Plan for the Day
- Consumer Spending rates
- Today’s readings
- Interesting Article on the Bias Against Science Fiction
- Las Vegas: An Unconventional History (Atom Bomb scene)
Should we watch another 1980s video? How about Europe’s “Final Countdown.”
Consumer Spending Rates
Although today’s readings don’t have anything (directly) to do with consumer spending, other readings of ours do. As I’ve stated once or twice, the US economy is driven in large part by our consumption. Several stories have been about our need to consume, and the zombie genre is almost completely about consumption.
In late August, a report came out that revised the 4th Quarter Growth Rate from 2.5% to 2.9%. What’s important in this (and what I want to drive home) is that the article discusses consumer spending as a major component of economic activity:
- “Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, surged at a 4.7% rate in the second quarter. That was the fastest since the fourth quarter of 2014 and was an upward revision from the 4.3% pace estimated last month. (“U.S. economy slowing, but consumers limiting downside” para. 21)
- “The average of GDP and GDI, also referred to as gross domestic output and considered a better measure of economic activity, rose at a 2.1% rate last quarter, slowing from a 3.2% pace of growth in the first three months of the year” (para. 11)*
I bring this up because it mentions that more than two-thirds of economic activity is based on consumer spending (I’ve heard 70% commonly), and it mentions in the article’s 1st paragraph that economists believe “the strongest consumer spending in 4-1/2 years amid a solid labor market” is keeping the economy out of a recession.”
*Please note that this doesn’t indicate an economic contraction. The economy is growing, but the rate of growth isn’t as high as in the first Quarter of this year. As always, this information is not intended to be used for investment advice. Past (or even current) performance is no guarantee of future results. Consult a financial professional and not an English professor for credible investment advice.
Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds” (1983)
Another post-apocalyptic vision of Los Angeles. Like our other recent stories, this one isn’t about space exploration or hi-tech gadgets; instead, it’s about humans. Butler projects American anti-intellectualism into an imagined dystopic world where literacy is almost wiped out for humans, and people resent others with abilities and literacies they themselves don’t have (sound familiar?). Let’s look at the some key areas of the text before moving on to a historical-cultural reading.
- Status of Women
- Education and Literacy
- Absent fathers not considered a social ill
- From the Anthology editors: Butler uses “speculative fiction to examine how the historical legacy of slavery haunts the present, and ho the African American experience can illuminate our present and near future.
In 1965, (future) Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action” (aka. The Moynihan Report). One of its positions was that the Black family (and African American progress overall) was in jeopardy because black fathers weren’t sticking around to raise children. Moynihan even claimed that black men were being emasculated by black women and left to avoid the social stigma of not being the paterfamilias–male head of the household. There’s a lot to the report, but it is consider a main source of (white America’s) ideas concerning problems with Black families. Of course, that’s not the whole story…is it ever? The prevailing idea that exists in the minds of many (black and white) to this day is that fatherless, single-mother families are a detriment to a child’s success–meaning economic status. Ask your sociology professors for more detail, but this is the main legacy of the report, and it’s often criticized for not looking at poverty closer.
Feminist critique. It’s not that simple. The conclusion, viewed through a feminist lens, uncovers patriarchal bias, specifically, the notion that a man must be head of household. Thinking back to our critiques of heteronormativity, the two-parent imperative dominates American culture. Butler’s story actually refutes that myth. Read the following closer:
- Neighbor across the street
- Obsidian–savior who dies
- Murdered mother teaching language
- Rye “adopting” the children
Language Constructing Thought and Action
The Anthology editors claim that Butler’s story follows “the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis…one’s language determines how one thinks and acts in the world” (p. 567). There’s more to this, and I encourage you to take linguistics courses if you’re interested in the science of language and theories of language and language usage. For our purposes, we need to consider how having a name for something, being able to communicate an idea, limits or expands our communication abilities. Without words (language), we don’t have names for concepts or the ability to convey those concepts.
- Language politics of Orwell’s 1984
- No literal Italian word for “privacy”
- privacy (this is not an Italian word)
- vita privata = private life
- le intimità = intimacy
- il suo/la sua desiderio di stare solo = his/her desire to be alone
- il suo /la sua desiderio di stare privacy = his/her desire of privacy
Language provides us with concepts that can be liberating: egalitarianism, equality, freedom, etc. Language also is limited in its ability to communicate specifics: egalitarianism, equality, freedom, etc. Notice the quandary of that contradiction? The word Liberalism is an important word to discuss. Its usage has changed over time, but it is important for Western Democracies because it espouses the belief that people aren’t just subjects of the State. Before this concept, the idea of civil rights and freedom weren’t consider; citizens were subject to the rule of the divinely ordained monarch. Isn’t it funny how both main political parties in America argue over definitions of freedom?
Language is also limiting when it comes to gender. The long-standing usage of ‘man’ to refer to ‘humanity’ is a patriarchal construction–male dominance. Using ‘he’ as the default is a symptom of patriarchal culture because it identifies men as the standard; therefore, women are the secondary sex. Let’s look at a word history that will help discuss gender. What word should we look up on the OED.com? (the searchable OED Online only opens up on campus or after you’ve logged on through Atkins Library’s remote logon)
Japanification of American Culture
I wanted to preview something before you read Misha Nogha’s “Chippoke Na Gomi” (1989) for Friday. The story was published during a period when American manufacturing (especially automobile manufacturing) was surpassed by Japanese automakers. In terms of entertainment, video games were dominated by Japanese companies. The growth of the Japanese economy led many Americans to believe that the Japanese would continue to dominate trade and, thus, become a hegemonic power. Pop culture was full of examples (especially sci fi texts that projected contemporary America into the future) where the Japanese were calling the shots and heavily influencing American politics, entertainment, and industry. Of course, just as Americans lump the peoples from countries in East Asia and refers to them as “Asian” and don’t take time to understand or just gloss over the differences among these cultures, the 1980s speculators about Japanese hegemony influencing America into the future were wrong…it’s actually the Chinese who carry more influence in America.*
*Disclaimer: In order to understand the ironic tone in the above statement, you have to have been in class listening carefully. I’m being facetious and calling out ALL of us who lump groups together and stereotype. Going along with the anti-intellectualism of America, there was a popular song that made it a virtue of not knowing “the difference between Iraq and Iran.” At least go to wikipedia and look it up! We must be really proud of our ignorance to celebrate it so often.
Keep up with the syllabus. Ms. Rogers will lead the discussion on Nogha Misha’s “Chippoke Na Gomi.” Maybe you should review (just look at them) these links: