29 Comments

I've grew up in a red state. It has always puzzled me what conservatives wanted as an "end game." Kansas had a famous period where there agenda was "starve the beast." Which was just another way to say they were going to cut taxes. They cut taxes so much that they couldn't work on roads, let alone spend on education or arts.

When Trump came along with his MAGA declaration, it felt similarly empty. It has a catchy vibe, but really, what specific policies and decisions do you want? And what is the vision? Is it some Ayn Rand capitalist freedom city?

I could disagree if a place like that is possible, but they won't even provide a vision to ague about.

And it makes me wonder, do we need a vision of a better future world - with specific support structures and spending decisions all fleshed out?

I think your point is a good one, that what should be centered are the real people who are here now. And those people are complicated and contradictory, so building a future has to promote individual freedom to create and exist in the most ways imaginable (to be healthy, safe, educated is a necessary foundation), but also to limit destructive and evil impulses of the powerful (billionaires), and of the majority (racists).

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Dec 22, 2023Liked by Noah Berlatsky

Well, I agree. I also can't help adding that money doesn't buy taste. Which isn't just a throwaway quip; taste indicates some kind of comprehensive viewpoint. Bezos doesn't seem to have one beyond amassing an unimaginable amount of money so he can control the future. Fortunately, that kind of plan isn't likely to work out in any meaningful way (because I don't want Jeff Bezos deciding what the future will look like on a massive scale). It's like an episode of Phineas and Ferb.

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Dec 22, 2023Liked by Noah Berlatsky

Could Bezos solve climate change? Like, hypothetically, could a person with that many squillions of dollars just…fix it? We can get to the rockets later.

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Dec 28, 2023Liked by Noah Berlatsky

Just catching up with a week's worth or reading. I really enjoyed the language you used in this one. When I think about the uber-billionaires that is exactly how I think about them.

What's the end game? Whoever dies with the most wins? Most of these folks have more than a couple generations of heirs could spend. I don't get it. Isn't it more admirable to leave a legacy of kindness?

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Oh Lord this is great.

I know he wasn’t perfect but damn, I love Einstein.

Cracking up at the Janelle Monae video. It’s so sexy it’s almost like a satire of sexy. Like how much more sexiness could you put into a music video. Every sexy thing and some extra sexy. I find her very funny --I know she is actually BEING sexy but somehow when she does that she is communicating a ‘oh, look this is sexiness, we are going meta here.’ It’s something certain slapstick comedians can do where they are both funny and make you aware of their pain but also make you see they are making you aware of their pain. Probably no one understands what I am talking about. Is there no word for this?

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I'm afraid I don't find your view of history or progress a lot more nuanced than Bezos'. The device I'm writing you on runs on microprocessors that are direct application of quantum mechanics. One of the major pioneers of which, Werner Heisenberg, was a Nazi. And he wasn't the only one, just the most eminent one. A whole lot of the human progress that you highlight was brought to us by assholes and villains. Xi Jinpeng is a tyrant who has done more for the development of green technology than anyone else alive, there is a reason solar panels and electric car batteries are mostly produced in China. Bezos view of a sterile future is not benevolent, but not I'm not convinced of your vision that radical politics and progressive art are any better. A few years ago an old friend who grew up in the Soviet Union said to me "the leaders of the [Russian] revolution, Lenin, Stalin, they too were fighting for social justice" in reference to the rising American progressive left. At the time I was aghast. These days I begin to find it resonates. Certainly that resonance starts for me with the left's sometimes explict, sometimes implicit indulgence of October 7, backed always at some level by the claim that the the violence of the oppressed is always at least justified and maybe even righteous violence. E.g. Mao's cultural revolution framed itself as the violence of the oppressed as well. It isn't quite the same thing, but your art criticism lately seems to me to always have a hint that all art would be better if it was more openly about a certain "progressive realism" and was closer to your politics or espoused politcs you like more openly. At the moment, left doctrine begins to disturb me. Probably I should worry less, because violence in the US still seems much more likely to come from the right. But the last period of similar political instability, between the world wars, was marked by rising violence on the left and the right, and I suspect this one will be too. And apologies if this is at best obliquely connected to your theme that Jeff Bezos is an asshole, which is of course true. And we sure we should raise taxes on rich assholes.

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