Monday, April 18, 2016

The Man From the Radiant Dystopian Utopian Future Past

What would Honest Weight Food Corporation be without controversy? Recently, the Board of Honest Weight, which is down to five members after four members resigned earlier this year due to issues surrounding the previous Board’s attempt to end the membership worker programme that has long been at the heart of the coop part of Honest Weight, appointed one S.R., one Better Call, to one of the empty seats of the Board. The Board can do this according to the by-laws, the constitution of Honest Weight.

R, who finished behind two others who finished just beyond the threshold for being elected to the Board, was appointed because he was a lawyer and this meant that the Board didn’t have to fill out the forms that are required for the New York State Liquor Authority each time a new member joins the Board. The Board, by the way, is the legislative and executive body of Honest Weight while the GRC, the Governance Review Council, has become the corporation’s Supreme Court, if unofficially and with no real power to enforce its rulings, something Andrew Jackson would, I think, have admired. But back to our main story: The Board had just spent an undisclosed amount of time doing the forms that hadn’t been filed for three and one half years. Fortunately for Honest Weight this lack of bureaucratic efficiency didn’t result in the loss of Honest Weight’s liquor license, since beer sales make up a significant portion of the total sales at the grocery.

A few people raised questions about whether it is proper for an institution that proclaims democracy as one of its defining missions should appoint someone to the Board who finished below two others. Others, like G.T, argued that “[w]e've [Honest Weight] been out of compliance with our liquor license for 2 years in a row, thanks to the LT's [Leadership Team’s] oversight. But somehow that's not what you want to talk about. You'd rather criticize the board for appointing a lawyer to help resolve a problem that the board didn't make. They had to fight to get the license situation under control, and were able to do that more quickly since S.R. did not need to go through the same kinds of background checks and fingerprinting that N would have had to if he had been seated. The license could have been taken away, at which point it would have been much harder to get back. We sell quite a bit of beer, which I'm sure you know, since I've seen you with an entire cart full of Sam Smith before. Thank your lucky stars next time you're drunkenly trolling this forum looking to stir up some conspiracy bullshit.”

I want to analyze G.T.’s statement because I think it reflects several not particularly positive trends in contemporary “intellectual” thought and analysis in the era of Twitter, twitterese, the new digital communications media, and the decline of the liberal arts college and its devolution into a type of vocational school. Let me note quickly that the ad hominem slurs inherent in G.T.’s accusations of drunkenness were made about someone Mr. G.T. doesn’t really know and that they reflect an unfortunate tendency in many of today's youth, particularly the male "kid" of the species, who seem to be unable to outgrow the schoolyard bullying or the rather childish and arrogant anti-intellectualism of their youth. Second, G.T.’s accusations that someone is trolling Honest Weight forums stirring up controversy are leveled far too often at those trying to uphold intellectual standards of argumentation and discourse, two things that seem to be lost in a generation brought up on the media, including Twitter, and educated in institutions that no longer maintain critical intellectual standards, and he provides no empirical justification for this accusation.

I want to explore Mr. G.T.’s level of intellectual discourse in the rest of this blog by focusing on his argument that Better Call had to be appointed to save Honest Weight’s Liquor license. There is a fundamental problem with G.T.’s argument. It is ambiguous. What does G.T. mean when he argues that R had to be appointed? Does he mean that only lawyers should be appointed to the Board now that Honest Weight has a liquor license and since it requires a Herculean effort on the part of the Board to make sure that the paperwork for the New York State Liquor Authority is kept up to snuff? Is he asserting that only lawyers should run for the Board since the paperwork to maintain the liquor license has become a labour of Hercules that only a lawyer could do this? Doesn’t that ignore the fact that only two of the members of the Board before S.R. was called were lawyers and that they managed to do what was required of them to get Honest Weight in compliance with the regulations of the State Liquor Authority? Is he arguing that this is a special situation and requires the labours of one Better Call. Isn’t this argument precluded by G.T.’s absolute statement about the need to have lawyers on the Board to protect the sale of liquor at Honest Weight? It is hard to tell what G.T. means since his assertions are not backed up with anything more than empty generalisations. At the very least he seems to be arguing that only lawyers should be appointed to the Board because only they can allow the Board and Honest Weight to avoid the slings and arrows of bureaucratic desire. He also may be implying that only lawyers should be elected to the Board since only they allow the Board to escape the herculean labours that have to be taken in order to meet the requirements of the New York State Liquor Authority, requirements that demand that each time a new member joins the Board the SLA must be informed and that the new member be vetted for possible violations of laws associated with selling liquor in retail stores. Whatever G.T. is trying to say one thing can be said about his “arguments”, they lack intellectual rigour, they are intellectually lazy, and they are intellectually sloppy. They are also all too human.

One more point before I go. I think the evidence strongly suggests that G.T. is arguing for the appointment of Better Call to the Board because he likes him and likes what he thinks Better Call stands for. G.T. likes Better Call because Better Call is, according to G.T., favourably disposed to labour and labour unions. G.T., you see, is one of the proponents of unionisation and is a member of a minority IWW union at Honest Weight. His goal seems to be to get the Board to recognise his minority union and he presumably thinks that the Rutgers educated S.R., a point G.T. makes a big deal of, is a means to this end. This, of course, is patented ideological construction of reality stuff and shows that the Wobbly commitment to what they call “direct democracy”, at least in the case of Honest Weight's direct Board elections, is secondary to their means, getting a lawyer sympathetic to unions on the Board, to their radiant ends, achieving Wobbly recognition at Honest Weight. It also shows that G.T. is a typical human who, like others, including members of the Westboro Baptist Church, construct a “reality” that fits their ideological needs.

And oh, as for Better Call he was elected to the Board last week. His comments prior to the election suggest that he may have a messianic complex which would seem to mesh well with G.T.'s uncritical defence of his appointment to the Board. Charismatic leaders, as Max Weber recognised, do have their acolytes. The appointment of R. to the Board, which was, in my opinion, a violation of the spirit of democracy at Honest Weight, doesn't seem to have raised much in the way of batted eyebrow amongst many of the voting members of the "coop". Oh well, I guess now would be a good time to note the conclusions of the Asch and Milgram studies.

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