Sunday, September 30, 2007

What's wrong with San Francisco/Bay Area politics ex#3875: Don Santina: "Ethnic Cleansing in San Francisco"

In which Don Santina calls the gentrification of San Francisco "Ethnic Cleansing". Such self centered little idiots in the Bay Area political culture. Yeah, I'm sure the neglect of inner cities and the rise of developers interested in converting working class and poor areas into upper class condo neighborhoods is exactly the same as coming to a Bosian family's door, in a Serb town, and demanding that they leave or be shot on sight. What fucking arrogance. I was looking for some glimmer of hope that the use of the term in the title was some kind of very dark, sarcastic, humor, but no, this guy actually seems to think that the term ethnic cleansing is appropriate to describe San Francisco gentrification. Why don't we just call Mission District gentrification an attempt to commit genocide against the Hispanics of San Francisco while we're at it? Maybe after it's a done deal call the redevelopment the San Francisco Holocaust.

And this isn't an isolated incident. On Counterpunch very recently there was an article that objected to the press that the Jena Six have been getting by strenuously arguing that Oakland too has racial strife. No shit. We already fucking knew that, and to suggest that people are unaware of that is self centered narcissism taken to such an extreme that you can't tell your ass from a hole in the ground anymore.

I could literally go on and on with this, with articles by people who think that because Berkeley was one of the political centers of the 1960s and 70s that somehow the Bay Area has been baptized as something more important than the rest of the country, where everything that happens there is magnified in importance a thousandfold beyond what it otherwise would have.

Oh and I love how Santina dismisses talk about gang violence in San Francisco by suggesting that there's an insidious all white gang that's even more dangerous and that they're developers and politicos. Give me a break. While that may in some abstract way be a cute statement, anyone who has actually come in contact with gang culture in a major metro area will tell you that the Crips aren't exactly morally equivalent to developers. Saying that they are is typical pseudo-Stalinist moral equivocation.

This type of thing is one reason why I'm increasingly drawn to a heretical position with regards to California: like Los Angeles more than San Francisco. In comparison to all of the ink people from San Francisco spill writing about the Bay Area and its problems there's precious little online devoted to Los Angeles, which you could reasonably argue has things worse than San Francisco does. But L.A. doesn't have Berkeley! It's not as hip and cool as the Bay Area! Not quite as obviously fun to write about.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Georges Franju's "Les Yeux sans Visage", or "Eyes without a Face"

Here's the review. I'll warn you right now that this review contains a huge amount of spoilers, as do most of my movie reviews. That said, "Eyes Without a Face" is a film that while on the surface belonging to the horror genre is actually much more complex.

The story revolves around a doctor, Dr. Génessier, who with his family got into an automobile accident sometime before the movie started. The accident left him intact but disfigured both his wife and his daughter, his daughter's face being basically wiped out, leaving just muscle (and eyes). Dr. Génessier, at the beginning of the film, starts kidnapping young girls in order to remove their faces, surgically grafting them onto his daughter.

So much for the literal beginning. The point as I see it is that Dr. Génessier is an authoritarian who wants to achieve perfection for his daughter even though his daughter protests that she doesn't like what he's doing. He's willing to abduct and murder people for his goal, all the while maintaining a cool professional façade, as witnessed by the presentation he gives on organ transplants to both his colleagues and the press.

Eventually his daughter figures out that she's more of a captive than a participant. Her death is even faked when the body of one of the girls is found, meaning that even if the operation was successful that she'd have to assume a new identity and sever the links to her old life (outside of her immediate family) that she had before the accident. Eventually she rebels, with the consequence ultimately being the death of her father by the hands of dogs that he'd experimented on, with his own face being torn apart.

And she kills her mother too, who before the story started got a successful face transplant of her own and started to operate as her husband's "Secretary", luring the girls to their home so that they could be donors for the surgery.

Why was the doctor doing this? It seems as though it's he himself who most wants his daughter to return to normal, and there's a passing reference to the accident where the daughter says that it happened because of his want for total control. He could be trying to correct his accident, to correct something that serves as evidence of his weakness, at the expense of human life and decency.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Petraeus Report, or: you mean that's it?

The vaunted Petraeus Report turns out to be a typical lightweight testimony to Congress. When I started looking for the text of it I was expecting to find something that was like a hundred pages with footnotes, thinking that he filed a report that was different from his testimony. It looks like that wasn't the case. Instead, you have testimony that's noteworthy primarily because of the ability of the writer to use the words "Al Qaeda" and "Iran" over and over again without making the document incomprehensible. The point of much of it seems to be reinforcing the idea that the Sunni resistance is really Al Qaeda, and that we're fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq and that the Shi'ia resistance groups are funded by Iran.

The main claim for an Iran connection concerns Hezbollah in Iraq, the military stating that Hezbollah is directly under the control of the Iranian Quds force. This is strenuously objected to in an article from "In These Times" published during the Israel-Lebanon conflict of last year by William O. Beeman, who says that the only support Hezbollah gets from Iran is financial, with Hezbollah itself remaining independent from Iran.

