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