Sunday, November 30, 2003

I've just added RSS capability for this blog. What is RSS you may ask. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, which means that, yes, if you to, you can have a feed on your site which essentially publishes the first paragraph of every frickin post on this site on your site with a link to more.

Personally, since I have no idea what I'm going to write, or where this site is going to go, and this site is totally at the whims of my depraved imagination, I think you'd have to be on crack to feature a lost highway times syndication on your website. But if this stuff floats your boat, go for it.

At the very least a few of our premier law enforcement agencies will probably appreciate the new service...;)

Oh, and by putting this out on syndication I'm also saying that syndication for private use isn't a copyright infringement. It's gratis on my part. Just don't take money for it; and don't reproduce any of my posts in any hard-copy collection without my permission.
I believe in non-violent direct action; I also believe in peace and love.
Think a minute about how those two can be reconciled if you want to understand where I'm coming from.
It's a good time to reiterate the purpose of this blog.
The purpose of this blog is for free discussion of a diverse number of topics. Although this blog supports non-violent direct action and civil disobediance, it does not encourage individuals to break the law of the land. Additionally, any subjects which, in terms of action, go beyond non-violent direct action and civil disobediance are discussed here only for academic reasons and are not to be construed as endorsements for the actual carrying out of them. Mostly, this refers to things like off hand comments that an equivalent of the Zapatistas would be good up here. Theoretically, yes, but I'm not suggesting therefore that y'all go out there and actually do it.

Anyways, when militant language is used or when a militant situation is discussed off hand, it's usually in the process of talking about an point regarding a feature of society or an observation about history, so it's not like I'm going around saying "Wouldn't it be nice to do this, this, and this, and, oh, by the way, you could do this that way, or the other way, or another way.".

My declaration that the militant stuff only exists on a theoretical level is accurate. Additionally, it is my right as an american to discuss controversial issues without it being assumed that if I discuss it I must secretly participate in it.
Comanches and native america...

Following up on my extreme dissatisfaction with how contacts between native americans and european settlers have been dealt with, and how native culture in general has been dealt with, I went on an expedition to my local academic library to try to find some solid ethnographic research on native american culture and society.

I have to say, as a non-Native American, that if I was a native and was looking through that book section I would feel like tearing the whole section down and getting rid of %90 percent of the books contained therein. I don't know which is worse, old anthropological texts which believe in some sort of evolutionary view of societies, which, increasingly, are hard to actually find although they're talked about a lot, or the sappy '70s esque personal writings by 'academics' who, in seeking to overthrow the old prejudices substitute a thousand new ones in their place.

My god, if these people had been writing in any other field they'd have been drummed out of there long ago. It seems that the first things which they discard, in trying to get beyond the now-only-found-in-history-books style of prejudice in the early literature are objectivity and the most basic scholarly considerations about dealing with a subject from a disinterested point of view. Things which apply to any subject. Any.

What I found....hmm...a book about the Chippewa (Anishanabe) which, in it's first pages waxed eloquent about the "Red Man's" (actual quote) way of life in the Great Lakes region, his harmony with nature, and about the terrible things that have happened to the region since it became an industrial hub.

While I sympathize with the thought, the expression of it has no place in a book which is supposed to be an informative study of actual Chippewa beliefs, social organization, and history. Pure and simple.

Neither does the confession by another writer, this time on the more specific theme of religious beliefs of native americans, that ever since he went to a summer camp which made the children dress up as indians and even say some indian prayers over the camp fire that he'd been a secret devotee of the Lakota supreme deity.

The idea of that not only being included in an academic book but being featured in the introduction to it is a horrifying thought. It perjures everything that this man may have been trying to say, at the least. At the very least. At the worst it's an indication of what's to come. Unfortunately, since I have no tolerance for these things, I didn't read much of it beyond the first part and so cannot say if this person is somewhat befuddled but has important observations or if his writing contains nothing of value whatsoever.

And these two books were only a selection from the best ones which, in my investigation, looked the least flaky. There were plenty of others which were obviously worthless popular books by either white people posing as indians and explaining native american spirituality or by natives cashing in on white people's thirst for Indian-esque writings and ideas and spinning their own, perhaps only slight I don't know, knowledge of their traditions into Guru level authority.

And this in an academic library. And this in an academic library, I'll say it again. These books have no more place there than do books on making mixed drinks although, like fake native american books, these surely would be popular with the student and possibly faculty population as well.

I went over to the Anthropology section, only to find that there was no Native American or even Meso-American anthroplogy section. It had roughly four times as many writings on anthropological theory as it had objective field work based studies. The Native American anthropology section was consolidated with the history section, where I had been looking.

And then there was Hultenkranz. I don't want to dwell on Ake Hultenkranz except to say that in a field where, if my library is any indication, there is a dearth of actual primary studies of native american history, religion, and culture, there isn't the luxury to indulge in Eliade (Mircea Eliade, anthropologist) style speculations about where the myths of native cultures fit into the structure of the so-called 'History of Religions'. Without better, objective, studies, speculation like that is just bull shit, pure and simple, and insulting bullshit at that.

But I finally did manage to find what I was looking for; a basic study of a native group which was aware of the most elementary principles for doing history, sociology, anthropology, analysis, and which included, amazingly enough, actual source material gathered from native americans by the author. He actually did field work.

It was a doctoral dissertation about the Comanches, and, as I work through it, is very good and enlightening.

Now that the bitching is out of the way I'll comment on what the work says about euro-american colonization and native american survival.

