Archives for category: Power

Recently picked up The Varieties of Scientific Experience by the one and only Carl Sagan.

Carl attempts to make sense of current theology in the context of modern scientific knowledge, posing, above all, that humility and compassion should govern the human experience. Given our relatively recent ability to cause our own annihilation with nuclear weapons, this may be the only way humankind can survive. Further, he points to reasonable understandings of God and life given the context of the universe’s and earth’s history.

But I couldn’t help but feel that his arguments, though poignant, respectable, and logical, lack the fervor and heat required for humanity to move away from the disastrous possibilities we have created. Namely, he gives no alternative to the logistics of how we live and run our society other than better knowledge, understanding, and more perfect distributions of information.

Everyone should be wary of a dependence on a trajectory toward perfect knowledge, for with it comes power, which makes it political and costly (in more ways than monetary).

So, I propose Saganomics, a re-framing of economic theory (which by-and-large is a bastardization of more complex, dynamic, and chaotic systems we could not possibly comprehend completely). What could happen if we re-form the fundamentals of economics with a new assumption of humility and awe in the face of scale and history over rational self-interest. Not to discount self-interest as a motivation (of course it exists and would be silly to ignore it), but to credit the phenomenon of human life and its necessity to persist through our compassion.

Consider the cooperative (shared ownership) business model, which recently was pointed out to me to have a unique characteristic. Cooperatives tend to grow only as much as they are needed, largely by demand, and by the roles they fulfill in a community. Cooperatives do not grow for the sake of growth. That is the kind of economic structure that is consistent with a Saganomic principle of humility and that successfully transcends naive assumptions about rational self-interest.

This recent Washington Post Wonkblog post, while very interesting, would have been better conveyed with a map… seems like The Atlantic’s Cities threw one together that does the 1% justice.

I don’t appreciate the Wonkblog (btw, wtf is a Wonkblog?) post’s suggestion that folks should move “occupy” locations to the home territories of the wealthy 1%. Others have also suggested the occupations should exist closer to rich doorsteps. A recent SF Chronicle article points from Occupy Oakland toward San Ramon, a more eastern (and wealthy) Bay Area city.

They have missed the point.

Downtown financial and business districts with high-rise buildings are constructed in the image of capital nexuses like Wall Street. They are symbols for the flow of global capital and the concentration of  the 1%’s power. Are Wall Street or Downtown Oakland the optimal targets to hit the wealthy “where it hurts”? Maybe not. But isn’t the occupy movement a rhetorical demonstration, a performance of massive frustration, a locus for activation and organization?  The point is not really to “take the 1% down” but instead to “build ourselves up” to replace the 1% entirely. I reject the notion that the 1% may not only dominate our country and our lives, but also determine where exactly we choose to demonstrate. Where precisely we allow ourselves, as voluminous creatures, to congregate, and rest our weary bodies.

Some highlights from a Student Loan “Exit Interview,” which as you surely guessed is a text-based online quiz. This post is dedicated to all my friends and peers who are unjustifiably buried in debt.

“A sure way to help pay for college and to avoid excess borrowing is to work part-time. Not only will you be covering expenses, but you will gain valuable work experience. Be careful, however, not to overload your study time with work; part-time employment should be part-time.”

  • Will reducing your debt levels now help you in the future?
    (Yes / No)
  • You do not need to include your personal expenses, clothing and entertainment when figuring out a budget.
    (True / False)

100 percent of the balance of your student loan will be canceled in the event of your death. [This one isn’t funny because it became effective August 14, 2008.]


As for the financial system, I figured out how to fix it. Tomorrow, I’m moving my meager savings out of J.P. Morgan “Chase” Bank and putting it into Patelco, my local Community Credit Union. I will have all the same services, but a much lighter conscience. I never even signed up for Chase in the first place, I was a Washington Mutual customer and one day they changed all the signs and started calling my branch by a new name…

My loan educational experience this evening is the reason why I will switch tomorrow. The reason I found Patelco in the first place was out of sheer desperation, and my friend Laura’s alleviating recommendation. What could make me so desperate? I stepped foot inside a Chase bank.

It’s not what you think either, I hate bureaucracy and corporate drudgery as much as the next person, but it wasn’t so bad this time. By the end of my journey I made it to a cubicle in the back of the floor with an associate (or representative? maybe a banker? I don’t know what they’re called). I just needed some checks. Turns out she wanted to chat, and I soon found out that she too was a Berkeley grad, in political science. How odd, I thought. Do Harvard and Yale graduates work jobs like this? Is it some entry-level process I don’t understand? But, I didn’t want to be judgemental, and hell… I needed a job too, and you gotta take what you can get.

But by the end of our little meeting, this associate was pulling out laminated graphical diagrams, dropping Chase lingo, and serving me all this rhetoric about how I could use a Chase credit card, and how I could start earning points (not only double, but triple for such a valued customer). It made me sick! So much baloney! And the twist in my stomach formed. The powers of persuasion and critical thinking my alma mater prides itself on creating were performed on me in a bewildering and cosmically sinister mess. What do they teach folks in Political Science, anyway? By the end I was anxious; I ran out of ways to say “No, thanks” without breaking the fragile politeness between us for swift ranting. I was lucky I could hold my smile in place long enough to bid this associate adieu and scramble outside, gasping for air.