Zero Squared #142: Michael Brooks’ Materialism

Feb 7th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Zero Squared

Michael Brooks is the co-host of the Majority Report and the host of his own podcast called The Michael Brooks Show, and in this episode we discuss the anti-SJW industry, whether or not Zero Squared is just a Marxist version of Dave Rubin, and the need for debate on the left.

If you haven’t already you might sign up for our membership podcast through our Patreon account. The second half of conversations like this one are fairly common on that channel. You’ll also hear Derick Varn’s Symptomatic Redness podcast regularly on the membership podcast feed.

As far as Zero Books titles that are worth reading, consider picking up Anselm Jappe’s The Writing on the Wall, Jason Barker’s novel Marx returns, or Shaun Scott’s Millennials and the Moments That Made Us.

If you enjoy the Zero Books podcast consider listening to the Inside Zero books podcast on Patreon!
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

24 Comments to “Zero Squared #142: Michael Brooks’ Materialism”

  1. CartoonDiablo says:

    I agree the interview with Peterson was a bad look but to whom exactly? Debating assumes that there are actual centrists to lose and that good arguments are going to win over the SJW-skeptics.

    Neither of these assumptions seem to be true.

  2. William says:

    Love your show. Is peterson still coming on? He really needs actual critique after that failure of an interview on channel 4 and I know you would do a great job.

    • Douglas Lain says:

      We have not yet pinned down an exact date, but they continue to say that he will be on. We’ll see.

      • David says:

        Well, before you do, maybe you should try to learn a few things about the communities in question that he attacks. Believe it or not, you really don’t know much about the subject. I’d offer to teach you, but 1) it’s not my job to educate you, 2) you wouldn’t listen anyway as evidenced by your reply to the comment below, and 3) you’ll probably get defensive and fragile the second I suggest that there’s a few things you don’t already know.

        I’m sure the show will br great. Two straight guys arguing over what gay people need to do. For a follow up, you can have a couple white people on to bitch about how fucked up Black people are. Very enlightening, I know it’ll be great.

        Oh yeah, I forgot. I’m not allowed to say stuff like that. If a gay guy suggests that straight folks probably don’t know a whole lot about what gay people experience in day to day life, that’s “identity politics”. We’re not allowed to speak up for ourselves.

        Carry on.

        • Douglas Lain says:

          If I get a chance to debate Peterson I won’t talk to him about gay people at all. Why would I?

          You say it’s not your job to educate me. I recognize the rhetoric but I think it’s a very poor way to go about doing politics. Look, if you have something important to say, some information to depart, you should go ahead and say it because even if I’m just a douchebag who hasn’t a chance in hell of understanding, somebody worth the effort might be reading these comments. Why deprive them of your understanding? Why bother talking to people about what you know if you expect everyone to not only agree with you but already know what they should agree with?

          As to what gay people experience in day to day life, I have an analogy for you. Here it is: Just because you got hit by a car that doesn’t mean you know how a combustion engine works.

          Personal experiences are a good starting point for developing a politics. They can’t be the endpoint. Sometimes what we think we know based on personal experience turns out to be wrong. I’d go so far as to say that most of the time this obtains.

          I’m trying to think up thinking something mean and inflammatory to say here at the end, but it’s not worth the effort.

          • David says:

            I heard an interview with Jordan Peterson on Sam Harris’ podcast some time ago. Prior to then, I had a relatively high opinion of Harris. This was mostly because the New Atheism movement, which he is prominent within, had taken up the defense of LGBT people, particularly gay men and lesbians who wanted to marry, long ago. It was this interview that drove me away from Harris for good. I’m afraid yours will have the same effect, for the same reasons.

