Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Ha Ha Ha---Human Events publishes the most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries

Via Wonkette. Heading up the pack is the Communist Manifesto....which shows just what fucking idiots the people at Human Events are.
In 1848, the two co-authored The Communist Manifesto as a platform for a group they belonged to called the Communist League. The Manifesto envisions history as a class struggle between oppressed workers and oppressive owners, calling for a workers’ revolution so property, family and nation-states can be abolished and a proletarian Utopia established. The Evil Empire of the Soviet Union put the Manifesto into practice.


The sign that a person on the right is totally full of shit is that they give the Communist Manifesto much more weight than it really deserves, like that part about "The Evil Empire" putting it into practice. I say, what the hell are you going to put into practice? Have these people actually read the Communist Manifesto? It lists ten immediate demands, which are things like free universal education, a tax on inheritance, and other really small demands, since it was an actual platform for a political party, and not a complete call for Revolution. The real importance of the Manifesto comes in the introduction to those several demands, which is a really broad historical analysis of history.

To say that "The Evil Empire" put the Manifesto into practice is just really not on track. I think that the Soviet Union probably owed more to things written by Lenin legitimating Party dictatorship than to the damn Manifesto...

Marx makes another appearance in Human Events' top ten with volume one of Capital.

John Dewey makes an appearance with "Democracy and Education"

Auguste Comte, mentioned just a day ago, makes his appearance with his "Introduction to the Positive Philosophy".

Nietzsche makes an appearance with "Beyond Good and Evil", and John Stuart Mill gets honorable mention for his insidious book "On Liberty".

Totally taking me by surprise because of its complete non-sequiter nature, Antonio Gramsci's book "The Prison Notebooks" wins honorable mention. Maybe it's because they don't understand them and are feeling some sort of inferiority complex.

"Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson also gets honorable mention. I guess poisoning the earth with pesticides is some sort of liberal plot, right guys?

Monday, May 30, 2005

FYI about recent posts

Lately, there's been a really big change at Lost Highway/Times of.... instead of my usual writing about politics there's been a lot of personal stuff. I don't know, I felt like after all these years I needed to come clean with myself about my past and about my actions. This will not continue, at least the really, really, controversial stuff won't continue.

Florida, my years there, were like a black hole which I barely got out of.

What I don't want to do, what at this point is probably way too late to prevent from happening, is to cause anyone in real life any sort of pain because of my revelations. That's not what I wrote them for. I, sometimes pain sears me so badly that I can't do anything but cry out.

To people who would say that the presence of so much fucked up stuff there indicates that something isn't right, I'd say that substitute 'wasn't' for 'isn't' and you'd be right on target.....experiences like that whole New Orleans thing, cool for some people, scary for others who read about it, don't happen to people who have things going good in their lives. I could say the same thing for some of the other things I wrote about. That's why I left Florida.

But, have no fear. Easy to say, right? No one has to worry about anything. I've said my peace, and now, I honestly don't have many other personal things I really feel need to be said.

I don't know, life is hard.

re: Apollonian and Dionysian liberation...I've just been informed

That "The Bacchae" is by Euripedes, not Sophocles. My bad.

Positive Philosophy

The other way that people trid to impose a balance in the 19th century was by introducing subject matter into their philosophy which made their thought more of a combination of philosophy and what we'd now call sociology rather than having it be made up of pure deduction or induction. Benjamin Constant, the French political thinker, was one of the primary people to start doing this. De Toqueville, author of "Democracy in America",(which was a propaganda piece for French moderate conservatism), was another person who did this.

Although philosophically his descendents introduced some negative notes into their worldview by restricting it in the extreme, if you're looking for a person who formally made the bridge between philosophy and sociology, Auguste Comte, founder of Positivism, is the person to look at.

What Comte did was to take speculative philosophy and widen its terms to the point where it became a general language which could describe phenomenon rather than something which was suited for a particular philosophical school or thinker. He also reckoned with the speculative nature of this philosophy by restricting it's possible claims to truth to being simply what appeared to be proveable. If a proposition agreed with facts then it was provisionally true, but it could never be called conclusively true because a different explanatory device could theoretically be developed for the phenomenon which fit the facts better, and then another could come and knock that off the ledge of 'truth', etc... This was important because even though the language employed was speculative, meaning that, at bottom, it was reason and not something god given which was establishing the language, it shut off the link, which was always assumed, between the way in which the reasoning of the speculator worked and the way the nature of the universe was thought to work. Which broadened the scope of inquiry by making it have to be more scientific, based more on scientific observation. How good this was for people's lives and for people's view of themselves is another question. But leave it for now.

So what was Comte's innovation? The notion that truth is both individual and organic. That facts exist independently and they also exist embedded within systems which make up organic wholes. And that the arrangement of the wholes was subject to change. At the bottom, both of these concepts, that of the individual fact and of the existence of wholes were epistemological devices rather than ontological judgements about reality, that is they reflected more the brain's tendency to group facts and judgements rather than what necessarily was out there. But since we're embedded in our brains permanently, with there being no way to step out side and get an unbiased view, this is the best we can do, and so we work with these concepts which are acknoledged to only approximate truth and to be very fluid in that one concept may be overthrown tomorrow and replaced with a new one, in order to get as close as we as human beings can to understanding the world outside of ourselves.

I think that philosophy still applies in regards to the questions of human existence and within the realm of human interaction, to specifically human experiences, what the humanities and in other words the liberal arts deal with, and that this in fact in no way conflicts with the scientific understanding of the world.

The Middle Ages fixation and the 19th century

Not all the Romantics became reactionaries, some were able to navigate the general problem described below without falling into those traps. It's important to realize as well that not every philosopher and thinker in the early 19th century that was dissenting against the Enlightenment philosophy was a Romantic; the Idealists weren't always Romantics, in fact some of them were anti-Romantic. How these people navigated the problem of falling back into some sort of conservatism against their will was by changing the context within which questions of life and philosophy were considered. Some, most obviously, developed something called a "Lebensphilosophie" or "Life Philosophy" a philosophy which was dedicated to looking specifically at the issues of every day life and developing philosophical ideas which dealt specifically with common life. This was usually limited in scope, of course, and a person could develop a Lebensphilosophie and a regular formal philosophy at the same time. Another way in which questions about specific issues was resolved was through broadening the scope of philosophical inquiry to include parts of life which usually were beyond the scope of formal philosophy, types of knowledge which were considered not pure or which were seen as inferior in some way to pure philosophy were brought in as proper fields of study. This means things like how culture is expressed in terms of intersubjectivity, how folk culture expresses a world view of life, how history conditions people in terms of general worldview, indeed, the idea of a "worldview" was the product of this, how a person's religious sensibility structured their experience of social reality and of reality itself. The artistic vision and the poetic vision were of course given a high priority, as well as the aesthetic sense in general. Special attention was paid the middle ages and the worldview of the middle ages.
This was because the Romantics and others thought that western civilization had experienced a profound discontinuity and a profound imbalance that stemmed from the Reformation, which was followed by the Enlightenment, which a-historicized Western culture. The true context within which Western culture could be understood, the source of all the institutions and ways of thinking about the world which we encounter today, was thought to in fact be in the Middle Ages, with later thinkers somewhat unconsciously transforming the terms of the social concepts of the middle ages into the concepts which we would recognize today. Since the transformation was unconcsious, and since people naively assumed that they were in fact importing Greek and Roman concepts of government and law into their own times in a pure way, without any historical conditioning of their understanding of them, the Enlightenment was left with an enourmous weakness: it didn't really 'work' in and of itself because the historical legacy of the middle ages, which conditioned its understanding of these things, was not dealt with or brought into consciousness.

Government was left with a half functioning mechanism, and no one understood why, in fact, the mechanism seemed to lose steam very early on.

What some of the thinkers of the 19th century wanted to do was to correct this imbalance by bringing in more of this material, processing it, and adding to it the concepts of the Enlightenment in order to achieve a balanced understanding of the world they lived in.

Feuerbach, Marx, Pragmatism

Between the standpoint which I presented Feuerbach as having below and Marx's standpoint, if a person sort of made their philosophy as a mean between them, is something which resembles the Pragmatist idea of truth and of social organization and human needs. This common ground between more philosophical, as opposed to more classical economics oriented, Marxism and Pragmatism is in fact nothing new: John Dewey , one of the big Pragmatists, made explicit connections in his pragmatist writings on society between his ideas and those of Marx; Sidney Hook, who before he became a cold war reactionary was a Marxist, who was also a Pragmatist in philosophy, actually wrote the first book in English which outlined how Hegelian philosophy gave birth to Marxism, and he used information about the young Marx which was unavailable in English at that time.

