One day there was an anonymous present sitting on my doorstep—Volume One of Capital by Karl Marx, in a brown paper bag. A joke? Serious? And who had sent it? I never found out. Late that night, naked in bed, I leafed through it. The beginning was impenetrable, I couldn’t understand it, but when I came to the part about the lives of the workers—the coal miners, the child laborers—I could feel myself suddenly breathing more slowly. How angry he was. Page after page. Then I turned back to an earlier section, and I came to a phrase that I’d heard before, a strange, upsetting, sort of ugly phrase: this was the section on “commodity fetishism,” “the fetishism of commodities.” I wanted to understand that weird-sounding phrase, but I could tell that, to understand it, your whole life would probably have to change. His explanation was very elusive. He used the example that people say, “Twenty yards of linen are worth two pounds.” People say that about every thing that it has a certain value. This is worth that. This coat, this sweater, this cup of coffee: each thing worth some quantity of money, or some number of other things—one coat, worth three sweaters, or so much money—as if that coat, suddenly appearing on the earth, contained somewhere inside itself an amount of value, like an inner soul, as if the coat were a fetish, a physical object that contains a living spirit. But what really determines the value of a coat? The coat’s price comes from its history, the history of all the people involved in making it and selling it and all the particular relationships they had. And if we buy the coat, we, too, form relationships with all those people, and yet we hide those relationships from our own awareness by pretending we live in a world where coats have no history but just fall down from heaven with prices marked inside. “I like this coat,” we say, “It’s not expensive,” as if that were a fact about the coat and not the end of a story about all the people who made it and sold it, “I like the pictures in this magazine.”A naked woman leans over a fence. A man buys a magazine and stares at her picture. The destinies of these two are linked. The man has paid the woman to take off her clothes, to lean over the fence. The photograph contains its history—the moment the woman unbuttoned her shirt, how she felt, what the photographer said. The price of the magazine is a code that describes the relationships between all these people—the woman, the man, the publisher, the photographer—who commanded, who obeyed. The cup of coffee contains the history of the peasants who picked the beans, how some of them fainted in the heat of the sun, some were beaten, some were kicked.For two days I could see the fetishism of commodities everywhere around me. It was a strange feeling. Then on the third day I lost it, it was gone, I couldn’t see it anymore.
Wallace Shawn, The Fever
(To understand it, your whole life would probably have to change.)
All animals are somebody—someone with a life of their own. Behind those eyes is a story, the story of their life in their world as they experience it. In our culture, we have been encouraged to think of animals as things, as commodities. The great challenge lies in having a change of perception. The realization that they have a life of their own, independent of their utility to me or to anyone else: this is what I am trying to get at when I speak of them as being “subjects of a life.” In this sense, they are exactly like us, equal to us. — Tom Regan
All discussion of bottled water as a commodity aside for the moment, Coca-Cola has straight-up said if you’re in Houston metro and need their product to keep yourself safe, take it. It’s yours. They’re not considering it as looting.
PLEASE, if you choose to use this opportunity, be sure you don’t go alone (in case you run into problems getting in or out–I’d recommend having at least three people) and that you have a vehicle or watercraft stable enough to carry what you’re taking. Take what you need and nothing more, for your own safety traveling and also for others who may come for safe potables.
Remember that floodwaters contain oil runoff, heavy metals, and bodily fluids from cadavers and are EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO DRINK. If no water is available, Sprite or Coke will serve you much better than floodwater because it’s clean and sealed. It won’t be quite as hydrating as pure water, but it won’t give you horrific diseases or metal poisoning, either, and should tide you over until you’re able to get to potable water again.
And finally: it’s a literal drop in the bucket, but kudos to Coca-Cola for doing the right thing and prioritizing lives over profit.
So you’re struggling to study efficiently away from home? Finding yourself getting distracted easily? Having difficulty creating a study schedule in this new environment? I know finals season is coming soon for university students, so I thought I’d share my personal study hacks that helped me during college!
