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Posts Tagged ‘progressive politics’

Hi!  It’s me, Trivium, posting for the first time in a long while.  I tried doing the song lyrics analysis thing here last year for a while and it was fun, but I know that mostly why people still come here is for the trenchant, often economical analysis of various topics that matter.

I’ve been wanting to do something on this for a while, since the Black Lives Matter movement exploded a year or two ago, but well, a) it seems like blogs have moved on a bit, and are now a bit 2008, and b) time, time time, which they are attempting to squeeze out of even professors now more than ever.  I am resisting, but one can only resist one’s employer so much and still stay in the good books.  Basically as my professional life has taken off, it’s meant so much less mental energy for blog posts.  Today in fact, I should be organizing a conference and writing the intro to my latest edited volume, but…

So here’s a topic which interests me, the long-term economic historian, so much.  And where I think I have a genuinely useful voice to add to the din, and perhaps help people to get over their own bigotry and prejudices, and get more into actually solving today’s most serious problems.

Ok, so the world has gone a bit crazy over ‘identity politics’ in the last year or so.  This is a natural development of what has been going on in intellectual circles since about 1990, and in some ways, decades before that.  It is the trend where identifiable minorities become the darling hero of progressives.  So basically for progressives the more minority you are, the better.  So if you’re gay, great:  if you’re a gay pirate, better, if you’re a substance-abusing, sadomasochistic, gay pirate, even better~!  I know a professor who got a coveted tenure job writing about these:  no joke.  And in progressive circles, i.e., around liberal arts departments, one can hardly get a job now unless one is a minority, or ‘at least’ a woman:  a recent university of chicago ad said:  we want 3 things from candidates:  a list of publications, a list of teaching qualifications, and a statement of how you have contributed to campus diversity in the past.  Wow.  And yet, they tell you if you ask, that there is no ‘bias’ towards minority or women candidates.  In fact, while women and minority progressives harp on about how they can’t get equal pay etc., in academia, the pendulum has demonstrably turned against white male new hires, at least.  I know the old boy network is still white male, in many cases, but for new hires, you’re up shit’s creek without a paddle if you’re a white dude, who happens still to be the majority of applicants in topics like say, European philosophy.  But if you’re black and do European history or literature, you have 10 job offers in one year, while if you’re white with a much better CV of publications, you have 1 offer in 10 years if you’re lucky.  Now I exaggerate a bit, but I’ve been around and seen a lot, and this is the clear trend in academic hires.

Fine.  My point is that the conservative movement does have a bit of real ammunition, when they argue that things have moved perhaps a bit towards the hysterical regarding ‘the nightmare it is to be black in America today’ as a recent slate article about a movie about black people put it.  It assumes that at every moment, to be black in the US right now is to inhabit a special type of torture.  And I’ve been following the police brutality thing:  I am the very first to admit please note, that there are massive problems with police racism and that US cops in general are way way too aggressive:  (a lot of this has to do with the fact that guns are legal and so they are always facing death:  this might get people more on edge.) (more…)

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Edit:  ok, so this post was done in a bit of a ‘ranting’ mood, when my wife and I were trying to find something to do, or somewhere to go, in rural Belgium, which did not cost 100 Euros for the family, between gas and/or restaurant fees.  Note at the end I begin to reiterate what I have said in other posts, which is that I am very fond of many things European, enough that I’d rather live here than in North America.  But anyway, take the first part of this as shorthand, which tries to make a number of points quickly, without pausing to be nice; I had a lot to cram into this one post, and b/c I write for a living I have relatively little time to devote to this sort of post, so I had to do it fast… anyway, it’s not at all intended to be rude, as you’ll see if you get to the end, but instead to get European continentals (who whether they wish to believe it or not can be just as smug and culture-o-centric as anyone…) to think beyond some of their cherished stereotypes of North Americans.  (It also should have the effect of causing American liberals to look beyond some of their stereotypes of the ‘European person’ as a liberal person’s Jesus figure.., and realize, in other words, that some of the things they continually criticize in the American right’s economic policies might actually be empowering their own lifestyle, to a degree that they could never realize until they lived in Europe, and found that much of what they hold dear cannot exist here due, I think, to relatively rigid continental modes of thought, which could use some shaking up.  And finally, Hey, I’m a progressive, I shake things up, whether it’s in the U.S. or Europe, so it’s good for everyone to get the cobwebs out.)

Like most progressive folks in the US, I spent most of my conscious life under the assumption that Europe was of course culturally more progressive than the US.  Because Europeans are generally quite socially liberal, and because some European countries have laws in place which tend to favour working moms, and working people in general, together with liberal views on healthcare, the environment etc., one gets the impression that European culture and society in general are not only liberal, but innovative, and interesting.  Based on the fitishization that Americans do of “European” food, furniture, clothing, cars, etc…, one would imagine that when one came to Europe that one would find fashion-forward trends in clothing, housewares, restaurants, eating habits, Eco/Green items, etc.  And based on the worship that American greens have of European green-ness, including the environmentally friendly laws that Europeans are supposed to have in place, against things like GMOs, nuclear power, and the like, one would imagine that coming to Europe one would find people who are super green, super aware, and super into green eating., etc.

I have had these ideas from the American media and advertising, and they were generally confirmed from the vegetarianism and progressivism that I found while living with British and German students for a few years in England during and after undergrad, and I found that they were also somewhat confirmed from living in Barcelona.  There were cool and hip and progressive stores and magazines, and other cultural forces at work in Barcelona, but not much of this anywhere else in Spain – but I figured that, hey the Spanish are Latins after all, and so surely the northern Europeans, such as the Dutch, Scandinavians, Germans, etc., would be that much more Green and progressive, right?

Well, imagine my surprise when I move to Holland and find that, au contraire, the Dutch are at least 10 years behind the Americans and Canadians in terms of progressive culture.  For one thing, the Dutch eat horribly.  Totally blandly. (more…)

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