Bang to Rights! A Review of Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

loaded

In March 2018, hundreds of thousands marched against the proliferation of guns in the USA[i], following outrage against yet another school shooting, this time in Florida.  It is clear the debate about guns is reaching a critical level where some kind of change – either some form of gun control, or entrenchment of existing practice, is inevitable.  Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s new book could not be timelier.

The United States is alone in liberal democracies in having a Constitution that encourages gun ownership.  The costs are fatal:

“Total gun deaths in the United States average around 37,000 a year, with two-thirds of those deaths being suicides, leaving approximately 12,000 homicides, a thousand of those at the hands of the police.  Mass shootings – ones that leave four or more people wounded or dead – now occur in the United States, on average, at the pace of one or more per day.  Disturbing as that fact is, mass shootings currently account for only 2 percent of gun killings annually.”[ii]

Of the 300 million guns in the USA, the majority are owned by under 25% of the population who tend to each have around eight guns in their households.  The colossal scale of human tragedy was also echoed by commentator Mark Shields who said that since 1968, “more Americans have died from [domestic] gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country’s history,”[iii] a claim that has been fact-checked by Politifact.

The justification for widespread gun ownership is absent in philosophical liberalism.  John Stuart Mill, arguably liberalism’s greatest theorist on the subject of liberty, would not approve of widespread gun ownership because the likelihood of harm to others is too great, as all the blogs on the subject of Mill’s attitude to gun control attest[iv].  In its modern incarnation of ‘individual right,’ moral justification for gun ownership is attributable more to the anarcho-capitalism of Robert Nozick who thought the good society is only secured by having the most minimal state possible.  However, it seems the good society is far from here yet, with an absence of gun control in the USA; indeed, with President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers in the wake of the Florida school shooting, an atmosphere of paranoia seems to be descending that can only harm liberty overall.

Nevertheless, Dunbar-Ortiz criticises gun control proponents as well, at least to the extent they only want legislation rather than a wider reform of gun culture.  Previous attempts to regulate guns have only led to police harassment of minority communities.  For example, in 1967, Bobby Seale read a statement from a police station after more than twenty Black Panther men and women had been arrested and disarmed that Dunbar-Ortiz quotes:

“The Black Panther party for self-defense calls upon the American people in general and the black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature which is considering legislation aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of black people.”[v]

So, if the police and white vigilantes are armed, the argument put forward is that so should blacks be in order to defend themselves.  Gun control, therefore, is just as bad as gun proliferation.  It is clear from this that gun control alone is insufficient – what is needed is to square up to the facts about a society in which racism remains a powerful force.  Nevertheless, in 2010, 55% of gun-related homicides in the US were African-Americans, who comprised 13% of the population, suggesting guns may not be a magic bullet in terms of self-protection.  Furthermore, although not an advocate of the legal route in isolation, Dunbar-Ortiz clearly believes a substantial pillar of the racist culture is indeed the Second Amendment itself.  Loaded thus traces the history of the Second Amendment in practice to show what an irrational Constitutional statement it is.

The Second Amendment, although widely believed to be about individual rights, historically was not about that, but about conquest and plunder.  It codifies the entitlement of violent militias to kill Native Americans (Red Indians), and steal their land.  It is there from the outset in its wording: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” states the Second Amendment.  The Second Amendment concerned the fledgling USA’s ability to continue to plunder Native American territory by attempting to wipe out the population via the barrel of a gun, and practically obliged the colonial settlers to arm themselves and form militias to this end.  Prior to the writing down of the Second Amendment, “Virginia, the first colony, forbade any man to travel unless he was ‘well armed.’ A few years later, another law required men to take arms with them to work and to attend church or be fined.  In 1658, the colony ordered every settler home to have a functioning firearm, and later even provided government loans for those who could not afford to buy a weapon.”[vi]  The first President, George Washington, was leader of the Virginia militia.

The Second Amendment, far from being a proper ‘right of man,’ simply tied together existing policies concerning the crushing of Indian resistance and the seizure of their land.

