Sunday, September 28, 2003

Why I don't get along that well with other progressives my age...

The question came to mind lately when, helping out with a progressive cause I realized that there must be something, something else, something different, which makes it hard for me to connect with people about progressive causes. I'm a progressive, and fundamentally a liberal socialist, but I don't get along with my fellow progressives, at least a portion of them, that well.


The reason? Well, it occured to me, and I'd dealt with this before, that I condemn both the mainstream and the liberal progressive society for their corruption.

What I want out of life is meaning, and meaning has not, unfortunately, been found in many places where liberty turns into license.

I can't condemn liberty, but it would be a lie to close my eyes to the fact that many so-called 'libertarian' social groups only lead to self destruction through drug and alchohol abuse as well as meaningless sexual relationships that bring people down....among other things.

That's not what life is about, or should be about in my book.
So condemning both that and the mainstream puts me in between a rock and a hard place, but eventually I'm loosening up and connecting with the real people doing good stuff.

For a while I went too far in the other direction, and was content to be an old testament prophet hurling out condemnation against society while living in the desert, but now I'm coming back to reality, hopefully in a good way.

But the hurt caused in the past by liberty being put to use in order to degrade people instead of uplifting them stings deep, and has taken a long time to reduce.
Why Kucinich deserves some real attention.

I happen to support Dennis Kucinich and his campaign. He's about the only Democratic candidate that I can say that about without having my stomach go into double knots. However, I really don't think that the rest of the country has an image of his campaign that reflects the reality.

Fundamentally, Kucinich comes out of the progressive wing of the democratic party. This is different from coming out of the ultra-liberal wing. Liberal and progressive, or, if you will, liberal and socialist, aren't the same thing.

He's being tarred with wearing the silliness of ultra-liberals when, honestly, that image does not fit him at all.

What do I mean? Well, ultra-liberals are associated with vaguely New Agey politics, eccentric positions, and general distance from reality. This comes about because we really are a pretty liberal country, if you use the conventional definitions, and so people who aren't socialists but are liberals, and who want to go to the mat with liberal politics, don't have that much to actually campaign for---and so they drift off into ever more marginal and obscure causes.

Kucinich is a progressive , which means that no, he doesn't live in the clouds of ultra-liberalism, but instead comes out of a tradition of fighting for labor rights, good schools, the environment, health care, in addition to fighting for civil rights and women's rights.

Not too marginal issues, eh?

The only problem is that the media refuses to represent Kucinich in any way which pierces the generally held conception of him as having abstract, not serious, politics.

It's not a question of having the media represent a candidate as the candidate might like, but instead of at least basing whatever coverage exists on the reality of the campaign. You might hate it, you might disagree with all of it, but at least you'd have seen it instead of being told that Red is Green and Blue is Yellow.

I urge anyone who comes to this website to check out Kucinich national website and make up your mind for yourself.

I think that if the word got out that in fact Kucinich, as a progressive with progressive roots, does in fact represent something substantial and applicable, needed, that people would be a whole lot less likely to condemn him sight unseen for dreamy politics divorced from the real world.

Friday, September 26, 2003

J.G.A. Pocock vs. S.E. Finer.

I have in my possesion S.E. Finer's massive three volume history of government.

It's an aweinspiring achievement, and it goes at politics in a way very different from Pocock's method of analyzing based on a deep awareness of what ideology is ruling during a particular period of time.

I'm gradually moving over to the Finer school of thought from the Pocock school of thought, mainly because I feel that government and politics can be analyzed on a structural basis across cultural lines without really losing anything, if you do it with the right methodology.

The methodology needed is, among other things, miles away from the Marxist view of history as being the evolution of modes of production, one supplanting the other. Pocock, although not to my knowledge a leftist, can be seen as digging into the modes of production angle and fleshing it out, as indeed many English Marxist historians did in the realm of social history.

What's needed is a positivist approach which can be descriptive of the features the government has possessed in different areas and cultures over large periods of time without being overwhelmed. The methodology requires the ability to step back and look at these issues from a level of abstraction which is hard to come by naturally. It has to be forced, but when achieved can function pretty well.

This is what Finer has done; I think that the structure of government is more important than ideology because at one level ideology becomes stucture----when you get right down to the level of discussion where the issues of liberty, equality, etc... are discussed in their fullest sense you also are essentially talking about what you want the structure of government and, to a lesser extent, of society, to be.

So why, then, don't we just look at the area in which government officials as well as people involved in government make these judgements, and implement them.

This is a hidden area which may consist 'real government', it's certainly a level of real policy decisions which doesn't see the light of day very often.

It's also one which, because of the liminal nature of the discussion going on, is not limited by hack conceptions of political philosophy. These people take it to the limit, and produce new thought, so an analysis of structure at this level has to be a totally abstract and disinterrested analysis of things in order to be valid. But, if that's achieved, analysis of structure, usually thought to be passive, can yield active insights as to the nature of governmental structures, as the people involved are essentially innovating, even if the products of their innovation become passive after they implement them.

So analysis of structure can lead to newness in insights about government and society. Looks pretty good to me.
But it can't go forward, paradoxically, unless one has a good grasp of the cultural and theoretical millieux that these people function in. So Pocock, by opening up new mental space to consider, is doing a good service, but the results of his investigations do not simply have consequences relating to what he does but instead have consequences for sociology and political science as a whole by giving them more meat from which to come up with new analysis.

Finer didn't do this through Pocock, I assume, instead he proceeded from the Positivists surrounding Vilfredo Pareto, who has to be read to be understood.

But either way, the analysis of structure proceeding from culturally rich material is a great breakthrough in understanding, one which is not just applicable to the realm of government and politics; Mircea Eliade and Iono Culiano, in their history of religions, have applied the same technique with very good results in teasing the meaning out of non-western religious systems, in particular those which come out of indigenous cultures which have been totally overlooked as candidates for serious analysis by researchers up until now.

So it's a general shift in emphasis; but it's complex and hard to do. Yet, I think that more truth can be gained by comparing cultural institutions across the board than with doing a technique whereby to analyze a non-western cultural institution on would have to immerse onesself in all of the literature surrounding the culture in order to gain some precious insight into this one feature that you're curious about.

Knowing about other cultures is very good, but the standards that Pocock holds researchers to are too high; you can get some relevant facts and understanding, although admittedly more limited than the Pocock method would produce, by cutting through it and looking for structure evolving out of culture.

And something which adds to our understanding of life and of history, and of other cultures, is a good thing which should be done.

It might seem inappropriate, coming as it does on the heels of the largely petty attack below, but I wanted to write something in memory of Edward Said.

Another one is gone.

That's what it feels like.
I've been fortunate enough to live in a time when the heavy hitters from the sixties and seventies have been around physically and have been able to pass on their legacy to young people of a new generation who might have an interest in peace and justice.

Said, of course, died before his time, and so can't properly be considered among those who passed on because of longevity alone, but it still feels that way. It feels like the gateway to an era where people actually fought and had some successes in the fight for peace and justice, for a better society, has closed that much further.

What will happen, now that an author who fought for the Palestinians in the most erudite and informed way possible is simply not there to write his columns and his books? What will happen now that there's this absence?

I don't know, but political life will be impoverished that much more.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"Revelation" the MOVIE

If you're ever bored out of your mind, and don't have anything better to do, I suggest going down to your local video store and renting one of the genre of "End Times" movies that's sprung up all of a sudden, for a good laugh and some schadenfreude.

I did so with "Revelation" which is put out on Cloud Ten video and whose script and direction was advised by none other than Jack Van Impe ministries, a name which, if you've surfed the low rent channels at night you've probably come across, talking about bible prophecy.

He's also a raving lunatic who doesn't understand anything about Christianity of the Bible per se but is adept at quoting passages out of context and using it to justify whatever ideas he and Rexella---don't you love hillbilly names---happen to believe in at the time.

Well well, as a movie, I think that Revelation has a couple of points it gets across: first off, the enemy is always either a Jew with glasses, a Puerto Rican Latino who acts like he's both retarded and somehow from Bensonhurst instead of Spanish Harlem, an Italian----the False Messiah's name is Franco Macolousso---which, quite frankly I have a hard time keeping from laughing over.

They call him Frank Macolousso. Let's look at that last name for a second. It's clear that it's not Italian but a combination of Mac, which is a Scottish and Irish clan designation word, like "Of" which comes from Gaelic, and Colousso, which is a corruption of Collosus. I like it how they couldn't even look at the Italian language to see how the word Collosus could be incorporated into a surname, but instead Italianed up the word Collosus by ending it with an O, so that it rhymed with 'Caruso', which I'm sure is the closest they've ever gotten to actually having seen an Italian surname...Enrico Caruso...yeah, and that Pav-or-at-ee guy too, but that doesn't rhyme with any of them slick Eye-Talian soundin' words, so ya can't use it.

