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Anniversaries September 13, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Philsophy, Politics.
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With only a weeks time to rest between historical markers, the American people remembered twin tragedies against its greatest hopes. As summer drew to a close Americans reflected on the progress, or more specifically the lack thereof, made in recovery in the year since Hurricane Katrina impacted the Gulf coast. In little more than a week later all eyes turned back into their sockets in blind observance of the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. A third and centennial anniversary (of which we’ll measure these anniversaries by) went by unnoticed that same day, swept aside by nostalgia and commiseration of a people growing uneasy about the direction they were in being driven into the ground and left to fend for themselves.
Although it can only be made into argument, it can be useful to compare the two new popular anniversaries of a great morbid fascination and shame to its people. The latest in grieving sheik, Katrina’s one year anniversary was mourn-abrated in a once great city destroyed by the explosive forces of abuse; and has left in disrepair since it’s attack. The same could be said for another great city with a gaping hole in the ground where monuments to man’s ignorance to the impact of their actions was ignored. New Orleans does not stand up, and neither do the towers of New York; but of course the Pentagon has risen it’s heights as never before and never again.
I must concede that I agree with the great dictator that we must never forget the lessons learned from either of these senseless tragedies. Although I should mention we differ radically on what those lessons are.

Both tragedies occurred as a product of the same economic means, though through differing ends being political and environmental in process. Hurricane Katrina, arguably the first super storm to ravage a metropolitan area since the onset of global climate change, broke apart our preconceptions that global warming only meant a warmer summer. As those who could afford to flee the impact area in any matter of combustion engines left behind their trails by the tailpipe, those left behind faced the product of carbon emissions heating the surface of earth’s oceans – the same warming water that creates hurricanes that feed off the heated seas. In another attack from a man made conflict, those on American buildings of symbolic importance, September 11th is still best framed by ignorance and perversion (but not necessarily just by those that did harm to innocents). In the same high octane fossil fuels exploding into their targets was carried to burning resentment and hostility of a people disenfranchised by the markets of energy from their right to self-governance, rising up against a perceived empire (now justified in their assessment) as the innocence of a people collapsed with the towers. And like our inability to promote sustainable energy consumption through economic regulation, the governing mechanisms that were created to protect us simply passed to responsibility for its consequences off to each other without ever providing the solutions to the problem.
In addition, both tragedies were ultimately preventable if the agencies responsible had acted on the information already available to them. It has been well established in the past five years that many government agencies anticipated the threat of Al-Queda, and a few even had credible intelligence of such a planned attack. I need not repeat what is a matter of public record, only to offer that the means to prevent the atrocities of that day were possible under the existing apparatuses and laws of that day. Likewise Katrina’s greatest impact on New Orleans, the failure of the city’s levee system, was a well known problem predicted not just on the storm’s eve but 40 years since it’s creation. IT is only the failure of a the governed to protect and care for those who give it consent to rule them that we remember today.
I will not address the President’s address last night – it is filled with the same recycled speaking points he has made time and again, and can be easily torn apart as a an argument (if only for the evidence contrary found as the consequences of his own actions). Now with the new flavor of “Islamo-fascism”, we can all rest safely with the knowledge that no such tyrants who wish to take away our freedoms can harm us as long as we stand together. No one, no matter how determined, can take away American’s freedoms (just our civil liberties instead) to spend ourselves into slavery.

In times where people stand and suffer, it was another anniversary this September 11th that may offer us something of hope – the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s non-violent, civil disobedience movement. On that date in 1906, Gandhi stood before the most powerful empire of the world and began to break down the economic system that was the instrument of its power by standing up to the Salt tax that served to punish the great masses and enrich the pockets of those within their means. In time this tactic that neither harms oppressor nor the oppressed gave birth to his people’s independence, and also to the people of our own Civil Rights movements. He showed us that it is possible to stand up to those that wish to do us harm or those institutions that thrive on our ignorance and suffering not by the strike of the hand but by winning the hearts of our enemies. In the end he proves that the best (and perhaps only) means of solving differences of political, social, economic, and religious differences not by holding each other back but by bringing us up together. It forces us to examine our interdependence and recognize the humanity in each other, rather than tearing each other apart and only making our animosity towards each other grow in every action. His passive resistance has not been in word or deed in the last five years, but its need has grown in every passing say if we are to rebuild a world we want to live in.

