Comments on: Sixteen Tons and What Did You Get? http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/ Sharon Astyk's Ruminations on an Ambiguous Future Wed, 19 Nov 2008 23:02:41 +0000 #?v=2.3.2 By: MEA http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-4048 MEA Mon, 31 Mar 2008 15:09:32 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-4048 Sorry, Heather, I didn't mean you, or any of the other working artists out there. But in terms of what is mass produced for people, do they get an amphore with an interesting sex sceen from mythology, excuted in lovely red and black work, or do they get a thermal cup with a blasting cartoon of some singing rodents? People may have gone to see Shakespeare for the gore, but they got some of the lovilest writing. The Atheneans may have been picky about who they let into the theatre, but those that went were exposed to such ideas as what is the nature of justice. I guess I'm just an old cynic, but it seems to me that the remakes of Jane Austen are sadly outweighted by "Meet the Browns." People used to have to find beauty in the things they created themselves. Now that is rarer and rarer in the West, and I think it's a great loss. I'm with you on I-pod, etc., but when I think of what's about to be lost in terms of painless denistry and education for special needs children, I could weep. With better management, this sort of knowledge could be speading, rather than contracting. Sorry, Heather, I didn’t mean you, or any of the other working artists out there. But in terms of what is mass produced for people, do they get an amphore with an interesting sex sceen from mythology, excuted in lovely red and black work, or do they get a thermal cup with a blasting cartoon of some singing rodents?

People may have gone to see Shakespeare for the gore, but they got some of the lovilest writing. The Atheneans may have been picky about who they let into the theatre, but those that went were exposed to such ideas as what is the nature of justice.

I guess I’m just an old cynic, but it seems to me that the remakes of Jane Austen are sadly outweighted by “Meet the Browns.”

People used to have to find beauty in the things they created themselves. Now that is rarer and rarer in the West, and I think it’s a great loss.

I’m with you on I-pod, etc., but when I think of what’s about to be lost in terms of painless denistry and education for special needs children, I could weep. With better management, this sort of knowledge could be speading, rather than contracting.

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By: Doug http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-4006 Doug Sun, 30 Mar 2008 02:59:13 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-4006 This was not a failed experiment, Sharon! In fact, I think it's one of your very best pieces to date. Keep asking the reader questions, and don't be afraid of targeting outside the choir - they will forgive you, and add lots of thoughtful commentary ;) Motivations are a touchy topic. I don't think that even the folks on the very top of the economic pyramid (except a few true sociopaths) were motivated by greed, so much as by fear. They have a lot and are afraid of loosing it, so they take some more to feel extra secure. People in the middle economic tiers are often motivated by convenience, since for many of them time really does equate to money. This logic loop encompasses most of my past sins... I never even learned to cook because eating out was always faster, and as my hourly rate increased the restaurants just got better! The same logic played out in my decisions regarding accommodation, travel, entertainment and certainly gadget acquisition :0 Was it worth the sacking of planet earth and the enslavement of humanity? Obviously, it was hard to see the connection without thorough investigation. And even now the correct decisions mostly go against the grain of our culture. At the end of the day, we all face a vortex of choices at any given moment (most of which we can't even see as possibilities). In the past, I think folks based their decisions foremost on their morals, which evolved from their family and social relations. As these influences have receded from our culture, they've been replaced with the logic of the market. It's hard to imagine now that folks used to say money was the root of all evil. It's like we all got so confused trying to gauge each other's choices through these divergent moral prisms that we came to rely on 'profitability' as the easiest objective measure of a 'sound' decision. I think this often played out between generations - parents didn't argue as much with their kid's decisions if they were 'doing well'. Those of us who still have choices must base more and more of our decisions on what we know to be right, rather than what is most cost effective or lucrative. Step one is to stop feeding the tapeworm - only buy the things that we really need, and only from folks we genuinely like. Step two is to stop riding the tapeworm - only spend time doing the things we feel good about, and again, only for folks we genuinely like. The order is important! Eventually the tapeworm will throw us all off and the option of feeding it will evaporate, so best to take the steps on our own terms... doug This was not a failed experiment, Sharon! In fact, I think it’s one of your very best pieces to date. Keep asking the reader questions, and don’t be afraid of targeting outside the choir - they will forgive you, and add lots of thoughtful commentary ;)

Motivations are a touchy topic. I don’t think that even the folks on the very top of the economic pyramid (except a few true sociopaths) were motivated by greed, so much as by fear. They have a lot and are afraid of loosing it, so they take some more to feel extra secure.

