Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Doing God's Work"

Two decades ago I covered labor for a major metropolitan newspaper, and in that capacity attended the United Auto Workers 1989 convention in Anaheim, California. At a previous UAW event I had already met the union's chief PR guy, and I met with him again this time. I was quite surprised to learn that he was soon to leave the union to attend divinity school.

Today Peter Laarman is executive director of a progressive Christian social justice group in Southern California and ordained in the United Church of Christ.

A friend of mine posted a link to this essay by Laarman at Religion Dispatches, a progressive religion news and commentary web site. The whole thing is very worth reading, but two passages stood out for me especially: One a critique of the media,
This was evidence, as if more were needed, of the way members of the upper echelons in government, law, and finance defer to each other. These elegantly-attired “achievatrons” (in Lewis Lapham’s coinage) merely enact a kind of kabuki when they pretend to have a spat.

It would be good if just once in a while, the corporate media would take note of this kabuki dimension. But the media’s major talking heads have their own theatrics to attend to. Witness the chatter on CNBC, Bloomberg, and CNN over whether putting some transparency into derivatives markets, limiting highly-leveraged bets, etc., would “stifle innovation.”

To my knowledge, no one holding forth on this question ever bothered to interrogate that word innovation even a tiny little bit. Last week CNN’s unsavory Ali Velshi brandished the word as a shibboleth and accused morning anchor Tony Harris of threatening to bring down the “dynamic” U.S. economy because sweet Tony dared to say that he longed for the old-fashioned kind of stock trading—the kind where your broker actually finds you a solid investment in a real enterprise. (Dynamic: there’s more throwaway jargon begging for interrogation.)
-- and the other a much more nuanced assessment of the Tea Party movement than I have seen elsewhere:

That the Tea Party crowd are actually slightly more affluent than average actually points to the precise nature of this revulsion: these people feel, with some degree of justification, that they worked hard for everything they have. And they have a sneaking suspicion—warranted, as it turns out—that today’s nattily-dressed Wall Streeters and high-level politicians have been able to ride a fast track to privilege and serious money based on insider connections, access to certain schools, etc. They have a sneaking suspicion—also warranted—that these new-class elites take advantage of special tax breaks and other sweet deals even as they continue to make the rules for everyone else and even as they decide what interest rates we drones will have to pay and what level of taxation we will have to bear.

Do not expect Main Street’s visceral rage over such presumptions of privilege—and over the special moral exemptions the excessively over-privileged carve out for themselves—to subside anytime soon. And because that rage is mixed up with so much racism and anti-Semitism and identity anxiety, it could not be more dangerous.
I don't think this necessarily contradicts the points made in a post I put up a few days ago. I do think both offer important insights.

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