Friday, July 30, 2021

What's in a Name?

I tend to listen to the left-wing economist Richard D. Wolff's podcast Economic Update on one of my community radio stations, because I often learn from his analysis and discussions.  Today's episode addressed Chipotle's claims that they're raising their prices because of greedy employees who want to be paid a living wage, and it was good except for Wolff's dogged and indefensible mispronunciation of "Chipotle." 

That annoyed me, but I was bothered more by Wolff's repeated references to certain U.S. Senators (Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema) as "slaves" to corporations.   Manchin, Sinema, and the other corporatists in Congress are very well-paid and willing collaborators with their donors.  If they run away, no one will sic bloodhounds on them; no one will try to extradite them from Canada.

But I'm sure Wolff knows that.  More likely he was using "slave" as an insult, to suggest that Congressional corporatists are low, degraded losers.  And that's not any better.  Mohandas Gandhi was absolutely correct when he assured W. E. B. DuBois in a 1929 letter: "There is no dishonour in being slaves. There is dishonour in being slave-owners."

There must be an accurate word for willing collaborators with moneyed power.  "Toady," maybe.  At least Wolff didn't call them "whores," because that's too obviously going to get pushback.  Nor did he use "faggot" or other homophobic epithets, as popular as they are in certain left circles.  The trouble with many insulting terms is that they derive their power from invoking hierarchies that are being criticized and demolished, so a little more thought is necessary than it used to be.  Wolff is a thoughtful person, so I expect more from him.