Saturday, October 29, 2005

On corporations

Just a note on a most self-evident thing that curiously seems to escape the free market enthusiasts: companies behave like the classic economics would have people behave - in their rational material interest. The corporations operate to maximize their own perceived short and middle term economic interest. So even though the top management might fervently belief in free competition and free market principles in general, the organization they lead will attempt to quench competition and restrict the free play of supply and demand at every opportunity. That is why we need state regulation: the private corporations would unsupervised destroy the free market and establish mercantilist baronies. The most self-evident thing there ever was: this is how human nature works in institutions and organizations - or how institutions and organizations work through human nature.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Reasons for attendance

"And what's the profit? Only that, in time,
We half-identify the blind impress
All our behavings bear, may trace it home.
But to confess

On that green evening when our death begins,
Just what it was, is hardly satisfying,
Since it applied only to one man once,
And that one dying."

The subject, of course, is that miserable sod, that marvellous poet, Philip Larkin, the last of my personal pantheon to be presented here. What he does with rhythm and thought is a rare virtuosity: these poems will ring in mind for days and weeks when first read. And yes, he is morbid, miserable, and yes, in his private life he was quite the reactionary misogynist and racist. I don't care - his poetry transcends his limitations in a way I have never really seen discussed anywhere. His questions, his doubts, so exhilaratingly, so chillingly put into a flawless form. His questions used to be partially mine, of course, a thing which brought him very close indeed.

Now then I finally do feel that I have found my person and my place and do think that I have not misjudged myself. Or lied. But once they were very crucial issues for me: I also was weighing reasons for attendance, and also listened to the call of the rough-tongued bell. In that very burning, very foolish youth I felt that I understood his issues, that they were mine: "And at his age having no more to show / Than one hired box should make him pretty sure / He warranted no more, I don't know." His true morbidity comes from the fact that in his poetry the questions, fundamentally, are left unanswered and what we have left is an overreaching, chilling doubt, carved in a breathtakingly beautiful rhythm: objects of art in language.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Left and its discontents

I hate the Soviet Union and Communism as much as I hate Nazism and Nazi-Germany. In fact, I think of the two Communism is far more dangerous: you don't have the swastika as a trendy fashion statement but you do have the equally blood dripping hammer and sickle being routinely worn by young, intelligent and idealistic people. It seems that you only need a few drags of Enlightenment to disguise your irrational and bloodthirsty ideology and all will be forgotten and forgiven. Just like that.

But Communism had a coherent theory of historical change - yes, a very silly and utterly discredited one, but even so: they had the analytical tools to comprehensively confront capitalism. I am afraid that modern social liberalism and social democracy lack these tools completely and have thus been doomed to be at the mercy of events, or, even worse, being forced to offer the political excuse for every single twist and turn of the dynamic, destructive and irrational global markets.

Capitalism works because it relies on human nature to function as has done throughout history: selfishly, shortsightedly and - within brutally strict limits - calculatingly. For a while it seemed that the messy social democratic compromise worked, but the immense power of capital seems now to have broken free of those rational, moderate limits that the democratic left imposed on it. One wonders what slow beast is now slouching towards Betlehem - what is clear in any case is that we have no control over history, no chance to moderate this mad continuous structural change that is the true meaning of capitalism. There is no long view to be taken and if these train tracks are going over a cliff, over a cliff we will go.

So, what is so desperately needed is a comprehensive theory of historical change for the rational Left: tools to confront capitalism, to control or transform it. Of course, one of the multitude of curses that the awful Soviet terror state left in its wake was to discredit all such theories and tools. And yes, all such aim to control the direction of history contains horrible temptations to our base, fearful and aggressive nature but the enlightened, moderate left is the only force now left that still can keep us on that extreme middle way, between irrational terror and destruction on either side of it. The tragedy of our times is that the enlightened, moderate left is in an abject state of confusion and demoralization: we are now on automatic control - and for how long will our luck hold?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The autumn of our discontent

I think I am now hovering on the verge of a mild (or even not so mild) burnout. IT is charming: the work I do in a huge corporation is a minuscule part of a feverish effort to keep the return of investment at a maximum level. The quality of service is only distantly connected to the stock value, so I end up doing 2,5 persons work with predictable results. Strange to see these iron structures of the modern world from inside, to see how lives are moulded by impersonal forces. Including mine, ours. Of course the work, the structures are not opening any long views, they are closing them, eating up energy and intelligence - so I should not be so concerned and stressed: I should find a way to avoid getting bogged down in this trivia. I have drifted pretty accidentally to IT work, as I had to do some work anyway and the pay is good, so why not? And I was curious to see the iron structures from inside, to understand how our present history works, the impersonal forces functioning. Now I hope it was not only a rationalization, the pay is good and oh how you need money in this society. Did I or did I not have a plan B? Interesting times once again.