People in the middle economic tiers are often motivated by convenience, since for many of them time really does equate to money. This logic loop encompasses most of my past sins… I never even learned to cook because eating out was always faster, and as my hourly rate increased the restaurants just got better! The same logic played out in my decisions regarding accommodation, travel, entertainment and certainly gadget acquisition :0

Was it worth the sacking of planet earth and the enslavement of humanity? Obviously, it was hard to see the connection without thorough investigation. And even now the correct decisions mostly go against the grain of our culture.

At the end of the day, we all face a vortex of choices at any given moment (most of which we can’t even see as possibilities). In the past, I think folks based their decisions foremost on their morals, which evolved from their family and social relations. As these influences have receded from our culture, they’ve been replaced with the logic of the market. It’s hard to imagine now that folks used to say money was the root of all evil.

It’s like we all got so confused trying to gauge each other’s choices through these divergent moral prisms that we came to rely on ‘profitability’ as the easiest objective measure of a ’sound’ decision. I think this often played out between generations - parents didn’t argue as much with their kid’s decisions if they were ‘doing well’.

Those of us who still have choices must base more and more of our decisions on what we know to be right, rather than what is most cost effective or lucrative.

Step one is to stop feeding the tapeworm - only buy the things that we really need, and only from folks we genuinely like. Step two is to stop riding the tapeworm - only spend time doing the things we feel good about, and again, only for folks we genuinely like.

The order is important! Eventually the tapeworm will throw us all off and the option of feeding it will evaporate, so best to take the steps on our own terms…

doug

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By: Sharon http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3994 Sharon Sat, 29 Mar 2008 16:11:27 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3994 Somehow, Brian, I knew it was you ;-). And my apologies for my answer last night - I was really tired when you read yours, and just found the problem of sorting out where we went wrong too overwhelming to deal with. And don't discount the chance that the problem was me - I can fuck up with the best of them. I guess this was meant to have a lot less scope than you've given it ;-), and that I think is do the the incoherence of my expression of the question. But maybe that's good - it certainly got us to a place we wouldn't have gone otherwise, and that's interesting too. This was meant as a thought experiment, plain and simple (of course, it would work better if I'd presented it plainly and simply and with sufficient clarity that people could get it) - a question of whether the trade off in perceived affluence (not real, I don't think there was a real gain in affluence) was worth the price we had to pay to get it. Of course, I'm talking to the converted here, particularly among my regular commenters, but I also do have readers who aren't fully clear on what has just happened, who did think that the boom cycles made them better off or at least not worse off, who don't connect their political power to their economic choices. And it was them I was thinking of - and trying to find a pedagogical way to make the connection between what we lost and what we gained, which, I think, most Americans don't see in relationship to one another. They might be aware of the country going to hell, or them losing political power, but they don't necessarily see that in relationship to how they spend their money or their time. As a thought experiment or an intellectual exercise, I think this may have failed, or at least morphed into a different exercise, and of course, that's the fault of the composer, trying to teach people stuff they either don't need to know or in ways that are too obscure to get through. I've had my crappy lesson days often enough to recognize them again ;-). Although usually I just get a resounding silence <g>. Anyway, to go back to your discussion - in a sense, of course, we are talking alternate history - we'd be different people if we'd done differently. But of course, that's true of all historic choice, significant and insignificant - if I'd gotten supergirl underoos instead of the wonderwoman ones, I would have been subtly altered inside ;-). It is, of course, never possible to rewind history, but it is possible to go back and ask "would supergirl have been a better choice?" And yes, changing our practices would have changed us - but we can still play thought experiment and ask which choices we ought to have made - and thus, which choices we ought to make next time something similar comes along. Of course, using history is dangerous, because depending on how you parse it, the next time something similar comes along, it may be different in some compelling way, and the results horribly, horribly different than we might have predicted. But that's pretty much what history is - every time Occam isn't right, its history. And it doesn't mean not choosing is better - that's a choice too. You are right, of course, there were a host of decisions and impulses going forward, and "to get rich" was not one of them in many cases - I shouldn't have put it that way - it was rather more the question of maintaining, keeping going something that looked so valuable, and may not have been. But I guess that was the point of the larger question - to ask people who haven't asked themselves those questions whether the thing they wanted was really what they wanted, or if it was, whether they would have cared so much had they known the price they paid. But as you say, I don't know that we disagree that much. I'm going to call it a failed bit of pedagogy and file it away in the "don't do that again" pile ;-). But with appreciation of the discussion that ensued. Well, it is a snowy, freakin' cold Saturday morning here, and I'm supposed to be cleaning the bathroom, so I'm not feeling my life wasted ;-). And I still think Christopher Kimball et al are annoying anal, and all that anality doesn't really make for better recipes than any other good cook, so there ;-P. Sharon, who would do much to avoid scrubbing composting toilets.</g> Somehow, Brian, I knew it was you ;-). And my apologies for my answer last night - I was really tired when you read yours, and just found the problem of sorting out where we went wrong too overwhelming to deal with. And don’t discount the chance that the problem was me - I can fuck up with the best of them.