So, look at it.....they've got a Gaelic name prefix stuck onto a version of Collosus to which has been added some more vowels in order to make it sound more Italian...and this guy is the Anti-Christ.

Thank god that they don't see the Anti-Christ as a black man, or we might have ended up seeing Jimmy MacBigNigger as Satan himself.

Hey, they good have been more creative and just named the guy Guniea MacWhopKike and been done with it, but of course that wouldn't have crossed their minds.

Okay, beyond Italians, Latinos, and Jews, there's also people who are meant to suggest effeminate gays as bad guys, along with visibly Irish body guards as enforcers. The Bad Guy who can walk through walls and sees no problem with shooting people from no reason is meant to appear to hillbillies as Mr. Faggot rich prick himself. His bodyguards could have been in Riverdance.

Oh, and Vegetarians and people who like to dress stylishly are also going to hell, because the blind girl in the resistance movement against the One World Government who was a vegetarian and dressed in accordance with New Yawk fashion turns on them in the end.

One wonders how, if she's blind, she manages to pick out those nice looking stlyish leather coats and fashionable pants for herself.

Anyways.

Who is going to heaven, then?

Well, it turns out, in about the most improbable plot twist that I've ever seen, that the Step Sister of the Puerto Rican Latino guy who acts like he's retarded and also from an Italian neighborhood in New York is
a blond haired, blue eyed, brit, who talks in a perfect school marmish Hailey Mills accent, and is the leader of the resistance movement against the false messiah.

So she's good. Her step brother turns on them. It's set up in such a way that, since he says that his Grandmother disappeared, because of the Aryan stepsister, the good white people of Kansas can believe that his grandmother who was Saved was a Southern Baptist instead of a Catholic.

Who else is good? Well, a lot of uncle tommish Black women apparantly.

There's this one Black woman who's part of a group whose persecution forms a recurring subplot in the story who has these huge bulging eyes and talks in a dialect so out of a minstrel show that on reflection I half expect her to break out in something like "Aye-uh, youze an im Good Massa, Shore-nuff!" and maybe do some african dance around a washing bin with her head in an Aunt Jemima scarf.


So the End Times look pretty bad for Catholics, Jews, Vegetarians, the Irish, and Gays, but they look good for Aryan Europeans and Uncle Tom Blacks.

Maybe this is a code, maybe in the great paradise in the sky rednecks from Mississippi picture themselves followed by a caravan of obediant black slaves, ready to carry out their every whim in the promised land.
What this says about whites I don't know. I leave that up to you.

But one thing which really pissed me off about the movie was that, allright, this thing was cowritten basicly by Jack Van Impe ministries and some other fundamentalist nut's ministry and in this movie the resistance group happens to 'Find' videotapes, and guess what!!! They're of Jack Van Impe's show and of Hoagie ministry's show!!!


Talk about an act of spiritual conceit; you would think that someone who professed to be a man of god would show a little decency by not putting himself into his own fucking movie as the guy who predicted the end times.
Isn't that Pride?

Isn't that total and complete pride?

Isn't that like making a movie like "The Ten Commandments" and casting yourself as Moses?

If indeed Christians are right and there is a hell, I'm sure that that little act of spiritual conceit has ended Van Impe and his consort Rexella in there, where they heartily deserve to be.


But the bottom line on this film isn't it's racism, anti-Catholicism, characatures,bad acting, bad writing, bad staging, bad music, bad flow, whatever, but the utter and sheer fly over state mentality that permeates it.

The people who made this movie, and the people who it's aimed at, are people who think that Des Moines Iowa is the big city, which they don't like, and is the place where the influence of Satan is most powerful and tempting in Iowa life.

The people who this thing is aimed at might as well have never gone outside their house for the entire decade of the nineties, because a person lobotomized by accident could have understood the story. And point out some of it's flaws.

I wonder where they keep these people, and how it is that despite all that the modern world has brought us that they can staunchly and decisively reject what obviously surrounds them to the point where they can believe that Vegetarianism is a sign of the Devil.

Do they have special clubs or support groups that make the job easier?

Oh yeah they do, they're called Churches.

God, enough of that, time to pop in an Anabolic Initiations tape and clean my head out with some good Gonzo hard-core porn...


Cursor.org - Table of Contents page

"The only way to deal with them is to kill them"

When all of this blows over, I'd like us to remember these words, said by none other than Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota on the Bill Maher show, accessable through the link above. To add the full context, Jesse Ventura said that "there are a few people in the muslim world who hate us, and the only way to deal with them is to kill them", making the idiocy and cruelty, not to mention insanity, of his statement all the more cutting.

This is a man who's the governor of a major state saying that there are people out there who, by virtue of their race and religion, deserved to be killed. Not because they did anything to us but because of what they think of us. And what they MIGHT in some parallel universe do. And we should do it and we should have no consequences levelled against us for doing it.

So it's open season on radical Muslims in Uzbekistan, right? Even though it's a dirt poor country in Central Asia, in bad terrain and thousands of miles away from any major country where you could even get a flight into the U.S., there probably are Muslims there which fit Jesse Ventura's description.

So, what, should we go to Uzbekistan, question people going into mosques on friday evenings, abduct those with radical views and throw them into gas chambers?

I'm serious, because this sort of moral depravity is what Jesse Ventura's comment legitamately implies. If Jesse Ventura's point of view was really taken to heart we'd be no better than the Nazis, who Ventura surely isn't any better than.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I'll write on S.E. Finer vs. J.G.A. Pocock later, but right now here's a few thoughts on why Christianity has fallen into such disfavor in the U.S. I happen to believe that, issues of truth or falseness validity or invalidaty aside, religion can be a great way for people to gain a comprehension of the world around them in terms of ethics and purpose that might otherwise be missing. So while I'm not endorsing religion per se I am saying that, in my opinion, the religious mode of thought is a valuable one which shouldn't be sacrificed, not even in the era of modern science.

That said, comparing the God of Protestant Christianity which I grew up with to the God of Catholicism, or of Judaism, or of Islam, leads one to some immediate conclusions: first off, the God of Protestant Christianity is largely a logical abstraction of what people think that "God" should be, rather than a heuristicly motivated interpretive picture.

All the other faiths mentioned put forward a picture of God which isn't all niceness, love, kindness, and forgiveness, but is in some respects brutal and vindictive, or at least stern and unforgiving on some issues.

I don't think that people themselves should be stern and unforgiving, but I can't help but think that these features attributed to God in these faiths are there in order to flesh out the picture of what God is in terms that human beings can relate to.

We can't, generally, relate to a picture that's been created by pure logic, but we can relate to a picture where some of the actions and motivations seen within the picture are found in our day to day lives.

So even though it might sacrifice some doctrinal purity and anthropomorphise divinity to some degree, in my opinion a concept of God as something more than an abstract God of love, something which in it's conception allows for a range of emotions and attitudes imputed to the divinity, is a more valuable conception to have, in terms of effect on the individual, society, and culture.

We're not talking the fear factor here or talking about instilling Catholic guilt about sin on people but instead suggesting that a primitive conception of God is better as an ideological device for stimulating one's thought about self and the world than is the logical conception of God as love.
The Price of Dignity

Good article by Anita Roddick of "The Body Shop" about the Global Economy. I guess that $1.25 an hour is just too much now. They're going to places where they can pay someone $00.40.

Which brings me to a point which came up in a discussion with someone about globalization years ago now.....I'm sure some of you out there have had the experience of pointing out to someone the unfairness in the disparity of wages between first and third world workers and having having them come back by saying "Yeah, but forty cents there isn't the same as forty cents here, the currency is different so they're actually making more than they appear to be making".

Actually, that's not true. Currency values are different in different countries so that there is some sort of relativity, but it's not such that 40 cents can become the equivalent of $30.00. Let me explain.

Fluctuations based on currency value don't matter that much because when you come right down to it there are certain basic nutritional and material needs which have to be met in order to be able to live, and they in turn require farming and manufacture, and those needs are non-negotiable. As such they provide an index by which you can judge what exactly forty cents an hour provides a worker with, which is why the UN measures standard of living in terms of calories consumed per day, among other measures, instead of by a pure money standard, although they do give a very rough idea about how the actual living conditions translate out into dollar value as well.

So forty cents an hour when you're in an environment where the cost of raising and buying food is somewhat static or given is probably not going to give you anything like a decent basic standard of living, differences in currency or not.

Another reason why currency differences don't explain away forty cents an hour is that currency values in general are based on the level of productivity of the country's industry, in relation to the basic subsistance economy. So that if you have a country where most people work in subsistance agriculture and there's a small amount of industry producing basic and not very complex goods, that's producing the value of subsistance agriculture taken in relation of the productivity of industry to the agriculture, which isn't going to be very much, hence the value of the currency would be very low.

It isn't a measure of standard of living so much as it is of the power of industry to pump up the volume of goods which the people of the country can buy above and beyond what they would be able to do with an economy based on pre-industrial manufacture, exchange, and agriculture. Industry acts like a force that raises all boats, ideally, although, of course, the way in which the purchasing power that industry can provide is distributed can vary extraordinarily widely.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Proving that behind the bombast, I'm actually a nice guy.

