Tuesday, December 31, 2002
OK, here's something guaranteed to piss people off: while I think that Trent Lott's statement that if Strom Thurmond had been elected president that "all of these problems" wouldn't have happened was really offensive, I think that perhaps the media has gone too far in castigating Lott for his remark.
After all, Trent Lott is a Senator from Mississippi. And also, there's the little fact that the fight over segregation happened within living memory and that the people who were for it weren't suddenly teleported to another planet once it was outlawed. And he's from Mississippi.
Not enough attention was paid, in my opinion, to the warm response that Lott got with the first comment, something along the lines of "I've always supported you". The fact that that comment was well recieved while the next one shocked is a recognition of the moral complexity that has attended Southern politics in the last hundred years.
Segregation is gone. Now, it's virtually impossible to get elected to national office from the South spouting overtly racist rhetoric. That's a feat, because it wasn't always that way (as Thurmond's use of the word "Nigger" in his presidential campaign followed by his win as a write in candidate for Senate presumably showed). Eugene Genovese in "the Southern Tradition" puts the name Warren Bilbo out there as another example of this, but I've never heard of him. Say what you will about code words, this is a solid feat.
Southern politics saw the rise of George Wallace, first as pro-civil rights, then as the anti-civil rights poster boy, then in later years as the concilliating moderate; so history has made strange bedfellows of many a person.
However, the media's treatment of Lott brings to mind a left-wing version of the right's moral littmus testing for candidates: instead of questions about drug use and marital fidelity judged according to strict fundamentalist standards you have questions about political pureness judged by standards which would play fine in Boston or Chicago.
Which is disturbing, because it indicates that the establishment Left is as willing to be provincial as the right is when it comes to a topic that they're concerned with. It's old hat, but, the South is still the South and there has to be sensitivity to the fact that it's had a different history and a different political experience during the last century than the North has, and so differing standards are in order.
What do I mean by differing standards? Well, it would be good for the U.S. if Lott's first statement about Thurmond could be accepted as legitimate while the second one was condemned.
Russ Feingold supported Herr Ashcroft's nomination because he felt that if the left started to reject candidates based on political preference that it would shut out any possibility of left wing candidates being approved in the future. I think that Ashcroft's nomination and approval was a horrible mistake, but you know---the principle that Feingold put forward is probably a good one.
Sunday, December 29, 2002
Not without some satisfaction, I've checked in at ye' old reactionary webpage http://www.counterrevolution.net to find that the webmaster has moved from being a radical Tory to an outright fascist.
It's a little schadenfeude, I must admit, but you've got to hand it to the guy: he starts off offering resources to far-right European style conservatism, including "politically incorrect" links to racists and miltias (just to show he's not one of these censoring crazy liberals), and now lo and behold he's giving good reviews to books by the head of the Romanian Nazis (Iron Guards).
So I guess there was a little more to those links than just showing up politically correct liberals, eh?
Fine with me. Just shows that that sort of monolithic, state worshipping, authoritarian, conservatism is bankrupt anyways. It's a mean pleasure to see someone slip from Toryism to Fascism without missing a beat.
I guess the censorship of politically correct liberals doesn't hold a torch to the fascist restructuring of society undertaken by Mussolini and Hitler, eh mr. Counterrevolution?
Thursday, December 26, 2002
A change in the weather, is known to be extreme, but what's the point of changing horses, in midstream?--"You're a big girl now".
Well folks, I've had one of those changes. But it's not a retreat, oh no. Confounding all expectations I've now started to locate my political thought within that strange realm known as Southern Agrarianism.
Yep, I have my copy of "I'll take my Stand" with me, actually in my living room.
Southern Agrarianism is for small r republicanism: it's anti-state, anti-capitalist, and for a wide distribution of property, a sense of community, and a focus on the quality of life rather than on the quantity of things produced.
It's consonent with my values more than any pure left-wing doctrine has been. I stated a while ago that whatever new truth was out there was probably, to me, a synthesis of Anarcho-Communism, Primitivism, and Anarcho-Syndicalism. Well, amazingly enough Southern Agrarianism fit's the bill.
Someday, hopefully when I'm old and gray, someone will write a history about the movements that grew up parallel to and sometimes overlapping with Anarchism during the nineties.
Totally underground, paralleling marginal culture, a movement existed which was based in the new age and the occult--in paganism and in libertarian variants of occult philosophy such as that espoused by Aleister Crowley.
Bleeding over to other esoterica it formed a new and somewhat extreme movement.
Some features of this culture came dangerously close---and in some formulations went over the edge entirely--to endorsing far right European movements like fascism and mystical Nazism.
Certainly the occult aspect and the pagan aspect made conservatism more appealing because of the unfortunate retreat from true libertarian values that the left has experienced in recent decades (think PC).
Contributing to this as well was the explicit link to fascism and conservatism which came out of the integral traditionalism of thinkers like Julius Evola, who influenced many, myself included, with his books on the western occult tradition (which didn't contain his fascism directly).
Then there were people seeking out the extreme in life from such radical gnostic thinkers as Charles Manson and the people at the Process Church of the Final Judgement, who believed in a four part god made out of Christ, Jehovah, Lucifer, and Satan.
Before I ever became a leftist I was a Thelemite--a follower of the doctrines of Aleister Crowley, and a Pagan. I wasn't ever a part of Norse paganism though, I didn't realize at the time that there was more to it than people looking for Nazis everywhere made it look like, but I definitely connected to the Roman current. In otherwords I was a Pagan in everysense of the word.
Crowley was a good bridge from where I had come from--a millieux of criminality, drugs, and celebration of both the gangsta lifestyle and, paradoxically in my case, the libertarian currents of the sixties and seventies---and where I was going. I eventually gave up all the stuff about magic because I decided that 90% of it was self brainwashing, and that nothing positive was coming out of it for me.
So I eventually moved into a more political---and atheistic---stance which unbenknownst to me paralelled the movement and background of some of the people who became the first new Anarchists. But I never really found my home there. I guess I came along too late---I missed the formative years of the Anarchist movement and spent more time than most in the Pagan/semi-fascist scene.
I never was a fascist. I settled my accounts with Fascism and Nazism about six months ago after reading "The Beast Reawakens" by Christopher Simpson and later "Black Sun" by Nicholas Clarke-Goodrich---the first dealing with the survival of Nazi doctrine after WWII, the second dealing with current mystical Fascist and Nazi movements, sometimes having more to do with the 3rd way fascists--but hey. I saw in both of those books the greater context for a movement that I self-consciously kept myself aloof from; but I considered the arguments and much to my delight found that they weren't what I believed. Well, almost.
You see reading Black Sun reminded me of the value of the things I learned during my occult years. There seemed to be a void.
Well, Southern Agrarianism is a good compromise between the mystic/conservative counter-culture and the Anarchist/Libertarian counter-culture. It's not fascist, thank god, and it's not a big apology for Slavery either.
I keep emphasizing the non-fascistness of all of this, and with good reason: participating in the occult world was often a balancing act between where certain ideas were leading and my sense of what was right and decent. I made it though, and I'm grateful for it. In retrospect, looking at the scene now, it's clear that many people didn't, and that their adoption of fascism was often the end of their productivity in the libertarian world.
No, I wouldn't have been able to find Southern Agrarianism if I was a fascist, because it's something rare in this world: a doctrine that doesn't have much of an ulterior motive. There would be no incentive to move to it if fascism was already in my heart.
Well, so much for the apology. I'm still on the left, much as Liberation Theology is still on the left although it too is also radically conservative. But this column is going to get a little different.
I invite people to check out the work of Eugene Genovese in "The Southern Tradition", as well as the people in "I'll Take my Stand". I'm just a beginner in these matters, I haven't even finished my first Wendell Berry novel, but the beginning has been very auspicious.
Good luck to you all, because I've already found my luck.
I'm reminded of an Onion article where Bob Dole was interviewed as saying that he wants to build a tunnel back to the nineteenth century. (Clinton wanted to build a bridge to the 21st, remembet?)When asked if the tunnel would be big enough for all of America, he said no, it's only for me, everyone else is on their own.
While I have not a lot of malice for individuals in the modern world, I have to agree with 'Bob Dole': I've found my own tunnel out of the rapidly decaying mess we call modern society, everyone else has to find their own solution.
If it turns out to be Southern Agrarianism, so much the better.
But either way I'll be in Croaton oblivious to what all y'all are doing.
