor union democratic socialism, the kind referenced in the film as FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. As is pointed out in the film, other nations enjoy this “second bill of rights” while people in the United States did and do not. While I was raised with an ethic of solidarity, the outside world, the world that feared unionism treading in its space, taught that capitalism is “human nature”. That looking out for “number one” was the way of the world. That people were fundamentally selfish and lazy, and that given any opportunity to cut corners or abandon others, they would. The philosophy of the gabbillotu, the overseer. Another legacy of the U.S. history of slavery; the recognition that oppressed people would resist in any way possible, no matter how limited their means to do so—but this time, extended to reference the entire character of people at large.
Unreferenced in this capitalistic worldview is the call to Craftsmanship. Creativity. The will toward artistry, imagination, virtuosity as a province of the common people. Capitalism holds that these qualities are rare. I disagree. Seeking craftsmanship, taking pride and ownership in one’s work, is as human as language…and as widespread.
La Lubu points out the ways in which craftsmanship is devalued (which ties in interestingly to the William Gibson post about how craftsmanship often disappears with mechanisation), and it’s long been a source of Leftist resistance to capitalism–think of William Morris’s utopia News From Nowhere, which imagines a world of pure creativity and craftsmanship.
Also is interesting in the context of the profound lie that is “austerity measures” and the recent decimation of the UK’s social services is the second “Bill of Rights” referred to, which is summarised aptly on Wikipedia:
- Employment, with a living wage,
- Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies,
- Medical care,
- Education, and,
- Social security
This just seems like basic common sense, but it is a measure of how rapidly neoliberal dogmas have become dominant that in the United States today to argue for any of these things (or the gutted, monetised neoliberal versions Obama prefers) is to court criticism from the Right as Socialist, a traitor, and so on.. This is just odd if you come as I do from a country that has had in your lifetime free universal education and healthcare, and progressively cut those things and made the country worse, but nevertheless there it is. Still, it is worth remembering that in 1945 an American President declared that these things were basic human rights. And they still are.