Stranger things indeed have happened than Pragmatist philosophers, who orient themselves towards what works in human society, allying themselves with Marxist socialism.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Marx, Feuerbach, visions of liberty

Ok, so enough about me lets talk about me. Just kidding. I started out wanting to talk about the romantic idea of liberty, or about romantic liberalism, which is different from classical liberalism in that it takes more of an expansive view of the social sphere than does classical liberalism. Classical liberalism has the tendency to reduce society purely to individual little atoms interacting, guided by rational thought, without really realizing that there's more to life than that and that applying strict reason to everything can in fact limit a person's possibilities in that certain things aren't easily explained in this way--not anything beyond the norm, but even normal things. Looking at life as consisting of people who are constantly making rational calculations about everything sort of misses the times when we act from habit or we act from emotion or we take a view on life or on a part of life which isn't easily reduceable to rational explanation if we view rational explanation as being something which is totally self contained and doesn't make much reference to things outside of itself.

The dilemma of the romantic liberals in the 19th century was how to situate humanity within the greater universe of social relationships and the full experience of the individual without falling back on conservatism. If this sounds contrary to common sense it shouldn't be. Conservatives have in the modern world defined conservatism as the doctrine that certain social relationships, namely the family and the greater social structure, were necessary for society to keep on going and that if you disrupted these relationships then you'd end up getting something worse than what you started out with. The same went for values. Conservatives emphasized Christian values , and religion, but they did so not because the religious way of looking at things could be considered to be fuller as much as that the religious way of looking at things guaranteed the stability of society. It might be fuller, and some conservatives argued that this was the case, or it might not, in which case it was thought that although the religious way of looking at things was limited that what the doctrines of the Enlightenment were offering was a type of fools gold, something which looked like it offered wealth and happiness but in reality turned out to be worthless.

If people are autonomous beings situated in a social context, and if this social context, as much as the individual, accounts for happiness and fulfillment, how then can you describe the virtues of the social context without thereby reinforcing the stereotypical social relationships which form that social context?

Say, for example, that having family makes life better, and that people who have a rich and good family life have a richer experience than those that don't. First of all, do you know this to be the case? Or is it just in some respects that this is true? Ok, take it as a given for a moment. The question then becomes, if family, in the general, is a good thing, how do you express that without saying that the typical, stereotyped, family arrangement of your country or your region, is necesarily the right arrangement? Limiting the definition of what constitutes a family and saying that the traditional notion of family necessarily leads to happiness is extremely conservative. What if someone wants to experiment with a different notion of family because they think that it might be better, that it may make them more happy than the traditional family, should a person who talks about family making things better then try to interfere with that? What about people who don't want family at all, are they left out of our happy state?

This is how the Romantics fell down the often noted road from being people who opposed how society was and who wanted to make life better for people to people who endorsed ideas, like linguistic and ethnic nationalism, which were reactionary in practice. They wanted to recognize something beyond individual social atoms bumping around in a void but they had a hard time doing this without falling back on the thought of their enemies. After all, what can you say is the typical social experience? Can you really say what, specifically, beyond generalities, would make a person fulfilled? You could say, friends, family, having a religion which provides a viewpoint into the world, which makes life understandable in a way which enlightened philosophy doesn't make it, you could say that community makes life good, that keeping old traditions alive makes life good, that being able to speak your own language without feeling excluded makes life good, but taken as a whole, transformed into a program where it's no longer "This MAY make life better" and is instead "This WILL make life better" oppression can very easily follow. And has.

The Romantic dilemma was partially solved through using the last bit of Enlightenment philosophy out there, the thought which, while paving the way for Idealism, was still connected enough to the thought of the Enlightenment to be somewhat useful in a non-conservative light. Immanuel Kant's theories of equity and of social justice were adapted to the liberal tradition by British thinkers, particularly a man by the name of L.T. Hobhouse, who established the idea of welfare-state liberalism, meaning that to be free was now thought to not just refer to personal liberty in the abstract but instead to also refer to effective liberty in a social sense, in that man was thought to need more than just non-interference from a co-ercive, conservative, state, and his own mind to be able to really exist freely in society. He(she) needed economic and other resources in order to live in the society in an efficacious way, or, in other words, to be a full citizen of whatever society he lived in. Since this had to do with people's welfare and the means by which people were to acocmplish the redistributions and social programs necesssary to make the increased welfare of the people a reality was the state, it became known as welfare-state liberalism.

There was however another tradition that flowed from the thought of the Romantics that also bore fruit in the 20th century, namely socialism. Here the transfer from an expansive, over-arching, conception of social life to one limited by some force which would make it in some way democratic and non-oppressive was accomplished by way of Hegel and Hegelian idealism rather than Kantian philosophy. The Hegelian ideal was brought down to reality by Ludwig Feuerbach, who was the source of much of Marx's approach, although there are really significant differences, but I won't go into those right now, just to say that I think Feuerbach was less historically minded than Marx was.

If Marx was dependent on Hegel, it came through Feuerbach. What Feuerbach did was to look at all of the Hegelian writings on religion, in which Hegel labelled the religious sensability as the primary way in which people expressed knowledge of and thought about the world, as well as, I'm sure, other current philosophers who had something to say about it, and took from the wide range of experience that they talked about, the idea that whatever was established in relation to heaven or the religious world was actually, in practice referring to relationships between people on earth.

So Christianity was important, but it was important because of how belief in a spiritual world effected relations between people here on earth. Christianity helped the community and it helped people effect self realization.

It helped the community realize collective welfare and it helped individuals become more human and become more human in relation to each other, but the relationships themselves were just means to an end--they weren't god given and were therefore changeable. The focus was no longer on religion in and of itself as something which was a positive good but on something derivative, which might not even have to be expressed in religious terms, but which could adapt to different formulations in order to realize the same concept, human realization and a generally well community.

No longer, "family is good because it makes life better" but, instead, the self realization of people is manifested through many different ways, in some cases this has been through the family but it does not necessarily have to go that route; theoretically self realization could come through other means, and if people themselves decide that the traditional family is the best way to accomplish that, that's fine, if they decide that a non-traditional family is a good way to accomplish that, then that's fine too, the goal is more important than the means, and the means are changeable.

What Marx did was to take this sensibility and link it to the economic structure. This had its bad parts as well as its good parts. According to Marx, the fundamental way that the means to social well being are organized is through the economic structure of society, and, moreover, the people themselves aren't in control of this structure, the capitalists are, and, therefore, you can't really talk about people freely defining their destinies, freely defining what works best for them, until the issue of people exercising unjust power of each other through the means of economics is taken care of.

This, in it's pure form, is hostile to liberalism. Marx in his early writings, which weren't published until the 20th century, namely the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and his "Critique of the German Ideology" (Which was Left-Hegelian absolute idealism), show him to be more concerned with the types of freedom implied with self realization and being able to be more human than do his later works, although here still, the main determinant, despite the wiggle room, is the broad economic structure. I think that the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes of a) things being totally amenable to change and b) things being totally constrained (i.e. you can't have real freedom or progress towards freedom, or a better quality of life until the whole system is changed. The question which the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts raise is if there are extra economic determinants to freedom, whether these can be dealt with independently of economics, maybe taking economics as one prong and these extra-economic influences as another one, in order to advance the cause of liberty in a tangible way right now, something at least which would give people hope that liberty itself is possible in a non-socialist state.

The superstructure of society might embody the economic interests of the infrastructure, but does it have to? Can it be reformed to work for the people? While social equality is pursued as well? And what about democracy? Can't the causes which have traditionally been associated with the advancement of a decent society be pursued along with economic reform? What about further experiments with liberty?

I should clarify something

No animals were hurt in the rite described in the post below. The loa accept libations of cigars and alcohol.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Apollonian and Dionysian liberation

I write this listening to "Traditions of Turkey, Songs and Dances" put out by Arco records. So let it be, let the spirits of the Bektashi Order of Dervishes, a libertarian spiritual order centered in Turkey, be my companions on this explication.

Apollonian and Dionysian types of liberation come from, conceptually, the types established in "The Birth of Tradgedy" talked about below. Briefly, the Dionysian could be considered the typical idea of liberation on the personal level---indulgence, or rather liberation for pure enjoyment, hedonism, having a cultivated good time. Like Dionysus, who was supposed to have given the Bacchae a potion which turned them into wild animals, according to Sophocles' rendition, or which at least made them lose their sense of self... That's that. Pretty simple.

Apollonian liberation is a little different. Apollonian liberation could also be called "Epic liberation" because the person who pursues this would look to people like Herakles and his epic labours as someone to look up to and emulate. Generally, epic liberation refers to some sort of very difficult accomplishment which you have been able to do. It refers to using all your rational powers to their maximum in order to achieve something. Maybe physical powers too, depending on your type. The person who pusues this form of liberation is liberated in the performance of the act. There's a whole literature regarding the interpretation of the Hero's quest and how the idea can be applied to life right here; Joseph Campbell's book "Hero with a thousand faces" deals exclusively with this interpretation, and "Burning All Illusions", by David Edwards, out on South End Press, balances social responsability with heroic liberation. Burning All Illusions: A Guide to Radical Freedom; Powells' Link

Apollonian freedom could also be called Promethean freedom, or Faustian freedom, which expresses the same concept, since Prometheus was the god who brought the fire down to human kind to liberate them and was punished for his transgression, since his action made human beings more like gods. Faust, in the traditional stories, was a person concerned with knowledge for knowledge's sake, who went on a quest for knowledge which he was willing to sacrifice everything for. In the end of Goethe's Faust, according to my understanding (I'm not going to pretend to have read all of Faust I and Faust II) Faust is forgiven by God and his soul restored, since God decides that, in the end, his endeavor to find out the secrets of the universe was a good endeavor. The difference is that Faust, as an individual, wanted to exceed humanity, while Prometheus wanted all of humanity to benefit. Therein lies a particular creative tension implicit in all liberation schema.