---From a tunnel to the 12th Century---,
Sunday, December 08, 2002
That was a title of a popular education book in the nineties, and it's a good way of starting off a discussion of the broader phenomenon of people my age, who grew up in the eighties and nineties, not knowing very much about history, culture, or the world around them in general.
In the book, the reason Johnny can't read is because those damn hippies infiltrated the educational system and taught him according to devilish "progressive" techniques.
The reality is much different.
I, as one of those "Johnnies", would offer up the explanation that my generation has such shocking holes in our knowledge because the Reagan Revolution intimidated people from speaking frankly about the recent past.
Pure and simple. If you want to pin down the reason for such angst and nihilism coming from people in my generation, it might be useful to think about what options growing up without a history and without any insight into the world around you leave a person.
There's a broad parallel with this phenomenon that can be drawn with the German student rebellions of the sixties and seventies: like us the German kids of the postwar generation were taught almost nothing about the Hitler years. Some have speculated that this was because many of the teachers employed at that time were involved with the Nazi state, and so didn't want to open themselves up for criticism by telling the truth. The result was two fold: first, it led a sizable number of German youth to ignorance about all but the most broad facts about the Nazi state. Second, when the kids found out about it they went berserk. The German student movement was rabidly radical, a delayed explosion, as it were, of tensions from the Hitler years which had been suppressed.
Same thing is happening here, or will soon be happening. I'm lucky because I'm old enough that I can vaguely remember the time before the Reagan Revolution squashed dissent. This is the lot of Generation X'ers as opposed to whatever you want to call the group of kids who don't even have a sense of what life was like before the conservatives took power.
Generation X'ers were angry and pissy because they experienced one long mediocre set of years in this nation's history. But to even be aware that the eighties and nineties were mediocre you would have to have known that how those decades were was not the norm. Hence, you had to have been born before some crucial cut off point in the very early eighties.
In Douglas Coupland's, the author of ther book Generation X, books it's always the lone protagonist aware of how shitty things are facing off with people his own age that are totally absorbed with materialism and superficiality. Hence the presence of Johnnies that couldn't read amidst a general awareness of malaise.
But get ready for a crisis that'll put all of that to shame! Yes, when Millenials, or Gen Y, or whatever the fuck you want to call the little pricks, get to be teenagers and college students they're going to really tear shit up. Already are starting to....
The point is, though, that you can't intimidate the immediate past out of people's minds without there being serious social consequences. For the people in power to spin it so that the victim is to blame doesn't matter. Consequences happen nonetheless. Consequences including suicide, Columbine style shootings, widespread depression, high drug use, low commitment to school or studying, youth violence, gang violence, other mental problems......you get the picture. It's not those damn liberals sabotaging America's moral fiber, it's conservative reactionaries fucking up kids minds in order to advance their social agenda.
But pigs don't fly.
Thursday, December 05, 2002
This really hit me when I visited Washington D.C. recently. If you ever want a sterling example of how the government is totally disconnected from the people, visit D.C. The place is unlike any other city in the U.S.: it's practically paved with gold it's so built up; the downtown sparkles, the subway probably rivals the famed subways of Moscow. All the government buildings are built in Roman imperial style, which exudes a constant message of 'Power'. Power, not democracy, power.
Imagine a city in which there are all the resources for any amount of beurocratic scheming available, where the Pentagon is a few minutes drive from the Capital, which is a short walk from the White House and where all the federal beurocracies are housed in buildings that you'll pass along the way.
Best part about D.C. is that it's far from any city which has some sort of mix of industry and commerce which would counteract it. D.C. was built for government by government, and so, as opposed to a place like New York City, there aren't any natural checks on it in the form of industries pumping money into the economy. Richmond is pretty near, true, but it's a regional city which, to my understanding, is pretty much limited to transacting the business of the Tobacco companies. But D.C. is isolated both geographically and psychicly. As was Versaille. It's instructive to note the kind of politics that went down at Versaille.
It's also instructive to note that the other capitals that have been constructed from scratch have served authoritarian governments: Saint Petersburg was constructed for a modernized autocracy in Russia, Brazillia was constructed by the Brazillian dictatorship for much the same reason--streamlining administration, keeping it out of the hands of the people.
Even though commerce and industry dominate the large cities, the idea of a seperate city devoted purely to government, which can act independently of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, is a very scary thought. If government were decentralized there would be much less of a chance of an imperial America hitting the scene.
A prime example of this is the new Homeland Security Department: the idea put forward by the Pentagon that it should be able to monitor every purchase a person makes is insane everywhere except DC. In NYC it would be laughed at, because everyone knows there that you can't even comprehend the volume and flows of money and decisionmaking that go into making America run, much less chart every single purchase. But the Pentagon is a monument to such concentrated power, as is the State Department and the FBI, along with the usual suspect of the CIA, not to mention the NSA--which has it's own city in Virginia.
People who live in DC and environs know that such idiocy is possible because they come into contact with it every day.
Compare it to the Soviet Union: in the GOSPLAN, the central economic planning agency, centered in Moscow, I'm sure the idea of administrating an entire economy was very plausable, while for people living in tiny towns in the provinces the government for them probably meant stupidity and inefficieny.
Interestingly enough, I've trashed DC to the ground without ever saying something against the U.S. as people commonly understand it. Think about that. We don't need Rome, we need localized government. Decentralized. If it was harder for beurocrats to think that totalitarian schemes were workable they'd try less. And hey, maybe if government was actually in the hands of the people when citizens of foreign countries looked to the U.S. government maybe they'd see an image of the U.S. closer to what we see ourselves as.
Monday, November 18, 2002
Up until the '60s the U.S. power structure (military, economic, political) was dominated by people who could trace their ancestry back to the time of the revolution and who were either English or Scottish, with a smattering of Dutch in New York State...this was the case even though the U.S. had been a strongly multi-ethnic society since the huge waves of immigration which characterized the late 19th century. To put this in perspective: even though the Irish were as large an ethnic group as people from the present UK, and even though they had largely assimilated and gotten honorary Anglo priveleges by the '60s, people were still concerned about the fact that an Irish Catholic, John F. Kennedy, was running for President.
The Germans have also attained honorary Anglo status in the U.S.
What happened in the '60s was that this dynamic started to change: WASP and honorary WASP ancestry became less and less important to social status, as David Brooks catalogues in "BoBos in Paradise". This took place in tandem with a great democratizing movement.
It's no coincidence. American history had been looked on before then with a wink and a nod that said "Well, we were fighting to preserve the rights of Englishmen, that liberty doesn't automatically apply to everyone". Not to speak of Slavery, but that's another topic. Rights in America were understood as being the privelege of Anglo Americans, who resisted the idea that the rights talked about in the Declaration of Independence applied to everyone equally. Everyone else had to fight to get equal rights. They're still fighting, as the trials and tribulations of Hispanics in America demonstrates.
The source of all this was the foundation of the American concept of "rights". In opposition to the French conception of Rights of men and of Citizens, American rights discourse was founded on the idea that the English enjoyed a form of primitive utopia before Feudalism was imposed on them in 1066, and that therefore the overthrow of the monarchy in the colonies gave back to an ethnic group a state of freedom and equality which it believed it originally had. This is particularistic in the extreme. Yet if you examine the record, there it is: people talking about the aim of the American Revolution as not the restructuring of society but a return to the ideals of the English Constitution that were violated by the monarchy's actions.
Significantly, very significantly, the leaders of the American Revolution were not descended from Puritans. America wasn't a second English Revolution. Instead, the heartland of the American Revolution was the Mid Atlantic States: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia. These were states which could be categorized as liberal Anglican with regards to religion. The Anglican church based it's dogma much more on a consideration of natural religion and early Anglo-Saxon spirituality than the Puritans of New England, who based their worldview on only viewing the Bible and it's commentaries as valid in terms of explaining the world around them. In England the Puritans in the English Civil War established a strong rights tradition based in religious absolutism which was the foundation of later English liberalism, ironicly.
The U.S. didn't go through the same process. The liberal Anglican beliefs of the mid atlantic states were no doubt heavily influenced by the thought of the English Civil War, but it was transposed into a Whig format which rejected the blunt edge of Puritanism. Massachusets, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine are still very conservative States due to their Puritan heritage, with Boston being infamous in the mid 20th century for banning "obscene" literature.
