Paul Bryant's Reviews > Carry it On!: A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America

Carry it On! by Pete Seeger
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's review
Dec 18, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: folk-music, history-will-teach-us-nothing

Pete Seeger, the oldest living American folk singer, 107 years old and still going strong, visited the Occupy Wall Street protest recently and sang a rousing version of John Lennon's Happiness is a Warm Bank and an acoustic version of the old Motown classic Asset-backed Commercial Paper

The best things in life are free
But you can keep 'em for the birds and bees
Just gimme asset-backed commercial paper
That's what I want

I saw this on youtube. You could call me a fellow traveller, I've been one all my llife, I did go on one protest march once, but that's a story for another day. So, I fellow-occupy at the moment. But only in my mind. I can't just uproot my comfortable middle class existence and go and live in a scrotty tent amongst hippy detritus and woozy aspirations. It's December, it's really cold in London. If it was July, well I might book a couple of days off and go and chat to a few of these enthusiastic young thinkers.

I really like the idea of a protest which deliberately refuses to promote an agenda. Usually the protesters are shoving some improbably ten-point manifesto in your face, but this time they cheerfully say they haven't got a clue what should happen, they just know this can't go on

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In my mind I am also occupying the City of London. And Wall Street. And BNP Paribas. And J P Morgan Chase. But I'm going further than that. In my mind I am occupying 10 Downing Street. And the White House. And the Forbidden City. They are full of my mental tents and placards. They can't move for them. In my mind I'm marching up and down and beseeching them They know I'm not that happy with the way they're conducting this whole human race thing. It's pitiful. The thing is, beyond saving the whale, forcing Macdonalds to be cow-neutral and making kindness compulsory for everybody on the entire planet, I have no idea what to do.

Pete... what do you think?

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Comments (showing 1-50 of 57) (57 new)

message 1: by Noran (new)

Noran Miss Pumkin great cover!

Paul Bryant Message to Bird Brian - written with you in mind!

message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus In my mind I'm marching up and down and beseeching them They know I'm not that happy with the way they're conducting this whole human race thing. It's pitiful. The thing is, beyond saving the whale, forcing Macdonalds to be cow-neutral and making kindness compulsory for everybody on the entire planet, I have no idea what to do.

Yes. Exactly. All of that.

message 4: by Matthew (new)

Matthew pete is 92, not 107.

message 5: by Mariel (new)

Mariel Bird Brian wrote: "thanks, Paul! I think there's bound to be only more of these sort of protests in the future. I wish some of the protest was more focused, like specifically against the new law passed here that anyb..."


Paul Bryant well, yes... and no. Your suggestion is more like normal politics, and this occupy movement is something slightly different.... or don't you agree?

message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye I'm confused, Bird Brian, I assumed you were behind OWS.

Surely, these people read your diatribes about Twilight, the Federal Reserve and Corporations, got mad as hell and aren't taking it any more.

And, like the Doobie Brothers, they're taking it the streets.

Paul Bryant Goals are too unreconstructed male - go woozy and unfocused, Brian! Embrace your inner rudderlessness!

message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye There was a brief moment in time when I thought they might have had a precise issue or goal that could really galvanise a social and political movement.

However, when I was in the city one day, I saw a hippy from the protest walk in and use the toilet facilities of an adjacent shopping centre with his toothbrush and towel.

Then one of their demands became free internet access at the protest site.

It was then that they lost me.

The medium of protest had become more important than the message.

None of these facilities would have existed, but for what they were protesting about.

It was essentially a nostalgia for sixties protest, except this time the tragedy was repeated as farce.

Even with the sixties, you have to ask how far protest could have got, if not for the fact that there was a war to protest about.

I was idealistic enough to believe that the counterculture was something I identified with and there needed to be changes.

However, the counterculture was just something that got tacked onto something concrete and precise.

Most people just didn't want to have to go to war, if they were called up.

Take that issue away, and it would have removed the fuel from the fire.

This time around, there just wasn't an issue that enough people could relate to.

And the core issues or goals were just too abstract and unwieldy to wrestle to the ground.

The issues were just too diffuse, and it proved too easy for the powers that be to defuse the movement.

message 10: by Tuck (new)

Tuck "They know I'm not that happy with the way they're conducting this whole human race thing. It's pitiful. The thing is, beyond saving the whale, forcing Macdonalds to be cow-neutral and making kindness compulsory for everybody on the entire planet, I have no idea what to do.

Pete... what do you think?

tax the rich

message 11: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Bird Brian wrote: "repeal the PATRIOT ACT and reinvestigate 9/11, for starters."