The Conflict and Death of the Party August 16, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Philsophy, Politics.
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nothing to see hereBombs away! Another day, another round of munitions fired. Safely tucked behind projected screen, projecting the line of fire into my home, I am tempted to be an armchair analyst. After all, from watching the news you would think that a smart bomb targeting “the enemy” were a discriminating as a bullet. The aftermath is just all of us in collateral (damage).It’s redundant to say that the Middle-East is a cycle of violence, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The central conflict is created in the same way as it’s solutions, in that the wars are always waged for and between “us and them”. Jewish people see their “people” threatened and killed every day by “the enemy”, and so too do the Lebanese (and likely Arab people as a whole). Even the Christians are interested in the deaths of other Christians. Not that this is a religious conflict necessarily; all I see is people suffering and dying on both sides. It’s a question of affiliation, a dichotomy of “us and them”, “our people and the enemy”.

This is not just a case in the Lebanon/Israel/Hizbollah conflict, but in our own in the middle east. The United States has a history of propping up leaders/dictators of our own, and tearing down democratically elected leaders of their own. In the past their have been secular democracies in the middle east, but don’t tell the Bush League that. Lest we forget that this is not just how the Iranian Revolution started, but also Iraq where CIA asset Saddam Hussein was installed in a coup (or two). Using our puppets to control states “for their own good” and to wage war against each other (see the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, or Lebanon-Syria), we have sabotaged all future efforts to bring peace and freedom to these people.

As long as people see themselves as separate in identity, it is easy to vilify the others. It becomes easy to injure the other when they are less human than you, if only because they share different values or perspective. In the meantime, you see people like yourself being injured, and enter this defensive perspective towards the other. The very act of violence reinforces this separation between “peoples”, and thusly inspiring future generations of violence. This is the cycle created as people lash out against the other in successive waves of conflict. In the end it is never important who started a conflict when everyone is left bloody.

Perhaps then it shouldn’t be surprising that our occupation of Iraq spurs protest mostly on the basis of “our troops” who have lost their lives to this quagmire. Not to diminish the lives lost by brave men sworn to defend “their country” upon request (because they can only follow the orders to march towards their own peril), but we often neglect the suffering of another contingent; the Iraqi people. The deaths of some 100,000+ Iraqi people, almost entirely civilian, and perhaps more through collateral damage brought on by war is almost entirely forgotten in the debate. The very occupation of our forces in the country encourages conflict, and endangers the lives of American and Iraqi alike as they threaten each other over sovereignty. Every life lost is significant, and a tragedy for all parties involved.

For now, the portrayal of a conflict depends entirely on who is hurting “your” people. WE must recognize the humanity in everyone. WE must recognize that WE are ALL <i>each others</I> people; that we are part of the same human community. Only then will we stop hurting each other, as we treat them as our own.

the all-american art of the hustle June 20, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Cultural Portraits, Philsophy, Politics.
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Any red-blooded American understands the art of the hustle.  In the tradition of our gypsy forebears, any impovershed group of people (even Americans) will try to make a deal to get themselves ahead – even when it is at the expense of another.  The not so secret art of the hustle can be as much as selling a fake rolex on the street corner or just getting the seat you really want on the airplane.  The hustle is predicated on the belief that anticipates that anyone else would just as soon put one over on you.  No misrepresentation of self is out of bounds, after all the basis of the hustle – the con – is that the other person think they’re conning you.