So the mid-atlantic states gave an English-centered spin to our rights discourse. What's happening now is something that I suspect has happened in South America already: we're turning into an Anglophone society as opposed to an Anglo society. Anglophone, in this sense, means a society dominated by English speakers who have to some extent assimilated into Anglo ways but who are not of English descent and who are not interested in totally assimilating to the Anglo ideal.
I suspect that Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay have had similar experiences, or are having them: they're swiftly on a course to being Spanish and Portugese speaking countries which are dominated by people who aren't of either Spanish or Portugese descent and who haven't surrendered their ethnic identity for the Spanish or Portugese ideal.
It's tantalizing to suppose that the U.S. became a haven for liberty once the revolution was over. But twas not so. The property of Loyalists was conviscated, destroying a large part of the entrenched social structure, but the fortunes which sprang up in their place and which dominated the U.S. until the '60s were just as Anglo, albeit more liberal. So it was like although the branch was cut off from the tree it sprouted it's own roots and grew parallel but seperate from it's mother.
A big thing that enforced anglo supremacy in the U.S. was Slavery and Segregation in the South. Slave owning wasn't something that immigrants usually got in on. In the South the dominance of the Anglo plantation owner and his descendents over black slaves was a living example of the idea that American liberty was only for people who were culturally Anglo. To this day people justify discrimination against blacks because of percieved cultural traits which put blacks beyond the pale for some whites.
When segregation fell in the South the last barrier to a universal conception of human rights in America was gone.
Anglo particularism could no longer be maintained on that precedent, nor could it be maintained through exclusive colleges, since in the postwar world high college attendence by a broad cross section of people destroyed that vestige of WASP privelege.
But, unfortunately, like many injustices, Anglo-American particularism reared it's ugly head many times after the fall of segregation. The nineties, however, were a time of slow but steady democratization. Clinton was not Reagan and not Bush I. While his presidency wasn't a stellar victory for minorities it at least established the breathing room neccesary to work for a multi-ethnic society where people viewed each other as equals.
The current bout of reaction is a sort of last ditch effort to keep that democratization and universalization of rights from happening. Bush is a child of privelege, one of the last. Accordingly, a very good article in the New Yorker Magazine from pre-election time about Bush points out that his development during a time of quickly diminishing possibilities for the priveleged but talentless shaped his conservative viewpoint.
The current coalition which controls the White House is based on the support of poor Anglos who feel that they're being cheated out of their birthright by other ethnic groups, Protestant fundamentalists who view secular (and Catholic) culture, with it's promise of equal opportunity, as a similar threat to privelege. Rich Anglo businessmen who feel that they should have unfettered control over the economic structure of the U.S. are also big supporters. The minorities Bush has assembled have all taken the high-assimilationist road, giving up their ethnic identities to be plastic Anglos.
Chip Berlet, an authority on the radical right in America, has pointed out that many people who would formerly be classified as white supremacists these days don't want to destroy minorities, they just want them to act like them---and think like them---and live like them.
Bush's push for Nationalism over all is a last ditch effort by this coalition to remain in power---over the will of the majority Anglophone America.
Nationalism doesn't just have domestic implications---Bush and company have eagerly pinned Patriotism to the denial of the International Criminal Court, pulling out of Arms treaties, pulling out of Environmental agreements, and pushing the U.N. around. All of this grows out of the particularist view point. The lackeys around the current administration realize this. One of them commented that efforts to classify housing as a universal human right were the product of a worldview which wants to turn everything into a right. There is also an official in charge of a portion of the ecological regulation who commented in a similar vein that there are no such things as ecosystems.
People in general in America don't believe in extreme particularism. They're open to and in support of universalized rights and the international agreements and cooperation that would come out of recognizing that there are universal principles essential to decent human existence which the rest of the world has assented to and which we would be welcome partners in recognizing. The majority of people in the U.S. at this time are Anglophone. I say this tentatively.
Due to the decentralization of the U.S., though, Anglos have disproportionate political and social power. Right now the war on terror is really a war between established ethnic privelege in the U.S. and a just multicultural society, which is what the numerical majority of U.S. citizens want. Racial problems would be mitigated in such an arrangement, where blacks would be recognized as just another ethnic group....
Take the Black vs. Anglo mentality out of the current dialogue on race and problems disappear pretty quickly, but I digress.
The war on terror is a war to save privelege. More than that it's a war to save the strategic position that rich Anglos posses due to the stature of the U.S. in the geopolitical arena. Even before the Constitution was written, commentators were writing about the strategic value of a united, large, independent, country in the New World. This faction of the elite shamelessly uses their pull with the federal government to save their investments in third world countries by force and by subversion. If America were truly democratized they wouldn't be able to carry so cavalierly.
Unfortunately, the conflict between the established economic powers and the emerging multiethnic/multiracial societies in the New World have led to military dictatorships time and time again. I hope this isn't where we're heading. But one thing is for certain: with Bush peddling Nationalism and Patriotism like he is the United States has rejoined the historical tract of New World countries. It's no longer "the Mystery". It never was, but Anglo people kept on wanting to say they were special....
Here's to human rights and universal rights from a proud ethinc mutt from a working class background!
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
I'm not a pacifist. I don't like war but I'm not a pacifist. In fact, I think that for the vast majority of people who call themselves pacifist that it's just a term to avoid the social consequences of telling people what they really feel about war, and about the particular war that they're opposing. I'm not going to dwell on explaining away the real pacifists. We all know they're out there and they're wonderful people, okay, let's move on. Pacifism is based on an unlimited devotion for the moral concerns which lead a person to object to all war. As such it's a position which few people can really live up to.
Did America suddenly have a burst of morally minded people during the Vietnam War? I don't think so. Instead of telling people the truth, that they opposed the war because they thought that this particular war was wrong, that we were fighting it for reasons other than opposing Communism, that we were doing terrible things to the Vietnamese, and that people from the U.S. were uselessly dying over there, they said "Umm, no, we oppose ALL war and we, uh, think that War is wrong, and um, that's why I just enrolled in this Divinity School, yeah, that's the ticket".
If all war is wrong then no war is wrong. If all war is wrong then World War II was just as wrong as Vietnam, and both of them were equivalent to World War I. I don't buy it for a second. I especially don't buy this current trend to require people who oppose the so-called "War on Terror" and the impending War in Iraq to pin opposition to these things to a belief in moral absolutes. Be honest for a change, people! I oppose both of them because there isn't a reason for them and because the people in power are probably pursuing them so that they can make big bucks when the smoke clears. What's more, I think that most wars have a big money component in their motivation, and that as long as we have Capitalism that we're going to have wars about nothing but money. There, that's why I oppose war people, not because of something Jesus did two thousand years ago, and not because of some cop out that I use to make myself look more acceptable to polite society.
Remember that other religious principle, most used by the Quakers, which says "In all things say Yes when you mean Yes and No when you mean No"? I believe Jesus had something to say about that too....
What's more I think that being dishonest about war is just as bad as being dishonest about drugs or about sex. The people who want to oppose war based on faux-pacifism also want to censor porn for your own good as well as push for sky high drug penalties. Or at least tacitly accept them when Republicans push them. The fact is that we are nasty, violent, creatures, and that men in particular have a drive to assert themselves in displays of power against other men. We fight, we hurt each other, we're animals.
But we're also animals that can make laws which, while acknowledging human nature, divert it into avenues that hurt others as little as possible. This means that just because we all have the Will to Power in our systems doesn't mean that that's then an excuse to go out and blow away a crowd of people just because we want to feel strong. And it's not an excuse to wage war on and kill thousands of people for no reason other than that we're mad as hell and we want to get our rocks off by inflicting some damage on someone. Being truthful about human nature, being truthful about the roots of aggression, is the first step towards creating a society where the flowering of our instincts can coexist with freedom and with relative safety. Just as admitting that people like to get high and that it doesn't make most people hard drug users doesn't mean that we therefore say that drug use should exist with no regulation whatsoever, admitting the dark side of human nature doesn't mean that we chuck all laws to the side of the road.
So I'm a person who doesn't like war but who thinks that people shouldn't get too mad when a person get's in a fist fight with someone else. Expressing ones' aggression over legitimate causes while stopping short of actually hurting someone in a serious way is much different than sending troops into a third world country to massacre everyone who they think is the enemy. I've read (some) of Douglas Valentine's book on "The Phoenix Program" and let me tell you, going into a village, stabbing a girl through the chest and then snapping her spine, and then taking the one next to her, covering her mouth, and shooting her in the temple, is something which falls under the heading of "War Crime", not playing out of human nature.
So fuck you Bush, fuck this war on Terror which is killing Afghanistan and fuck this new war on Iraq. You and your whole posse is illegitamate, and I'd be plenty glad if y'all were impeached and serving long, long, prison terms....
At least opposing Capitalism and opposing wars fought for the benefit of the rich is a more honest position than the cop-out of "being against all war, at least this time...."
The real pacifists DID oppose World War II, and they were charged with felonies and then interned in prison camps because they refused the draft. That, my friends, is my standard for measuring who is and who is not the real Pacifist.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
But back to musicianship. I'm an aspiring musician. I take my stab at working my way through basic exercises for classical guitar every now and then, with aching wrists as the usual result. I also venture into the realm beyond the three chord song on my acoustic guitar quite often.
Actually trying to struggle through songs, and then trying to sing and play guitar at the same time in a fashion which may appeal to people who aren't my parents, has taught me a few things about musical production in this day and age.
I think those heavy metal guitarists, specifically, should be called musical technicians rather than musicians. Why, you ask? Because it dawned on me that 90% of their so-called skill comes not from actually understanding the guitar but from having a nice set of distortion devices and a good amp that can twist sound in the right way. There's a little known fact about distortion: if you distort your fucking guitar you can't produce any complex harmony beyond the basic three chords. Why? Because you've distorted the damn thing, asshole! If I put my voice through a voice changer, you might think that it sounded cool, but you wouldn't think that I'd be able to sing like Maria Callas through it. Or Pavaroti. Same thing with guitar: distortion accentuates fifths and thirds, which is conveniant for the stupid because those are the intervals which the other two chords in the idgit stable are based on but unfortunate for people who want more out of their music than being beaten with a blunt object.
So they play, but what comes out is more like a skillful management of an impersonal sound machine than something actually created by musical skill. I know this because I've worked with a techno-synthesizer recently. One that approximates the old ones which fueled the early techno movement.....so what the fuck does that mean?
Well, imagine my surprise when through a few simple twists of some dials and a couple of finger pokes at a keyboard a complex, polyrhythmic, pumpin' sound came out which sounded really cool, and which can be found on virtually all techno records...
My point is that the coolness of the sound had no relation to the actual work which I put into producing the sound. Everything was generated by the interactions of oscillators inside the keyboard which basicly play themselves, with you only telling them what pitch you want them to play at. Even that isn't really producing the sound yourself, since when you press a key it's not just one not but a whole musical phrase that's produced, with the person at the helm standing dumbfounded. I didn't make that.
So techno is really sound management, or musical technician ship, as Kraftwerk like to refer to their work as, and I think that heavy metal is much the same.
To compensate for not being able to produce harmony, ha ha ha, they often go for speed and intricate solo playing....but even this doesn't make them musicians, since if you try to reproduce a heavy metal solo on anything but a heavily distorted guitar it sounds like shit. It sounds like shit which has no structure whatsoever and is instead just, as Frank Zappa put it in his auto-biography, (paraphrase) just a stupid idiot jacking off with it.
Isn't music supposed to be the universal language? Well, here we have a group of so-called musicians who's music can't be played or understood by any other group of musicians on any other instruments. A little solipsistic, right?
Maybe this is what accounts for the proliferation of hair metal bands, and their pussy successors: that they're not really playing music up their, just pressing a few strings to make the distortion pedal make some cool sounds, which end up getting the boys in the band blow jobs.
I'd rather stick to my finger playing of techno-keyboards where at least I know I'm a fraud than strut my blue balled self on stage and act like the fucking man when a trained monkey could probably pull of the act better, and probably give the groupies a better lay while he's at it.
Monday, October 21, 2002
I left my home in the Great Lakes region about seven years ago, an had left the part of it I most considered home nine years ago.
It wasn't an amicable break. I didn't leave because I was going off to college--I left rode out of town on a rail, forced to leave if I ever wanted to get a decent life.
In exchange for the possibility of something better I gave up everything: my life, my friends, my town, my history. Part of the terms of the deal my parents offered me was to totally sever all connections I had with people from my previous life.
It's hard to express the hopelessness and dissoluteness that all of this brought with it.
So returning home for a short while had more meaning than most could ever guess.
I came back as isolated as ever. What made the experience
special for me was that here, finally, I found people who shared my way of looking at the world, who were born from the same cauldron of forces that I was.
It was almost hallucinogenic. I found myself looking at copies of different parts of my being: one person had this, which I also had, one person talked like me, one person listened to the same music....all of them demonstrated that I wasn't alone.
What should have been minutia turned out to be saving graces.
I also had an experience which turned my ideas about individual freedom on their heads: leafing through the books at the nearest big bookstore I found that what they had corresponded to what I had been searching for and reading in these past years. I had embarked on a search for something--which involved, it seemed, taking daring risks and making bold connections between ideas, all the while aware that I was alone in this, that the people around me didn't care. Now the daring connections were staring me in the face, as if I would have come to the same conclusions if I had stuck around there for seven years.
It seems that the seeds that were sown in my homeland developed and bore fruit even when taken from their natural habitat. Knowing that gives me a sense of peace and well being which is like shelter from the storm.
Sunday, October 20, 2002
I live in a community where most of the people on the Left belittle Leninist groups and people professing to be in agreement with them. I myself am a Marxist-Leninist in as much as experience with Communism and then Trotskyism contributed to the understanding of the world that I have today, but I don't consciously align myself with it, instead preferring libertarian forms of Leftism.
But, there are objections and then there are objections. I don't subscribe to the belief that it's alright to make a pincushion out of a group just because you don't agree with them. It appears that the people in my area on the Left who oppose these groups like hell do it for hypocritical reasons, and so although I object to many of the same groups, my reasons for doing so are sufficiently removed from there's that I thought it would be good to defend them against this onslaught.
The first thing I have to say is that while people stereotype these groups as being disconnected intellectuals the truth is that, unlike their detractors, Marxist-Lenninist groups as a whole go out and work for social change. What's more the abstract intellectualism attributed to them is often done in the service of finding effective strategies for change, again, more than the detractors can say for their speculations.
If you join Left-Turn, or any of the small Trotskyist parties, or the Communist Party, you're going to be expected to work for the cause by being active in local activist struggles. The Communist Party, in particular, requires people to get out there and do something, and then report back at the next meeting about how well they actually did what they were supposed to do. If only the people who spend so much time trying to deny Marxist-Leninists a voice were so committed.
Which brings me to another point: For being Anarchists and Left-Libertarians, these people seem awfully committed to silencing those who they, ironicly, see as Authoritarian. Or those who have had a higher education and can actually think about social issues in ways deeper than a third generation copy of the Progressive Labor Party line. Yeah folks, why not just go back to Year Zero and take care of all those pesky, pompous, intellectualls, 'cause we don't need no book learnin' here, see?
I was originally attracted to Marxist-Leninsm because it presented an way to do real positive things that went beyond calling your fucking juvenile rebellion lifestyle a political position. Obviously there are many out there who are quite comfortable with it.
Saturday, October 19, 2002
I've often wondered why it was that more people don't speak up about "The Sixties". As I'm a relative youngin', when I was growing up the time period seemed impossibly remote....but I think I have an answer: it's unnatural to speak about decades or social movements in the way that people talk about "the Sixties" (or are supposed to talk).
There's something wrong about imposing a judgement of finality about a decade, which itself is an artificial measurement of social life.
My thought is that more people don't speak up about the '60s, particularly politicos from that period, because the concept of a set period of time during which a movement started, crested, and ended, to be replaced by a normative conservativism, was itself invented by the opposition, who wanted to prove that it was an abberation.
It was the conservatives, not the liberals, who wanted to put some nails in the coffin of sixties progressive thought, and so from that was born the myth that the decade was totally unique and removed from all normal experience.
Politicos probably haven't written much about it because they don't feel that they were really defeated, that the decade really ever 'ended'. And, what do you know, the Left is coming back in this country. Morning in America is over, no matter what the Iraq hawks in Washington have to say. I consider that to be a vindication for the point of view of those people who have hung in there and who didn't hang up their hats and said "Well, that was then, this is now".
It's also an indictment to all those kids out there who've been blowing their minds away with massive drug use and sex who've thought they were just imitating the whole '60s thing.
