A large part of the reason I started this blog is to introduce others to Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication. I ran into his work about a half-decade ago, shortly after going vegan. It resonated with me very strongly, because he and his work showed me not just why it is so easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone's needs have equal value, but also how we can learn to listen for and express what's alive in ourselves and in others, and how to separate the strategies we come up with to meet our needs from the needs that we try to meet that way, and to always focus on the latter. Briefly put, NVC showed me how language enables and reinforces domination structures and inequality, both inside our heads, and in the societies we produce through our actions.
As I've talked about elsewhere on this blog, pretty much everyone is taught how to systematically value some people's equal needs more highly than those of others. By the time we're adults, this ability, and the moral logic that undergirds it are deeply rooted, though people obviously differ in how broadly they apply it, from radical egalitarian to arch-reactionary. As a result, only very few of us manage to ignore the distractions we are taught to focus on, and embody the kind of inclusiveness, egalitarianism and solidarity that, abstractly, we know is appropriate (and required). The question I want to talk about a little bit here, is how it is that we convince ourselves to believe such things about our fellow sentient beings, and argue that we should reconsider our behavior, both for the animals we harm, and because it's just inherently problematic to allow ourselves to devalue others, human or no.
Until 2008, I'd mostly been ignoring political economy as an area of study, as the subject bored me, and I found the mindset too unpleasant. The financial crisis changed this, and alerted me to the fact it wasn't wise to leave this to the 'experts' (who hadn't seen the crisis coming).
I started out doing the responsible thing, and informing myself by reading the serious media, paying special interest to those who were critics, to see how they explained things. Most of what I read there didn't really explain much, however, as the crisis tended to be presented as a fluke or a "natural disaster", while the "f word" was barely even mentioned. This suggested collective blindness to me, given how beneficial the run-up had been to some, and given what I already knew about (the lies leading up to) the invasion of Iraq, and the Dot-Com bubble. So I started looking for alternative sources, moving around until I encountered Naked Capitalism, and David Harvey's work. Since then, I've slowly been (re-)educating myself, and unlearning to accept the status quo as normal.
Reintegrating the dismal science
There are a number of ways to explain what money is, and what it allows us to do. Sadly, the "origin story" that we were all taught in school is a very misleading morality tale, in which exchange of goods is presented as a wholly separate sphere of life. Supposedly, humans were stuck with a so-called "barter economy" until they invented money. This is a complete fairy tale, and this matters a great deal.
(Note: this post probably won't be interesting to people who haven't read (part of) ASOIAF and watched most of Game of Thrones. Before reading this, please first watch Ellis's video. :) )
Visitors to this blog might wonder as to why I'm posting about this show. Obviously, this whole universe is miles away from the kind of egalitarian solidarity I espouse. But what I find interesting about it was how enthusiastically and uncritically this show was embraced, given how reactionary this universe is, with the partial exception of Daenerys and those she converts to her cause, what with the mass of the population mostly counting for nothing, being trod underfoot by elites who go about their business. The fact that most (re)viewers don't comment on the politics of it all disturbs me, as even Ellis (who -- to her credit -- at least makes the politics a topic of discussion, and has done so in the past with other shows, even if her expressed opinions are very safely liberal) is either unwilling or afraid (for reasons of branding, monetization or sponsoring?) only calls it out the ending for being lame writing (which it was), without pointing out that this is par for the course when it comes to "entertainment".
I am a dutch white guy with a lower middle class background, who was among the first to go to uni, with an extended family that I felt strongly encouraged me to embrace petit-bourgeois (Calvinist) cultural values and life goals, in a society that does the same. As a youth, I encountered few positive role models or like-minded peers, and lots of confirmation that I was different, which I didn't know what to do with, and found difficult to accept. Due to social awkwardness, some early bullying and the like, and because I equated social status, likability and attractiveness, I also long doubted both my general likability and physical attractiveness. This gave me the freedom to not care much about people's appearance beyond basic hygiene, as I saw these as facts of life for everyone.