Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ain't no asshole like an Olympia asshole

That should be axiomatic. This in particular refers to someone who, not so slyly, referred to me as being a member of the "Entitlement Generation", something which he read about a few days before in the Seattle P.I. Yeah, I really see myself as entitled to a lot. Although I usually disagree with the concept(1), in this case I think that the remark fits the speaker a lot better than it does the spoken of. After all, I'm not a native here, I'm 2000 miles away from where I grew up; I came here knowing not a single person, and no one's given me any breaks either. So, of course I think I have more 'entitlement' than a person who has lived here their whole life and knows virtually everyone, right? There's this strange inferiority complex people who are natives around here have which makes them think that people with a hell of a lot of disadvantages compared to them actually have more power than they do. It's not true. Maybe this attitude was developed hanging out with a bunch of union bureaucrats, I don't know...

The point is, in terms of entitlement, I can't even ask for anything here, much less get it, so how dare you accuse me of thinking that I'm entitled to everything. Wouldn't that label fit the person who just because of their birth has all the advantages of home here? They're born here so they think they're the final arbitrators on everything. Fuck off.

1. The concept that when a person says something about another person that they're really talking about themselves is one which I think is due more to psychologist's thirst to minimize real and valid social conflict than anything which really exists in the outside world. Psychology has encouraged people to self flagellate themselves over things which legitimately they have no responsability for, because part of mainstream psychology's job is to integrate people into mainstream society; the mainstream society which they want to integrate people into is conservative when it comes to social problems, so any conflict they bring up is downplayed and reduced to really being about them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

More on Class consciousness

To clarify the below post, it's not so much that class consciousness isn't a good thing as it's a concept which isn't sufficient to order a society by. Neither, in my opinion, is it sufficient alone to order a movement by. There are more aspects of life, normal life not some extraordinary thing, than what class consciousness describes and by elevating a concept which is a part of life to the total you thereby set yourself up for either dishonesty, because people recogize there's more than just class consciousness and they pretend that that's all there is for their own benefit, or for a resurgence of other biases which are related and which class consciousness pretends don't exist. These tend to be nationalistic tendencies, racist tendencies, tendencies which are hostile to particular religions. These come under the label 'class consciousness', because there's nothing to prevent them from doing so. The idea that workers will suddenly find their primary identity in industrial work and in their union and forget about the other aspects of life which they participate in is a fantasy, and a dangerous one at that.

Time after time has proven that this is not the case and that, in fact, the most militant class conscious workers also shift with ease, if nothing else is added to the program, from class issues to race issues to nationalist issues. France, where the anarcho-syndicalist idea was first born provides a great example of how this works; the workers who were in the French anarcho-syndicalist unions, a substantial part of them at least, first supported France in the First World War and then lent their support to French Fascism.

It's conveniant to focus on the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists because they were fighting the fascists but that's not the whole story.

The Italian anarcho-syndicalists also supported fascism. Mussolini was part of them. People talk about the 'corporate state' an awful lot because there's the linguistic link between corporate and corporation, but what's less known is that within the corporate state industries would be structured along the lines of 'syndics', basically the anarcho-syndicalist model of how the economy was supposed to work after the workers seized power. There were ten syndics which covered all the sectors of the economy and the syndics sent representatives to parliament, a sort of alternative to representative democracy which the anarcho-syndicalists had proposed.

Not only that but in Russia itself the Bolsheviks, using the concept of class consciousness in all their propaganda, in fact encouraged, as part of that, Russian nationalism. They in many cases made peace with the ultra rightwing terror squads, the Black Hundreds, and incorporated their members into the Bolshevik party; on top of that, in practice the commencing of the revolution made the traditional targets of repression by the people in the countryside much more vulnerable. Mikhail Agursky, in his book about nationalistic bolshevism, documents that the revolution came in the provinces with pogroms against Jews, who were identified by the countryfolk as being the upper class, and that this was in fact sanctioned by the Bolshevik government, despite the often noted presence of many people of Jewish descent in the government. Agursky argues that the Jews in the Bolshevik government were culturally Russian.

This was the consequence of class consciousness in the Russian Revolution, an intensification of the same persecutions which had gone on for a century or more at the hands of rightwing Russians, justified now by a nationalism which was grafted onto class consciousness. I would argue that it happened because these things filled the void which class consciousness alone left.

It happened in Germany too. In his book "Germany's third empire", Dritte Reich, which is more properly translated as "The Third Reich", a book published well before Hitler assumed power, the fascist theorist Arthur Moeller van den Bruck argued that the proletariat in Germany was swifitly becoming nationalistic, that nationalism was the natural consequence of their being organized by class, and that this nationalistic working class would form the basis of a National Revolution which would transform German society and usher in the Third Reich, which was conceived of as an idealistic concept before it was put into action by the Nazis.

The earliest critiques of Marx by fellow German socialists consisted of this: that what Marx was encouraging was for the working class to nurse its own prejudices, that Marx' program actually turned bigotry and low level chauvanism into a virtue, and that any revolution based on those principles would neccesarily be a disaster.

I think history has proved those critics right.

And that without even delving into the fact that Fascist Italy and Bolshevik Russia had happy international relations, and that the Bolsheviks recognized the Fascists as comrades in the beginning.

So, draw your lessons from this. Is class consciousness enough to build a true alternative to present day society around or is more necessary?

I see class consciousness as it's presented by the IWW and the Communist Party as being small concepts which these organizations have elevated to big concepts. With the CP, working class consciousness is so programmatic that a non-worker can easily absorb the style and swagger of it by reading a few books and bullshitting. The style is more important than the actual content. They say the IWW infused the Communist Party with their style. The current IWW certainly replicates the swagger of the Communist 'class consciousness' which can be earned through reading, making the very easy stipulation that you have to be a wage worker to participate, which in this society is pretty damn worthless as a qualification since everyone from the rich kid whose parents force him to work to the actual working class kid whose parents never finished high school works for a wage. Yet they somehow all become 'Fellow Workers' once in the IWW. Funny how that works.

Considering the mixed class background of the IWW in reality and the fact that it exists in the heart of one of the richest societies in the world, even though we've been on the decline, the amount of disingenuousness which accompanies IWW swagger about being working class is staggering. It's also complete bullshit.

Maybe in little bubbles like Olympia people take this crap seriously, but I doubt anyone else does.

NSK and Class

This blog talks a lot about NSK and Laibach, which is a subgroup of NSK. What gets mentioned little is the start of NSK, what they were initially against; it's a worthwhile subject to explore.

Here was this group of people growing up in Communist Yugoslavia, they got the full on indoctrination into the system; what they saw around them was pretty straightforward: the idea of workers' power was used to oppress people. In this workers' paradise the consequence of initiatives towards self-management and generally making the place a worker controlled society degenerated into people who appointed themselves representatives of the working class milking the system for all they could get and using the class card against those who disagreed wtih them. The idea of workers' power in the socialist state became a game, it became a game where people would declare their allegiance to the working class and use that as a tool to settled scores which had nothing to do with class or with the way society was shaped. Artists, political thinkers, everyone, maybe more in other states than Yugoslavia but still, suffered repression based on 'class issues'.

The problem goes deeper than the Communist system and in fact goes to the heart of militant class struggle organizations all over the world: class allegiance isn't enough to construct a society around. To have any decent sort of society you need ideals and openness which go beyond the basic class experience. Class consciousness degenerates into a mindless populism which, in essence, is a dodge from considering the real questions of life. Like all populisms it talks tall but understands little.

Laibach and NSK came on the scene with a poster for the national "Day of Youth" in Yugoslavia; what they did was to take a Nazi poster representing the people and change the symbolism around to reflect Commmunist Yugoslavia. It got first place in the contest.

The reason for this is that the ideology of 'working class' was so degenerate that the people pontificating on the Workers' State didn't have enough awareness to distinguish between a Nazi poster and a Workers' poster. It was all the same. The impulse to a populist nationalism, an undercurrent in both societies, was all they knew, and because it was all they knew it therefore proved the bankruptcy of the regime.

If you're so caught up with yourself and with acting 'for the People' that you can't distinguish between Nazi propaganda and Commuist propaganda you have no credibility.
I think that this is a characteristic of all societies and all movemenets which privilege the 'working class experience' to the exclusion of everything else.

It's not that the working class experience isn't a valuable thing so much as that when this idea consumes you it becomes something else than working class experience; it becomes a personal vehicle for your aspirations, an artificial standard to buttress your own prejudices and to hit those who you see as threats to your power or to your agenda over the head with. Backed by the State this becomes oppression in its most naked form.

This culture is common to the current IWW, to the Communist movement in Cuba, to the Communist Party USA. Film after film coming from Yugoslavia talk about the lies and the power plays surrounding workers' power. Watch "Tito and Me"; it's all about a little kid who flirts with the Party and sees that in the end it all leads to people who appoint themselves as workers' representatives, who are willing to parrot the line, getting ahead, self consciously, because they know that this one standard can't be challenged, unless you want to find yourself in prison.

To collapse hundreds of years of struggle into a simplistic idea about workers' consciousness is an offense to western history; it's an offense to American history.

The workers' movement is extraordinarily important but if the workers' movement doesn't see beyond just loving the class they're from and recognize principles which transcend that as being important in history, things like human rights, for exmample, then when they get power they're going to do the same thing which they did in Russia, in Yugoslavia, the Eastern Bloc, Cuba, China, which is to transform class struggle into a weapon with which to prop themselves up as the new hierarchy and to oppress those who threaten their power and threaten their degenerated notions of 'the people', as an elaborate attempt to keep themselves in power.