Well, the story of the Comanches goes a little like this: they migrated down into the plains from further up in the northwest, maybe from present day idaho or wyoming. They were a hunting people who depended on fresh meat for survival. They didn't cultivate crops, they migrated throughout the year. Prior to settlement, which I'll get to in a little bit, they scavenged vegetables to augment their diet, became great horsemen and horse breeders, and made beadwork and other products to trade with other groups as well as Europeans for western goods.

They weren't really a tribe, but had a loose system of comradery; life on the war path, which was what every man was prepped for, was decided by either individuals or war chiefs; life on the home front was decided by peace chiefs and occasionally a council convened in conjunction with the whole band.

What happened to the Comanche is that, in order to break their power, because they had been attacking white settlements and resisting white incursion into their terrritory, the government and private people killed all the buffalo in Comanche territory.

So they made it physically impossible for them to follow their old ways by obliterating their staple food, which they also used to make their tents, clothing, pots, bags, utensils, and parts of their weapons out of.

Then, when they persisted, they killed all their horses. The horses were the other animal they depended on.

Now with the infrastructure for their way of life totally destroyed they were totally at the mercy of the government. The government forced them onto a reservation where they were forced to become farmers and ranchers. Both were dreams, because once they were deprived of the means of resisting the government and gave themselves up to them they were treated as badly by it as could be. Every aspect of life was managed by the government in the reservation. Can you say totalitarianism? I thought you could.

What people don't realize is that, not being westerners, they couldn't adapt to western ways of makeing a living. What if a whole bunch of Americans were dropped into a nomadic civilization in central asia and told "Here, now your nomads, go off with them and live like nomads, there shouldn't be any problems if you just follow the rules"? Oh yeah, and you can't ever come back to the U.S.A., you're stuck living in central asia as a nomad for the rest of your life.

Do you think that a lot of suburb bred white americans would like that?
What if they had no choice and were just ripped out of a normal suburban life, shipped over to central asia, plopped down in a nomadic society, whose language they can't understand, and told, here, here's your new life, accept it or else. You can never come home.

What happened to the Comanches after that the reader can probably guess; it follows the pattern. They did get some relief in the New Deal, though, when the genocidal policies were officially stopped, replaced by policies that stopped short of officially wanting the end of all native society and culture, if not of native americans in general.

I want, then to focus on the issues of a people who do not come from a western background forced to exist within a western society, with no resources for engaging in a traditional way of life which is based on different principles from the surrounding society in order to resist this culture.

'Society' is a funny word; it's almost never total---one person's idea of a stable society can be shown in the next instant to be as flimsy as a leaf; there isn't any reason to assume, before the facts have come in, that western society really surrounds Comanche society in as a decisive way as some people believe. There's still room, in my opinion, for a resistance based on traditional ways of forming society and interacting with the land, to form, and to form a counter society within itself.

Maybe the point of this has been lost in these paragraphs relating opinions and facts. The indians of today have a few options open to them; either be totally dependent on the government for a subsistance existence, because their way of life is so totally counter to mainstream U.S. society that they can't survive in it except by hand outs, resist, or assimilate.

A person from a euro-american background has a lot of paths open to him; they can get a job and go to college; they can learn a trade, get a house and a wife and settle down; they can open up a business or join the ranks of a corporation, if they so desire; they can seek fortune and fame as a writer. All of these paths are accepted, approved of, and recognized as legitimate within euro-american culture, and the fabric of society is set up to facillitate the movement on these paths of individuals.

What if you come from a society which doesn't have all that? Which has different cultural institutions, different ways of organizing society and life, different ways and different ideas about 'making a living', different outlooks about the point of life, in short a different society altogether? And you're not allowed to pursue status, life, your future, within the bounds of your society? What if the means of developing your culture so that it could have comparable institutions, if wanted, to the settlers' culture are denied totally, and are not only denied totally but denied to such a fierce extent that it only lets you live at a subsistence level if you want to pursue alternate, for them, ways of living?

I think, as an outsider, what needs to happen, or what would be awfully nice to see happen, would be an evasion of the constraints put on indians by the government and a reclamation of the traditional economy and society in spite of it's protestations. Then self definition could happen.

After all, this is what happened with the Maya and the Zapatistas.

The Maya reclaimed their way of life, instituted their own forms of government, and kicked out the spanish-mexican influence.

Maybe, if they're not crushed, we'll see a crop of writers from San Cristobal expressing their views about what happened from a Mayan perspective, in the future.

What happened with the Zapatistas and the Maya could happen in the United States as well with native american groups, indeed, has happened to a lesser extent in various occupations and stand offs.

While I don't suggest a Zapatista paramilitary group for the U.S., in theory resistance of this sort makes an awful lot of sense.

My god, I'm trying to get away from the brain fry that I've gotten from trying to learn 'Childhood's End' on the guitar....

Good time to settle some old business. The people and the aristocracy....

A really principal difference between French and American politics is that the French are much more descriptive and aware of what their politics mean, what groups are referred to, what aren't, and what allegiance to one group means as opposed to another.

Looking at the French Revolution, the concept of the People springs out as something which citizens of the United States don't have any understanding of.

You see, in French history there's a difference between the idea of general liberty and of a government of the People. The first can coexist with an aristocratic system, and can mean nothing more than the prerogatives of the ruling class extended to the whole of the nation. The second implies actual self-rule by the non-aristocrats to the exclusion of any inherited noble traditions.

The first road leads to monarchy or constitutional monarchy of some sort, with provisions in place to ensure some sort of general liberty and equality, while the second leads to a true Republic.