Much more interesting, although not as relevant in relation to Iran, is Ambassador Crocker's testimony here. I think that Petraeus was employed to give a general justification for administration actions that could be widely understood while Crocker was used to give some intellectual cover to justifications of U.S. policy.

Check out both of the testimonies, don't take my word for it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Curiouser and Curiouser---the Iran situation and the Mujahedin e-Khalq (read this one)

The title link leads to a very interesting article by an Iranian exile group called the "National Council of Resistance of Iran". It names the name of the officer arrested--"Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Farhadi" and gives a little of his background. What's really interesting in relation to possible war with Iran is this:

"Farhadi in his capacity as a commander of Quds Force, after the war, has been involved in some of more than 150 terrorist operations against the opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) in Iraq; many of which claimed heavy civilian causalities among the local residents."

The PMOI is also known as the Mojahedin e-Khalq or MEK, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the acronym MEK is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. The "National Council of Resistance of Iran" is the MEK's political wing, also designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

This is really important because in April 2007 allegations came up that the U.S. itself was helping the MEK to launch terrorist operations within Iran. There's a Rawstory article that asserts this from April 14th 2006, however it makes use exclusively of anonymous sources, which although not making the article *necessarily* wrong is something that is usually frowned upon by journalists if they want to come off as credible. But then there's this: an article from The Asia Times article from April 25th 2006 (hat tip to Lying Media Bastards) that actually names a name:

""The Iranian accusations are true," said Richard Sale, intelligence correspondent for United Press International, referring to charges that the US is using the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) organization and other groups to carry out cross-border operations. "But it is being done on such a small scale - a series of pinpricks - it would seem to have no strategic value at all."

This dovetails with a much earlier article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker that argued that U.S. troops themselves were going into Iran on missions. The government denied it and maybe it was the MEK and other exile groups that were doing the incursions.

If the U.S. is sponsoring MEK activity in Iran and Iran has been responding by sending agents over into Iraq to try to take out the MEK, then this would explain quite a lot, from the finding of Iranian ammunitions to the presence of Mahmoud Farhadi in Suleimaniah,Kurdistan.

The U.S. then would essentially be pulling Iran into war with the U.S. through supporting a terrorist organization that's hitting inside Iran's borders, with the arrest of Farhardi being a step up in escalation of the provocation. Now everyone is watching Iran, seeing what their response will be. So far Iran, to judge by the stories carried by IRNA, the Islamic Republic News Agency, is keeping pretty cool. They seem more concerned with covering Ahmadinejad's trip to the United States.

Judging by what happened with Saddam, the U.S. will keep provoking until it decides to drop the pretences, at which point it will just invade and justify the invasion by the sort of rhetoric that it's putting forward now.

Ok, here's a little piece of information about the Iranian arrested that the news has usually left out

It's from the "Kurdistan Observer":

"A Kurdish official in the city, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that initially three Iranians were arrested but two were later released.

The three included the mayor of Qasr-e Shirin, a city close to the Iraqi border; the head of an office in the city that gives permits to Iranian merchants traveling to northern Iraq; and a merchant, the official said.

The official, from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, said the person kept in custody was the head of the merchant permits office. He did not identify any of the Iranians."

If you do a little web research you'll find that the last name of the person arrested is Farhadi

Currently trying to figure out just what evidence there is that the Iranian government is arming Iraqi insurgents

And it's taken me via blogs to places that I'm sure the U.S. government loves that I've gone, like the official Iranian arms manufacturing company, where a blogger found a picture of a shell that is comparable to one of the ones the U.S. said it captured in insurgents hands.

So far there's very little concrete. There's a presentation that the U.S. gave in February where they showed the press debris with the caveat that they could neither take pictures or tape the presentation....and where they then gave out a pre-made CD-ROM containing images they claim are of Iranian arms captured in Iraq. Then there's the alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer who was captured, supposedly setting up delivery of arms to insurgents in northern Iraq. But it seems a little bit difficult to find information on what exactly happened to this person, which is strange because he would be the prime piece of evidence that would prove that someone in the Iranian governmental hierarchy was officially approving the arming of presumably Shi'ia militias in Iraq.
I'm keepin' on a lookin'

Currently the U.S. is releasing no details, it looks like, and so the whole thing is essentially based on a "Trust us" statement by an administration that has compulsively lied about Iraq, both in the buildup to the war and in the progress of the war itself. Interestingly enough, the Iraqi government in Baghdad says that the officer was part of a business delegation.

Since this is going to be used to start another war it's sort of important, and also really suspicious that it's been exactly a week since this happened and no further information has been forthcoming.

Maya Deren's "The Divine Horsemen", good because it's not what you'd assume it would be

Which is why I rented it. What would you think of when someone told you about a film exploring Haitian Voodoo? Probably that it would be a lurid expose in the style of the Mondo movies, i.e. movies that go out to exotic locations and purposefully try to find the most bizarre seeming rituals and activities to present to Western audiences for entertainment, the point being how weird and primitive all the colored people are. "Divine Horsemen" succeeds because not only is it respectful but it also intellectually engages the subject.