I can't think of any better source to express this than Robert Hunter, lyricist for the Grateful Dead, in the song "Deal"
"Since it costs a lot to win, and even more to lose, you and me better spend some time, wonderin' what to chose/ goes to show, you don't ever know, watch each card you play and play it slow/ wait until that deal come round, don't you let that deal go down"
The deal, of course, is the chance you get in life to aspire to something better and more creative and liberated than what you're born into. It's a theme that coms up a lot in Grateful Dead songs, like, for example, Mississippi Uptown, Toodeloo:
"They say that when your ship comes in, first man takes the sails, second takes the after deck, for the third, the planks are raised/ Lost my boots in transit babe, a pile of smoking leather, I nailed a retread to my feet, and prayed for better weather"
Same thing, take the chances you can, endure to get some liberty. If current '60s idolators were judged by these standards they would all be judged to be people who blew it in a major way, who should've spent more time actually learning about life and about themselves than getting fucked up and wearing tie-dye shirts.
Friday, October 11, 2002
Now down to business: How news organizations make the news before it happens. You've heard about how news organizations distort what happens but I bet you've never contemplated them actually making the news up.
Well, it's not exactly making the news up, but they do do it. What happens is this: The corporate press, particularly the more mainstream parts of it, have a list of typical stories or typical types of stories that they'll feature. If it's a magazine and it's been dumbed down enough it too will find itself with a set number of different types of stories it will cover, along with a set of possible stories which are dumbed down enough for the magazine to print. Either way what you have in news organizations are a set number of types of stories out of all those possible which the paper, or the magazine, or the television station, thinks are appropriate to cover.
Real news has the strange quality that it tends to be out of synch with these predetermined categories.
I think you all know what I'm talking about here: there are always dependable filler stories which news organization collect so that they can compensate for the lack of real news on a particular day.
Local news organizations make extensive use out of these types of stories because at the community level the same types of issues keep popping up.
Likewise, with specialty magazines, there's only so much new stuff to say and so repetition is unavoidable.
But surely programs, magazines, and newspapers that devote themselves to investigative journalism would minimize the filler and maximize the real news.
Yeah, that's a good one. These days the filler has taken over the real news.
Just look at any mainstream magazine, any investigative newspaper and especially any TV news show and you'll see that the level of predictable filler is through the roof while the level of real, creative, news is abysmally low.
What does this mean? When cliched topics and the usual suspects take over the media you can no longer talk about a free media which responds to real events. Filler, by it's very nature, is predictable. And reporting on filler, by it's very nature allows leeway in picking and choosing stories that reporting on real news never allows. This means that with filler predominating the editorial desk can over time literally dictate what comes out as news by manipulating the warp and weeve of the reporting on filler.
Filler allows greater editorial leeway in actually directing the news. The job of editors is to set priorities for stories to be covered, but this assumes that there's so much news out there that coverage of it has to be rationed in a particular way for there to be good coverage. When editors switch from rationing the real news that's available to planning what filler is going to go on, when, where, and how, they turn from justifiable parts of a news organizations into commisars directing what people should think.
I think that people have missed the point with junk food news, or with tabloid journalism. The fact that it's lower quality isn't the end of the problem. Because it's lower quality it allows editors and their corporate bosses to manipulate it's content according to their ideological biases over time.
It's not just one news story anymore, it's persistant patterns which reveal the agenda of the corporate bosses. The corporate state is now trying to dictate what you think, now that it's gotten you eating crumbs from the table.
I could draw paralells with the Soviet Union, but I don't think I need to. Suffice it to say, William S. Burroughs was right: the news is now written before it happens.
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
This issue hasn't gotten nearly as much coverage in the alternative press as it deserves. Most people have quoted Benjamin Franklin and not gotten any further. But in wake of the Patriot act and all the rest I think I'll give it a go.
The safest society in the world would be a totalitarian dictatorship. Don't misinterpret this: there's nothing inherently wrong with safety. A safe place can still be a dynamic and chaotic one. But the best guarantee of safety is to take away all civil liberties and all the avenues by which to change that state of affairs. The first could be enforced by a police state, the second would entail no democratic input into policy.
Think about it: wouldn't we all be safer from rapists, murderers, burglers, drug dealers etc... if the government really did monitor everything that we read, knew everything that we saide, everything we bought, everyone we knew? I mean, a police officer on every corner, keeping a watchful eye on things would surely guarantee that nothing bad happened, right?
Something to think about, especially since it's the conservatives out there who are saying "Live Free or Die" while submitting to the gutting of their civil liberties.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Friday, September 20, 2002
I had a strange experience a few days ago. Doing geneaology research I found to my surprise that my family is not just composed of recent immigrants to america, but that parts of my family have been here for a long, long, long time.
Specificly, I found out that some of my ancestors were employed in some military capacity for the Dutch West India company, and settled in the Albany region when it was still owned by the Netherlands. So part of my family was in America before America was owned by the English. There's also a story of cultural survival in the face of anglicization, but that's another story altogether.....
This dovetails nicely with my personal philosophy: if it wasn't for the fact that my pre-Anglo-American ancestor was a soldier securing the Dutch imperial empire in the Americas I would almost say it was too good to be true.
But it made me think about America and what exactly all this business about Americanism means. The Dutch part of my family was not only here before America existed, but consciously kept out of America when it came into existence by first staying within the Dutch community and then consciously moving to a German immigrant area of New York State, presumably when Albany and environs became too Anglo for them. This goes down to my great grandmother....and the Dutch cultural traditions persisted right into my own life through the Presbyterian ethic which my mother raised me with. So obviously there have been a) alternative ways of living existing right here in the heart of the U.S., through the Spanish, French, and Dutch communities which were here before the English b) people in all of those communities who felt that their way of life was so important to preserve that they've fought anglo ways down to today. Not to mention the resistance that Africans in America have put up to this day as well, or, of course, the much more drastic resistance of the Native people to our genocidal invasion. So what does America, then, mean if there are significant parts of the country which don't believe that the idea of something called America is so great to begin with?
What, then, can Bush's American supremacist doctrine mean when the very meaning of the word America as a solid term defining something definite is challenged on all sides by cultural dissidents? I've seen more flags in this past year than I would ever care to in normal life. I happened to live, before 9/11, in a conservative community where the flag was already debased into a conservative trinket.... What are American values anyways? I have a theory that it all comes from a debasement of the Anglican church's take on the division between Divine law and Natural law, the very thing that started the Puritan rebellion.
It has to do with our very mild and vague conceptions of what liberty and freedom are. These, in turn, set the stage for what Bush and others call American values. My theory is that the American Revolution was fueled by a radical interpretation of life which derived not from Puritan theology from New England but from the Anglican view which predominated in the Mid Atlantic states-New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Deleware, Maryland, and Virginia. These are the the states which were at the heart of the American Revolution, and they're not the ones where Puritan doctrine prevailed.
The Anglican view, at least in the 17th and 18th centuries, if I have this right, was a modification of the Catholic view which had been established by Thomas Aquinas and which provided a way of interpreting the world which effected all of Christianity from the 13th century on down. Aquinas made a distinction between natural law and divine law, proceeding from Aristotelian premises: human beings could figure out decent ways to live in the world by observing the workings of nature and drawing conclusions from them, which would then inform moral philosophy. Not only that, but parts of the natural law varied according to the situations which peoples found themselves, which dictated different ways of life. But be that as it may Christianity was thought to supply a divine law which informed people of right ways of living which took them beyond the simple morality they could deduce from observation and truly reconciled them with God and with the true nature of the universe. That's why Christianity was important, according to Aquinas.
Now the Anglican church in the 17th century spurned the Protestant movements in England by declaring, counter to the Lutheran and Calvinist movements, that it wasn't rejecting the Catholic compromise which viewed natural law as having a place within the scheme of things next to divine law. Luther and others had based a great deal of their grievances on the fact that Scholastic theologians were spending their time focussing on small matters of natural law while neglecting the personal relationship with God that the very presence of a divine law seemed to indicate. The Anglican church kept on emphasizing the natural law part of the equation, and the Puritans responded by saying that the only law, political, natural, or otherwise, that people needed in order to live a pious life, could be found in the Bible--and that the presence of Divine revelation dictated that nothing but total obediance to Bibilical concepts would satisfy the requirement of living in accordance with God's will.
This was not the stuff that fueled the American Revolution. It fueled the Dutch rebellion in the 16th century, and the English Civil War in the 17th, but by the time 1776 rolled along the tone of the grievances was different indeed.