I don't keep any logs of how many people come to this site, I don't have a counter and, besides some old listing in directories along with a reference here and there to this site on boards that write messages on, I don't do any advertising. I don't even have meta tags (although I've been thinking of adding some since it takes almost no effort on my part).

However, an unexpected nice message came in from Agirproperties.Com thanking me for making a reference to their site (regarding that Coulter shirt....). If my recommendation has sent people your way I couldn't be happier. The site itself is mostly a news site, which is supported by the sale of the T-shirts, mugs, etc... and I recommend people check it out.

It's the product of young people (my age) who have taken the initiative to redefine leftist politics away from the sort of authoritarian patterns that it's taken here in the past. Hey, that's part of what I'm about too....So it's fresh. It's fresher than Michael Moore. It's fresher than Barbara Ehrenreich, bless her heart. It's fresher than Jim Hightower, although he can still shoot 'em down when they need shootin', so to speak....and it's unique in that it's managed to exist and thrive with something like a reasonable budget, if my understanding is correct, which is the major obstacle for young people to put up sites with good news content, or do real organizing, publish their books, put together some sort of alternative print media, etc...

And they've done it. And they're supporting everyone else whose doing the same thing by making alternative writers available to people through the net.

So, yes, they need your support, it would be an understatement of the year to say otherwise.

Drop in and partake of their news, links, activist calender, and products.

I'll add a link on my bar for them, in fact, along with that of Soft Skull Press, which is more established but is doing the same thing in terms of putting new content out there, from a book publishing instead of internet angle. Nice people too, I was in there one day when I was in New York, Brooklyn's pretty cool.....but now I'm rambling. Point is, even though this blog is somewhat 'eratic' when you actually write me letters I usually respond in a normal, kind, and considerate way. So don't be shy in hitting the Contakte button, ok? .......now that sounds pathetic...but no, it's not,......I have to stop writing...
Where are the artists, where are the thinkers? Answers to a perenial question.

Well, we live in a scoiety where many people feel that the culture around them has run out of steam. There aren't any artistic movements going on to speak of, there aren't rabid ideologies competing for attention, there aren't nice colourful figures marketing themselves to the media. Where are all the artists, and why?

The answer to all of the above criticisms is that Artists, as such, exist, and have always existed, and always will (hopefully), that on the individual level there are always new things to explore and new ideas, or reexaminations of old ideas, to pursue. The 'problem', and I put it in quotes because I don't believe that it actually is a problem, is that society wants movements, and individual artists pursuing art don't make a movement. Therefore, in the eyes of society at large, there might as well be nothing going on.

I find this unfortunate. But it shouldn't surprise people that art is still going on, just like it always has. The difference between the past and the present is that to understand what's going on now you have to have a pretty good understanding of aesthetics and of what art, the production and consumption of art, deals with, i.e. you have to either know what you're looking for based on a good understanding of art or you have to be an artist yourself, where the possesion of a good understanding of aesthetics shouldn't even need to be pointed out.

But people as a whole, particularly people of this generation and this incarnation of society don't want that. They've been raised basicly on the idea of culture as a desiccated, romantic, recollection of the past. We might be the only society which has put so much effort into making the center of our culture dependent on romantic recollections of how our culture used to be three or four decades ago.

So America as a whole is used to the secondary experience of culture, it's not used to actually seeing new culture being produced and understanding it, but it is used to hashing over summaries of a previous culture which they have no direct knowledge of.

It's a Reader's Digest condensed version of what culture is, because, of course, a romantic summary can't come near the experience of participating in, creating, or appreciating, the artifacts of a new culturally creative millieux---a new band of artists really working together to make something new. Not a movement, just a scene.

So, because we've been conditioned to expect that when culture comes to us it'll come pre-digested, we don't look for or recognize the new stuff which is being made and which is going on. We want it to look like a variation on the same theme.

And unfortunately mainstream culture hasn't been reluctant to supply it. At this point we have a totally bogus 'counter-culture' made up of people who don't really act or feel counter to their culture but who instead have bought into the rehashing of the sixties and seventies and, as musicians or artists, decided that the best thing they could do with their time to advance the artistic muse would be to create hackneyed copies of the Alman Brothers, or the Grateful Dead (which is alive and touring!), or Santana, or, substitute in any seventies 'classic rock' band associated with drug use and 'the seventies' and 'rock and roll'. The copies are immensely inferior to the originals, as in the case of the pathetic band known as Phish, and seem to not even comprehend what the original bands where about, as in the cases of the immitators of the Grateful Dead. We even have 'That Seventies Show' on the television.

So that's the quote "counter culture" unquote which is a total simulacra of actual culture which is not progressive in the least but which nevertheless draws a whole lot of money into it and occupies a big portion of the 'scene' in the United States.....I could compare the situation with poor Punks who have to scrounge for every album they put out, if they can even do that, and have to be really creative to get by on a day to day basis, but I won't go there, to use the expression.

And opposed to this you have here and there really creative people who are just honest artists, who know their stuff and aren't concerned with the fact that there aren't any 'movements' that they can be a part of.....because classifying something as a movement always happens after the fact...

Better to act and do it and let someone else down the road sort out what exactly it was that you and your friends did.

Which is not to say that there aren't any other cultural cul-de-sacs in the realm of music and art in the U.S. besides this fake counter-culture scene, but it's almost as if Americans are allergic to reality at this point, at least as far as culture, politics, economics, art, whatever go.

Allergic to reality, that is a great phrase to describe the general malaise in American culture right now. Nothing is being examined for itself anymore, everything is coming either processed or second hand. Primary sources for anything are scarce in that people really don't care about them. They'd rather read something which talked about them or explained them to you than to actually read them or see them theirselves.

The fountain of creativity and progress which starts with doing something honestly in your field is overgrown with moss. It's assumed that that's someone else's business. I can listen to the Beethoven selections that his "greatist hits" CD has, but to actually listen to the rest of Beethoven's works, or understand Beethoven as a whole? No, that's not for me, other people do that.....and so it goes down the line, people passing the buck, until either no one knows it or the only people who know it are hard core scholars and musicians, which doesn't have to be the case, and shouldn't be.

What about Opera? Opera! Are you crazy? No one likes Opera, besides, it's boring, and I don't like things like that. But I know that that Wagner was a real anti-semite and a bad guy, so I know I don't like Wagner.

Literature? Same thing. People would rather read mediocrity dressed up as hipness than books with real meat to them, I think because, as with all of this, there's an extreme inferiority complex in American life.
We don't want to know, or we don't want to look, because we're afraid that we'll be judged unworthy or realize that we're not 'smart' enough to understand it.

The consequence being that in many large bookstores, even in college towns, you'll find more books written in the last thirty years by non-entities that do nothing else but examine the spiritual and dreamy aspects of upper class, utterly boring, utterly sterile, life, in a 'hip' way, than you will actual writers worth the appelation.

It's as if all these people had read Paul Bowles during college but didn't get what he was saying in "Under the Sheltering Sky" but instead concluded that you could make money and get name recognition by writing books about rich people doing nothing in their lives. Only this time not in the desert but in New York City and L.A. So even the exoticism of North Africa is taken out of their superficial reading of Bowles.

You know, I don't know what caused all this, I was born at the wrong time. The people who would know are much older than me and the experiential material that they're working from in this excessive exercise in self deception is not experiential material which I possess. I'm not an artist bitching about how bad things are, because I don't even dignify the utter lack of interest in actual art as being bad, although times really are hard for artists all over the United States. Not caring, on a collosal level, is not the same as taking someone's painting and punching a hole through them or denouncing them in the press or demonstrating against a concert. It's just sad, a sort of malevolence that drowns itself in alchohol and doesn't give a damn what's going on in the sober world, where the illusions of life killing intoxications have been deemed more important and meaningful than actual real life itself.

And by real life I don't mean some exotic "on the road experience", I mean the life that you lead when you walk out your door, and are not thinking about things in the media, but are instead interacting with your friends and family and doing your job whatever it is, without any sort of mediation. That's real life, and it's not hard to get to, people! But unfortunately as a whole we prefer to live in a realm of mirrors instead of admitting simple and easy truths.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Right and wrong in martyrs and political prisoners.

There are a few things in life that I think are pretty sure things; one of them is that if you take the chance you should deal with the consequences and not bitch about it.

There are four people I'd like you to consider, Rachel Corrie, the Giuliani kid from Italy, Leonard Peltier, and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Two of them I consider to be either honest people killed for no reason by authorities or wrongly imprisoned, two I consider not worth my time to talk about.

Take the Giuliani kid in Italy. He died. He was killed by military police. He started to throw a twenty pound fire extinguisher at the military police at close range, close being maybe two or three feet. They shot him and killed him.

In my opinion the Giuliani kid, if he didn't get what he deserved, certainly isn't a cause to cry injustice over. If someone was throwing a large fire extinguisher at my head and I had a gun I would definitely consider using lethal force against them in self defense. If you decide to play the confrontation game on that level, using potentially lethal force against police, then you shouldn't cry about what consequences you recieve in the exchange.

Rachel Corrie is another matter. She was a totally non-violent activist who was killed by Israeli forces, driven over by a house sized bulldozer, while standing in front of a Palestinian's home wearing extremely large highly colored reflective clothing and, if that wasn't enough to establish who she was, holding airplane guidance wands that ground crews use at airports to alert them to her presence.

And she was run over in cold blood, and the Israelis exhonerated her murderers.
She's someone who we can legitamately weep over.

Now on to the political prisoners.

First there is the ever colorful Mumia-Abu Jamal, also known as "The person with no conspiracy against him who has spun himself into being a major media star in the lefty press world". Mumia Abu-Jamal sits in prison right now for one reason and one reason alone: when he was accused of murdering a Philadelphia police officer, instead of mounting a defense, he chose to represent himself and then, instead of defending himself, launched into a defense of the MOVE group, which had had a major confrontation with police a month or so earlier.

I'm sorry, but stupidity doesn't equal a police conspiracy against you. Mumia Abu-Jamal was a non-entity in Philadelphia, driving a cab and writing the occasional editorial for a local paper, before he decided to become Mumia-Abu Jamal the franchaise. Fucking up your own defense doesn't entitle you to a new trial, and the law has to draw a line somewhere, so why not commute this fucker's sentence to something less than death and get his god damn lying ass off of the shelves of our bookstores.

Leonard Peltier is a different matter entirely. He was falsely accused of murdering federal agents during a prolonged, government started, siege against militant Native American activists on the Pine Ridge reservation of the Lakota nation in South Dakota. This was a conflict which actually meant something, namely the fight over Native self control of lands and self government, authentic self government, as well as a step towards some sort of restitution of Native rights and possesions in the United States.

And Peltier, as a militant member of the group under siege, was made to suffer because they couldn't pin the stuff on anyone else and needed to make an example out of someone. So now Peltier sits in Leavenworth prison under terrible conditions, the guards and prison authorities know who he is pretty damn well, with not much help or influence from the outside.

Oh, sorry, he only has one book out "My life is my sundance", unlike McMumia, so I suppose that his case doesn't matter as much.

He is an authentic American political prisoner, backwards and forwards, and we have no reason to regret giving him the help that he so urgently needs.

This is about real heroes and real martyrs against the frauds that capitalist society puts up.
Slight addendum: it turns out that Kessinger Publishing has NOT taken their books offline. Instead, they've just taken away the links from their home page to ebrary.com, where their online books are located. On the left is an Ebrary.com link, right above the Kessinger Link (you'll need the Kessinger link to find what you're looking for). To use Ebrary.com you need to download their reader, and then to set up an account with them using a credit card (because you need to have a minimum balance of $5.00 to start it up.). The money is there because if you want to print or copy the text of one of the pages of an ebrary.com book you need to pay them. Sorry, you can't select text and get around it. Actually, there's probably a way to do it, but I haven't found it, and I'm not actively looking for it currently....

So that's the scoop with getting your hands on a bunch of esoteric reprints having the secrets of Freemasonry, etc...., included in them.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Total, unfounded, speculation on the origin of European society.

Reading the works of George Dumezil one can hardly avoid noticing the paradox: on the one hand, Dumezil puts forward a very compelling argument that Indo-European society was once constructed according to a strict caste system of three levels:Priests, warriors/politicians, and farmers. On the other hand, Europe was the product of the migrations of tribal people with little self organization into the European penninsula over a course of a thousand years or so. His arguments that this conception of society were all pervasive and can be found reflected in myths and even worldviews of current Europeans are indeed very good. So where did Europeans get this tight conception of self and society a la Dumezil?

My thought is that the Indo-European people were originally a highly organized agricultural society which accomplished said organization in hostile terrain, possibly in a mountainous region. This would explain the need for social cohesion, because if a people is essentially fighting against the elements for survival obediance and social structure are more likely to take hold as cultural values, priestly opinions and ideas would hold more sway than in less centralized people's as well because the crops really would depend on having the gods on their side to succeed.

How do I know this? Because what I've outlined is a pattern that's already found in at least two people I'm aware of, with a third in the running as a possibility. The first two cultures which conform to this model are the Babylonians and Sumerians in the Middle East, who depended for their survival on the maintenance of a complex system of canal irrigation proceeding from the Tigris and Euphrates into very hostile terrain. The canals had to be regularly dredged and maintained, everything had to be ordered to a 'T', and consequentially the priests and the politicians created a very authoritarian religio-politico culture to rule over everything.

The second culture that exemplifies these features is the Inca of the Andes who, again, over seriously hostile terrain, this time mountains and not desert, cultivated a highly complex farming system which led to an autocratic state combined with priestly religious observance (as opposed to more folk based observance, or popular based religion). Witness the step system of farming for the organization part.

The third culture, which possibly fits in this mold, is that which evolved in Cambodia in the Angkor Wat temple complex, which, again, was made possible by a complex system of agricultural engineering and which turned into, well, a huge theocratic temple based state.

My idea is that somewhere, possibly in mountains north west of India, but I'm just guessing, the first Indo-Europeans evolved such a culture, but that for some reason it was destroyed and the Indo-Europeans were forced to become a migratory and more tribal people. They retained the memory of the autocratic, caste-ruled, state in their culture and when possible reasserted it wherever they drifted---for example in Iran and in India---but this was not always a possibility.

The people now known as Europeans, in this scheme, were Indo-Europeans who were not able to resettle in a reasonable period of time but who drifted as a migratory people long enough so that the basic moorings of culture and politics were lost but the ways of thinking, myths, and secondary social organization, persisted. Or, you could say, the primary social organization persisted as a secondary feature of social organization, the idea of tribe now overcoming the idea of caste.

And when European culture did become settled enough to start building society up again these migratory Indo-Europeans did so on a flawed basis, or a partial basis, with myths and ways of acting being preserved for which the purpose was not totally understood or known, thus giving rise to the idea of "Europe" as opposed to the "Orient", meaning Iran and India.
They preserved a way of thinking that went far beyond what a simple wandering tribe could come up with, yet didn't have the tradition needed in order to truly understand the philosophy behind it.....which probably looked something like Hinduism or Zoroastrianism.

Hence, we, some of us anyways, the descendents of a highly centralized agricultural society which was dispersed, turned tribal, and then resettled, have an ideology which is suspiciously detached from the natural world. The detachment stems from the belief that order stemming from Priestly and Warrior castes was essential for survival, as opposed to harmony with the natural world.

But no civilization starts out as a centralized agricultural society. Before the first Indo-Europeans started to construct their mountain society they were tribal just like the rest of society, living in harmony with the natural world and as free in their spirits as any nomad or hunter gatherer society you can name.

Our detachment from the natural world, then, isn't permament; we can still reclaim that state of tribal attachment to the land which existed prior to the centralization of society and the dispersement, back when we weren't Indo-Europeans but just a nameless collection of tribal people.

Of course I'm just bullshitting here with absolutely no evidence, so I may be wrong.

Why I don't fall in line with the flag, or, an expansion of the remarks below.

I'm partly of Italian-Polish descent; that was my father.

My father was the first person in his family to go to college. Before that they lived in a working class immigrant ghetto in one of the U.S.'s major cities.

I know all of the spiel about how great America is because even immigrants can get a college education and get a good job, lead a middle class life. I know that's the cheer of people who have done just that, and I'm not denigrating their achievement of lifting themselves out of the working class immigrant ghettos that they were born into, but the story isn't one of continual progress in a land of opportunity.

Prior to the 1960s it was next to impossible for people of Italian descent to penetrate American middle class life; if you were an Italian, and you lived outside of the odd place like northern New Jersey where things were different, the American dream was pretty much shut for you. Not only that but there was semi-official discrimination against Italians, and definite discrimination by Anglo americans in private life. There was no Italian presence in American public life until after the '60s. Before that the only Italians seen were the characters in gangster movies like "Little Caeser", a movie, by the way, where non-Italians were slathered with the Italian equivalent of black minstrel makeup to make them seem more 'Authentic'.

So, in this land of opportunity, two generations ago said opportunity would have been impossible because of discrimination against Italians. Italians and other Europeans were imported to this country to serve as scab labor in the mines and factories, which translated out into being the ones stuck with the wages that no native would take and living in conditions which no native would tolerate, and being isolated from society because of barriers in language and religion.

And when said immigrants wanted more, well, you can extrapolate back from the Sopranos to see what the likely response would have been.

It's ok to have Italians as plumbers, but god forbid if they want to become mayor, or president, or get a college degree and teach the liberal arts. The whole basis of society will crumble!