Most politics in the United States doesn't recognize that between liberty and the will of the people there exists the potential for a very serious and deep gap of meaning and understanding.

Consequentially, political discourse in the United States revolves around liberty, and to that effect resolves into discussions between various members of the upper classes while those in the lower classes, the People, just come along for the ride assuming that if the concepts and ideas which are bantered around by their favorite upper class demagogue are those which they themselves would come up with if they were asked, or given a chance, to formulate them for themselves.

The people are used and abused by an upper class which has convinced them that there are no issues which divide the various estates, and that an impoverished discourse on liberty, where nothing is really said about the subject in a meaningful way, is inclusive enough to address all important aspects of life.

The People aren't exactly the working class, that's a later development, but they are those who lie beneath the veneer, the film, of aristocratic politics and culture, the film which appropriates the voice of the nation for itself while the mass of the People are forced to lay silent and are not called upon.

The 'founders' of the United States evaded the question of aristocracy by saying that there's enough land for anyone to become a freeholding yeoman---the basic unit of acceptable society under the aristocratic regime in 18th century England. Never mind that there wasn't ever any evidence put forward to support that, never mind that that essentially dodges the question by assuming that the best of all possible worlds exists and is not only possible but fated to become reality.

So, despite the early and serious class divisions which attended the beginning of the United States, the 'founders' denied there was a problem and continued using the language and concepts of an aristocratic society which spoke largely to and from itself. The emergence of the People on the political scene of the United States is long overdue.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

If you want a counterpoint to all of the corporate media coverage of the FTAA protests, which I attended and participated in thank you very much, you couldn't do better than to read "Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, and Times" by Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury, particularly his essay on enthusiasm.

In a wonderful coincidence, or maybe the unconscious intuiting the future, whichever way you want to look at it, I read most of the essay a few days before the protests, not knowing beforehand what it was about.

What Shaftesbury says is that enthusiam, by which he means riots and explosions of social chaos, are actually good for society in general because they work out social tensions that people carry with them in their day to day lives. Shaftesbury comments that the amount of police neccesary to assure that these riots never break out would kill everything valuable and good about society in the process of making sure that any hint of rebellion was suppressed.

Miami is a good example of Shaftesbury's ideas in action. Some people wanted militant protest; the cops didn't want to have it work it self out, or to deescalate it; instead they attacked and tried to destroy the entire protest, militant and non-militant included, and in the process created more problems for themselves than they would have had if they were a little less psychotic and vengeful in dealing with the people protesting.

And Miami was totally shut down; at least downtown. It was a police state where, if you weren't confronting the cops in a mass demonstration you were dependent on their every whim, totally in their control, for the ensurance of your treatment as a citizen who had rights as opposed to an enemy which was to be destroyed.

Not exactly conditions that encourage the finer points of civilization---or of basic society and culture.

I'd rather not live life with a gun pointed at my head.
If you want a counterpoint to all of the corporate media coverage of the FTAA protests, which I attended and participated in thank you very much, you couldn't do better than to read "Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, and Times" by Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury, particularly his essay on enthusiasm.

In a wonderful coincidence, or maybe the unconscious intuiting the future, whichever way you want to look at it, I read most of the essay a few days before the protests, not knowing beforehand what it was about.

What Shaftesbury says is that enthusiam, by which he means riots and explosions of social chaos, are actually good for society in general because they work out social tensions that people carry with them in their day to day lives. Shaftesbury comments that the amount of police neccesary to assure that these riots never break out would kill everything valuable and good about society in the process of making sure that any hint of rebellion was suppressed.

Miami is a good example of Shaftesbury's ideas in action. Some people wanted militant protest; the cops didn't want to have it work it self out, or to deescalate it; instead they attacked and tried to destroy the entire protest, militant and non-militant included, and in the process created more problems for themselves than they would have had if they were a little less psychotic and vengeful in dealing with the people protesting.

And Miami was totally shut down; at least downtown. It was a police state where, if you weren't confronting the cops in a mass demonstration you were dependent on their every whim, totally in their control, for the ensurance of your treatment as a citizen who had rights as opposed to an enemy which was to be destroyed.

Not exactly conditions that encourage the finer points of civilization---or of basic society and culture.

I'd rather not live life with a gun pointed at my head.
A thought about the economy......

If no one showed up to work one day, then no one would be missing work, and system would be forced to negotiate with the strikers, thereby ending pure capitalism as we know it.

Colonization in North America, and in the Americas in general, unansweared questions and mysteries.

The strange thing about contact between Europeans and the indigenous people's of the Americas is that there appears to be no comprehension of the indigenous people as living in societies that were understandable to the Europeans.

Inidgenous culture has come down to us as being largely a mystery, and I'd like to ask why that is.

I would suggest, to begin, that people in Europe, especially navigators who were attached to merchants, were not as provincial as they were made out to be. People in Europe, not people in general maybe but more than a few, were surely aware of the Ottoman empire to the east, and that east of that there was India, and that east of that lay China. They were aware of Africa, if only of it's trading and merchant centers.

Now in all of these cases, even in that of Africa, whatever the Europeans may have thought about the culture they acknowledged it as possesing a structure similar to their own. Maybe Africa is the exception to this due to the lack of contact between sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, but surely one can trace similar forms of government stretching from Eastern Europe into the middle east, into the area now occupied by Afghanistan and Pakistan, into northern India, and even into China. If my understanding is correct the great powers didn't treat these political and social groupings as totally primitive but instead bartered with them over power and only gradually were able to make them dependent on the Europeans. Russia in the Caucasus and in Central Asia is a similar, if more brutal, example of this.