Deren's film for the most part portrays normal looking Haitian people carrying out rituals, and is organized by first giving a brief overview of the whole and then moving on to examine each major god on its own. The vevers or signs of each god are shown on a black screen with a voice over introducing him or her then footage of rituals involving the god are shown with additional voiceover talking about the particular character of the god more in depth, with comments on why the god is appealed to and how they manifest themselves, which is illustrated by the people being possessed by the god as well. Turns out that the film is based on a book by the same name by Deren, and it shows in that it comes off as something where the focus is on the content of the words being said as opposed to purely on cinematography.

Highly recommended for an interesting and well put together presentation on Afro-Caribbean religion.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad on gays...the context makes him seem less delusional

and the "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country" quote. I'm surprised at the mainstream Progressive press for being so naive, not reading the actual transcript of the talk that Ahmadinejad gave at Columbia and instead pretending like he meant that he believes there are no gay people in Iran. Actually looking at the transcript it's apparent that he's saying something else, two things actually. First, when asked about how homosexuals are treated in Iran he goes off talking about how society's shouldn't tolerate illegal and corrupting activity and how countries are right to make those actions illegal---not directly saying homosexuality is a corrupting factor in society but implying it in basically every other way. Then when pressed about it by the person who didn't get the hint that that was what Ahmadinejad was talking about he said the quote. The way I read that is that he was declaring that Iran doesn't have stereotypical Fox-news type gays like they have in America.

Iran has capital punishment for gays and it's a morals crime that's looked for and prosecuted. However, as a bisexual person I don't want Iran's persecution of gays to be used as a pretext for invading another country and starting another war.

By the way, if you're ever up by Columbia

Check out Labyrinth Books. They're by far the best academic bookstore I've come across, better even than the bookstores around Harvard.

But Columbia. I went to NYU for a bit and so, well, there's something of a rivalry, at least on NYU's part, between NYU and Columbia, with NYU seeing itself as the school more in touch with reality and Columbia as being a sort of Ivory Tower place isolated from the real life of New York City. And if you go by the Columbia campus you can see why this is. You half expect people to be walking around there with frat beanies on their heads and women (at Barnard) chasing wooden hoops down hills with sticks. NYU, by contrast, has no campus and is instead a collection of buildings located in Greenwich Village surrounding Washington Square Park.

Of course there's a little irony in NYU considering itself more in touch with reality than Columbia. Like Columbia, NYU is a very expensive private college, and like Columbia you can find yourself in a class with a person who lived in OJ's neighborhood in L.A. and a person from one of the ruling families of Bahrain, as I did.

*on edit: it seems that the Labyrinth Books by Columbia is now called "Book Culture"

I see what Ahmadinejad is doing with the Holocaust

It's a game. Here's a link to the transcript of the Columbia speech. What he's really getting at is the suffering of the Palestinians. In the speech he asks two questions, the first one about the veracity of the Holocaust the second about why Palestinians have to pay for something that happened in Europe. When challenged by a questioner about the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad said that his point was academic freedom and the freedom of academics in Europe who have been put in jail for questioning the Holocaust.

Put these two things together, the academic freedom and the question of the Palestinian people and you get a better idea of what he's trying to do: he's really saying that Palestine is suffering because of the Holocaust, which is used as a justification for the establishment of the state of Israel and of the Nakba, the 'catastrophe', where Palestinians were expelled to make way for Israeli settlers; and he's saying that people who question the rightness of this are thrown in jail in Europe. Although there are many people who question the use to which the Holocaust has been pressed into, Ahmadinejad focusses on people who European states have actually thrown in jail to suggest that intellectual inquiry on the subject of the importance of the Holocaust and its ramifications on Middle Eastern life has been quashed and isn't really done in good faith. I think there are two separate arguments going on here, the first having to do with general intellectual climate the second having to do with how certain academics are treated. It's wrong in my opinion to throw anyone in jail, especially academic researchers, because of what they've written. The connection between this throwing in jail and the intellectual climate of academia isn't proven by Ahmadinejad although like I said you don't have to go that far to demonstrate that certain topics, at least in America (because I'm not familiar enough with the academic scene in Europe), related to the rightness of the establishment of the state of Israel and the rhetoric used to justify it, are so politicized that researchers who go against the prevailing political wisdom face the threat of being fired. Witness Norman Finkelstein, author of "The Holocaust Industry", which makes no claims whatsoever that the Holocaust didn't happen....indeed he talks about both of his parents living through the camp experience.....but instead says that the Holocaust has been unfairly pressed into use to support things that are immoral. Finkelstein has been denied tenure at DePaul University, which lead to his resignation, because of his books and his ideas.

Ahmadinejad is essentially arguing, by putting on the obnoxious Holocaust conference, that he accepts a level of freedom of inquiry that Europe and the United States don't have, with the ultimate point being the Palestinians and the justification of the Israeli state. Unfortunately, although this may play well at home and through the Middle East, the fact that he chose to promote white supremacists instead of people who just had revisionist views on the founding of Israel itself has backfired in the West, at least in America. Instead, Americans just see it as Iran inviting a bunch of nuts for a conference.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Making the blog fun again

Maybe I should make it more edgy. There are a few posts that I deleted because I thought that I went too far. One of them was an Easter post where I welcomed the resurrection of the Prince of Peace with a reproduction of the "Son of Sam" letter. Which is here:

"Hello from the gutters of NYC, which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine, and blood.

Hello from the sewers of NYC which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks.

Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of NYC and from the ants that dwell in these cracks and feed in the dried blood that has settled into the cracks.

Mr. Breslin, sir, don't think because you haven't heard from me for a while that I went to sleep. No, rather, I am still here. Like a spirit roaming the night. Thirsty, hungry, seldom stopping to rest; anxious to please Sam.

I love my work. Now the void has been filled. He won't let me stop killing until he gets his fill of blood. Tell me, Jim, what will you have for me July 29?

Not knowing what the future holds, I shall say farewell and I will see you at the next job. Or should I say you will see my handiwork at my next job?

P.S. Please inform all the detectives working on the case that I wish them luck. Keep them digging, drive on. Think positive. Here are some clues to help you along. The Duke of Death, The Wicked King Wicker. The 22 Disciples of Hell. John Wheaties, rapist and suffocater of young girls.

In their blood and from the gutter -- ‘Sam's Creation' .44 Caliber

The Son of Sam."

I deleted that...I think the post was entitled something like "An Easter Message"....but here it is again.

I don't know, what else...? Maybe suggesting that we recreate the Circus Maximus and throw some neo-hippies in there for the amusement of the crowd.

Or maybe I've just been having a bad day.

Georges Franju II

This is a preliminary note, I'll get to a review of "Divine Horsemen" and "Eyes Without A Face" tomorrow. But on seeing "Le Sang des Betes", the Blood of the Beasts, again (it's only twenty minutes long and is on the same DVD as "Eyes without a Face") it occurs to me that there's a whole level of social criticism contained in it that I hadn't picked up on. It isn't something that hits you over the head, but it's implicitly there and it's very powerful. It also isn't something that someone who's watched a lot of films has made up out of thin air. The date that it was made is very important: 1949.

The social criticism, at least as I read it, is this: that what we consider to be part of the dark past, of primitive life, that we consider our enlightened civilization to be above, still exists at the heart of our society. The film was made within five years of the liberation of France.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stupid controversy about Ahmadinejad

His both coming to the United States and his speaking engagement at Columbia University. Ahmadinejad is a right winger who sponsored an obnoxious conference that besides making headlines had no influence on anything. He's being demonized by the United States for largely unrelated reasons having to do with drumming up support for a war with Iran in order to extend U.S. dominance over the Middle East. He has in fact stepped up punishment of people who the Iranian regime considers to be immoral, such as homosexuals, but you could argue that the ultimate cause both of Ahmadinejad being in power and the increase of repression is the United States' tough talk, starting with the labeling of Iran as being a part of the "Axis of Evil" when it had less to do with 9/11 than Iraq did. Iran was on a path of reform, engaging leaders in Europe and tentatively opening up its society in terms of the strictness of the enforcement of social standards. But the increased hostility of the U.S. to Iran changed all that, put the Iranian people on the defensive, with the result that a hard liner was elected.

It's really funny though, seeing the Jewish community's response to him. For the record, and sometimes confusion happens, although I have a long Polish name I'm not Jewish. But I look at this stuff, the calling of Ahmadinejad a "Persian Hitler", although there's not a one person of Jewish descent he's ordered killed because they were Jewish, and wonder if there'd be such an outcry if one of the leaders of either the Croatian, Serb, or Bosnian governments in the Yugoslav civil war who was responsible in some way for the mass murder of civilians on ethnic grounds not sixty years ago but from ten to fifteen years ago came to New York City to speak.

Would Radovan Karadzic be protested as much as Ahmadinejad? But he's threatened Israel! Virtually every hardline leader in the Middle East seems to have done that. Few have actually carried out the threat, knowing that in Noam Chomsky's phrase "they'd be annihilated instantly" if they did it. What about killers who are a little further from the popular consciousness of America because they're not white. Indonesian military commanders who participated in the genocide in East Timor, where the favored method of killing was closing off villages and starving people to death en masse, would they be protested as much as Ahmadinejad? Again, we're talking about real violence that happened to people within the last three decades, not sixty years ago.

It's very strange, these protests. For instance the protest about the Kahlil Gibran Academy opening in New York City. It's an arabic language school, a place that teaches children in both english and arabic. A very telling article in the Jewish press was linked to by a while ago, meaning...last week?....I should be able to find it...anyways, the tone of the article was unbelievable. Here was a Jewish weekly acting like the Jewish community in New York City had the right to decide whether or not the school could exist. The fact that the person in charge of the school, who in the course of many discussions with the leaders of the Jewish community in New York City had been declared "safe", fucked up by not objecting to a tee shirt that had the word "Intifada" on it, because she knew that the word had connotations other than just the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, was seized on to prove that the school was really pro-terrorist.

It makes me think. What other groups does the Jewish community in New York City feel that it has veto power over? Obviously they think that they get to decide what the arabic speaking community can and can't do (while helped with government funds: the school is a public school). Who's next?