“Several of the colonies that declared independence in 1776 – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia – had already adopted individual gun-rights measures into their state constitutions before the Second Amendment was passed at the federal level…Settler-militias and armed households were institutionalized for the destruction and control of Native peoples, communities, and nations.”[vii]

The Second Amendment was no boon for the liberation of humanity, therefore, but was

roxanne dunbar ortiz
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

conceived of as a piece of racist legislation from the outset to enforce white supremacy.  Thus, it is no surprise that the logic of the Second Amendment compelled the “savage war” between 1607-1890 that usurped more and more territory (the subject of Chapter Two), and the formation of “slave patrols” (the subject of Chapter Three), that harassed the slaves that had been drawn into this “Empire of Liberty” (Thomas Jefferson’s words).  Dunbar-Ortiz makes a convincing case that the modern US police force was historically drawn from these slave patrols, and generally prolonged its raison d’etre in terms of oppressing the black population.

The consequences of the Second Amendment – white people eliminating Indigenous communities – have been felt in cultural products since its inception, from the books of the nineteenth century through to the Hollywood of the 20th and 21st centuries that romanticises gun culture where often the heroes get mixed up in the mind with Confederate outlaws.  Furthermore, the “myth of the hunter” romanticises the purpose of guns and turns the settler-colonialists into racial superiors.

It is silly to cite the Second Amendment as a protection for hunting rights given that most countries already permit regulated hunting without requiring a Second Amendment.  In a post-Second Amendment America, guns could still be used on the shooting range, and for regulated hunting, it is just they would not be to oppress other people.  Just as one should be unhindered in seeing performing animals at a zoo, theme park, or circus, you don’t need the ability for a quarter of the population to keep eight lions at home as the ‘fullest expression’ of that right.

Dunbar-Ortiz regards the present period as one in which the gun debate has been reignited following the US defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s.  This event shook the meaning of the Second Amendment, if correctly understood not as a right to own guns but as means of colonial expansionism.  The Vietnamese were frequently described as if they were the new Indians the Americans had to vanquish.  Thus, military defeat here inevitably called into question the validity and scope of the Second Amendment.  In response, liberals from this period onwards became more vociferous in calling for some form of gun control.  This made right-wing gun owners more paranoid, and it is from this point onwards that mass shootings multiply in frequency.  School shootings begin to occur and gradually become more common because the school is where liberal values are transmitted to the next generation.  Mass shooters, although invariably suffering from forms of mental illness, are often reacting against liberals who they fear are about to take away their guns.  Under the Barack Obama administration (2008-2016), gun purchase was at a very high level because the President kept promising to regulate them.  People bought guns to beat the closing opportunity.  Ironically under the subsequent Trump administration where white supremacy has a more solidified powerbase, the rate of gun acquisition has slightly lowered as people feel their fetish is not about to be immediately taken away.  Nevertheless, this does not affect the rate of mass shootings and other atrocities because the perpetrators have always only been acting out the fantastic drama of a race war or gender war.

Bearing in mind all these points, it is not immediately clear how the future should evolve.  If both gun ownership and gun control can similarly provoke horrendous acts in society, then how should we proceed?  Dunbar-Ortiz thinks that highly militarized foreign policy can partly explain the domestic attachment to guns, so that could be a locus for intellectual and practical combat, as could the Second Amendment itself.  The main strength of the book is in demystifying what the Second Amendment is really about.  Certainly, if everyone was aware of the history as presented by Dunbar-Ortiz, it could partly affect a cultural shift against guns, as no doubt the continuing protests against mass shootings will, in the realm of practice.  But ultimately the much-needed cultural shift can only receive a boost from a more profound structural change.  Dunbar-Ortiz is completely correct when she says:

“The militaristic-capitalist powerhouse that the United States became by 1840 derived from real estate (which included enslaved Africans, as well as appropriated land).  The United States was founded as a capitalist state and an empire on conquered land, with capital in the form of slaves, hence the term chattel slavery; this was exceptional in the world and has remained exceptional.  The capitalist firearms industry was among the first successful modern corporations.  Gun proliferation and gun violence today are among its legacies.”[viii]

Here, Dunbar-Ortiz is rightly pointing the finger at capitalism itself.  But more conceptual analysis of capitalism is required to elucidate the truth she has identified.  Why is it that capitalism only expands aggressively and at a great cost to human life, of which guns are a reinforcing symptom, but not the cause?  Compared to previous social systems that only expanded in terms of the odd raid here and there but weren’t completely genocidal, and compared to a future society in which something like ‘universal human wealth’ expands peacefully and democratically, why is it that capitalism, particularly US capitalism, has such a dire track record that requires the abhorrent Second Amendment as a Constitutional claim?

