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iPod Updater - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
iPod Updater
My friend Joel called me yesterday afternoon to tell me that my piece on the iPod had been picked up by AlterNet. Since AlterNet is one of my favorite places on the web, home to some of the best progressive columnists, seeing my name on the home page, to the left of a gesticulating Stephen Colbert, is a real treat:

What's more it's a treat that reminds me of more important things. Despite the near-toxic combination of everyday stress and political despair that has consumed me during most of George W. Bush's administration, there's still an intellectual community of smart, brave people out there that I can look to for inspiration. But it also reminds me of the value of friendship itself in the formation of this community of resistance, for it has only been as a result of the unwavering support of people like Joel -- you can read his great review of the new Dead Moon anthology here -- that I have been able to keep doing the sort of work I want to do.

And now that I have finished the feel-good portion of this entry, I will direct you to my piece itself in its new vacation home, where it has already received a number of hostile comments. Although some of the points made against the piece seem valid to me, I preferred to read them in the comment thread to my Live Journal entry about the piece and the one that developed on my friend Steven's blog. For the record, though, I will declare here -- it doesn't make sense to get involved in the AlterNet comment thread, where authors are unlikely to fare well in high-temperature combat -- that I have an iPod myself and have sometimes used it in the precise manner my piece critiques. As I noted in my Live Journal entry, the problem with writing a polemical argument in the mode of the Frankfurt School is that it leads to an exaggeration of one's position. But I was willing to make that concession in order to draw attention to a broader trend in our society of which the iPod is, as one of the AlterNet commenters indicated, but one index.

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12 comments or Leave a comment
From: ex_benlinus Date: September 27th, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
HEY HEY! Congrats.
I am shocked to learn that Screech is in porno now.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 27th, 2006 05:48 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Oh, and which Shaggy?
From: maruta_us Date: September 27th, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

re: the value of friendship

Ah, don't let the Internet hosers get you down. It's funny reading this, because in my own experience, I've actually come to value the opposite--the value of communities of resistance, as you put it, that don't depend on friendship. Progressive politics has to depend on things greater than friendship, IMHO; principles, points of unity and solidarity are nice. Depending on friendship just opens the door to ward politics. It also means that behavior that might be understood though lamentable in a personal context--such as spreading back-door gossip about other people's lives--can become political, with political consequences. If progressive politics depends on whom one's friends are, that's a comment on the overall weakness of progressive politics. It's possible for progressives to unwaveringly support each other without being friends; see the point on principles above. Of course, friendship is nice too, but it can't be the determining factor. Just my two cents.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 27th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: the value of friendship

I agree with you about the need to have one's political work based on more than friendship. But I also think that friendship is underrated as an organizing tool. What worries me in coalitions where friendship is not really in the mix is that the investments and identifications of the participants are occluded, at least initially, leading to a situation where the euphoria of common purpose eventually gets underminded by the realization of intractable differences. At least when the friendship aspect is foregrounded, the problems of clique-ish behavior and organizational myopia are there from the get-go. For this reason, I think it crucial to strike a balance between organizing that relies too much on the personal and the sort that doesn't confront it forcefully enough.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 27th, 2006 06:22 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: the value of friendship

I'd be interested to hear you say more about friendship as an organizing tool; I'm not sure what you mean. When you write that, the first thing I think of is MoveOn and getting friends to a house party; sometimes, I feel the emphasis on the netroots and virtual social networks misses the point that progressive politics involves real conflict with real authority. I don't think that the lack of friendship in a coalition (or unity-) building context has to mean that people's individual investments and identifications are occluded; it means that the organization has to be pro-active and conscious in asking about these things, and individuals have to be forthcoming and direct about them. All I'm really saying is that when someone you don't know comes up to you and says I don't know you, but I'm down for you because of what you've done, the work I see you doing, and how you go about doing it, it can be a really powerful experience--more powerful than a compliment from someone who knows you, and may have any number of reasons to kiss butt--and progressive politics, if it has any hope of growing, has to draw upon the power and the principle of those experiences.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 27th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: the value of friendship

And I agree with your point. But I have one myself. I don't believe that people can sustain political commitments for very long in the absence of a social bond. Obviously, there are those who would disagree. Nevertheless, I stand by my conviction. As I see it, the "I don't know you, but I'm down with you," is a prelude to a connection that will inevitably have to go beyond purely political activity if it is to remain strong.
From: maruta_us Date: September 28th, 2006 10:42 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: the value of friendship

"And I agree with your point. But I have one myself. I don't believe that people can sustain political commitments for very long in the absence of a social bond."

I'd agree; politics are social. We have to do good work together; we don't all have to go to the same bar--or even, a bar--afterwards. Some people honestly believe that the latter is required for the former to be possible, and I've found that oppressive when it happens.

"As I see it, the 'I don't know you, but I'm down with you,' is a prelude to a connection that will inevitably have to go beyond purely political activity if it is to remain strong."

I don't know; I can think of plenty of contrary examples. Was Harriet Tubman friends with every person she worked with on the Underground Railroad, or did they have some principles worked out?

I guess it partly depends on context. For instance, are we talking about the social relations of the parishoners in a church that declares itself a sanctuary, or the relation of the parishoner to the undocumented person? Even in the former case, there may be parishoners who hate each other's guts but come together and act on the principle that no human being is illegal. I'm not trying to argue you out of anything, just noting a difference here.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 28th, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: the value of friendship

Yes, I think context is key. I wasn't saying that it's necessary to be friends with everyone that one shares a political bond with. But I do think that it is necessary to be friends with some of those people. Without that personal connection, it's hard to sustain commitment to anything.
pissang From: pissang Date: September 27th, 2006 10:21 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I read your article. I couldn't help but think as I read--like one of the angry responders--that your critique could have been equally directed at cell phones. In terms of private/public space, I guess cellies do something a bit different. One's private space invades everyone else's public space, but the same anti-social result ensues.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 28th, 2006 02:27 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I agree. Despite what my many of my commenters at AlterNet seem to think, I wasn't arguing for the exclusivity of the iPod. I mention the Walkman and car radios, for example. My point was that the social uses of iPods in our post-9/11 era throw more general societal trends into sharp relief.
frostedfuckhead From: frostedfuckhead Date: September 27th, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
btw that ain't keith, it's stephen colbert.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 28th, 2006 02:31 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh, you're right! I think the image changed between the time I took the screenshot and the time I made the post. Better fix it. Thanks.
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