Have fun.

Alcohol, liberation....

Maybe I should split that up in to two posts. Anyways, sitting down tonight to write, I'm livened up by a non-Lambic pear lambic beer, a yuppy "Beer with a cork". Laugh all you want. Tastes like a very mild mixed drink. It's a non-lambic lambic because it's not labelled as such and so less expensive...and it's from Pennsylvania too so that cuts down on cost.

Anyways, alcohol has popped on this blog before, so it should be no surpise. Didn't I write once, when getting back to Florida for a short period of time after having lived here, that, finding that stores wouldn't sell beer on Sundays, it was therefore time to make mixed drinks? Specifically, Pernods? Don't buy the brand name Pernod, it's way too expensive and a off brand anisette liquor will do just as well...like Cachasa, a Brazillian cane sugar rum which I used mainly for ceremonial purposes, although I've since made a killer Cachasa mixed drink with lots of sugar and lime juice...

Yes, I'll have to write about all that some time. I recollect this particular use of alcohol being seen in a Neo-Voodoo ceremony I attended in the French Quarter of New Orleans. I heard the drums, and it turned out that it was being held in the backyard of an occult book store that I think I was familiar with; I'm pretty sure that I'd been there before, or I knew about it. I know how I knew about it, but that's beside the point.

It was a blend of traditional Voodoo and some concepts taken from Aleister Crowley, indeed, the bookstore was Crowley central, along with some of the more libertarian variants of his faith.... there was a black houngan from New Orleans and a white one who had gone down to Haiti and been initiated.

He was really picturesque in that he blew the alcohol at the altar and also, in a use for it that I hadn't thought of before, sprinkled a line of "Florida Water" (which is used for dispelling negative energy) in front of the altar and then lit it on fire, which provided a nice blue flame.

There were traditional African drums and an electric bass to provide the rhythym...

Everyone took a turn going around the four corners where the spirits would come to you and either possess you or give you information. For me, the spirits wanted to come in really badly, and, at the end, they did. I had a vision of my paternal grandmother, who gave me some information which has been useful, which I'm still trying to execute successfully.

The loa are real, so are the Orixa, pronounced "Orisha" (x=sh in Portugese), which is the Brazillian variant of the West African faith...

The Afro-Carribean and Afro-Brazillian faiths are actually very positive. This whole image of Voudoun as being bad is not in line with reality. Much less the association of other faiths with something sinister. Candomble in Brazil is the purest variant of the religion, with Macumba being a kind of catch all term for Afro-Brazillian ceremonies and paths, Umbanda being a syncretism between Western European Spiritualism and the Afro-Brazillian faiths, and then others, which I won't name.

These faiths have an interesting view about good and bad, or about the origin of evil, in that the person who, in their rituals, is usually identified with the Devil, the respected Exu, is actually more like a trickster and more importantly is necessary for the cosmos to function since he provides the chaotic energy with which change becomes possible. If Exu wasn't there the world would stagnate. So, in all of the rituals of these faiths Exu is invoked first, then the Gods proper. Exu works with the Gods. The problems only come when you look to Exu alone, apart from the rest of the Gods. Without the rest of the Gods to orient you Exu can indeed become destructive as, being taken alone, he represents total chaos without any referents, which very easily becomes destructive chaos, which will lead to personal destruction.

It could be said that being in relation to the other gods tames Exu.

This leads, in its own way, into the second part of this discussion, which involves concepts of liberation, which I won't get to right now but which will be dealt with in the next post. Specifically the idea that there are two types of liberation which are complementary and which both need to be in place for true liberation to proceed---the Apollonian and the Dionysian, concepts originally taken from Nietzsche's book "The Birth of Tradgedy". You could say that the Apollonian keeps the Dionysian nature of people from destroying itself in sheer chaos and self indulgence.

First, to be extra clear about something

My mother, who married the Fascist, divorced him because he was an unstable, alcoholic, Fascist. She now lives in Washington state; the reason she lives in Washington state is because moving to Washington state was a conveniant way to get away from this guy.
Before I moved out here she had pretty much been reconciled to having to be married to him forever, because she saw no way out of it. She had moved down to Florida, done a stupid thing in marrying this guy, and didn't see how, barring moving someplace, she could get out. If she went to Church, there he'd be, it was a small town so, no matter what, there he'd be. Moving 2000 miles away, or even more than that, what is it, 3000 miles from Florida to here? A little less? was a nice exit strategy.

I guess the question has to be asked, in relation to my opposition to fascism

Of whether it has to do with a family member marrying (and then divorcing) an authentic Fascist or if there was something else.

Well, my opposition to fascism and my interest in the relationship between fascist movements and the far right in the United States preceded this event. What I can say though is that meeting a real one andd getting to know him showed how seductive the doctrine can be.

This person wasn't really crude, he wasn't very obviously reactionary, he supported some type of social equality, he didn't like Bush, and he put his beliefs in the context of European culture and of the beliefs of Catholicism. He once said that his legacy would be the type of everyday life he led.

He also had serious problems and was against blacks, jews, and people who weren't Catholic and he hoped for a strong man (not Bush) to come to power in this country and "straighten things out" (paraphrase).

When he was drunk he used to exclaim that what this country needed was another Mussolini.

This is Memorial Day weekend

Which was established after the Civil War, where we honor all those who fell in the War of Northern Aggression. Just kidding. It's Irony.

And, not to get off subject, but, all the stuff below is true.

Friday, May 27, 2005

I'm reading Atala & Rene by Chateaubriand

Two short stories by the French author of the early 19th century that are set in the former possessions of France in the New World, i.e. Lousiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Spanish Florida as well. The author went to the New World and used his sketches and reminiscences to write his stories.

It's really interesting since the territory that they describe is all places that I'm familiar with. They mention a plain in northern Florida, where the Indian protagonist of the Atala story, Chactas, is brought to after being captured by a hostile tribe. I used to live within minutes of that plain, which is actually a prairie, the site of an old lake that's disappeared. It's even a nationally recognized park. His descriptions of the land are still recognizable after two hundred years, despite the deforestation and encroachments of settlements.

The veracity of his portrayal of Indians in the stories isn't really the issue, either....probably not historically accurate, but these are admittedly somewhat romanticized tales, but they aren't portrayed in any negative light...which is not enough, granted, but it's possible to read it while conscious of the liberties taken and still get some enjoyment out of it. The book was published in 1802, so cultural sensitivity wasn't really understood.

Strange how things change.

She was of late recently married to and then divorced from a man originally from Naples who had a colorful life himself, both in this country and back in Italy. Quite a bit older than her he was a member of the Fascist youth group in Mussolini's Italy, and then was drafted into and fought in the Italian Army against the Allies at the end of the war.
He was consumed with guilt about his past, all his activities, and obsessively attended Church, where they met.

He let her in to the fact that he still was a Fascist days before the wedding was to take place.

They're no longer married and she no longer goes to Mass.

I've been to East Berlin

My mother says, during one of our conversations. When she was in her early teens her parents took her along on a tour of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union. "I went through check point Charley; the bus had to keep moving or they'd shoot out the tires." so it just slowed down when they went through East Berlin, although they did go to the large stadium there. They went to Warsaw, Budapest, possibly Belgrade, Prague, through to St. Petersberg and Moscow. "I had a room to myself on a different floor than my parents, there was a guard outside my room. All the phones were tapped" she says about Moscow.

My grandfather had gotten them on a trip consisting of a delegation of lawyers from Michigan, who were sent over as a sign of good will during the sixties. In the day time they attended lectures about the Soviet legal system, in the night and in their free time they checked out the sites and saw the ballet, the circus, and other things. My mother was the only child on the trip. My grandmother, the only spouse.

I bring up a part of a capital city from the Eastern bloc that's in a film or a capital that's in the news, "I've been there".

The tomb scene in Jakarta in Indonesia from "The Year of Living Dangerously" brings back memories of her trip to Indonesia, where they saw the tombs and where her father got into a fist fight on the steps of City Hall with some official over a perceived slight with the cab fare.

But back to Russia.

"My father always admired Gus Hall" she says, referring to the long time leader of the Communist Party USA.

He had started out poor, eventually leaving his home in central New York and his terrible family situation in order to move to the city, Detroit, and work in a factory. While earning his engineering degree and then, later, his law degree, his youth was spent in the Depression, where his political views were formed.

"He always referred to him as Eugene V. Debs, and always with respect".

Jokes gleaned from books about the Communist movement, or about it, get recognition.

In an ironic twist the only tangible thing that we have from Russia is a large brass Samovar, a tea maker, which was purchased illegally in Russia and then smuggled out through friends which my grandparents made in the U.S. embassy.