Word, my soul brother.

message 12: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Bird Brian wrote: "There are plenty of real things to protest today, just as real as what they protested in the sixties. They've just signed into law that citizens can be indefinitely detained without cause, denied access to lawyers, and never have charges filed... our own legislature has basically eradicated Habeas corpus...."

It's interesting that all the things you mention are about the quality of legislation or the use of legislative or executive power.

They're about the legal relationship between the state and the individual, the sort of issue that organisations like ACLU used to be (is?) concerned with.

While these things matter to me personally (and need to be opposed), they are not exactly "vision things" that can inspire a whole generation or society.

They are problems that are "fixable" by a change of legislation.

They're not about what sort of society should we have, what sort of economy should we have, what sort of government should we have, what sort of culture should we have, what sort of relationship between capital and labour should we have, not even what sort of regulation and management of capital (or labour) should we have.

I miss the vision thing in politics.

I thought OWS might have invigorated politics, but I was wrong.

message 13: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye There were 23 years in my state where process legislation like this was used to attack the substantive vision thing that people wanted to protest about.

The legislation was used to stifle dissent and turn the protester into a criminal by virtue of their protest.

To a certain extent, this issue was "fixed" by a change of government and a change of legislation.

What I am decrying is the lack of substantive vision or dissent.

Politics needs to go beyond meta-protest, where we are protesting about the right to protest (which is not to say that this isn't important).

message 14: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Meta-politics then.

It's still about the relationship between the individual and the state.

It's not about what should the state do (substantively, as opposed to procedurally) or be used for, for example.

I thought the corporate person contained some elements of a social or political movement, as does the suggestion above to "tax the rich".

Behind them is some substantive vision about how society should work.

message 15: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye I'm not saying it's not important, I'm saying it's not enough.

message 16: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye States were founded to do something more than protect individuals from the state.

If this was all they had to do, we wouldn't need a state, because we would be adeqately protcted by statelessness or anarchy.

message 17: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye When there was a change of government and the process legislation in my state, there wasn't an outbreak of substantive politics.

Politics moved off the front page and everybody went back to their TV sets.

The government became an apolitical budget manager.

message 18: by Paul (last edited Dec 19, 2011 12:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant I think I am not singing from the same song book here, if I may be so bold.

The problem we have in the world today is the creation and distribution of wealth. The submerged billion, and all that.

The laws you are complaining about are there to protect the rich. In most countries the equation is

The government = the rich

but this is not quite the case in the West.

The problem is that the only model of wealth creation and distribution which does not need a concentration camp or gulag to back it up constantly is capitalism.

And we see very clearly how hideous capitalism is.

Stalin was the criminal who crucified the communist dream, and once crucified it did not rise after three days, it died slowly in great pain.

So most people think that the death of communism means the death of any alternative to capitalism. But people arent stupid, they see that capitalism is wrecking the planet. Ten years ago the ecological arguments were buzzing on every airwave and now you hear a few squeaks about Canada pulling out of Kyoto and who cares, let the whale take care of itself for a few years, we are now concerned that we won't have jobs in a year's time because the lunatic rich capitalists can't, actually, get capitalism to work.

Having defeated communism they are now inadvertently defeating capitalism too.

It would be funny, except that it isn't.

So their problem is our problem. And we don't know what to do. The banks were thought of as too big to fail.

But actually, it's capitalism itself which people think is too big to fail.

Even though it's failing.


(Ian, I borrowed your style.... it wasn't intentional...)

message 19: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye I agree that process is a protection against tyranny.

As for the devil being in the detail, did people think that education and transport would suffer or research hospitals would close when they voted to reduce taxes?

message 20: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye What is to be done?

message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Even before we wonder how to distribute wealth, I think we have to ask how much wealth/GDP do we need and at what social and environmntal expense?

There's more to the economy than profit on capital.

message 22: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant undoubtedly. Actually, the problem behind the problem is that there are just too many people on this planet, and most of them want cars. In the west we have been assiduously assembling an unsustainable dream of the Good Life, and the reason green politics can never succeed is because it preaches the very sane gospel that we ALL need to DO LESS.

Less foreign holidays.
Less junk food.
less golf.
less cars.

But people don't want less, they want more. And most people are not being unreasonable about that.


Waste Land

Made with you guys in mind!

message 23: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye In a bid to reinstate the importance of fraternity that I mentioned in the thread for Whit's review of the China book, I must think up something about Fraternal Capitalism. (Sorry, I'm trying to walk and type.)

message 24: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant you are taking your dedication to the free expression of political truth to an extreme - don't trip over!

message 25: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye We are only free in the interstices between CCTV cameras.