I guess this was meant to have a lot less scope than you’ve given it ;-), and that I think is do the the incoherence of my expression of the question. But maybe that’s good - it certainly got us to a place we wouldn’t have gone otherwise, and that’s interesting too. This was meant as a thought experiment, plain and simple (of course, it would work better if I’d presented it plainly and simply and with sufficient clarity that people could get it) - a question of whether the trade off in perceived affluence (not real, I don’t think there was a real gain in affluence) was worth the price we had to pay to get it. Of course, I’m talking to the converted here, particularly among my regular commenters, but I also do have readers who aren’t fully clear on what has just happened, who did think that the boom cycles made them better off or at least not worse off, who don’t connect their political power to their economic choices. And it was them I was thinking of - and trying to find a pedagogical way to make the connection between what we lost and what we gained, which, I think, most Americans don’t see in relationship to one another. They might be aware of the country going to hell, or them losing political power, but they don’t necessarily see that in relationship to how they spend their money or their time.

As a thought experiment or an intellectual exercise, I think this may have failed, or at least morphed into a different exercise, and of course, that’s the fault of the composer, trying to teach people stuff they either don’t need to know or in ways that are too obscure to get through. I’ve had my crappy lesson days often enough to recognize them again ;-). Although usually I just get a resounding silence .

Anyway, to go back to your discussion - in a sense, of course, we are talking alternate history - we’d be different people if we’d done differently. But of course, that’s true of all historic choice, significant and insignificant - if I’d gotten supergirl underoos instead of the wonderwoman ones, I would have been subtly altered inside ;-). It is, of course, never possible to rewind history, but it is possible to go back and ask “would supergirl have been a better choice?” And yes, changing our practices would have changed us - but we can still play thought experiment and ask which choices we ought to have made - and thus, which choices we ought to make next time something similar comes along. Of course, using history is dangerous, because depending on how you parse it, the next time something similar comes along, it may be different in some compelling way, and the results horribly, horribly different than we might have predicted. But that’s pretty much what history is - every time Occam isn’t right, its history. And it doesn’t mean not choosing is better - that’s a choice too.

You are right, of course, there were a host of decisions and impulses going forward, and “to get rich” was not one of them in many cases - I shouldn’t have put it that way - it was rather more the question of maintaining, keeping going something that looked so valuable, and may not have been. But I guess that was the point of the larger question - to ask people who haven’t asked themselves those questions whether the thing they wanted was really what they wanted, or if it was, whether they would have cared so much had they known the price they paid. But as you say, I don’t know that we disagree that much. I’m going to call it a failed bit of pedagogy and file it away in the “don’t do that again” pile ;-). But with appreciation of the discussion that ensued.

Well, it is a snowy, freakin’ cold Saturday morning here, and I’m supposed to be cleaning the bathroom, so I’m not feeling my life wasted ;-). And I still think Christopher Kimball et al are annoying anal, and all that anality doesn’t really make for better recipes than any other good cook, so there ;-P.

Sharon, who would do much to avoid scrubbing composting toilets.

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By: Brian M. http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3992 Brian M. Sat, 29 Mar 2008 15:17:17 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3992 Rats that last post was Brian M. not Robyn M. in case it wasn't obvious. Rats that last post was Brian M. not Robyn M. in case it wasn’t obvious.

