Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Variations on a Theme.

My current brace of columns  includes one at Crisis Magazine about the trend away from concrete loyalties and objective principles toward radical subjectivity and a combination of money and bureaucracy as the basis for what’s still called public life. The other one, at Catholic World Report, makes the obvious point that the result is unlivable and we should all go out and refound Christendom.

4 thoughts on “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Variations on a Theme.

  1. Jim: With my “Business in Literature” students I have been reading The Gift by Marcel Mauss. The Gift is about archaic exchange systems. In his “Conclusion,” Mauss hazards the thesis that modern, abstract systems of exchange are immoral, because they so radically contradict the intensely human character of archaic exchange. It occurs to me that consumerism is a type of radical subjectivity, one which reduces the subject to the bland recipient, or rather the mere destination, of goods “purchased” by the fictional value of what we laughingly call “money.” I argue to my students that the most virtuous businesses are those that stay small, shake lots of hands, and give away lots of freebies.

  2. I apply a “look the guy in the eye” test. If you couldn’t do that in good faith then there’s something wrong. E.g., if you add in additional charges people don’t notice, or design snack food based on studies of addiction, you should pick a different business model.

  3. Here is a sonnet by William Wordsworth that plays into your thesis (we discussed it in “Business in Literature”):

    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
    This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
    The winds that will be howling at all hours,
    And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
    For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
    It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
    A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

    [Of particular interest are the first four lines]

    • Which reminds me of these two selections:

      Earth gets its price for what Earth gives us;
      The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in,
      The priest hath his fee who comes and shrives us,
      We bargain for the graves we lie in:
      At the Devil’s booth are all things sold,
      Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold;
      For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
      Bubbles we buy with a whole soul’s tasking.

      –The Vision of Sir Launfal, James Russell Lowell


      Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
      And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
      And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
      Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

      –God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins

      I recommend reading both poems in full.


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