            Peterson, whom I knew nothing about, launched into a confusing tirade about “post-modern neo-Marxism” being to blame for the recent successes of the LGBT community. I had read The Capital by this point and felt I had a decent, if novice level, understanding of what Marxism represented. I couldn’t really square that with Derrida. Peterson seemed to be talking gibberish. Harris seemed to be knocked back on his heels, as he obviously understood little about Marx or Derrida, and just took it on faith that such as thing as “post-modern neo-Marxism” would make coherent sense. Further, he went along with Peterson that this chimera was the dominant philosophy of campus movements, and to blame for the perceived excesses of students at such places as my own alma mater, The Evergreen State College.

            Then came the nail in the coffin. He used this chimera to attack gay people. Most of his animus was directed at transgendered people, probably because they are much fewer in number, less well organized and therefore an easier target. Raising specters of nice, normal heterosexuals being bullied for misgendering trans people or cis women being assaulted in bathrooms by predatory trans women, things quickly devolved into Fox and Friends. He came after gay men, too, I guess because the same old tropes sued against trans people are also used against gay men, too- that we’re all scary bug eyed predators who want to rape your kids and ruin your marriage.

            Harris seemed to be nodding his head the whole time, never objecting to any of this, and chiming on on occasion with “Okay”, or”you have a point”. Peterson created this monster of gay and trans stereotypes and Harris, so frightened of being equated with this scary creature, not only agreed with everything Peterson said, he backed away from the LGBT community he used to champion for fear of being associated with the creature Peterson had conjured.

            He also proved that he’s never read anything by Marx and had no clue what post modernism is, either.

            My fear is that you’re going to do what Harris did. Heterosexual men have a deep seated fear of being mistaken for gay. When you were as child, what was the worst insult another kid could use against you? Let me guess- faggot? Or was it gay? And when you were a teen, did you feel the need to demonstrate your heterosexuality as prophylaxis against such accusation? Look at every stand up comedian prior to a few years ago- even the ones everybody loves, like Sam Kinnison or George Carlin- when my friends and lovers were dying of HIV in the 1980’s,, do you know who the main target for abuse was? My dying boyfriend, that’s who. Even so-called allies do this. I remember when Clinton invited a delegation from a gay rights group to the White House, and his staff all wore surgical gloves for fear they’d catch a disease just by being in the same room. Then Clinton signed DOMA and DADT into law. Colin Powell was the main proponent of DADT.

            I’ve come to anticipate being stabbed in the back the second you feel the need for Tea and Sympathy (go look it up-it doesn’t have anything to do with Orange Pekoe). Thats because this pattern of behavior- the very same one Harris displayed- happens every single time. The only thing Peterson has to do to get you to turn on us is is to raise that same specter, and you’ll backpedal screaming “No, no! Marxism doesn’t support gay rights! it never did! You can’t blame us for that!”.

            So yeah, I’m bitter and cynical. I expect you to not be there at the critical hour. You talk about not needing to be in a car wreck to understand how engines work. Well, I’ve seen enough cars fly off the road to understand how the road is paved, and to know that cars traveling on it will face a similar fate. Now, you talk about getting on the on ramp= inviting Peterson onto your show. And I’m suggesting that when you do, you’re gonna crash the same way everyone else does. This isn’t because I know anything about you personally – I don’t. This isn’t really about you as an individual at all. Its about that road you want to get on. And the wrecks that pile up on it.

  3. omatty says:

    Excellent end point! Context, facts, logic – unless these are brought to bear on the intra-left problems big and small that curse any chance for resistance in the USA, we are toast. Thanks for trying!

  4. David says:

    The Left doesn’t have the best track record on LGBT rights.

    CPUSA and Socialist Alternative both excluded gay people from joining until 2005. SWP still refuses to see the LGBT struggle for equality as a serious issue. All of the recent successes in that struggle, such as Marriage Equality, the repeal of DADT and the state by state battles for employment protections and adoption rights have come about with the assistance of corporate sponsorship.

    I’ve been attending Pride parades since 1992. I’ve never seen DSA or any other Left organization marching in any Pride parade anywhere. Where the fuck are you people when we need you?