They had to drive to Virginia to get it after it returned stateside.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

What a difference money makes---two sides of the hippy scene

I remeber a hippy family who lived along this lake that my family had a small cabin on in central-northern Michigan, who had children of their own, lived with their father, and had grown up presumably in the drop out culture/possible commune culture of rural north-central Michigan. They were the nicest people possible, lived humbly, with most of their entertainment coming from tapes of music, world and otherwise, which they'd copied from friends themselves, and most of their free time given away to raise their kids right, at home of course. Most of their house was given over to child-rearing things.

They lived in the house on the lake while their father lived in a bus that he'd converted which lived on the side of the drive leading onto the lake road, with a barn that he owned nearby.

When I talked to them last, years ago, they were talking about how they were going to move to Austin because they felt that it would be a kinder situation than rural north-central Michigan. There was some sadness in their recounting of their plans.

Fast forward to an encounter with another 'hip' family, this time at a near-beach front house rented for a month in the summer on the coast. You're listening to the sister in law of your friend talk about, nonchalantly, how she smoked heroin while she was pregnant with her child. Actually, it's more insidious than if it was lingered upon because, you recall, she just randomly tossed out this fact like there was nothing wrong about it, as if she was listing off what she needed to buy from the grocery.

This couple has money.

While browsing through the internet you find that this person's husband, a counter-culture fellow, has been hired on as a partner in his daddy's business, wearing a suit, a tie, and doing very, very, straight and un-cool things for a living

The problem

Is that I've been identified and am known to people in my community; indeed, any reader looking at this sit lately will have seen one message directed towards that community as well as a short follow up. This is a hindrance because I'd really love to quote some 2Pac lyrics in full to communicate certain feelings and ideas but because many of his lyrics are meant to be intimidating and are generally hostile, violent, and misogynistic, there'd be no possible way I could put them out there without people thinking that in some way I was meaning them to refer to people in real life. Unfortunate, since that would not be the case, but true nonetheless. Now that my identity is known all the bullshit of my real life suddenly gets transferred into referring to blog land.

I obviously want certain parts of my life to be public or else I wouldn't have put them up here with the knowledge that people who really know me could in fact find them, but, not everything I write is meant as a personal statement to people.

Look up 'Troublesome '96' online yourself if you want the whole thing.

You don 't need the whole to understand the part, though.

People, Time. part one point five

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one section of my life was lived to the soundtrack, but not in equality in actions, of 2Pac songs.....and the next was lived to the equivalent of the song that the depressed alt-heavy metal performer in the Kids in the Hall movie "Brain Candy" sung after getting a dose of the wonder drug which was designed to reverse depression and put you in touch with your happiest memories (
Happiness and sunbeams and cute little puppy dogs / These are the things that I've seen with my heart / Life is a happy game if you don't forget to smile / But every now and then, your face, it harbors a frown.

Sadness is a barnacle clinging to your bright boat / You won't let it sink your spirits if you'll only learn to float. / We are all sea captains, sailing on life's rough seas / Come on you Magellan's, come with me / I've got Pie; / Happiness Pie.
)

Funny, yeah, but before that it was "Menace to menace label me a lethal weapon makin niggas' die witnessen' breathless in perfection/can you picture my specific plan, to be a man in this wicked land under handed its a plan/...my mentality is ghetto a guerilla in this criminal war we're all rebels/ death before dishonor but I..."

One thing you have to remember is that typically people listen to music which is several magnitudes more violent and aggressive than they actually are; if there are people who know me reading this please don't read the 2Pac lyrics as being any sort of actual reflection on my character.

But there we go , into the whole 'cultural differences' topic full on. One set of people listens to Tupac and thinks, 'cool', another group listens to him and thinks that people who would listen to something like that are psychotic. Most 2Pac fans don't do criminal activity, so the thought that 2Pac listeners must be dangerous in some way has to have to do with something else than the reality, or, in other words, it must have something to do with the people who make the judgement instead of with the judged. Which makes you wonder how valid their judgement is in the first place.

What do the drums say? The natives must be restless, they're playing that music again.

That song, Troublesome '96, came out after I'd already left that scene but the feeling it puts forward is authentic, a representation of life.

Social Harmony

In my personal ethics, whenever I interact with someone I don't just look at it from the point of view of my own individual standpoint. How does a particular action fit in with or disrupt social harmony and how I can alter my actions to promote an increase of social harmony, even if it goes against my own immediate individual interests is a question I ask myself. It's a concept that Asian and other cultures have---the idea that beyond the individual immediate sphere there's a level of social harmony which if respected and added to by the individual will eventually come back to the individual in the form of a smoother path through life.



Of course sometimes what appears as disharmony is actually necessary in order to correct a previous imbalance.

C.S. Lewis, in 'The Abolition of Man', talks about this as obeying the rta, which is the Hindu word for primordial law or order, also describable as living in harmony with the tao. The underlying pattern of nature beyond the immediate world of the senses which guarantees justice or, if you go against it, produces injustice which the mystics of old sought to live as close to as was possible in order to be closer to the source of reality. And thereby liberate themselves.

People, Time. part one

I've felt old, too old, longer than I should have. It isn't so much that I really have been old as that the people around me have been young, emotionally, experientially. When I was graduating from high school I wanted the person who was going to read a prepared speech about me to read this poem about time and age being the enemy of us all. Where I finished up school everyone had a short little speech read while they stood on the dais. Since there were about sixty people per class it wasn't that much of a problem. Anyways, I showed it to my parents, to see what they thought, since this would be in my graduation, and they commented that the poem was written from the perspective of an old man and that I wasn't old and so it didn't really fit.

I didn't feel old until I started at that school; again, it wasn't that I felt old myself so much as the people around me were young and so, in relative terms, I was older than they were, even though we might have been the same age. How would I explain to the people I went to school with, people who had lived in the chic suburb of Bloomfield Hills their whole lives, who had a dim understanding of even regular middle class life outside of their little enclave what I'd experienced in the last three years? For them, life was planned from the start; and even when they were in their late teens their parents kept a tight leash on them. As for me, due to a combination of divorce and work, then remarriage, the parental authority in my life pretty much collapsed, and my parents wouldn't really have been able to keep an eye on me even if they had wanted to, which was far from a settled issue. Regarding plans for the future, they relied on me to figure it out. They didn't push me from birth on some sort of high powered prep school regimin which would be guaranteed to get me into an ivy league school, they didn't even really care what classes I took, or even if I paid much attention to school. So through my years in highschool I went through a small part of vocational training in graphic design, after trying out several different programs, and then, when I decided to change tracks, started attending the school referred to above.

It wasn't that easy. I pretty much had to choose it myself and fight for it; my parents were beyond the point where they'd lift a finger to get me out of whatever mess I was in. The initiative had to come from myself; once that initiative was there they were willing to help me but they weren't going to do it for me.

So I came into this prep school experience having been through all of that, having hit bottom emotionally, physically, socially, and then deciding to change and give the things that I'd been fighting for so long---school, the established system, obeying parental authority---a chance again. More than giving them a chance; I was going to put my effort out there to make it work because the alternative that I was seeing opening up before me wasn't very pretty.

How would I describe that process to a bunch of kids whose lives had been smoother than almost anyone's? I already faced stigma because I had applied for a place in the school before and, going through my complete anti-authoritarian phase, had decided that the place was a preppy joke and had virtually guaranteed not getting in through putting outrageous answers down on their entrance application. It being a small place where everyone socialized with everyone else it didn't take long for the rumour of this kid who had put these outrageous things down on the entrance application to get around. When I was there, that false start provided a kind of backdrop to my experience, at least with the kids who were better connected to the administration. If, on top of that, I had started being open and forthcoming to them about what I'd done, the sort of life that I'd been living, they wouldn't have known how to react. I didn't want to take the chance that after going so far I'd be rejected by these people, so I half fabricated, half obsucated my life. I didn't say anything too off the mark but the individual they thought they knew during those years was a different person than who I was.

I talked to the person who was going to give my graduation speech about all that I'd been through; after listening to it and writing several drafts of my speech which went into all of it he decided to drop the whole thing and instead focus on parts of my life which were innocuous because it would just be too much to give a real account of all of it.

Freedom, Democracy, Equity--Core American Values

There's been discussion of late about defining what America is for so that when we face people and interests which threaten what this country is about we'll have something to fall back on. Also, self awareness and self consciousness about what America means in the best light which it can be seen in, hasn't been very high. Here's my go at it.

The core American values, in my opinion, are Freedom, Democracy and Equity.

1. Freedom means freedom from discrimination based on ethnic origin, religious beliefs, political opinion, or ways of life, as well as gender and sexual orientation.

2.. Democracy. Democracy means collective control of social institutions like local, state, and national government. Democracy means collectively determining the direction which these institutions will go as opposed to receiving orders from these institutions which you have to obey, which are determined by unaccountable entities.

3. Equity. Equity means having a realistic chance to have a good income level in this society. The ideal implicit in America is that if you work hard you will be able to have a decent life and that America is free from the extremes of wealth and poverty present elsewhere. Combined, the idea comes out that American life should have a rough equality and that if you do your share you should be able to participate in this rough equality of standard of living.