It's amazing that anyone is even protesting the school, absolutely amazing. The Jewish community has proven that they're as racist as any other white community out there, which despite their protests they are. People who emigrated from the Middle East over a thousand years ago who are culturally European with a flare of Middle Eastern culture, who are probably genetically more European than Middle Eastern, and whose main difference from the rest of white America is that they follow a different religion discriminating against people from the Middle East....who were born there. It's quite a phenomenon. But no doubt the policy will further endear them to racist backwoods rednecks, whose politics the leaders of the Jewish community are increasingly in line with.

An evening with Georges Franju and Maya Deren

Two documentary filmmakers, deceased. Tonight I'm watching "Le Sang des Betes", the Blood of the Beasts, and "Eyes without a face" by George Franju and "The Divine Horsemen" by Maya Deren. Blood of the Beasts is a famous documentary that goes into Paris slaughterhouses and films the slaying of horses, cows, calves, and sheep. But in a very special way. When I was in college one of the classes that I took studied documentary filmmaking among other things and "Blood of the Beasts" got a mention, with the text we were using saying that Franju portrayed the killing of the animals in an almost mythic sense, like a sacrifice in the Mystery religions of Greece, Rome, and elsewhere, with the butchers being elevated into almost super human figures. I read that and thought "Cool!". Now that I'm in Seattle I can actually rent Franju's stuff and so here I am. "Eyes without a face" is a work of fiction, but, at least according to commentators, a similar style.

Maya Deren's "The Diving Horsemen" is a rare black and white film about voudoo in Haiti. The "Horsemen" are the priests, who are ridden by the gods, the Loa, in spirit possession. Deren was unique in that she managed to be an avant-garde filmmaker in pre-World War II America. And her stuff is good. Like Franju she wasn't just a documentary filmmaker, witness the very good and very interesting collection "The experimental films of Maya Deren". Hopefully, and according to what I've read and heard almost certainly, "Divine Horsemen" will prove to have the same sort of experimental quality to it.

I'll blog about both after I see them. I've noticed that people have been finding posts that I've written about seeing this movie or that movie where I haven't written much beyond either "I'm going to see this tonight" or "That was a good movie", I mean not literally just that but essentially just that. I figure that if you're googling a movie and you manage to find this site the least that I can do for you is to give you something beyond a teaser. This is especially true with the comment I wrote about "Quiet days in Clinchy", a film from the Henry Miller novella. I wrote that I was going back and forth between watching it and watching a film about Stalingrad, very upligting of course since Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle in human history. I ended up picking "Quiet days in Clinchy" and basically wrote "I picked Quiet Days in Clinchy" and nothing else. It's an interesting movie that starts out with the memorable first line "It was spring time in Paris and there was cunt in the air." Ah, Henry Miller. I'll write omething substantial about "Quiet Days in Clinchy" sometime too.

I temporarily become a stereotype

So I was driving to the grocery store and realized that I was wearing mostly black, listening to "Experimental Jet Set" by Sonic Youth, and living in Seattle. "Experimental Jet Set" is one of the trashiest, in a good way, Sonic Youth albums, the sort of thing you'd expect from members of a jet-set of decadent experimental artists. Kim Gordon the bassist and vocalist sounds like she's flying high on heroin throughout it. I mean, that's the kind of thing that you listen to when you go to the grocery store, right? Goin' out to buy some stuff to make salads, some bagels, and some breakfast cereal, listening to atonal semi-noise music, they go together just fine.

Wow, an unexpectedly good blogger on "The Guardian"

And on entertainment nonetheless. Marina Hyde's column on entertainment news is witty, sarcastic, and interesting. And funny. Sarcasm plus humor doesn't always go together, at least not in the U.S.
The articles in the Guardian that I come across and that I know the paper most for are straight news articles with some good editorial pieces, which is why finding a blogger who's not deadpan but actually has some style on their website is sort of a surprise. The title link of this post leads to the archive of her columns.

Ikea and Target are engaged in a conspiracy against me

Designed to take all my money.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eating meat hurts the environment but...

(title link)Well, hydrocarbon emissions hurt the environment too---particularly the emissions from car exhaust and from factories. Unlike vegetarianism or veganism we can do a lot to change both of these things without forcing people to radically alter their lifestyles. Public transportation and cleaner manufacturing processes are a lot more reasonable than demanding that people's diets change in a radical way. To say that going vegetarian is the best way to save the planet is escapist. If you really want to save the planet you'll pursue and push for policies that deal with the most blatant causes of global warming first and then work back. Cars that burn gasoline and produce pollution are about as close as you can get to a completely blatant cause of global warming. Factories that belch out clouds of pollution thanks to lax rules regulating pollution are another very, very blatant cause of global warming. While it's nice to think about the impact that modern farming has on things, I just can't understand people who point to eating meat as being the unseen villain in the global warming saga.

Proof that fundamentalist denominations aren't fundamental but reflect history

This is about the claim that denominations traditionally called 'fundamentalist', which are strictly speaking not all part of it although very similar, are representative of the early Christian Church before distortions took place. I want to look at the Pentecostal Church as represented by the Assemblies of God.