As far as I can tell, the Anglican emphasis on a compromise in living between Natural, Human, and Divine law, was the source of the Whig interpretation of history. The Whigs believed that England had been a pure state ruled by the people themselves before the Norman invasion in 1066 introduced Feudalism and normalized the Catholicism which was practiced in England at that time. Tom Paine talks about this directly in Common Sense. Now the Whig interpretation is linked to the concept of Natural law being different for different people in different situations. Just take deemphasize the concept of divine revelation and you have the setting for the conservative thought of the English enlightenment. It follows that if people adapt to their surroundings and deduce the right way to live from them that the English had found that right way before the French imposed their monarchial and feudal system on them. It also figured that if that foreign system could be removed and people given the liberty to choose their own way of life that they'd find something consonant with English traditions which would fit the situation. From there you can get Burke and his whig conservatism.
It's clear that this thing wasn't meant to be liberty in the way the French Enlightenment thought about it. In fact, seen in this light, Lockean liberalism is less liberal than people believe. Be that as it may the thought of people in the American Revolution was on the side of the radical whigs.
They believed that self government in America was paralel to the overthrow of the monarchial and feudal system in England: that they would exist according to the rights which were established for them as Englishmen. Notice the slight contradiction here? The colonists derived their conceptions of liberty both from the fact that they were adapting to a foreign environment and from the fact that historically they were English and endowed with the ancient rights of Englishmen. If they really had wanted to adapt to America they would've imitated the Indians and chucked England out the door. But they didn't. So American liberty became the liberty of those of English descent who lived in America, a purely nationalistic context for freedom. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were real enough--but only for those who came from an English background and who could understand those concepts within the framework of English cultural traditions.
America, as a concept invented by the English descendants of the English colonies, was the place where the nationalistic freedom of Englishman was transplanted to--transfigured by reference to differences dictating differences in natural law so that it wasn't seen as a copy of England. America, then, did not start out as a pluralistic and tolerant society--it started out as a very exclusionary one which had simply transferred it's nationalism to a new name rather than get rid of it altogether. And ever since then there's been a struggle for people of non-English descent to be recognized as having full human rights in this country. While France was declaring the Rights of Man, America was declaring the Irish to be an inferior race not fit to be part of American society. Indeed, anti-Irish prejudice was enough so that several hundred years after Haiti and South America liberated themselves for the blacks and the native americans the USA was still nervous about getting an Irish president:Kennedy.
It's not that concepts like liberty are bad, but for people outside of the country reading about our wonderful respect for liberty to really understand it they need to see that it only applies in a context where Anglo Saxon supremacy is established. So people masturbate with talk about Liberty and Freedom over here, and it all impresses people used to thinking of those terms in reference to the French Revolution, but they never intend it to extend to the whole of humanity. Hence all this business about "Real Americans". Only Real Americans are worthy of liberty. Who are Real Americans? American Patriots who have totally assimilated into Anglo-Saxon cultural and religous traditions. I don't think it was an accident that the scandals revolving around the Catholic Church in America hit after 9/11. The Church isn't recognized as a Real American institution, and is hence under suspicion.
This is how Bush can ramble on about American supremacy and establishing the American doctrine with regards to the rest of the world and yet contend that he's defending Freedom and good Values. The Freedom he talks about is the Freedom of people in the U.S. who are either of Anglo-Saxon descent or who have assimilated to that way of life to live lives in accordance with those cultural traditions. The American values he talks about, which he feels are so important and which he wants the world to obey, are the values that Anglo settlers in America retained, nothing more, nothing less. So it's racist to the core, prejudicial to the core. American society has made a sport of harassing people within it's borders to obey it's culture, and now Bush is forcing his own cultural imperialism on the rest of the world.
Which is how such an idiot can do all this. It doesn't take much effort to say that "I want everyone to think and act like me".
The solution to all this is the end of America or the U.S.A. as a concept which signifies Anglo-Saxon superiority instead of standing for a political and geographic entity. The way out is to come to an absolute understanding of freedom and liberty--one which does not depend on a cultural context to be understood but which rests on people's common humanity. Maybe then we'll actually be able to talk to other countries about rights, human, social, reproductive, economic, and otherwise. The concept of Whiteness has to go as well: Treason to Whiteness is loyalty to humanity, as Noel Ignatieff and Race Traitor declare. Indeed. Instead of a presumed Anglo-Saxon dominated category called White there should be as many European nationalities as culturally exist in the U.S., as well as recognizing African Americans as making up a distinct set of ethnic groups and not some monolithic concept called Black.
The road to this sane concept of politics and society was open to the American Revolution once: Thomas Jefferson campaigned vigorously for it, but he was overruled twiceover: first by the conservatives who replaced the Confederation that the States had formed with the Constitutional system and then by his successor Andrew Jackson. Jefferson did gain power in 1801 and destroy large parts of the Federalist Constitutional system, making the U.S. more liberal and decentralized, but in his wake Andrew Jackson, a nominal Democrat, took over and reinstalled white supremacy and nationalism based on Anglo-Supremacy as the main organizing concepts of the country. He also committed genocide against the Native Americans as well as letting Slavery and discrimination persist in his newly nationalistic America. Jackson's concept was Manifest Destiny--the Anglo-Saxon population of America had a right, given by God (sound familiar?) to posess the entire continent of North America and impose a culturally Anglo-Saxon state on wherever settlers layed their feet.
He also presided over the corruption of the newly decentralized and democratic State governments by a Party system which rewarded people with positions in government based on party loyalty instead of skill. Ironicly, the rotation of public office on the local level through members of the community was one of the factors which had established the myth of ancient rights of Englishmen to govern themselves in the first place.
Legend has it that there was a member of the South African Communist Party known as "comrades, the contradicitions are increasing". He'd always apply dialectics to the situation in South Africa and find that the contradictions of South African capitalism were primed for a major change. I used to think that the end of white-supremacist linked "American Liberty" would come in much the same way: after a certain point the nationalists would be unable to support themselves in view of international opinion and they'd be forced to start cedeing power to real representatives of the people and would start addressing the concepts of international human rights in a genuine, if involuntary, manner. Now I'm not so sure. As Jello Biafra put it: "Do we really want to come out the winners of a World War 3, think about it." Do we really want to come out the losers of a World War 3? I shudder to think about the implications of that as the way America get's it's rude introduction to the world of human rights. The only solution I see on the horizon is that of a cultural change which penetrates the ignorance of nationalism.
That's a common lament: culture has to change, and dag nabbit that means good citizens like you and me will have to do the changing! I don't have much faith in the feasability of that. But unless by some strange stroke of fate there starts to be a resurgence of class consciousness and anti-corporate sentiment among the working class which supplants nationalism, I don't see an option to the populist paradigm. But that just might happen, in fact I was going to write a post about it....about how workers are kept in line by conservative comrades who spout allegiance to Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter....
Looks like this thread has exhausted itself and another one is slowly forming. So, on that strange note--let's hear it for Class struggle potentially teaching people about real Libertarianism and Human Rights! Whatever.....
Friday, September 13, 2002
But seriously. After people go for weeks on a newswire talking about how useless it is you get the feeling that, hey, maybe it's not if these pussies are putting so much time trying to debunk it.
Really. Go fuck your sister or something.
Because of the one year anniversary of 9/11 there's been a lot of talk about how we as Americans are unified, about how the attacks proved that America has backbone etc....reflection, which isn't happening, should be given to what exactly we mean when we talk about America and Americans and what the implications of talking like this are.
It came to my attention recently that most of the actions that the U.S. does abroad, which have been carefully documented by Chomsky and a host of other independent authors, never get attention here at home; or if they do it's brief and superficial. Which leads lefties to talk about things which the U.S. has done but which people not into the literature do not have a clue about. Besides the obvious implications of elitism surrounding this topic the question of how exactly it is that all this stuff goes on with no one knowing about it begs an answer.
My answer is that we can invade countries on a small scale, declare war, fund paramilitary death squads, underwrite terror, manipulate elections, ram through a corporate agenda, because these actions are taken by the Executive branch beurocracy acting in the name of a fictitious "national interest" or "american interest".
Chomsky got most of the most damning stuff about the U.S. government helping capitalism worldwide not by digging into the Congressional Record but by going into declassified collections of Executive branch documents generated by committees and councils that most people don't even know exist.
American intervention abroad is made possible by an autocratic Executive branch at home. The Executive feeds into the Military and to the Intelligence services, as well as our Foreign Service and Diplomatic corps. They exist in a kind of feedback loop, serving themselves and not Congress or America at large.