The socialist countries were still talking about having to struggle against the class enemy decades after the revolutions and takeovers happen; it never goes away because it's such a conveniant idea to mobilize people with.

Unless the workers' movement broadens itself, if it ever takes power, be prepared to kiss the ass of those people who appoint themselves the leaders of the class struggle in order to get bread, while they live in the palaces which yesterday they professed to hate and professed to struggle to eliminate.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Life of an unknown

I sometimes wonder about the unknown-ness of me, behind this site. Sure, some people know, and know me, but I'm thinking about the broader consequences for operating a pseudonymonous site, things like people not being able to really get in contact with me, it being hard to market myself, so to speak, as an author, things which really transcend the Washington area, or which at least have more to do with the Seattle area proper than what's available where I live. But, hey, unknowns can have influence.

Take the "Unknown Philosopher": Louis Claude de Saint Martin, a french esoteric Christian and freemason who was writing about the time of the Revolution, who was spared from the Terror, despite being an aristocrat, because of his connections with political freemasonry. This book is pretty good, although they've increased the price some. This book, being a $2.00 E-Book, is your best bet for the money Saint-Martin is an interesting thinker
and represents a European esoteric current that for the most part never got transferred over to the United States.

Monday, June 27, 2005


It's boring right about now at the Lost Highway; this usually does not happen.

The most interesting thing going on is speculating about whether or not I picked up a Protozoa in Montana or if my stomach pain is due to something else.

Makes me think of an obituary: Libertarian Socialist, Killed by Protozoa.

For some reason that reminds me of the title of one of Andrei Codrescu's books of essays: "Raised by Puppets only to be killed by Research". Well worth checking out.

It's too late to drink. I do have a campy sixties film to watch with fried chicken and peanut sauce.

I'll go do that.

Dope, Guns, and Fucking in the Streets

is a name of a collection of Alt. Punk/Metal, Volume 3, to be specific, which in the interest of getting different sorts of music in my system I've dusted off and now am listening to. I don't mention the title just to shock; I have nothing against (most) dope, guns, or against fucking in the street for that matter, but the title is unique...

It's put out by Amphetamine Reptile records, which is now way out of business, unfortunately. They seem to have been an interesting record company. Their emblem was a large bird holding the symbol of the Process Church of the Final Judgement in its claws.

The Process Church was a seventies movement which gained some latter day interest in the mid to late '90s. They believed in three gods: Jesus, Lucifer, and Satan; and they believed that everyone should be able to choose which path they wanted to take and that, ultimately, all the paths lead to the same place. Was lead by a guy named De Grimston, whose writings are available online at devoted fan sites kept up by latter day followers of the Processian teachings, as well as the occasional site put up by actual ex-Processians.

I just happen to know this stuff...

Charles Manson was somewhat speciously linked to them; speciously because at one point in time every strange religious movement in the L.A. area seems to have been shoe-horned into some association with Manson. Anyways, they operated vegetarian soup kitchens in the U.S. and England.

Somehow Amphetamine Reptile found out about them and added their symbol to its logo.

And so there it is, adorning the "Dope, Guns, and Fucking in the Street Volume 3." CD.

Personally, although I listen to it, I'm learning Every Grain Of Sand by Bob Dylan on guitar...
and experimenting with synthesizer composition some after being inspired by Olympia's Festival of Experimental Music.

Such is life.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


The interesting thing about Post-Modernism is that it appears to be situated within the context of the student movement of the sixties and seventies. The Postmodern moment is supposed to be the moment where guiding historical tenets which had unified thought in the early to mid 20th century are thought to have broken down. While this may appear to be hopelessly abstract, if you look at it in the historical context it becomes less so.
What were the modernist themes which were breaking down? Things like industrialism, the cult of science, mechanization, the trust that science could organize knowledge into a unified whole; all of these things were taken on by the counter-cultural and student movements of the day---they came about in response to concerns about the atom bomb and potential nuclear annihilation, concern about technocracy and bureaucracy dominating life and a renewed ecological consciousness which pointed out the failings of western industrial society in contaminating the air and water. Also, general concern about the quality of lived life, the everyday quality of life, was in the air, to say nothing about trends towards simplicity. Carl Oglesby, a leader of Students for a Democratic Society, was quoted in Todd Gitlin's book "The Sixties, [something something] Days of Rage", not the fairest book, as outlining a theory that the Sixties were the culmination of trends which refused progress, throughout history. One of the books written about the sixties was in fact called "The Great Refusal". Within this context, where people were actually rejecting modernity, the themes of postmodernity as a sort of freewheeling freedom to define meaning for ones' self without having to situate it in any sort of overarching theme becomes comprehensable.

The freedom of postmodernity is then paralell to Marx's conception of socialism as being the capacity for the workers to finally make their own history, to truly self determine their own lives in whatever way they see fit.

If postmodernism is to be situated historically like this what are we to make of the reversals to this type of thought which have happened since the seventies?

An answer to that would be that the postmodern era happened because people were on the crest of unheard of prosperity, the birth of a true consumer society which at that time looked to have eliminated serious class struggle, at least to some observers, and that the economic downturn which happened in the seventies and which signalled the general degeneration of America's place in the world also signalls a return to modernity, albeit one which incorporates the postmodern concepts which were established into the return.

This can be seen in that movements which look at class today also are informed by the heritage of the New Left, have been influenced by all of the things mentioned above, and so are hybrids of the two currents.

We haven't gone back to the forties; anti-nuclear themes are still present, as is living simply, although class and class struggle is on the radar screen now.

Maybe the idea of the Post-modern was Lyotard's translation of themes which were familiar to him through his work in libertarian Marxist circles into another context.

Examples of Volkisch ideology in America

When you see groups of rednecks from the country come into a more cosmopolitan town, drunk, yelling at people who look different than they do, or worse, finding some of them in an isolated place, alone, and beating the crap out of them, those people are operating according to a Volkish ideology. What exactly is the difference between that and the Nazis putting on an exhibit of "Degenerate Art", Entarte Kunst, modern art , and scrawled over with insulting phrases? The impulse is the same between the two.

The Klan operates according to an explicitly Volkish ideology; the cross burning ritual, when done at a Klan gathering as opposed to being done in order to intimidate people, is done to release the spirits and the power of the people's ancestors from the ground in order for them to give the Klan members power.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Reevaluating the theory of Fascism

In light of George L. Mosse's book The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich, which I'm working on.

I underestimated the importance of Volkish ideology and the Blood and Soil current of thought, which add a whole 'nother level of insanity to an already insane current.

In a nutshell, these two things add up to the most radical negation of modernity which is probably conceivable; how genocide, which no matter the extremity of fascism was only associated with fascist movements which took their cues from Nazism, came about becomes understandable in light of these two movements.

After all, if you're trying to turn back the clock to a pre-modern, pre-Christian, pagan society then there isn't anything in your value system which would stop a person from eliminating a rival tribe, totally. Their idea was that the rural German landscape and the German people were possessed of the same energy and were in a sense fused due to occupation of the landscape for centuries. That which was foreign to this cultural physical, racial, landscape was a threat to it which the Nazis wanted to eliminate. This is the Volkish ideology and the Blood and Soil belief. Blood and Soil because they believed that the spiritual/material, in their words racial, essence of the rural German people was the same essence in some way which flowed through the soil which they lived on.

So everything foreign to this primitive communal essence had to be purified out of the system. That's what caused the mass genocide. Gypsies fell into this category, Jews, as well as the disabled and gays, who were seen as genetic aberations which needed to be purified out of the Blood of the German branch of the Aryan race, which was conceived of as holding the future for the most progressive racial development in Europe.

All of this was of course bullshit, I'm just repeating the arguments.

The profound violence of this worldview is something that I was not prepared for. Literally, there's nothing which would hold any sort of check on people; anything would be approved of, and was. The SS was conceived of as the Warrior leadership of the new, renewed, German society, based on primitive Volkish principles.

Human rights are a recent phenomenon. These people wanted to turn the clock back to German society as it was after the fall of Rome but before the mass conversions to Christianity, when only a few centuries before Julius Caeser could condemn a tribe which resisted him, the Helvetii, from modern day Switzerland, to mass extermination without giving it a thought.

How do you counter something like that, something which doesn't admit any modern standards whatsoever, which doesn't bow before any accepted standards of conduct but just goes on with the brutality with no check?

Blood and soil beliefs do have something in common with the worldview of rural Anglo-Saxons in the United States; as much as this exists, it's a threat to all standards of civil behavior in the United States and in U.S. foreign policy.

Just because you've occupied a piece of land for a long time does not mean that you should be able to do whatever the fuck you want.

The type of rhetoric which draws on this current of thought, unconsciously or not, is very comforting to those who are already privileged by their skin color in society, because it says that they don't have to consider anything beyond their experience, they don't have to give a damn about anyone who looks different than they do or who believes something different than they do, they don't have to care about international affairs, or about having some decent standard in the international dealings of the U.S. It is an ultimate and total refusal to have any truck whatsoever with the world outside their little bubble.

And it's just as dangerous here in the U.S. as it would be in any other country.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Local experimental music fest

Went to a Washington area experimental music fest, which is still going on for a few more days. I guess that since this is a specific one that giving away the location won't hurt. It's the Olympia Experimental Music Fest, Olympia being a college town and the State capitol.

