500 posts!

Bit of a milestone around these parts. Boots Theory kicked off in February 2014 with a post explaining the Pratchett reference in the name for all you heathens who haven’t read any of the Discworld saga. Go! Now! Start with Guards! Guards! or maybe Witches Abroad or Hogfather (though that’s best enjoyed at Christmas) and get your kids onto The Wee Free Men while you’re at it.

Here’s another great quotation from A Hat Full of Sky. It describes Tiffany leaving home to live with Miss Level and learn how to be a witch.

Tiffany couldn’t quite work out how Miss Level got paid. Certainly the basket she carried filled up more than it emptied. They’d walk past a cottage and a woman would come scurrying out with a fresh-baked loaf or a jar of pickles, even though Miss Level hadn’t stopped there. But they’d spend an hour somewhere else, stitching up the leg of a farmer who’d been careless with an axe, and get a cup of tea and a stale biscuit. It didn’t seem fair.

“Oh, it evens out,” said Miss Level, as they walked on through the woods. “You do what you can. People give what they can, when they can. Old Slapwick there, with the leg, he’s mean as a cat, but there’ll be a big cut of beef on my doorstep before the week’s end, you can bet on it. His wife will see to it. And pretty soon people will be killing their pigs for the winter, and I’ll get more brawn, ham, bacon and sausages turning up than a family could eat in a year.”

“You do? What do you do with all that food?”

“Store it,” said Miss Level.

“But you -”

“I store it in other people. It’s amazing what you can store in other people.” Miss Level laughed at Tiffany’s expression. “I mean, I take what I don’t need round to those who don’t have a pig, or who’re going through a bad patch, or who don’t have anyone to remember them.”

“But that means they’ll owe you a favour!”

“Right! And so it just keeps on going round. It all works out.”

“I bet some people are too mean to pay -”

“Not pay,” said Miss Level, severely. “A witch never expects payment and never asks for it and just hopes she never needs to. But, sadly, you are right.”

“And then what happens?”

“What do you mean?”

“You stop helping them, do you?”

“Oh, no,” said Miss Level, genuinely shocked. “You can’t not help people just because they’re stupid or forgetful or unpleasant. Everyone’s poor round here. If I don’t help them, who will?”

I think Helen Kelly would have been a damn fine Discworld witch. Kindness, but steel principles and no tolerance for injustice. Something we definitely need more of.

~

And now for something a little different – signing off with a song.

Sie wollen mein Herz am rechten Fleck / doch seh ich dann nach unten weg / da schlägt es links
They want my heart on the right, yet I look down at it; there it beats left

QOTD: Somebody has to prepare that steak

I’m having difficulty finishing Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?, the feminist critique of economics by Katrine Marçal. It’s just too real. Every few pages I put it down with a sigh at how true, yet/thus how utterly frustrating, it all is.

So in lieu of a long-planned review, to be completed once I’ve ground my way through the last 30 brilliant, infuriating, vindicating pages, here’s a quotation which nails the key point.

Since Adam Smith’s time, the theory about economic man has hinged on someone else standing for care, thoughtfulness and dependency. Economic man can stand for reason and freedom precisely because someone else stands for the opposite. The world can be said to be driven by self-interest because there’s another world that is driven by something else. And these two worlds must be kept apart. The masculine by itself. The feminine by itself.

If you want to be part of the story of economics you have to be like economic man. You have to accept his version of masculinity. At the same time, what we call economics is always built on another story. Everything that is excluded so the economic man can be who he is.

So he can be able to say that there isn’t anything else.

Somebody has to be emotion, so he can be reason. Somebody has to be body, so he doesn’t have to be. Somebody has to be dependent, so he can be independent. Somebody has to be tender, so he can conquer the world. Somebody has to be self-sacrificing, so he can be selfish.

Somebody has to prepare that steak so Adam Smith can say their labour doesn’t matter.

Boots Theory top 5 posts for January

Let’s get this election year party started.

naomi-glow-entrange

Far and away the most-read post for the first month of 2017 was Unity, a poem entirely constructed from the verbatim writing of Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury.

Twitter can be rough
a boutique shop down a tiny alleyway
for Militant Free Bleeders and Beard Glitter aficionados
screams of ‘hate monger’ if someone gets the wrong pronoun
fucking worthless as a political measurement tool

outside the tiny little alienating echo chamber
the impenetrable little echo chamber
the Emerald Stormtroopers
are itching to start a schism of religious proportions.