The answer is that capital-ism, i.e. the logic of capital-in-general, is distinct from the simple desire to produce for one’s needs.  Capital-in-general only exists concretely in the form of many-capitals.  These privately owned mini-capitals are all in competition with one another.  To survive, the owner of a particular capital has to compete aggressively and attempt to expand.  Therefore, all the many-capitals are competing with one another and expanding.  So, capital-in-general calls forth a state army to cement itself as a social system that is viable.  The logic of the particular individual capital as a thing that is privately owned and in competition with enemies, extends upwards to a social system whereby capital-in-general becomes this horrible entity hell-bent on the extermination of anything that stands in its way.  It can only be in the tackling of capitalism as a totality that the USA can come to its senses over guns.  Dunbar-Ortiz’ marvellous book allows us to make these preliminary observations and is a must-read for anyone interested in the gun debate or indeed the world at large.

 

 

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2018/mar/24/march-for-our-lives-protest-gun-violence-washington – viewed on April 10, 2018

[ii] Dunbar-Ortiz, R. (2018) “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment” (San Francisco: City Lights Books), p. 20

[iii] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jan/18/mark-shields/pbs-commentator-mark-shields-says-more-killed-guns/ – viewed on April 10, 2018

[iv] See for example https://lifeexaminations.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/mill-on-gun-control/ – viewed on April 10, 2018 or https://sites.dwrl.utexas.edu/liberrimus/2017/10/25/mill-on-gun-control/ – viewed on April 10, 2018 or https://bpr.berkeley.edu/2013/08/05/political-philosophy-and-the-gun-control-debatewhat-would-bentham-mills-and-nozick-have-to-say/ – viewed on April 10, 2018

[v] Dunbar-Ortiz, p. 167

[vi] Ibid., p. 35

[vii] Ibid., p.36

[viii] Ibid., p.39

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How To Create A Classless Society: Abolish Profit!

Capitalist
“Don’t look at me!  – get back to work!”

 

Why is it important to create a classless society?

 

All of the social problems we face emanate originally from the division of society into two warring classes: capitalist, and proletariat.  These problems develop in manifold ways according to their own internal logic, or lack of, and alienate and oppress humanity.

 

Civil libertarians need to urgently realise the class basis to their causes.  The state is the primary organ through which the ruling class exert their control over society.  Whether your cause is a beef against parenting classes that undermine parental autonomy, smoking restrictions, or drinking restrictions, the ban on drugs, police harassment of ethnic minorities, immigration controls, whatever – all this stems from the state that is hungry to crush liberty, and itself is the primary organ through which the ruling class exert their control over society.

 

Those worried about the problems of work being unrewarding and causing of suffering in a capitalist society are also concerned about the class division.  The character of our whole society is affected by the class division.  Indeed, the project of human liberation gets nowhere until it confronts class.  The civil libertarians are necessarily on a losing streak until they confront class, because the state will keep on coming back and back at them.  Any victory for civil liberties tends to be short-lived.  Therefore, this blog seeks to unite everyone who has a problem with the way contemporary society is by locating the base problem in the fundaments of class society that creates the state.  It is that which must be done away with.  To get rid of the state presupposes we must get rid of class division.

 

How to create a classless society

 

The capitalist class are only reproduced by the existence of profit.  It is their ownership of profit that distinguishes them from even the wealthiest middle-class worker.  The ownership of profit gives them command over the way society is run, allows them to control the media in their own interests, and generally inhibits freedom for the majority.  Where the capitalist has profit, the worker has his wage.  These are quite different categories.

 

The wage represents the value of everything needed to reproduce and sustain the worker at a socially acceptable level – all the food, housing, childcare costs, occasional holiday, etc.  What it is not is an adequate compensation for work expended.  The worker generally produces more in a week’s work than he or she takes home as the wage.  But they are not paid for the quantity of goods they produce, they are paid as to what can reproduce them for the next round of work.  So, there is a discrepancy between worker’s pay and what workers have produced.  That quantity of value is what constitutes profit, the lifeblood of the capitalist.