I have to say, experimental music is more than just banging on shit and expecting that to be music. Or, if you are going to bang on shit, you better do it well. The Olympia fest was pretty good on that, from what I heard, except for one band which was just...muddled. There was some attempt at atonal piano, some drumming which had some programmed aspects, and another instrument which was persuing some similar things and it just fell flat. It wasn't that it was bad so much as it just...didn't say anything. That's the danger with experimental music, not that it'll sound 'bad', since by the standards of tonal music all of it is 'bad', but that, given that reality, there won't be anything that it'll attempt to communicate. This band met that last description.

Beyond that, pretty good and inspiring stuff.

But I have to dwell on the bad, because it's more interesting than the good, which is just, well, good. Can't write much about music like that, at least not in this situation. I didn't take notes either.

With experimental music, just like any other form of music, fake music is a possibility. Fake music is music which is pretty featureless and not distinguished but which, because someone has told a person 'this is good', people therefore cheer it on, because they think they should, not because it has any inherent features which
really make it deserving of such praise. This happened with Techno, for example. Challenging dance music gave way to denatured crap which was marketed as the next best thing and what do you know but suddenly suburban kids are jamming to Aphex Twin and company, Prodigy, even though they don't have much musical value. Especially Prodigy, which is bad beyond words for Techno music.

Fortunately, experimental music has its own cannon of standards by which something rises and falls. But there are still people who think that if you make something 'experimental-sounding' that you've therefore made experimental music, not knowing about Schoenberg or Mahler or, heaven forbid, Stockhausen. And of course there are still people who go to these things expecting to hear 'experimental-sounding' music and so when they hear something that sound 'experimental' to their ears they applaud. It forms a feedback loop of people who really don't understand the art form being cheered on by people who really go there because they think the idea of experimental music is cool, and they want to be cool therefore they cheer things that sound experimental to them.

But the thing is inspiring, it's always good to have stuff like this bubble to the surface; it encourages others to try it and it reaffirms for people who like this stuff that other people like it too and that it's a living art form.

More reporting to come, maybe.

It's after midnight....

Which means that we've reached the feast day of St. John the Baptist.
If you're a spiritual libertarian this day should have special meaning for you.

If you're not meant to know you'll never understand.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Existentialist faith

Ok, for newcomers to the site, I'm in my '20s here, and it sort of vexes me why in fact many people of my generation have given up to general cynicism. You know, what's in the immediate life is most important, the only thing real, anything from beyond that that people suggest, talk about, or care about, is beyond the pale, to be reacted to with derisive ridicule and scepticism. What ever happened to that positive existentialist faith which said that conscious action is the most important thing a person could ever do, and that you should live your life as if the choices you make were in fact legislation for the human race. Something that would invest careful and deliberate action with a value far above and beyond the concerns of the immediate. What about Nietzsche's quip that in the end, what's on the outside, what people see on the outside, is the only thing you'll be remembered for, so if you want people to remember that great thing you have inside you better bring it out to the forefront and not hide it away? What about Sartre declaring that human generated meaning is the only meaning there is and so if people want to have a meaningful life they themselves have to shape it and not rely on any external force to supply their lives with meaning?

I remember that as a senior in highschool I discovered Phil Ochs, the folk singer, and the words of his song "When I'm Gone" have stuck with me. Here they are:

When I'm Gone
by Phil Ochs

There's no place in this world where I'll belong when I'm gone
And I won't know the right from the wrong when I'm gone
And you won't find me singin' on this song when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't feel the flowing of the time when I'm gone
All the pleasures of love will not be mine when I'm gone
My pen won't pour out a lyric line when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't breathe the bracing air when I'm gone
And I can't even worry 'bout my cares when I'm gone
Won't be asked to do my share when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't be running from the rain when I'm gone
And I can't even suffer from the pain when I'm gone
Can't say who's to praise and who's to blame when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

Won't see the golden of the sun when I'm gone
And the evenings and the mornings will be one when I'm gone
Can't be singing louder than the guns when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

All my days won't be dances of delight when I'm gone
And the sands will be shifting from my sight when I'm gone
Can't add my name into the fight while I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't be laughing at the lies when I'm gone
And I can't question how or when or why when I'm gone
Can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here myself. And you should too.

Prescient Excerpts: "The Flag is Our Faith", from Germany

A commentary on the Flag Burning Amendment. Here's the Flag celebration from a certain governmental regime in west-central Europe in the first part of the mid twentieth century.

"The Flag is our Faith", a suggestion for celebrations

We sing together:
"Under the Flag We March"

A student speaks:
The flag is our faith
In God and Volk and Land.
Whoever wants to rob us of it
Must take our life and hand.

A teacher speaks:
Thus the F├╝hrer admonishes us:
"Everything that we demand of Germany in the future, that, boys and girls, we
also demand of you.
"This must you practice and this must you then pass on to the future, because
whatever we create today and whatever we do, we will have to pass on. But in
you Germany will live on, and when there is nothing left of us, it will be up
to you to hold in your fists the flag we once raised out of nothingness.
"Therefore you must stand solidly on the ground of your soil, and you must
be hard so that this flag does not slip from you, then may you be followed
by generation after generation from whom you can make the same demand that they
be as you were. And then Germany will look upon you with pride"

Or a brief address:
Main idea: The flag is a symbol and an obligation

A student recites:
We boys carry the flag for the assault of youth.
It shall stand and rise and glow like fire in the skies!
We are sworn to the flag
For always and ever.
Forever cursed be he
Who besmirches the flag.
The flag is our faith
In God and Volk and Land.
Whoever wants to rob us of it
Must take our life and hand.
For our flag we will care
As we do for our own mother,
For the flag is our tomorrow
And our honor and our courage!

We sing together:
"We Youngsters Carry the Flag."

From George L. Mosse's book "Nazi culture; a documentary history".

The Hitler quote was from an address which he gives in "Triumph of the Will" to the Hitler Youth.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Added link

To Freedom Road Socialist Organiztion. They're sort of a reformed, democratic, post-Maosist group which is at least interesting. I actually should have included them a while ago but just hadn't gotten around to it. They seem to want to find new solutions to problems instead of just repeating old slogans and such. Make of them what you will.


Added the last volume of Castoriadis' Political and Social writings to the essential reading list. I'm pretty bummed out because it turns out that this volume is no longer in print in paperback, which is an extreme shame. I found a paperback copy in Seattle but that must have been a fluke. Anyways, the book which is still in print is $59.95, which is heartbreakingly expensive and unreachable for the vast majority of people out there. I would recommend trying to find any writings by him, outside of his writings on Psychology and philosophy, that you can find. It's well worth it. Castoriadis was the founder and editor of the French magazine "Socialism or Barbarism" which, from '49 until its end, redefined socialism outside of the traditional Old Left paradigms, agitated for workers' self control and initiative both within the workplace and within the political process, and generally provided a framework which the French New Left operated in during the Student (and then Worker) rebellion in May of '68. One of several influences, with Henri Lefebvre and Sartre up there but nonetheless extremely influential. The best thing about Castoriadis is that he combines this new sensibility with a continued emphasis on real class struggle; New Left didn't mean abandoning class issues for him. He was also a professional economist for 25 years, so he has a pretty good understanding of political and economic issues in the real world.

I started reading this last volume, Vol. 3, and was just blown over by it. He actually does more than just say "Organization shouldn't be hierarchical" but actually provides working models of how non-hierarchical organization could come about and what that would really mean, among other things.

His one time partner in "Socialism or Barbarism", Claude Lefort, was the formulator of the main left-wing critique of Totalitarianism, and Castoriadis preserves an analysis of totalitarian tendencies and institutions within the broader critique of capitalism which he puts forward.

Also, and it's interesting how all roads seem to lead to Rome, Jean-Francois Lyotard, the man who invented the concept of the Post-Modern, was also a one time "Socialism or Barbarism" contributer, before he split from the socialist movement and became increasingly conservative, unfortunately using the concept of the Post-Modern to buttress his conservative ideology.

Castoriadis is against the concept of the post-modern, but, more importantly, since I think there are some valuable things to be said for the post-modern idea, in his philosophical work he seems to be trying to find a way to get beyond and around "Theory", around the formulations of people like Derrida and Foucault, which is a welcome effort.

Lyotard wasn't the only person who came up with post-modernish ideas; Jean Baudrillard, a student and teaching assistant for Henri Lefebvre, came up with pretty similar ideas, which, somewhat more usefully, are more contextualized within history, society, and the socio-poliltical and socio-economic order than are Lyotard's thoughts.

So check out Castoriadis; his associates and students are interesting on their own terms as well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Why the Great White Founder view of American history is wrong

OK, we all know the arguments against focussing on the founders of the U.S. based on racial considerations; to me that argument doesn't bear weight, but that's another issue, however, there's a much better reason to reject the extreme focus on the people in the Republic who were there at the beginning: that by doing that you miss some of the significant events in the early political history of America.

Founding Fathers.

We could legitimately call Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington founding fathers, right?

So far so good. The founding fathers agreed on everything, right?, so that after the constitution was in place it went right along and operated like a well oiled machine?

There you'd be seriously wrong.

After the Constitution was ratified and put into action the group who framed the Constitution, who would become known as the Federalist Party, was elected and served in office, upholding the Constitution in a sort of ideal form---the Constitution as the Framers of the Constitution wanted it to be put into action. Why? Because the Framers were in office.

George Washington served two terms then John Adams served one term after which, in a tight race, Jefferson became President. This was extremely significant because it marked the first change executive based on political ideology---the electors chose the Jeffersonian Republican ideology over the Federalist ideology of Adams. One ideology was tossed out, replaced by another.

