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economy, 'technology', public space, San Francisco past and present, class, books

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Guantánamo good for selling cars?

Has anyone else had the jarring experience of seeing that bizarre ad for some car or SUV crusing along a road with an endless series of orange jumpsuited men standing shoulder to shoulder along the whole length of the road? When it gets closer they’re logo’ed and maybe their jumpsuits are actually red, but from afar you’d think they were all internees. The vehicle proceeds along a completely empty road, in the country and the city, but at a pointless stoplight one of this endless series of autonomic mechanics stoops down to tighten the cap on the air stem on the gleaming, polished tire. He shares a smile of deep pride with the adjacent prisoner. This wins this week’s Imperial Porn Award.

Hard-working Idleness

Here’s a letter I wrote to Harper’s about an article in their Nov. 04 issue:
Mark Slouka (“Quitting the Paint Factory” Nov. 04) did an inspiring “job” of demonstrating the value of hard-working idleness”¦ his ruminations on our overworked culture and the religion of The Economy led serendipitously through the Futurists to the Future”¦er um, the present, personified by the visibly-rushing-busily-“working hard“-towards-psychosis George W. Bush. Maybe our new fascists will be defeated by the time this letter arrives in the Harper’s mailbox, but the larger logic that has dominated my life, that is The Greatest Speedup in Human History, clearly will keep gaining momentum.
There are plenty of dissidents tilting against this logic, most of them having difficulty finding time for idleness in the face of the planetary work machine. Thousands more are too busy creating the social and technological foundations for a life after capitalism to hold a steady job. Ironies abound.
My only frustration with Slouka’s piece is that it reinforces a false opposition between working frenetically and idleness. The real opposition that most of us are balanced on is between doing stupid work that serves no purpose (though it does pay wages) versus the important work that we do outside of the logic of remuneration because we enjoy it and it’s worth doing. Thanks to Slouka, though, for eloquently going public in favor of slowing down and making time and space for human life, not work.
–Chris Carlsson
The Committee for Full Enjoyment (not full employment!)

The Factory

The Factory
by M.J. Carden

www.publishamerica.com: Baltimore, 2004, 291 pages, ISBN 1-4137-0733-5

This novel is set in a small machine factory in England in the early 1970s. It begins with a young man, terribly disaffected after years of rote, mind-numbing schooling, getting a job from the local employment office and showing up to work with a cautious enthusiasm about his new adulthood. It takes a very short time before he is introduced to the insanity and brutality that rules the roost in this particular factory, a perverted dehumanization that we readers soon understand as the norm in factory life more generally.

I had the pleasure of meeting the author, and even staying at his house in Liverpool for a few days back in 1999. Carden was one of the main organizers of an ultimately unsuccessful effort to protect the unionized dockworkers of Liverpool. In that capacity he had plenty of chances to see up close and personally the ways traditional union structures” and the people who rise to lead them” become obstacles to workers asserting their own power.

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