    So now, you bitch about identity politics. Why don’t all those faggots realize the primacy of the class struggle? Why won’t we just forget about our civ8l rights and get involved in something more serious like a debate over whether socialism in one country was better than internationalism a hundred years ago on a different continent?

    It could be because the Vice President reportedly wants to hang us all. Maybe your ridiculous debates over philosophical minutiae mean nothing when the very real prospect of getting beaten to death and left for dead while tied to some fence in Wyoming is something we have to face on a daily basis.

    If you really want us to join the class struggle, get off your fat lazy ass and defend us when our lives are at risk.

    • Douglas Lain says:

      In 2005 the CPUSA vowed to redouble it’s efforts to fight against homophobia. I don’t see that as evidence that they were blocking gays from becoming members up until that date. As to whether the DSA has had a banner or marched in gay pride parades, I don’t know. I do know that many, many socialist organizations make sure to go to the pride parade.

      Where the fuck are the socialists when the gay people need them? At your parade trying to sell you sectarian newspapers right alongside the corporate booths selling you other products.

      You wrote: “Maybe your ridiculous debates over philosophical minutiae mean nothing when the very real prospect of getting beaten to death and left for dead while tied to some fence in Wyoming is something we have to face on a daily basis.”

      I wasn’t aware that all homosexuals have to visit Wyoming on a daily basis. What can we do to stop this? I’m there for you and your cause. Just tell me what I can do? Shall we picket the airports? How are we going to stop this mass daily commute of gays in America?

      I’m awaiting your instructions.

      • David says:

        That was a reference to Matthew Sheppard. Look it up.

        And yes, CPUSA did ban all LGBT people from membership right up until Gus Hall died. If you don’t know who that is, you should look that up too.

        In fact, before you try to school me on what gay people have and have not experienced with the Left, why don’t you open a goddamn book first and learn something?

        • Douglas Lain says:

          Here’s the trouble. You didn’t claim that the CPUSA banned homosexuals from being members in the 50s and 60s, but said they only stopped excluding homosexuals in 2005.
          Now, I have almost no interest in the CPUSA which, from my way of thinking, is a bad hangover from the 20th century. It is an organization that seems to do nothing but endorse democratic candidates and issue statements. Do they even sell a newspaper? Still, to claim that they only stopped excluding homosexuals from their membership in 2005 doesn’t fit with the facts that I saw. Namely, they committed to redoubling their efforts to fight homophobia in 2005, and mentioned the importance of gay rights in a proclamation about Bill of Rights Socialism in 2001.
          I would be surprised to learn that the CPUSA didn’t at least keep pace with the democratic party when it came to gay rights.
          Now, even if you’re right that they continued excluding homosexuals right up until Gus Hall died, the fact remains that he died in 2000 and not 2005.
          But we’re getting pedantic now, aren’t we?
          The point is that I’m in no way affiliated with the CPUSA and that organization and its history does not define Marx’s ideas about class, rather Marx’s own writings did that.
          As to Matthew Shephard, you didn’t merely point to the fact that Shephard was brutally murdered 20 years ago, but claimed that EVERY homosexual faced a daily fear of the “very real prospect of getting beaten to death and left for dead while tied to some fence in Wyoming.” Of course, that’s not true, right? Even in 1998 gay people in San Francisco or LA or New York or Seattle faced far fewer threats of violence than people in Wyoming, right? And today even people in Wyoming are living with less homophobia.
          I’m not trying to school you in some monolithic gay experience. I’m also not impressed with your demands that I take this sort of rhetoric seriously. It simply isn’t serious.

          • David says:

            I wouldn’t call it pedantic. Attention to detail and accuracy are important. It is entirely possible that I’m incorrect, and if you can provide sources to allow me to verify your claim, I would be grateful to have my false belief corrected.