The presence of the Sopranos sort of says it all. You can make a show like the Sopranos about us, but we can't make a show laughing at WASPS about you. That's power.

And that's why I can't fall in line with the flag and with this unconditional praising to the heavens of the United States.

Once an NYUer, always an NYUer.

Although I didn't graduate from NYU, I guess that it's imprint is on me still.

Reflecting on NYUs place in the educational hierarchy of the United States, it comes out again and again that NYU creates the people who'll be the technicians of empire, as Ward Churchill might say, the little machievellis working in the background, doing the shit work, which makes the American empire hum....

It comes out of NYU being elite, but not Ivy league. NYU students are smart, but they don't have the connections or background to really put them in charge of things, so they become the beaurocrats of hell, so to speak...
I've been trying to think of a parallel to the stance or the relationship that most of mainstream American has with the propaganda put out by the Bush administration. You get the feeling that the point isn't what's being said but the way in which it's being said, a way full of such self assurance that it alienates anyone who has had a not-so-rosey time as a citizen of the United States.

I found it.

That parallel is the attitude of Nancy Reagan to drugs. And to the drug war.

Although after Reagan's presidency it came out that Nancy wasn't the nice pure good mother figure that she painted herself as,
during the Reagan administration's War on Drugs Nancy Reagan came off pretty strangely.

Here was someone who would get on TV telling people not to do drugs and about the dangers of drugs who appeared to have come from a social class and background in which she'd never have had contact with drugs in the first place, or with people who used drugs.

It came off as being a total lie engaged in for social purposes and not for what it presented itself as. The social purpose? To rally conservatives against supposedly decadent liberals and against the liberal ideology of the seventies and sixties. To participate in this little game you didn't have to actually know anything about drugs, just that they were associated with liberals, liberals were bad, and so publicly denouncing drugs and trumpeting the drug war gained you respect among the anti-liberal sections of the people of the United States.

No experience except an upper class WASP background required.

And, it should be noted, one of the most famous anti-drug commercials featured an obviously very Jewish father finding drugs in the kid's bedroom and shaking him, yelling, 'Where did you get this', 'Who did you learn this from?', with the kid saying, in the dramatic climax 'I learned it from watching you, dad.". The message couldn't be clearer: filthy Jew liberals are perverting our nation, and it's time that good old god fearing White People take the country back. The anti-semitism of that spot was so over the top that it could not be mistaken for anything but that.

It's much the same way with the 'War on Terror' and the general complex of lies and attitudes put out by the Bush administration. For the faithful, it's not so much that any of it corresponds to reality so much as it is a litmus test by which the sheep are seperated from the goats, in a personal and local manner.

In other words, the pro-Bush sentiment is a sieve for deciding who to discriminate against and who to praise.

And of course it's not just personal belief which leads to a thumbs down verdict by the doyens of government approved culture but coming from a section of American life where you're not exactly forthcoming in picturing the U.S. as a land of milk and honey in which there's no discrimination or lack of opportunities for certain ethnic and racial groups.

They get a thumbs down too.

Which leaves us with what may be the core group of Bush supporters: descendents of Anglo and Scottish settlers who live in rural environments which are totally homogenous, and in which nary a word of awareness for the multicultural identity of the U.S. or for the experience of those who have been other than on the top of the pack in U.S. history is spoken.

The Bush administration's cheering chorus is made up of some of the most glaringly, obscenely, privelged individuals, and is an insulting indulgence to a way of life and thought which should have ended long ago.

Hey, I didn't know how whitebread and Anglo the United States was capable of getting before this thing happened, so at least it's benefitted me by showing me how deep and nastily ethnocentric Anglo Americans are capable of getting when it suits them.
So I guess I can consider myself warned for the next time these "Average Americans" decide that they really don't like people other than themselves and go on the offensive.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Clarifying what was said below, if Jesus was only important because he led people to an inner understanding of the world beyond the apparant world, and because in the end times he would come back and usher in a golden ages, AND because he gave a code of personal morality, then why in the world are the Apostles arguing with communities over practical issues of ethics and social behavior which don't need inner revelation to be appreciated?

Obviously they cared about establishing a Christian way of life in the here and now, not totally believing that "render unto ceaser" was the whole story or even the way the story should have been interpreted.

Without a belief in the idea that Christ's messiahship had immediate ramifacations for social and political behavior and thought much of the ethical discussion by the Apostles has no meaning.

But hey, those god fearing Christians in Alabama overwhelmingly rejected a measure which would apply Christian ethics to tax justice.
You can't please everyone, I guess.

So it's back to the revivalist preachers dangling the opportunity for spiritual ecstacy and communion with Jesus as the thrill of the week and away from measures which would be authentically Christian as every Christian group up to the radical phase of the Reformation recognized it.

Oh well.

Maybe it's because, for my own purposes, I'm reading a lot about authentic Jewish mysticism, but this whole Christianity thing has sort of gotten to me. Not Christianity in general but the conception that some Protestant christians like the Baptists have about Jesus.
In particular, the idea that if Jesus was authentic that he was born, lived, and died, solely for the personal benefit of someone living two thousand years later, and that between an entirely personal experience and the end times there isn't anything else of value.

That's not how Christians, Orthodox and Catholic, see it. Instead, they take a more traditional view that Jesus as mesiah transformed the Jewish law, and gave another law, which is applicable right now to everyone, and that the personal redemption isn't the be all and end all of Jesus' mission. Because the redemption by Jesus is first non-personal and universal, then manifesting on a personal level afterwords. A person can be saved by Christ but that's only because Christ came and redeemed the world as a whole by virtue of being the Messiah in the first place.

What's more, the End Times are largely irrelevant to this conception of things, since Jesus's immediate mission on earth is considered to have been accomplished. Jesus didn't come to earth and die just so that he could innaugurate the end times, which figures in the background of all middle eastern religious thought. His mission was immediate and relevant to the here and now.

This is why the Catholic and Orthodox churches have considered it not a problem to come up with ideas about what a Christian society looks like and what would have to be instituted to make society Christian---they're acting on the understanding that the transformation of the Law by Christ is valid from now till the end, and that, while stressing the need for personal redemption, quite a bit can be done to make life on earth more like that of the kingdom of heaven.

That's it for now.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I have a question....

And I don't mean to be insulting but, well, that's just the way it is.

My question is this: if, with a sitting president with no charisma and no command of the english language, we still feel impotent to demonstrate against him and his administration, impotent to demand that Congress look into impeachment, what in the world would happen if someone with great charisma, intelligence, eloquence, and 'vision' sought to occupy the same place that Bush occupies and do the same, if not worse, level of harm to the world?

Right now we have a president who'se one braincell shy of being a drooling idiot and we're afraid to question his character? What in the world has this little pipsqueak got on us that we somehow feel cowed by him?

Just think if a real con artist sought to be dictator. You know, being stunned into silence in fear from this guy looks pretty damn bad when you think that in other countries, like Uzbekistan for instance, opponents of the regime actually have to fear being boiled alive as punishment for their dissent.

So if you're afraid to protest Bush you might as well hand the keys of the castle over to any aspiring Mussolini or Hitler who might be waiting in the wings for his moment to burst on the scene.

Buy Tom Tommorrow's Book.

I did, and it was worth the money.
Seriously, this posting is a sort of independent tandem post to Mr. Tomorrow's recent post. It's a really good book, and, unlike books that just chronicle the strips of a given era is instead a choice selection of the funniest things from across the years. And yes, it does have a color section with colors so bright that your eyes may bleed. They really are vivid, no joke. Go to Tom Tommorow's (how the fuck do you spell that?) site at This Modern World and buy it through his links. Do it. Now.

You will notice a new link on the side there, namely Arundel Books....Arundel Books is a high class used book seller based in Seattle, with another store in L.A., I believe.

I put it here because Arundel in Seattle won my little contest: when I was in the Pacific Northwest for a week, oh, about a month ago, one of my informal missions was to scour the used book (and new book) stores of Washington and Oregon looking for a selection of writings by Blaise Cendrars, the awesome French bohemian poet and writer.

You see, I could have ordered it; I could have always ordered books like this; but that wasn't the point. I wanted to find a bookstore which, because of it's innate hipness and coolness, and attention to literature, would stock such a book just as a matter of course.

I didn't have much luck; what I found was that many bookstores stocked extremely expensive and very short trashy novels by Cendrars, which wasn't what I was after, but didn't stock any of his poetry. Powells did stock literally a poem by him in addition to the trash, but that was it. And I looked in some mighty fine book stores.

But, as these things always happen, the last book store I looked at, on my last day in the North West, Arundel, right there by Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, stocked the selected writings of Blaise Cendrars, with introduction by Henry Miller, from New Directions Paperbacks, for a sum which, in terms of the used book market, was the equivalent of a king's ransom.

So Arundel won my little game, and I'm putting a link to their online store in my link's box.

So goes life.

Oh, and, unfortunately, Kessinger Publishing, which reprints things that are out of copyright, is being a dick by taking off the browse books feature on their website.

For a time at least it allowed people to read valuable, rare, and hopelessly out of print books, for free. But I suppose Kessinger would rather you pay their exhorbitant prices for the privelege of reading books that they don't have any rights to anyways.

And so, unfortunately, the mysteries of Freemasonry have returned to where they've always been: in the purview of the wealthy.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

The origins of the present crisis in the end of World War Two.

In looking at both the inconsistancies of sixties and seventies politics, for example the curious unawareness by the political activists in the United States about issues like Labor which would normally have been a staple for activism, and the noncomprehension of the world outside of the U.S. that we now face in the United States at this moment I see the origin in the way that World War II was won.

It's not that World War Two was not a triumph over a genocidal regime, but rather that when the United States and Russia won World War II they both very consciously behaved as conquering forces in Europe, each rewriting the history of the war and the ramifications of the Allies winning it to suit their own ideologies and biases. So in the United States World War II and the world order that flowed out of it are thought of as consisting of nothing but the U.S. going into Europe, liberating Europe from tyranny, imposing democracy, and generally saving the day and setting the stage for a democratic future, if only the Russians weren't there. I don't know exactly how it was thought of in Russia.

But in the U.S. almost no attention is payed to the indigenous actors in Europe during WWII, or the fact that the war had been going on for several years before we became involved.

So what really happened? Well, that's not what concerns this essay, what the concern of this essay is is how the winning and the power to set up a new world structure blinded people in the United States during the height of the cold war to the realities of their own society, thereby distorting politics, and how the end of the cold war, with the Soviet Union going away in a way which didn't fit the script the U.S. set up for it distorted politics as well and combined with the previous distortion to give us the culture wars and our current insularity and general insanity when it comes to international affairs.

The first distortion stems from the start, the other from the end. The ending distortion, which flowed from the Soviet Union not falling like conservatives preached that it would, invalidated not only conservative thought but the whole world order and ideology which the United States had constructed abroad and had instituted internally during the Cold War.

The first distortion, which culminated in liberals being out of touch with many of the concerns of ordinary americans, is the lesser because the liberal elitism which it produced is more able to adjust to the changing reality brought on by the end of the cold war than is the mentality of the bad ending which the end of the cold war produced among conservatives.

But both are important, if for no other reason than that as long as liberalism and radicalism produced during the cold war years predominated in American political culture real radicalism didn't have a chance at asserting itself. Hence, surprise surprise, the first real assertion of radicalism in the United States in over two decades, the anti-Globalization movement, happened well after the Berlin Wall fell.

In fact, in the United States, based on my own experience and on my personal observations, one can chart the rise of the anti-globalization movement by pegging the date of birth a person would have to have been born by in order to have lived a significant part of their life, and had a large part of their adolescence after the fall of the Berlin Wall in '89 and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in '92.

In other words, the reason, or one of the big reasons, why the anti-globalization movement started in the U.S. when it did was because people were coming into self awareness in a world where the old paradigm of cold war liberalism could no longer apply because the institutions that it was based on had ceased to exist. Which gives one an idea about the power of cold war liberalism in the U.S. over the direction of leftist activism.

But back to the major point.

What exactly happened at the end of World War II which ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and which produced the world we live in today?

Internally exclusive answers, i.e. those that don't frame the question in anything but terms framed exclusively by the thought of the victors thinking about themselves, or commenting on themselves, are totally inadmissable.

Which means that there needs to be a different framework to analyze all this by.

I would suggest that said framework could be this: that the win of the United States and the Soviet Union, with the concomittant push towards hegemony and national self adulation embarked on by both, was the assertion that colonized, non-originally European, states had as much power and meant as much as the original European states.

To explain myself we have to backtrack in history and look at a paralell that's not often brought up: namely, that the settling of the United States and the expansion of Russia from the edge of Eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean progressed in a paralell manner. The Russians were the fringe of Europe, and to expand their empire they looked east and self consciously seperated themselves from European society, just as the United States, in it's drive to expand it's empire, looked West and self consciously seperated itself from European society.

The paralells run deep; anyone wanting to see evidence of it need only compare the work of the modern short story writer Rasputin, not the infamous religious figure at the Tsar's court but a Siberian author, with the works of the frontier authors of the American West. Rasputin's picture of Siberian pioneer society, especially his comments on how working with the land and living in Siberia changes one and how it served as a focus for the romantic urges of Russian society, could be paired up word for word with the frontier travelogues of the American West.

Slavophilism, the doctrine that the Slavs who inhabit Russia were never really incorporated into European society, and that this is a good thing and that the Russians should seek to keep it this way and enhance it, could be a sister faith of Americanism, which says the same thing about English peasants and later the rest of Europe fleeing from the decadence and inequality of European society and establishing a pure state on these shores.

With Europe killing itself in an internal fight, the colonies, or, I should say, the colonies who had achieved considerable independence in the modern age from Europe (which would exclude much of South America), asserted themselves, asserted and demanded to be taken as equals or superiors.

However, during the Cold War itself the United States and Russia took different frontiersman roles in their foreign policy: we became the conservative bulwark of Western Society against third world colonial emancipation; we gave support to European colonialism when they needed it, and reinforced our presumed role by asserting our own, purified, conception of European democracy onto the colonial world when we could, and when it suited us. We were the assimilationists.

If we were the conservative 'Good Guys' of European culture, the Soviet Union was the self proffessed 'Bad Guy' of the frontier: namely the frontiersman who goes native and starts agitating against his home culture.

The Soviet Union didn't play on it's differences from Europe in order to say it did Europe one better, it tried to incorporate some of the Asiatic influences in Russian and the greater Union culture into itself in order to say to the colonial world "We're not really part of Europe, we're for you liberating yourselves and governing yourselves the way you want". They even had an Asiatic president, Stalin, to round things out.

But of course things were never as simple as that; with all of the Soviet Union's anti-European and anti-Western overtures was an undertone of Europe still asserting itself, albeit in a less overt manner. No one can doubt that the states which adopted the Soviet Union's rhetoric eventually became Europeanized, albeit sometimes to a lesser degree, just as those states which adopted the U.S.'s advice became little Americas.

The ending of the Soviet Union spelled the end for European paternalism in the Third World. Hence the anti-globalization movement in the third world has been suspiciously absent of Communist rhetoric or ideas.

As with all bad villains though, the end of the Soviet Union didn't come as cleanly or as triumphantly as the United States had wanted. For once, the cold war logics that the United States had indoctrinated it's citizens with came to an objective test of truth: and it failed.

It failed because in the end the United States is not a purified Europe, better and improved, but a colonial outpost sharing quite a few features with other colonial countries in the hemisphere.

And it failed most of all because it's assertion had been from the start based on pure brute force and no actual principle of government, law, or political theory.

So where does this leave us? Well it leaves us in the lurch of being told we're an empire for forty years and now not being one, with no explanation forthcoming from those in power. In other words, the end of the Cold War has produced a cultural lag which the United States has not prepared at all for. The current world situation and the conception of the current world situation within the United States couldn't be more different, and the Cold War is to blame.

What's the reality of the situation, though? The reality, as I see it, is that now, instead of having a Europe which is the superior homeland to a host of colonies on the west of her and on the east we have a sort of commonwealth between ex-colonial powers like the United States, the states of South America, Russia, and the Eastern terrirtories of Russia, and Europe itself as a sort of Unified Western cultural bloc. It shouldn't go any further than this in terms of expansion, and serious thought should be given to coming to terms with the colonial people and the legacies of colonialism, for example slavery, which European exapansion subjugated and created.

A Western commonwealth, maybe the United States, Brazil, the European Union, and the Russian Confederation, with the states of South America and Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) somehow fitting in there? But self contained, yet open to other cultural influences.

That's what I see the current world situation as in reality. There are other cultural blocs which we share this planet with, and we're going to have to learn how to share power and be more of an equal human family than we have in the past, but this is generally how I see it.

Where does this leave the push of the Bush administration and those Americans who don't want to come to terms with the end of the cold war revealing themselves to have had no honor or prestige from the activities that the United States engaged in during the cold war?

Facing a brick wall, I'm afraid, one which they'll have to scale to escape; trying to go through it would kill us all.

Like I said, though, the people who were part of the liberal sub-culture which was blind to the plight of workers in the cold war era stand a better chance of adjusting and charting a sane trajectory than do the conservatives. The reason? Although they might have been wrong about how society as a whole existed, they weren't wrong about the basic values and political beliefs which should constitute a decent society. They can adapt to the new reality. The conservatives of the cold war and particularly of the Reagan years have no such grace to give them the flexability to move on. Their worldview is based on a rigid conception of American power and rightness. They're not able to abstract to political institutions in general, and this will be their undoing.

The paradox of American political life.

As readers of this blog undoubtedly know, on some issues, although I have a ton of leftist links lined up over there at the side, I have some conservative views. Or rather, some of the philosophical aspects of conservatism appeal to me.