The Pentecostals are sort of the easiest group to do this with because they put so much emphasis on the Holy Spirit. There's been a lot written on the place of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. What you find over and over in Assemblies of God literature are statements saying, sometimes explicitly sometimes less explicitly, that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was commanded by Jesus and that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as experienced by Pentecostals today comes through Jesus, or that Jesus commands it to happen.

They believe in the Trinity, so they don't think that the Holy Spirit is just some emanation from Jesus. The issue is who controls the Holy Spirit: is it God the Father alone or God the Father and Jesus. Can God alone command the Holy Spirit or can Jesus as well? Although the Trinity is equal within itself there is a hierarchy, and whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father alone or through both Jesus and God the Father is important.

It's also a fundamental divide between Western and Orthodox Christianity. Western Christianity believes that the Holy Spirit can be commanded and sent both by God the Father and by Jesus, while Orthodox Christianity believes that only God the Father can command and send the Holy Spirit.

Practically, this means that since all the parts of the Trinity are part of God that God doesn't need to delegate power regarding the Holy Spirit to Jesus. Instead, God can work through the Holy Spirit directly. Furthermore, by asserting that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Jesus as well, according to the Orthodox view this sets up Jesus as a sort of demigod or a rival to God in authority.

Now this doctrine, the western version of it, was never accepted in the places where Christianity started, in Palestine, Syria, the Middle East in general. It was officially sanctioned five hundred years after Christ as an addition to the Apostle's Creed. Yet there isn't much ambiguity on the subject in Pentacostal doctrine: the Holy Spirit can be commanded by Jesus. You pray to Jesus, confess your sins, and then Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to you to baptize you for the second time. They could have easily made it clear that although you pray to Jesus the agency of the Holy Spirit coming down for baptism is always God himself, but they don't.

The fact that they don't exists because they're descended from the Roman Catholic Church instead of from an Eastern Orthodox Church. Their claim to be a reincarnation of the early Christian Church is thus undermined by the fact that the scheme behind their fundamental doctrine is defined by an accident of history rather than by the Gospels themselves.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The great contrast of evangelical Christianity to how early Christianity really was

Surfing the Wiki I got into the part of it that deals with the distinctions between various Orthodox Christian denominations, specifically the splits having to do with the Council of Calcedon in 451.

Now, if you follow the terminology and the issues, you see that a hell of a lot of the thinking going on uses Greek philosophy to try to understand Christianity. The cultural life of the eastern Mediterranean was Greek although it was politically dominated by Rome. Go to the link and try to puzzle out the differences between the competing terms, of the difference between the belief that God and Man united in a new nature in Christ that was neither purely God or Man, or that the two natures co-existed within Jesus or that Jesus was possessed of both human and divine natures that were united but that retained their individuality and so weren't combined into a completely new thing.

Then ask your self if any of this remotely resembles what Christian fundamentalists view as fundamental Christianity. The problem with trying to start over with Christianity, as the fundamentalists want to do, is that it isn't as easy as just reading the Bible and trying to just go by what the Bible says. To really get back to the origins of Christianity you have to untie the various philosophical and religious controversies that accompanied Christianity in its first centuries.

This, at least in what fundamentalists and evangelicals publicly say, seems to be completely absent. Maybe some of the pastors who actually have real theological training are aware of these things but if they are they certainly haven't passed it on to their flock. The result is stuff like Left Behind and the general movement to see The Book of Revelations as announcing an imminent apocalypse.

That which is not spoken about can hurt you

Take these trends into account: Walmart now sells Christian religious toys, a soldier is suing the military for allegedly being forced to participate in Christian activity, care packages to soldiers from evangelical groups including a violent video game featuring the killing of non-believers has been brought to light and subsequently nixed, and further back there have been allegations of an intolerant Christian atmosphere at the Air Force Academy. Christian activists, possibly in a nod to "MoveOn", have taken out a $90,000 full page ad in USA Today denouncing comedienne Kathy Griffin because she stated while accepting her Emmy that she owed nothing to Jesus. Left Behind novels...the increasing association of Christianity with patriotism.

There's something happening here, something that has been building up for a long time but now seems to be emerging with greater prominence. The ideal of what America and Americans should be like has always been implicitly conservative and Christian. Way back in people's minds, despite all experiences to the contrary, there lies a little voice saying that the people who really are good Americans are the people who live in small towns, are conservative, and who go to church regularly and believe most definitely in God and Jesus. God and Country. It's something that has let people who fit the description quietly take the moral high ground when looking at themselves, but something that has also been disregarded by people who don't believe that the attitude really matters that much. But now it's coming back to haunt us.

Marx had a wonderful analysis of what he termed the hypocrisy of bourgeois society. He said that bourgeois society, which essentially means a society that is modern and non-monarchical, presents itself as being value neutral and open to everyone, with freedom of conscience being assured, but that in reality when you scratch the claim of neutrality something very different emerges, bias, acceptance of inequality, and inconsistencies about how the economy really effects people. According to Marx it's the things that lay beneath the veneer of what's accepted as the conventional wisdom that really matter, that really shape things and that really constitute the vital issues of society. This could most definitely be applied to America right now in relation to the Christian Right and its subtle takeover of the military and of society in general.

