Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Simple Pleasures

There is a well-known ad campaign that goes something like: tickets to the Beijing Olympics--several thousand dollars. Smile on the face of your loved one to whom you give the tickets---priceless.

Credit card companies fit a description formulated by Oscar Wilde: "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." The ad campaign however, makes it appear that one particular credit card company understands the difference between values and prices.

Except that it doesn't. The ad is yet another example of how capitalism manages to coopt our needs for human connection. The ad campaign is trying to convince us that priceless experiences nevertheless come with a price, a price with an interest rate.

Perhaps we had better look to other wisdom. It is very common nowadays to read in blogs, self-help books and those inspirational things we get in the email about pleasures that require little or no expenditure. You know the lists: listening to the cry of a newborn baby, the smell of newly cut grass, watching the ocean. As the song says, "the best things in life are free."

Except that they are not. Women risk their lives, especially poor women, to give birth. And hearing the cry of a newborn is only a simple pleasure if you are not the one who will need to feed clean and cuddle the babe. As for newly cut grass--someone has to mow the lawn first, usually for minimum wage. I also find that men have more time to enjoy simple pleasures like watching the ocean, because they work less hours at home.

For me, the next best thing to enjoying myself, is seeing other people enjoy themselves. Unlike the moralists I have no real objection to shopping or lazing about. I am not guilty of doing these things, because I just do them without guilt. Indeed my innocent enjoyments range from the simple, to the complicated, to the unclassifiable. After all, how does one classify the joys of long-standing friendships or the ecstasy that comes with realizing you are sexually attracted to someone? How does one classify the jubilation my friends feel at making life difficult for the the World Bank, The IMF the G8 or the WTO? Simple, complicated? Both? I wish for myself and others a plethora of polymorphous passions.

I problematize pleasures not because I am a moralist who is afraid of the effects of unbridled sexuality. I problematize pleasure because I would rather drink the wine without the hangover. It is also better to have sex without getting the sexually transmitted infection or the unwanted pregnancy. Also, the pleasure of the occasional shopping spree lasts longer if one is confident of being able to pay the credit card company later. I say occasional by the way, not because I am middle class and can only afford occasional shopping sprees. I say occasional because consumerism is an addiction, just as much as alcoholism, just as much as those egotistical power plays that many mistake for sex. I also find that lazing around is best enjoyed when one isn't resentful about unfair workloads or guilty about unshared work. I find that life is best enjoyed when it is well-examined and dedicated.

The moralists, the fascists and the capitalists are afraid that we might think our pleasures through and pleasure our thinking too much. If we did, we might realize that the latte they are serving at ridiculous prices at the multinational chain doesn't really taste that good; the designer bag that we must have, looks like a gaudy collage of leather scraps. If we did we would realize the Osama Bin Laden and George Bush are believers in the same sexual and political economy upheld by the Vatican. If we did, we might realize that free pleasures (guilt free and priceless) are more likely to be found in human cooperation and sharing rather than individualism and competition. If we did we would realize that under systems of injustice and alienation, creativity demands transgression and subversion demands pleasure.

Does that sound like I am howling at the moon? So be it. Excuse me please while I go a-howling. Howling at the moon with my girlfriends: priceless.


your goddess friend said...

ang galing... minions howl with the darklord , also priceless and pleasurable.

manuelbuencamino said...

Treating the Pill as Abortion,
Draft Regulation Stirs Debate
The Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2008; Page A11

Set aside the fraught question of when human life begins. The new debate: When does pregnancy begin?

The Bush Administration has ignited a furor with a proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.

A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying "the life of a human being."

Many medical groups disagree. They hold that pregnancy isn't established until several days after conception, when the fertilized egg has grown to a cluster of several dozen cells and burrowed into the uterine wall. Anything that disrupts that process, in their view, is contraception.

The draft regulation, circulating within the Department of Health and Human Services, would have no immediate effect on the legality of the pill or the IUD if implemented because abortion is legal. But opponents fear it would undercut dozens of state laws designed to promote easy access to these methods of birth control, used by more than 12 million women a year.

Dozens of Congressional Democrats -- including presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama -- have signed letters of protest blistering the proposal. His Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, declined to comment.


Who should be allowed to exercise the right of conscience? Read opinions on both sides of the debate, on's Front Lines.
Administration supporters say the left's concerns are overblown and very few women would have real difficulty getting birth control. Still, some on the religious right are hoping the regulation would create some obstacles.

If the draft regulation were to prompt some insurance companies to drop coverage for prescription birth control, "that would be fantastic," said Tom McClusky, a strategist with the conservative Family Research Council.

The draft could still be revised or rejected. Or the administration could enact it at any point; no congressional approval is needed. (The next president could just as easily reverse it.)

Legal challenges would likely hold up the regulation's enforcement, but even so, the religious right -- a key Republican constituency in this election season -- could claim an important victory as their views would be embedded in federal law.

The regulation's stated purpose is to improve enforcement of existing federal laws that protect some medical professionals' right to refuse to participate or assist in abortion.