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By: Robyn M. http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3991 Robyn M. Sat, 29 Mar 2008 15:14:20 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3991 Ah, I misunderstood you. I saw the was it worth it, and didn't see the "were the particular trade-offs we made to get rich worth it?" I'm not trying to joke, or insulting you as an incoherent writer, no one else thought the way I did. I am trying to answer the question as I mis-understood it. I'm not sure I did make particular trade-offs to get rich. Not within the last 10 years. Maybe my parents made trade-offs to get rich 30 years ago, and I am the beneficiary (and debtor) to the plusses and minuses of their decisions. Certainly I made trade-offs of many kinds of my own over the past 10 years, but "to get rich" isn't exactly the right way of cashing out my motives either. I beat myself up all the time, but I try to use my more rational side to pull back and evaluate things more honestly. Even most Americans weren't doing the things they were doing to get rich in most cases. They wanted to get by, to be respected by others, to do their duties, etc. They thought what they were doing was normal. The downsides were systematically hidden from them by artists and advertisers trying to get them not to think about what they were really doing. We exist as part of a system trying to get us to be a certain way, we try to fight back against that system in various ways. The results stem from the push and pull of these interacting. The system had worked long and hard at sapping American's abilities to think critically, see the truth, or understand the negative consequences of their actions. Many knew to some extent in their heart of hearts and tried to resist to various extents, but people also decieved themselves and the system worked hard to help people decieve themselves. Very few people honestly saw the costs and benefits and chose as a decision to get rich despite the horrible costs. So maybe we both created straw-men of various kinds in our rhetoric. I didn't just mean that the present is better than corpses, although I meant that too. The next decade will be hard and many will think it isn't worth going on. But the fabric of our lives is bound up with the history and the society and the details around us. If America had been different over the last 10 years we would all be very different people, even if we were still alive. That other me, who exists in some parallel world where America somehow jumped off the tracks of destiny and magically cleaned its house and became moral in 1998, he is a valuable person. He's probably even better than me. I'd certainly rather be him than who I am. But I am good too, even though I live in a fucked up America, that had a decade of excess and waste, and I have adapted to it and picked up bad traits from it. We shape the times, and are also shaped by them. But in any system the times have far more power over us, than we have over them. As the system breaks down our power grows. An abused child blames themselves for the abuse, and for many other things. And it destroys them slowly until they heal. The spoiled child does not perceive their wrong, but feels only entitlements, and more entitlements. And this wounds them too in a different way. We are children of our societies, of our laws, of our times, of our history, as well as our actual parents. It seems to me that anyone who feels no sense of wrong for what they personally have done over the last 10 years is pretty darn spoiled, and needs help learning to face reality without self-deception. But anyone who blames themselves for the ills of the world from 1998-2008 is like the abused child, taking more blame than they deserve. Most of us, did what we could, within our own frailties and limitations, to cope with the world we found ourselves in in 1998, or earlier. And we were unable to change the times more than we did, and we were unable to change our own lives more than we did. So again, I think that the costs of the choices we made over the last decade were real and horrible, but that they were worth it nonetheless. And if you don't think even our f***d up world is worth it, why not let this world cease and suffice with those other worlds where things went better? For I am not saying this is the best of all possible worlds, but that even a world this bad, and this far below the ideal is still worth it. The existence of worlds and individual choices seem very linked to me, in a way they don't to most. This seems to tap into the primal questions of free will, and the problem of evil, and the reality of alternatives, to me. That's not what you were trying to talk about I know, I'm not trying to strawman you again even if that's what I wind up doing. I want to moderate you, by trying to give the opposite side the best run I can. Yes beat our breasts for our wrongs, and foolishness, and all that we have done in the last decade. Yes, reflect on the terrible costs. But reflect on why we did what we did, too, forgive ourselves for our mistakes, bear the terrible costs as nobly as we can, and value what we have bought with them all the more for the costs. So yes, it seems to me that the costs were high, but that even our particular choices were worth it. If both sides of the choice were not worth being, why would the choice itself be allowed to exist? Maybe the problem is that I just think about the reality of possible worlds, and the goodness of the Divine so differently than others. Or maybe the problem is that you seem to talk about some mythical "we" I don't really believe in. Individual Americans made a lot of particular and conflicting choices trying to pull America in various directions, and the overall result was a massive credit expansion, and lots of other problems. But I just don't believe that some "we" decided "hey lets get rich even though it will screw over lots of others," collective action just doesn't work like that. Now I'll play Marxist (or at least Hegelian) and say that it is a dialectic process rather than a collective decision. If it was a collective decision it would be a bad one, but it wasn't. It was lots of individual decisions trying to cope with the world they were in as best they understood, and added up to a badly non-optimal result. And each of those individual particular decisions was worth it, even though many of them were non-optimal. But I'm not really sure you're trying to talk about a bad collective decision either. So I don't really know why we are disagreeing either. And as usual I have written too much, and spent too much of a lovely Saturday morning arguing. Ah well. Ah, I misunderstood you. I saw the was it worth it, and didn’t see the “were the particular trade-offs we made to get rich worth it?” I’m not trying to joke, or insulting you as an incoherent writer, no one else thought the way I did. I am trying to answer the question as I mis-understood it.

I’m not sure I did make particular trade-offs to get rich. Not within the last 10 years. Maybe my parents made trade-offs to get rich 30 years ago, and I am the beneficiary (and debtor) to the plusses and minuses of their decisions. Certainly I made trade-offs of many kinds of my own over the past 10 years, but “to get rich” isn’t exactly the right way of cashing out my motives either. I beat myself up all the time, but I try to use my more rational side to pull back and evaluate things more honestly. Even most Americans weren’t doing the things they were doing to get rich in most cases. They wanted to get by, to be respected by others, to do their duties, etc. They thought what they were doing was normal. The downsides were systematically hidden from them by artists and advertisers trying to get them not to think about what they were really doing. We exist as part of a system trying to get us to be a certain way, we try to fight back against that system in various ways. The results stem from the push and pull of these interacting. The system had worked long and hard at sapping American’s abilities to think critically, see the truth, or understand the negative consequences of their actions. Many knew to some extent in their heart of hearts and tried to resist to various extents, but people also decieved themselves and the system worked hard to help people decieve themselves. Very few people honestly saw the costs and benefits and chose as a decision to get rich despite the horrible costs. So maybe we both created straw-men of various kinds in our rhetoric.

