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Razer’s class warfare: it’s the economy, stupid (or why Scorsese is a girl’s blouse)

When did we decide that economics and a real class struggle were too hard and we could just get by with our feely feely feelings?

The global financial crisis had some curious effects. And not just debt, a commodities crash and the Bush administration’s bailout (the United States government’s most sincere act of socialism since it gave away the polio vaccine). The GFC produced a remarkable Australian treasurer in Wayne Swan. This guy breathed life into the near-dead idea of the nation state.

But Rudd-Gillard-Swan were pretty much on their own in thinking that economies don’t just manage themselves. Everyone else, including the liberal-Left, seemed content to leave serious economic discussion to investors. Money was probably evil but no more evil, say, than online bullying or sexist television advertisements or alcohol that tastes like soda pop. Few talked critically about capital, save for Occupy, and even that didn’t last long. Born and briefly raised in the forcing house of the GFC, the 99% veal was slaughtered and eaten before it had a chance to moo.

After such a graphic illustration of the influence of capital, it seemed odd that we should turn away from it. It seemed odd that there were, and remain, so few popular critiques of cash. I had secret hopes when Oliver Stone revisited Wall Street in 2010 of seeing a finessed morality play that would move a new generation into an era of productive cynicism. Instead, what I got was the sensation that the real-life credo of Goldman Sachs now made Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” read like a greeting card.

But, hope, unlike material resources, is renewable, and I was optimistic again this year with Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, in cinemas this week and freshly injected with the endorsement of both a Golden Globe and a fake controversy. Perhaps it would be good?

I am over 40 and out of patience with younger reformists who don’t seem to care about capital. And so in an era where Church Lady scrutiny of books, T-shirts and video games for vice saps the middle class of its activism, I was happy for a balls-out, whore-heavy “troubling document of the present” (A.O. Scott, New York Times).

If this film is a troubling document of anything, it is Scorsese’s lost flair. To save yourself $20, just stay at home watching RedTube for three-and-a-half hours, pausing occasionally to masturbate, throw some baking soda on a lady’s bottom and then look at pictures of people wearing (and then removing) Gianni Versace’s worst work on luxury yachts.

As a critique of capital and the superstructure of masculine conceit, the Will Ferrell toilet humour buddy movie Step Brothers surpasses Wolf by a Marxist mile. What a pile of shit, Scorsese.

It is not so much the naked whores and the naked whores on yachts and the rape of naked whores on yachts and in planes and in penny stock lairs that is disturbing, although that’s pretty disturbing. After the first, say, 20 acts of abasement, one gets the idea that Women are Just Objects to These Immoral People, and the last 500 acts of Sodom lack any salt. It’s not the rape, which is defended by the movie’s star as prescriptive-not-descriptive.  It’s the fact that one of the best filmmakers in US history made a film about money that says nothing about money. Other than it buys you a lot of naked whores.

At great personal risk of being sworn at mildly by seven angry ladies on social media, I disclose the hope that Scorsese, a Left-leaning Democrat, would have used his masculine stylings here to better effect.

How do I explain this faith in the power of the masculine without coming across as an admirer of naked whores on yachts/Camille Paglia? I’ll give it a go.

The Right has long supposed that economies should just manage themselves. Now the liberal-left does, too. Cultural, rather than material, management is widely seen as core business by Leftists who would prefer to tackle, say, the question of homophobia by supporting same-sex marriage.

People whose intelligence I respect argue with no trace of doubt that this will “stop youth suicide”. Of course, the most direct cause of suicide in kids who do not identify as having a normative sexuality is that their lives are made unbearable by parents who will toss them out of home. But homeless rent boys don’t make great Upworthy videos. Nice couples loving each other warmly do. And so, the unpleasant topic of youth homelessness and suicide is not addressed with the provision of  homes and mental health support. One can argue that “we can do both at once”.

And some people are fighting for both things at once. But there are three of them. And they are all distracted by the marriage debate. (Stay with me now. I’m getting to the bit where I make a point and you can really hate me.)

Such tactics for reform are due in large part to the feminisation of the Left. Or rather, to the view that the feminine is the Left. (OK. Start tweeting. Here is one I prepared for your immediate use. “Again, Razer proves herself a misogynist. Cancelled my subscription @crikey_news #Misogyny”.)