We're caught in a contradiction. On the one hand we know that the people who argue that Christianity and conservatism are the real essentials of patriotism are biased and that they're not arguing in good faith, on the other it's very hard to confront them on this because the shield of claims of patriotism in public discourse is very strong and in a sense we've been programmed to have that suspicion in the back of our minds that maybe they're right after all. But God and Country are not so easily defined.

However, implicitly honoring their view of what patriotism is, we've allowed them to go into the military and attempt to convert it into a force for evangelical Christianity and we've allowed them to claim the high road in the culture in general, thinking that the consequences wouldn't be so bad since, after all, America at it's core is really value neutral when it comes to personal ideas about what and what doesn't constitute being a "good American".

Our value neutrality is killing us and may soon have very bad consequences around the world, worse consequences than the wars and policies already inflicted by the Bush administration. We need to drop the public attitude of passive acceptance of Christian values as essential to American identity and the sense of transgression that accompanies challenging this stance in public.

America is biased just like any other country, and of we don't drop the veneer of neutrality that neutrality might cause the end for liberal America. The conservatives are right in that 9/11 changed everything with regards to getting an ideology and not just passively accepting things as they are, their error was in going the wrong way in their response. The future holds ideology versus ideology, radical or liberal ideology versus Christian and conservative ideology, and the sooner we wake up to this the sooner we can start to get our country back on track, hopefully countering the influence of the emerging ultra-Christian dominated armed forces while we're at it.

Amsterdam not really "cleaning up" brothels

Despite what the Raw Story headline says. Title link leads to story.

Since the Red Light District has been around for over a hundred years, which means around during the 1950s, around during the 1920s, I really doubt that there's suddenly a moral crisis here--especially since the Dutch largely practice a severe form of Calivinism which if it was going to shut down prostitution would have done it long before now.

Instead, the first two paragraphs of the story, before it goes into the history of the Red Light district etc.. tells the tale:

"The city of Amsterdam announced Thursday that it will invest up to 15 million euros (21 million dollars) to help clean up its famous red light district by buying brothels there.

The city will help a real estate developer buy 51 storefront windows where prostitutes ply their trade to convert them into apartments or commercial premises."

So the city of Amsterdam is helping redevelopment in the heart of the city, facilitating a buyout of what is surely prime real estate, that will be developed no doubt into high priced apartments, condos, and high end stores and restaurants.

What this seems to me to be about is gentrification. Also attracting tourists with more money by cleaning up an area that might offend them, basically what gentrification does for yuppies only it's for the benefit of yuppies who come to visit an not yuppies who come to stay.

Just look at New York City and Times Square, and New York City and the Lower East Side, both of which have been cleaned up and gentrified in order to boost tourism and make rich people feel safe about living in the Village, the East Village as the Lower East Side is now known.

It's really funny, if you read the article, how a council member who's pushing for the redevelopment has said that the Red Light District has gone to hell since prostitution was formally legalized in 2000. I'm sure that there's much more crime there now and more seedy people around than when the Red Light District serviced sailors on shore leave in the earlier decades of the 20th century up till the sixties when the rest of the world found out about it.

Again, what this story boils down to is more titillation for English language readers and an implicit and very false nod saying that the morals of uptight Americans are secretly right. And coming from the Agence-France Press news service! Maybe the AFP should let their American readers know that prostitution has been legal in France since, well at least since the turn of the century, the last century, and that it's most definitely been completely legal since the end of World War II.

But Americans wouldn't buy that. They want to think the rest of the world goes into a fit when a nipple is accidentally broadcast on television, just like them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wow, Barbara Boxer authored an amendment just like Cornyn's earlier in the week, condemning MoveOn

In this case she's being ecumenical by authoring a bill condemning all people and organizations thought to have insulted military troops and veterans. Boxer is the much vaunted Democratic Senator from California. Boxer names names. The text of the amendment is Here.
Let's hear it for the pro-military sentiments and Barbara Boxer, upholder of the values of "Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer" in America.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MoveOn deserves to be congratulated for their Petraeus ad

In the NYT. Why? Because it was an instance, fewer in number these days, of an honest statement penetrating through the bullshit. Which is why everyone is mad about it. The link to it is Here. Notice how this grass roots effort isn't being looked at as innovative and edgy, like something that the right should imitate, although it pretty much uses the same strategy as the 'netroots' leading up to the 2004 election. Now it's a national disgrace, according to Republicans, with Senator Cornyn promising to introduce a resolution condemning the ad. The actual text of it isn't anything particularly inflammatory. Here's the entire text of the ad. It's short and sweet.

"General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts. In 2004, just before the election, he said there was “tangible progress” in Iraq and that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” And last week Petraeus, the architect of the escalation of troops in Iraq, said, “We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress.”

Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed. Yet the General claims a reduction in violence. That’s because, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don’t count. The Washington Post reported that assassinations only count if you’re shot in the back of the head — not the front. According to the Associated Press, there have been more civilian deaths and more American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we’ve been there. We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed.