I don't think we're living up to these standards, especially in regard to social equity, which could be defined not just as income but as general quality of life, involving health care, decent hours of work, an opportunity for vacation time, occupational safety, a realistic chance for advancement in whatever field you work in and a realistic chance to choose your profession, a decent education for everyone regardless of what type of work you're going to do, living in a healthy environment. Decent housing, decent access to basic needs like food and clothing.

Social equity includes a lot.

We're also not living up to the ideal of Freedom in that ethnic and religious groups are increasingly discriminated against.

Nor are we living up to the ideal of Democracy, with more and more of our political life being defined by unelected and unaccountable forces which don't listen to the will of the citizens of the United States, on top of the general corruption of the political system, which has most candidates for office and most people who are elected to office in the service of special interests serving corporate power.

....

I didn't really believe it when I heard Jim Hightower, on one of his radio programs, talk about economic equality as being a core American virtue, and I think even now that he skips over some nuances in America's attitude towards work and level of income, but, at the core I've found that the idea is right on.

The ideal America that people picture is one where everyone can get a decent living, no matter where they came from. If everyone has a decent standard of living then society must be somewhat equal. The idea has been commandeered by pro-market captialist interests to mean that everyone should put themselves and their lives on the market and engage in a winner take all cut throat competition in order to get where they want to go, but it doesn't have to be. The underlying vision of a society of freedom and equality, where people control their government for their own interests, still exists.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Interesting thing about South America

Is that despite all the accounts of Nazis surviving and thriving there that even way back in the seventies (?) when people were tracking down these leads, it was being said in the books that if any resurgence was going to occur it would be through Fascism and not through actual Nazi ideology because the people who survived WWII and emigrated abroad from the Nazi state were people who were the executives of the state, not the people concerned with ideology, and that more Fascist intellectuals survived WWII, thereby de-facto giving Fascism more of a leading role.

This has been borne out by the fact that even though there's evidence that Nazi killers trained secret police in Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, that the fascist resurgence in recent years has centered around the ideas of people like Cornelius Codreanu, the Romanian fascist leader of the Iron Guard and the Legion of the Archangel Michael, whose organizations cheerfully collaborated with the SS during WWII, killing thousands of Jews when they heard that the Nazis were on their way to occupy Romania.

But that's something completely disconnected from anything really going on in the U.S. right now, since these people generally dislike America very much. Or maybe not.
I guess if the U.S. adopted an ideology which didn't have the features that these people object to that they might be willing to...

Not a pretty thought.

Head of Chilean Nazi colony in jail for child molestation charges

Here's an interesting article from Rickross.com about Colonia Dignidad, now Vila Baviera which was a nominally ultra-conservative religious community composed of German emigres but which, in all probability, was probably a Nazi hideaway which was patronized by the Nazi emigres to South America and which was used as a place for Pinochet to ship political opponents for torture.

Paul Schafer, the head of Colonia Dignidad, has been arrested after two years on the run for the molestation of 26 boys who lived in the Chilean village near Colonia Dignidad and for the molestation of, in their words, virtually every boy who grew up in the Colony.

Here's the Rick Ross reprinted piece:
Villa Baviera, Chile -- The disembodied voice of a woman speaking Spanish with a heavy German accent echoes from behind the one-way mirror at the guardhouse. "You can go in now," she says, and the white metal gates to Colonia Dignidad, the secretive paramilitary religious sect that took refuge here in the foothills of the Andes more than 40 years ago, slowly swing open.

Photos of people believed to have disappeared from Colonia Dignidad, a German colony now renamed Villa Baviera, line the road leading to it. The cult's founder, Paul Schäfer, a former Luftwaffe medic, was arrested in March, accused of sexually abusing boys at the colony.

A winding dirt road leads to the compound where Chilean authorities say that Paul Schäfer, a former Nazi Luftwaffe medic turned lay preacher, sexually molested scores of young boys. A few yards away is a hospital where, according to former cult members, those who drew Mr. Schäfer's ire were drugged and tortured. And somewhere beneath the ground, human rights groups say, are the clandestine dungeons where Colonia Dignidad held the political prisoners who were entrusted to it in the 1970's by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's secret police.

Until he was arrested in March after years on the run, Mr. Schäfer, now 84, dominated the life of this bizarre and isolated place, which Chilean officials have likened to Jonestown in Guyana or the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex. But with their notorious leader, known as the Permanent Uncle, now in custody, some 300 followers of his apocalyptic, anti-Communist and anti-Semitic creed have been left suddenly adrift.

The outside world is creeping in. Satellite dishes, television antennas and computers now bring in news of Germany and Latin America. Neighboring farmers come to buy Bavarian-style bread and pastries from the general store. Chilean government investigators have arrived, looking for bodies but so far finding only tunnels and sensors, and, strangely, a pair of motors from 1970's vintage automobiles.

For the first time in most of their lives, the residents of Villa Baviera - Bavarian Villa, as Colonia Dignidad was renamed after the Pinochet dictatorship fell in 1990 - are responsible for their own destinies.


Colonia Dignidad, with its rustic Bavarian ways, was reported to writer Ladislas Farago to be one of the favorite places for Martin Bormann to go when he was in Chile.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More and Faster

This page hasn't been shut down or censored, it's just a Blogger. Com problem. If you're reading this then we've gotten it back up! Enjoy.

[More and Faster= KMFDM reference from a song of similar name off their album UAIOE]

To be part of a Movement! A German girl talks about her Homeland.

By Inge Scholl.

For all those times when you hear the news people refer to Homeland security and defending the Homeland.

from the section of the before book entitled "Inside the School"


One morning, on the school steps, I heard a girl from my class tell another: "Hitler has just taken over the government." And the radio and all the newspapers proclaimed: "Now everything will improve in Germany. Hitler has seized the helm."

For the first time politics entered our lives. Hans at that time was fifteen years old; Sophie was twelve. We heard a great deal of talk about Fatherland, comradeship, community of the Volk, and love of homeland. All this impressed us, and we listened with enthusiasm whenever we heard anyone speak of these things in school or on the street. For we loved our homeland very much--the woods, the great river, and the old gray retaining walls that rose on the steep slopes between groves of fruit trees and vineyards. We were reminded of the smell of moss, of soft earth and spicy apples, when we thought of our homeland. And every square foot of it was well known and very dear to us. Fatherland--what else was it but the greater homeland of all who spoke the same language and belonged to the same people! We loved it, but were hardly able to say why. Until that time we had never lost many words over it. But now it was written large, in blazing letters in the sky. And Hitler, as we heard everywhere, Hitler wanted to bring greatness, happiness, and well-being to this Fatherland; he wanted to see to it that everyone had work and bread; he would not rest or relax until every single German was an independant, free, and happy man in his Fatherland. We found this good, and in whatever might come to pass we were determined to help to the best of our ability. But there was yet one more thing that attracted us with a mysterious force and pulled us along--namely, the compact columns of marching youths with waving flags, eyes looking straight ahead, and the beat of drums and singing. Was it not overwheming, this fellowship? Thus it was no wonder that all of us--Hans and Sophie and the rest of us--joined the Hitler Youth.

Abuses of Christianity---Bush and others, or, I get uncharitable

This whole identification of Bush with having some sort of divine guidance, of being a man of god, and therefore of the fundamentalist churches being somehow National churches because they, supposedly, believe in the President and believe what the President believes, brings to mind images of another National regime which sought to integrate nation and church....if I was nasty and sarcastic, which I am at times, I'd quote this piece which you'll find below


Christ in the Community of Blood and Fate

Guidelines for the Movement of German Christians (National Church Movement) in Thuringia, 1933

1. We "German Christians" believe in our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the power of His cross, and in His resurrection. The life and death of Jesus teaches us that the way of struggle is also the way of love and the way of life.
Through God's creation we have been put directly into the community of blood and fate of the German people and as the bearers of this fate we are responsible for its future. Germany is our task, Christ our strength!

2. The source and confirmation of our faith are God's Revelation in the Bible and the witness borne to the faith by the Fathers. The New Testament is to us the holy attestation of the Saviour, our Lord, and of His Father's Kingdom.
The Old Testament is an example of divine education of a people. For our faith, it is of value to the extent to which it permits us to understand our Saviour's life, cross, and resurrection.

3. As with every people, the eternal God also created a Law for our people especially suited to its racial character. It acquired form in the Führer Adolf Hitler and in the National Socialist state which he formed.
This Law speaks to us in the hsitory of our people, born of our blood and soil. Loyalty to this law demands from us the struggle for honour and freedom.

4.The way to the fulfillment of this German Law is through the German community of the faithful. In it Christ, the Lord, rules as grace and forgiveness. Here burns the fire of the holy willingness to sacrifice. In it alone does the Saviour meet the German people and bequeath to it the gift of a strong faith. It is from these communities of German Christians that the "German Christian National Church" must rise in the National Socialist state of Adolf Hitler, embracing the whole people.
One People! -- One God! -- One Reich! -- One Church!


Yeah, and One Vision to, right? Sort of a list of fundamentalist fundamentals for Nazi Christians.