The party who most purely represented the order of the Constitution was tossed out, replaced by the more democratically minded opposition which had formed around Jefferson and his associates. What did this mean?

Well, it had immediate and long reaching effects in that what Jefferson did was to seriously dismantle the apparatus of the Federal government, which the Federalists had constructed, and tip the balance of power to the States. From Jefferson's first term until the Civil War the federal government played a very small part with regards to already established States--in relation to expansion of territory the Federal government played a very large part. States' Rights carried the day and the power of the Jeffersonians remained intact until after dilution and compromise it was replaced with the Jacksonian Democracy party, which governed the United States until Lincoln was elected President.

Now, although Jefferson didn't formally change the Constitution to accomplish his aims his aims he did accomplish, and simply looking at the history of the Constitution alone wouldn't be enough to tell a person what happened after he was elected President or what platform he represented; the changes were done through the executive branch with the approval of the Congress.

Furthermore, if a person just looked at the Founding Fathers as one homogenous always agreeing with each other group not only would you overlook Jefferson but you'd overlook the fact that one of the prime framers of the Constitution---James Madison---decided against the Constitutional order which he'd helped establish and joined Jefferson's side, which was the platform which he was elected President on.

Not only that but Jefferson and Madison had serious enough doubts over the Constitution that they later sponsored the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, which approved of the right of States to nullify Federal laws which they felt overstepped the bounds of the Federal government. They also approved of the notion of the United States as formed from a compact of the original States with the implication being that States could withdraw from that compact if they felt that the terms of it were being violated. This was the argument used by the Confederacy in supporting their right to secession. Conversely, Lincoln's government enforced the idea of the Federal Government as being an entity which exists on its own independently of the assent or dissent of the States with a similar vengence.

But all of this would be lost if the overly sanguine view of the Founding Fathers as being bestest buddies was the only one available.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Montana Photo 2

Here's a view from the road.

Montana 2

Montana Picture

Here's a picture I took on my recent trip to Montana. I'm standing at the top of Dawson's Pass looking Northwest into the valley made by the Nyack river. The elevation here is about 8,000 ft.

Montana Picture #1

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Between hate and joy

There's a sense of compassion, which animates the political instinct.

On Rosa Brooks': 'Is the Red Cross red, white and blue enough for America's GOP?

Ok, if you want to know why the Bush regime is compared to Nazis look no further than the justifications given to defund the International Committee of the Red Cross. They argue that special conditions, namely 9/11 and in general terrorism, mean that normal laws have to be put aside and that the President has the authority and the duty to put aside normal laws and generate his own laws and policies effective for the purpose of fighting terror. This is not just something that's been said once and that's it: it's echoed by Fox News every night, it's echoed by every single pro-war pro-administration writer. We have debates on just how necessary is torture. All of this, this entire fucking concept, was enunciated by Carl Schmitt, legal theorist for the Nazis, who said that the principle defining characteristic of someone who had an office which held the reigns of sovereignty was the ability to set aside laws and to make his own laws when a state of emergenecy required it. This isn't trivial either.

Maybe, in all fairness, I should say that Bush is advocating a general Fascist theory of the role of the executive instead of specifically Nazi, but the point is the same; this isn't trivial unless you think the President declaring that he defines the laws and, even, defines the meaningful reality which people are expected to live in, is normal.

Take the complaints about comparing Bush to Nazis and shove them.

Air America Seattle 1090

I may be the last person to know that I could get Air America out of Seattle. I don't actually live in the city of Seattle and so some stations don't come in where I live, so I never thought to find the Seattle Air America station. But, apparantly, it comes in here. I've been listening to it today.

My thoughts on Air America: it's good, it shows just how restricted NPR and other stations are by having to pretend that they're really non-partisan even though they are. Air America just lets it all hang out and calls a spade a spade. There's none of this tip toeing around the issue of what it is people really want to say. Another good thing about Air America, which I didn't realize until listening to it, is that unlike NPR and the NPR-ish radio stations across the country Air America doesn't cater to an elite audience. The level of elite lefty-dom which even Pacifica has wasn't really clear to me, but it's there. Although I love Pacifica dearly, its format isn't the same as regular talk radio; it has more in common with NPR, and, although not really intentionally, assumes a somewhat indepth knowledge of the issues in order to really get it. With Air America you have a traditional talk radio format with traditional talk radio shows. Some would say that Air America repeats the sins of rightwing radio by repeating their bias only from a lefty perspective but I don't think that's the case. It's more an issue of high and low rather than intensely biased or not. After all, wasn't the problem with right wing radio the fact that it was right wing and there weren't left wing stations which could counter it? The tact of trying to be unbiased in the face of this bias is what NPR and company are trying, and they (but not Pacifica) are being slowly bled dry of the liberal content which they air. Air America, by directly confronting these people with their own medicine, in a format that works, avoids the situation of being a sitting duck for uprooting.

At some point the issue of the bias on Air America comes down to whether or not what people want is valid. People want the shock jock format. We might object to it, but this is what's evolved from giving people what they want. Why should a leftwing station be any different according to this formula, unless it caters to an elite audience like NPR does, which we've already dealt with.

Besides, there's a clear demarcation here between talk radio and news radio, Pacifica being more News Radio oriented, if we define news radio as original content rather than the chewing over of original content, which is more what talk radio is about.

Anyways, I've gotten tired of this game that some of these places play about objectivity and non-bias. Let me explain what I mean: there's this organization called "FAIR", Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, which puts together a weekly radio show, runs a regularly updated website, and puts out a few times a year its own small magazine, "Extra!". FAIR operates from the premise that it's simply trying to point out the biases of the mainstream media and correct for them; it'll present a story, then point out what's factually wrong with it. However, it's pretty obvious where FAIR's interest lies: in pointing out fallacies of the Republican and Conservative media. But because of its non-profit status it has to go through this charade of not being partisan in any way but instead standing for unbiased journalism in a very general way.

Why bother?

What FAIR does, as much as it does it, is good, but it's so limited, so insanely limited by its mission to be non-partisan. Air America bursts through that barrier and finally does it right.

Their focus on the Democratic Party is somewhat troubling, I don't know how I feel about the Democratic Party these days, but I think it's pretty inclusive in it's coverage of liberal affairs.

But that's a digression, anyways, to charges that Air America is somehow bad because of it's format, it's strange how all the formats, whether they be websites, blogs, or radio stations, which are truly popular seem to be somewhat 'lower' in the tone and the content. Maybe that's a sign that that's what people in fact want, and that if we respect democracy we shouldn't really take the same sort of issue with it that we would if no one supported it.

I honestly don't think there's a line between honest commentary and propaganda; one man's propaganda is another man's informed comment. That's about it, although objectivity in non-commentary journalism, real journalism, is a great thing.

My friend Al, seeing life.

The crisis involving access to Dub music has been resolved and Castoriadis has been acquired.

I'm thinking now that it's actually a really good thing that I haven't completed my undergraduate degree yet, despite being older than the majority of people who are in college, because it allows me to see how the system works regarding college graduates. People my age are most likely working at jobs which require college degrees and which pay very well; that's the point of college, to move you into those jobs. I see these people all the time, moreso in Seattle than where I actually live, and when I see them it's really apparant that the car, the lifestyle, none of this they earned. Instead, when they graduated and eventually found a job that their education had prepared them for, they were immediately given access to this higher income bracket. That's not quite the same as truly earning what you have. But that's how a lot of Class works in the United States: the notion of Horatio Alger figures lifting themselves up by their bootstraps is largely a myth. Instead we have a class system which is organized a lot like it was in the distant past, when there were estates. I remember coming across the idea that when people were ennobled, given upper class status, that the powers that be would just shift around their landed estates a little bit and give the person a fief and make them duke and duchess of that fief. The access to the land wasn't the question; the whole system of landed aristocracy was arbitrary anyways, and so shifting it around a little was well within the compass of the powers that be. I feel that class in America works the same way: what a college education entitles you to is membership in this upper class, and once the key has been made and the door unlocked the upper class grants you the income which, on some level, they feel is right and proper for a person with your job description. It's just as arbitrary as feudal ennoblement, although perhaps much easier to attain, and has nothing to do with actually 'earning' what you have.

The closest paralell to the idea of earning what one has is working one's way through college, which is serious business. And then there's the potential of actually opening a business and profiting through it, but in our corporate world people who do this, if they aren't already members of the clique, are looked down on as being rough
pretenders to bourgeois status, the dreaded noveau rich or even lower middle class.

There's a good reason why college and the financing of college is so linked these days with making it on your own, reasons which exist despite the structural factors which make it harder and harder to finance a college education, and the reason is that college is the key to change in status: through making it through college on your own dime you are therefore changing your status by your own efforts. I think the importance of making it through college with your own resources has multiplied as the other avenues for status change have been one by one shut off in the United States.

You used to be able to truly work your way up in a company; maybe you can to a certain extent still, but that extent is much much less than it used to be; mostly people who 'work their way up' are hired out of college and given a low level job with the knowledge that they were hired because of their background and then, after that's already established, they work their way up through the company. That's not the same as a guy educating himself in the New York Public Library moving up in a company with just a high school education and some spunk.


My friend Al.

One of the cynical joys of college is running into assholes like this guy, who I took a class from last summer. First name Al, last name is the same as a famous Egyptian statesman. Not Sadat. Mr. Al is someone who was trained in Analytic philosophy but who thinks that being a Trotskyist qualifies him to teach economics. He puffs himself up with a professorial bearing to hide the emotional immaturity that is at his core. Mr. Professor is actually Mr. Fraud, someone who actually believes in Kondratieff waves, a pseudo-scientific measuring device that is totally disdcredited within mainstream economics. And even radical economics, if it's honest.

