Archive for July, 2008

Why A Recession Is Like Getting A Coffee Enema Or Something

Last week I inquired of myself:

Could it be because we have newspapers that represent people in terms of their consumption patterns, rather than in terms of what they face as workers?

Today, in the Irish Times, an evaluation of the effects of recession on shopping habits:

TV fashion dictator Gok Wan and his slashing scissors will have nothing on the effect of the wallets vandalised by developments such as Bord Gáis’s 20 per cent price increase.

And that might be no bad thing. A bit of stripping down, back-to-basics, a lessening of the accumulation of the unnecessary, would be purgative and purifying.

Tell you what, why don’t you volunteer to go on the dole for a year or so? That might be purgative and purifying too.

Or maybe not. Here is Michael Perelman, from the draft of his new book:

Losing access to what one considers a normal level of consumption can be a wrenching experience for the entire family. Social pressures suggest that workers should also create their identity around consumption. Children and spouses suffer embarrassment when they are unable to afford the kind of consumption befitting their earlier station in life.

Status in a market society is often bound up with employment. “Hello. Glad to meet you. What do you do?” Not surprisingly, unemployment takes a heavy toll on people’s psyche. In fact, being unemployed is more stressful than divorce or marital separation (Clark and Oswald 1994, p. 658). People can get over the pain of divorce or separation, but the psychological toll of unemployment lingers.

Psychologists have found that people who have lost a limb are naturally unhappy about their condition, but after a while they return to their previous level of happiness. Richard Layard, a highly respected British economist who recently turned to the subject of happiness, observed:

‘So unemployment is a very special problem. Moreover, it hurts as much after one or two years of unemployment as it does at the beginning. In that sense you do not habituate to it (though it hurts less if other people are out of work too). And even when you are back at work, you still feel its effects as a psychological scar. [Layard 2005, p. 67]’

Psychologists also know that dread anticipatory fear of a likely experience can be even worse than the event itself. So long as workers feel the dread of unemployment, the extent of unemployment necessary to make workers compliant will be less.

And also, a comment on Democracy Now! the other day. The comments are about the US, but are equally applicable here:

A second thing, I think the nation, by and large, hasn’t paid enough respect to workers as workers. You know, all the attention is about, you know, the Bill Gateses, the Warren Buffetts, the A-Rods, the Paris Hiltons, and not enough about workers. I think workers, in many ways, have become invisible as workers. They’re seen as Bud drinkers or Oprah watchers, but they’re not really seen as workers who, you know, bust their derrieres day in and day out, you know, making the trains run on time, you know, cleaning hotel rooms. And I think if the news media or if politicians really started paying more attention, more respect to workers, that might discourage corporations’ CEOs from squeezing their workers so much.

That’s from Steven Greenhouse, labor reporter for the New York Times. Fat chance of that happening here.

Bogged Down

I am left with a spare toilet bowl and cistern. Can someone please tell me what to do with it. Some thoughts so far:

  • Paint it and use it as a garden ornament
  • Paint it and use it as a pipeless garden toilet, for number ones only, naturally enough.
  • Fix it at the kitchen table, in homage to Bunuel.
  • Use it for a symbolic psychotechnic ritual: a cross between the wailing wall and the memory hole, where I write my innermost fears and crippling aspirations, and, in order to abandon them forever, write them down on paper and then chuck them down the bowl, and then set fire to them. More dramatic than flushing, and wastes less water.

None of these convince me. Help.

Circumnavigation and its Discontents

A philosopher‘ writes, Friday:

If we are to deal with what psychoanalysts call the “issues” arising from the Tiger years, a good way of beginning might be to ruminate on what has happened with Moate and how it mirrors what has happened to us all.

As it’s Friday, I mean Sunday, I’ve been ruminating for quite a while now, and my cud has been chewed right through as I strive to work out precisely how I am like a bypassed town, since there are scarce clues in M. Eaux’s article. I sense it can be true only in a roundabout way. How are you like a bypassed town, reader? Is your well-worn thoroughfare now getting a good seeing-to from employees of the county council?

And does your psychoanalyst talk about ‘issues’?

Many ways to get what you want part 56: Courtroom TV

Never seen this before. John Lydon on Judge Judy.


In an odd piece on anti-Americanism composed of straw men and pop-psychopathologising, David Aaronovitch writes of Andrew O’Hagan:

I should admit that I am irked by O’Hagan’s dismissal of the “idiots who supported that bad and stupid war (ie, Iraq)” and am willing to match my idiocy against his intelligence in any debating forum that he cares to name. More interesting, though, is the desire to blame America. For all that O’Hagan claims that the US has lost its purchase on the world’s affections, it remains the chosen destination for the most ambitious of the planet’s migrants. For all that he claims that this change in sentiment is recent, I can’t help recalling those – the most honest – who commented, in journals he writes for and on the very day after September 11, that the Americans had had it coming.

Couple of things: it depends what you understand by ambitious, since, for instance, there are people literally dying to get into the European Union every year in search of a better life. And a large number of the planet’s migrants don’t get the option of choosing their destination, as, for instance, the millions of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan could tell you.

And Andrew O’Hagan would do well to recall the old advice about never arguing with an idiot.

Vulpine Visuals

Nas has a new -now untitled- album out, and it looks like it’s going to be a big hit. The above, Sly Fox, is on it.

A Fair Likeness

Via Slugger O’Toole, a Wordle of this blog:

Sends out a clear signal about what this blog is about, I think. Particularly pleased with the humongous vertically ascending ‘like’ in the top corner, like.

Bigger Pies

Recommencing the aborted series where I ask questions of myself and give myself considered answers.

Question: Now that there is a recession on, why do there seem to be so many newspaper items about how a certain type of person is now resorting to discount supermarkets these days?
Like here, here, here, here. If more people are shopping there, then it should be reported on. But it’s the lifestyle pieces I’m talking about here: the ones referring to how people driving Mercs are now stocking up on ‘meat’ pie and other delights.

You would think you’d see at least some sort of interrogation of what recession means for people at work. You know, like how groups like IBEC or the Small Firms Association can benefit from rising unemployment because it enables them to make the case to government to drive wages down , whilst allowing their members to use the threat of unemployment to make their employees compliant in accepting worsened conditions, working longer hours for nothing, and so on. Could it be because we have newspapers that represent people in terms of their consumption patterns, rather than in terms of what they face as workers?

Answer: I agree, ‘meat’ pie is delicious.


Bernard Kouchner:

“I believe what we shall do on Monday is listen to them, but we’re not visiting them in our capacity as the French (EU) presidency. We’ll listen to the parties, to civil society, to the intellectuals… To say that this can be settled quickly is not true. Time is needed,” he said.


The other night I was watching Miriam O’Callaghan’s chat show -which is an abomination, but that’s besides the point- and she introduced John Waters as, inter alia, a philosopher, a description that forces us to treat a bit more seriously Alan Partridge’s claim that his favorite philosopher was Peter Ustinov.

Say, you don’t think…no, best not go there.

Sideline Balls

Just a thought, but don’t you think that the UK government could be more effective in ‘sidelining violent extremists‘ if it stopped invading and occupying Muslim countries, rather than funding university programmes?

(Some might say that British state forces torturing Iraqis to death is an instance of violent extremism. However, right-thinking people know that it’s an instance of violent moderation)

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July 2008