In a lengthy preamble entitled "The Problem," the draft argues that state laws too often coerce health-care workers into providing services they find immoral.

Among the laws considered coercive: Requirements that emergency rooms offer rape victims the morning-after pill, insurance plans cover contraception as part of prescription-drug benefits, and pharmacists fill prescriptions for birth control. The draft regulation would weaken these laws by expanding the right of conscientious objection.

The White House said the administration "has an obligation to enforce" that right and is "exploring a number of options."

If the regulation is enacted, insurers, hospitals, HMOs and other institutions could claim that a law requiring them to dispense contraception or subsidize an IUD discriminated against their religious convictions. State and local governments would have to certify in writing that they don't practice such discrimination. Those who didn't comply could lose federal funding or be sued for damages.

The draft also extends the conscience objection to most staff members and volunteers working for health-care providers. So, for instance, an employer couldn't punish a clinic receptionist for refusing to make appointments for patients seeking birth-control pills.

"It's pernicious," said Janet Crepps, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. "A few individuals could mess up the whole system."

Barr Pharmaceuticals, which makes oral contraceptives, took issue with the idea that its products cause abortions and added that "an individual's conscience should not prevent the timely dispensing of these products."

With its expansive definitions, the draft bolsters a key goal of the religious right: to give single-cell fertilized eggs full rights by defining them as legal people -- or, as some activists put it, "the tiniest boys and girls."

As long as Roe v. Wade remains in effect and abortion remains legal, that goal can't be fully realized. But in recent years, abortion opponents have scored notable successes. For instance: Several states now define a fertilized egg as a legal person -- an "unborn child" -- for purposes of fetal homicide laws, which allow criminal prosecution when a woman miscarries as a result of an assault.

In South Dakota, abortion doctors must tell patients -- whatever their stage of pregnancy -- that they will be "terminating the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being" with whom they have an "existing relationship." In Colorado, voters this fall will weigh a state constitutional amendment that would confer full personhood on fertilized eggs, as well as embryos and fetuses. And embryonic stem-cell research is restricted through a variety of state and federal policies.

Even if the draft is never implemented, activists on both sides consider it a potential momentum shift.

"You keep striking away and framing the issue the way you want to frame it," said David DeWolf, a law professor at Gonzaga University who has advised anti-abortion groups. "That's the political strategy."

Sylvia Estrada Claudio said...

Hey Minion,

I prefer the moon to be a full moon. But it can happen whenever: awooooooooo.

That was nice...

Sylvia Estrada Claudio said...


Do you know that none of these processes--the fertilization of the egg or the implantation of the fertilized egg--can even be determined to have occurred? Our first indication of pregnancy clinically is a positive pregnancy test, which happens loooong after the period the pro-birth people are so obsessed about.

Nathalie said...

One of my simple pleasures is sitting beside you during sedate meetings and gatherings, Guy, sharing wisecracks. ;->

manuelbuencamino said...

goes to show you the Bush can give the CBCP a run for their money in the Lunacy Sweepstakes.

Sylvia Estrada Claudio said...


Considering the amount of effort we put into those wisecracks, I should hope it would be pleasurable. I am sometimes afraid we will be sent out of the room or asked to sit away from each other---like naughty schoolgirls. I can see it now: we will look chastised and ashamed...then we will pass notes when the person chairing the meeting (a.k.a the teacher)is not looking... Regression to juvenile feelings at my age: priceless.

Carolina S. Ruiz Austria said...

Guy (finally) blogging: Priceless
When you told me about your blog this morning I resisted the urge to say "I told you so" because if you remember I always did tell you so---that you would make a great blogger. Why not? You have the minions (obviously) and the cult following to do so successfully! Hallelujah. Looking forward to your next...

Sapphire said...

Sometimes pleasure is…take it or leave it! and I am taking it …to express…a most pleasant surprise and pleasurable reading and to respond….

Huh!…uy! ano 'to?!…talaga naman!…oo nga!... why not! Guy! A blogger: now howling at the world thru a blog! profound manifestations of howling at the moon…

Guy & her blog entries: Happy + +! Tsk tsk… so respectfully disrespectful of status quos…oo la la…the ironies of society’s institutions’ in their pitiful heroic attempts to logicalize their ethics of unlife now exposed!…hilarious sobra! wha hahahaha!...

Ay teka, teka lang …puede pala 'to?!…howling and daffodiling together can be….!!! ahhhh! Brilliant, Guy…a penny for herman hesse ’s profundity then, now also challenged!...great blog, great guy...hihihihi

Sylvia Estrada Claudio said...

Yo Karol and Sapphire,

Sorry. I got really busy. Was in Davao, home to pick up bag and then go off to Germany. Have to write allegedly profound scholarly paper on religious fundamentalisms while packing.

My southern minion the demanding Daphne wants to know why my last blog was 2 weeks ago. Minions can be very demanding in a feminist cult. I am convinced the minions are really far more virulent than the alleged cult leader.

But you are right Karol--you told me years ago. And it is fun.

Back to attempts at erudition...