I fell afoul with Mr. Al whose last name is the same as an Egyptian statesman because, before learning about his love for Trotsky (quote:"Marx, Aristotle, and Trotsky were god's gift to man" paraphrasing here) I wrote, in one of my papers, a criticism of Trotskyism where I ridiculed it for being so changeable and vague that it could split into a thousand currents which all had big ideas about the nature of capitalism and history. It was from a Communist perspective. Although I'm a libertarian, I have roots in the Communist movement, and I still attach a lot of importance to some of those ideas. This didn't go over good with Mr. Al.

So, after a few more papers, he got back at me by taking a minor error in my final paper, which was an error in terminology, and turned it into a major error, saying that it proved that I had no idea what I was talking about.

Mr. "I debated Friedrich Hayek so I'm better than you.", yeah, you and Friedrich Hayek belong together, two pretend economists who aren't worth their weight in water.

Your mad because I quoted J.L. Talmon when he pointed out the racist feelings which Marx and Engels had? So what.

I don't care; my life isn't based around a veneration of Marx and Engels, or Trotsky and Lenin, my worldview won't come crumbling down because of some criticism. Obviously yours is and does.

So any people reading this who go to the college I'm talking about who may have the opportunity to take a class from Al-whose-last-name-is-that-of-an-Egyptian-statesman, don't do it unless you want a Trotskyist prick for a teacher.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bummed out

Well, not a whole lot going on out there. The one decent club in town has no one I know inside and I find myself critiqueing the light show, thinking that if I was running the light show it would be a hell of a lot better....maybe it's just too early. What club is it? Well, click on the title link for a amusing animation which illustrates what club it is...

I don't know. Maybe I should finish the reading I have to do by Monday so that I can go to Seattle tomorrow and check out this book by Cornelius Castoriadis, a French Libertarian Marxist, which I've had my eye on. Or maybe I should go on yet another futile quest to try to find the two CDs of the Trojan Dub box set Volume 2, which have mysteriously vanished. Great early Dub music.Maybe I should just wait until midnight and go out again.

I don't know, decisions decisions...when things start to suck there's two things you can do, either do nothing or start your own fun. That's the moment of zen for tonight.

Benjamin Constant quote about tyranny

As promised, from his book "Principles of Politics applicable to all Representative Government".

The people have no right to strike a single innocent, nor to treat as guilty a single accused, without legal evidence. Consequently, it cannot delegate such a right to anyone. The people have no right to violate the freedom of opinion, religious freedom, judicial safeguards, protective forms. Therefore no despot, no assembly, can exercise such a right claiming that the people have invested them with it. Thus all despotism is illegal. Nothing can sanction it, not even the popular will to which it appeals. It claims in fact, in the name of the sovereignty of the people, a power which is no part of that sovereignty, and which is not only the illegal displacement of an existing power, but the creation of a power which should not exist in the first place.

Good stuff.

Friday, June 17, 2005

David Bacon: 'What's really behind the 'Student Bill of Rights'?'

On February 25, leaflets quoting Section 51530 of the Education Code were posted on the doors of ten faculty members at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Quoting the code, the leaflet says: "No teacher ... shall advocate or teach communism with the intent to indoctrinate, inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism." Such "advocacy," the code says, means teaching "for the purpose of undermining patriotism for, and the belief in, the government of the United States and of this state." Fifty years ago, when left-wing teachers were hounded out of the state's schools at the height of the Cold War, this code section was rushed through the legislature to make the purges legal.

A later press release by the Santa Rosa Junior College Republicans claimed responsibility for the leaflets: "We did this because we believe certain instructors at SRJC are in violation of California state law." The same day, a news release titled "Operation 'Red Scare'" ran on the California College Republicans' website, saying the leaflets targeted "10 troublesome professors." The group's chair, Michael Davidson, told blogger John Gorenfeld, "A lot of the college professors are leftovers from the Seventies -- and Communist sympathizers."

Writing to the campus newspaper the Oak Leaf, Molly McPherson, SRJC College Republicans president, explained that "The instructors I 'targeted' were not selected at random ... There have even been accounts of JC teachers openly advocating Communist and Marxist theories ... [which have] been outlawed in the classrooms of a country with the strongest free speech rights in the world."

This could also be known as not wanting students to learn the fucking truth about their country rule. Or the "I want to live within my own fantasies for the rest of my life" rule. I have to say though that the road for this was paved by Cold War intellectuals, of both parties.

During the Cold War people who had sub-par ideas and sub-par skill as academics could see their fortunes soar if they bought into the dominant ideology and started trumpeting themselves as being anti-Communist. This lead to a sort of pseudo-intellectual tradition in the United State (which already had too many pseudo-intellectuals to begin with) which had a kind of rough correspondence with the patriotic load which the American people were being fed. The sixties and seventies rebelled against that but the consequences were probably more significant for the academic world than for the public at large.

Coming from elite institutions they established real freedom of inquiry against the pseudo-intellectual cold war philosophy, which, since they were on that trajectory, was put right back into the institutions of higher education. The people on the bottom, on the other hand, gained the freedom to smoke a lot of weed and listen to classic rock. There was this disconnect. Now, that disconnect is manifesting in the people, who didn't share in the transformation of the sixties and seventies by and large, wanting their professors to feed them the line that they've been trained to expect and finding instead that these people are interested in honest inquiry, which grates on their nerves.

And of course the academics don't want to move in lock step.

You know, I'm reading E.H. Carr's book "What is History?" (which is a good read) and in the first chapter he remarks that 19th century English thought didn't really consider historical perspective in a critical way because it just assumed that the collection of facts which could be assembled would automatically justify English values. A desert of historical understanding developed which was not overthrown until the end of the first World War.

I have the feeling that we're living through a desert much like that right now in the United States: we're on top of the world so we don't have to think critically about our actions, we can afford not to, but the wagons are circling, society is developing problems galore, our invasion and occupation of Iraq is being revealed to the public at large as a lie, corruption is being found out in the highest parts of the White House, and in general that dream of American rightness and supremacy is beginning to look more than a little shaky.

Eventually nothing short of dictatorship will prevent the U.S. from having to face its own history and its history of interaction with the rest of the world square on, and hopefully when that day comes people will accept that truth instead of forcing us to believe their lies at gunpoint.

Theory of modern art

This has probably been remarked on before; I can't see how it could be original, especially considering the preoccupations of philosophy for the last thirty years or so, but here it goes anyways.

How does modern art make meaning? How is it that abstract shapes, non-representational compositions, can be imbued with meaning--communicating emotions, ideas, thoughts?

Looking back at the history of modern art, of its evolution, it comes out that what became modern art started out as an attempt to amplify and isolate the non-pictorial elements which are part of every painting. Things have certain associations, sometimes what a painting conveys through the context which its subject matter floats in can be as powerful as the artistry itself, or it can be as big a part of why the picture is admired. Things are suggested which are ultimately non-pictorial, which take their meaning from some other part of our interaction with the painting.

Non-representational modern art ultimately dispenses with the need for paintings resembling things in nature at all. Calling it non-representational is in a way deceiving because it does represent something---it often represents something very specific---but the way it does is through pure representation, not through reproduction of something which has that quality which exists in the physical world.

So how does the mind make meaning out of abstract shapes arranged on a canvas? My idea is that the elements of a non-representational painting exist in a semantic relationship with each other and that the ordering and interpretation of these paintings follows the way we process language, so that when we analyze a painting like that what we're really doing is constructing sentences in our heads which are suggested by the interaction of a few basic elements in the painting which have very primitive meaning on their own, like phonemes in language. So for example take Kandinsky's theories about the associations of colors with moods and his associations of angular shapes with certain feelings and organic shapes with other feelings. Those are the basic materials to work with in constructing meaning out of the paintings, but in looking at a Kandinsky painting you can tell that there are infinte ways of combining these bits of meaning and infinite ways of positioning them in relation to each other and that the totality of these relationships, which are based on a few simple rules, constructs a very complex web of meaning which is what Kandinsky is trying to communicate.

I think that when the mind sees and tries to make sense of modern art that it sees the painting more as a story than as attractive visual imagery, and that the mind tries to figure out the story, tries to piece it together by seeing how one part fits into another fits into another--is modified by yet another, on and on.

Once that's done it's left to the creative imagination of people to give it immediate meaning.

This doesn't account for cubism or for works which intentionally make use of symbolism.

Socialism and Economic Materialism

In attempting to answer the question "What is Socialism?", I think it comes down to that what all socialist projects, whether Social Democratic, Anarchist, Communist, what have you, have in common is that they see Socialism as constituting freedom from economic determinism.

The Communist experience fits this less than others, since they had an articulated notion of Socialism which could be used to justify many things contrary to this notion, but the Third World Communisms were much better on this score. So, Socialism as freedom from economic determinism. The concept feeds from Marx's idea of history, i.e. history as being molded by the economic structure of society, with the assumption being that throughout history the economic substructure has been a subtle and sometimes hidden determining influence on the nature of the society. Through most of human history society's have been for the most part conservative in that they tend to conserve traditions rather than praise innovation; this conservative factor helps the economic structure to dominate over the society since the folkways and traditions which are being conserved serve the existing power and economic relationships of the civilization. The bourgeois society, according to Marx, was innovative in that it smashed the traditional conservatism of society and opened up the door for innovation and questioning; this opportunity for self determination free of conservative traditional influences could then be used to finally confront the underlying economic shaping of society, to take hold of it and to transform it so that it benefits everyone, rather than secretly benefiting a certain class of people, and that being done blindly and rather unconsciously.Socialism for Marx was, then, the freeing of humanity from dumb economic determinism which typifies all societies and the beginning of freedom for people to determine their own fates, to transcend the determination, to transcend economic materialism.

