Dream Diary: “El Guapo”

I was writing a pilot for Mexican television. It was to be a cannibalistic detective story, starring Detective Elliott, universally agreed (except by some) to be the world’s most careful sleuth. Det. Elliott’s catchphrase, which he used when people asked him why he was so special, was “The only difference between me and your ordinary detective is that the windows on my car are divided into more segments.”

I went location scouting and found the perfect place to film the rendezvous scene, an old gas station with water flowing through it so fast that you had to sit on the pumps in order to avoid being swept away. A lifeguard at the gas station told those of us who had come to see it that we would have to leave, because cleanup efforts after the recent John Kerry talk held there were taking longer than expected.

I would call my show El Guapo, or La Bella Dolce.

Dream Diary: “Ebola”

I tested positive for Ebola. Because I was on the news, sales of California Sojourn skyrocketed (they had showed the cover on CNN — “Massachusetts Ebola Patient Writes Children’s Book”). But the more the book was talked about, the more people left it negative reviews, partly because for some reason the books suddenly all had blank pages, and partly because I had given America Ebola.

Dream Diary: “Pumpkin”

I was surprised that the guards let the prisoners have as many pumpkins as they liked.

“Oh, pumpkins are useless,” the warden told me. “You can’t do anything with a pumpkin. Let alone escape.”

I could use a pumpkin to escape,” one of the inmates chimed in. “I would put a pumpkin where my head was supposed to be.”

“Then we would make that pumpkin explode, wouldn’t we?” retorted the guard with a laugh.

Dream Diary: “Trivial Pursuit By Another Name”

“I own a piece of land, too,” I told him proudly. True, it wasn’t anything like his 400,000 acres, but I did own some: .25 acres on the edge of London. Actually, I was very worried, because I had spent all my money on the land, and now the tax was due. I had no money for the tax, so I was going to lose the land. But I was still telling the truth when I told him I owned some land.

* * * *

“Wait, this is just Trivial Pursuit by another name!” I exclaimed.

“We know that,” they said, and tried to calm me down.

Dream Diary: “Law School Dining Hall”

There was a lot of confusion between me and the man behind the counter. He did not speak, but I could not convince him to give me a sandwich instead of a danish. He appeared to believe that the pronunciation of both words was the same.

* * * *

The red-faced patriarch of a Southern family remarked loudly as he passed through:

“Well, I like the law school, but I’m not very impressed by this dining hall!”

“It’s not a dining hall,” I replied. “You’re in the kitchenette of my apartment.”

* * * *

I went to investigate whether the building was as unstable as they said it was. While I was inside, the building collapsed.

We were called into a meeting with the company at which each person offered $680 in compensation. I made a powerful case to the group that they should not accept such a pitiful amount. At the end of my speech, the crowd rose to their feet and unanimously rejected the settlement.

“That was some speech,” someone told me afterwards.

“Well, a building fell on me!” I said.

You will notice that the cover of this book features a large group of diverse people standing around a pile of burning money. I hope this small bit of cartoonish excess does not put anyone off, or suggest that I am not a careful and sober-minded economic thinker. I intend in the following pages to give a full and fair treatment to the position that money ought not to be gathered into a pile and set aflame…

from Practical Anticapitalism, forthcoming from Demilune Press

 

An “appearance” is not simply a delusion without foundation. It is quite real, however incomplete and therefore misleading. The blind men who felt different parts of the elephant were not simply imagining what they felt, but were nevertheless quite mistaken in their inferences about the nature of an elephant. A distorting mirror produces an appearance quite different from the reality, but wholly based on the reality and systematically related to the reality. A given stage of metamorphosis is quite real, but an acorn, a caterpillar, a tadpole, or an apple blossom may be a completely inadequate and misleading representation of what will ultimately develop. – From Thomas Sowell, Marxism: Economics and Philosophy, 18.

Though professional conservative sourpuss Thomas Sowell is unsurpassed in his hatred of the left, he is extremely lucid in explaining Marxism. In fact, he’s so lucid that he made me wonder why Marxists themselves tend not to articulate the man’s philosophy anywhere near as concisely or compellingly.

(Note that Sowell’s analytic powers appear to have fled him since 1985; his latest column is essentially a cacophanous word-salad of unfiltered Tea Party spleen)

The New York Times Obscures the Leftism of the 43 Missing Mexican Students

The New York Times‘s recent story on the 43 missing Mexican students carefully obscures the extent and nature of their militant radical politics. In profiling the students, who are now presumed to be the ones found burned and dismembered in a mass grave, NYT writer Randal Archibold begins as follows:

They were farm boys who did well in school and took one of the few options available beyond the backbreaking work in the corn and bean fields of southern Mexico: enrolling in a local teachers college with a history of radicalism but the promise of a stable classroom job.

The framing here is well-crafted, and noteworthy for how clearly it comports with a Timesian worldview. The students are portrayed sympathetically, as hard workers trying to escape their social conditions. But note how they are distanced from radicalism. Their college has politics (at least historically), sure, but the students themselves are simply good honest boys committed to climbing the ladder of the education profession. It is almost as if Archibold feels the need to make an excuse for them. Yes, there was leftism about, but it was the only route to a teaching post!

Yet this picture of otherwise-apolitical students forced by circumstance to attend a radical school is at odds with other reports. A far more in-depth investigation from VICE portrays a student body unified in its commitment to social action. “We are a school in the struggle,” VICE quotes a student as saying. Depictions of Lenin and Che adorn the college walls, and the students in this “cradle of social consciousness” are anticapitalists known to nonviolently seize the cargo of Coca-Cola trucks because of resource shortages.

This is crucial, and one does not get anywhere near the full sense of it from the Times’s coverage. The paper’s initial report of the students’ disappearing did not even mention the politics involved (nor did the one on the discovery of the bodies). In Archibold’s lengthier piece, he does touch on this context at one point well into the article. But even there he does not discuss the actual substantive grounds of the students’ actions, and more critically, he doesn’t quote any of the teachers’ college students or their spokesman. Instead, he merely gives the odious suggestion that some students may have previously “provoked violence” and “did again this time.” One might think this contradicts the opening passage, but remember that the liberal worldview has room for two kinds of young leftists: do-gooder sober-minded Volunteers and misguided hotheaded Agitators. Archibold also use familiar patronizing tones in his wording, describing the “hodgepodge” of human rights groups (never a collection, always a hodgepodge), and the presence of “slogans” like “protest is a right, repression is a crime” (that’s not actually a slogan, it’s a fact.) At no point do we get an actual explanation of what the issues that motivated them were. It’s just a horrible tale of corruption in Mexico, of the slaughter of 43 innocent lambs in a bloody, gang-ridden country.

The Times’s approach to covering the students’ politics is wrong for two reasons. First, from the mere perspective of trying to understand what happened, the threat posed to locals in power by the students’ radical anticapitalism may explain the murderous backlash they seem to have encountered. Second, failing to detail the students’ politics, and treating them as if they were mere starry-eyed Teach for America volunteers, does a grave injustice to their life’s work. These students died because they dared to challenge those in power, and to portray them as simple victims doesn’t give their struggle its due. A liberal worldview such as the Times’s doesn’t contemplate the idea of the sensible radical; one is either sensible and taken seriously or radical and dismissed. But the Mexican students cannot be pigeonholed this way. From the evidence, they appear to have been intelligent, committed leftists who both hijacked food trucks in the name of anticapitalism and were good hardworking people who aspired to teaching. To appreciate the truth requires being able to see how these facts do not contradict one another.