So why, given that certain parts of European society were comfortable with dealing with non Western societies, did the indigenous people of the Americas, particularly of North America, appear to be such a question mark, one which inspired some writers to revolutionary scenarios based on their wonderment at these new and exotic societies?

What difference is there between tribal organization in Central Asia or in the Caucasus and tribal organization in New York State, Michigan, Wisconsin, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia?

For that matter, if we're talking about beliefs, are the beliefs of Native Americans more different, in terms of degree, from European concepts of religion and worldview than are those of Siberian tribes, or of Chinese folk beliefs, or of Hindu concepts of the world?

Why are Native American beliefs, out of all the range of belief systems out there, regarded by citizens of the U.S.A. as being incomprehensable and mysterious, only being able to be touched on by sappy cliches, not understood as what they are---valid ways of seeing the world?

It may be somewhat different in South America, where the Inca had more of the hallmarks of 'civilization', and fought the Spanish to preserve it, but there's no reason why American Indians had to be regarded as outside of history and beyond the pale. Surely a reckoning could have taken place which placed them somewhere betwen Europe and Asia.

The idea that the presence of a new continent and new people's inhabiting it shook things up because such facts were not accounted for in the Bible is false. Although, in my understanding, the bible does mention africa asia and europe, the sketchiness of it's description is surely overpowered by the variety of people's and places which actually exist either in the hinterlands of Europe or in the actuality of Africa and Asia.

Marco Polo's account of his time spent in China, getting there, coming back, were a great hit in Europe. Qualitatively, there isn't any difference, after a certain point, between people's totally foreign to the European world in the Asian continent and those totally foreign to the European world on the American continents.

So why was there not an incorporation of them into the general world view of the times?

Why was there not a recognition of the complexity of native culture?

I can't answear this, except to say that maybe there was, but it was just swept under the rug. And forgotten about.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Derek Seidman: an Interview with Michael Yates
Good interview with Michael Yates...a radical economist and labour educator.

Ah, I remember my semi-working class youth.....semi-working class because when I got to be about 15 years old a really nice reversal of fortune allowed us to move on up out of working class wasn't without it's bad points, like, for example, leaving the neighborhood, but that's for another entry...

I came from a radical family anyways, and so that put me apart, but, anyways, back to the point of this entry, which is....

I never really felt guilty about leaving my neighborhood and trading it for better conditions, although I've since started to work for social justice and working class power, because, quite frankly, there are as many cons in the working class world as there are in the bourgeois world.

What I hated then, hate now, and will never stand for, is the false sense of working-class gravitas that people were expected to put on in order to get anywhere. Being a virtuous worker was OK, it meant that you conformed to all of the bullshit, and ultimately bourgeois, standards, sold out, and got ahead; but it wasn't OK to be working class and be a rebel, or to be working class and to be a Punk, or to drop out of society instead of giving blow jobs to the school administrators.

I was a punk and a virtual drop out; I moved from a regular school to an alternative school, and probably wouldn't have even finished high school if I hadn't gotten the chance to go to a really nice, academically rigorous, private school in the suburbs.

I have no regrets about taking that opportunity, because it meant moving from an Alternative school, full of other working-class miscreants, where I would probably not have learned a damn thing or gotten any sort of an education, to a passport to freedom.

And, most importantly, if the working-class leaders in my school system had had any say about it I'd be pumping gas right now while their kiss up progeny advanced on to college.

I'm for the working class, am part of it, but I have no sympathy for people who do the boss's work and agree with the boss's values.
A Humean justification for worker's self management.

Hume and Locke put great value on the idea that we pick up sense perceptions from the world, and then these sense perceptions become our entire menal universe, how we view ourselves, what "viewing ourselves" even means, how we navigate the external world etc...

Locke was pretty straightforward about it, his mental empiricism was pretty much self-evident; Hume, in responding to Locke, formulated a version of empiricism which went a little below the self evident. While in Locke's world the handling of facts appears to go on abstracted from normal experience, in Hume's world there's a division between what we really know and what we have absolutely no way of knowing, and these two categories do not correspond with our normal introspective understanding of how our minds work.

So in Hume's philosophy knowledge from the outside world both frees us, by it's referential linkage to actual facets of the real world, and enslaves us, by the great void that lack of this knowledge leaves with us.

For Hume this knowledge is processed somewhat subconsciously, and therefore when the accumulation of knowledge from the outside world makes itself noticable to us it appears to have developed in an organic fashion rather than to have been the logical consequence of the accumulation of many small, verified, propositions about the world.

Hume's radical scepticism, or what people refer to as Hume's radical scepticism, doesn't concern us now because we're not concerned with the absolute value of the information accumulated so much as with the fact that the accumulation of said information moves us closer to a verifiably true relationship with the real world, even if, in the scheme of things, if such a view were possible, it may be a very small step or series of steps.

How does this relate to worker's self management? Well, if what we know about the external world comes to us either through tradition or through our own intense transactions with the outside world, then someone engaged in a craft, or someone engaged in a job for a long period of time at one business, or someone who has spent a great deal of time in one town and knows the town very well, is in a greater position to make decisions regarding said craft, business, or town then someone who has no actual first hand experience with these things.

By interacting with the world, making mental transactions with it through work, which is abstract manipulation of symbols, or, less consciously, through participating in an institution, or in the daily life of a business, one accumulates statements of fact regarding the particular enterprise that you're engaged in which are inaccesable to people who have not had the experience you have had.