I must keep on running to be free.

message 26: by Ian (last edited Dec 19, 2011 02:23PM) (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Where is Max Headroom when you need him?

message 27: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Well said. That's what I call politics.

message 28: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant decaying into cronyism & looting? That's where it began... did it ever stray from those founding principles?

We need a new system but we are in the position of trying to change the wheels on the train while the train is in motion.

message 29: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant Was the earth made to preserve a few covetous, proud men to live at ease, and for them to bag and barn up the treasures of the Earth from others, that these may beg or starve in a fruitful land; or was it made to preserve all her children?

True religion and undefiled is this, To make restitution of the earth which hath been taken and held from the common people by the power of Conquests formerly and so set the oppressed free.

Gerrard Winstanley The New Law of Righteousness, 1649

message 30: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Super-Profit and God.

I can't think of two more abused abstractions.

message 31: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Well, there's no clear link between the habeas corpus and the concerns of the inequality expressed by OWS. After all, all this financial inequality came into being long before the Patriot Act was enacted. Insofar as people are protesting the inequality being entrenched by the rich and powerful, they are addressing the root cause of which the Patriot Act is but the symptom (assuming that one is linked to the other which I am not convinced it is). Plus the Patriot Act isn't exactly relevant to those Occupy protesters in the UK, Europe, Asia, and Australia who have the same concerns of inequality. Make Occupy US about a piece of US legislation and it will lose its appeal to anyone else in the world.

And it certainly looks like the wheels are going to come off the train next year. Heaven help us if we descend into a repeat of 1930-1948.

message 32: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker George Monbiot has a piece today that says it more clearly than I ever could:
Freedom: who could object? Yet this word is now used to justify a thousand forms of exploitation…Rightwing libertarianism recognises few legitimate constraints on the power to act, regardless of the impact on the lives of others… Their concept of freedom looks to me like nothing but a justification for greed.

As [Isaiah Berlin in his essay of 1958, Two Concepts of Liberty] noted: "No man's activity is so completely private as never to obstruct the lives of others in any way. 'Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows'." So, he argued, some people's freedom must sometimes be curtailed "to secure the freedom of others"… Berlin also shows that freedom can intrude on other values, such as justice, equality or human happiness. "If the liberty of myself or my class or nation depends on the misery of a number of other human beings, the system which promotes this is unjust and immoral." It follows that the state should impose legal restraints on freedoms that interfere with other people's freedoms—or on freedoms which conflict with justice and humanity.

[Rightwing libertarians] speak…as if the same freedom affects everybody in the same way. They assert their freedom to pollute, exploit, even—among the gun nuts—to kill, as if these were fundamental human rights. They characterise any attempt to restrain them as tyranny. They refuse to see that there is a clash between the freedom of the pike and the freedom of the minnow.

Modern libertarianism is the disguise adopted by those who wish to exploit without restraint. It pretends that only the state intrudes on our liberties. It ignores the role of banks, corporations and the rich in making us less free. It denies the need for the state to curb them in order to protect the freedoms of weaker people. This bastardised, one-eyed philosophy is a con trick, whose promoters attempt to wrongfoot justice by pitching it against liberty. By this means they have turned "freedom" into an instrument of oppression.

message 33: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye The ideas of positive and negative freedom were very influential on my ideas in this area.

Positive freedom = freedom "to"

Negative freedom = freedom "from"

They influenced my question about what do we want freedom in order to do.

As long as we are free from interference, most of us are happy.

Few of us care about the assertion of our positive freedom.

message 34: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant How do you define that word "interference"? Is being taxed interference?

message 35: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Sorry, it was a gross generalisation on my part.

"Negative freedom" is usually subject to some interference or constraints on the basis of utilitarian principles.

Tax is one of them.

I forgot you didn't participate in the "corporate personality" wars.

message 37: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant Over here in Europe we are waiting for the explosion and consequent death of the Euro, which may have severe consequences in Britain. On top of the gigantic deficit we already have, which is causing the government to cut public services right left and centre.

message 39: by Pete (new)

Pete daPixie Pete...what do you think?
Beati Pacifici man! & stop eating yer greens.

message 40: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye BB, I'm with Whit on this.

This is the same issue I had with Libertarianism when we discussed it.

My thinking was shaped by political ideology as at the late-70's (so it is likely to be quite old-fashioned).

However, I just can't get my head around the strange bedfellows that are what I'll call economic and philosophical libertarianism.