St John ambulance officers took industrial action over rostering and rest breaks, and we asked Who wouldn’t want ambulance drivers to be safe and healthy at work?

So tell St John. Tell every employer who tries to walk away from the bargaining table when they don’t like people taking a stand for health and safety and decent work: it’s not on. It’s not how we do things. And tell the politicians, too. Because laws change when we make them change.

Stephanie spoke at a Wellington Fabians meeting about The political prospects for 2017: living our values.

I don’t want to assume everyone here has sat through at least one Labour Party conference or candidate selection, but I know you’ve heard the line: “My values are Labour’s values. And Labour’s values are New Zealand’s values.”

We understand the importance of values. But we’ve forgotten that they’re not theory. They’re practice. We need to live them.

When we live our values, nothing’s a distraction. Every issue is an issue that matters.

We applauded Richard MacLean of Wellington City Council for confronting the rampant hypocrisy of the Taxpayers “Union” in our quote of the day for the 18th.

And here’s an important reminder: The only minimum wage is a living wage.

If you cannot pay someone enough for them to live on, you aren’t paying enough. The minimum wage you should be allowed to pay is not determined by invisible market forces or Treasury forecast spreadsheets; it’s determined by human life. We do not work for the economy. We do not have to sacrifice ourselves to its glory.

All wages should be living wages. Or they’re just a dolled-up kind of servitude.

Now let’s set our sights on 23 September – it’ll be here before we know it.

Who gets to be apolitical, and who neutrality serves

A great article about serious politics and Captain America from Dr Naja Later at Women Write About Comics:

The trouble is that this narrative is hinged on the idea that until now, Cap was not political. Apart from being historically untrue, it speaks to a greater failure in recognising that everyone is political. The privilege to believe you can be apolitical is particular to a demographic like [current Captain America writer] Nick Spencer’s. These people are exnominated, a term coined by Roland Barthes to describe how privileged identities are unnamed because they are the norm. The exnominated can believe that their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, bodies, and ideologies are “neutral.” For those of us outside the exnominated—anyone who is “other” in some way—our every action and inaction is, whether we like it or not, read as political. This is how the term “identity politics” arises, because only the non-privileged have a visible “identity,” and its existence is treated as political. Because we have been forced to recognise how our everyday is political, we recognise that the same is true of the exnominated.

This is one reason I kind of hold on to the label “identity politics”, even as it’s been weaponized by dudes who really wish the womenfolk would stop having opinions loudly and in public. It’s a beautiful circular trap: my politics are grounded in my identity because my identity has been created for political ends, i.e. to preserve and protect capitalism.

Being defined as neutral or not having an “identity” is the basis of privilege. Your rights aren’t special when you’re the norm, your needs aren’t extraordinary or frivolous, your welfare is inherently important. Your existence and opinions are simply not seen as political the way a woman’s or a black man’s or a queer person’s are. But when we buy into the idea that to be political is icky, and that the best way to be is neutral … well, we end up defending Nazis. Literally.

[Spencer’s] entire tenure as the writer of Cap books has been working to recreate the popular fanboy illusion that superheroes can and should be apolitical. He’s set a scene where activism and criticism are not only wrong: they’re out of character, unheroic, and embarrassing. This long game leads to a point where the man who writes one of culture’s most famous Nazi-punchers advocates for a genocidal neo-Nazi. Now that Richard Spencer has retweeted him, we can see exactly whom the myth of neutrality serves.

I’m almost finished reading Katrine Marçal’s Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? which absolutely nails this topic. Hopefully have a review up shortly!

We can fight this horrible darkness

Something a bit more inspiring for your Monday: images from the weekend’s airport protests across the United States, where hundreds of ordinary people turned out to voice their opposition to the Trump administration’s brutal, unfair immigration ban:

refugee-airport-protest

More at The Guardian; further reporting from Al Jazeera. Unfortunately some organisations like Uber chose to be on the wrong side of the resistance – and their subsequent backdown shows they know it.

Together, we can resist this. Ordinary people coming together and making a scene and standing up to the powerful and donating what time and resources and spoons we can and remembering to look out for each other. Love trumps hate. Trite but true.