23 May 2014

Even the trace of the presence of the global economy affecting a passably local one usually indicates a rise in real estate prices and/or a leveling or drop in wage earnings

A signal piece regarding the Vancouver housing market by James Surowiecki, "Real Estate Goes Global," from The New Yorker's "Financial Page" this week.

Even the trace of the presence of the global economy affecting a passably local one usually indicates a rise in real estate prices and/or a leveling or drop in wage earnings. Alas, I do not invent these ideas, because then they would have the passing fancy of merely unpleasant fictions--or perhaps pleasant ones, if you, gentle reader, number yourself among the extraordinarily wealthy. I, myself, do not. And so, I do not share your enthusiasm for this or that turn of events that benefits you so greatly but continues to make life even more of a challenge for those less privileged than you may be--people such as myself.

I cannot fault myself entirely for my failure to achieve your great fortune. There is only so much to go around, after all, and your teensy percentage of the population seems to be intent on keeping as much of it for yourself as possible. The less you put into any economy, the less that economy grows. This is basic and not of my invention.

No. Rather than invent "statistics" or theorize in some broader, unsupported, sense of the "economic," I prefer to speak of incidences--let us not even raise them to the dignity, the certainty, of causality, of the causal--incidences that seem to keep showing up near each other, either temporally or locally.

And what is this "nearness" of which I speak? Can you see it? Does it happen recently enough for you to notice it, or does its temporal proximity seem to occur repeatedly in relation to a trend you may have noticed in your world--no matter how tiny, personal, local, or global this may be?

I find that most people--and by "most" I mean the larger percentage of the population--tend, most often, to recognize, not even the trends that favor them. Instead, they either recognize the trends that they would like to favor them--some day--or the trends that they believe should favor no one, no matter whether these trends may ever actually apply to them, themselves or their families, or not.

And so, you have people who celebrate the kind of wealth they will never actually ever be able to achieve--not them, not their children. And then you have people who disparage any public support or safety net for the individual, any labor union, wage regulation, fair and even tax code, public healthcare, corporate or environmental standards or regulations, sometimes public education, or anything else that seems to smack of governmental incursion into private property; not privacy--which, of course, has no value--but money, property, children, land and things (because, in case you haven't heard, children are things we invest in) and ownership, as such, and, now, even speech. But in this last place, the government has, through the inverse of freedom, marked its greatest colonization, its greatest mobilization of speech for the few and the greatest silencing of the many.

For you must remember, according to a 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision--clearly a mandate with strong precedent under the law--only the most expensive speech is worth valuing, reproducing, hearing, or discussing. Because, apparently, money IS speech. Money is speech. Think about that, while I say it again: Money is speech. So, the more money you have the more speech you have, and therefore, in a very fucked-up way, the more money you have the more "free" your speech is--more free because free speech is unhampered speech, and the less hampered the speech the freer it is. So, in a very queer sense indeed, the more that any kind of speech circulates, or, at least, finds its audience, the freer that speech is. And so, the freedom of your speech, its ability to reach any audience--much less its intended audience--actually carries a price tag.

So, am I the only one reading this who thinks that access to discourse and an audience; access to a polity for an election; access to speech as a monetary value actually destroys the notion of speech as something "free"? In social media forums, such as Facebook, where we sometimes produce our speech--which we are "free" to do--our speech derives its value from a different kind of payment: that of attention. It's not the number of people who read any post that determines its value and its placement in the, so called, "Newsfeed"; no, it is the popularity contest of liking and commentary that determines its value. And so your free speech, is something no one may never see or ever see, because it is not in fact free to circulate at all in such places. If it is too long, it is not free. If it is too interesting or complicated or critical, it is not free. If it is produced by someone without the organ of a different medium, such as a newspaper, or a lobbyist, or a representative, it is not free. This is a kind of market competition. But as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money; or rather, to put precisely too fine a point on it: you have to have money to make money. And money is speech. Money is speech.

Late Capitalism has a genius for attaching a price tag to everything. And if it doesn't carry a price tag and a price that can be driven up to increase its value either in the global market of property or the market of ideas, speech, law, and government, it has no value. As your labor has no value. Because your speech has no value.

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