One of the few great things about communication this century is that so many women are writing and broadly read. (Granted, we’re getting paid a lot less than male writers. But, hey, capitalism loves to maintain a social class.) One of the truly terrible things about communication this century is that the emotional is valued far above the rational, the cultural far above the economic. Traditionally feminine practice has eclipsed traditionally masculine practice in the expression of ideas.

misogyny tweet

Please don’t try to tell me that these are not oppositions we do not traditionally understand as the schema of gender. They are. And please don’t think I am suggesting women are naturally emotional while men enjoy whores on yachts. I’m not. (I, for example, am emotional as a Vulcan, which is why I feel able to say such horrible things about the long-despised but now irrationally prized virtues of the feminine. Also, and, as we have by now established on Twitter before reading to the end of this column, I enjoy whores on yachts. Ergo, I have experienced no evidence that would compel me to believe the nonsense that Women are Naturally Like This and Men are Naturally Like That.)

misogyny tweet

Activism and commentary has swapped its theory of radical economic reform as central to social change and replaced it with a Care Bear. We will not storm the Winter Palace led by Lenin. We will redecorate Care-A-Lot Castle at the invitation of Tanya Plibersek.

There is no current hope of radical economic reform because so few people want to talk about it, even after the GFC. This reluctance is due, in large part, to the emergence of feeling and of (understandable but unhelpful) rage as the era’s most marketable tone.

misogyny tweet

Let me be clear: I believe Andrew Bolt and Bill O’Reilly to be part of this ladylike trend. Bolt’s excitable, culture-focused “prose” “style” is that of an under-informed stay-at-home-mum who has just upgraded to an iPad with 4G and can post her feelings easily from the day spa where she is troubled by the accent of her Russian waxer. And O’Reilly sounds just like my mother. They have borrowed not from a masculine literary tradition but from women’s magazines, who did what Upworthy or GetUp and many news sites are doing now so many years ago: invent a problem and then sell the solution in three minutes or less.

misogyny tweet

In his first go ‘round, Kevin Rudd was an absolute master at this Fuck It Up and Fix It format. He invented problems and gave solutions, and nowhere was his appeal to the Empowered Feminine more apparent than in the 2020 summit, where he pretended to care about Feelpinions.

Even as Rudd got down to actual government business of collecting and spending revenue (and we seem to forget that this is what we appoint governments to do), he presented the public face of a woman concerned about the culture and its alcopops and its terrible comedians and its dangerous photographers.

misogyny tweet

I’m pretty sure Rudd, a bright man who knew the difference between shit and political shinola, didn’t give a rat’s about any of these “cultural” “issues” per se and knew that it was only within his power to stimulate the financial economy and not the moral one.  He was probably wishing for a Bill Henson-style scandal to crow about so he could quietly pass the super profits tax that was his undoing in 2010.

misogyny tweet

Rudd used the Caring thing cynically, just as the Right does. It’s just that in the case of Rudd, we actually got some half-decent Keynesian reform. The Right tends to use Culture to explain “reform” like border protection, tax breaks for Gina and as a way to get around the Native Title Act. Because they care.

This pantomime of feminine care is common from the Right — the people who brought you the Culture Wars and made you forget all about that boring old economy.  But it was anticipated less — by me, at least — in internal discourse from a Left that, we must remember, has the equitable redistribution of material resources as its first principle and final authority.

misogyny tweet

The interests of the Left are now the interests of the Right in mainstream discussion. They are both girls who want to talk about their feelings. It’s just that the Left is yet to learn the trick of crying crocodile tears. And so, it is not yet completely feminised.

Again. To be clear. Women are not genetically and not always culturally disposed to one mode of expression and to think so would betray ignorance of Joan Didion, Fran Lebowitz, Audre Lorde, Helen Thomas, Michelle Grattan, Marcia Langton, Camille Paglia, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag and Germaine Greer. These are some hard bitches who have tackled the unpopular and the social and done so without offering a neat solution or crying.  The viral mill of Upworthy that encapsulates the model for much Left discourse comes up with crap like Right Before Dying From A Rare Lifelong Disease, Sam Revealed His Three Secrets To Happiness.

Solutions are EASY and feelings are IMPORTANT.

misogyny tweet

I don’t mean to diss the sisters. I am saying, though, in what was less a feminist-led disavowal of the masculine and more of a resort to the easy, trivial, reassuring mode of the low-nutrient, high-energy snacks fed successfully to women for so long, we now tend more to read and write like girls. (Again. To be clear. Girls, as capitalism reformed them.)

And so, when there is the promise of a critique of capitalism made by one of the very few people in the world who is permitted to be unashamedly masculine in his work, I got a bit excited. I supposed that an Old Man of the Left might behave like an Old Man of the Left and talk about capital. I found that Scorsese is no more a man’s man than Andrew Bolt. When it comes to critiquing the economy, he’s a little girl’s blouse.

misogyny tweet

Ditching all that had come from Mean Streets with its unflinching disgust for a nation that made bad men out of money, Scorsese now celebrates a nation that makes idiots out of women and a hero of capital. I mean, we were never expecting fully realised women from Marty, but nor were we expecting men with a character arc no longer than a dollar bill.