I didn’t just mean that the present is better than corpses, although I meant that too. The next decade will be hard and many will think it isn’t worth going on. But the fabric of our lives is bound up with the history and the society and the details around us. If America had been different over the last 10 years we would all be very different people, even if we were still alive. That other me, who exists in some parallel world where America somehow jumped off the tracks of destiny and magically cleaned its house and became moral in 1998, he is a valuable person. He’s probably even better than me. I’d certainly rather be him than who I am. But I am good too, even though I live in a fucked up America, that had a decade of excess and waste, and I have adapted to it and picked up bad traits from it. We shape the times, and are also shaped by them. But in any system the times have far more power over us, than we have over them. As the system breaks down our power grows.

An abused child blames themselves for the abuse, and for many other things. And it destroys them slowly until they heal. The spoiled child does not perceive their wrong, but feels only entitlements, and more entitlements. And this wounds them too in a different way. We are children of our societies, of our laws, of our times, of our history, as well as our actual parents. It seems to me that anyone who feels no sense of wrong for what they personally have done over the last 10 years is pretty darn spoiled, and needs help learning to face reality without self-deception. But anyone who blames themselves for the ills of the world from 1998-2008 is like the abused child, taking more blame than they deserve. Most of us, did what we could, within our own frailties and limitations, to cope with the world we found ourselves in in 1998, or earlier. And we were unable to change the times more than we did, and we were unable to change our own lives more than we did. So again, I think that the costs of the choices we made over the last decade were real and horrible, but that they were worth it nonetheless. And if you don’t think even our f***d up world is worth it, why not let this world cease and suffice with those other worlds where things went better? For I am not saying this is the best of all possible worlds, but that even a world this bad, and this far below the ideal is still worth it. The existence of worlds and individual choices seem very linked to me, in a way they don’t to most. This seems to tap into the primal questions of free will, and the problem of evil, and the reality of alternatives, to me. That’s not what you were trying to talk about I know, I’m not trying to strawman you again even if that’s what I wind up doing. I want to moderate you, by trying to give the opposite side the best run I can. Yes beat our breasts for our wrongs, and foolishness, and all that we have done in the last decade. Yes, reflect on the terrible costs. But reflect on why we did what we did, too, forgive ourselves for our mistakes, bear the terrible costs as nobly as we can, and value what we have bought with them all the more for the costs. So yes, it seems to me that the costs were high, but that even our particular choices were worth it. If both sides of the choice were not worth being, why would the choice itself be allowed to exist? Maybe the problem is that I just think about the reality of possible worlds, and the goodness of the Divine so differently than others. Or maybe the problem is that you seem to talk about some mythical “we” I don’t really believe in. Individual Americans made a lot of particular and conflicting choices trying to pull America in various directions, and the overall result was a massive credit expansion, and lots of other problems. But I just don’t believe that some “we” decided “hey lets get rich even though it will screw over lots of others,” collective action just doesn’t work like that. Now I’ll play Marxist (or at least Hegelian) and say that it is a dialectic process rather than a collective decision. If it was a collective decision it would be a bad one, but it wasn’t. It was lots of individual decisions trying to cope with the world they were in as best they understood, and added up to a badly non-optimal result. And each of those individual particular decisions was worth it, even though many of them were non-optimal. But I’m not really sure you’re trying to talk about a bad collective decision either. So I don’t really know why we are disagreeing either. And as usual I have written too much, and spent too much of a lovely Saturday morning arguing. Ah well.

