Pepper Spray

A new song, set to our arrangement (slightly modified) of “Pallet on Your Floor”. You are probably familiar with the incident which inspired it.

     Put down that can of pepper spray
     Holster your taser, put the paint ball gun away
     Don’t sell them your soul, no matter what they pay
     Put down that can of pepper spray

They’ll pay you a thousand bucks a week
To gas any kid who tries to speak
Dress you like a stormtrooper, tell you this is war
Won’t tell you what you’re fighting for

They’ll pay you to sacrifice your soul
To show the world they’re in control
Make you spray it down the throat, in the eyes, in the face
Pay you to live with the disgrace

There’s still time to change your mind
Leave the one percent behind
Tear up that paycheck, just turn and walk away
Put down that can of pepper spray

Satan’s Jeweled Crown

Here’s a song we just learned, from the Louvin Brothers. It’s well known, and I don’t know why we didn’t add it to the repertoire before now.

    Satan’s jewel crown I’ve worn it so long
     But God for my soul has reached down
     His love set me free He made me his own
     And helped me cast off Satan’s jewel crown

If I could be king and ruler of nations
Wear jewels and diamonds profound
I’d rather know that I have salvation
Then to know my reward is Satan’s jewel crown

When I lived my life so reckless and evil
Drinking and running around
The things I would do were the will of the devil
I was giving my soul for Satan’s jewel crown

Going on cultural strike

I think Matt Taibbi is right when he says this about the Occupy movement:

This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.

As I’ve said before, I like the Occupy movement for the questions it raises, both explicitly and by its very existence.

I have no opinion about whether the movement is sustainable; I just heard a report on NPR describing how a similar popular uprising (the Bonus Army in 1932) came out of nowhere, captured the American imagination for months, and then was squashed by the US Army in one brief night. But there were aftereffects.

The hope I have for the Occupy movement is that it will lead more people to ask: how much of what we assume about the proper way to live life follows from morality or nature, and how much is simply arbitrary—or even against morality and nature?

I like Taibbi’s observation that, even though the meaning of the Occupy movement goes far deeper than modern finance, it was a stroke of genius to focus on it:

There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar.

This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of. [Emphasis added]

Many folks who are successfully walking this tightrope assume that this is the way God would have it, that their very success demonstrates how good and right and reasonable the system is, that the punishment for slipping off fits very well with the crime committed.

But those assumptions may be wrong. And it may be necessary to step back from it all for an extended period—to go on strike—in order to see other possibilities.

Provoking unguarded responses

I stand in awe of the Occupy movement’s knack for provoking unguarded responses from folks who in theory dismiss them but in practice find points at which to empathize with them. Here’s a perfect example from Will Wilkinson. In it he largely adopts a “quit your whining” position, by pointing out that he accepted the same sort of student debt burden that so many protesters are groaning beneath—but he refrains from whining because he thinks the expense was worth it (although he is very vague about why):

I don’t know that when I took out student loans to help support myself that I thought I was taking some kind of “gamble.” I knew I was redistributing income from my future to my present self, and not really because I needed the money to make an investment that would payoff, but because I wanted to study philosophy and I couldn’t otherwise afford it. I was buying the rarefied leisure of grad school and knowledge of philosophy. Now I know all about philosophy, will for the rest of my live, and I love it! Did I get some remunerative skills in the bargain? I reckon I did. I certainly sharpened my analytical and argumentative abilities, which came in handy as a think-tank fellow, and come in handy now as a semi-employed blogger for The Economist and Big Think. But so what! I spent years reading and thinking about Aristotle and Kant and Quine and Rawls, which is not everyone’s idea of a holiday, but I’ll always treasure that time in my life, and I’ve got more to show for it than a scrapbook of exotic snapshots. It remade my mind. [Boldface added]

Wilkinson says, “I wanted to study philosophy and I couldn’t otherwise afford it.” And what did his study of philosophy entail—at least the part he treasures? “I spent years reading and thinking about Aristotle and Kant and Quine and Rawls.”

Now, copies of the works of Aristotle and Kant and Quine and Rawls are easily available and very inexpensive. And it doesn’t take much time or effort for a young man to support himself in a way that leaves the bulk of his time available for reading, at least if his tastes are simple. So I have to figure that the money that Wilkinson borrowed to study philosophy went to pay for something else, something that he choose not to bring up.

It comes out a little clearer in the next section:

I studied painting and drawing at State U on an art scholarship. I studied philosophy at two more State Us, subsidized by taxpayers the whole way, either in the form of tuition waivers (for being a graduate teaching assistant, a job that doesn’t really ask that much of you, to be honest) or in the form of cheap loans I certainly couldn’t have landed on the market. ("Please, sir: I have an art degree with a mediocre GPA, and I would like your bank to give me some money to read Roderick Chisholm. Please?") "The system" gave me a very nice time, and helped me accumulate some rather luxurious if not exceedingly practical "human capital."at State U on an art scholarship. I studied philosophy at two more State Us, subsidized by taxpayers the whole way, either in the form of tuition waivers (for being a graduate teaching assistant, a job that doesn’t really ask that much of you, to be honest) or in the form of cheap loans I certainly couldn’t have landed on the market. ("Please, sir: I have an art degree with a mediocre GPA, and I would like your bank to give me some money to read Roderick Chisholm. Please?") "The system" gave me a very nice time, and helped me accumulate some rather luxurious if not exceedingly practical "human capital."

Painting and drawing are no more expensive to study than philosophy, if all you want to do is study them. But it can cost quite a lot if you decide you can only pursue that study in the context of “a very nice time.” You can write in a garret, or you can write on a cruise ship.

Recordings of new songs

We were at the Kentucky Coffeetree yesterday, and got decent takes of five recent songs. A couple are still rough, since we’ve only played through them a few times. (Lyrics can be found in recent posts.)

Where’d the Money Go

I Might Just Strike it Rich

So Many Things Could Go Wrong

How About Never

The McMansion in Our Little Cul-de-Sac