The main difference between Marx and liberal thinkers is that the liberal thinkers thought of freedom in a very general way, as freedom from unjust power in the abstract, without taking notice that simple power, as in State power, wasn't the only source of power around. Marx connected the liberal idea to an understanding of the structure and development of society, so that in order for the liberal idea to be fully realized there also has to be a fundamental change in the economic structure of society.

All socialisms believe in freedom for the individual, however they choose to manifest it, all socialisms believe in a fundamental change in the economic structure to facillitate that freedom, all socialisms which are worth something believe in socialism as an emancipation from blind determinism based on economic conditions and in socialism as the start of a commonwealth where all may develop freely, no matter where they stand in the structure of society.


One last thing, and that is that Marx seemed to believe in economic materialism himself, i.e. in the inevitable triumph of socialism as guaranteed by a crisis as predicted by historical materialism. Much ink has been spilled since Engel's death about the inevitability of this and that, as if history was a pinball game, but I think that this type of economic determinism is really a bourgeois concept. Before the socialists took it up the main proponents of this type of determinism were capitalist thinkers; you can find ideas of this sort in the works of Herbert Spencer, the founder of Social Darwinism, you can find them in the ideas of Malthus, in writers talking about the inevitable rise of capitalist progress in the early part of the 20th century and the later part of the 19th. I think that this whole thing is the last gasping breath of the old order, the conservative order which liberalism overthrew, trying to assert itself and that it should be laid to rest. Before socialism was inevitable the progress of liberty was inevitable. The problem isn't with either of them, the problem is with linking them to a particular fixed historical dialectic which automatically works out. Both are good, neither is inevitable. Socialism should be established because it's right, not because someone feels that it's inevitable. Liberalism and liberty, democracy, should be respected because it is right, not because it's inevitable either. As for the ethical systems which justify these two categories, work it out yourself; there are plenty of philosophers and thinkers who have written about social justice and ethical societies; it's about time that socialists got off the horse of not looking at moral and ethical issues because they believe it will inevitably be solved by the future society and instead look at the real world.

I don't want to end on a sour note so let me say that this framework, skeletal as it may be, can contribute to real proposals for change....

Hopefully socialists will be up for that, too.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Notes to self: from the trip

Ok, here we go: raising tariffs against foreign imports in order to bolster products made in the USA, employing US workers, could be offset by redistributing income so that people would have more money to buy the stuff with.

Look into the prevalence of Anglo-Saxonism in the United States as a conservative reactionary force which prevents the U.S. from being a truly inclusive society; look into how the Ku Klux Klan preaches a version of Anglo-Saxonism, meaning that this isn't just some Marxist fantasy but really exists as a force, to one degree or another, and also either unspoken and unthought out or spoken and thought out, in the life of the United States.

Oh yeah, remember to quote Benjamin Constant on the proper sphere and activity of government and how, if that government violates certain inherent rights, that it loses whatever claim to be just and ultimately to be legitimate that it might have. Constant suggests passive resistance by choosing to not obey any unjust laws that a person may come across.

I'll key in that passage tomorrow.

That should keep the people who look at this blog for scraps of sedition happy.

Oh yeah, personal note: saw a person who looks about exactly as I think I'll look thirty years from now; he (and his wife) saw me too and upon seeing me this guy actually let out an exclamation in a foreign language. I think he may have been Estonian.



Well, it's been a big week or so. Several end of year get togethers followed by a trip to Montana to hike, which I just got back from.

It was the first time I'd been to Montana; I went to Glacier National Park and did some really good trails, took a lot of pictures, and, surprisingly, relaxed.

Immediate responses? Montana is nice but as an interview with the Lowbagger blog mentioned, in order to actually survive up there you need several service jobs, since there aren't really any jobs up there and besides the people who have lived there their whole lives get the good jobs.

When you see the same people behind the counter at a restaurant and then at a store, while hearing them talk about the third job they have, it sort of sinks in what the situation is...

Plus, too isolated.

But nice for a visit.

Oh, yeah, on the way back I took 95 down the Idaho panhandle, beautiful drive, and drove by none other than Hayden, as in Hayden Lake, where the Aryan Nations compound is. How should I put this? The town is really a suburb of Coeur D'Alene, which is a decent sized city, and so it ends up that the white supremacist compound is about a mile and a half away from a symbol of the decadent liberal conspiracy, Borders' Books and Music. Yeah. Just keep on with all of your fantasies, fellahs, I'm sure the Coeur D'Alenians think of you as a bunch of freaks who live out by Hayden Lake....

Sort of less intimidating when you realize that the 'compound' of these people is a short drive from a Movie Gallery video rental and the usual spate of chain restaurants and chain stores, to say nothing of a taco stand, which is actually in Hayden right near the turn off for Hayden Lake.

Oh yeah and conservative Idaho? Idaho might be conservative but it's not monolithic; several miles up the road from Hayden I saw a person who'd parked their VW Van by the side of the road and was selling homemade tie-dye tapestries. So there.

Ah well, you can never have too much fun at the expense of white supremacists, but everything has to end sometime, so I"ll just leave it at that.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Kraftwerk has a live album out---legit.

Kraftwerk is finally releasing an authorized live album. Given their insane pickiness about technical quality, which manifests in albums taking between five and ten years to make, it should be good.

Of course, I already have a whole bunch of Kraftwerk bootlegs, but that's just because I'm a hardcore fan of their work. Throuhg the bootlegs of their first three albums (Kraftwerk I, Krafterk II, Ralph and Florian) I found out about German Psychedelia, known as Krautrock. Those albums have much less of the hard ass machine ethic that typifies Kraftwerk, which I love.

Bootlegs, well, there's this sort of endless discussion about the subject, but the consensus of people who are serious about their music seems to be this: bootlegging recordings which are otherwise not available, either because they're alternate takes of songs, unreleased songs, or live recordings, is not wrong, because it's material which would otherwise never be out there. Although the band isn't being compensated for it the band wasn't going to release the stuff anyways, and these things are usually only interesting for the few fans who are enough into the music of the band to want to seek out relatively obscure recordings of them, or, alternately, if the band doesn't release live material at all, live recordings which would subtly differ from the established CD sound, so it's not like there's this huge market for true bootlegs out there, and, what's also very likely, although the band loses money from not profiting from the sales they probably don't lose that much.

What a sentence.

This is different from copying and selling an album which is already out there. That's just theft.

Anyways, the Kraftwerk boots which are out there are spectacular. Most of them relate to their live shows which differ from the studio recordings so much that I don't really even listen to the studio recordings anymore...

There used to be extensive MP3s of Kraftwerk out on the web before they started cracking down on it, and I picked up, although I've fricking lost it!!@#!#$!#! an entire alternate version of their album "Technopop". What happened was that they made this entire album called "Technopop", then decided that the direction the album was going wasn't one which they agreed with, and so they trashed the entire album and recorded whole new songs, which was eventually released as the album entitled "Technopop", which is one of the weaker albums in the Kraftwerk discography.

But this site, somehow it got ahold of the original "Technopop" album and put it all online for free. So what was the difference between the unreleased "Technopop" and the released version?

The unreleased version was much more purely a meddly of technology and pop music, it was largely upbeat, while the technopop album which was released was much less, well, Technopop-ie and, in comparison, darker than the original. This was confirmed with Kraftwerk's live shows which followed Technopop which were much more sceptical of technology and science, with Autobahn, their original hit, transformed into an anti-Autobahn song, with Radioactivity transformed into an anti-nuclear power plant song, and with Numbers/Computer World transformed into a song about the potentials of a computer driven society which can record information to oppress people, "FBI and Scotland Yard, CIA and KGB, control the data memory---Time, medicine, entertainment, communication--Computer World..."

Anyways, I wish it was still available; maybe it was and I just haven't found it...

One good thing about bootlegs is the possibility of finding a show you've been to. This happened to me with Kraftwerk. I saw them in July of '98 at the State Theater in Detroit, and then I found a boot of the show I went to. Not only that, but I was actually on the boot because it turned out that this little guy with the funny looking glasses who was standing near me was actually recording the concert. Those funny glasses hid two microphones. It's a setup you can find on the web. So, one comment I made appeared on the bootleg that I found and then downloaded.

Pretty cool.

What else, oh, yeah, early Kraftwerk, the Krautrock stuff, from there I found out about Can, Neu, and Faust, three seminal Krautrock bands. I was aided of course by the knowledgeable people at Other Music in the Village, who stocked a healthy selection of obscure but really good stuff like that.

I guess the closest paralell to those bands which is widely known is early Flaming Lips. Stereolab is close, in its own way, too, although they're much more fey than those bands mentioned above, who are kind of harsh. Nevertheless, "dots and loops" by Stereolab shows some real influences from the Krautrock crowd.


Jean Cocteau writes in his book "The Difficulty of Being" that a person's soul always takes time to catch up with them after they've made a move or gone on a journey.
I feel that acutely with respect to the Northwest in that I'm only now feeling that my soul has really caught up to me, after living here for a year and a half.