 

Therefore, to create a classless society requires a new approach to wages and profit.  In fact, profit has to be done away with entirely to get rid of what reproduces the capitalist class.  How do you get rid of profit?  By abolishing wages.  Instead of paying the worker a wage that only represents what is necessary to sustain and reproduce him or her, instead workers-in-control pay themselves the full value of their produce.  If workers received an equivalent value to the work they have put in, then there is nothing left over, there is no profit any more.  Therefore, the capitalist class cease to exist, and you have a classless society.

 

The technology used in production could still be reinvested in by workers contributing part of their new earnings to it as part of the collective within the enterprise.  But without a capitalist owning the place and an army of managers and sergeants watching over them, then work suddenly becomes far more rewarding, especially knowing you will take home more than under capitalism.  Furthermore, you are now a real stakeholder as opposed to the bullshit use of this term by capitalistic politicians.

 

The worker would of course still pay some form of taxation – to fund schools, welfare, etc.  But given they have just received a 50% pay rise, they probably wouldn’t grudge that.  Also, they have an equal say over how the social fund from taxation is deployed, so would feel enriched by this.

 

Without the existence of profit, the post-capitalist economy loses capitalism’s tendency towards crisis, meaning the whole of society greatly improves in all dimensions, including morally.

 

It could be said that this is just a sketch of a worker’s co-operative.  It isn’t because I would advocate the model on a worldwide scale to get rid of capitalism in its entirety.  It should also be added that new participatory democratic structures would need to be called forward to co-ordinate the production of goods to unleash the already latent social dimension to production.  As people learn to co-operate more and more, they will swap jobs over with each other, to try new things, and develop their all-round capacities.

 

To summarise: the creation of a classless world unfetters a profound human liberation.

 

For Rob O’Connor: A Homeless Man Who Froze To Death In Chelmsford City

rob o'connor
Rob O’Connor

I first met Rob after a gig by my favourite comedian Stewart Lee at Chelmsford’s Civic Theatre back in 2011.  Rob asked me for “50p for a cup of tea” which I was able to spare.  Over subsequent years I saw him lurking in a sorrowful state on several occasions and would give him cigarettes or spare change.  Sadly, this man, who was a rough sleeper, died a week ago from the horrendous tragedy of freezing to death on the streets.  Yes, you read it right – he froze to death in the 21st century.

 

Regarding reporting of this terrible event, the BBC initially took the same response I did – implying fury and outrage at the preventable death of a young man.  But then 2 days later, the BBC reneged on their outrage saying there was a shelter available not too far away from where Rob died that had spare space, and he could have stayed there.

 

Rob died outside of an Argos store that had shut down several months earlier, laying off a couple of dozen workers.  This building is quite big – sufficient to house all of Chelmsford’s homeless.  Yet the building was not requisitioned on the popular thoroughfare of Springfield Road by the Council, it has lain idle.  So, the irony is, Rob froze to death in the doorway of a building that is not even in use, yet had been shuttered.

 

Regarding the so-called “shelter” that Rob ‘could have’ used, this is 23-24 George Street.  It is about a 7 minute walk from where he died, and does not tolerate smoking inside, drink or drugs, that inevitably puts off many homeless, hence it is frequently running under full capacity.  Furthermore, it is run by Christians who offer advice regarding benefits you can claim with the ultimate intention of getting you into work.  But if it was the world of work that the homeless often despise due to various ‘mental health problems’ (as they are called) or other factors.  In short, who would want to stay in a shelter that just moralises at you to get a job?

 

Don’t get me wrong, the Christians who run the shelter are motivated by good intentions.  It is great they are there to offer help to those who don’t mind the nagging aspect to their care.  And technically it is true that Rob would not have died that night if he had availed himself of such benign charity.  But let’s face it, it is not an ideal situation.  Run the risk of freezing to death or suffer patronising Christians when you have no faith is a perilous choice to make.  Furthermore, Rob probably was staying out late to try and get more spare change from people coming out of nearby clubs.