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By: Sharon http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3981 Sharon Fri, 28 Mar 2008 23:28:46 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3981 As they say, in the long run, all of us are dead. But in the meantime, with Barthes, again, I'd say the particularities matter. I find it hard to believe that you really think that I'm asking "was it worth it be alive for 10 years, wouldn't we all have been better off dead and making good compost?" Clearly either I'm that incoherent a writer, or you are misunderstanding me for your own amusement. Let's see - there's a whole post up there asking whether the particular economic trade offs we made to get rich were worth it, and the sense of the thing that you get is that I'm asking whether it was worth it for us to be alive at all. So I know you aren't an idiot, so either I'm having an idiotic moment, or you are putting me on. I'm guessing the latter. Maybe I'm tired or something, because I'm not getting why - you have apparently translated the above to "lives of imperfection have no value" through some system I can't track. It certainly wasn't what I thought I said, or intended to say, or even what I see when I read things over, but authors are notoriously bad at their own work. Let us agree that life has value, even imperfect, and from that bare minimum discussion, could we go on to the actual parameters of the choices we've made and the specificities that make specific choices good, valuable and worth the results. Apparently I can't get us there. Yes, there have been forms of debt through all of human history - and yes, the particularities matter. We can sit around and discuss which forms are like other forms, but it is not sufficient to say that other human beings had family obligations that operated in some ways like credit debt and in some ways not, and thus, these two things are lyrically the same. Things matter in both the ways they are different and the ways they are the same. I doubt either of us have enough free time to parse all the ways that familial debt is both like and unlike credit card debt, but the truth is that again, the broad swath blurs distinctions that really do matter. I would tend to say that it is possible to ask whether a set of choices was worth it without actually indicting the whole of human existence - and while I don't call myself a Marxist (or for that matter an anything ist except a hybridst), I'll stand with them on this - reductio always ends up ad nauseum ;-). I could go through this, but I admit, whether it is me or you, I'm not getting how we got where we are. Either I set up a big straw man or you did. Sharon As they say, in the long run, all of us are dead. But in the meantime, with Barthes, again, I’d say the particularities matter. I find it hard to believe that you really think that I’m asking “was it worth it be alive for 10 years, wouldn’t we all have been better off dead and making good compost?” Clearly either I’m that incoherent a writer, or you are misunderstanding me for your own amusement. Let’s see - there’s a whole post up there asking whether the particular economic trade offs we made to get rich were worth it, and the sense of the thing that you get is that I’m asking whether it was worth it for us to be alive at all. So I know you aren’t an idiot, so either I’m having an idiotic moment, or you are putting me on. I’m guessing the latter. Maybe I’m tired or something, because I’m not getting why - you have apparently translated the above to “lives of imperfection have no value” through some system I can’t track. It certainly wasn’t what I thought I said, or intended to say, or even what I see when I read things over, but authors are notoriously bad at their own work. Let us agree that life has value, even imperfect, and from that bare minimum discussion, could we go on to the actual parameters of the choices we’ve made and the specificities that make specific choices good, valuable and worth the results. Apparently I can’t get us there.

Yes, there have been forms of debt through all of human history - and yes, the particularities matter. We can sit around and discuss which forms are like other forms, but it is not sufficient to say that other human beings had family obligations that operated in some ways like credit debt and in some ways not, and thus, these two things are lyrically the same. Things matter in both the ways they are different and the ways they are the same. I doubt either of us have enough free time to parse all the ways that familial debt is both like and unlike credit card debt, but the truth is that again, the broad swath blurs distinctions that really do matter. I would tend to say that it is possible to ask whether a set of choices was worth it without actually indicting the whole of human existence - and while I don’t call myself a Marxist (or for that matter an anything ist except a hybridst), I’ll stand with them on this - reductio always ends up ad nauseum ;-).

I could go through this, but I admit, whether it is me or you, I’m not getting how we got where we are. Either I set up a big straw man or you did.

Sharon

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By: Greenpa http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3980 Greenpa Fri, 28 Mar 2008 20:55:08 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3980 And I just read Voltaire's "Candide" last night- for the first time, having successfully avoided it until actually curious. Ouch. :-) And I just read Voltaire’s “Candide” last night- for the first time, having successfully avoided it until actually curious.

Ouch. :-)

