Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

The Ringers:

The Dirt, or, Matter Out of Place

In her 1966 book Purity and Danger, anthropologist Mary Douglas famously explains dirt as “matter out of place.” Dirt does not index an objective category of pathogens or pollutants she suggests, but rather the designation of “dirt” indexes a contravention to a social order, and by extension, its boundaries. That which transgresses boundaries of a given order is dirt or dirty, thereby reaffirming the validity, naturalness, and purity of that which remains within. Perhaps needless to say, the occupiers are matter out of place…

As the occupation began, OWS requested port-a-potties and dumpsters from the city. These requests were denied, arguably to hasten a situation in which the city could label the occupation a public health hazard. And yet, with neither on-site bathrooms nor adequate waste facilities, the Sanitation Working Group and the citizens of Occupy Wall Street have kept Liberty Park remarkably clean. Not only is the ground free of trash, but there is a recycling system in place as well. The kitchen, which feeds up to 2,000 people per day, not only maintains astonishing cleanliness in service and disposal, but filters used dish-water through a plant and stone gray water filtration system, using the cleaned water to nourish the park’s flowers.

With these practices of as-clean-as-possible living already in place, the OWS response to Bloomberg and Brookfield’s cleaning order set out to prove that “dirt” or sanitation was not in fact the issue, but rather that the occupation’s contravention of social norms–matter out of place–was at stake.

In “Failures of Imagination,” a review of Granta’s Ten Years After 9/11 issue, Daisy notes:

In the years immediately following the attacks, the notion that Americans were having trouble processing the attacks had strong currency in the media. A ‘failure of imagination’ was often cited. In the classrooms where I stood, there was no such failure. From the earliest moments of al Qaeda’s immensely successful operation, anyone with a knowledge of the histories of empires in general and an awareness of the geopolitical goals of the United States government in particular could comprehend the motivations behind the attacks and could guess what would come next from our president. The immediate suspicion toward all persons of Muslim background, regardless of their actual beliefs, practices or citizenship was expected because it was already on its way.

Via Gerry Canavan:

This is actually pretty amazing:

This story about Occupy L.A. protestors defending a woman from foreclosure and Mike Konczal’s post about the general intersection between Occupy and the anti-foreclosure movement” gave Peter Frase “big time nerd chills.”

The idea was to make the American middle class dependent on assets rather than wages, via Frank Pasquale:

The latest “bipartisan” cockamamie scheme to re-inflate the housing market now apparently involves giving immigration visas to foreigners who buy houses valued at $500,000 a year. There is so much wrong with this idea that it’s hard to know where to start: the threat of absentee landlords, the booting out of people faced with foreclosure, the lack of concomitant work visas to accompany the immigration visas, etc. Joan McCarter at DailyKos has a good rundown.

There can be little question at this point that American public policy is dedicated almost entirely to benefiting wealthy people and corporate “people” over regular Americans. But examples like this one show that it’s not just corruption: there’s a strong bipartisan ideological component that is driving this insanity as well that is based on very flawed economic assumptions.

Also from Frank, “Can’t Pay, won’t pay!” From Dario Fo’s play to our contemporary Greek dystopia

LA Review of Books on Occupations:

An airplane graveyard:

The Edge of the American West is back!

As @davidlarssen put it, everyone needs German trombones:

The Mexican Mafia has much to teach us about crime and governance. via @fauxrealist:

The Mexican Mafia is a fairly small prison gang (perhaps 150-300 made members) and it has significant operational control only within prisons in Southern California yet the Mexican Mafia is extremely powerful. In fact, the MM taxes hundreds of often larger Southern California street gangs at rates of 10-30% of revenues. How can a prison gang tax street gangs? In Governance and Prison Gangs (also here), a new paper in the APSR, David Skarbek explains the structure, conduct and performance of the Mexican Mafia.

The key to the MM’s power is that most drug dealers will sooner or later, usually sooner, end up in prison. Thus, the MM can credibly threaten drug dealers outside of prison with punishment once they are inside prison. Moreover, prison is the only place where members of many different gangs congregate. Thus, by maintaining control of the prison bottleneck, the MM can tax hundreds of gangs.