20 Sep 2013
30 minute workout at 7:00 AM first thing: warmup, 220 lowrise steps, walking, 20 midrise steps, no physio today. Workout was followed by serious and painful constipation so now I am lying in bed watching YouTube and drinking water and Pocari Sweat. I hope Pocari Sweat, a strangely-named Japanese product, counts as water.
Here’s a new documentary about Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s last theorem. The Cam (river) at Cambridge (University) is nicely balanced with Lake Carnegie and the pseudo-river formed by the canal, constructed in the 19th century to link the Delaware and Raritan rivers. Lake Carnegie was funded by Andrew Carnegie so that Princeton students could practice sculling and thereby compete with Harvard.
I then poked into videos about the Reinhart Rogoff spreadsheet error that caused the end of stimulus in 2010 and may have resulted in my surprise termination, with two hours notice from a full time job I’d had with no problems for five years, to find this one where I like the rage a LOT.
People with money now want to be the Elect by way of defining me as damned under the Calvinist dispensation whose efforts in the economy are always recoded as futile and worse even as Martin Luther rejected “good works”. Every effort (such as thoroughness in documentation and the associated long hours) was renarrated as pernicious…to the extent that I am puzzled by the Chinese willingness to care for me. I have so internalized feelings of worthlessness as have most victims of capitalism that even as some of them pray to be denied health insurance, I am surprised at my entitlement here as a tax-paying resident.
Max Weber had it right, in other words. Just so we could foul the earth with global warming, Capitalism had to become the real religion of our times since the Reformation. In order to get people to come to work on time and obey the boss, we had to treat capitalist economic relations as sacrosanct…even when we thought, as my poor dead son thought, we had a better idea, and had been working on that idea until 3:00 AM the night before. We tell each other that such genius will be recognized and culled out, but it’s become a reified joke, with minimum wage Apple employees wearing uniform shirts and paid minimum wage to work at the “genius bar”.
The apparently marginal issue of worker control was actually central, as Eric Hobsbawm and David Noble showed.
Hobsbawm documented how Victorian locomotive repairmen fought for and in Britain only, won, the right to be paid for cleaning their tools after the end of a shift. It was important to do so since otherwise the tools, the property of the workman and essential to his livelihood would shortly become unusable (caked with gunk, I’d guess). The bosses agreed yet to save money they wanted the workman to be Personally Responsible, and display the inner state of his soul with an outer action, and clean his tools on unpaid time.
Likewise, in his study of the automation of machine tools in the late 1940s and 1950s, David Noble documents how expert machine tool set up “men” refused to use untested CNC programming tapes created in the back office by college “boys” fresh out of school. These tapes were supposed to be used without questions or “backtalk” by the machinists and, of course, nearly all of them created “scrap at high speeds”.
The hands on person needed the right to ask questions, and modify management’s will as encoded on the CNC tape. My poor dead son likewise wanted to ask questions and use his own knowledge of machine tools to be, at once, an employee in a bike shop, a repairman and a designer of new bikes.
I thought grandiosely of myself at my first job (that of a keypunch operator), and made my boss look good by becoming a programmer able to solve problems that would have otherwise been unsolvable by ignorant labor…because their solution was NP complete. The grandiosity was real enough but calling it “grandiose” doesn’t make it a lie.
My son was given the job of designing new bikes and blogging about it but almost as soon as it was offered, the job disappeared. The job as mirage was familiar enough to me: I had written and fixed software that essentially compiled the “user’s” (management’s) will into machine instructions so became a compiler developer in Silicon Valley…leaving my son as a little boy in order to pursue the dream. But the company, whose management made a serious effort to be humanistic, was only taken advantage of by employees who unlike me and others of the first generation of hires, simply wanted to part-ay and “manage” other employees by sexually belittling them.
It was recognized then and keeps on being recognized as in this case of a wordpress spinoff based on humanism as opposed let’s say to uh barbarism that there are no ordinary people and that we can all flourish by not being subject to silly work rules. But somehow, the problem of employees who game humanism and thereby become managers and politicians remains unsolved.
It’s not, to try at long last to put it simply, the bourgeois dream of stability, a house on Chaucer street in Palo Alto for my wife and children with a white picket fence. That mid-century American Dream became a plaything of the 1%. My American Dream was instead highly unstable, with me racing all over the country and the world at first for better pay and at the end for simple stability as a teacher in a learning center in Hong Kong able to pay his taxes, his rent and his helper all on time. I met a payroll, in other words, and my helper became my friend, who I paid thru my unemployment because she could survive on less than it took for me to survive, and, in this crisis, I needed a friend, and she needed dignity.
Meanwhile my son, I now learn, was emulating me and modeling his struggles on mine, only to die exactly one year ago. There’s a point at which sorrow is too deep to blame anyone, and it leaves no room for anger. One of my son’s non-abusive employers came to his funeral and he told me that my son was a gifted bicycle repairman. His sense of structure was nonpareil. His babysitters noticed him taking toys apart and re-assembling them to find out how they worked. When I got him a job at my software company his brilliance outshone me and this filled me with Hector’s fatherly ** joy **: when his son is frightened by his father’s brilliant armor Hector consoles him, taking him in his arms, and saying, may he be better than his father.
Whole hosts may hail him with deserved acclaim,
And say, ‘This chief transcends his father’s fame:’
While pleased amidst the general shouts of Troy,
His mother’s conscious heart o’erflows with joy.”
The consistent Tragic structure is the recognition of the genius followed by the attempt to make him conform. In reaction, he dances himself to death like the heroine of Le Sacre du Printemps. He dances in a stooped way that pounds his bones to cancer dust. Don’t blame the queen. Don’t blame him. Don’t blame yourself. Blame instead the monster, the inhuman.
Non, Thésée, il faut rompre un injuste silence ;
Il faut à votre fils rendre son innocence.
Il n’était point coupable.
A Note on the Stimulus That Wasn’t
The stimulus was mocked as a waste of money. For example, Johnstown Pennsylvania, an isolated town yet accessible to the freeway which had a notorious flood in the 19th century, has an airport with three flights a day; as part of stimulus it was given money to resurface a backup runway.
Self-appointed guardians of rectitude and the public purse, whose solicitude for the latter is so great as to make one wonder if they think that public purse their property, decry as wasteful the resurfacing of a runway decried in turn as not needed by the airport’s manager.
That is. The carefully selected spokesman for the salt of the earth who is probably unusual amongst the people of Johnstown in that he has a job (in which he needs to do little because the Federal government and the state of Pennsylvania have funded an underused airport), doesn’t see the need for out of work resurfacing men to have a “wasteful” job.
That is. We must always decry the waste of petty amounts of money while behind us the bodies, of people thrown on the scrap-heap, a waste of HUMANITY, proceeds apace. An old IWW cartoon had Joe Responsible Citizen say to ordinary worker Mike, dem union members is de’troying our factories wid dere strikes!
To which Mike sez, “‘our’ factories, Joe? You don’t even own da smoke!”
It is a cheap (as in zero cost) feelgood pose that gets you in, I suppose, with the blondes on Fox to pose as the guardians of money that isn’t yours or factories you don’t own. But it’s false consciousness.