Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

Occupy the Mural:

So here is a doozy… The Los Angeles mayor decided to send 1,000 cops to de-camp Occupy LA, and now he is looting the artwork. “The mayor’s office recognizes that this has historical significance so we’re working together to make sure that we come up with a good and appropriate solution” (via @longdrivesouth). Thus, the mayor’s cultural police forces are looking to permanently preserve the mural which had been painted on a plywood structure, built around a fragile fountain in the middle of the plaza.

All of this can make the head spin in circles with its absurd logic. While the occupation was pronounced unsanitary and dangerous, and while the mayor decided they no longer had a space for speech, one of the very forms of the speech itself now rises to the level of permanence. It rises to icon, a cultural treasure they will probably put on a tourism brochure some day. And while the culture itself that made the piece may be deemed to be criminally trespassing on the space of the plaza, there is no better way to disarm a culture than to put it inside a vitrine.

High-IQ stupidity:

I once heard a female professor of mathematics talk about an encounter she had with a senior colleague soon after taking her first faculty job. He told her that he didn’t think she belonged there because he knew for a fact that women weren’t good at math. Coming from a math professor, of all people, the reasoning is mind-boggling — surely he understood the basics of probability distributions. It could be true that on average women are less capable mathematicians than men and also true that this particular woman was more capable than most men, including a certain professor standing in the hall making an ass of himself at that very moment.

That’s the basic problem with believing that you’re smarter than a whole class of other people — it tends to make you stupid.

What Should A Sustained Movement Look Like:

[S]ignificant social change has never been achieved in this country through conventional politics alone. From the outset, the American system was designed to insulate the federal government from radical change. The founding fathers were revolutionaries of an ambivalent and conflicted sort. They prized stability over all else, including any pretense to an egalitarian democracy. Whatever progress we have made moving the country closer to this ideal has been slow, grudging, fragile and, most importantly, achieved during periods of broad progressive ferment by movements that challenged the system from below. All the movements our textbooks now celebrate as part of America’s glorious democratic legacy—from abolition to women’s suffrage, from the labor movement to the African-American struggle for civil rights—were fiercely resisted by the political and economic elite.

Let’s do away with another myth: American history should not be read as the inevitable, progressive realization of a more just and equal union. In many respects, the last 30 years have moved us farther away from that ideal than we were three to four decades ago. It will take yet another period of sustained progressive ferment and the building of a new coalition across racial, class, and regional lines to restore balance to this country, redress the inequities that have been allowed to develop, revitalize democratic practices, and restore faith in the ideal of a just society.

Susie Cagle Doin’ Work.

Occupy Portland has some thoughts on tactics:

In summary: when the cops come to clear the park, don’t resist. As they are preparing for their military maneuver and use of force that the Occupiers cannot reasonably be expected to resist, the occupiers should be packing up their tents and baggage and loading them into wagons, bicycles, backpacks, etc.

Force the cops to clear the park inch by inch, but try to avoid arrest in so doing. Once they have cleared the park, rouse the crowd through loud amplification announcing that you intend to march (any destination will do). Get the music blaring and then march aimlessly, blocking traffic the whole way, for hours. The crowd will be energized and willing to march for a long time, being spurred on by energetic music and chants.

The police will eventually trim down their entourage because they realize that they are helpless. Eventually, work your way back to the park. Or, if the police have fenced off the park, head to another park. If the police force you out, march again and they will be forced to follow. Eventually, they will inevitably come to the conclusion that they would rather have you in a park than disrupting traffic.

The police have no response to this tactic, other than resorting to brutality. And if they do that, we win whether they clear the park or not.

A great panel on “Debt, Democracy, and the Future of the Public University”:

Is Mark Zuckerberg’s portrait in ‘The Social Network’ anti-Semitic?

The portrait of Zuckerberg in the movie is repulsive, and it ends up being generic, a portrait of the new striving American Jewish meritocratic billionaire. Given that this portrait was brought to us by a production team that included Jews– writer Aaron Sorkin and mega-producer Scott Rudin among others–I relate it to my own disaffection with the new Jewish establishment. Watching the film, I remembered that I’m not the only one who goes around counting my people in the news, and not the only one ashamed of what the winners look like. Am I self-hater? No. Just a little disgusted.

It’s really hard to believe that Zuckerberg is as bad as he’s made out to be. He’s a soulless anti-Gatsby, clamoring for inclusion, and clamoring for hedonism, but without any affection. The joyless Jewish Harvard social milieu from which Zuckerberg springs are a crude caricature in this film– and certainly misrepresent Harvard in 2003. I don’t think Zuckerberg really cared about getting into a WASPy club; besides, those clubs weren’t even WASPy anymore. But the social divide the film captures was certainly true of Sorkin and my generation: we felt ourselves to be confined to a grind community built around law and guilt, and wondered about how much wild fun those goyim were having with girls and drugs. We wanted a part of that; and the desire to be at the fun party is what drives Zuckerberg in this movie. The movie uses Phillips Exeter, the fancy private school Zuckerberg went to, as a rapier against him: he’s continually shown wearing PE t-shirts.