Photo by: US House office of photography
CANADA: NEW DEMOCRATS LOOKS INTO GROCERY PRICE GOUGING
Grocery prices in Canada have risen 10.8 per cent in the last year, spurring the NDP to call for a parliamentarian probe on potential corporate price gouging. This wouldn’t be a shock as price gouging has already been Trojan horsed using the general inflation by oil industries.
The biggest grocery conglomerates in the country such as Metro and Loblaws have seen sizable jumps in their quarterly profits in comparison to last year, meanwhile, grocery prices are not coming down with other prices like in the housing market as a response to the Bank of Canada’s raising the benchmark interest rate back in March.
Anecdotally, my partner and I have had to seriously ration our groceries above other costs the last three months to be able to pay all our bills unproblematically. We’re not alone in this. A global climate NGO called WRAP did a survey and found that respondents in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the U.K. said they’re worried about the rising cost of food.
As a response, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh put a spin on Pierre Poilievre’s “Justinflation” calling the mounting prices in places like the grocery industry “greedflation” instead.
U.S.A.: KRYSTEN SINEMA AND THE SENATE
U.S. Senator Krysten Sinema recently spoke at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center. Her speech called for reimplementing aspects of the filibuster, essentially giving more power to the Senate in terms of electing Supreme Court judges and federal judges. She then connected her sentiments to an explanation of how the more structurally democratic Congress is, therefore, more beholden to the “passions” of the time. The Senate, by contrast, muzzles the passions of Congress according to the young Senator.
This is revealing on many levels but primarily because it shows how the Senate is a comparatively undemocratic institution relative to the lower chamber. Although educated mixed race populations tend to be in blue states, they are on average packed into highly populated states with massive cities.
Meanwhile, uneducated, white rural populations are far more evenly distributed across the states. Each state getting two senators in the upper chamber means that Republicans have a statistical advantage in the Senate despite their senators representing far less people than senators for blue states. Wyoming is a red state that has a population 68 times smaller than that of California yet it gets the same Senate representation. That’s a structural issue.
It’s about time that the States’ Senate is relegated to a mostly ornamental position like here in Canada or in Britain. Sorry Sinema, the passions just know better.
INTERNATIONAL: ITALY ELECTS FAR RIGHT LEADER
In international news, Italy’s newly elected prime minister is far right leader Giorgia Meloni whose party, the Brothers of Italy, won a coalition government. The Brothers are a party with historical connections to Italian fascist Benito Mussolini.
In a recent speech, Meloni attacked “financial speculators” for allegedly wanting to know every metric of her selfhood, including gender, age, interests, etc. She then says that the answer to this empty consumerism is the family unit and tradition in a kind of palingenetic ultranationalist solution.
This is something we’ve seen countless times on the far right, it’s the appeal of right-wingers like Jordan Peterson. The rightist critique of capitalism and the postmodern dogma of the enclosed self is formulated in a vaguely fascistic call for conservative revolution. What never figures into this kind of rhetoric is widespread system change, instead it’s placed at the level of the family unit and a return to formal patriarchal tradition.
Italy’s latest election is concerning to say the least.
THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS: CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION IN THE MEME AGE?
In January 2021 GameStop was being heavily shorted by big hedge funds and other investors as its stock continued a steady decline, likely as a result of the proliferation of the digital video game economy in the last decade. In an act of memey rebellion, Reddit forum users on r/wallstreetbets and social icons like Elon Musk started to buy up shares in the company, skyrocketing the stock price and making short sellers lose massive amounts of money.
This phenomenon introduces important questions around older notions of conspicuous consumption. The Veblen curve is well known in the field of economics for graphing the effects of conspicuous consumption. The curve demonstrates how certain types of goods, usually branded as luxury goods abound with cultural capital, break the rules of a typical demand curve which says that as a good’s price goes up the quantity of that good demanded falls.
With a Veblen good this dynamic is flipped on its head; the more a good is considered a luxury good, the price rising causes higher quantities demanded for that good. This is a fitting graphical representation of what Karl Marx in the first volume of Capital calls commodity fetishism.
However, when memes can produce the same effect without the good being considered a luxury good, having more to do with its exchange-value as a meme, what then? This is probably unanswerable for the time being, it all depends on if more memey situations affect the stock market in any substantive way in the future, but it’s worth thinking about.
In response to the GameStop short squeeze fiasco, philosopher Slavoj Žižek reminded hopeful onlookers in a podcast appearance on Odd Lots that though this act is revolutionary in the sense of exposing the random, enigmatic gambling aspect of the stock exchange, it is too entrenched in the logic it exploits. Or, as Audrey Lorde once put it, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”