To better explain the art of the hustle I should first <A href=”http://hustle.urbanup.com/1239803&#8243; mce_href=”http://hustle.urbanup.com/1239803″>define my terms</A>.  Using the definition linked to, it is fair to say that a hustle is based around two major components – the increasing demands on the individual in society of a frenzied tempo of living, coupled together with the desperation of being impovershed.  Even these two components can be further deconstructed to that Anglo-American notion of “time is money”, wherein the demands of living are reduced to the cost of living versus income.  If time is just an artificial construction with which to organize society (ie labor, services) as money is a system of reducing market forces in a competitive system, it would be fair to say that the hustle is a way of living in the American Dream.
Now then, it can be understood the hustle is something we experience on a daily basis.  The art of salesmanship is the very essence of a hustle.  The seller makes a representation of a product or service, presents it in such a way to make it seem like you are getting the better end of their deal, and you both leave the exchange of money feeling you have earned the upper hand.  Of course the hustle is designed to make you feel that you have gotten a fair deal, and in this alone it would seem fair for the hustling party to take their own profits from the matter.  However it is always the hustler that recieves the bounty of the agreement.
The Hustle should not be confused with <A href=”http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=haggle&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=haggle”>the haggle</A>.  The Haggle consists of two parties knowlingly misrepresenting themselves.  The seller can either suggest a price or ask for one from the buyer before suggesting their own price.  The Buyer will then try to talk the seller into a lower price in this understanding of the situation, working their way towards the deal.  The seller makes suggestions that are artificially inflated in hopes of gathering a larger profit from the items real cost, whereas the buyer expresses false disinterest in buying at the higher price.  Both parties in a haggle usually come otu satisfied, otherwise the exchange would never have taken place.

The hustle is centered around a misrepresentation, a tempting illusion meant to draw upon the target’s insecurities.  In a world where is it presumed that everyone is competing for the same resources, it makes sense to further yourself at the expense of another.  The idea is that the target would screw you over in any other situation, which is probably true if only because they can afford the hustle.  The hustler plays up the value of their resource, so that the target (a victim by any other definition) believes they are actually getting a deal.  The problem is that the cost, the effort is really being made on the part of the target, whereas the hustler is the only one who profits for the endavor.  The hustler pays almost nothing, but the target must pay using the earned proceeds from their own work (or hustle in it’s own right).

The entirety of American society is dependant on a hustle sometimes called “the American Dream”.  The hustle is an effort that if you work hard enough you can earn a handsome way of living.  We have taken our own products away from the markets in the streets, and put them into hustling environments where the appearance of a good deal fixates the target into buying the hustle.  You walk into a Wal-Mart, where you are lured into the artificially “low-price” scenario that tempts you to buy cheap products at a considerable mark-up.  The employees at any retail outlet might meet before the hustling day (as Wal-Mart does) to present the specials of the day – products that people will want at said cost with a considerable mark-up.  China has now legitimzed their cheap knock-off products once hustled on the streets by putting them on a store shelf.  The only difference is advertising through a bombardment of subversive outlets, such as television, instead of simply having an individual personally target you.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that advertised products are targetting you too.
The main difference of this hustle is that a street level hustle is an immediate money transaction (based in printed currency), whereas the hustle in a consumer society has the additional qualifier of leaving you in debt.  The advent of credit cards makes the hustle even easier to do, because the deferment of burden puts the immediate gratification of the target within an artificial reach.  In other words, a deal seems better when it’s easier.  This fundamentally changes the hustle by making the offer more appealing; consequences defered, the deal seems better.  What is left behind is a hustler making considerable profit at the point of sale, and the buyer eventually crippled by debt.

In a way it is a con – the con is predicated on the idea that someone thinks they are really conning you, that they think they got the upper hand in the deal.  But as hustling has become more advanced, it is true that everyone is out to hustle you.  The victims turn to prey on each other, furthering an impovershed situation that elicits the desperate hustler.  Of course the best hustlers always are the top, but they in turn are hustled by the illusion they create.  The rich man spends his riches on goods and services that are targetted to him, no more valueable than the artificial price set for him by other hustlers.  Indeed, the calvin kline t-shirt is no more useful or valueable than the fruit-of-the-loom Tee, because it offers no more use than the other.  Indeed brand names themselves are nothing more than a hustle, based on selling something made for minimal cost and sold for what is acceptable in profit from the perspective of the unknowing target.  
It is the American Dream at its finest point – a thoroughly constructed illusion designed to target and profit, who believes they are going to get the deal out of the hustle.  To get their they must work hard, by climbing on the backs of the others working hard, and try to earn the upper hand.  In the bottom of this ladder there is a mass of bodies climbing a human construction, continuously pushing each other down by their own weight.  It gives the illusion of movement when you are actually going nowhere at great effort – a hustle.