Subversive Umbrellas

In Moscow, people carrying umbrellas are being dragged away and thrown into prison transportation vehicles by police officers. Go see the photo at the link, if you don’t believe me. (The link is in Russian, of course.)

The reason why Russian police is hunting down people who use umbrellas is that an umbrella has come to symbolize resistance to Putin’s regime. Carrying an umbrella on a rainy day is quite a tiny and insignificant act of defiance (especially compared to what real protesters are exposing themselves to in Ukraine) but even this is not countenanced in Putin’s Russia.

Last week, the only TV channel in the country that is not transmitting 100% of news and shows that are sponsored by the government and approved by Putin gave the authorities an excuse to close it down. The channel posted a question on its discussion board that asked the viewers whether they believe that during WWII it would have made more sense not to defend the city of Leningrad. As you know, the blockade of Leningrad lasted 872 days and led to massive starvation of the civilian population of the city.

The TV channel in question suggested that viewers discuss whether the human cost of the blockade could have been lowered if the city had been ceded to the Germans. The government used this as a pretext to start a massive campaign against this TV channel for desecrating the memory of the defenders of Leningrad.

Now the channel is being closed down. The channel in question is called “Dozhd'” which means “Rain.” So the channel asked its supporters to signal their support by carrying an umbrella in one of the squares of Moscow. And now the umbrella owners are being arrested.

I’n writing all this because I keep seeing posts of the “Maybe Putin is not that bad” variety. People, wake up, he’s arresting people for carrying umbrellas in public and closing down TV channels for suggesting people discuss WWII. Yes, he is that bad and and worse. Jeez.

Tax Time

So it’s that time of the year again and we just spent two hours with our accountant. Altogether, we are paying 19,9% of our total income in taxes. I’m not talking about tax brackets, exemptions, state or federal. Just actual amounts.

To me, anything that is over 15% in taxes is unfair. Over 30% would constitute a gross injustice in my eyes. So we are a little bit into the unfair territory but not a whole lot. I can live with a little under 20% in taxes. Anything over it would start making me antsy.

So the news is neither good or bad in our case.

Death of Fordism, ‘Cntd

After reading my post about the death of Fordism, David Bellamy asked:

On of the reasons for attracting immigrants to first world countries is precisely – as I suspected – because their presence is likely to dilute the resistance to post-Fordism.

Then why are Repubenrons trying so fiercely to limit immigration?

I was going to address this later, but since the question has been asked – and it’s an absolutely crucial question – I will discuss this now.

David is absolutely right: the trend of admitting (thank you for the correction, reader V) immigrants into a country in order to dilute any possibility of resistance or discontent with the advent of post-Fordism belongs to Western Europe and Canada much more than to the US.

The reason for this is that there is already within the US a large group of people who are the emotional equivalent of immigrants.

Deeply alienated from the mainstream culture in the US, incapable of understanding the TV shows the majority watches, the books on the best-seller lists and the laws governing the majority’s lives, speaking its own language, clinging desperately to outdated ultra-patriarchal structures common to Third World countries, suspicious of any governmental institution, insular, isolated, confused, often very angry at the incomprehensible world that is so different from everything they find familiar and comforting – I could be describing an immigrant* or an ultra-conservative American Evangelical.

As long as it is possible to keep this group as isolated, confused and scared as it is right now, there will be no need to look for any other group to dilute social resistance to post-Fordism.

Of course, the question here is the following: is the death of Fordism a fully negative phenomenon? Is post-Fordism a regressive trend?

Or – and this is the most interesting issue to ponder – are these ultra-conservative forces unwittingly assisting the advent of a more progressive era?

Isn’t it fascinating to consider whether, ultimately, the Occupy movement is defending an outdated, hierarchical, socially very conservative system while the Evangelicals are smoothing the way for a system that is more flexible, less hierarchical, and explosively progressive socially?

*Yes, not immigrants are like that. Some learn the language (and I obviously don’t mean this literally), go to Yale, and become part of the American mainstream. Just like some people who grow up in ultra-oppressive Evangelical environments become professors of mathematics, adopt deeply progressive beliefs, and start using the word “Repubenrons.”

The Death of Fordism

So it turns out that the system whose demise we are witnessing has a name: Fordism. Fordism is

mass production of standardized products, mass consumption, internal job ladders, relative employment security, and a government system of social security and income maintenance (Kitty Calavita, Law & Society Review.)

In place of Fordism, we are getting post-Fordism, which is

an emphasis on “just-in-time” production inputs, labor cost reductions, flexibility in hiring and firing, an increase in contingent or part-time jobs, and gradual retrenchments of the welfare state (ibid).

Michael Moore’s documentaries are finally starting to become comprehensible. I know everybody else already knows all this but I wasn’t born in a capitalist country, so I’ve been mystified by a deep emotional attachment to a system whose name was unknown to me.

On of the reasons for attracting immigrants to first world countries is precisely – as I suspected – because their presence is likely to dilute the resistance to post-Fordism.