I'm still a man of the left, of course.

But over here in the U.S. having some conservative views leads to some tradition breaking stances. One of the favourite sports of English and some continental conservatives has been taking apart leftists and criticizing them for supposed flaws in their character. It started with Burke, if not before, and it continues to today. Here in America, however, the far left, especially the far-far-left, the hardcore anarchist left, is probably the most open section of society in terms of discussion in the U.S. as a whole.

I don't make that claim lightly. In the hardcore anarchist left there's more freedom of discussion and intellectual creativity going on than anywhere else, as far as I can see, and being a member of it and participating in it has been a great joy. So, I'm not about to criticize my comrades, friends, and co-conspirators.

Instead, paradoxically, the people I criticize, the ones that fit the bill that European conservatives have stuck on the left, is the mainstream of America, the so-called 'typical americans', the very people that conservatives have said stick to real values while the elites go off the deep end.

Or maybe not 'typical americans' exactly, because working class people aren't easily pigeonholed, but 'middle class' americans. That's a better label.

It's not the working class that has the problem, it's middle class America: the America that's bought into the American myth hook line and sinker.

While I can discuss anything, ANYTHING, with people on the hardcore anarchist left, I utter a syllable that seems out of place and the middle class folks around me get suspicious and/or angry.
And I'm talking about ideas here, not things that in a sane society people would think there was a damn thing wrong with.

So that's the paradox of having some conesrvative views in America. The ablest defenders are the libertarian left while the worst aggressors are typical middle class middle america people.

It shows a lot about the truth of the anti-globalization left's claim to come out of a libertarian perspective that this is so.

And it probably will stay that way since we, collectively, are one of the only actual social movement to come out of the nineties that has any sort of actual power to stay on and effect change for the better.

My heart is with my comrades, who're living as messed up, marginal, edge hanging onto lives as myself and in spite of it all thinking about politics and history in a critical and imaginative way.


Saturday, September 13, 2003

Why the Classics are important.

Here, today, in the West, actually in the U.S.---the far West---we're pretty proud of ourselves. We don't have a 'culture' per se because 'culture' implies something limited and relative; instead, we have science, and we have scientific answers for questions like "What is Love?" or "Why do people get married?". Explanations like those are based on fact---real fact---from the outside world, which can be independently verified, unlike mere feeling or thought. Because our society is based on science and therefore on fact we can't have 'culture'. Instead, what we have is the 'truth', and the Truth isn't limited to a Western worldview, if such a thing even exists.

U.S. society today, left, right, and undecided, is ruled by the big four: modern scientific industrial capitalism. Modern in this case means more of a general cultural sense combining the four into something comprehensive more than anything in itself.

So you have science, industrialism, and capitalism, melded into a point of view which is presented as containing the truth by the spirit of modernism, which seeks to bring culture up to speed with the rest of society,discarding any pieces which don't fit in the process.

And what do we have as a consequence? We have an ecological disaster, we have wars going against people purely for financial gain, we have a good portion of the globe enslaved by the other portion, we even have forces wanting to do the same in the country which largely benefits from such enslavement. Culture wise we have a total vaccuum. Nothing matters, because to matter, to really matter, would be to matter beyond the realm of scientific fact; and that realm has been so depleted that today people don't ask things like "What is beauty?" because ideas like beauty have taken such a beating from neurologists, biologists, and evolutionary theorists, that people are afraid to ask it in the abstract.

Content, goodness, badness, all of this can be reduced to science, consequently, there's no reason to really think about it at all.

None of this, of course, is due to any sort of Western Culture---after all we ARE the objective people and so therefore the producers of a truly universal culture. It's just how it is. Or so we think.

We've been called the "People without a History", but beneath the veneer lie cultural and social conceptions which aren't universal but are what makes the West the West and what makes us different from Asia and Africa and Native America.

I believe that the idea of an objective, Universal, worldview, has done more damage to this planet than most anything before it. If we could find the limited, relative parts of our culture which make us what we are----no better than other cultures, just different and non-universal---we would not fixate so much on the modern scientific industrial capitalist worldview. Or support the world order which comes from it.

I think, moreover, that if we really examine our culture, we'll find that the most valuable and important things are those which are intangible----but which we would usually assume to be the products of a modern, industrialized world.

We do praise authors and playrights, and sometimes thinkers, but we assume that all of it's somehow linked to progress....take away that and we're back to working with stones in caves, or so we think.

But the Classics, by which I mean the Roman and Greek writers, and the world from which they came, put the lie to both of these fallacies---1)that we don't have a culture and 2)that if we do have a culture modernity and industrial progress is resonsable for it.

When a person reads works by Roman and Greek authors they're introduced to a culture which parallels ours in many ways: they have the same basic setup, they have religion, law, politics, government, plays, poetry, tales, speeches...all of which we can relate to our own day. Yet it's the same but in a significant way different. It's like viewing our own world through a distorted lens, and, moreover, we can't explain the difference by using economic arguments---which would invoke progress---because the Classical world sprang from a totally different source than modern capitalism, yet achieved the same or greater sophistication in politics, philosophy, and the arts. It can't be fit into a scheme of economic progression, unless you want to argue that the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome were objectively better than Rome at the height of it's power.

And they were pre-industrial civilizations which had none of our modern science or technology, even though they did have their own science and technology, which were sort of philosophical.

So, the poor Romans and Greeks, without even electric light, were able to compose some of the most stunning poetry and prose that the Western world has ever seen.

With material concerns shot down as the source of the difference in the distorting lens, what's left is the idea that their culture is different from our own because we too are culture bound, even if we don't realize it, and that culture has values and ideals just as strong as the Classical world.

What clinches it is the paralell of meaning between the Classical world and ours: we can understand and fit into our own world what the Greeks and Romans were trying to say. What does this mean? That the Greeks and Romans were onto our scientific culture two thousand years before? I doubt it. I think that they show the lie to the idea that what's billed a scientific explanation or a modern way of thinking about things really has anything to do with that at all.

By appreciating the Classics we gain a sense of our own limitations. By appreciating the Classics we get a sense of what really makes a culture, and what doesn't. By appreciating the Classics we can see that we don't need modern industrial capitalism to have a fulfilling civilization.

By appreciating the Classics, hopefully we'll pull back from the course of destruction we're on right now and get back to something stable and non-exploitative.

How self publishing, self education, and self-anything works.

In relation to the below post, I have to comment that what usually happens, and what's happened with me, with people who decide to go it alone and to strike out and do something in a new and indpendent way, is that eventually you get more professional.

It's miles away from selling out, but the person who starts out with a band doing things independent, mixing it independently, selling it independently, not being defined by cliques either, sometimes turns into a real musician who knows a great deal about music itself and about the techniques of recording, as well as promotion etc...

What it is is the natural process of becoming serious about something: you find out that a lot of the structure that you're rebelling against isn't either good or bad but is just something which is hung onto the parts which ARE bad, and so.....increasing skill level equals increased professionalization.

The thing that keeps the mainstream mainstream and the independent sector small and poor is, besides the huge amount of money they have, the fact that if you go the straight way not only will you have money to work with but you'll also get a somewhat decent education in whatever you want to learn. Albeit a biased one, but if you're signing onto the mainstream in this way then that should be no problem, c'nes pas?

But knowing your stuff isn't the same as selling out to the people who dangle a decent education on their trinket bracelet along with the wages of buying into the capitalist system.

So daring bloggers become more like their professional counterparts because, hold your breath, it actually makes more sense to write something with the level of standards that big companies hold, if not actually going beyond those standards and into something better, than simply venting one's subconscious and ego onto an electronic page does.

Which should be a warning to those who think that simply spewing it out and thinking that you'll get anywhere by staying at that level is a viable strategy. It doesn't work with punk rock, it won't work with blogging.

Development, self development, is the key to better writing.

Maybe all of this instant blog analysis that's based on nothing is due to the fact that stories in Newspapers don't have bibliographies, meaning that, presumably, there isn't any fact checking going on.

This is not the case. Newspapers DO require the equivalent of a bibliography on every single story they print, but they just don't print all the citations from sources in their pages. If you call the paper, though, and ask about the sources for a story in order to verify it, they'll be more than happy to comply in most cases.

There's no free ride people, not even if the media itself is grandly corrupt.


Note: here's a good reason why blogs shouldn't be taken as good sources, only as interesting editorial. As I was writing the Blog below it flashed in my mind how many times I was implicitly citing columns by people which I obtained through the 'net but no longer have, if I ever copied them at all for myself, or relied on my memory of what the controversies were, as well as the time lines, surrounding some of the big events described below.

I would be embarassed to turn something like what I wrote below in as a piece of actual research to any teacher.

And without real sources, listed in the concrete and not just vaguely recalled from memory, arguments like the below aren't really worth a damn if you're using anything other than the standardless "editorial" standard for evaluating it.