I think that this state of affairs is made possible by nationalism; by the sacrifice of our regional identities to some imaginary entity called "America". Instead of being Midwesterners, Southerners, Easterners, Plains states people, Pacific Northwesterners, etc...all with different problems and interests we're all just "Americans". On top of the geography we're also multiracial, multiethnic, and multigendered, unlike the Aryan male image of what an "American" that lives in this fictitious America presents. But I'm not going to get into that now, suffice it to say that there isn't any such thing as "Women" or "Blacks" or "Gays" or "Hispanics" just existing in the void out there with "America".
By not taking account of our local needs and interests we've alienated our rights to an unaccountable federal beurocracy which now legislates for itself, helped out by that other institution of nameless beurocracy the national and multinational corporation.
There's a very strong link between believing in America as a platonic entity and buying into anonymous capitalism as a homogenizing force. What's more, the two institutions naturally attract each other so that along with an disconnected government we have a disconnected economic structure dictated more and more by non-local corporations serving their own needs instead of local companies serving the needs of our regions.
Think about what political power and government waste would look like if power seriously devolved to the states: we could reign in corporations, we could accomplish progressive reform without having sell it to the whole continent, we could address local issues that wouldn't play in Peoria (and Peoria could address issues which wouldn't exist in New York City). We could get away from anonymous politicians and require that anyone running from office represent the state not just in residency but in personality and character.
Example: I've gotten several pleas for money from the Paul Wellstone reelection committee. I don't live in Minnesota, I live in Florida, therefore it's inherently dishonest to ask for my financial help in winning a Minnesota election. This should not happen.
Look at the military waste which could be cut out: we could honestly veto military spending, cut out the military industrial complex by requiring them in the individual states to prove that they had a reason to exist and keep getting contracts. We could cut out our bases overseas, which no other country has, and get control of our foreign policy back.
No more executive back channel deals for arms with insane dictatorships. No more money for Israel to kill Palestinians with. No more manipulation of foreign policy to fit our strategic planning. No more funding death squads in Columbia in the name of the Drug War!!
Did you know that way back in 1788 when The Federalist papers were first published Alexander Hamilton wrote that having the States unified under a central government with a cohesive foreign policy would enable us to dominate the Carribean? He wrote that if we could coordinate like this that we could drive Great Britain and Spain out of there and claim it as our own economic sphere. He mentioned dominating Cuba as something that we could do with a central government. Times sure have changed, haven't they?
Why do we have sanctions on Iraq? I didn't get to vote on it. I didn't vote on massive diplomatic, economic, and military intervention by my government. I didn't have a say in our military build up or in our Realpolitik foreign policy. I didn't have a say in whether or not to invade Afghanistan, and I'm not going to have a say in whether or not we invade Iraq, despite protesting.
And I sure as hell did not vote for an office of Homeland Security.
The answer is in taking away the idea of a central government that represents "America" and vesting power in the States organized according to local interest and having whatever supra-state poltical entity be only for administrative purposes, and purposes clearly delegated to it by the states.
Instead of this fiction that the U.S. is a place where one man, one vote, means that a guy from L.A. and a guy from rural Arkansas have almost identical interests, varying only in that one might be a conservative and the other a liberal, why not have a system where the difference in regions is explicitly acknowledged, and then rangle on how the different regions should cooperate to get common goals done?
Before we're Americans we're citizens of towns, villages, cities, counties, and States. These are the institutions that represent us most directly. If government on the national scale in this country exists it exists because these local institutions have decided that it's good for it to be so, likewise, when a topic comes up where the Central Government conflicts with the will of the Local government, the local institutions have a right to veto those actions. They have a sovereign right not to participate in the obeyance of laws which go beyond what they agreed was the proper scope of non-local politics when the union was first founded.
Whew, love that John C. Calhoun.
Anonymous Capitalism follows anonymous nationalism....A functioning, self governing, polity which can take care of local needs and problems, which can reign in national and multinational capitalism, follows local power.
States rights in it's proper form doesn't mean states being allotted responsabilities but not allowing citizens of those states to have control over those responsabilities. States rights means self government, pure and simple, in fact rather than in name.
Monday, September 02, 2002
Because it feels good; because it gives me an erection; because it makes me come; because I'm sick; because there was so much sickness; because I say FUCK THE SICKNESS; because I like the attention; because I was alone a lot; because I was different; because kids beat me up on the way to school; because I was humiliated by nuns; because of Christ and the crucifixion; because of Porky Pig in bondage, force-fed by some sinister creep in a black cape; because of stories about children hung by their wrists, burned on the stove, scalded in tubs; because of "Mutiny on the Bounty"; because of Houdini; because of my cousin Cliff; because of the forts we built and the things we did inside them; because of what's inside me' because of my genes; because of my parents; because of doctors and nurses; because they tied me to the crib so I wouldn't hurt myself; because I had time to think; because I had time to hold my penis; because I had awful stomach-aches and holding my penis made it feel better; because I felt like I was going to die; because it makes me feel invincible; because I'm Catholic; because I still love Lent, and I still love my penis, and in spite of it all I have no guilt; because my parents said BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE, and this is what I want to be; because I'm nothing but a big baby and I want a mommy forever, even a mean one, especially a mean one; because of all the fairy tale witches and the wicked step mother, and the step sisters, and how sexy Cinderella was, smudged with soot, doomed to a life of servitude; because of Hansel, locked in the witch's cage until he was fat enough to eat; because of "O" and how desperately I wanted to be her; because of my dreams; because of the games we played; because I've got an active imagination; because my mother bought me tinker-toys; because hardware stores give me hard-ons; because of hammers, nails, clothespins, wood, padlocks, pullies, eyebolts, thumbtacks, staple-guns, sewing needles, wooden spoons, fishing tackle, chains, metal rulers, rubber tubing, spatulas, rope, twine, C-clamps, S-hooks, razor blads, scissors, tweezers, knives, push-pins, two-by-fours, ping pong paddles, alligator clips, duct tape, broom stickes, barbecue skewers, bungie cords, sawhorses, soldering irons; because of tool sheds; because of garages; because of the Pit and the Pendulum; because of the Tower of London; because of the inquisition; because of the rack; because of the cross; because of the Addams Family playroom; because of Morticia Adams and her black dress with it's octopus legs; because of motherhood; because of Amazons; because of the Goddess; because it's in my nature; because it's against nature; because it's nasty; because it's fun; because it flies in the face of all that's normal (whatever that is); because I'm not normal; because I used to think that I was part of some vast experiment and that there was this implant in my penis that made me do these things and allowed THEM (whoever THEY were) to monitor my activities; because I had to take my clothes off and lie inside this giant plastic bag so the doctors could collect my sweat; because once upon a time I had such a high fever my parents had to strip me naked and wrap me in sheets to stop the convulsions; because my parents loved me more when I was sufferingl because surrender is sweet; because I'm attracted to it; because I'm addicted to it; because endorphins in the brain are like a natural kind of heroin; because I learned to take my medicine; because I was a big boy for taking it; because I can take it like a man; because, as somebody once said, HE'S GOT MORE BALLS THAN I DO; because it's an act of courage; because it does take guts; because I'm proud of it; because I can't climb mountains; because I'm terrible at sports; because NO PAIN, NO GAIN; because SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD; because YOU ALWAYS HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Friday, August 02, 2002
Monday, July 29, 2002
I'd like to add to the essay a thought which I implied but which wasn't really developed. It's that the Spectacle, in my opinion, isn't really a-historical and a-territorial at all. In the real world the local Spectacle is defined more by the culture and the traditions of struggle in that particular area than it is by the wizards of ads working in NYC. Because of this the Spectacle can be overthrown, weakened, broken, on a local level. From this comes all the business about negotiation. There's a reality, a work-world, underlying your local Spectacle that presents a better alternative to the status quo--in the form of the interests and beliefs of working people. These traditions can prove a very proper rallying point against Spectacular Capitalism.
The other point which I wish that I'd made clearer is that at some point the Spectacle and Work intersect....meaning that there are points in capitalism where resistance against the Spectacle becomes more than just anti-consumerism but almost naturally takes a pro-workerist form. These points of vulnerability should be identified and exploited.
It's there that negotiations are the most potent. The points of vulnerability for the Spectacle in this vein go beyond resistance by people involved in the media, or in advertising. I'll have to think about where these points are....but in general anywhere where you have to buy into a party line in order to participate is a location where the Spectacle exists. Freedom means not just workers' autonomy but also not having to buy into any party line in order to *be* autonomous.
