Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Why I'm not a Pacifist.

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

I'm gonna take a detour from politics into the, well, politics I guess, of musicianship. Everyone out there, the site has moved to http://www.leftthought.cjb.net , so please get to it through there and not through the blogger address.

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

They say you can never go home again. To me this means more than what it does for others.

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

New Thoughts on Marxist-Leninism.

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

Behold! The wonders of web redirection! This site is now available from http://www.leftthought.cjb.net and I can be contacted at leftthought@leftthought.cjb.net (or by hitting the "Contakte" button).

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

Hi there hey there ho there. The new address of Thoughts from the left is http://www.leftthought.cjb.net . You can also contact me at leftthought@leftthought.cjb.net

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.

Well folks this little blog can now be accessed through http://www.leftthought.cjb.net . If you, my two readers, want to guarantee your access to this site I'd suggest switching to the new address. It's advantage is that, since CJB is a redirect company, it'll stay the same even if I someday decide to move this site off of Blogger and onto some other free service. Another advantage is that the lines of communication are now open again with the new address. Yes, now you can send all the hate mail, fan mail, saint mail, devil mail, chain mail, you want to leftthought@leftthought.cjb.net and it'll be guaranteed to get to me at my secret location in the South Pacific....The Blog should have a link up soon as well. Now back to the propaganda.