My more philosophical pieces are less prone to that, but that's because they're a hell of a lot less speculative, But there too, I don't include a bibliography or footnotes, I don't cite sources, so even though I myself may be able to go back, look over those posts, and say "Aha! That's where I got that from, and this is where I got that from" and turn them into source for a real objective essay, as they are now they don't meet that standard by a country mile.

Which doesn't mean that they aren't interesting or that they don't have something good to say, I hope, but just that in the world of blogging we're not dealing with 'Truth' so much as we're dealing with, at best, informed opinion.

Twas going to say "Blogging will be light today" because I've just discovered that Kraftwerk has released a new album, which I've procured, but, as these things go, thinking about putting an explanation up for why there won't be that much blogging has caused me to think of a few things which should go up on the blog.

The first, and I suppose the most relevant, of these is a recap of some of the differences between the Clinton years and the Bush ones. No, not another boring litany. People have already pilloried the Republicans in Congress for getting after Clinton over minor things while ignoring the big whopping crimes and inconsistancies of the Bush administration, but it's important to realize that the influence of the Republican Shouters and Screamers went way beyond that.

In particular, while Clinton was being condemned as being a murdering rapist, the Right was just as loudly proclaiming that they should be able to do anything they wanted, with almost no limit on what would be acceptable, with absolutely no government interference. And the Clinton administration accomodated them, in fact accomodated them more than they should've.

What were the results of this? Well, Elian Gonzales springs to mind. Here was a kid who was taken on a surreptitious trip to the U.S. from Cuba, without the father's permission, who didn't understand what exactly was happening to him, who nonetheless was permitted to stay with relatives in Miami who he hadn't even met because of the hooting and hollering of the Republican party for people to be able to exercise their sovereign rights, no matter how outlandish or out of place such exercise might have been.

That the Clinton administration tolerated the shennanigans of the Miami relatives for months and didn't actually act against them until every single possible legal and extra-legal (Church, personal appeal) channel had been exhausted says a lot about the supposed jack-boot nature of the government of those times.

Now if you protest too close to the President you can be arrested and stuck with a four digit fine.

Another example of the influence of Republicans in getting the administration to tolerate even the most outlandish and illegal acts---as long as they're committed by Right wing extremists---is Waco.

I don't believe that the actions that the government took which led to the deaths of the women and children in the Waco compound were right. I don't believe that it should have ended that way, and I'd be surprised if there were many people out there who actually did believe that. But the fact is that this guy had built a huge compound, filled it with tons of weapons, legal and illegal, was preparing for the final battle at armageddon, and, to top it off, was having commanding his followers to let him have sex with their underage, sometimes extremely underage, daughters.

If David Koresh had been a leftist he'd have been dead two seconds after the story broke, or came to the attention of the authorities. But because he was a man of god, and was doing this outside of a small city in north central Texas, he got a free ride; until the government came with search warrants.

By contrast, mild mannered college professors who happen to oppose War in Iraq and who happened to have signed a petition which ended up in a full page add in the New York Times, were taken one by one and slandered on right wing websites for their supposed deviant behavior and backgrounds (which supposedly led them to sign the petition).

So.......Right wing religious fanatic who builds a compound preparing for armageddon, stocks it with tons of guns and weapons, including illegal ones, and forces underage girls to have sex with him is OK, and a martyr, but college professors signing a petition against war in Iraq are deviants with histories of anti-american behavior.

Funny how these things go.

The last example of the hypocracy of the Right in the nineties in terms of hollering for right wing extremists to be able to do anything they want unmolested that I'm going to put forward is the Oklahoma City bombing.

Timothy McVeigh and company didn't come out of a vacuum; he was a denizen of the militia and white supremacist undergrounds for a long time before he helped commit the Oklahoma city bombing. The same militia undergrounds which vociferously campaigned for the police not to do a damn thing about people with extremist ideologies arming themselves and actually PRACTICING PARAMILITARY MANEAUVERS at paint ball ranges and the like.
So, a year or so after the militia story hits, Oklahoma City happens.

And interestingly enough, if you compare the reaction of the administration to Oklahoma city and that of the current one to 9/11 you see some real differences.

For starters, only Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were charged with the crime, despite evidence galore that they were only a part of a larger network which assembled the bomb and planned and carried out the whole thing. And Terry Nichols wasn't convicted.

After 9/11 a dragnet swooped down on this country arresting Muslim men all over on suspicion of having something to do with the World Trade Center disaster. Not only that, but after we went into Afghanistan to ferret out the people who committed the crime, we arrested a few thousand people and shipped them back to Guantanamo bay in Cuba, without charging any of them with a crime, and now we're prepared to hold them indefinitely.

Additionally, that kid who happened to be an American Citizen who supported the Taliban and lived in Afghanistan? He wasn't involved in 9/11 and in fact requested not to fight in areas where he would have faced Americans, according to reports, but he now faces life in prison for being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Putting the legality or rightness of the invasion of Afghanistan aside for the moment, it seems pretty damn inconsistant the way that the Clinton administration treated the people involved in Oklahoma city and those thought, or suspected, to be in some back way associated with people who might have had something to do with people who committed 9/11.

I didn't hear much of a cry for Timothy McVeigh to be put into a concentration camp in Cuba, you know. I don't hear much of a cry for Eric Rudolph to be put into one either, now that he's been 'captured'......meaning the people hiding him agreed to give him over to the authorities.

And he bombed the Olympics.

The population of Decker Michigan was not arrested en-masse. Neither was that of Snowmer, which is pretty near, for all of you Michigan buffs.

But, oh, yeah, they're white, and they're Right wing Christians, and they don't dress differently from the rest of society.....and to say anything otherwise is to infringe on their constitutional rights.

So, to recap, during the Clinton years, when we were supposedly under the rule of a murdering rapist, the Right wing agitated for the administration not to do a damn thing about right wing extremists who did things that went up to and over acts of Terrorism, and the Clinton administration showed a hell of a lot of restraint by toning their investigations down, especially after the tradgedy at Waco. During the Bush years the state is cracking down on anyone (non rightwing christian) who is suspected of having some abstract connection to terrorists, throwing them in jail without charges, putting them on no-fly lists, putting them into concentration camps at foreign military bases, and, when the left protests that they're going to far lashing out at them as being traitors, and the Right thinks that this is just fine.

Consistancy, damn it, consistancy, like, let's start with 2+2=4; when we've gotten past 2+2=5 then maybe we can go on to bigger things like human rights and moral obligations.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Following on the heels of that last post, and, oh, that's the flag of Bahia state in Brasil, by the way, I have to say that the role of a public intellectual only makes sense on the predicate of the equality of all people.

I think that may have something to do with why there isn't an intellectual culture in the United States. In the U.S., everyone is competing against each other, intellectuals and cultural literatti alike, so that no one wants to give respect to an author or a musician purely for their contributions or creations, because doing so would effectively acknowledge that they've won and you've lost.

But it isn't a game like that. Nonetheless that's how people see it in the U.S., an eternal competition, so intense that it doesn't matter if the person to be feted is an intellectual with absolutely nothing to do with what the rest of society is up to, the question comes back to "Why should we acknowledge this joker?" well....as happened in the past, he, oh let's take Arthur Miller for example, is acknowledged to be one of the greats of American and maybe twentieth century drama. But that isn't enough. So things like that are voted down.

In Europe, well, you see I think that Chomsky has somewhat of a wrong impression about this: he's of the opinion that the predominance of intellectuals in European life comes from the history of inequality in Europe.

I think otherwise. I think that in Europe this basic notion of personal competition with everyone else has been overcome substantially, and that intellectuals are recognized because giving them recognition doesn't take away a person's ability to get into school or to get a decent paying job.

With the social needs covered in large part, the threat of intellectuals dominating unreasonably in a world based on competition is undermined.

I mean, look at what I'm saying: if people are educated and have decent lifes all up and down the social spectrum, what does it matter if there's a university professor, or a writer,out there, who has opinions on world events? It doesn't matter in the personal sense of "He's taking food out of my mouth", but it might matter in the "Let's see what he has to say" sense.

That's what we don't have in America. It's never "Let's see what he has to say", it's always, "Let's see what flaws we can find so we can tear him down, because he has no right to get up there and act important".

Witness the flap over Michael Moore taking a few minutes, while we were on the brink of war with Iraq, to condemn President Bush, while, I might add accepting an academy award for a documentary that already blasted the Bush administration, among other parts of American life.

People, even progressive people, said things like "He came off as being self-centered", or that it was inappropriate.

Mainly, it was "How did he dare do something like that?", with the subtext----he's just a working class documentary maker from Flint, Michigan.

How does he dare? How about what did he have to say? But that didn't even get mentioned.

The proto-Coulters of the world out there seized on their own sense of threatened ego and went after him.

If some equality in society and between individuals---which went beyond "We're all equal to compete together, he he he"---were present in American life we'd have gotten onto more important, better,issues, long ago.