Anyways, that was from "Nazi Culture--A Documentary History" edited by George L. Mosse and back in print, I believe.

Next time Bush invokes God or some clergyman invokes Bush think of this passage.

Fixed capital, economics, the market, monopoly, social control of econ.

Ok, to take the focus of this blog off where it's been for a little while...one thing which mainstream economics and business commentators overlook in their praise of the market and of market oriented policies is that winning in the competative market isn't the only way to make money. The underlying belief is that companies competing to make the best product through lower prices and high quality will allow the best companies to make the most profit and be the most succesful. However, although they all know it, they never mention that money can be made by essentially shutting competition out and dividing the market amongst a small number of firms, or by using other institutional factors to limit the amount of competition they'd face. Also, and this is where it gets really interesting, there are certain industries where, just because of the nature of them, having new competition exist or enter the market just isn't feasable.

Picture the auto industry: the amount of capital investment and pure bare natural resources needed to replicate any of the big auto makers' manufacturing and assembly facillities is so high that the 'opportunity cost' is totally prohibitive. Therefore, there probably won't be any real challengers to the global auto market coming on board any time soon, unless they have national sponsorship---which means that the government of a certain country is putting its resources behind their manufacture. And, leaving that possibility aside, even if there was another challenger coming from within either the U.S. or Europe, the manufacturing facillities would create un-needed duplication of resources, which even if the cars competed viably would make the overall costs of the process greater than the benefit of having slightly cheaper new cars. The duplication, i.e. having very similar large scale production facillities kept in work by two different companies who are competitors, would suck investment away from better needed industries and, anyways, would entail more investment on its own than would be necessary if the two companies collaborated to make whatever part it was that they needed.

Which leaves this industry in a quandry: the market doesn't really work in the auto industry. Sure, the dealers try to give various incentives but the basic market mechanisms don't function to regulate prices and to regulate projected investment.
To try to make the auto industry into a competative market would also have bigger negative consequences than positive ones. Yet the industry still has incentives to make maximum profit, only it doesn't have any sort of mechanism to reign it in.

The question, then, is how, when the traditional mechanism which liberal political and economic thought relies on to establish socially respsonsable behavior, which admittedly has many many problems of its own, fails, how can a just outcome be produced?

There appear to be two scenarios, the corporatist and the socialist. The corporatist one is essentially what we have right now: large corporations not in truly competative markets using their situation in the business that they're in to set their own terms and do what they want, with the assumption that they have the best interests of the country and of people at heart, or, when it was still possible back in the day to be honest about these things, that it consciously was planning in such a way as to make America stronger. In other words, trust that the benevolent corporation, without any force compelling it, will make good choices for the people of the United States and, as it applies, the people of the rest of the world.

You can probably see the potential problem with this model.

The socialist scenario, which translates into social control and having a social check on the activities of the corporation, goes like this: the corporation, in order to function in society's best interest, has to be partially or totally controlled by society, at the minimum being restrained into socially acceptable ways of activity by regulations and citizen oversight panels. It recognizes that at certain levels corporations have influence over the lives of such a mass of individuals and over the country, and particularly over individual states, that its behavior isn't a purely private matter anymore. It's partially public and should be regulated by the public commensurate with the level of effect which it has on public life.

Many industries fit the mold for this sort of thing: what's referred to as 'heavy industry': major manufacturing, basic processing and extraction of minerals, oil refining, chemical production. The 'Commanding Heights' of industry, in other words.

The same logic which justifies the socialization, partial or wholesale, of certain industries, justifies why utilities are generally public, not private, or, if private, are owned by the people who use them, as in electrical co-ops.

It would be extremely wasteful to construct two separate water systems to service a town and have them compete against each other to see who could come up with the lower price for water. The insane cost would negate whatever small benefit was gained by a lower water bill; while having two authorities in charge of the water system would increase the risk for a serious disruption of service due to incompetence.

The same argument goes for electricity, only with the electrical system we know what happens when electrical supplies are deregulated---Enron. The Enron experiment of brokering energy built up excess capacity which stood unused while prices were jacked up in the interest of making more money. The monopoly character of electrical generation came back to haunt people in that even with deregulation the competition which existed wasn't sufficient to negate the tendency of a few corporations to manipulate the market for their own benefit. Which is even worse than having wasteful buildup of capacity, dollars which could be used for other industry, because not only was it wasteful but it didn't even work.

****

If this country was really aware of itself and ready to take action it would demand that the investment plans of large corporations engaged in activities which had country wide or sub-region wide impact be partially controlled by the citizens whose lives they effect in order to guarantee that they make equitable decisions.

But, hey, whatever, right? "Real freedom scares you because it means responsability, so you chicken out and blame me/ saying love it or leave it"

Easier for people to follow Bush than to take the affairs of their own country into their own hands where it belongs.


***

Maybe they'll be some Alec Nove discussions on this blog in the future. Although his revised edition of "The Economics of Feasable Socialism" really compromises the whole idea maybe his earlier writings still contain hopeful ideas about how to organize an economy in a just and equal way.

Word to the wise...

If you're going to make a certain tea, make sure you drink it slowly if you haven't had it in a while, because too fast makes you sick...which is counter to the whole point of it. Ugh..

Monday, May 23, 2005

Yeah, it's not pleasant....

To set yourself up as a sort of evangelist of personal liberty, which I did in the town that I sort of grew up in, and then have the dealers treat you like shit because they know that you're dependant on drugs and therefore nothing in their eyes.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

I became effectively straight edge after that...

Attending exactly two parties in the next two and a half years.

My best friend in the world

Was carted off to New Jersey to live with his mom to get away from the bad influence of the scene he was in. And while he was there he picked up some really bad habits. He came home to visit me once and, it turned out, was secretly snorting coke all the time he was there, but he was still halfway sane, unlike the next time he came out.

The next time, the last time I ever saw him, he was just totally devoted to trying to get money from me, really transparently lying, it wasn't even like he was really there any longer, like the person I used to know was long gone and that instead what was there was a shell, that just cared about his own self and nothing else.

I've at least tried to find him via the internet, but there are no references to him. It could simply be that he doesn't have a listed number or that he hasn't left very many marks on the internet, nothing which could be recorded, or it could mean that he's really gone.

I don't want to think about that. I don't want to think that I could have been responsible.

And if you need some testimonials...

For whatever it's worth, Thrill Kill Kult did a song which condemns this sort of thing, called "Daisy Chain 4 Satan"....lyrics including:


[when you read this picture the lead singer screaming in between the verses, presumably in imitation of pain felt during withdrawl from opiates]

Here where I sit alone lost,
Here I will dream, why give me a drink?
I need to think now!
I gotta rid my stinking brain

[s] "Just lately, I freaked out very very badly."
[s] "Just lately, I freaked out on acid."

Black boots, highway broads...
Dope forever, forever loaded...

It's too bad I need time to sleep
Forget my problems before I wake
And it's time to go on, so on!
Be content and nothing less

[s] "I get drugs free."
[s] "I live for drugs."

Here where I sit alone lost,
Here I will dream, why give me a drink?
I need to think now!
I gotta rid my stinking brain
Of aches, knives, homeless people, promises, knocking at the door.



It's worth noting that of the Industrial bands who have promoted a libertarian ethic that Ministry, KMFDM, and Thrill Kill Kult have all made songs about either becoming or being addicts and how this is not a good thing.

Indeed. I remember my own pharmaceutical experiments long, long, ago, and, among other things, experiencing the removal of my wisdom teeth with no anesthetic besides novacaine, which wore off, because my tolerance for opiates was so high that the demerol they gave me didn't work.

But that's neither here nor there. Maybe looking up potential things I could buy from the local drug store, thinking that for some reason 'Theraflu' had something chemically related to opiates in it (it doesn't), bringing it back to my room, using a knife to make slices on my upper leg and rubbing the Theraflu in in an attempt to ward off withdrawl symptoms is a better testimonial to why you shouldn't do these things.

***

I remember as a kid (teenager) renting "The Basketball Diaries" and starting to play it at home with my parents (we were a pretty damn liberal family) and having to stop it when he first uses and comes home and pukes in the toilet because I was embarassed that they would see it and see that I had done the same thing, and that they'd know.However, simply stopping the movie wasn't effective...

I guess I should clarify something

Which is that with all this higher law business---I know from other sects which use similar reasoning that higher law really does mean higher law, it doesn't just mean do whatever you damn well please with a wink and a nod to this higher morality stuff. There's an assumption with spiritual libertarianism, which is shared with political libertarianism, that in absence of laws dictating the entire behavior of a person that you aren't going to go out and do things which are destructive to yourself and to others. The flipside of having more personal freedom is holding yourself to a higher standard of conduct than otherwise might be the case. It's sort of like an elastic standard, the individual can allow themselves to do things which otherwise might have bad consequences for an individual's well being because, on the other hand, they hold themselves to stricter rules than other people. The rules may be established by the individual but they're still rules in the the same universe at least as the sense of 'rules' which everyone else, when they hear the word, understands as meaning.

