Hello my lovlies. I am recovering from strep, 34% done with pre-algebra, back at work and ready to be back in action on this damn newsletter! I hope you all are the same.
This is a weird read. I’m still trying to get through it, but it’s reminding me of that person who keeps name-dropping thinkers you’ve heard of but never read to explain some point about another thinker you’ve never heard of and you’re like, “Is understanding this wanker’s point worth extending this already too-long rant? Probs not.” So you nod and smile and wait to turn the conversation back to something you can comprehend without Cliff’s notes or, more often, walk away to look at your phone less rudely. Just me? Okay then.
I liked Popular Culture Is Something to Celebrate, but it reminded me of Rebel Sell, which made the most important point much better:
The key point is that this process of rebellion and co-optation is not a plot on the part of the system to stifle dissent. In fact, we don’t think there’s any such thing as co-optation in the counter-cultural sense. What gets called co-optation is entirely a plot of competitive consumption on the part of rebel consumers. Advertsing has almost nothing to do with it. At best, it simply helps out those who are late to the party find their way. Now thanks to the myth of counter culture and the ideology of the rebel consumer, many of the people who are most opposed to consumerism nevertheless actively participate in the sort of behavior that drives it. Consider Naomi Klein.
She starts out her book No Logo by decrying the recent conversion of factory buildings in her Toronto neighborhood to quote, ‘Loft living condominiums’. She makes it clear to though to the reader that her place is the real deal, a genuine factory loft, stepped in working class authenticity, yet throbbing with urban street colour and culture and what she calls quote, ‘ a rock video aesthetic’. Klein also drops enough hints about her neighborhood that any reader familiar with Toronto knows that she was living in the King-Spadina area and any reader with a feel for how social class in Canada works would know that at the time Klein was writing, a genuine factory loft at King-Spadina area was one of the coolest, most desirable pieces of real-estate in the country.
Unlike merely expensive neighborhoods in Toronto like Rosedale and Forest Hill, where its possible to buy your way in, genuine factory lofts in Klein’s neighborhood could be acquired only by people with superior social connections. This is because they contravened zoning regulations and so could not be bought or leased on the open market. Only the most exclusive segment of the cultural elite, the genuinely cool people, could get access to them.
Unfortunately for Klein, the City of Toronto, as part of a very enlightened and successful strategy to slow urban sprawl, decided to re-zone all the downtown neighborhoods to permit mixed usage’s. King-Spadina was re-zoned to permit any combination of industrial, commercial, and residential use. Before long, an enormous revitalization of the neighborhood began as old warehouses and factories were renovated, condominium complexes were built, new restaurants opened and so forth. Yet, in Klein’s perspective it was a disaster, why? Because the re-zoning allowed yuppies to buy there way into her neighborhood, something they previously could not do. What’s wrong with yuppies? Other than being yuppies, what crime did they commit?
Klein claims, (of course, no one’s actually a yuppie right? Like, I know people who are such yuppies who complain about yuppies) … part of our point … Anyhow, Klein claims that these yuppies brought with them quote, ‘a painful new self-consciousness’ to the neighborhood. But as the rest of the introduction to No Logo demonstrates, she too is conscious, painfully so, of her surroundings. She describes her neighborhood as one where quote, ‘in the 20s and 30s, Russian and Polish immigrants darted back and forth, ducking into delies to argue about Trotsky and the leadership of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union’. Emma Goldman we are told, the famed anarchist and labour leader, once lived on her street. How exciting for Klein! What a tremendous source of distinction that must be! It is here we can see the true nature of her complaint.
The arrival of these yuppies led to an erosion of her social status. Her complaints about commercialization are nothing but an expression of this loss of distinction. Ten years ago  saying I live in a loft at King-Spadina sent a very clear message to anybody who has ears to listen. It said ‘I am extremely cool. Quite possibly cooler than you’. But with a dearth of new condominium complexes and in-flight of yuppies, the noise threatened King and Spadina as a signal. When you say you live in a loft at King and Spadina how will people know you live in a real loft and not just one of those yuppie ones? Klein can see only one solution. If the landlord decides to convert her building to a condominium she will have to move out. She discusses this in No Logo as if it were self-evident. Yet, if the landlord decides to convert her building, why not just buy her loft? The problem of course is that a loft living condominium doesn’t have quite the cachet of a genuine industrial loft. It becomes, as Klein puts it, merely an apartment with quote, ‘exceptionally high ceilings’.
Here we can see the real problem. It’s not the landlord threatening to drive her from the neighborhood, it’s the fear of loss of distinction. What Klein fails to observe is that the cachet associated with her neighborhood is precisely what’s driving the real estate market. It’s what creates a value of all these yuppie loft living condominiums. People buy these lofts because they want to be cool like Naomi Klein. Or more specifically they want some of her for social status. And naturally she’s not immune.
The point is that people like Klein and Mario Vargas Llosa are tools. Specifically, they are snobs, unable to see their own desire to exclude others to bolster their own sense of distinction for what it is.
“If today it is rare to see literary adventures as daring as those of Joyce, Woolf, Rilke, or Borge.” It always was, motherfucker! They are interesting because they are rare. There have always been 1,000 pulp novelists for every Joyce because if there weren’t Joyce wouldn’t be Joyce. Don’t you get that? Don’t you see that you can’t see who the “new” Joyce is because snobs haven’t yet had their decades to decide who it was?
Speaking of savage critiques of popular culture.
And speaking of tools, I’m conflicted about this dustup where apparently douchecanoe of note Peter Thiel donated $1.25 million to Trump and YC decided not to dump him and so Project Include dumped YC in retaliation. I guess, on a knee-jerk basis, I agree with @sama on this. But I don’t think it’s an easy question. Should Jewish employers feel morally obligated to employ Nazi sympathizers in order to “foster dialog?” Maybe there’s something to feeling safe at work. Maybe this election isn’t like other elections, so likening firing someone over supporting Trump to firing them for their political beliefs isn’t really right. Is it morally acceptable to fire someone because you find out they’re a Klan leader?
Which reminds me of this story, which proves that dialog can change hearts and minds. Even those of hardened racists.
“He had always based his opinions on fact, and lately his logic was being dismantled by emails from his Shabbat friends. They sent him links to studies showing that racial disparities in IQ could largely be explained by extenuating factors like prenatal nutrition and educational opportunities. They gave him scientific papers about the effects of discrimination on blood pressure, job performance and mental health. He read articles about white privilege and the unfair representation of minorities on television news. One friend emailed: ‘The geNOcide against whites is incredibly, horribly insulting and degrading to real, actual, lived and experienced genocides against Jews, against Rwandans, against Armenians, etc.’”
In Sweet Talk Conversation, @NathanaelDSnow is all “Nuh uh, Western Civilization does not necessarily rest on Christiandom.”
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