Scorsese is, like Bolt, driven by his uncritical approach to money and his belief that that a single man — in this case, unconventional trader Jordan Belfort — is to be admired for his against-the-odds success.

The promise of upward mobility is as much of a dangerous, insidious, violent lie as gender. It makes us believe we are independent actors able to achieve ANYTHING when, in fact, a good sociologist could probably plot our life’s course in five minutes on Excel. It is an “empowering” lie of the sort told to good end by Kevin Rudd who made his constituency believe for three years he was listening to their “feelings”. When he knew that what they really needed — and that all any government can provide — was economic reform.

misogyny tweet

I pray that Plibersek’s Care Bear is a suit she puts on at will.  But I doubt it. And I doubt that Scorsese, now a man who has lost the best part of masculinity just as the Left favours the worst part of femininity, will ever make another decent statement in film.

Scorsese and Bolt and all the empowered lady writers are now, finally, in accord. Who’d’ve thunk that one day feminists, the IPA and mobster fetishists would all have the same goal: to help us believe that money is just something that should flow without regulations, that solutions are easy and that economies look after themselves.

misogyny tweet

29
  • 1
    susan winstanley
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Slashing stuff, always worth a read. Love it.
    Just don’t get any more defensive, Razer
    Give them both barrels always
    Or you’ll just be another big girl’s blouse

  • 2
    Will
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Razer, once again, has served up a largely unintelligible stream of verbal diarrhoea with no discernible argument on offer. As usual, she bandies about monolithic labels such as “The Left” and “Feminists” with no definitions provided to anchor her airy declarations to some semblance of reality, and certainty no real people are engaged (beyond Scorsese). Seriously, Helen Razer must be literally the worst commentator at Crikey – she manages to combine the air-headed ersatz of Maureen Dowd, with your senile uncle’s curmudgeonly attitude and a not-so clever variety of Marxist deconstruction in one package of pithy irrelevance. Spare us please!

    The problem of the film, which has been noted loudly and repeatedly by every liberal leftist on the internet if Razer had any clue where to look, is that it averts its gaze from the blue chip world of high finance and focuses on criminal hucksters doing things are obviously illegal. Feminism, whether expressed in terms of conventional academia or butchered by Razer’s uniquely obtuse prose, has absolutely nothing to do with it.

  • 3
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Caring (for votes)” - as Ronnie Fringe-Dweller may have put it “I say I care, therefore I do?”

  • 4
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Great read, although the baiting contrarian schtick is getting a little bit old. Razer seems determined to fight ceaseless, petty whinging on Twitter by ceaselessly and pettily whinging about it on Twitter. I’m not sure what that achieves accept for a more “meta” level of smugness. It’s odd that such a voracious critic of outrage culture seems to be in a near-permanent state of outrage.

  • 5
    dirtysnowball
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m just too stupid to understand Helen’s articles.

  • 6
    Peter_PPVH
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Yes that is the point Will, - no real people are engaged.
    Lets us forever be entertained and distracted from vigorous or critical thought.

  • 7
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Best thing of yours I have ever read Helen. I get where you are coming from finally. Brava!

  • 8
    Phillip J.
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Despite some unconjoined arguments, I enjoyed the loose cannon attack on current weak-kneed, relenting moralism.

  • 9
    SusieQ
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I gave up halfway through - is this a film review, a critique of right wing journos, the economy or feminism? (or all of that??). Perhaps I’ll go ask my CareBear.

  • 10
    Will
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a problem with Razer’s thesis that the present generation of liberals and feminists are so fixated on identity politics that they fail to grapple with pressing concerns of justice rooted in class solidarity and material inequality. It’s a real argument and it’s certainly worth engaging with.
    What I do have a problem with Razer’s recurrent intellectual crutch of writing about such matters in grand declarative statements against disembodied capitalised enemies: “The Left”, “The Right” and “Feminists.” We are apparently meant to simply accept these Platonic forms at face value because she certainly never condescends to locate any of them in some kind of representative body – such as a real living and breathing human being – who might or might not bear some resemblance to the caricature provided by Razer.

    Now, some might be prepared to forgive such a lazy rhetorical gimmick if the substantive analysis and humour was commensurately impressive. But alas, it never is. Mostly there’s a kernel of an insight that is so overburdened in ranty snitty self-referential nonsense that it collapses under the weight of sheer sophistry. And Razer repeats this gimmick at every outing like the lowest species of pundit resorts to “some people have said” to introduce whatever inane generalisation they want.

    It is truly tiresome. Razer has a class-analysis hammer and every problem she sees is a nail of identity politics.