So, paradoxically, this line of thought is not saying that for these individuals the rules which apply to everyone else don't apply. Instead it relies on people to police themselves in these matters and to in fact live to a high standard without needing extensive sets of rules to keep them living in an ethical way towards themselves and towards others, and towards society in general....

I don't know, I think that, on the one hand, the rules which are established against indulging in certain things are there for at least theoretically good reasons, since there are a lot of people who, when they go down certain roads, just destroy themselves. They can't take it; its too much for them, and their lives become about sensual enjoyment and not much else. But, on the other hand, I think that these people are probably a smaller number than is acknowledged by those who believe this and that education in how to live responsably can probably cut down the number of people who constitutionally are drawn into patterns of living like this.

But there's a definite test: are you living intelligently or are you just motivated by what feels good? Are you aware of what you're doing or is the enjoyment trumping your intellect?

If the case is the latter than you probably are acting irresponsably.

There's a great article in the current "New Yorker" about methamphetamine use in the gay community and its link to the increase in HIV. Using methamphetamine, an extraordinarily addictive drug, and having unprotected sex is most definitely an irresponsable way to use your freedom, no matter how it feels.

More people who have made a public spectacle of their personal libertarianism have faltered on the rock of hard drug use than anything else. Being addicted to something isn't being free.

Wait a second, the Sabbatian Heresy...

Believed that it was neccesary to sin, i.e. to break the laws which Judaism established regarding life, because they believed that one could be spiritually reborn into a state where there were new laws which, while still encompassing the essentials, were much looser than the traditional series of laws of Judaism, so it wasn't about sinning and the repenting....and not every sin was therefore condoned, just those regarding non-essential laws...but, also, in my understanding at least, some regular self conscious sinning against the laws of judaism was encouraged in order to reaffirm ones' faith in the basic principle of the thing...or at least some individuals chose to do this.

The sinning and personal rebirth were considered to help the world get closer to the end times where the re-worked law would be the law for all and Sabbatai Zevi or another person would come back and be the Messiah for all of the world, while within this life, before the ultimate redemption of the world, he and his methods were the means of redemption for the few.

I should offer that as a class....

Drunk blogging 101.

Ariel Sharon gets full page ad endorsing him in the Sunday NY Times...

Endorsed by the heads of three major coalitions of Jewish groups. I want to see what the Sabbatians think of Sharon. The followers of Sabbatai Zevi, referred to as the false messiah, who preached a spiritual libertarianism pretty close to being a Jewish Satanism, he believed in redemption through sin. As in you needed to sin as a duty so that you could repent for your sin and therefore bring the world closer to perfection, since your self conscious sinning was thought to mystically link up to the fallen nature of the world and your redeeming yourself or making amends for your acts was thought to mystically help the world's sinful nature repair itself...I think they'd be anti-Sharon. They seem like fun people.

Or maybe I'm just drunk.

Either way.

Another version of the same, by George Santayana

It kind of struck me that here I am doing excerpts from a guy who's really into Christianity while I'm grooving on and generally appreciating my new favorite Thrill Kill Kult song "The Devil Does Drugs". That seemed a little bit contradictory. So I thought, why not find a writer who could say some of the same things without having the Christian content. Luckily, George Santayana's book "Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies" was close by. And, what luck! Turns out that what I was looking for was contained in the first soliloquie, thereby sparing me the trouble of doing real work to find it...Anyways, unfortunately this book is way out of print, so unless you find a random copy of it in a used book store or you use the infamous University library system to get a copy of it there's no way for you to find it...That's not the worst though, but I'll save the story of the most inaccesable book which I ever quoted on this site for later. Here's the relevant parts of "Atmosphere" by George Santayana.
In fact human beings everywhere are like marine animals and live in a congenial watery medium, which like themselves is an emanation of mother earch; and they are content for the most part to glide through it horizontally at their native level. They ignore the third, the vertical dimension; or if they ever get some inkling of empty heights or rigid depths wherer they could not breathe, they dismiss that speculative thought with a shudder, and continue to dart about in their familiar aquarium, immersed in an opaque fluid that cools their passions, protects their intellect from mental dispersion, keeps them from idle gazing, and screens them from impertinent observation by those who have no business in the premises.
The stellar universe that silently surrounds them, if while swimming they ever think of it, seems to them something foreign and not quite credibly reported. How should anything exist so unlike home, so out of scale with their affairs, so little watery, and so little human? Their philosophers confirm them in that incredulity; and the sea-caves hold conclaves of profouond thinkers congregated to prove that only fog can be real. The dry, their council decrees, is but a vain abstraction, a mere negative which human imagination opposes to the moist, of which alone since life is moist, there can be positive experience.
As for the stars, these inspired children of the mist have discovered that they are nothing but postulates of astronomy, imagined for a moment to exist, in order that a beautiful human science may be constructed about them. Duller people, born in the same fog, may not understand so transcendental a philosophy, but they spontaneously frame others of their own, not unlike it in principle. In the middle of the night, when the starlight best manages to pierce to the lowest strata of the air, these good people are asleep; yet occasionally when they are returning somewhat disappointed from a party, or when illness or anxiety or love-hunger keeps them pacing their chamber or tossing in their beds, by chance they might catch a glimpse of a star or two twinkling between their curtains. Idle objects, they say to themselves, like dots upon the wall-paper. Why should there be stars at all, and why so many of them? Certainly they shed a little light and are pretty; and they are a convenience sometimes in the country when there is no moon and no lamp-posts; and they are said to be useful in navigation and to enable the astronomers to calculate sidereal time in addition to solar time, which is doubtless a great satisfaction to them. But all this hardly seems to justify such an expense of matter and energy as is involved in celestial mechanics. To have so much going on so far away, and for such prodigious lengths of time, seems rather futile and terrible. Who knows? Astrologers used to foretell people's character and destiny by their horoscope; perhaps they may turn out to have been more or less right after all, now that science is coming round to support more and more what our fathers called superstitions. There may be some meaning in the stars, a sort of code-language such as Bacon put into Shakespeare's sonnets, which would prove to us, if we could only read it, not how insignifigant, but how very important we are in the world, since the very stars are talking about us.
The safest thing, however, is to agree with the great idealists, who say there are really no stars at all. Or if their philosophy seems insecure--and there are rumours that even the professors are hedging on the subject--we can always take refuge in faith, and think of the heavenly bodies as beautiful homes in which we are to meet and work together again when we die; and as in time we might grow weary even there, with being every day busier and busier, there must always be other stars at hand for us to move to, each happier and busier than the last; and since we wish to live and to progress forever, the number of habitable planets provided for us has to be infinite. Certainly faith is better than science for explaining everything.
So the embryonic soul reasons in her shell of vapour; her huddled philosophy is, as it were, pre-natal, and discredits the possibility of ever peeping into a cold outer world. Yet in time this shell may grow dangerously thin in places, and a little vague light may filter through. Strange promptings and premonitions at the same time may visit the imprisoned spirit, as if it might not be impossible nor inglorious to venture into a world that was not oneself. At last, willy-nilly, the soul may be actually hatched, and may suddenly find herself horribly exposed, cast perhaps on the Arabian desert, or on some high, scorched, open place that resembles it, like the uplands of Castile. There the rarefied atmosphere lets the stars down upon her overwhelmingly, like a veritable host of heaven. There the barren heart entwines few tentacles about the heart; it stretches away dark and empty beneath our feet, a mere footstool for meditation. It is a thing to look away from, too indifferent and accidental even to spurn; for after all it supports us, and though small and extinguished it is one of the stars. In these regions the shephards first thought of God.


I love that. Just had to quote virtually the whole thing.

Anyways, the most obscure and inaccesable book ever referrred to on this site was one by Victor Cousin, who wrote in the early 19th century and was the person who introduced the French public to German Romantic philosophy and thought, thereby altering French thought away from simple materialism significantly. The copy of it that I got from the library I was then using was dated 1908, or 1911, and had only been checked out since 1914 once, in 1933. Someone had put a leaf in the book and pressed it. I was the first person to check it out since '33, and found the leaf.
The book itself wasn't that good. He makes really poor arguments and is sort of not on the top of the mental game with regards to his subject matter, but I guess the books he wrote have great significance historically with regards to French intellectual culture. Oh well.

The Enlightenment and why it's restrictive.

Opposing "the Enlightenment" isn't the same as opposing basic logic or opposing learning or opposing understanding. People who follow this path really are opposing the general ideology which became identified with The Enlightenment rather than any particular virtue which it possesses. It's the ideology, linked to a type of physical materialism, which is thought to limit people's thinking rather than expand it. Seeing the world as a chain of events obeying the logical order of the natural laws, seeing human activity, behavior, thinking, and creativity as being just the outcome of human adaption to biological needs, i.e. I do x because in the distant past doing x was connected to getting a better share of food or something else and therefore the only reason why I behave this way is because of biology and basic needs---my own will and self direction don't enter into the picture at all, devalues the human experience in the extreme. It also misses quite a lot of what the human experience is, a lot of what people find valuable in life, which doesn't necessarily fit into orderly little boxes.

