Sunday, October 15, 2017

Freakish Parallels: Harvey Weinstein, Free Markets, and Income Inequality

No, don't blame Harvey Weinstein on Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, Lou Dobbs and Larry Kudlow, but "free markets are always best" and "government shouldn't pick winners and losers" should be reviewed through the lens of abuse of power and consensual -- and non-consensual -- transactions.

Abuse of power transcends race, ideology, but, tellingly, not gender.

It would be a stretch to suggest that tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of business have anything in common with abuse of women by men in power, or is it? What we take for granted in our free-market-centric capitalist society is that picking winners and losers through regulation is anathema. How about Donald Trump's "If you're a star, they let you do anything" declaration?

It's hard to see the difference between what the rich get away with in a world fraught with income inequality, where the middle and working classes demean themselves for a scant piece of the pie, and the world of male dominance over objectified women. Winners and losers indeed.

I've spent a lifetime feeling that we in the West were always slogging away, two steps forward, one step back, but inevitably moving towards a better world. The bizarre ascendance of Donald Trump -- where a crude, narcissistic prick brutishly rose to the top of the pack -- has crushed any notion of where the arc of justice ends. If, however, it bends toward justice, it certainly won't be apparent in my lifetime.

Reading an op-ed in the Washington Post of how fundamentally endless male sexual abuse of women has been throughout time literally rips at the liberal heart. May I add that Harvey Weinstein's ostensibly liberal ideology is a cudgel conservatives grasp to cloak their own near-criminal bashing of egalitarian longings, but it's only a feint: Finding a pony while digging through Hollywood trash doesn't justify the economic brutality of free markets unrestrained.

Money and power, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, and endless exploitation of the huddled masses. Where does it end? Not where we thought it did, according to Irin Carmon in her eye-opening, heart-rending WaPo op-ed:
These days, though, you hear less of the term “sex positive,” bandied about proudly into the new millennium. It now implicitly requires a follow-up: Sex on whose terms? Positive for whom? Listening to the accounts of heterosexual women working and dating today, the older feminist critiques of male power and the sexual revolution seem as relevant as ever. In a 1982 essay, “Toward a Feminist Sexual Revolution ,” feminist critic Ellen Willis observed that the supposed sexual liberation movement of Hugh Hefner was actually a “sexual libertarian movement,” and that “liberation involves not only the abolition of restrictions but the positive presence of social and psychological conditions that foster satisfying sexual relations.” Thirty-five years later, the British feminist Laurie Penney wrote, in an essay that predated the Weinstein revelations, “Today’s sexual freedom is rather like today’s market freedom, in that what it practically entails is freedom for people with power to dictate terms and freedom for everyone else to shut up and smile.” Less had changed than advocates once hoped, or perhaps than young women once assumed.
Less has changed indeed. Currently, American heads are turning, in fact twisting to the breaking point, as we attempt to follow how Donald Trump rampages through decades of progress the West has struggled to make. It's as if he's grabbing an entire culture by the pussy. It's a disgustingly crude but apt metaphor for what his brand of dominance demonstrates. Power allows crude defiling on so many levels. What's the difference between a starlet giving it up on a couch and a struggling McDonald's worker on minimum wage limping through life without a fixed working schedule and a shrinking amount of food stamps while Paul Ryan decries welfare, picking winners and losers, and hammocks of complacency?

Not much difference: Someone is getting screwed.

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