I just can't work out how people can share such different beliefs or excuse such diverse outcomes based on freedom.

Unrestrained economic libertarianism as I understand it is a danger, and in my opinion is the real evil behind people's concerns about "corporate personality" and the theft of rights.

message 41: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Thanks, Brian.

By "economic libertarianism", I mean an economic and political philosophy that says there should be no regulation of the market, that the market will do the right thing by the natural operation of countervailing forces (effectively, "laissez faire").

It doesn't necessarily follow that the capitalist will engage in toxic activity.

Capital isn't intrinsically evil, but where the main imperative is the pursuit of profit, a capitalist organisation can do things that are detrimental to society or others (because the detriment is a secondary issue, rather than the primary issue of profit).

I don't mind the first duty of capital being profit, as long as the law is used to superimpose legislative duties over the top of the profit imperative.

On the continuum of libertarianism, socialism and communism, there is a thing between libertarianism and socialism called "social democracy" and I'm a dyed in the wool social democrat.

I don't believe in "Law for Law's sake".

In our discussions about corporations, I tried to set out utilitarian criteria which should limit the existence and nature of legislative intervention.

They involved identification of an underlying evil (regardless of whether it was committed by a corporation).

A lot of the things I believe in actually try to make the market work better: prohibition of fraud, misleading and deceptive conduct, abuse of market power, predatory pricing, insider trading (these are all things that people get up to when unregulated).

In contrast, I come from a relatively cultural or social libertarian background (subject to issues like pornography).

So I believe in some regulation and management by the State, as long as the State is effectively regulated and managed by the people.

message 42: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker What Ian said. Although I would add that I am less interested in theories of government than in achievability and actual situations on the ground.

In a place like Afghanistan, for example, the writ of the formal government only extends as far as Kabul, and even that only during the day. Outside Kabul, the tribes (i.e., kinship networks) rule. The Taliban is essentially made up of the members of the Pashtun tribe. A villager outside Kabul has to contend with the Afghan military purportedly acting under the aegis of the government as well as the armed might of the Taliban. Insofar as the Taliban supports and has the support of the religious class (i.e., the mullahs), this is also a clash between government and “church”.

Another example is Thailand which recently suffered massive and devastating flooding. As a matter of geography, water from the northern provinces flows down through Bangkok in order to reach the sea. To relieve the flooding in the northern provinces, the Thai prime minister, Yingluck, ordered the sluice gates to Bangkok be opened. Yingluck was openly and publicly defied by the Bangkok mayor who ordered his men to keep the sluice gates closed because he did not want to see flooding in Bangkok. He could do so with impunity because he had the support of other power factions. Yingluck, the prime minister of Thailand recently voted in by a large majority of the people, could do nothing. She had to back down in the face of his defiance. This was not because she was bought out by him. Backing down humiliated and weakened her further, particularly in a society so dependent on face. If Yingluck had had more power, she could have won the face off, but she did not have that power despite being, in law, the one vested with it.

I don't think each situation or problem (health care, commerce, etc) can be reduced to a question of big vs small government. Each situation must be examined and analysed anew based on its own facts in that particular territory and society and at that particular point in time. And the answer will almost always involve a mix of responses and fixes with no one overarching response that fits and works.

message 43: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker In addition, a lot of this stuff on theory of government depends on there being a consensus of respect for formal/legal structures in place. Where that respect is non-existent as in the situations described in my earlier post, the theory is worthless. Corruption is a particular problem where that willingness to respect and abide by formal/legal structures is absent. People feel entitled to subvert those structures. This is the problem of Greece and many other countries in the developing world.

message 44: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye The theory of government is just a threshold issue.

Once it's resolved, a lot of issues come down to project management:

What has to be done?
Who's going to do it? (Can it be done better by private enterprise?)
How much will it cost?
How will it be paid for?
Who will ultimately pay for it? (Taxpayers or users/consumers?)

This is a project-based approach to individual challenges.

message 45: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Below is an extract from the wiki article on the Rule of Law:

Joseph Raz
In 1977, the influential political theorist Joseph Raz identified several principles that may be associated with the rule of law in some (but not all) societies.

Raz's principles encompass the requirements of guiding the individual's behaviour and minimizing the danger that results from the exercise of discretionary power in an arbitrary fashion, and in this last respect he shares common ground with the constitutional theorists A. V. Dicey, Friedrich Hayek and E. P. Thompson. Some of Raz's principles are as follows:

* That laws should be prospective rather than retroactive.

* Laws should be stable and not changed too frequently, as lack of awareness of the law prevents one from being guided by it.