            Allow me to quote Friedrich Engels:
            “he paederasts [homosexual paedophiles] are beginning to count themselves, and discover that they are a power in the state. Only organisation was lacking, but according to this source it apparently already exists in secret. And since they have such important men in all the old parties and even in the new ones, from Rosing to Schweitzer, they cannot fail to triumph. Guerre aux cons, paix aus trous-de-cul [war on the cunts, peace to the arse-holes] will now be the slogan. It is a bit of luck that we, personally, are too old to have to fear that, when this party wins, we shall have to pay physical tribute to the victors. But the younger generation! Incidentally it is only in Germany that a fellow like this can possibly come forward, convert this smut into a theory, and offer the invitation: introite [enter], etc. Unfortunately, he has not yet got up the courage to acknowledge publicly that he is ‘that way’, and must still operate coram publico‘ from the front’, if not ‘going in from the front’ as he once said by mistake. But just wait until the new North German Penal Code recognises the droits du cul [rights of the arse-hole] then he will operate quite differently. Then things will go badly enough for poor frontside people like us, with our childish penchant for females. If Schweitzer could be made useful for anything, it would be to wheedle out of this peculiar honourable gentleman the particulars of the paederasts in high and top places, which would certainly not be difficult for him as a brother in spirit.”

            -Friedrich Engels in correspondence with Karl Marx, 1869.

            “Scholars of gay history have pointed to appeals made to both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to bring the oppression of homosexuals into the larger struggle for the emancipation of the working class. Here, to be frank, one finds from Marx a refusal to entertain the subject, and from Engels open hostility to the individuals involved.”


            “They fell into the abominable practice of sodomy and degraded alike their gods and themselves with the myth of Ganymede”
            -Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

            The USSR upon formation scrapped the Tsarist prohibition on homosexuality. Throughout Lenin’s term, gay men and lesbians enjoyed greater freedom there than anywhere else in Europe or America. Stalin, upon coming to power, made male homosexuality punishable by 5 years in prison after 1933. As is typical of homophobic regimes, lesbianism remained legal. The fantasy fo two women getting it on appeals to the male heterosexual mind. The idea of two men terrifies the male heterosexual, as the prospect of being aroused implies something straight men would rather kill or jail gay men than admit to themselves.

            The RCP banned gay members until 2001. They turned on a dime, claiming in 2000 that its goal: “struggle will be waged to eliminate [homosexuality] and reform homosexuals”, and in 2001, supporting LGBT civil rights. SWP maintains that while it supports LGBT liberation in theory, gay people carry less “social weight”, (i.e., we don’t really matter) than other groups.


            No word yet on the ISO. I have Socialist Alternative members in personal communication informing me that they changed position at the same time CPUSA did- 2005. However, thats just personal communication, not an actual verifiable source. I welcome source references either in favor or against this statement.

            Now, the Big Question. Why would I come to the Zero Squared podcast webpage to post all this? Isn’t it a little out of place?

            I feel deeply uncomfortable with the corporate sponsorship of gay pride events. I understand where it comes from, however. The Left simply hasn’t shown up for the LGBT struggle. At various points, Left groups have been overtly hostile or nonchalant with regard to the rights of gay people. That left the LGBT community with nowhere else to turn. I’d rather see DSA banners at Seattle or DC pride than floats sponsored by Macy’s. Had Marriage Equality been won through armies of volunteers from DSA showing up to canvass in Maryland or Washington State in 2012 to pass Marriage Equality by referendum, that would have made it easier for me to explain to my fellow LGBT people how we fit into the broader class struggle. I could point to socialists putting their asses on the line for us.

            But thats not what happened. Instead, we had to rely on Hollywood starlets and celebrity endorsements.

            Now, the HRC hosts fundraisers that cost $1000 a plate. Working class gays aren’t really part of the conversation. I objected to the HRC endorsing Clinton during the primaries, and was told to cancel my donations and membership to the HRC by the HRC’s membership coordinator.