Much more than this, said ideas, said particles of knowledge, are very very valuable because they are the most accurate picture of how business or life in said enterprise really is, and can be used therefore to make decisions about said entity which are more relevant than those which someone would make based on knowledge gained from a secondary or tertiary source.

If, for example, there is a store that's staffed by several employees, your object is to stock things that people who frequent the store would like while not stocking things that they don't want. Who exactly is in the position to know which is which? The people who work the register or who help customers out; the people who know the people who make up the store's clientele, who know the patterns of the town and of the people in it.

They are the ones in a position to make recommendations about what should be stocked at a higher level, what should be avoided, and what could be added to satisfy customers better. They would also be in a position to tell whoever's making the decisions what NOT to cut out, even if it appears not to be selling, because, for example, there's a particular customer who buys it every once and a while but really needs it or appreciates it.

They would be the ones in the position to make up the budget for the year and to fulfill it, to make decisions about how the store is set up and other considerations.

The so called hard economic decisions would go easier once the knowledge involved in things like dealing with suppliers or haggling over rent was made available to everyone instead of being compartamentalized so that only a superior 'management' person could see the whole picture.

It would be much more effective and efficient, plus there would be no mess ups from beaurocrats or idle proprieters imposing their fantasies on the store from their unconnected hideaways.

What's more, over time it would grow as an institution, which means that the quality of the decisions of the employees would grow on top of each other to make the whole thing work better as time goes by. New techniques would be unconsciously evolved over time which may be more efficient and innovative than anything else available.

It would add to people's skill immeasurably.

It would work. Math and regulations could be dealt with semi-collectively, and there's no reason why mathematical economics or legalism, especially, would 'have to' dominate over the normal functioning of the store. It is, after all, there for the benefit of the actual transactions going on in the store and not existing in some autonomous realm.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

What's this....

It seems that, like a fellow blogger, (who's blog I found the site through), I am an INTP when it comes to personality. Don't know what this means, but am always interested in expanding my horizons...
Reading reading.....good reading discovered shortly before Thanksgiving....I'm tearing my way through Christopher Isherwood's book "Berlin stories". Isherwood was the guy who wrote the story which the movie "Cabaret" was based on. If you want to know a little bit about real decadent pre-Nazi Berlin, and not just pretend that you do, read this book. I'm also going to investigate W.H. Auden, Isherwood's sometime collaborator/lover......The movie Cabaret isn't that good for getting a sense of Berlin life because Bob Fossey, the director, used a pretty darn heavy hand on the film stylistically in order to get his point across. It works great as a formal device, but it ruins any realistic depiction of Berlin which may have come through in the film. Read the book instead....

I've known a person or two like Mr. Norris....
I've become convinced that White Supremacy is a core component of the Bush administration's attitude towards the world. It's hip to be racist in conservative quarters now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

America is like South Africa....

In that you have the original settler population, the Dutch Boers, equivalent to our Anglo-Saxons, then you have a native population enslaved to work for the settlers, this would be a mixed equivalent of Native Americans and African Americans.

Then you have two other classes of people: you have the non-Dutch whites who came to South Africa to seek fame and fortune and largely became part of the working class, and, additionally, rallied around the British when they controlled the country, opposing the Dutch.

And then you have the immigrants/descendents of slaves from India who form a sort of minority which is partially identified with the Africans, partly identified with the non-Boer whites, and which has a social class in between them; these people would roughly be the equivalent of Hispanics in the US.

Like in South Africa in the apartheid era, the alignment of non-anglo-saxon whites in the United States is towards the left end of the spectrum, with the Hispanic vote, considered in both countries, unfortunately, as on the edge of established politics and slightly dangerous being alternately courted and repelled by the left leaning white party.

What can this tell us about the country we live in? Possibly that the status of those on the bottom has to be dealt with before any sort of a coalition between the other groups can be formed.

African Americans have a qualitatively different experience in the U.S. than do hispanics, ethnic white americans, or, of course, anglo-saxons. All of the other groups came to the United States, and have experienced in the United States, under conditions short of total exploitation as a legal category.

Blacks have.

The black experience in American society has to be brought to the fore and into the political arena before coalitions between ethnic groups in order to found a platform or action group for ethnic democracy can be started.

It may be that the black experience makes us rethink what American politics should be about. It's a cruel joke to try to form an ethnic coalition with somewhat priveleged members while ignoring blacks who don't share in the privelege.

I think the consequences of recognizing the black experience in American society are going to be that we're going to have to think of ourselves as a much poorer country than we have been; after all, that's how a substantial amount of citizens within the United States live.

We're going to have to reorient policy so that if all boats aren't rising, no boats should be rising. If the living conditions of blacks aren't improving, no living conditions should be improving.

Thinking otherwise is what led us to ghettos where the accumulation of decades of neglect and willingness to ignore the social and economic issues of the community has created zones where we wouldn't want our worst enemy to live, not to say an equal.

That has to stop; either everyone improves, everyone including all the residents of ghettos, and secondarily hispanic ghettos, including native americans living on reservations, or nobody improves. No economic programs for the rich while the poor and exploited suffer.

I feel that Bush substantially differs from Reagan in that Reagan was still using an upper class justification for his program; Reagan was still playing the game of the conservative rich people against the liberal rich people. Because of the unique situation of the end of the cold war, the Clinton years drove political culture substantially away from the power game between two rival factions of the rich and more towards an authentic democratic politics, even though it was only a beginning.

Bush is capitalizing on this by dispensing with factional infighting among the rich and appealing directly to the people's sense of reality, thereby making him a real demagogue and not just a stooge like Reagan.

