There’s this moment in human history yet to come that i imagine sometimes, this moment like, just five years after we seal our win over capitalism, like we’re not at full communism yet (which i can’t even imagine), but this moment it sets in on the broad masses of humanity that we did it, that the nightmare is over, and the realization dawning on the broad masses of humanity that we collectively have saved ourselves, and the creativity and joy that that will spread across the whole species, in all our work, how invigorated and grateful and excited we will all feel. how patient but utterly dedicated we will be in carrying the work forward to continue to transform society. when i remember in gratefulness that that is the master i serve, when we remember that, i think it shines through us, and the masses can see that in us and see that we are different from the world that they have seen up to this point, and we can show them that they can see that in themselves as well, and that is how it will spread. i hear from my comrades who know the revolutionaries in the Philippines well that you can see this light shining through them. i think you can see it just from little glimpses we see of the revolutionaries in “Red Ant Dream” (and you should watch it!) and from the videos of people you see during the Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution in China in “How Yukong Moved the Mountains.”

i don’t want to keep losing sight of this beautiful thought, which grounds me and gives my life the deepest purpose it can have.

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Understanding “refugees from socialism” in the context of disgruntled Confederates in the u.s. civil war

Imagine you are in Richmond, VA, during the u.s. civil war. The former lawyer of one of the first plantations to fall to the Union is there telling the Confederate newspapers there about the depravity of the Union forces and all sorts of vile shit about the liberated slaves. You read this in the newspaper. Do you believe everything the newspaper printed that the lawyer said?

No, probably not. Why not? Because his material interests were deeply harmed by the civil war; because culturally he resents and to a large extent doesn’t even comprehend the viability of the world the Union is fighting for; and because he is telling the people who own the newspaper company–and the newspaper readers, who also do not want to see the disruption of the slave economy–things that they want to hear about how horribly things are going under the new order. The newspaper is eager to print lies to turn public opinion against their enemies. Right?

And the lawyer can probably even make some money going on tour speaking about the depravity of the new order. He can easily get rewarded financially and socially for saying what they want to hear, right?

So when people came to the united states from the socialist countries of the 20th century (SU 21-56, PRC 51-78), or come from countries that had anti-imperialist revolutions or in any other way defy u.s. imperialism, people should be a lot slower to buy their stories hook, line, and sinker. It’s especially frustrating coming from alleged revolutionary anticapitalists.

I’m not at all saying there wasn’t genuine suffering by people who didn’t deserve it in these countries. It happened–it happens in literally every revolution, even necessary and just ones. There are excesses and mistakes. Some of these stories are true–i am not trying to say they are all made up.

But, look:

A lot of the so-called “oppression” people faced by people who left these countries was uncomfortable, but not a mortal threat. Someone with patriarchal ideas in the cultural revolution in China was likely to go through the uncomfortable process of being criticized by their whole community. That’s not pleasant, but it’s not life-threatening. And in fact having come out the other side of believing a lot of patriarchal, white supremacist, and general bourgeois bullshit here in the u.s., i am glad that people took the time to educate me even if it meant demeaning my anti-people views sometimes. But if someone doesn’t see it like this, they just think “i was oppressed for no reason!” Much of the so-called “oppression” these people faced was NOT DIFFERENT from what “men’s rights activists” claim feminists are doing to them: showing them the truth about their privilege up to this point, and sometimes being quite impatient when the fuckboys don’t want to acknowledge the truth of it.

And what’s more, if someone (or a family) not only had the financial means to get out of those countries and easily resettle in the imperialist West, but also had the cultural mindset to easily adapt to life here, they were probably already in a position of relative privilege where they came from. Which means the people we hear from in the West from these alleged hellholes are and will continue to be disproportionately exactly like that Confederate lawyer.

The imperialist West tilts the entire world toward itself, pulling in and recruiting anyone and everyone who is able to offer significant help with the imperialist Western project, no matter what country they were born in, whether directly or just by spreading plausible lies about their country of origin and why the u.s. needs to destroy/intervene there, or why people shouldn’t try to duplicate what happened there.

Toward a dialectical materialist grasp of “the question of pineapple on pizza”

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[Originally written August 19, 2016]

1. as lenin said, concrete analysis of concrete conditions is the living soul of marxism. we must know that we will never have an answer to what is “better.” which class is served by whether pineapple comes on a given pizza in a given place in a given time must depend on what will be done with the pizza, by whom it is being produced, who will be consuming it, how much they will enjoy or be disturbed by it, and so on.

