By Jane Stillwater
Editor’s Note: Jane Stillwater is an avid blogger whose lively commentaries and observations sometimes appear in the Berkeley Barb. She has written a traveler’s guide for comfortably touring the Mideast called, “Bring Your Own Flak Jacket”. While Jane covers her experience at the Netroots Nation Convention, she also take a very cheerful romp through the English language.
When I was in Pittsburgh for the Netroots Nation convention recently, I saw and heard many wondrous things. I got my photo taken with Don Siegelman, Howard Dean and Meteor Blades. I watched a sneak preview of “We Live in Public”. I found out all about the current healthcare reform debate and why the American people are gonna be sucker-punched if they don’t go for the public option. I took 40 pages worth of notes! The whole conference was enlightening on about 50 different levels, a total success. But, for me, the most amazing part of my experience in Pittsburgh was meeting my old friend John Harvey for lunch.
John is a Ph.D candidate in philosophy at Duquesne University, teaches ethics at one of the local colleges — and never thinks the same way that the rest of us think.
While we chatted over soup at Hemingway’s Bar and Grill near the University of Pittsburgh’s gloriously antique skyscraper tower and the original Carnegie library, John explained carefully to me why he was secretly in love with Ann Coulter. “She is one of the few writers I know of who can use the word ‘whom’ correctly.” And then he launched into a half-hour diatribe, trying to explain to me when and how to correctly use “whom” in a sentence.
“But John,” I replied, “is that enough of a saving grace to condone all of Coulter’s drama and lying?” Probably not.
Next, over a roast beef sandwich and a martini, John told me something else that was truly amazing. “‘Socialism’ is a word that describes the transfer of power from out of the hands of large corporations and the wealthy and into the hands of the working class. Almost all of the world’s nation-states today are simply physical embodiments of the power of the truly wealthy and of the corporations they own. Therefore, every extension of the power of most modern states is basically an extension of the power of its wealthiest corporations. Therefore, the nationalization of industries in these states can NEVER produce socialism — because the nationalized industries still don’t benefit the working classes but continue to only benefit the wealthy.” That’s totally deep!
“So when people on talk-show radio refer to the nationalization of American industries — such as the healthcare insurance industry — as being an act of socialism, they simply don’t know what they are talking about.” So. Does this mean that true socialism can only happen regarding healthcare via a transfer of power from the health insurance companies to the healthcare workers themselves — such as doctors, nurses and perhaps even to patients? Works for me.
“Take the banks for instance. Giving banks a bunch of government money isn’t socialism. That would only be socialism if the money was given to raise the wages of the bank tellers — and you know that isn’t ever going to happen.” Not with the Republicans in charge — and apparently not with the Democrats in charge either.
“The ruling class,” John continued, “also decides where capital is going to go. In America, it has been decided that our capital is going to go toward waging war — and not to healthcare, which would be of benefit to the working class. And this theory also explains why America will always have a deficit. Our deficit will never go away because our ruling class lives off the interest from the deficit. They LOVE the deficit. They appear to be wringing their hands about having a deficit — but the real reason that we have a deficit is to keep the ruling classes wealthy.”
After my lunch with John, he showed me around the Pittsburgh working-class neighborhood where he lives and told me that he only paid $550 a month rent for a two-story townhouse. Then we went out to dinner with his friend Jackson, a bit of a loose cannon but a totally entertaining one. “Those G-20 protesters had better not mess up our city,” said Jackson. “Pittsburgh has always had protesters here. The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 happened here. We’ve had the Press Car strike and the U.S. Steel strike. Pittsburghers know how to protest right. And we don’t want your piddling little outside protesters to come here and mess up our city.” Jackson was born in Pittsburgh, cheered for the Steelers and thought that only true Pittsburghers have mastered the correct protesting techniques — which apparently involves not doing any damage to downtown stores or interrupting the bus lines.
“Protesters are already pouring into Pittsburgh. 7,000 of them are already here and we’re expecting 30,000 more. And they’d better not break any windows.”
Apparently the federal government has promised Pittsburgh a large amount of money to help pay for the extra expenses of hosting the G-20, but the funds have yet to show up. “And have you tried our Yuengling Beer? It’s the oldest independently-owned brewery in America, yinz.” Yinz? What is a yinz?
“Yinz is the plural of the second-person pronoun,” said John. Does Ann Coulter know about this?
Then the waitress at Grant’s, a local working-class hangout around the corner from John’s townhouse, brought us some peach pie and we talked about Papal indulgences, circumcision, the various attempted murders that each of us had witnessed in our lives, Jackson’s desire to take a raft from the Monongahela River to New Orleans, and the benefits of chocolate. John also threw in a quick lecture about alien abduction. “People weren’t abducted by aliens from outer space. They were snatched by our own descendants who came back here in time machines in order to harvest our DNA because theirs has run out.” Who would have thought!
“John, can I put all this on my blog?”
“Sure, why not. I’m a fame whore.” Me too!
PS: Here is John’s infamous description of when to use the word “whom”. Ann Coulter, eat your heart out.
“Jane, the word ‘whom’ is generally used in a subordinate clause, as the object of a verb or preposition.” Huh? “But I haven’t even given you the major rule. ‘Who’ and ‘whom’ are relative pronouns. They relate to their antecedents. The relative pronoun gets its case from the clause in which it appears — the state of the pronoun that shows its relation to the other things in the sentence. The case of ‘who’ is nominative — which shows that it is a subject. ‘Whom’ is the accusative. ‘Who’ is doing the action and ‘whom’ is being acted upon.”
But apparently I still looked rather dubious and confused.
“Jane, I just gave you the most clear explanation of the use of ‘whom’ ever given in the 21st century. You don’t understand that? What’s your problem?”