treating the commons like brats gone wild

Head of a Young Girl, c1740s - 1750s. Oil on canvas. By Francois Boucher

Head of a Young Girl, c1740s – 1750s. Oil on canvas. By Francois Boucher

 The Travesty of the Anti-Commons

In his 1968 essay “The tragedy of the commons,” Garrett Hardin argued that unrestricted access to resources held in common, and, likewise, unrestricted ability to dump waste, inexorably leads to the destruction of the commons. At the time, he may not have suspected that the term would become a formidable propaganda weapon in the hands of those who would do exactly what he was arguing against—used to sing the virtues of unrestrained self-interest while destroying the ecosystems on which we, along with all life, depend for our survival.

Later on Hardin said that perhaps he should have called it “The Tragedy of the Unregulated Commons,” because in his article he presented another concept—that of negative commons, now better known as externalities, of which air and water pollution are prime examples. Since the Earth’s atmosphere and the oceans are rather difficult to privatize, this poses a general moral challenge to society. If everyone concerns themselves only with their own interests (taking while the taking is good, not expending effort on collective efforts since they are a waste of one’s precious time, and so on) one cannot avoid the tragedy of the commons.

The full essay is at the link. I must not be a complete cynic yet since I am a little surprised that we’re still having this debate in the U.S. and Europe, and increasingly in Asia. Even those who do not have children remember being a child. We had to have some limits on our behavior because it could be damaging to people and property, and endangered ourselves. Sure strictly speaking our adult caregivers were taking away freedom, but they did so for obviously good reason. The same code of behavior applies writ large to coal companies, oil companies and manufacturers. Given complete freedom or the license to run wild, they will, and have done, even with regulation, considerable damage and wasted tremendous amounts of resources. Such behavior is beyond irresponsible it borders on nihilism. They seem to operate on the assumption that either there is no future to worry about, or screw future generations. Conservatives and libertarians who think this way – and there are millions who do – can make many claims about their behavior, be moral is not one of them.


the sexual assault of don draper, anxiety presents possibilites

montreal skyline wallpaper

montreal skyline wallpaper


I read a fair number of Mad Men synopsizes ( Slate has a good serial review, including this one of Bob and being in the closet in the 60s). While I pick up some small details I may have missed, few cause me to reevaluate a episode, Don Draper Was Raped

Throughout most of the episode, Aimee serves as a surrogate mother for Dick; she lets him recuperate in her bed and offers him rest, comforting words, spoonfuls of warm broth. However, in their penultimate scene together, Aimee’s maternal kindness turns oddly predatory. She approaches her bed where Dick is lying weakly, fever newly broken, and asks, “Don’t you want to know what all the fuss is about? “No,” Dick replies forcefully, averting his eyes and hugging the blankets tightly against his chest as she reaches under the covers to touch him. “Stop it,” he says, clearly uncomfortable, even afraid. But Aimee doesn’t stop.

I was not in the camp of people who thought of that events as simply Don losing his virginity or “The Wall Street Journal, Aimee “guides [Dick] through his first sexual experience.” A recap at The Daily Mail, despite recounting Dick’s protestations, underplays the interaction as a mere “tryst.” I thought of it as sexual assault or molesting a minor. It wasn’t some scene from a cliche ridden teen comedy where the boy and girl are at least around the same age. As Abigail Rine notes Don was not cooperative and was ill. She notes that we generally associate rape as a male act because we associate it with penetration. We also tend to think that since a male has to be erect, to be capable of sex, than he was consciously aroused. Yet men know that that erections are not always a conscious act. Men, especially young men have them spontaneously. If they didn’t we would not have those scene from comedies like American Pie or the old Porky’s movie. That is not to say they do not have control over their decision making – as some conservatives have claimed. In order to see Don’s assault as rape society will need to expand how it sees coerced sex. We don’t have a problem with seeing the rape of a male by another male as clearly being rape, which Abigail explains, because there is penetration. Since creator/producer Matthew Weiner has gone all Freud on the cast – in terms of cultural interpretations – it helps to understand at least partly why Don is the way he is ( the begging and desperation scenes in contrast to his attempts to be controlling over the course of the series) if one understands that he was sexually abused, or raped.

Someone with some good things to say about anxiety, Kierkegaard on Anxiety & Creativity

“Because it is possible to create — creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self… — one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever.”