            So yeah, I’m in an uncomfortable space between two worlds. My politics are broadly Left, for the simple matter that seeing homeless people starve to death in the richest country on Earth makes me sick to my stomach. It’s a moral thing. On the other hand, where the fuck are you Lefties when gay people need you anyway? The VP says he wants us all to hang. Why aren’t you losing your shit over that? We are. And if you did too, it would be easier to form a coalition fo solidarity between the two groups, something which would satisfy both of my moral concerns: protecting my community and poor/working class people.

            Why am I pissed at you and using harsh language? To get your attention.

  5. BDG says:

    ‘Class is not an identity’ and yet the whole Marxist program is to create an identity around material interests–‘class consciousness’. Douglas you’re conception of class is mystical–you aren’t a materialist, you’re a priest. Sexism is ancient, and whatever origin it had in the material politics 20,000 years ago, is gone, and yet it still exists and directly affects billions of women today–materially, through rape, through economics, through abuse. Racism, likewise, has now moved beyond it’s conception because it has prove effective at controlling people, especially stupid ass pasty white fucks who are apparently ‘don’t want to minimize anything’ who absolutely minimize it. You’re the reason why there isn’t class solidarity. You understand that right? There is nothing more corrosive to class solidarity than people who try to actively undermine the struggle of comrades by making there lived, material reality subservient to a master status of ‘class’ as defined by white people who don’t actually understand what they are talking about. Trying to separate race and class in an American context is fucking stupid beyond measure. There is a reason why black and native people are poorest, most put upon, experience the most abuse from the state, and isn’t just because 19th century reading of Marx from the perspective of a priest, and not a scientist and its: racism, it’s white supremacy, it’s settler colonialism.

    In conclusion: get fucked you ratfucker. Note: I’m not speaking generally, I’m speaking specifically here: you, and people like you. People who are just conservatives cosplaying as leftists because you finally realized you’ll never be a millionaire.

    • Douglas Lain says:


      When I first encountered your comment I read the last paragraph first and assumed you were a right-wing troll. Reading the whole of your comment I had to modify my assessment a bit, but only a little bit.

      I’m going to ignore the vitriol in your comments and try to address the substance of your objections. I don’t think the Marxist program should be to create a program around the material interests of the working classes, but rather it should be a program to empower the working classes so that they can create a new material basis for society. If we keep strictly to working on the material interests of the working classes within capitalism we’ll end up pushing only for higher wages and more jobs. The aim of the working classes should be forward-looking. Rather than remain on the level of working to obtain their interests within this system (which can even mean aligning with the boss) the working class should seek the power necessary to radically transform society.

      You say that sexism doesn’t serve any material function today. The truth is that both sexism and anti-sexism can be and have been put into the service of capital. Sexism serves capital because it solves some problems regarding how to reproduce labor while anti-sexism serves capital because it increases the available workforce and creates new markets. But, I do think you’re right that some sexist attitudes are simply irrational and I don’t think sexism would be eliminated in its entirety by a revolution. I do think economic and political freedom for women would give women a lot of power and that cultural factors would be both less significant and less likely to survive. Also, when it comes to the material basis for sexism I think the work of Shumalith Firestone is very interesting.

      You say that there is nothing more corrosive to solidarity than people like me who try to subordinate our fellow workers lived material reality to a master narrative about class. I disagree, of course. I think there is nothing more corrosive to solidarity than people like yourself who embrace a Nietzschean politics that rejects the idea of public reason and the need for interpretation, misreads standpoint epistemology, and claims that their own theories aren’t theories but natural facts about the world.

      Finally, I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that, while I ignored the venom and viciousness of your comment up until this point, that I did notice it and I did understand what it indicated.

      So, in kind, you can fuck right off.