What that means, what Cocteau means, is that only now am I looking around my house and really relating to it the way that I related to it back home. People are surrounded by their familiar things with which they make a life for themselves, momentos, books, things which remind them of a certain facet of their lives. It's this remembrance of a broad mix of facets of our lives which constitutes the soul catching up with a person.
Once a person has remembered themselves through being reminded of certain facets of their lives and certain details of their living to the point where they can transparently function as a full human being, not as an outsider, but as an insider of one's own being who then goes out and lives life in the outside world , their soul has returned to them completely.

I remember, looking back on it, how intensely I interacted with my surroundings when I first got here, what this intensity was, and how, ultimately, it was misdirected and had the effect of somewhat scaring people. In order to move out here I had to have a pretty big psychic rave up, a pretty big dose of motivation and belief in myself. When I finally got over the hump of actually getting out here the motivation and the absolute will power which I'd developed were still going forward even though I'd hit the ground, leading to the strange intensity; the intensity I had was raw and not really directed towards anything locally besides the essentials of what I had to do to live out here, which at that time involved succeeding in my schooling; that was met with a focussed intensity, but all the rest of life just got the benefit of my intensity in a sort of ignorant way, one which was pretty scattershot and not really hooked into life as it actually exists out here, although I was of course learning about life out here every day.

I remember when I first got here I had longish hair, wore a green bomber jacket with a leather collar, black pants, and my Doc Martins, with shirts of varying types of grey and black, with a shirt here and there that I'd picked up from Austin or from Florida, like St. Augustine, just for variation.

Now I look more like an average young Seattleite.

It's really late and I've been dancing for a good part of five hours, then sorting through boxes that I hadn't looked at in a long time, and now sleep sort of calls.

I'm still getting used to things, but now I see life here as being the manifestation
of a lot of potential energy which I'd accumulated in my stay in Florida, which was like the builing up of pressure inside of a pressure cooker: heat, but no outlet. Now that potential energy has thankfully resolved itself and out of the steam and the pressure life, like it existed back in Michigan, where I'm from originally, is showing itself; I've come back to a point of stability, a real life again, after this netherworld existence. And it's truly my own life, here in the Northwest; this is like my little kingdom in the mountains; a place insulated from the rest of the world by the Cascades to the east and the mountains of southern Oregon down south, and I don't regret the insulation at all, I have everything that I could want to make a full life for myself right here and that's all that matters.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The stock market, how it works, consequences

In all of this writing about corporations etc... the role of the stock market and of stock and investment in general is not touched upon. It's been said, on the one hand, that corporations which are privately held tend to have better policies in terms of social responsability, because they don't face the constant pressure of share holders clamoring for more returns, and on the other hand it's been said that the diversification of ownership in corporations has somehow rendered the idea of classical capitalism, where you have an owning class and a working class, obsolete.

The idea that stock ownership has rendered class obsolete is so off the wall that I won't even address it. I'll just assume that that's totally false, for this discussion.
What's more important is the idea of stock ownership as being socialized in a way and therefore, according to some critics, linked to more responsability on the part of the company because of the diverse ownership of it's stock?

Well, they got the idea of socialization right, but there can be bad socialization and there can be good socialization. The distribution of stock locks a company into an ultra-capitalist mode since the shareholders own the company and the share holders want the value of their investment, stock, to increase. That stocks can be broadly held does not negate this fact; in fact, it makes it worse, since now ownership is totally divorced from any fixed reality and instead of facing partners who have some understanding of things and are linked with a community a company faces a lot of anonymous voices from all over the place who clamor for one thing: bigger increases in stock value. Since profitability is linked to stock value, higher profits are therefore called for as well.

Stock ownership is a serious thing, it's like owning land: the point of it is to hold it in order to someday sell it at a higher price than you bought it for. The point of owning stocks isn't derivatives, the share of the profits of a company which are doled out to the stock owners, but an increase in the fixed value of the part of the company which they own.

Stock ownership is more attractive than land ownership for the simple reason that the value of stock can increase at a rate which outpaces land value increases by an enormous margin.

And people who own the stocks get to dictate the policies. Last thing before getting back on track: stock bubbles and real estate bubbles seem to be about the same thing, part of the same process, of speculation.

Now, say that the way stock ownership works now is socialization for the benefit of capitalism. An obvious way to combat this would be for a company to own many shares in another company and act to influence the policy of the company to one of social responsability. A block of share holders who collectively exercised their muscle to demand that the company act in a socialist way would work.

In fact, if these companies were public entities, then the action of the corporations could be democratically decided upon.

Eurocommunism and Salvador Allende

The point of the whole Eurocommunism bit is to present an alternative to Social Democracy which retains the radicalness of the socialist movement while also being realistic. Realism, granted, is a word which people hide behind, but in this case realism translates out to radical changes which can actually happen in our societies and in our world, and work!, so it's a great thing.

The best collection of writings out there which expresses this combination of radicalism and realism is the Salvador Allende Reader, which is a collection of writings by the assasinated Chilean socialist leader.

Chile's economy was and is pretty modern, and the country sees itself as not only being developed but being on par with the United States and with Europe, so Allende's writings can pretty easily be translated into U.S. political reality, with potentially wonderful effects.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Another new and strange but old and interesting concept: Ras Lila

Or the dance of the gods, from Hinduism, the idea in practical terms being, as was presented in the book Aghora, that two people can interact in two different ways which will profit them: The first way entails one person using the partner as a mirror of the divine, investing them with the powers of the ultimate principle so that when you interact with them it's thought of as interacting with the god. In this way people could become better spiritually, through this, but the down side is that the person who is doing the using is always in the head role while the person who is being used as a mirror of the divine is always in the subordinate role; you aren't truly valuing them for themselves, you're valuing them because they're a surrogate for some greater being.

The other way which two people can interact is if they're both in the role of the seeker, the one who wants to see the divine, and instead of having one person be hierarchically above the other they switch off in seeing each other as being symbollically the divine, so that sometimes I see you as the divine, sometimes you see me as the divine, so that there's a parity and no one is cheated or truly used.

The disadvantage of this is that the people who seek for the divine like this usually have strong personalities, and so asking two people who have strong personalities to share in being, sometimes, subordinate to another person is sometimes hard. It's much easier to have the arrangement be one where there's the structural inequality that I spoke of. But the advantage of having both people pursuing the divine through this way is that the spiritual effects and the spiritual progress is multiplied by a big amount, as the people form a sort of a spiritual feedback loop amongst themselves.

There was a whole literature in the Middle East about the contemplation of the divine, but the particulars of that don't need to be gone into right at this moment. Besides, at its best, this is more democratic.

Positive and Negative via Chesterton

Chesterton has some good things to say about the range of human experience and one's approach to it. This from "Orthodoxy", which I'll have more to say about later.The copyright has expired on this, by the way...
This at least had come to be my position about all that was called optimism, pessimism, and improvement. Before any cosmic act of reform we must have a cosmic oath of allegiance. A man must be interested in life, then he could be disinterested in his views of it. "My son give me thy heart"; the heart must be fixed on the right thing: the moment we have a fixed heart we have a free hand. I must pause to anticipate an obvious criticism. It will be said that a rational person accepts the world as mixed of good and evil with a decent satisfaction and a decent endurance. But this is exactly the attitude which I maintain to be defective. It is, I know, very common in this age; it was perfectly put in those quiet lines of Matthew Arnold which are more piercingly blasphemous thatn the shrieks of Schopenhauer---

Enough we live:--and if a life,
With large results so little rife,
Though bearable, seem hardly worth
This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth

I know this feeling fills our epoch, and I think it freezes our epoch. For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do now want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre's castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.

No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on. Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiesence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a pagan to die for the world, and enough of a Christian to die to it? In this combination, I maintain, it is the rational optimist who fails, the irrational optimist who succeeds. He is ready to smash the whole universe for the sake of itself.

Powerful stuff.

Chesterton's little book isn't without its flaws, though. The chapter preceding the one I'm quoting from, chapter four, introduces the concept that a person should be filled with wonder at the world and should keep the sense of imagination and fantastic notions about the world alive in a way which makes you think that he's not quite in touch with things. He is, but he's trying to combine the scepticism of David Hume with an idea of the poetic mode of experience and of thought, which isn't an easy thing to express, in a way which might obscure the concept even further. I won't go into it anymore, but, suffice it to say, that isn't the whole of the book, it gets back on track after the interlude, and it is possible to extract what he meant from the bad style with which he expressed it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The rebirth of Positive Philosophy in the United States

I've agonized over the question of what exactly would it take to move the United States out of its cultural torpor and into something more productive, something that was more honoring of the whole human experience, in both the economic and material sense of that concept and also in the cultural, artistic, and intellectual sense of it.

I've come to the conclusion, and, granted, this is only one of many conclusions, but, that something which would help would be a positive philosophy in the United States.

Right now I see the world of thought caught between two themes which have the same underpinning: post-structural denial of truth and conservative scepticism towards truthful statements about society. Both of these trends deny outright that there are truths, that there are truths that can be spoken, debated, and thought about about society, about thought, about the world, and instead shoot down any attempts to formulate a discourse of truth with formalistic objections, which anyone could throw at anything. Examples are the picking apart of any proposal through reductum ad absurdo arguments on the part of the conservatives, i.e. if we have zoning rules the economy is going to fall apart because we can't predict what the economy and business is going to need and therefore trying to zone it would unknowingly interfere with the natural process, which should be decided by the action of businesses in a free market environment, and much the same on the left, i.e. what do you mean the greatest good for the greatest number is a decent political principle? First off we can't know that everyone has an agreement on what the 'greatest good' is, or even what 'the good' is,
and second, even if we could, the concept of 'the good' is completely culturally determined and so has no essential truth; it's the product of a specific historical process and so by privileging one conception of what 'the good' is we're thereby shutting the door to any other dissident conception of 'the good' which might exist.

