Mister Banker

Mister Banker

Mister please, how much does money mean
Won’t you reconsider mister
Won’t you do this thing for me
Ain’t got no house
Ain’t got no car
All I got, Lord, is my guitar
But you can have that mister banker
Won’t you bury my papa for me
Oh mister banker please
Listen to how that sound

I would not be here on my knees
But hey mister banker
It means so much to me
Oh won’t you reconsider mister
Won’t you do this thing for me

I told you mister
I ain’t got no house
Ain’t got no car
I got me a 1950 Les Paul guitar
Won’t you take it mister banker
Won’t you bury my papa for me
Oh mister banker please[1]

It’s a little before my time and maybe it only ever existed in the movies, but I distinctly remember that it was a sin—a sin—to let a man (I can only hope: or a woman) go without a “Christian burial.”

I’m leaving aside, for now, any issues with religious association and internment practices. Because these aren’t really at the heart of that particular notion of sin. Instead, we have an obligation to a dead man (or, maybe, I hope, a woman), perhaps even one who received little respect in life. They have to be buried (or something). We don’t just leave bodies in the desert for the vultures and the buzzards to pick at.

I was listening to that Lynard Skynyrd song, “Mr. Banker,” the lyrics to which open this essay, tonight as I drove home.

When I got home, I took a final crack at email. And there was the Wall Street Journal editorial page being hysterical about “socialists.”

There’s a self-righteousness to the so-called “center.” Mainstream politicians of both major parties run more or less on a promise that Donald Trump merely made explicit: a claim that they [pause for effect] alone can [fill in the blank]. And as neoconservative—and therefore neoliberal—policies became the governing consensus,[2] they became patriotic.

Which was to marginalize everyone who isn’t wealthy and white. The rest of us—all of the rest of us—live to some degree in the shadows, the frontiers between respectability and the ordinary—or worse, the cheap. And all of it in material terms, such as money.

When money is the object, we are inherently alone. The project for each of us is an accumulation, most obviously at the expense of others.[3]

And then there’s Ronnie Van Zant, in character, belting out those blues with no one to pay for his poppa’s burial. How alone can we be?

  1. [1]Edward C. King, Gary Robert Rossington, and Ronald W. Van Zant, “Mr. Banker,” AZLyrics, n.d., https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/lynyrdskynyrd/mrbanker.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  3. [3]David Benfell, “They must pay,” Not Housebroken, February 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/02/21/they-must-pay/

Dear rich (mostly) white people (regardless of political affiliation)

We see through your pretense.

Your true feelings about us appear in your agents’ (police) use of lethal force against us, especially our brothers and sisters of color. We know they are your agents because these things never happen in your neighborhoods to you—only in ours to us.

And when we protest, you respond with military equipment and poison gas. You know, even when we do not, that we are your enemy. Continue reading “Dear rich (mostly) white people (regardless of political affiliation)”

They must pay

Let’s think about money.

Maybe you like money. It buys things. It in fact offers power: Would the lady who brought me my breakfast sandwich and coffee this morning in fact have done so if she were not being paid by another lady whom I paid? She did it and she did it with a smile on her face. (I tip well, too, so I guess that helps.)

The “smile on her face” part is an issue on its own: There is something very weird about being required to smile as part of a job, smiling regardless of whether one is happy. There is no glamour in a breakfast sandwich, coffee, or any of the other offerings at this cafe. She derives no direct benefit from my nourishment. Why should she be so happy? The fact she’s a young woman and I’m an old (nearly 60) man introduces its own additional issues which I’m just not taking on right now. But yeah, something’s up and a proper power relationship analysis (I’ll return to this) would probably wipe away that smile and maybe even take away my breakfast in short order. Continue reading “They must pay”

What Uber and Lyft get right

A couple of months ago, Yves Smith penned a column suggesting that Uber is headed for a crash. She calls the company a “textbook ‘bezzle’ — John Kenneth Galbraith’s coinage for an investment swindle where the losses have yet to be recognized,” points to sizable losses, argues that “[n]o ultimately successful major technology company has been as deeply unprofitable for anywhere remotely as long as Uber has been,” thinks its initial public offering valuation is ridiculous, and complains that it conceals financial information—in her view, a huge red flag.[1] Continue reading “What Uber and Lyft get right”

  1. [1]Yves Smith, “Uber Is Headed for a Crash,” New York, December 4, 2018, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/will-uber-survive-the-next-decade.html

About ‘seizing’ human rights

It sounds clever, doesn’t it?

Continue reading “About ‘seizing’ human rights”

  1. [1]dog respecter [pseud.], [microblog post], Twitter, February 4, 2019, https://twitter.com/redmadheshi/status/1092334361524011008

It might actually be a good thing that Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House right now

I know. You never thought I’d say this—hell, I never thought I’d say this—but I think Nancy Pelosi might actually be the right person to take down Donald Trump over his border wall. Continue reading “It might actually be a good thing that Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House right now”

Hey, High Tech! Have you noticed it’s 2019?

I am having to change banks for the second time in a month. I had encountered problems with declines on my debit card with Redwood Credit Union. At first I assumed I had tripped fraud detection (which, in my case, is never right) and had started to give them a ration of shit about false positives meaning their entire fraud detection system is bullshit when they denied any knowledge of the declines. Continue reading “Hey, High Tech! Have you noticed it’s 2019?”

The love of a dog

I was in a left-turn lane approaching Amy’s Drive Thru, a vegetarian and vegan fast food place in Rohnert Park, for breakfast. As I sat at the red light, I noticed a man riding a bicycle in the rain. He was wearing what looked like an old army jacket and as he navigated a curb cut, a dog riding in a basket on the back of his bicycle struggled to maintain balance. Continue reading “The love of a dog”

Things I shouldn’t have to say about borders

First, for those who may be unfamiliar with my work, my dissertation was on conservative attitudes towards unauthorized migration. I used discourse-historical analysis, a critical theory method which entails an examination of both text and context.[1]

I already knew that dissertations are where a lot of good research goes to die. But I had wished for more impact than this and when I hear the things being said about migrants and borders that I have been hearing especially during the course of the Trump administration, I am, to put it very, very mildly, disappointed. Yes, Donald Trump is an authoritarian populist, verging on paleoconservative (in my dissertation work, I found these two otherwise distinct tendencies were virtually indistinguishable on this topic). And yes, this rhetoric is what you would expect from an authoritarian populist. But 1) authoritarian populists were never supposed to actually gain power, and 2) this rhetoric and policy should be swatted down as the fascist[2] nonsense it is. Continue reading “Things I shouldn’t have to say about borders”

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  2. [2]David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” February 14, 2017, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2017/02/14/simple-definition-fascism

A Marxist counterfactual

I don’t know the author of Existential Comics—even their gender—but they recently posted a tweet that is extraordinarily helpful in making a point I’ve been wanting to make for a while:

Continue reading “A Marxist counterfactual”