1. Is the left really the “working class”? And is that working class really liberal? Was it ever? Has the working class — qua organizable by unions — disappeared with smokestack industry?
2. Did the post-industrial economy, the Internet, create this finance economy implosion? (I was thinking of the industries it has decimated: newspapers, recording industry, network TV and I wish I knew more about how insta-trading created the financial implosion.) Has it gutted collective bargaining?
3. Read Chekhov and George Steiner’s “Proofs” for insights into the actual character of the Russian proletariat, which is different from Communism, and the Italian, which I think is perhaps closer to the 19th century Platonic concept of Marxism.
I think Gogol is also essential to the understanding of the mystic Slav dealio, which is also different from Communism (rather more than from Marx and his humanism). The mystic Slav’s amazing powers of abstraction, surrealism, modernity, explosive nihilism (all that is solid melts into air), apocalypse, and flame-colored satin tablecloths in the nightclubs along the Brighton Beach boardwalk — Russian orthodox bling.
Steiner profiles the fortunes of an Italian Communist cell at the fall of the Berlin Wall — the literate artisan class, the only U.S. parallel to which I can think of is the dear, departed International Typographers’ Union. They made hot lead type for — how you say in English — newspapers, I think they were called. Back in my Newspaper Guild shop steward days, when we argued for a week in the AME church at 15th and M whether or not we should cross the pressmens’ racist, sexist, violent Irish ahole picket line, the ITU, as I remember — basically, deaf graduates of Gallaudet — was the only one of the newspaper unions to be retraining their guys for the computer age.
4. For forty years I have been encountering the educated serf class in socialist Third World countries. The waiter at Luxor has a degree in economics. The butcher boy in Havana was an Olympic basketball contender and has a Master’s degree in kinesiology.
5. When I was in Egypt, in the beginning of the 1980s, all the coeds were wearing black burkas and black wool gloves over their skintight jeans and silver lame baseball jackets. The average salary of a policeman was $9 a month.
6. The result of this is that the only economy which works is the back channel or Blade Runner economy. You go to the Cairo Museum and see many, many curatorial tragedies due to the world’s heritage objects being displayed in padlocked cases humidified with empty Petri dishes and fumigated with visible moth balls. The guard in the room where the Rosetta Stone — the Rosetta Stone, people — is displayed by itself has roped it off and permits no entry unless baksheesh is extorted.
7. I see us, that is Americans, now joining those Third World places who missed pre-industrial and went straight to post-industrial, as having been educated for a different economy. All the supermarket checkout people will be former reporters, punk musicians, and classified ad sales people. The black people, who have, for various reasons, been on to the back channel economy for the past 400 years, have already sewed up all the well-paying, post-industrial, “proletarian” but now upper middle class jobs, like UPS driver. I think the unions — who hate brown people the way the Irish pressmen hated everybody else — now call themselves “progressives”, having carefully chosen to avoid anything that smacks of “liberal”.
8. A friend, who is 37, just paid off the last of her med school loans. I’ve been talking about the university lately as the predatory lender who has landed the average college graduate with $25,000 in debt. Average means 50 per cent of them have more.
A professor, who labored both in the Ivy League and elsewhere, said, Oh yes! Those terrible predatory lender schools like the University of Phoenix! No, dude, that would include the predatory student loan officers at Princeton and the big fat state university at which one has spent one’s career.
9. What is a leftist? Someone who believes that there is a commonweal the government needs to pay for? A simple version of the social contract I like is, I pay taxes, you protect me. This strikes me as the social contract and not the position of a wild-eyed anti-capitalist anarcho slacker or The Communist Manifesto.
10. Is this a hint of what a leftist might could, for one brief shining moment, in the summer of love, have been? Someone who believed Love itself was to be found in the democracy of public space?
More and more young people were flooding the Haight, including four beautiful girls from Antioch College, in Ohio. A sexy anarchist movement, the Diggers, had sprung up, and the girls joined in. One day two of them, Cindy Read and Phyllis Wilner, “were walking down Haight Street,” Cindy recalls, “and Phyllis said, ‘Isn’t this how you thought the world would be, except it wasn’t? But now, for us, it is!’ ”
….“The Summer of Love became the template: the Arab Spring is related to the Summer of Love; Occupy Wall Street is related to the Summer of Love,” says Joe McDonald, the creator and lead singer of Country Joe and the Fish and a boyfriend of one of that summer’s two queens, Janis Joplin. “And it became the new status quo,” he continues. “The Aquarian Age! They all want sex. They all want to have fun. Everyone wants hope. We opened the door, and everybody went through it, and everything changed after that. Sir Edward Cook, the biographer of Florence Nightingale, said that when the success of an idea of past generations is ingrained in the public and taken for granted the source is forgotten.” http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/07/lsd-drugs-summer-of-love-sixties
11. Still alive, after all these years. Go on, Joe.