2. even if we conclude that it is always bad for any person who consumes a pizza with pineapple on it, that does not mean no pineapple pizzas should be produced. pineapple puree in the sauce of a pizza that will definitely be eaten by a CIA director who is deathly allergic to pineapple is in the interests of the masses.

3. in coming to the question of whether it is bad or good for a person to consume pizza with pineapple on it, we should acknowledge that there are concrete reasons why this question has sprung up in this place at this time.

4. the fake gravity around the question of pineapple on pizza in fact is intended to mock that it is in fact, to everyone’s amusement, not as mundane a discussion as it “feels like it should be.” people take the joke conversation seriously because despite themselves people take pizza nontrivially seriously.

5. with that said, some things are overdetermined by culture and cannot be reduced to simple material underpinnings; once the meme of “Maoists weigh in on trivial thing” has reached its full bloom, what the object whose qualities are being weighed at the center of the “debate” is is somewhat irrelevant; once it reaches a critical mass, the question will sustain itself.

6. in light of (4), we should investigate why pineapple on pizza is taken nontrivially seriously in the places where it sees high currency. what could these reasons be? let us examine it.

i. for many, pizza is a comfort food, or a “comfort consumption.” it has weight because it is part of how people cope with the anxiety of living in a capitalist-imperialist world filled with the accompanying oppressions and alienation.

ii. mechanisms by which we comfort ourselves frequently need to be “just right.” for something to be “off” in the quality of the comforting substance, or in the execution of the ritual of consuming the comforting substance, can in fact heighten anxiety. hence, if there is a potential variable in some aspect of the comfort substance, decisions surrounding that variable can become emotionally charged–often not even on the “objective” merits of the possible settings of that variable (e.g., does the pizza have more than a background level of sweetness?) but rather because the comforting process relies on the variable remaining fixed however it has been set (that is, it becomes important for the success of the instance of “comfort consumption” that regardless of whether one is accustomed to a nontrivial sweetness, one must get what one is accustomed to to be comforted).

iii. we must still ask why pineapple sees itself singled out here. i am no chef, so i can’t speak of its flavors, but we can speak of its “tastes” (specifically here its sweetness). while there are many notably sweet things one could put on a pizza, pineapple is probably the most common one. we cannot say that there is no sweetness in a pizza, since invariably there is sweetness in the tomato sauce and frequently in other toppings (e.g., bell peppers, and even some of the meats), but we can say with confidence that there is a qualitatively higher degree of sweetness with the ingredient pineapple than the very mild sweetness of other ingredients.

iv. it is instructive that in the past, anchovies formed the archetypal object of pizza topping debate, and anchovies are an order of magnitude saltier than most other toppings. this provides some corroboration for the idea that a qualitatively distinct experience of one of the basic “tastes” (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, savory) is one of the crucial variables. anchovies also have a very distinct texture and composition that is found to be unappealing by significant segments of the u.s. mainstream, and–at least in the context of pizza–this is true of pineapple as well.

7. pizza is a highly social food, and in fact its sociality is at a height in the negotiation of toppings. if one merely wants pizza, one can easily order a slice of any kind. but when one is in the discussion of toppings, one is always already in the question of trying to satisfy a particular craving.

8. why is the negotiation of toppings so social? it is for no other reason but that we find ourselves in the social arrangement of having to negotiate the toppings with someone who must also abide by that decision! we must therefore look into the question of what forces us to share pizzas. in fact, this is none other than the fact that as consumers, we seek to economize on cost. but this is not a question that affects all classes equally! in fact, the lower and deeper one is in the proletariat, the greater the political-economic pressure there is to split a pizza, and thus the more frequently one will find oneself negotiating toppings.

9. the question of pineapple on pizza is therefore a hotter one than it seems because it is one forced disproportionately on members of the proletariat and its allies, who are in the moment of the decision just trying to chill out and enjoy a pizza, and even seeking to do so with people with whom we find ourselves cordial or even comradely. and yet because of the pickiness that is close to the heart of “comfort consumption” and the distinctness of pineapple among toppings, the frustration we experience in the struggle for unity on this question is all the more heightened.