Show blog for Too Fat for Our Pants on Radio One, 91 FM, Dunedin, New Zealand. Airs Mondays 10 am - 12 pm.

If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Monday, 22 August 2011

Farewell, Jack Layton.

Jack Layton, the leader of Canada's Opposition New Democratic Party, one of the few politicians who I believe genuinely tried to speak truth, and our best chance of getting out from under the thumb of Stephen Harper's Conservatives, died from a long battle with cancer early this morning.  This is an excerpt from his farewell letter to Canadians and the world; may his commitment, hope, and moustache be remembered.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
All my very best,
Jack Layton

Sunday, 21 August 2011

J.H. Kunstler and the Long Emergency

Today: a read-along! Listen to the podcast of the interview with James Howard Kunstler here, and read my commentary below. 

Today on the show I aired an interview I recorded two weeks ago with James Howard Kunstler, author,  social commentator, and general snark-about-town. He has quite a cult following among certain sects of society, but he is most well known for two works of non-fiction, The Geography of Nowhere, which is about the inherent problems of suburban sprawl and was, in 1993, one of the first non-geological texts talking about an impending energy crisis.  The second is The Long Emergency, about the now-imminent energy crisis and what will come after it.  Lately he has released two works of fiction about the immediate post-carbon future, World Made By Hand and The Witch of HebronHe is often accused of being a bit doomy, as he tends to deal in worst-case scenarios, but the longer we wait to address the effects of energy depletion on modern civilization the more likely his scenario becomes.
It’s quite long, this interview, so rather than play the whole thing I ran it in bits, and played some songs and gave some commentary along the way.  He is very well-respected in a lot of areas, but he also tends to stray outside those issues pretty regularly, and so a lot of what he has to say is not without its problems.  I don’t address them all, but I do my best to offer an alternate perspective where I think one is required. Press play now!

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Woes of a Persecuted Guy

This is an email I received from a man yesterday, in response to my show about rape culture and the politics of consent.  It is not intentionally hateful or vitriolic, but it does display a fairly pervasive mode of thought that concerns me.  He gave his name, but out of a decency he certainly did not display to me, I'm going to leave him anonymous - in any case, his name is unimportant as I'm fairly certain he is just one of many, many people who felt this way, listening to my show and any other one that deals with feminist subject matter.  Let's call him Persecuted Guy.  His email and my response after the jump.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Rape Culture and the Politics of Consent

In the last couple weeks, I’ve encountered a bunch of statements or situations that revealed a sort of frightening social truth to me: a lot of men, and a lot of women too, believe that feminism is no longer necessary because society is equal.  As you’ll hear next week when I air the interview I just recorded with Jim Kunstler, he mentions that women were angered by his portrayal of women in the post-carbon future as being secondary and subjugated.  And his defense was to point to women’s “failure of imagination to conceive of a society that was different from the one they had today”, implying of course that the society we have today is completely equal.  He then proceeded to make some pretty condescending and dismissive remarks about how our little fights in such areas like pay equity and suffrage will not matter in a world where we have no fossil fuels.  That the struggle for equality has been a luxury of this industrialized heyday, and that it will go the way of ipads and interstates in our post-carbon future.

He is not the only place I’ve encountered this attitude – the Women’s Week issue of Critic, for example, is completely riddled with assumptions like this.  Like we’re all completely equal now because Pepsi has a female CEO – we’re post-gender in the same way America having a black president makes us post-racial.  Patently ridiculous, obviously. If anything, having minorities in positions of power can actually increase, or at least normalize, bigotry – political dissent being culturally acceptable and even encouraged, racism and sexism simply become part of the criticism of power when that power is black or female.  People can get away with speaking in those terms because the racism or sexism or classism is couched in the rhetoric of political opposition, and attempts to highlight the discriminatory basis for that opposition is attacked as censorship.  For that reason racist statements about the american president or sexist ones against Helen Clark or Hillary Clinton are becoming more and more overt and acceptable – it normalizes extremism.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Women and the Economy

Read the playlist for this show at the Radio One website. 
Listen to the interview with Dr. Prue Hyman of the IAFFE here!

In case you've never entertained the idea that there is such a thing as feminist economics, or the implication that mainstream economics is by definition sexist, this post is for you. To start, here's the working definition used in a collection of essays called Women and the Economy: “feminist economics is reopening questions … about value wall-being, and power. In the process of asking these larger questions, feminist economics challenges several basic disciplinary assumptions: the value of efficiency, the existence of scarcity, the omnipresence of selfishness, the independence of utility functions, and the impossibility of interpersonal utility comparisons. Indeed, feminism’s basic assumption, that the oppression of women exists and ought to be eliminated, is a fundamental challenge to the supposed impossibility of interpersonal utility comparisons.”
Of course each branch of feminist economics will answer these questions differently; there are lots of ways to re-examine economics through a feminist lens: Marxist, mainstream, separatist, and lots of others I haven’t heard of.  Because of the inherent bias towards privilege in participation in the first and second waves of the feminist movement, a lot of feminist economists are as concerned with race and class imbalances as they are with gender.  Much of that privilege bias is wrapped up in the rhetoric of personal empowerment and individualism, which implies a degree of freedom, particularly financial freedom, to choose to work or not work, and what kind of work is done.  That insistence on personal choice ignores the socio-economic context that narrows or widens the proliferation of options available to a particular woman.  A wealthy woman has the option to stay home with her children or go to work; a poor woman does not.  Dita von Teese might say she feels empowered by stripping, and i’m glad of that, but many women strip because their body is the only commodity they have to trade, and one woman’s empowerment does not address the larger context of the sexual commodification of women.  Feminism is not, then, simply about the ability of women to choose, but about addressing the systemic causes and supports of gender discrimination, and feminist economics is about addressing the theoretical roots of economic gender inequality at a structural level.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Hunger and Industrial Agriculture

Listen to my interview with Dr. Hugh Campbell of the University of Otago's Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (CSAFE) about his role in the ARGOS project here.

Check out the sweet jams I played during this show here.

First and foremost, one thing must be understood: all farming happens on the earth.  I would have thought this to be obvious, but the rhetoric surrounding the issue indicates otherwise.  As is so often the case with popular discourse these days, the conversation about industrial farming has been presented as a dichotomy – the cost-benefit analysis of biological farming versus industrial farming, which is better and why, which will be able to feed the growing population. This distinction is illusion.  it’s ALL biological.  The industrial farming system exists on this planet, not in a vacuum in which the laws of nature are suspended, and this planet is governed by some fairly concrete biological and physical laws. Either we work within those same principles, as with biodynamic and organic practices, or we do not, as with factory farming.  Only one way will be viable for very long.  Guess which one.
This doesn’t have to be a moral issue – we don’t have to talk about the happiness of the animals in a concentrated feeding operation or the human cost of attaining the fossil fuels to run the system, or whether it is right or wrong.  While I think that ethics are a completely valid and important aspect of decision making, a lot have been convinced by the narrative of rationality that how we feel about something is imaginary; at the very least not to be taken into consideration.  So, morality being entirely a human construct, it is  therefore mutable and subjective; the intricacies of biological systems which have evolved together for millennia are not. As Michael Pollan says, “farming is not adapted to large-scale operations because of the following reason: farming is concerned with plants and animals which live, grow, and die” (Carnivore, 213-4).