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By: Brian M. http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3979 Brian M. Fri, 28 Mar 2008 18:48:30 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3979 Ah most people haven't had access to financial debt, as in the opposite of financial credit, until very recently, they have been embedded in other systems of indebtedness, fuedal debt, family debt, social obligation, etc. Debt is an older and more flexible concept, and honestly I think we will go back to more social forms of debt rather than more abstracted financial forms of debt. You can fight my particular examples, fine, although I of course do disagree on Strauss & Howe and Cooks Illustrated and such. Better one kitchen spends 20 chickens getting a bang on recipe and transmits it to many, than 200 kitchens spend 10 chickens a peice experimenting until they get it right. But my only point was that we have gotten much of real value in the process of recklessly spending. Maybe in 100 years they'll have different opinions of what was of lasting value, but I really do think they will pick some things from this decade as having been of enduring value. Was the 1808-1818 worth it? Yes over a long enough time horizon the enduring values remain, and the ephemeral harms become water under a bridge, even if we fight over what was best and worst from that long ago decade. My bigger point like yours was about exactly what the scope of a was it worth it question can be? How is the lyric suppose to work? As opposed to what? Non-existence? Is it better that the world continued from 1998 to 2008 rather than ending in 1998? YES! Yes it must be, despite all the foolishness! Even the worst imaginable world is preferable to oblivion. Did we do more harm than good? Quite likely, but even so, if the alternative was not having a decade, that would be even more harm than even we managed to do! Even if every decade is downhill from here until oblivion, the decades are STILL WORTH HAVING because they are still better than oblivion. A declinist path is still worth walking. The cost of having the 1998-2008 decade was pretty damn high, but the cost of not having a decade is even higher! Or maybe you just mean could we have made better choices, spent our decade in a more productive less damaging fashion? Well yes and no, that "could" is slippery as a fish. In some sense it couldn't have happened any different than it did happen, and in some other sense it could have. We some power over our own lives, but have limited power over history, and even that works best when used at moments of crisis when the bonds of history are loose. Many people tried to make 1998-2008 different than it was and failed. It is hard to budge a decade from its path, a decade has a lot of momentum, especially a decade right before a crisis is really getting underway. So we look at the gory details of history and we say what could we have done better how could we have done better? Good questions, hard questions, useful interesting questions. You ask, instead was it worth it? Was even our paltry, half-assed, foolish attempts to live our lives and guide history into the future worth doing, and the answer is always yes no matter how bad a job we actually did, no matter how much the harms out weighed the victories. Maybe we're differing on theology, or ontology, or I'm misunderstanding the question or something, but I don't see how anyone can look at a decade of world history, any decade, and say that it wasn't worth it. Maybe one can say that about a particularly bad decade of their own life, but of all world history, for all lives? Maybe that's why I fight the Buddhists and the Marxists, birth and death are not just facts, they are also of transcendent value; the poetry of human existence is not the answer to every possible question, but it IS the answer to the question "is it worth it?" Even lives of poverty are worth living. Ah most people haven’t had access to financial debt, as in the opposite of financial credit, until very recently, they have been embedded in other systems of indebtedness, fuedal debt, family debt, social obligation, etc. Debt is an older and more flexible concept, and honestly I think we will go back to more social forms of debt rather than more abstracted financial forms of debt.

You can fight my particular examples, fine, although I of course do disagree on Strauss & Howe and Cooks Illustrated and such. Better one kitchen spends 20 chickens getting a bang on recipe and transmits it to many, than 200 kitchens spend 10 chickens a peice experimenting until they get it right. But my only point was that we have gotten much of real value in the process of recklessly spending. Maybe in 100 years they’ll have different opinions of what was of lasting value, but I really do think they will pick some things from this decade as having been of enduring value. Was the 1808-1818 worth it? Yes over a long enough time horizon the enduring values remain, and the ephemeral harms become water under a bridge, even if we fight over what was best and worst from that long ago decade.

My bigger point like yours was about exactly what the scope of a was it worth it question can be? How is the lyric suppose to work? As opposed to what? Non-existence? Is it better that the world continued from 1998 to 2008 rather than ending in 1998? YES! Yes it must be, despite all the foolishness! Even the worst imaginable world is preferable to oblivion. Did we do more harm than good? Quite likely, but even so, if the alternative was not having a decade, that would be even more harm than even we managed to do! Even if every decade is downhill from here until oblivion, the decades are STILL WORTH HAVING because they are still better than oblivion. A declinist path is still worth walking. The cost of having the 1998-2008 decade was pretty damn high, but the cost of not having a decade is even higher!

Or maybe you just mean could we have made better choices, spent our decade in a more productive less damaging fashion? Well yes and no, that “could” is slippery as a fish. In some sense it couldn’t have happened any different than it did happen, and in some other sense it could have. We some power over our own lives, but have limited power over history, and even that works best when used at moments of crisis when the bonds of history are loose. Many people tried to make 1998-2008 different than it was and failed. It is hard to budge a decade from its path, a decade has a lot of momentum, especially a decade right before a crisis is really getting underway.

So we look at the gory details of history and we say what could we have done better how could we have done better? Good questions, hard questions, useful interesting questions. You ask, instead was it worth it? Was even our paltry, half-assed, foolish attempts to live our lives and guide history into the future worth doing, and the answer is always yes no matter how bad a job we actually did, no matter how much the harms out weighed the victories. Maybe we’re differing on theology, or ontology, or I’m misunderstanding the question or something, but I don’t see how anyone can look at a decade of world history, any decade, and say that it wasn’t worth it. Maybe one can say that about a particularly bad decade of their own life, but of all world history, for all lives? Maybe that’s why I fight the Buddhists and the Marxists, birth and death are not just facts, they are also of transcendent value; the poetry of human existence is not the answer to every possible question, but it IS the answer to the question “is it worth it?” Even lives of poverty are worth living.