  • 11
    Elizabeth Newman
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Right on Helen Razer, I couldn’t agree more!

  • 12
    64magpies
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Bugger it Razer. Now I have to renew my subscription to read your “rants”.

  • 13
    Draco Houston
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Will, your comments read like a generic What Razer Fails To Grasp joke.

  • 14
    Peter Slattery
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Again, Razer proves herself a meshuggah.
    Time to renew my Crikey subscription

  • 15
    Marcus Ogden
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Can I get “Please don’t try to tell me that these are not oppositions we do not traditionally understand as the schema of gender” on a bumper sticker please?

  • 16
    Kool ad
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    helen’s like a broken record with her attacks on warm and fuzzy left wing strawmen for not being edgy enough or engaging enough with hard economics for her liking

  • 17
    michele sweeney
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Why does Razer pout in each photo?

  • 18
    Draco Houston
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen the ‘strawmen’ in the wild, Kool Ad, they don’t just exist on twitter either. Some are published writers.

  • 19
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Helen - there is no point in trying to out-Gonzo Grundle, esp when you’ve seen where it oft leaves him stranded, intra cloaca.
    However, I put on my safety goggles and hiking boots and finally made it to the last sentence and it was perfect.

  • 20
    Kez
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    I kinda get what you’re saying, Hellz, but I also don’t. That’s not any failing of mine, more of your inability to construct a straightforward argument without trying to dazzle us with your cleverness. Having your twitter sycophants tweet at your bidding does you no favours either. Finishing with that self-important toss pot Bernard Keane was the last straw. Cancelling suscription as soon as I can be bothered.

    PS she’s not the worst, however. Jane Caro is.

  • 21
    Dan Lee
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    For those that noticed Miss Razer has called out all that is wrong with not just Australian society but in fact most Western Nations. Ultimately the lack of decisive action focused around addressing matters of massive economic disparity is what is preventing any slowing of the tide. Russell Brands new political party is also suitably attentive to the matter of a need for massive wealth re-distribution. While most middle class faux activists sit around pontificating about matters of a cultural nature the Technocratic Globalists like Frank Lowy and Rupert Murdoch continue to push us further into Debt Slavery. Helen’s call for real 60’s style resistance is absolutely bang on. Many good men are sitting on the sidelines waiting until it is fashionable to protest. By then it will be all but to late. Support real resistance not faux intellectual activism !

  • 22
    bronnie.turner@bigpond.com
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    This was a bit disjointed, but I totally agree that all sides of politics are the same, without the guts to deal up unpalatable truths to people, so our economy will not change no matter who is in power.

  • 23
    Corey Ander
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    This article is a great discussion starter and only the airing and understanding of competing views can nourish the polity whatever the starting point. Free speech is worth fighting and subscribing for. Thanks Helen.

  • 24
    Will
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    You shouldn’t use gonzo style if you lack the poetic skill and intellectual firepower to carry it off – cf. Guy Rundle.

    And you shouldn’t make gross generalisations about the left’s interest in critiquing finance and economics that don’t bear up to even cursory scrutiny.

    That is, just because you have a populist, revolutionary understanding of “critique” doesn’t grant you the standing to dismiss all the meaningful ways that liberal economics requires state intervention and thoughtful push-back against capital.

    This is another lazy piece by Razer.

  • 25
    Brangwyn
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Loved it! It’s not about the film, it’s the economy stupid. Though I don’t think Rudd was quite the clear thinker as portrayed in this article.

  • 26
    Karen
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Helen, can you write succinctly and avoid the scattergun thematic approach. You lose readers half way through. Thanks.

  • 27
    BookishMisfit
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I agree with Karen. I am interested in what you have to say but your style of writing is difficult.

    Once I saw you write a beautiful and coherent piece about grief but most of what I have seen since has been unintelligible to some extent.

  • 28
    Bob the builder
    Posted Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Interesting stuff again.

    Radio Girl?

  • 29
    Cheree Corbin
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Damn that article was hard work. Made even harder by populating it with the writer’s mates tweeting on request. Why were those tweets put into the article? What did they have to say about the article? It’s like some kind of in-joke that the reader doesn’t have access to.

    Question: When did we decide that economics and a real class struggle were too hard and we could just get by with our feely feely feelings?

    Answer: “We” didn’t. However, it suits the agenda of the the people winning the class struggle, therefore we find that approach populating the media. Check out Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.

    Who are “The Left”? And who are “the Liberal Left”? And who are “The Right”? I realise people like to identify with certain brand politics, but I don’t know there’s much to be gained spending time on this false dichotomy. There’s them (for eg, the 85 who own more wealth than half the world) and there’s us.

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