In actuality, no one ever sank so deep that he could not sink deeper, and there may be one or many who sank deeper. But he who sank in possibility — his eye became dizzy, his eye became confused. . . . [W]hoever is educated by possibility is exposed to danger, not that of getting into bad company and going astray in various ways as are those educated by the finite, but in danger of a fall, namely, suicide. If at the beginning of education he misunderstands the anxiety, so that it does not lead him to faith but away from faith, then he is lost. On the other hand, whoever is educated [by possibility] remains with anxiety; he does not permit himself to be deceived by its countless falsification and accurately remembers the past. Then the assaults of anxiety, even though they be terrifying, will not be such that he flees from them. For him, anxiety becomes a serving spirit that against its will leads him where he wishes to go.

The existential pull of options. To seek the calm of relief from anxiety or to settle in to it’s inevitability to so as to push for the next layer of oneself.


diana’s spring meadow wallpaper, merit got mugged by the plutocrats, tambourine man design

diana's spring meadow wallpaper, landscape, fence, country

diana’s spring meadow wallpaper

Diana was the Roman goddess of the moon and nature.

This article is about a speech given recently by an Indian political psychologist and social theorist named Ashis Nandy. Because of my personal experience on this blog I know that I am capable of mangling language beyond what was intended so I can understand why what he said was misinterpreted. he did not mean to imply that one should accept the entirety of corruption in India, because it benefited some people. Only that the very low-level corruption of the lower economic classes was relatively benign compared to the insane and rampant corruption of the wealthy and connected. In reading the article I found this passage. The U.S. and India have some things in common besides being two of the world’s largest democracies, Justly Unequal – The unlikely history of our greatest delusion

To make a totalitarian system function efficiently, it is not enough that everybody should be forced to work for the same ends. It is essential for the people to come to regard them as their own ends. Although the beliefs must be chosen for the people and imposed upon them, they must become their beliefs, a generally accepted creed which makes the individuals as far as possible act spontaneously in the way the planner wants.

Of course, Hayek was invoking the force of total belief to criticise his favourite bugbear, the cult of collectivism. But as Young discovered early and independently, and as history bore out in the final quarter of the 20th century, towards the end of Hayek’s life, a self-affirming belief that reinforces the cult of the individual, and what’s more glosses it with the sheen of fairness, can be a far more compelling social force than anything socialism is capable of dreaming up—especially since its fan base consists of people who already run the world. Aristocracy renders its subjects unjustly unequal; meritocracy promises to render them justly unequal, and the enduring genius of the concept is that it makes the resulting inequality appear like justice.

Despite their tremendous influence, Hayek’s appeal is somewhat limited to adherents of neoclassical economics, and Rand is regarded as something of a joke. And yet the concept that could well have been of their coining has journeyed far beyond their reach, first from satire to libertarian theory, and then from the right-wing to every wing.

This perverted concept of meritocracy is part of why you have some guy who makes $10 an hour supports the Koch brothers, Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rand Paul ( and other wacky denizens of that strange twisted world where conservatism and libertarianism meet. These working class Americans really believe that our culture and economy is how is it is and people are where they are in life solely based on merit. They make no account for where that meritorious person’s great grandparents made their money in the 18th century through what amonuted to a fire sale by the government of western land. Many of these working class high school educated people voted for Romney, because instead of seeing him as a desk jockey who used money, power and government subsidized incentives to get ahead, they saw him as the quintessential self-made man. There is a kind of foggy perspective involved. The con-terians cannot see how things work from where they are and there are plenty of sources to tell them it is women, or the poor, taxes, or minorities that are cheating them out of their opportunities to get ahead.

One of the biggest influences on western democracy and economics was and still is, British sociologist Michael Young  book called The Rise of the Meritocracy. The frustrating thing about its influence and the way it has seeped into our culture is that getting ahead on merit is a great concept in its general notion. It is how the concept is applied and interpreted that gets lost in the national conversation. The U.S. is not as much a meritocracy – at least for many people – as much as it has become a plutocracy.

One of the ways the twisted sense of meritocracy is playing out right now is in the discussion of entitlements (insurance programs). Entitlements is not bad word. They are programs like Social Security that Americans pay into and are thus entitled to those benefits. This is a recent and good example of how the plutocrats and their sympathizers are framing the debate, The five biggest lies about entitlement programs – Social Security and Medicare are big issues, and not everyone is telling the truth about them.


Blowing in the Mind/Mister Tambourine Man,1968. Design and Image of Bob Dylan by Matin Sharp.

Blowing in the Mind/Mister Tambourine Man,1968. Design and Image of Bob Dylan by Martin Sharp.