Friday, February 27, 2015

Pollyannaism is an act of submission

Okay so I finally figured out why I hate pollyannaism.  There was always an enormous disconnect for me -- because the most pollyanna people I know are also the most depressive.  And so the gap between how they insist that they (and everyone else) see the world (everything is awesome!) and how they are surely feeling inside is quite jarring.  But I always felt bad about distrusting pollyanna people because after all, they were only guilty of being overly sunny, surely they were not hurting anyone -- fake it till you make it right?

But it finally clicked for me the other day -- pollyannaism is an act of submission.  Pollyanna people insist that instead of acting on the information right in front of us that we slip instead into a fictitious alternate reality (a coma really) where everything is always awesome.  The ONLY possible outcome of pollyannaism is to leave the status quo in place.  Strategizing is impossible with pollyanna people because they purposefully ignore the facts in favor of an alternate Candyland reality.

Pollyannaism is an agnotological project -- it is the willful construction of ignorance by weak people who don't want to be burdened with the discomfort and responsibility that comes from realizing that we have a moral responsibility to challenge the status quo.  Pollyannaism is a surrender to protect elites and to show elites that we really mean them no harm.  Pollyannaism is thus a form of totalitarianism, a system where one is not only required to be obedient to a ruling regime, but is required to actually believe, upon pain of death, the fictions of the regime.

To be clear, there is an enormous difference between pollyannaism and the "positive self talk" that athletes engage in.  Positive self talk is a tool for staying focused in the moment to propel one to even greater actions.  Pollyannaism is the opposite of all that -- jumping ahead to a happy conclusion (we always already won already) so as to prevent action even in the midst of conflict.  Elites thus love pollyannaism because it signals surrender and they hate positive self talk because it shows that we are still engaged in the fight.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

So there is still the problem of violence

People seem to be talking about a Universal Basic Income Guarantee. I think the conversation is a good thing and this idea may indeed be the revolution.

But it seems to me that there is still the question of violence.  The entire global economy is founded on violence (of varying types and degrees). There is the direct violence of U.S. (and soon to be Chinese) imperial wars to control natural resources and markets.  But there is also the internalized violence that causes most people on the planet to get up every day and go to jobs that they don't want to be doing. The market is violence -- if you fail to follow the rules of the market (go to work, earn money, pay you bills), you and your family will be evicted, jailed, homeless, starving, and/or left outside to freeze.  So we internalize the violence and force ourselves to do unpleasant things in order to avoid the (even greater) external violence.

A universal basic income guarantee rightly aims to remove violence from the system. But literally, once you take violence out, no one picks strawberries. And garbage collectors would need to make $100,000 a year. Which might be fantastic. It would get rid of all the bullshit jobs that David Graeber talks about.

Okay, fair enough.  But if the universal basic income is adopted in only one country (or just a handful of rich countries) -- don't most of the lousy jobs just move to poorer countries? And don't rich countries then have even more incentive to oppress poor countries in the attempt to keep prices down? So in solving the problem of bullshit jobs in one country -- have we merely moved them to another (which is what we do already, but this would just accelerate that trend). Said differently, does a universal basic income lead to even more neocolonialism rather than less? Does removing the internalized violence in the first world just amplify the external and internal violence in the third world?