 

The big problem which the BBC reportage has glossed over is that it shouldn’t be the responsibility of caring individuals, Christian or otherwise, to provide the necessary help.  It should be a responsibility of the Council.  Individuals are not duty-bound to provide care to the homeless, though it may tug on their heart-strings and is a noble act when they do.  But because those in need often resent the kind of care being offered, it would be better if a Council offered a neutral form of support, i.e. simply providing shelter for those who through no fault of their own have become homeless.  There could be leaflets regarding the claiming of benefits, but no mandatory interviews with Christian counsellors upon arrival.  And the temporary accommodation provided must allow the individual homeless person or family to do whatever they want, as too the rest of us should expect in our homes – to smoke, drink, take drugs, if that is your poison.

 

3D printing can now knock up reasonable temporary accommodation in the course of a few hours.  Why isn’t this technology being deployed to solve a pressing social problem?

 

Really this issue harks to the whole problem of private ownership over each and every building.  Surely at least some buildings should be exempt from this notion.  If allocated rationally, homelessness – a rising problem in all the ‘advanced’ countries – could be abolished overnight and deaths prevented.  When humanity’s desire to solve problems encounters a problem with ‘objective circumstances’, then it is time to change those circumstances.

 

Chelmsford Council might argue that unhindered free accommodation would just encourage more homeless to come here.  The image they are trying to create of the town centre – fashionable stores (that always seem to close down within 2 years) – is incompatible with the socialist cause.  They would say that housing the homeless sends a negative advertisement to the rest of the country.  But surely the real negative advertisement for a city is that people freeze to death within its jurisdiction.  Do they really want to amend the road signs: “Welcome to Chelmsford: Good luck!” or would it better to have a rational policy regarding homelessness that is not governed by the law of value for money?

Why Society’s Surplus Product Should Be Democratically Controlled

money

Measured in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which is a superior measure to GDP, global output in 2017 is forecast to be $126.7 trillion.  Assuming a population of 7bn, in which 50% of the population work (a generous estimate), then everyone’s wages throughout the entire world ought to be $36,200 per year.  Not bad, huh?  But the mean average wage of a world worker that conflates the difference between a Luxembourger (the highest paid) and someone in the Third World, is only $18,000 at 2012 estimates (and it’s doubtful wages have risen much since then).  So, where’s the extra money gone?  Where is the other 50%?  Not in wages!

 

Naïve people might think the missing 50% goes into paying for health services, education, welfare, or paying off national debt.  Wrong!  All these things come from taxes which are taken from the wage.  They are not taken from the missing 50%, they are taken from the accounted-for 50%.

 

So where is the missing $60 trillion, each and every year, at current levels of development?  We know that $32 trillion of it resides in off-shore tax havens.  But that’s just a total, and doesn’t account for $60 trillion per year, every year.  Obviously, some of it goes on elite hobbies such as the art market, yachts, racehorses, and squandering ¼ $1bn on footballer Neymar, etc.  But such ultra-luxury consumption still couldn’t explain the size of the missing trillions.

 

The missing trillions, given the number of years this situation has gone on, are actually not trillions.

 

They are quadrillions.

 

Here is what a quadrillion looks like written out:

 

1,000,000,000,000,000.

 

Quite big, huh?

 

There is $1.2 quadrillion invested in derivatives alone.  Other investments such as real estate, industry, etc., pale in comparison, merely at the level of x trillion.  But yeah, the largest chunk of society’s surplus product is invested in speculative finance.

 

When right wing economists tell you we all need to work harder and create a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, it is worth bearing in mind that we already work hard enough thank-you, and perhaps a cybernetic future in which we all go around wearing VR headsets is a bit too much to stomach.  The problem isn’t a lack of wealth, it is the way it is distributed.  And this mode of distribution flows from a particular mode of production in which the surplus product becomes privately rather than socially owned.

 

When elites tell you ‘there isn’t enough money’ to fund this, that, or the other, we should now question what measure of wealth they are using.  If they are talking about funds raised from taxation of the working class, sure, there isn’t enough money.  But what if society, acting as a collective entity with purpose, took back our missing quadrillions?  Perhaps if the surplus product, which is all entirely derived from the total work of the world, was in our hands, instead of a minority parasite blood-sucking vampire class, i.e. placing the surplus product under the democratic control of society, maybe something useful could be done?

