Today I opened a bank account. It was fun.
Here’s a taste of a spirited dialogue I had with the clerk, and later, the manager:
- So you’re charging me to deposit money with you?
- Yes, that’s right.
- And when I deposit money, lend you essentially, you give me 0% in interest, but when I borrow money from you I pay you 6.5%??
- Yes, but during the last wave of the pandemic it was 12%…
- It’s a terrible deal in either case!
- Well, in all the other banks it’s the same. …
Many states — now including the UK and US — are beginning to act in ways that contradict not just the neoliberal script, but the crisis management strategies of the global financial crisis. This text explores why.
By Bue Rübner Hansen, @buerubner
This is an updated version of a text first published by Novara Media. Updated elements are highlighted in bold.
Things are moving incredibly fast. A week ago, Denmark’s Social Democratic government announced it would cover 75% of the wages of workers who would otherwise be laid off. I had hoped it would give ammunition to those trying to put pressure on the social Darwinist Conservative government in the UK. …
Reflections on the experience and rejection of solidarity in the British elections.
The British elections have left many with a deep disheartening disappointment. But rather than mourn dashed expectations, I people will remember their experiences of the election campaign. On election day, Richard Seymour wrote of an experience shared by thousands:
“For those campaigning, there has been a palpable and transformative feeling of comradeship. Among the many causes for mood swings in this election, I am repeatedly struck, felled, brought to tears by unexpected solidarities and sacrifices. … It’s difficult not to believe that the country, or some part of it, is being changed for the better merely by the fact of this campaign. Or that a new country is in formation. …
The uprising against the convictions of Catalan leaders was predicted. But by rioting, parts of the independence movement has entered uncharted territory.
Catalonia has had three days of rioting and blockades. Hundreds of thousands have marched and blocked highways after the Spanish supreme court handed long prison sentences to Catalan leaders involved in the independence referendum and protests of 2017. Teargas spread through Terminal 1 of Barcelona’s international airport, as thousands occupied it and forced the cancellation of more than a hundred flights. An international arrest warrant for the former Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, still in exile, has been issued, and Puigdemont’s vice-president during that fateful autumn, Oriol Junqueras, has been sentenced to 13 years of political imprisonment.
For two years, the Spanish political and legal system has painted itself into a corner with trumped up accusations and charges of rebellion and sedition. There was no way the supreme court could have ruled in a way that facilitated de-escalation and dialogue. At the same time, there was no way the Catalan independence movement and radical democrats more widely could take these sentences lying down. After all, the Catalan leaders have been sentenced for the crime of setting up a democratic referendum on the future of their country, and for facilitating peaceful protests against the police violence that cracked down on the vote.
In many ways, Spain and Catalonia is stuck in a dilemma which will never be solved by the courts. Two years ago, I outlined the problem in this way: “The contradiction between the constitutional enabling of Catalan nation building and the prohibition of Catalan self-determination remains and has only been intensified. Of the three competing answers, none is currently feasible. Neither authoritarian Spanish centralism, nor independence, nor constitutional reform.” In other words, Catalan aspirations can’t be crushed, independence can’t carry a majority, nor can constitutional reform. This deadlock hasn’t come closer to a solution over the past two years, and many have actively sustained it.
Indeed, the continuation of the conflict serves most major Spanish political parties well with elections coming up on November 10th. The right (PP, Cs, Vox) all aim to build hegemony and mobilise the vote on a Spanish nationalist base, and the governing social democrats of PSOE, whose unwillingness to enter into government with left-wing Podemos has triggered the third general election in less than a year, can use the issue to distinguish to shift the discussion from the social question, on which it is unwilling to move much, to the national question in which pressure to share power with Podemos’ plurinational federalists is smaller.
Blockading highways is nothing new to the Catalan movement, nor is the call for a general strike, due tomorrow. But the rioting and generalized use of coordinated tactics without the ultimate control of the political leadership marks a new phase. Much of this is inspired by Hong Kong, as detailed in Quartz, and it is certainly inspired by a recognition of the limitations of the relatively orderly approach of 2017.
But just as one set of limitations are being overcome, another emerges. In 2017, I wrote that “any re-opening of the path towards independence would require a movement willing to use its capacity to render Catalonia ungovernable — a move unthinkable under bourgeois leadership, and minoritarian without it.”
This week, we have seen Catalan politicians order violent police actions to stop protests. Thousands have been tear gassed for peacefully blocking the airport, many shot with foam bullets, and yesterday at least two protesters were run down by police vans. There are calls for the independentist leader of the Catalan government, Quim Torra, to step down.
The movement increasingly has the streets, but it no longer has government. The constitutional deadlock is the same as ever, but the means to fight it are not. Perhaps many independentists will be anarchists by the end of this week, as Carlos Delclos quipped. Certainly many will have to find their feet anew. …
Some reflections on the climate emergency and mental health.
It is pretty insane to knowlingly destroy one’s conditions of life. But it is a curious kind of systemic insanity, the aggregate effect of billions of people carrying on their everyday life making more or less rational economic decisions, like taking jobs in the most destructive and polluting industries. To work to survive and destroy the conditions of survival while doing this is, like I recently wrote, batshit crazy. Yet it is also completely rational. We all got to work, right?
How does this structural madness, and the very specific madness of the work many of us do, affect our mental health? How does it make us worry, fearful or anxious, how does it make us stubbornly defend what we do? …
Obviously most of us need to earn a living. Some of us end up doing the batshit work of destroying the planet.
A few years back, David Graeber coined the term ”bullshit jobs” to speak of pointless, meaningless and socially harmful jobs. These jobs are often boring and unrewarding, and generally could be abolished without a profound social transformation.
While stupid, bullshit jobs they are certainly not insane. Batshit jobs are. Sometimes they are rewarding, financially and professionally, often times people take them out of desperate necessity. What makes them batshit is that they contribute to environmental and climate breakdown.
Batshit jobs don’t have to be directly destructive. The first literal “batshit workers” were the 19th Century diggers, haulers and transporters of the excrement of bats and seabirds off the coast of South America. Guano was needed to fertilize the European and North American fields that had been overexploited by capitalist agriculture. …
Since the 1990s, hygge has become central to any attempt to define an otherwise elusive Danish culture.
Hygge” has become a household word in the English language, by way of the lifestyle pages of the New York Times and the Guardian. A Danish word pronounced ”hew-geh,” according to the least hapless pronunciation guide, hygge can be described as the art of “being consciously cozy,” or the innocent pleasure of making oneself comfortable. In 2016, Collins’ Dictionary declared hygge the runner-up Word of the Year, after “Brexit.”
Why do non-Danes even care about hygge? One answer lies in the how-to hygge guides that have been marketed to middle-class British and American audiences since roughly 2016, bearing titles like The Book of Hygge, How to Hygge, and, most grotesque of all, Happy as a Dane. Common to each of these books (and there are dozens more) is that they treat hygge as a means of living the Danish Dream. …
Bue Rübner Hansen
Smak! Drengen så ned og blodet løb hastigt til hans kind. Han var stakåndet som læreren, men ude af stand til at udtrykke sin smerte og ydmygelse. Ordene kunne ikke komme, for de måtte ikke komme. Lussingen var et slag mod drengens tale, mod hans dialekt. Og min far sad ved siden af, lettet over, at han som lærersøn talte rigsdansk, og ikke det brede sønderjyske, som bondesønnerne i klassen.
Hele provinsen — og måske særligt “de sorte jyder” — fik engang at vide, at de ikke talte ”rigtig dansk” og derfor ikke var fuldt ud danske. I dag er disse landsdele højborge for partier, som siger det samme til brune og sorte danskere. …