Archive | November, 2013

Wu and the art of Ghetto Revolution, pt. 2.1

20 Nov

Some Introductory Comments

In Part One I demonstrated through one intimate recollection and one (possibly historically accurate) thought experiment that faith can make you invisible.  And it even happened with a nice flow.   As a result you may have come here looking for an easy ride: a little street poetry: some  prettily packaged pseudophilosophy: a light read.

Fortunately for the dignity of the human condition, nothing is ever that easy.  Unfortunately the consequences of my reasoning in the previous phase force me to clarify the idea of rationalism in a postive relationship with ‘faith’ of the kind I described.

In Part Two, which will in fact spread across several installments in itself, I plan  to relate the particular species of faith addressed last time to the early work of Georges Sorel, and then to the historic success of black nationalism.  Or, which is to say the same thing – to the success of black capitalism.

It’s a contentious claim, which requires a vast weight of evidence.

That won’t happen here, but some reasonably defensible arguments will be advanced as a foundation, involving historical and cultural observations alongside beats, breaks and bebop philosophy. In passing, there’ll be a qualified defence of the idea of ‘divine mathematics’ and a profoundly unoriginal proposal for understanding the nature of the connection between music and other spheres of existence.  This will bring us back to the economic claim that provides this blog with its name, and forward to some useful understandings of mechanisms of revolutionary social change.  That will include addressing a wider meaning of Wu Tang.

Our Georges

Capitalism is boring.

We (that is to say, most of humanity) waste our lives working, or trying to get work, which is structured to generate an unearned surplus – in simpler language, an easy life – for others.  Those others become complacent about their dominant position, or terrified of losing it.  Human instincts towards useful work, beauty and creativity, or the pursuit of perfection are habitually thwarted, or reshaped to fit into serving an imaginary ‘market’.  This is nothing more than the sum total of the desires of the powerful, but heavily made up so as to appear as an impersonal thing beyond the reach of the merely human.

Like a  gargantuan sumo wrestler, perhaps, in ghostly drag.

Bar the accuracy of my language – which free-marketeers and dry academics might prefer to label as ’emotive’ or ‘picturesque’ – this portrait of our current social structure is neither unusual nor particularly contentious.  The idea that human work is what creates wealth (value) is commonplace amongst economists and business managers of every political persuasion, with the main qualification for further progress in the business world or academic economic analysis being the ability to forget or ignore the blindingly obvious.  Being angry about that work providing unearned rewards is indeed specifically a left-wing moral position, but (since the brutal and beautiful writing of Thorstein Veblen reached the soul of the modern world) most right-wingers also draw the line at feudal social relations in which the rich are not supposed to work at all.  Even contemporary English monarchists like to justify their allegiance to the royal house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha / Windsor by the astonishing claim that the Queen ‘works’ at promoting Britain.

The prime choice that remains after accepting the ubiquity of work – or the necessity of appearing to work – as is whether to seek reward for that work as an individual, or as a member of some collectivity.  When I say ‘reward’, I’m obviously covering a vast field.  At its most paltry, reward might be mere sustenance or the short-term avoidance of violent death or abuse. Such are (I would have liked to say ‘were’) the wages of slaves and indentured labourers.  At the other extreme the reward may be large amounts of a prestigious world currency, a luxury yacht, a private island  – or power so vast that title deeds and possessions themselves appear as nothing.

And everywhere along the scale, people manufactures stories, ‘myths’, that explain to themselves and to others – whether regarded as individuals or collectives, the circumstances they find themselves in.  Along with the appropriate strategies for keeping those circumstances, improving them, or changing them.

Georges Sorel’s most famous work, the 1908 Reflections on Violence, is an exploration of one of these myths and the role of faith within it.  Spelling out the nature of that faith, and connection I perceive with idea of faith in the Tao of Wu, shall be the subject of the next post.  Look forward to seeing you then.

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