Sunday, July 28, 2002
There's a paralell with this in legal history. Laws aren't science. The legal system is largely a product of continued negotiations between the powerful and the powerless to determine what is and is not permissable. But the laws themselves are only abstract, they only exist in people's minds....so without anything material backing them up it's easier to push open legal potentials and fight for a redefinition of the Law as a whole. But Laws are then acted upon and interpreted by the dominant culture of society itself. Because of this Laws can be considered the foundation of a part of the Spectacle, and legal wrangling a cousin of the struggle for Workers’ autonomy. Society as a whole can itself be considered as operating in a way parallel to the drama of the law as established by struggle and the law as interpreted by dominant society, in that the lines of demarcation between the greater Spectacle and real work in this capitalist system is also largely abstract and located in people's minds as a product of struggle and negotiation. This is where the idea of culture comes in. Material situations open up potentialities for people to change society, but society itself lags behind the material change in it's cultural component, taken in it’s most expansive sense, but the material has already produced something new....this means that the change leading to a non-capitalist society has to first proceed from cultural negotiations. Indeed it has to. Cultural negotiations between real life, as denoted by both the mechanics of private living and work, and the Spectacular aspects of capitalism open up a new door to more concrete changes later on. The negotiation at work, in the community, and at home, which might take the form of a forced legal-type negotiation--with one party asserting by direct action the rights of the non-Spectacular life over the mediated life, if succesful, can then lead to opportunities for more concrete changes in the way work and everyday life proceed. Which can eventually lead to serious systemic change. But points of resistance in real life, not in cyberspace, (although it is a good support resource), but in actual living and in actual militant protest, have to be identified both by individuals and groups, and exploited at some level first for any of that to happen. Someone has start doing something--and it doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be illegal, it just has to open up work and life--which hitherto is assumed to be closed to change--to negotiation. After that deeper change can be planned, but it has to start on some level, no matter how petty or abstract. Local battles fought again and again to establish a right in a particular place, to keep that right, and to expand the reach of that right in real life have been the motor and base of social change--but it had to start somewhere. Think Rosa Parks. Resistance that goes on long enough does become de facto permanent. Once a permanent platform has been established, so to speak, it can then be used as a launching pad for further progressive projects aimed at deeper social change. Unions, consumer groups, alternative spaces, as well as rights established by protest and widely supported by the community can all serve this role. But I’d argue that for groups to open up the space for social change there have to be individuals who have resisted in their everyday life in some way, and who by constant resistance have built up an understanding of how resistance and change, negotiation, works on a basic, simple level. Their experience can serve as the spark that gets people who haven’t built up a culture of resistance involved, at which point the individual who threw off the first sparks can step back and let the newly empowered individuals go their own way. But that’s a digression.
What has been missing in anti-consumerism campaigns has been the reality component. The Spectacle is still an artificial entity, after all, which is produced by work itself--no matter how alienated people may be from the process of production. I believe that anti-consumerism campaigns which combined pro-work and pro-real life aspects, which provided people with a guide to how these issues correspond to real life--and what to do about it, would be more succesful than simply advertising criticism. After all, people can’t live on the Spectacle. They live on work. And if you want to destroy the Spectacle you have a responsability to have something to advance in it’s place. How about Workers’ Democracy?
Resistance in general is based on reality, which corresponds to a reality where there really are workers and bosses, work, life etc...so the cause of reality against the spectacle is also the cause of the reality of work and of the advancement of the class struggle against the managers and owners. If one starts from reality instead of mediation through party or State the conclusion follows that the resistance to the Spectacle, and through it Capitalism, has to be done by the working class itself, in a way in which resistance will provide all the teaching and education in the process of struggle that people need. The bourgeois leftists will have to step aside once the Workers start to organize themselves. Indeed, a component of the struggle within the Anti-Capitalist movement today seems to be revolving around the death of the old and the birth of the new.
Thursday, July 25, 2002
It's also these areas that Bush and co. appeal to for support for the newest invasion of civil liberties. Red necks can be counted on to support draconian politics, and then be relied upon to try to force others to follow the party line. Having lived both in big cities and in the country I can say that there are two fundamentally different meanings to the word "Americanism". In the cities it's a vague, sort of puzzling word that people don't really know what to do with, but in the country it refers to a very specific, all encompassing, set of social beliefs, which, combined with religion, family, whatever, serve to do the individual's thinking for them. And also dominate all individuality. It's this Americanism which Bush is appealing to, and which the media have been incessantly pushing on a wider range of U.S. citizens.
Feudalism is characterized by the fact that all the beliefs are held out there-outside of the individual- and that individuals simply assent to what's considered commonly accepted truth; while capitalist and (hopefully) socialist societies are characterized by the internalization of beliefs. I don't just assent to something that everyone else believes in, I make my own decisions and believe in something because I feel that it has arguments with merit behind them.
In our society patriotism is swiftly forming a system of primitive magic like the kind that Deutscher observed Stalinism partaking of. He comments that primitive magic is only believed in places backward enough not to have known the benefits of capitalist society--in terms of work and goods. I think this is a fair assesment of our rural and less developed areas. Both of those facts combined shed a whole lot of light on how this country actually works. You see, primitive magic is a losing game. It's something that is only there because of scarcity, and which in an economicly developing world loses out to other strands of thought, like liberalism. But on the other hand belief in primitive magic is supremely useful for the people who control society--because it provides a ready made jack boot force to enforce the new heavenly mandate. It also provides the people in charge with others gullible enough to believe the party line on their own.
So there are incentives to keep the population here in the U.S. relatively poor--or at least unequal and undeveloped--and ignorant. This doesn't effect the wealth of those on top because poverty can be produced by enourmous inequality just as easily as it can be produced by non-developmment. And in a country as vast as ours it's possbile for the rich to still be very rich even while most people are poorer. Or at least a significant portion of the population, those in rural areas, are poorer. They're useful to have around. City challeng all of this. But it also applies to people in general on a lower level.
What does that have to do with us? In the working class the future is largely presented as a mythic narrative replete with magical thinking. It's useful in keeping people in line, and is itself a compensatory reaction by people who's potentials in life have been drasticly restricted. If we want to change anything in this country we're going to have to get at the working class people who buy into primitive magic, magical thinking, narratives, etc... along with everyone else who, by being members of our society, also share in these features. Somehow this narrative consciousness has to be challenged, somehow people will have to disengage themselves from this, break the seal, see past the patriotic lies, and see the reality behind it all. People should do that on a personal level.
Personal experience says that on a more basic level that the difference between posing and genuineness is also the participation or non-participation in myth beliefs. It doesn't matter if someone professes to be a socialist, a communist, a marxist, an anarchist, an anti-authoriatrian, or any of the other little subgroups: if they still believe in the mythic and magical consciousness promoted by society they will not stick with their beliefs in the long run. The challenges to those mythic beliefs will simply be reincorporated into the bigger magical system and thereby defused. Long term success in this game means big deprogramming......and this in a world where programming, from television to video games to everything else, makes up the bulk of what youth and young adults think is reality.
To bring this back to Deutscher's economic analysis I can say that the more that myths dominate society, the more people treat life and life's stages as magical phenomenon with their own rules for navigation, the less real content and real life people have. Myths and magic exist to compensate for scarcity. Of what? Goods, sure, opportunity, sure, but also the actual process of living life itself, in today's world. Stalinism covered for a system that was so regimented that people were reduced to nothing but tools. The life process was totally coopted by the state. In that situation people could look at government newspapers, listen to speaches, talk to party members, who would feed them the mythic line about how society was really wonderful and was really accomplishing wonderful things, so that people could use this second order knowledge to pretend that life was really going on. Much the same is today's society. Especially with regards to the youth. Nothing is left to chance, everything is mythicly coded for......pride in patriotism, in the system, whatever, conceals the fact that for many people there isn't anything else of worth in their existence. Kids are tools. Nothing else. Produced by Reagan and his minions. Believing in myths violates Kant's dictate to treat people as ends and not means only. In believin in the myths of society you turn yourself into a tool for the realization of those myths. To treat yourself with dignity, as a person, as an end and not just a tool, a person has to break through those myths, discard them and everything that follows from them, and reclaim their own minds and their own lifes. People who can't even respect themselves will have no respect for others, and in that situation gas chambers have had a interesting proclivity for appearing.