How we got into this mess: a post in a continuing series looking at how a country prided on democracy the world over could go over to authoritarianism at a drop of a hat,without even missing a beat.

I think that the roots of the current support of Bush, and for the Bush regime's power, have to be sought in the colonial history of our country.

The United States is an ex-colony at the edge of the capitalist world. It still is at the edge of the capitalist world, even though it likes to think of itself as in the center. Literally, if you go far enough into the interior of the United States you hit the area where Western capitalism's between the midwest and the west coast.

As an ex colony, the U.S. shares some features with other ex-colonies, such as those of South and Central America. One of the most striking is the presence, the coexistence, of radical ideologies and thought with a populace which is much less radical. In the U.S. the political structure has been claimed for quite a while by a small section of the U.S. population, which can rightly be called the political class, which understands the constitution, understands the bill of rights, has an idea of what representative democracy means, and is active in political life, often actually holding some sort of office or being connected with people who do.

This small section of people, where, to a degree, the radical ideologies percolate, is the descendant of the colonial upper class. Colonialism cuts both ways in that it established a small competent upper class, but because of it's instability it opened the door for ideologies not acceptable in Europe to develop faster and to a much greater degree than there.

The mass of people in the United States don't know all that much about their country. They don't understand the bill of rights, even though they trumpet it, they don't understand the constitution, even though they defend it, and, even though they like the sound of democracy are quick to deny it to people they don't like.

To a certain extent they've been used as pawns in the power struggles between factions of the upper class; the difference from South America being that the radical sections of the upper class have never tried to gain power by posing as representatives of the people. There's too much deference to democracy, despite all of the above, for that to happen. This in turn is due to the diversified nature of the economy which blunts, but does not mitigate, the colonial inheritance of the U.S.

No effort, no real effort, is expended to teach the mass of people in the United States about the government under which they live or even the history of their own country.

What happens in election years, what has been happening for quite some time, is simple: the politicians, whether left or right, conservative or liberal, go out to the people and make detailed propaganda speeches which mean next to nothing, and then they get together with their advisors and draft a real platform which is submitted to elite opinion for discussion and comment.

So, in the Clinton years you had on one level Clinton's speeches to regular people; on another level you had organizations like the Progressive Policy Institute drafting policy papers outlining the Third Way, Clinton's personal political philosophy, along with books by pro-Third Way people being published and then read by the makers and shapers of public opinion, the people who really make the decisions.

It was inevitable, in retrospect, that this system would not hold up, that someone would come along and abuse it. After all, a candidate doesn't actually need to appeal to elite opinion makers to win, and then to keep power, if he has the brute force of scores of voters behind him, weened on ultra-patriotic, nationalistic, propaganda.

And that's what happened with Bush. While the main sectors of the democratic party were aiming to outdo themselves courting rich people of the political class, with only the anti-globalization movement seeking to actually educate people and develop a real popular understanding of rights, democracy, labor, etc... the Bush team decided to appeal to feelings and patriotism alone, and to dispense with the justifications to opinion makers about why they were doing what they were doing.

Why they were doing what they were doing is obvious; they were, and are at this writing, doing it in order to exploit the political system for personal gain. They don't even try to hide this to people in the political class.

How they're doing it is by outright lying to people, shamelessly and impudently, relying on the lack of political education that most people have recieved to ensure that they won't catch on.

And we in the educated classes fume. But there's not a whole lot we can do on our own. I imagine the Bush administration thinks that this is a good thing. The Bush administration serves the interests of the capitalist upper classes, who never liked politics or civil society anyways, relies on the support of the people, who don't understand politics or history and are easily manipulated by scions of the upper classes who are savvy to this, and leaves out entirely the section of American society which actually thinks and acts about and on political issues. It's cut out the meaningful civil society which we do have, even though that civil society was dangerously slanted towards the upper classes anyways. It was better than nothing.

Bush represents a Bonapartist way of doing American politics, one which would have been appreciated by the descendents of Napolean who eventually seized power and instituted their rule over France.

The solution is broad worker education, broad consciousness raising among the real people of the American nation, not just among the descendents of the original political class. The solution is to make democracy a reality in America through the real understanding of the concept by the masses of the people, so that they don't get fooled with bullshit lies about rights and freedom by the Bonapartist Right again.

Update: Janissary music is called Mehter, not Mehta, and the place you can get the cd is, not www.ottomansouveniers. Je Souviens......I suppose they use the American and not the French version of the word.

Oh, and Janissary music still kicks ass; I'd love for some of the drummers connected to the blac bloc to learn some of it, or at least the style, 'cause it would scare the shit out of everyone.
On a lighter note....

I have two new finds in the World Music department. You may remember that this blog endorsed Fado and Cantorial music a while ago...
Well, right now I've been enjoying the rembetika style of Greek music on the cd "Mourmourika, songs of the Greek underworld", put out by Rounder Records. Rembetika is an intoxicating mix of all sorts of different got that way because it was played where people where getting intoxicating on all sorts of different elements.

The other style, which I've heard samples of but don't have a CD of yet is Turkish Mehta music, which is the Jannisarie marching music from the Ottoman Empire. I think that a CD and samples are available at, I believe that's the web address.

Mehta, I believe it's called, is another trip. You have to hear it to believe it.

Ok, now back to opposing the government and capitalism.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Rereading Peter Lamborn Wilson: Zapatistas, the working class, and the deluded left.

I like Peter Lamborn Wilson's writings; they've been important for me on a lot of levels, but rereading essays from "Escape from the 19th Century" made me realize how somewhat out of touch some aspects of the left are with reality.