* There should be clear rules and procedures for making laws.

* The independence of the judiciary has to be guaranteed.

* The principles of natural justice should be observed, particularly those concerning the right to a fair hearing.

* The courts should have the power of judicial review over the way in which the other principles are implemented.

* The courts should be accessible; no man may be denied justice.

* The discretion of law enforcement and crime prevention agencies should not be allowed to pervert the law.

According to Raz, the validity of these principles depends upon the particular circumstances of different societies, whereas the rule of law generally "is not to be confused with democracy, justice, equality (before the law or otherwise), human rights of any kind or respect for persons or for the dignity of man".


Like Whit, this emphasises the particularity of a society.

I can appreciate that this is the reality on the ground, but it is difficult to see how the UN can be effective if basic principles like this don't apply everywhere.

Sorry if this sounds culturally arrogant.

message 46: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker But the thing is, you see, I don't even see the theory as being a relevant threshold issue. The form of government in its operational form is an emergent property, not something that can be imposed from above on the basis of a theory.

message 47: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye I only raise it, because capitalism doesn't really regard itself as accountable to law.

It wants to be free and, if it had its way, it would want to go untaxed.

This is what I called economic libertarianism, although I recognise that I might be misrepresenting it or BB's personal views.

In Australia, we are about to have a tax debate which could involve the possibility that corporations will not be taxed, and that their profits will only be taxed when distributed as dividends to shareholders.

The other way of effectively taxing them would be capital gains tax on the sale of shares (which would increase in value over time, because of the retention of profits).

Australia currently taxes the company, then gives the shareholders a credit against the tax they have to pay.

The new proposal could allow the tax-free growth of corporations.

This might mean more money to spend on building wealth and paying employees (?), but it will increase the size of corporations, if they don't distribute dividends (e.g., News Corp).

message 48: by Whitaker (last edited Dec 20, 2011 09:57PM) (new)

Whitaker That's interesting. Do a lot of substantial shareholders realise their wealth by way of dividend distribution or in some other form such as payment for services rendered? If the latter, I'm wondering if the individual tax rate for a specific sum work out to be less than the corporate tax rate. Plus, isn't the wealth of a lot of the top measured in terms of the net worth of their holdings, including value of shares? As the tenor of my question might indicate, I'm wondering to what extent the new tax laws are disproportionately beneficial to the wealthy few who are substantial shareholders.

On capitalism, I've begun wondering about the similarities between belief in capitalism as a political system and theology: the invisible hand (read "God") rewards (read "wealth") and punishes (read "poverty") those who abide (read "work hard") or do not abide by its rules. Hence, we see the workings of divine justice in the fates of the poor and the wealthy. And hence attempts to subvert or restrain the Market are by definition Evil.

Corporations are the churches and monasteries which makes taxing corporations akin to the attempt by kings/emperors to bring the church under their control. And corporate control of governments is just the old struggle between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV played out in another form.

message 49: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Our corporate tax rate is 30%. The highest individual marginal tax rate is about 46.5%

Therefore, at the highest rate, the shareholder would have to pay an additional 16.5% (after the "franking credit").

If you were an employee or a service provider, I guess the remuneration would be a deductible expense of the company, but assessable income of the payee.

I haven't thought it through, but if the company gets a deduction, then the effective rate of tax is still the marginal rate of the shareholder (i.e., 46.5%).

It might make a difference if the shareholder was on a lower marginal rate of tax.

I'm not sure what you mean by the last question.

We don't have an estate tax or duty.

The proposal to not tax companies is trying to get us an advantage over other countries, whereas at the moment our corporate rate is a bit higher than our competitors.

Let me know if I've misunderstood what you were asking.

message 50: by Whitaker (last edited Dec 20, 2011 10:15PM) (new)

Whitaker I guess I'm thinking of the following situation: I'm a substantial shareholder in a company and I sit on the board. If the company makes A$1 million in profits, then it pays A$300,000 as income tax. If instead the company pays me A$1 million as director's fees, what would my total income tax liablity amount to? I take it it would be A$465,000 and not less than A$300,000?

The last question was not tax related. It was directed more at the fact that rich individuals hold most of their wealth in assets which are not often converted to cash. Interest rates might make it more worthwhile for A to borrow money using shares as collateral to reinvest in another financial product, thereby reaping a larger net profit than if he were to liquidate his shares to cash and use that cash to reinvest.

I guess the idea is to attract overseas investors who remain tax resident overseas to either buy Australian companies' shares or set up companies in Australia?Sorry, daft question.

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