Find the least popular library: while the fancy main libraries have great appeal, the truth is sometimes you really only need a desk, a comfy chair, an outlet, and some peace and quiet
Go higher up for quieter floors: usually the higher you go, the quieter and more serious the floor
Always pack the essentials: during finals week, finding a good study spot is a commodity, so make sure you can stay as long as humanly possible and bring supplies: laptop, chargers (phone and laptop), water bottle, snacks, layers (including a huge comfy sweater that can double as a pillow), headphones, notes, pens and highlighters, and blank paper
Don’t be afraid of caffeine pills: caffeine pills can sound scary, but that venti coffee at Starbucks also has a shit ton of caffeine. Opt to finding caffeine pills that are each 100 mg (the amount in 1 cup of coffee), and save ~$50-100 on buying coffee all the time
Find (only) 1-2 good friends and make a regular study group: even if you guys don’t share classes, it’s nice to have people who are reliable, quiet, and fun to be around when studying. Also, libraries allow small groups to rent private study rooms which are clutch af
Use the Pomodoro method with a timer or app: this is wonderful for people who have difficulty focusing. Set an alarm for 25 minutes, and block all forms of electronic distraction from that time. The idea is to have 25 minutes of pure work with a 5 minute break to do whatever you want afterwards, and this helps train you to maximize your ability to focus and minimize brain fatigue
Empty classrooms and lecture halls on weekends = substitute library: on the weekends, college campuses are super dead. I’ve found that lecture halls and classrooms are deserted (and usually unlocked) during these times, which make for great quiet places to study
Listen to music WITHOUT lyrics while you study: you’ll be less likely to be sucked in to the music and distracted
Wear pajama or workout clothes: just trust me on this one
Have a few achievable goals for the day and know when to stop: college burnout is real, so remember that college is a marathon, not a race
call me a commie or whatever but i hate the fact that education has become a commodity like everything else in our society. when education is so radically expensive in the united states, it’s not a realistic expectation for people to learn things for the sake of learning anymore. when every university class i take costs literally thousands of dollars, i can’t afford to study things i find interesting. everything suddenly becomes a cost/benefit analysis of whether or not this will pay off financially in a hypothetical future career. all other benefits of education (joy, interest, the ability to make non obvious interdisciplinary connections, the benefit of applying a multitude of perspectives and experiences to a specific issue) get eclipsed by whether or not i can reduce this class down to a list of resume worthy skills.
Why do you think highly advanced ancient civilizations are so prevalent in sci-fi/fantasy?
Basically it’s the Roman Empire’s fault.
One of the reasons the Roman Empire was such a big deal in the ancient world is because it was able to punch way above its weight class technology-wise due to its sophisticated civic infrastructures. When the Western half of the empire collapsed, those infrastructures essentially imploded, leaving a huge chunk of Europe with large caches of technology that they could still use, but lacked the means to reproduce or repair. A lot of what modern Eurocentric history books present as the natural technological progression of civilisaton is glossing over this massive hiccup where innovation was being driven primarily by the need to repurpose or maintain this leftover tech in the absence of the infrastructures that produced it. Things basically went all Mad Max for a while there - that actually happened.
(This is all hugely oversimplified, of course, but that’s the gist of it.)
The thing about modern fantasy settings is that, by and large, they’re also going all Mad Max. Your typical Western fantasy setting used to be dominated by this huge, technologically sophisticated empire, but then somebody screwed up and blew up the world, and now everything sucks and people live in fortified shanty towns separated from each other by miles of barren wilderness populated by gnarly monsters, where the most valuable commodities are the scavenged detritus of that bygone empire. It’s straight up post-apocalyptic - the only variable is how much time has passed between the apocalyptic event and the present day.
And in terms of literary and artistic antecedents? You can pretty much draw a direct line between Western fantasy fiction’s obsession with post-apocalyptic worldbuilding and the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It’s been 1500 years and we still haven’t gotten over it.
EDIT: To be 100% clear, I’m talking about the antecedents of the specific constellation of post-apocalyptic tropes that characterise Western fantasy fiction, not the more general trope that things used to be awesome in the distant past and now everything sucks. A couple of the responses are giving me grief about how this can’t possibly be right because the Romans themselves wrote about how things used to be awesome in the past and now everything sucks, and it’s absolutely true that they did - along with very nearly every storytelling tradition in any culture whatsoever. Certainly, there’s a discussion to be had about why that might be the case, but it’s a separate and much broader question from the one I’m addressing here.
there are many things I did not enjoy about being a crow, of course. having no choice, being treated as an expendable commodity, the rules…so many rules! but simply being an assassin? i like it just fine.
“Yet the craziest part of Warner Bros.’ Crazy Rich Asians, slated for an Aug. 17 release, isn’t the fact that its decadence makes Versailles look like a Red Roof Inn; it’s that it boasts an all-Asian cast, a rare commodity in an industry that’s still working on breaking its habit of “whitewashing” (i.e. casting white actors in ethnically Asian roles). Few Hollywood films have exclusively featured Asian principal casts since The Joy Luck Club more than two decades ago — a fact Michelle Yeoh, an Asian superstar with just a handful of lead roles in Hollywood productions, understands well. “It’s been too long since there’s been an all-Asian cast,” says the Malaysia-born actress, who stars as Nick’s intimidating mother, Eleanor. “I’ve been very lucky to have worked on one before [2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha], but they’re too few and far between.””
I will be grateful for the twenty-four hours that are before me. Time is a precious commodity. I refuse to allow what little time I have to be contaminated by self-pity, anxiety, or boredom. I will face this day with the joy of a child and the courage of a giant. While it is here, I will use it for loving and giving. Today I will make a difference.
You know, I get it. Being raised as a superstar must be really, really difficult for you. Always a commodity, never a human being, not a single person in your family thinking you’re worth a damn off the court— yeah, sounds rough. Kevin and I talk about your intricate and endless daddy issues all the time. I know it’s not entirely your fault that you are mentally unbalanced and infected with these delusions of grandeur, and I know you’re physically incapable of holding a decent conversation with anyone like every other normal human being can, but I don’t think any of us should have to put up with this much of your bullshit. Pity only gets you so many concessions, and you used yours up about six insults ago. So please, please, just shut the fuck up and leave us alone.