Wilson is fighting against this current in the essay in question: "The Shamanic Trace", and, since it was written in 1997, when things looked pretty damn bad overall for resistance to capitalism, he shouldn't be faulted for absorbing a little of the poison which he was confronting in that essay.

What am I talking about? Take, for instance, the blurb for Antonio Negri's new book "For Revolution". It poses the question "How can we resist when capitalism has colonized every single part of our society?", that's a rough paraphrase of it. But really, it was like "How can we do anything when advertizing has brought us sobbing to our knees like little babies who have no free will and no self control?". The post-structuralist critique, and the various chicken shit academic analyseze stemming from the Frankfurt school, duck the question of actually doing anything against capitalism by saying "Woe is me, look how strong it is, I, in my little home, can't do anything except complain (sigh)", without looking out their window at the real world or lifting a goddamn finger tos see if anything can really be done.

Wilson, in fighting against this tendency, takes a page from radical anthropology and proposes that the only way forward for the left lies in anti-civilizational tendencies, which oppose both the institutional left, the right, capitalism, the state, and everything which underlies it. Although I agree with large parts of this, the way in which he presented it, which painted total anti-civilizational tactics and ideas as the only positive goal which is possible in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union, is, in my opinion, seriously flawed.

It's never a good idea to give a positive definition of things, because reality always has the tendency of biting you on the ass for doing so by pointing out the flaws which any positive definition no doubt has.

I think that there are two things going on here: first, yes, there is a large complex called civilization which is oppressive and which has oppressive machinery, but it's less pervasive than is usually thought....which brings us to two, or maybe three and four as well.

Civilization has been appreciated the most, been believed in the most, been thought of as all pervasive to the highest degree, by the elites who are deep within the system itself and depend on it for their surivival, even if they take an "oppositional" stance towards parts of capitalism.

This ain't Peter Lamborn Wilson, but it's practically every academic theorist who whines about how capitalism completely controls everything and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

Conversely, outside of the indoctrinated elite civilization has never totally caught on. Groups which don't have a voice in 'official' media, who haven't ever had the chance and the opportunity to actually tell their story to 'society' at large and have it be recognized, are not strictly within civilization in the same way as the upper classes and upper middle classes are.

The working class is largely still free; it's composed of many groups which have never been totally assimiliated into the state and who, because of the forced exclusion from the state and economic decisionmaking power which they endure, retain a great deal more of an authentic sense of freedom than coopted groups.

I say this to say, well, you never know what's out there. Native American tribes keep records that no white man has seen or knows about; working class neighborhoods have their own secrets and traditions which the middle classes have no knowledge of.

The Zapatistas, the Mayan Indians, who are the base of the example which Wilson uses to illustrate a potentially succesful way of revolting against capitalism and civilization, represent, to me, not so much the living embodiment of a libertory way of thinking (the shamanic trace) which Wilson ascribes to them as they do the potentials of the general wildness of excluded societies and groups, and the potentials of them to rise to the occasion and reinvigorate political life with liberatory principles when given a chance.

Using this idea as our base, revolt against capitalism by the still autonomous doesn't seem so bleak or far fetched as it may have in '97 Clinton-time. It's possible to do a great deal of 'Left' organizing and Leftist practice because you don't need to go back to the level of never assimilated Native people's in order to build a valid politics of liberation today. There's plenty of material in the ethnic and working class neighborhoods of the United States right now to do the job.

Friday, November 21, 2003

I love the Blac Bloc.

I went to Miami for the FTAA protests, and I have to admit I fell in love when I was down there. Behind the Barricades the Blac Bloc and I found out that we have much in common, and we might start an affair sometime in the coming months because of it.

I was at the militant protest after the permitted march on Thursday, got tear gassed, got shot with these little pellets, got shot with this little disk about a quarter in size, and in general had a great time watching people prepare for revolution and adding my body to the mass of people who were standing off with the cops.

Keep up the good work; Miami was truly a riot.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

It's not so much the inequality as it is the corruption....

Although the inequality is mighty bad as well.

If we were being honest with ourselves here in the states we would have admitted that the system as it's set up, which increasingly rewards students and others according to if they play ball and bend to corruption rather than according to any talent they may have, is about as cruel a joke on the American people as can be devised.

When normal channels of common sense are suppressed, and advancement depends on some sort of favor coming from other channels besides reason and ability, crime and corruption run rampant and are given the ideal environment within which to fester.

Corruption takes over from ability and the section of society subject to such rules quickly runs itself into the ground in an orgy of excess.

Which is happening right now.

When the good is purposely overlooked because it says things contrary to the official position, you have a situation wherein not only does inequality reign but the reality of people in high positions being able to commit the worst crimes possible and get away with it, while at the same time the common people can labor all they want at striving to be something, to do something, and never get anywhere, hit's home in increasingly sharp terms.

I believe in love, but I can't speak for everyone. When a people thumbs it's nose at society and says that they can break every rule without any retribution, they invite revenge from the people on whose backs said lawlessness is built on and on whose backs their account books are ordered by.

I believe in love, and this is turning into a prose poem rather than a declaration or an article, but I can't guarantee that everyone will.

In France it ended with the annihilation of the aristocracy by people sensitive to the people's will.

The duc de Orleans tried to reform the system, but he was overthrown too, and seventy years later their heads all rolled from the guillotine.

It's a warning from history as to what happens when rights are denied
and suppressed, even when said rights could have been used to help the very system that was suppressing them.

