L’Artisanat. Bien Sur!

Note:  This is an old post I never posted but, due to the recent Brexit vote, I decided to put it up.


It seems to me very probable that Tommy Mair was motivated by hatred of immigrants when he reportedly shouted “Britain First” and killed Jo Cox. But that hatred of immigrants has been fostered over many years by the right wing in the UK – including virtually the entire Conservative Party, not just the Brexiteers. Stoking of racist emotion has been a deliberate long term ploy to provide a focus of blame for the victims in society of the consequences of neo-liberalism.

– Craig Murray  (http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2016/06/the-sad-death-of-jo-cox-and-what-is-terrorism.html#more-58539)

… which plays right into the hands of the neo-cons/neo-liberals …

The poor fuckers who become racist  because of neo-liberal policies are missing altogether the point.  It’s their masters, the neo-liberals, who are inciting all this hate, the better to divide the 99%.  That was the whole point of the EU.  Bring all of Europe together in a tightly knit oligarchy.  Stamp out any form of true, people-centered collective behavior.  Of any idiosyncrasy.  Of anything that didn’t fit the corporate model.  Of any of the messiness of democracy.  It’s too slow, too unpredictable.  Too many languages, too many cultures, too many mysteries.  The US couldn’t deal with all that.  Or refused to.  Or couldn’t find the diplomats who, once on post, didn’t “go native” because they actually liked living in a tumultuous society where things other than the “American Dream” were important.  Can’t have people like that!

The late Tony Judt (1948-2010), writing in the February 10, 2005 issue of the The New York Review of Books, began his review of three books with this opening paragraph:


Consider a mug of American coffee. It is found everywhere. It can be made by anyone. It is cheap—and refills are free. Being largely without flavor it can be diluted to taste. What it lacks in allure it makes up in size. It is the most democratic method ever devised for introducing caffeine into human beings. Now take a cup of Italian espresso. It requires expensive equipment. Price-to-volume ratio is outrageous, suggesting indifference to the consumer and ignorance of the market. The aesthetic satisfaction accessory to the beverage far outweighs its metabolic impact. It is not a drink; it is an artifact.

Yes.  An artifact.  As in artisanal.  Made by artisans, artists.  Something not factory made.


We were in Calabria, southern Italy, a few years ago.  We had become friends with the morning barman, Franco, in the local café,.  Behind him was this pretty complicated espresso machine, and next to it was an almost equally complicated coffee bean grinder.  Both of them had all kinds of gauges and dials.  His espressos were always delicious:  you could pick up the tiny cup and knock it back in one sensuous small swallow that was always just the right temperature.  It wasn’t even coffee.  It was nectar.

I finally asked him one day what all the gauges and dials were for.  He explained that, depending on the ambient temperature and humidity, you had to set the machines accordingly.  I didn’t believe him, saying that making good coffee couldn’t be all that complicated.  That he was putting me on.  He told me to come and have a coffee early the next morning.  He wouldn’t be there, but a kid who had just been hired, would be, and I’d taste the difference.  I did.  And the coffee, while drinkable, was nothing close to Franco’s.

The Americanization of Europe, through the creation of the EU, was a means of encouraging the idea that “artifacts”, modern or ancient, are of little importance if they don’t have the stamp of approval of, or are owned by, some transnational corporation.  If it isn’t “branded”, it can’t possibly be good or trustworthy.  That was one of the things I really liked about southern Italy, Calabria in particular.  Sure, the ‘Ndrangheta was a presence, and probably up to all kinds illicit stuff.  But at the least, we had good coffee.  And it certainly wasn’t Starbucks.

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