      • BDG says:

        Cool: you’re entire program here is essentially the manifestation of the instincts of the 70s Trots. You’re all Christopher Hitchens in the making. My reading of people like you isn’t without historical precedent–and just like Hitchens, you’re cultural prejudice will outlive you’re desire establish a new society, and you’ll become a mouth piece for the right on the left (like you already are ‘I don’t agree with Peterson on everything’ lmao).

        What do you think ‘material interest’ means? Creating a society in which we don’t live in a dictatorship for 8-12 hours a day is following the material interest of the working class. Owning the means of production is following the material interest of the working class. Collapsing the dichotomy between work and leisure and the way they owner class sets one up as a reward for the completion of the other is following the material interest of the working class. You’re intellectual fault is you’ve artificially created a barrier between ‘culture’ and ‘class’, one that didn’t even exist in Marx, one that allows you to ignore true emancipatory politics in favour of the bastardization of it that created socialists failures again, and again, and again in the 20th century. Our species-being is our culture, which is essentially materialist.

        No–lmao, I actually said the opposite of that. I stated the original function and reason for sexism which was created 20,000 years ago by someone with a cultural context completely alien to us is dead, but the usefulness of it continues one because it proved useful in control large portions of the population, and that it still effects billions of women today materially: economically on a macro scale (lower wages for the same jobs, for instance), and personally on the micro scale (physical abuse, rape, among other micro-level tools of control). The idea here, which has clearly gone over your head, is that just because a thing was created for one thing does not mean it can’t exist beyond that–as demonstrated the continued economic and social discrimination specifically pushed upon black and native people today. Slavery is gone, and yet black people in America score next to lowest in terms of earnings, in terms of health, in terms of quality of life, in terms of interaction with the criminal justice system. Native Americans are the lowest, and colonialism has already won, and we are already almost gone, so why continue to do so beyond that it is a useful tactic to control people, both Native Americans for obvious reasons, and paying white people the psychological wage of racism.

        And finally lmao at your bizarre reading of Nietzsche who had, at best, a particular relationship with the idea of a universal, scientific truth, and who’s entire intellectual program was based in what could be read as interpretative truths. This is what happens when you get your Nietzsche from Jordan Peterson, and not by being intellectually curious. I’m firmly rooted in Marx, and beyond Marx, in Du Bois, in Fanon, in Dorthy Smith, in bell hooks, and beyond Marxism, in Weber, in Foucault, in Pierre Bourdieu, in Erving Goffman. I have no problem with the interpretation that the root of racism, of sexism, as it is, is largely supported by capitalists. I’m for universal programs–I think I’ve demonstrated that here. You have not demonstrated that you are actually my comrade in any actualized way–you aren’t just ignorant of particularist struggles that are vital to answer to create a radically transformed society, you’re actively against addressing them. You’re scum–and I say that with sincerity–not because I’m a SJW, but because you’re deliberately pessimistic about the prospect for emancipation on any level but class, which is essentially creating a society in which the most socially privileged individuals are emancipated whereas everyone else isn’t. You’re creating a more compassionate racism, a more compassionate sexism, just like the capitalists before you. You aren’t a radical in any sense of the word, and thinking you’re Marxian is deeply laughable, because all the problems you’re having Marx address in clearer language centuries before despite his time, despite his political environment, not to mention later Marxists.

        You can claim I’m whatever–I am not, I am firmly on the left, I firmly against capitalism, I know the issues, I am for building mass politics, and creating a society in which everyone is free. You are the one who isn’t, and to pretend otherwise is to slip into sophistry.

        • Douglas Lain says:

          A lot of what you said in this comment I agree with, but this is just wrong: “Our species-being is our culture, which is essentially materialist.” If you think that’s my position then you’re wrong. There is no a priori culture and what we take to be our culture is in no way identical to our species-being as Marx understood it.