I believe in love, but I think that the people's justice may have other plans.

Love, yes, but a certain type of love. The love of your fellow man, despite the horrors of existence. That's what's needed.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

On love: it could be said that the Bush administration's policy on Iraq has no love in it whatsoever. This would be followed by howls of laughter. Love? In the Bush administration's foreign policy? But that's just the point.

Love is the one thing which is most irrelevant to the administration's decisions, and is consequently one of the most important factors in understanding how this adminstration conducts itself.

Love is neccesary for any decent society.
I believe in basic goodness as a requirement for any society or collection of individuals to have any decent life.
There is a primitive goodness which cuts back to the source of all of this, of all of this worldliness, and reorients one to the true foundations of life.

Without an awareness of, a sympathy with, and a realization of, this primitive goodness in one's own heart all of this, all of this mess, all of this pit , is just words. We should be aware of what we ask for, if one does not have basic goodness to orient ourselves, to keep ourselves on a realistic keel, we just might get it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

What do I want? I want something better, better than this.
Actually, this methodology, which could be termed knowledge through transgression, is very simple and easy. One transgresses and then one reconstructs, or ingresses. By transgression we expand the amount of mental real estate we have by forcing our minds to come to terms with knowledge and views which don't seem to fit in anywhere, certainly not in our conventional view of things, and by ingression we take on the world through the expansion of consciousness and sensitivity gained through the planned and controlled transgression.

But transgression is too loaded a word to use. What's easier to assimilate is that through seeking out the neglected, the jarring, the offensive, we can remove more of ourselves from the picture and let the picture speak for itself better. Once that's accomplished, and it's a constant struggle, one can apply conventional political terms and subject matter to much greater effect than you could before, in my opinion.

It eliminates the easy lies and ignorances that we accumulate in our daily lives and forces a type of conservatism, as it's easier to condemn and to make sweeping statements when you have a narrow view of the world, even if you're a liberal or a socialist, than when you have to look at the world with all it's filth and depravity, even if you do so from a libertine and leftist perspective.

So the libertine becomes the conservative when it comes to prescription and prescriptive recommendations, and so fulfills the first commandment of true libertarianism: First, harm none.
It also can lead to the second commandment of socialist libertarianism: Second, don't harm the many.

And to more democracy etc...

It might be objected that while my method is well and good that it belongs to another time, that we're different now, not as cynical, not as skeptical, and that it's no longer neccesary to think about these things or to think in these terms.

I would reply that just because society no longer emphasizes a phenomenon or an approach does not mean that the phenomenon no longer exist or that the approach is not fruitful.

It can stand on it's own terms, I believe, in the collection of movements and trends which have defined the modern world. And which are still defining it.

What it all means.

First off, I'm not a neo-confederate. The posts below may have caused some to think that, but it's not accurate in the least. I don't believe in it, and I don't like the organizations that do. They're on different sides of the political and moral fence from me, in my opinion.

But what does it, and when I say it I mean the general approach to politics taken up on this blog and in the Anarchist movement in a subsidiary way, mean?

That's what concerns me today.

What I think that it all adds up to is an awareness that for political life to go forward there has to be a total depersonalization of political language, of the way politics are talked about and how they are concieved.

Once the radical depersonalization is accomplished, you can use the ideas and ways of looking at the world gained by said process to start to build back up a conception of politics that addresses the real world in a meaningful way.

Notice I didn't say a dehumanization of political thought; no, I think that a depersonalized rhetoric or way of thinking can be used to express a very deep and meaningful humanism, if you let it.

Once a total depersonalization is done, then democracy, rights, capitalism, class, identity, gender, can be thought about in an objective way---or at least a way strict enough and controlled enough to allow a greater amount of truth in than personalistic conceptions of these issues allow.

But a basic political language prefaced on a depersonalized universe is needed first.

That's what I think a great many of the new Anarchist movements instinctively grope towards, even if it's not expressed in this way. As part of that I'm groping too, but hopefully this will clarify a few things.

It's my reflection on the issue.
Dixie (Dixieland) Lyrics. O I wish I was in the Land of Cotton...

Ahh.... this is what I think about liberals up in Madison Wisconsin getting on Howard Dean for wanting to appeal to the Confederate flag set.... you'll notice that Dixie played a big part in Masked and Anonymous, no?

Dylan and his collaborators included it there to prove a point; that point being that people who criticize all things antebellum Southern, or even post Civil War Southern, have no idea what they're talking about at all.

Dixie is a very nice song. And I see no reason why great grandchildren of people who fought for the South should really care about what people in Wisconsin think about their putting Confederate flag license plates on their cars.

Anti-Dean Article about flag remark by John Nichols, Madison WI.

In all fairness, Nichol's article comes out, after these quotes, as being for sensitivity and understanding, but it's really interesting that even someone supporting getting disaffected people back into politics has to use language like this to preface his article:

"For years, Democrats have been talking about how to reclaim "the Bubba vote." That's a reference to white working-class men who, among other things, attach Confederate flag stickers to the back windows of their pickup trucks. The flags are usually situated next to the image of a little Calvin urinating on another brand of truck. "

Sounds populist to me!

"Perhaps Dean would have been better off if he'd said, "I want to be the candidate for Chevy drivers who are amused by the idea of taking a leak on Fords." But that would have started a whole different conversation. So he used a conventional shorthand in the political world. "

Yes, that John Nichols sure believes in the right of everyone to participate in our political process, doesn't he?

When you have to insult a group first in order to make a positive remark about them without getting tainted by your compadres prejudice against them, you aren't really making a positive remark.