 

Should Sportswomen Be Paid the Same as Men?

dutchwomenfootball
Fans of the female Dutch football side

I have been embroiled in an interesting facebook debate on this question, initiated by a thoughtful trouble-maker, henceforth referred to as AC.  His argument was that in many sports (though he conceded not all), the women’s game is far inferior, therefore it attracts less audience and subsequently less revenue and sponsorship opportunities.  Ergo, the female players in, for example, football, ought to be paid less.

 

Part of our debate hinged on this notion of ‘ought’.  Just because there is less revenue attached, does that justify the situation of gender inequality in sport where England’s top player Steph Houghton earns around £65,000 a year whilst Wayne Rooney earns £300,000 a week?  AC thought it did, because the revenue streams are so much greater around Rooney, unlike Houghton who many people could not identify if shown a picture of her.  A battle ensued concerning if both players put in an equal amount of work, shouldn’t that imply equal wages?  A snipe from BL asserted this notion does not work because if a blind cripple also put in the same amount of labour time, then this would not justify equal wages because they would be hopeless.  So, merit also has to be a consideration.  Obviously, there’s no point in only paying sportspeople according to labour time expended because that trivialises the spectacle of winning and succeeding and putting on a good show, the essential life-blood of any sport, or indeed much of entertainment, as a whole.  But is merit and achievement the only consideration?  Why then, has tennis ace Serena Williams attracted less total revenue than Maria Sharapova, given she has won far more tournaments?

 

Whatever the case, it remains somewhat troublesome that there is such a stark gap between the top women and top men in sport.  Furthermore, it seems that even when women do attract a greater revenue stream than the men, they still don’t get paid as much!  Revenue from the USA’s women’s soccer team amounts to £14m more than the men’s game, yet a female player only gets £30,000 whereas a man would get £48,000.  Five US female players are going to court against US Soccer to try and sort out this anomaly.

So what of the argument that the women’s game is inferior to the men’s?  It could be argued this is for historical reasons.  The women’s game has been chronically underfunded for centuries with less coaching opportunities and little financial incentive that can reward talent.  So, the argument about superior quality may be a ‘chicken and egg’ thing.  What came first – women’s exclusion from sport that creates a poorer performance when they do play, or an ‘inherent’ poor performance that might justify less investment?

 

An article in ‘The New Statesman’ argues, “Victorian society viewed sport as “inseparable from the philosophy of Muscular Christianity, which defined itself against femininity and ‘softness’,” says Tony Collins, the author of Sport in Capitalist Society. It did not think much of the notion of women playing.  Nor did Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic Games, in 1896. He described women’s sport as “the most unaesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate” and advocated that the games be reserved for men, though a few females were allowed to compete from 1900. In 1921, the Football Association in England deemed the sport “quite unsuitable for females” and banned its clubs from loaning pitches to women.”

 

So perhaps what is happening now is a redress to sport’s shameful past that systematically excluded women.  However, this is not without naysayers.  AC thought the promotion of women’s sport that is happening today, most recently with the Women’s European Football, is actually ‘social engineering’ and therefore distasteful if the women’s game is inferior.  But if the women’s game is not inherently inferior, but appears so only as a product of history and society, then the notion of ‘social engineering’ needs to be stripped of its negative connotations.  The promotion of women’s football need not incur negative feelings among men unless they have a problem with equality in general.  (And besides which, lots of people do think the women’s game is just as good as the men’s albeit with different qualities).

Regarding the huge sums of money thrown at men’s football where someone like Neymar can earn a quarter of a billion pounds compared to Steph Houghton’s £65,000 a year, this is merely money from the surplus product of society as-a-whole that cannot find a profitable investment in industry.  It is leisure-capital that doesn’t even seek much of a return on its investment, it is luxury consumption, and thus these top male footballers have become playthings of the rich.  It is a popular perception that football stars are overpaid, but we need to ask why?  It is because some people literally have tonnes of money to burn where investing in healthcare or education isn’t as sexy.  Nevertheless, the indication is that there is such a thing as a gigantic surplus product in society that needs to be better used, and perhaps some of that could go to paying sportswomen equally.  It is only a capitalist class that is desperate to cling on to what little remains of its traditions that is throwing massive money at the male footballers as a last show of chauvinist defiance in an era when women’s equality has become a popular prejudice.