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By: Heather Gray http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3978 Heather Gray Fri, 28 Mar 2008 18:33:56 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3978 Hm. On the subject of creating beauty in the western culture, while I guess there hasn't been a lot for the "masses", as in large scale distribution, as an artist I have to take some exception to this opinion. I certainly hope the art I've created over the years has been beautiful and meaningful to the folks who have seen it, bought it, received it. Maybe nothing earth-shatteringly beautiful, but I do my best. And I've seen plenty of other beautiful work by other artisans, some of which I can even afford. I don't sell a lot of my originals, but I have prints and cards of them to sell, specifically so more people can afford something special for their homes or offices (the cards are 5x7, so they can be cards or small pieces of artwork). Now I'm getting into weaving, and have managed to sell a few scarves -- they're wool, so they're attractive, useful, and durable. I've woven some yardage and will weave more, but likely those will be for myself and family and maybe a few friends -- who could afford me, even at minimum wage? It's a strange thing, making things that very few people I know can afford (the scarves are my way of making handwovens more affordable, but they still aren't cheap). Although, perhaps somewhere down the line other folks will have things I need, and then being a weaver will be useful as a profession again. Meantime, it's a good thing I have lots of different skills. (Oh, and on the so-called benefits of the past decade or so, while I very much appreciate the less invasive surgical techniques that have been developed, but could care less about having an iPod, cell phone, flat tv, or any of those other 'wonderful' gadgets.) Hm. On the subject of creating beauty in the western culture, while I guess there hasn’t been a lot for the “masses”, as in large scale distribution, as an artist I have to take some exception to this opinion. I certainly hope the art I’ve created over the years has been beautiful and meaningful to the folks who have seen it, bought it, received it. Maybe nothing earth-shatteringly beautiful, but I do my best. And I’ve seen plenty of other beautiful work by other artisans, some of which I can even afford.

I don’t sell a lot of my originals, but I have prints and cards of them to sell, specifically so more people can afford something special for their homes or offices (the cards are 5×7, so they can be cards or small pieces of artwork). Now I’m getting into weaving, and have managed to sell a few scarves — they’re wool, so they’re attractive, useful, and durable. I’ve woven some yardage and will weave more, but likely those will be for myself and family and maybe a few friends — who could afford me, even at minimum wage?

It’s a strange thing, making things that very few people I know can afford (the scarves are my way of making handwovens more affordable, but they still aren’t cheap). Although, perhaps somewhere down the line other folks will have things I need, and then being a weaver will be useful as a profession again. Meantime, it’s a good thing I have lots of different skills.

(Oh, and on the so-called benefits of the past decade or so, while I very much appreciate the less invasive surgical techniques that have been developed, but could care less about having an iPod, cell phone, flat tv, or any of those other ‘wonderful’ gadgets.)

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By: MEA http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3971 MEA Fri, 28 Mar 2008 15:12:20 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/27/sixteen-tons-and-what-did-you-get/#comment-3971 For me the last ten years have been a gift -- a chance to have my little family, get them through the most vulnerable years of childhood, and make what preperations I can for what lies ahead. For those years, and the five previous, I also had the chance (and, I hope made much of it) to build friendships in my community. But one world-wide sale, I think the last ten years have been pretty horrible. Western "culture" seems to produce very little of beauty for the masses (yep, I'm one of them) while greating a climate in which violence, greed, and indifference to the suffering of others have become comonplace. At the same time, despite lip service to diversity, esp. where it butresses the status quo, we've lost the ability to appreciate the aestics of others. (Yes, this has happened before; but there have been times and places where it was less so, or where you could at least argue that while there were many aspect of the culture than ranaged from moral reputnant to merely unpleasant, there were either some positive aspects (more than we see now) or a mass movement to improve things. We got some positive medical benefits, some lifting of poverty for a few people, some good things out of this, and I don't want to deny that, but I really think that we could have done those and so much more. For me the last ten years have been a gift — a chance to have my little family, get them through the most vulnerable years of childhood, and make what preperations I can for what lies ahead. For those years, and the five previous, I also had the chance (and, I hope made much of it) to build friendships in my community.

But one world-wide sale, I think the last ten years have been pretty horrible. Western “culture” seems to produce very little of beauty for the masses (yep, I’m one of them) while greating a climate in which violence, greed, and indifference to the suffering of others have become comonplace. At the same time, despite lip service to diversity, esp. where it butresses the status quo, we’ve lost the ability to appreciate the aestics of others. (Yes, this has happened before; but there have been times and places where it was less so, or where you could at least argue that while there were many aspect of the culture than ranaged from moral reputnant to merely unpleasant, there were either some positive aspects (more than we see now) or a mass movement to improve things.

We got some positive medical benefits, some lifting of poverty for a few people, some good things out of this, and I don’t want to deny that, but I really think that we could have done those and so much more.

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