          Here’s a quote from Marx on the topic:

          “Man is a species-being, not only because in practice and in theory he adopts the species (his own as well as those of other things) as his object, but – and this is only another way of expressing it – also because he treats himself as the actual, living species; because he treats himself as a universal and therefore a free being.”
          The species-being human is, from Marx’s perspective, the self-reflective quality of humanity that allows us to take up our own practices and social relations and change these practices. The species-being is a radical freedom that isn’t present all at once but unfolds through time.

          You can’t be firmly rooted in both Marx and Foucault. They have opposing understandings and arguments about the way the world works.

          • BDG says:

            You can be firmly rooted in two contradictory scholars, because you don’t need to be complete agreement with either. Foucault takes more from Marx then most people realize–especially people in your ‘ecosystem’ who just regurgitate Science-War taking points. Marx was correct in the manifestation of class interests along broad-lines of mutually shared material interest–but he was largely incorrect about history and the shape of it, and the diversity of it. Foucault understood the shape of history, but failed to connect that to radical politics in any universal way–his conception of power is useful in a sociological sense, but not really for politics. Hence being firmly rooted in both Marx and Foucault.

            What do you think culture is? What Marx is describing here is essential just an earlier rendition, less accurate version of the framework as humans a biocultural beings (which is largely, empirically, correct–culture shapes the material and the material shapes the culture, to artificially separate them is to make a fundamental mistake created hundreds of years before by philosophers and scientists who were deeply influenced by both cultural and material interests). Our species being is to build ourselves out into the ‘objective’, to depict our subjective selves in the objective reality of nature and the material–which is the fundamental root of all culture. And this feeds back into material interests.

            To address your other comments: I don’t agree, and yes I fully understand your position, I just don’t think you actually do, or at least the implications. It’s a old argument which has failed pretty time and time again, and yet, for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, old dusty white men keep trying to resurrect it wholesale without addressing those failure (largely that the ‘culture’ keeps reasserting itself within the movement, which is happening again, which will fucking destroy it again).

        • Douglas Lain says:

          Oh, and as long as we haven’t developed at least the start of a new relationship or a new mode of production then living under wage slavery will continue to be in the immediate material interest of the working class. It is only through gaining power and acting to create something new that the working classes will be able to set up a new material basis for society, abolish their own class and the bourgeois, and develop new material interests.

        • Douglas Lain says:

          I really think you don’t understand what my position is at all. Do you think I’m saying that this culture doesn’t need to change? I’m just pointing out that, in order to change it, you’ll have to change the basis of it, which ultimately isn’t cultural at all but material and economic.

          • David says:

            On this point, I agree entirely. Systems create individual behavior. For example, Public Health officials have long touted the benefits of a diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli. However, many neighborhoods do not feature a grocery store within reasonable distance that sells fresh produce. Michael Pollan calls these places ‘food deserts”.

            Now, you can wag a finger at poor people about how they ought to eat more broccoli all you want. If it takes a good 2 hours on the bus to get to the broccoli, and they have to work 2 full times jobs to pay the bills, they’re not going to get broccoli. The same is true if the only source of fresh veggies prices them out of their reach, like at Whole Foods. Instead, they’ll get their food where they can- coronerships and fast food restaurants in their neighborhood.

            The system, as defined by the presence or absence of available sources of broccoli here, creates the behavior, as evidenced by the food that is actually eaten. The rhetoric, in the form of finger wagging and preaching about diabetes, leads nowhere.

            You may not see that as economics, but it is. The economic system encompasses wage suppression, food distribution, civil planning (or the lack thereof), the price of goods, and transportation. All of these elements combined create a system in which people live. The behavior of those inside the system responds to the material conditions of that system, consciously or otherwise. Systems also create local crime rates, drug use, a child’s likelihood of entering college, and average age at death.

          • Douglas Lain says:

            I agree that food deserts count as economic/material problems, and finger-wagging won’t do anything about it. I don’t understand why you’d think I wouldn’t agree with you about that.

  6. AJB says:

    Hi Douglass,

    It would be great if you cited in your show notes the audio clips that cut away from the main interview.


Leave a Comment