Come on.

Just like the conservative argument against zoning (from the followers of Friedrich Hayek) could be applied to any other liberal scheme involving government the post-structuralist informed argument could be used against any other statement or idea which involves value judgements, which, considering that making value judgments about the world is a fundamental part of human nature, adds up to quite a lot of ideas which are therefore condemned.

Neither one of these types of argument honestly reflects the reality of life. They can't tell you what, according to one opinion, is a good application of city funds in order to promote culture, they can't tell you what topics for discussion about the world and about our place in it might make life a little bit more enriched and interesting, they can't fundamentally deal with difficult moral and ethical problems, or even explore the territory of moral and ethical issues beyond their own little already decided upon stands ("Christianity is absolute" and "There are no Universal Values").

It's not even the finding of truths to these issues but rather that the territory which all of these topics describe has been shut off from exploration by the formalistic shooting down of these dueling philosophies, so that in public life honest questions about life can't even be considered anymore, and get coverage.

Both of these philosophies could be called "Critical philosophies", meaning that their own statements about the world are never direct, beyond a few very small sets of theoretical constants, but are mostly composed of statements which are really critical analyses of other statements coming from elsewhere. Beyond purely theoretical ideas, which don't reflect reality, there are no truly positive features of these philosophies, positive in that they aren't derivative and are, at the same time, really engaged with questions that directly deal with lived experience and life.

In other words, what every other age has called 'philosophy', 'ethics', 'aesthetic theory', and other things like that.

What's needed is for a rebirth of way of talking about these things which can reflect reality while still being up to date, something that isn't relying on formulations which might have been appropriate eighty years ago but which are kind of antique now.

Coming from the perspective of the left and of possible action that some form of government, whether its local or state or whatever, could do to honestly improve the lives of a great number of people, but which it can't do at the moment, both the left and the right philosophy strike me as profoundly conservative: in the end they both have the same effect, which is to stop any opportunity for positive social change from happening through death by a thousand paper cuts. The conservatives are more active in this but the post-structuralists share some blame in that, professed radicals, they have created an academic and intellectual climate where it's ok to call youself a 'radical' and not give a damn about actual politics which is going on right outside your window but instead concern yourself with fantasies regarding "texts" which only matter to you and to your mutual admiration society.

Diverting radical opinion from actual radicalism which could have a tangible impact in the world to something which is harmless to the power structures of our society is almost as bad as actually attacking whatever efforts there are to propose and to implement proposals which would lead to the increase in the well being and welfare of large numbers of people.

But I digress.

Let's give up critical philosophy, "Critical Theory", and instead focus on the Postive in philosophy, and evolve a new understanding of it through the space which is opened up by looking at the issues head on and not dodging them through subterfuge, warts and all.

Here's how I got to the subject of Evil

Just so there won't be any confusion; it came from getting a copy of the Lords of Acid CD "Voodoo-U" and listening to it. I was expecting Voodoo-U to be an unbridled celebration of hedonism but I was pleasantly surprised to find that quite a few songs were critical of Club life and in fact touched on themes which would normally be labeled evil, i.e. the sexual exploitation of club goers who happen to be youngish females, marijuana culture making you stupid, the ever present theme of hard drug use, with the requisite song about how heroin ruins your life, and other things. Actually, the songs are very intelligent and hip, especially the one entitled "Young Boys".

"Young Boys" takes the theme of guys who want to pick up youngish girls in order to use them sexually and turns the tables; the song is narrated from the point of view of a woman who talks about how she likes to pick up young boys and how great they are, using the equivalent of the sort of talk about women that the macho creeps say, when talking to other men. It's good.

Then there's the one where the woman singer engages a "Mr. Smooth" guy, challenging him, and challenging his conceptions that women really like him.

I was expecting something pretty different. The LOA can be very explicit, for instance in the widely available remix CD "Detroit vs. Lords of Acid", which is composed of songs from their bluntly titled album which features a cat on the cover....

So that got me thinking about Evil and how evil has been misconstrued in the Protestant, particularly the American Protestant, world.

And the title track "Voodoo-U" kicks ass ("I'm gonna' Voodoo U!")

The Nature of Evil

Strange how things trigger thoughts about other things...I won't replicate the chain of events that had me thinking about this, but, the analysis is useful.

I think that there are things that could legitamately be called evil, people who really are evil, who do evil things to others, now, what is this quality called evil, what makes it?

I've been leaning towards the theory from the Catholic church which says that, at its essence, evil is a kind of blindness or ignorance in that those who do truly evil things have an incomplete view of the world; there's some flaw in them, in how they see the world, which makes them think that certain things which are completely terrible are acceptable and not in fact bad. Evil, then, unmasked, is less an over-arching powerful conspiracy than a type of unfortunately dense low level ignorance, one which has extremely bad consequences but which isn't the product of a superior intelligence but of an inferior one.

There's something consitutionally wrong with people who could legitamately be called evil, like it's some sort of overall disorder, but and this gets to sort of the heart of the matter, a disorder is something which brings things down, makes normal life function less well, not something which is somehow above and beyond society and not understandable within society.

Disfunction is perfectly understandable, if really bad, this attribution of evil as being somehow superhuman isn't, and therefore people who believe in this idea of evil are extremely fearful that something is out to destroy them or to destroy society, something unfathomable, like the characteristic of evil which was attributed to the people that the supposed "Global War on Terror" is after. To my mind, it's much more rational to assume that Osama bin Laden has a warped view of reality which lead him to form Al-Qaeda, commit 9/11, than to think that he's somehow the head of this massive conspiracy aimed at destroying the United States.

But, taking the whole issue of terror out of the picture for a moment and focussing on the manifestations of evil on the personal level that more people are probably familiar with, ignorance, which originally meant to be shut off from something, to ignore something, in this case how to basically treat others and what's ok and what's totally, exceptionally, completely, not only out of bounds but extremely hurtful and malevolent, seems to be at the core. But it isn't the sort of ignorance that simply teaching someone something would necessarily be able to overcome, it's not a question of possessing knowledge or not possessing knowledge since few people honestly get a run down of what's right and wrong. Most people pick up the ideas of what's right and what's wrong semi-consciously from observing their surroundings and through testing interactions with others in order to see responses.

What's interesting, to move the conversation a little ways away from this, is that according to Jeffrey Burton Russell, who wrote a four volume history of Evil in the Western World, evil and Satan, considered the ultimate source of it, were for most of Christian history conceived of as having more in common with stasis and, metphorically, with ice, than with fire. Dante's satan is frozen solid at the center of the world, and I guess the implications are that the action of evil randomly and uselessly interferes with human action, causing a freezing up of the intentions of a person's life.

But the idea of fire is linked almost immediately with creativity and with activity, and so if the force which is creating havoc in the world is thought of as being linked to the same symbol which all these normally positive things are linked with, then these things get condemned too, which isn't good.

That's mostly in the West of Christianity, not in the Orthodox world. I opened up a book about Orthodox Christianity and one of the first things it said was that the goal of life is to be happy and to develop the inborn potentials which god has given you. In a moral way, of course, but still, the Orthodox church recognized that creativity and the striving to live a full life were good things, because didn't god create our minds? The Western Christian faiths seem to almost penalize people for simply wanting a decent life for themselves, with the Protestant faiths being much bigger offenders on this score than Catholicism.

Another thing is that the idea of there being a personal devil which specifically tempts people individually is only as recent as the Reformation and Luther. Before Luther's intestinal problems told him that there was some sort of evil creature specifically tempting him the nature of satan and of evil was conceived as being much more of a general force which was ever present, acting on the community as a whole, trying to drag people and the community down. This might be realized through individuals but not exclusively: where there's smoke there's fire, and if one person was affected by evil it might have been an opportunity to look at what the community as a whole was doing and how it was organized, what, in other words, the social basis of evil might be, albeit in a conception which included something about general social and moral decay....

Imagine, though, if our conception of evil was more like what I've described above: evil is not a specifically personal force and it's a type of blindness potentially caused by wrong socialization and its a force which operates on the lower level of human interaction instead of on a high level. Therefore it's predictable.

And on the other side: developing the potentials you were born with aren't bad and collectively developing them to their fullest is a good thing which should be pursued with the proviso that the person doing it is also moral and ethical, in other words a responsible citizen.

Think of how much anguish would be extinguished if people were to let it be known that the concept that there's this devil who pays attention to your every thought and is trying to influence you at all times to do bad things is bullshit, is something that Martin Luther invented, something which literally DID NOT EXIST BEFORE HIM.

And Martin Luther was far from psychologically normal, he obsessed on scatalogical topics and was paranoid.

So why give that concept any sort of validity? Why let it have any power over you?

Why not just relax, live a decent life, and say to yourself that that's enough, you don't have to be fearful if you're a good person. Live life to the fullest, within moral and ethical guidelines, and don't be overly concerned.

Christianity at its worst wanted to turn the whole of Christendom into a population of monks and nuns by saying that the standards that applied to them should apply to everyone. Why not say that spiritual virtue is an optional thing that one can choose to go far or one can choose not to emphasize it that much, and leave an ultra-strict
conception of the religious life to the monks and nuns if you don't want to pursue it yourself.

You'll free yourself from being led down the lilly path by demagogues and headcases if nothing else.