To respond to the human experience by praising reason while reason in the conception that people who believe in this notion excludes many facets of daily life and of human experience as being misguided or not valid is to limit life, not to extend the reach of knowledge and 'Enlightenment'.

The British writer G.K. Chesterton, who was unfortunately a conservative of sorts, had a good, short, analysis of Enlightenment's limitations compared to his belief, which happened to be some sort of Catholic Christianity, in his book "Orthodoxy". Here's the quote.
For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christiain is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an athesist. But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism.....But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inimitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.....The Christian admits that the universe if manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts.
Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it. In the first case the road is open and I can go as far as I like; in the second the road is shut. But the case is even stronger, and the parallel with madness is yet more strange. For it was our case against the echaustive and logical theory of the lunatic that, right or wrong, it gradually destroyed his humanity. Now it is the charge against he main dedeuctions of the materialist that, right or wrong, they gradually destroy his humanity; I do not mean only kindness, I mean hope, courage, poetry, initiative, all that is human.


Then Chesterton goes on to talk about specifics, which I kind of touched on in the introduction to these paragraphs. The book, by the way, is available really cheap online, or on order from your local shop. I think Dover has a copy of it out for $6. The one I have is the revized addition which is slightly more, like $10.

Good reading. Definitely not a person who wants to take society back to the middle ages. This is about expanding possibilities, not limiting them. Liberalism has been failing because the totally secularized and rationalized tradition which it comes out of doesn't really address reality that well. Liberal religious institutions don't attract a lot of people, pious declarations about Jefferson being a rationalistic non-believer in miracles and proponent of a secular state don't really hold people or mean much, except to the true believers, who are the wrong people to reach.

The whole Enlightenment inspired secular culture of liberalism seems to be an empty house, or a frame of a house which stands empty, which people are expected to go into and live in, but which doesn't provide shelter and which instead can be knocked over, eliminating whatever feeble protection it does provide, by any storm.


If we don't provide an alternative I'm sure that the fundamentalists will be happy to provide one. But I don't think most people would like what they'd prefer.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The idea that we're a vanguard fighting against another vanguard, that of Islamic fundamentalism, is false.

That essentially is the idea which the Bush administration has been promoting. In the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union we've justified our continual assumption of the stuatus of vanguard of history by saying that, on the one side, there's us, promoting democratic values throughout the world and that, on the other side, there's Islamic fundamentalism, which seeks to negate all democratic values and human rights and drag the world back to some medieval way of life.

It makes good press but its not true. There's us, the U.S., surely acting with a big stick against the world, but the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism and a general negation of democratic values being pursued by an organized force, whether you call it the 'Axis of Evil' or something else, isn't really there. Instead, the reality is that there are quite a few people in countries around the world, who belong to non-western cultures and who practice non-judeo christian religions, who want to pursue development and modernization on their own terms, without sacrificing their cultures and religious values in order to do it. This has been confused with Islamic Fundamentalism, with Wahabbi Islam. It has nothing to do it. The proponents of this line of thought, which is by no means limited to Middle Eastern countries but can be found everywhere from China to Africa, are often progressives in their own cultures, i.e. people who do want modernity, who do want development of some sort, only not by becoming a carbon copy of the West.

By conflating the two strands of thought, true Islamic fundamentalism and independent third world economic and political development, the U.S., in acting against them, is denying the right of the non-western countries to develop indepently.

The war against the supposed vanguard of Islamic fundamentalism turns into a war against third world independence.
From now on, so it goes, the Third World must obey our economic and political prescriptions in order to be free, which of course are set up to benefit us economically and politically. If you don't agree with our form of freedom you'll be forced to accept it. No matter that the form of freedom which you wanted agreed with ours in 95% of its content.

The War on Terror turns into a fight to limit the freedom of the developing world, keep it from rearing up and opposing us economically and politically, and into a fight to undercut the influence of Europe, or "Old Europe" as the President likes to call it, in regards to promoting an alternative economic and social order which would be potentially more beneficial to the developing world.

Along with this quest is a secondary one, also posed in the name of democracy, to try to prevent parts of the developing world which seek to work together in coalition, i.e. Brazil, Venezuela, China, and sometimes Russia, to form a bloc which through economic influence could force the U.S. to obey international norms which would entail a reduction of its power and influence.

The power and influence of the U.S. is inflated by its position in the world and so the reduction of influence and power which goes along with obeying international norms, which Senators and Congressmen, decry as being an affront to the U.S. and to U.S. independence, would actually not be an unreasonable reduction but instead would bring us back into line with the rest of the world.

The secondary quest is in the subordinate position only because there's no way you can argue that these countries have anything to do with Islamic fundamentalism. Instead, the language of dictatorship is invoked. Which is awfully convenient since the United States largely ignored the dictatorship in China for decades while our industrial system was moved offshore to China and to other countries in East and Southeast Asia.

****

I don't think that the choice of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as making up the "Axis of Evil" was done by happenstance or had no reasoning behind it. In Iraq you had a fragile populist dictatorship which was determined to control a strategic resource independently of the will of the United States. In Iran you have a dictatorship which was actually moving towards softening itself and becoming part of the community of nations before we started rattling our sabre.

Iran has been the biggest promoter of the ideology of non-Western development and modernization in the Middle East; unfortunately it's also a dictatorship run by religious legalists of the Shi'ite faith. But, with the softening of the ullema's, the religious lawyers', control over Iranian society, it might have appeared that there was a chance for Iran to genuinely make good on its rhetoric in a somewhat democratic way. That couldn't happen.

North Korea was included to keep the door open to opposing Asian countries and others who pursued their development in a more mainstream way, drawing on the political currents which defined the world during the Cold War, the message being that you don't have to be Muslim to be part of the Axis of Evil. North Korea was probably chosen because it's the most extreme example of Communist dictatorship still in existence, but administration probably intended the example of North Korea to resonate with less radical proponents of socialist industrialization. The fact that John Bolton was trying to manufacture evidence that Cuba had biological weapons bears this theory out.

"Obsolete Communism" could be pared with "Failed States" or Civilizations, which many commentators have referred to the countries in the Muslim world as, as relics which for some reason still persist in our enlightened age, both of which would then be destined to fall to the liberating energy of American Democracy. With "Old Europe" being discounted because, for some unknown reason, they're thought to embody some sort of feudal or pre-modern way of life which is on its way out, even though Paris and Berlin are more sophisticated and modern than the U.S. itself.

Then, we could be seen as the vanguard of progress, never looking at ourselves to see where we really fit into the scheme of things, never looking to see if our country contained some historical relics which were on their way out, or should be.

The rest of the world could easily make the case in the same language that we use to describe it that we indeed are a relic civilization, a holdover from the European thought of the 18th century which never advanced to maturity, but which is stuck in perpetual adolescence, mixing primitive life and ways of looking at the world with a bankrupt progressivism held by elites in our society which equates their understanding of democracy with progress, with no conception of other countries as having validity in and of themselves distinct from the philosophy they hold.

Some truth and connections between all of this

The U.S. is probably prone to criticisms about the West primarily because it doesn't have a lot of self consciousness about itself. Europe does, and so criticisms of the sort that the Slavophiles and some of the Romantics made 150-200 years ago no longer apply. Europe knows where it exists in relation to the rest of the world and to history; although it's sort of arrogant it does see itself as being a civilization which has some sorts of paralells with other world civilizations and can in fact see some sort of multi-cultural parity between itself and the other cultures of the world. The United States doesn't and, currently, can't. So all the bad things people say about the West tend to stick closer to the U.S., tend to hit closer to home. If in fact we weren't proverbial bulls in the international china shop we'd be able to look at those criticisms and honestly say that they don't really hold weight with relation to us, but our intellectual laziness regarding how we direct, or, more accurately, don't direct, our political and social life makes those charges at least superficially more valid.

Connections between things...I don't know. The best way for the U.S. to end incurring the wrath of the rest of the world would be to renounce its claims to being the vanguard of history, the force which will spread democracy and a new age throughout the world, and to instead take its place as one more civilization out of many.

Relating to the rest of the world with some sort of self-effacing manner would do wonders. If it doesn't, the U.S. will be open to the same charges that plagued the Soviet Union, i.e. that while you as a country talk about equality and want to be recognized as just another country in the world that in fact you're organizing to ovethrow governments and generally destablize the world political system. The United States, although it was pursuing its own policy of meddling with the rest of the world, condemned the Soviet Union time and time again for precisely this reason. Now we're doing the same thing.

There shouldn't have been winners in the Cold War, people should have decided that the whole venture of two superpowers poised for mutually assured destruction on a hair trigger was wrong, but we obviously have felt that the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc wasn't so much a sign that it was time to pack up things and get back to normal as it was that now was the time to advance the influence which we cultivated throughout the world without hindrence.

Which was it, then, two vanguards confronting each other: The Soviet Union and State Socialism on one side and The United States and Free Market Capitalism on the other? What about the third force in all of this---Europe, which desired some sort of third path between dictatorship and unregulated social chaos in terms of social justice and equality?

Time to end the idea of ourself as vanguard and instead join something greater and more significant--the community of nations.