 

But all things considered, what is really needed is for sport to be brought down to earth.  Rather than have everything decided by elites and their committees, more social democracy is required over sport.  In that way, people could collectively discuss how much a sportsperson should be paid – to choose whether we have equality based on equal labour time expended, how much merit should be extra-valued, the degree of corporate sponsorship permissible (or intrusive government advertising as well).  Perhaps the banning of ‘offensive’ chants at football matches, the increasingly sterile atmosphere, the policing of football fans, goes hand in hand with the overpayment of the stars, because both are symptoms of an underlying problem, the private appropriation of a social event.  We need our ball back, and properly investing in the women’s game will make it seem more natural to introduce equal pay between men and women with an eye on the balance between effort and achievement, as decided democratically.  What’s clear at the moment, is that leaving everything to blind market forces is creating chaos.

How ‘Islamic State’ Got The Wrong End Of The Stick

Ariana-Grande
Terror has targeted an Ariana Grande (pictured) concert in Manchester and now struck pedestrians on London Bridge

 

Nothing expresses more the dangers of superficiality than the new terrorism.  The picture that is emerging from terrorism in modern European cities is that the perpetrators really hate people enjoying themselves, be it at a music concert or interacting in shopping districts.  What seems to unite the manifold forms of the new terror – be it ‘Islamic’ or ‘right-wing and white’ – is a massive hatred of Western-style consumerism.  The hatred of consumerism however is not confined to reacting terrorists.  It permeates society in forms such as environmentalism and left-wing redistributionism.  It is there in conservative-traditionalist railings against mass society, particularly when the working class are told they are irresponsible for wanting bigger televisions.  The obsession with ‘consumer choice’ is also there in libertarian critiques of the reactionaries – all they do is endorse as ‘free’ what the reactionaries ‘hate.’  Hence, the only debate in society we seem to be seeing is about ‘celebrating our way of life’ versus ‘hating our way of life,’ where our ‘way of life’ is only defined in relation to consumption.  This narrow debate is likely to prolong the existence of the new terror despite obviously the majority feeling rightly angered about it.

 

In order to transcend the parameters of the narrow debate, and hopefully unite humanity in a more progressive positive direction rather than this all-round barbarism, it is necessary to understand that consumption is relatively unproblematic.  It is true that the law of value holds sway over all consumer transactions – to that extent, commodity exchange is not *entirely* free, i.e. volition doesn’t rule.  Nevertheless, consumption is pretty much the only civilising aspect of market society.  Through consumption, points of contact are made between otherwise atomised individuals.  The mediation of the commodity is simply the way in which society is glued together – and it is just about the only way society is glued together nowadays.  So, it is wrong to hate consumption – it is the best thing about capitalism, and the only way in which society prevents itself from deteriorating into a kind of ‘Mad Max’ scenario.  At the same time, it is wrong to celebrate consumption as the only mark of ‘freedom,’ because it is essentially a passive rather than active thing: it doesn’t concern the way we act, just the way we enjoy society’s bounty after we have acted.

 

So, the focus of concern really needs to shift onto the realm of production.  If all the reactionaries railing against consumption (or celebrating it) would only look at the realm of production, it would shake things up immensely, and cure the malaise that is now giving rise to the horror of the new terror.  It is in the sphere of production that people truly aren’t free – from the negative experience of the alarm clock in the morning to the iron discipline deployed by managers at work, doing things you hate for a boss you despise, the sheer lack of creativity, initiative and ingenuity in the office or factory – it is really these things that cause people to loathe the society in which they live.  But because of the dogma of ‘there is no alternative,’ the sphere of production remains relatively uncontested, and thus disappears from view.  Consequently, the alienation in society which has its root in the estranged and unfree sphere of production reappears as a criticism (or celebration, depending which side of the fence one is on) of consumption.  It is thoroughly misguided and becoming downright dangerous, yet it can be understood as what happens when everyone agrees that the capitalist mode of production is not itself up for discussion.  The law of value should belong only to the sphere of consumption (for the time being), not the sphere of production.  When value relations determine the way we produce, i.e. the way we live, then it becomes far too coercive to enjoy life.  Workers have to fight for the option of being in full control of the workplace so they govern what gets done, how it is done, and according to whatever timescale.  This self-emancipation of labour will make humanity far happier and thus erode the basis for irrationalism in all its forms, including the terrorist form.