Most importantly, General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows: Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war. We may hear of a plan to withdraw a few thousand American troops. But we won’t hear what Americans are desperate to hear: a timetable for withdrawing all our troops. General Petraeus has actually said American troops will need to stay in Iraq for as long as ten years.

Today, before Congress and before the American people, General Petraeus is likely to become General Betray Us. "

John McCain said yesterday that MoveOn "ought to be thrown out of this country.", just google McCain and MoveOn to get documentation for that because of the ad. Here's a Washington Post link documenting it.

Now, if you've just read the text of the ad above you may find it a little odd that John McCain is suggesting that MoveOn be thrown out of the country because of it. What he's really objecting to, and showing his true colors over, isn't the fact that MoveOn made the ad but that MoveOn sucessfully placed the ad in the New York Times. It's all well and good when people talk about these things on blogs, but if you get the message out through the medium of the top newspaper in the country, the one that elites read, you get told to get out of the country by one Senator and have another one introduce a resolution condemning your act. Even Bush said after the hearings that while he accepts criticism of the war he doesn't accept criticism of a general, as if MoveOn said that Petraeus steals puppies from kids and bites off their heads in front of them. Instead, MoveOn just said what everybody knows, that the Iraq report that Petraeus presented was politicized and presents a distorted picture of what's going on in Iraq.

The talk about impugning the 'character' of a General is such bullshit that it ranks right up there with the masturbatory talk about 'gravitas' on Bush's part, something that I'm convinced only happened because the pundits liked the sound of the word and thought that using a Latin word made them look smart. Come on. GOP circles talked about Clinton personally committing murder in Arkansas, as well as saying that he raped women. But General dare you say that he wrote a politicized document!

Again, MoveOn is to be commended for doing this, they managed to get something positive through the mutual blow job fest that normally typifies the mass media, particularly television media, in this country.

UF Tasering a sign of the times

I guess since I lived in Gainesville for two years that I should say something about the Tasering incident that took place at the Kerry event on the UF campus. Gainesville is a radical island in very conservative north Florida. The town was founded in the service of several slave plantations, the slaves of which are the ancestors of the African Americans that live in the east side of Gainesville, which was a former slaves' quarters. Even as a radical island, then, there are serious impulses to extreme conservatism swirling around, making the people who live and study in Gainesville who are radical, or I guess even progressive now, particularly vulnerable to police harassment. In short, if the police ever really decided to do something terrible there'd be no way of stopping them. The radicals exist at the sufferance or pleasure, it's not really a pleasure but same idea, of the police force. And ever since 9/11 the police force, at least in the time when I lived there, has been slowly ratcheting their position on protest up.

So it's not surprising that they crossed what to many people in the country was a very serious line because at their core they really don't give a damn about civil rights anyways. In their eyes this was just desserts for a noisy, troublesome, protester. Probably didn't cross their minds that other people would be seriously upset by seeing a guy getting tasered for asking a long question to a former Presidential Candidate.

I felt when I lived there that this process of slowly turning up the heat was something that was going on in the rest of the country as well, making Gainesville a sort of microcosm for America. If you read the "McCarthyism Watch" column on the "In These Times" website you'll see that this idea might not have been so far off.(on edit: McCarthyism Watch is actually on The Progressive's website). There have been cases of people arrested for trying to show anti-war signs in a public park when a tv show came to their town, a person arrested for displaying an anti-war sign in his front yard (he was later cleared), and a guy arrested for holding a banner on an overpass whose arresting officers specifically made sure that he knew their names and badge numbers so he could, as they said, get his fifteen minutes of fame. What seems to be happening is that across America police departments and some communities have decided that "enough is enough" with regard to protesters that they regard as nuisances, who in their minds are stretching the limits of legality by exercising their rights on public property and on their own private property. This is a very bad sign.

If the attitude becomes that the time for tolerating protesters is over, that it was fun while it lasted but now it's becoming a pain, then we're in serious trouble, because it will mean that the war supporting part of the American public as a whole will be moving from passive displeasure in relation to anti-war people and anti-war protesters to active intolerance of them. Naomi Wolf has a good column up on Common Dreams that goes into this and why this move is probably the worst thing that can happen, short of another terrorist attack causing Bush to claim total power for himself.

I hope this doesn't happen, but it wouldn't surprise me since four years of drum beating isn't going to have a negligible influence on people. It's effects aren't just going to go away, they're probably going to manifest somewhere, and unfortunately when that happens the "Daydream Nation" feeling of America, focussed on Britney Spears' failed performance and on Paris Hilton, will be replaced by something much darker, something that's been building underneath American society but that so far hasn't been strong enough to break out.

Monday, September 17, 2007

How you know you're a politics nerd

Here's an excerpt from a post from "WebProNews" (title link) that I got to from a Firedoglake link. The story is about how CBS is threatening to sue the guy because he wrote that CBS sent insulting e-mails to people who wrote in complaining thatKatie Couric just asked softball questions when in Iraq. In the course of introducing why he wrote about a political issue on a site devoted to the web, author Jason Lee Miller wrote this :

"In short, we didn't have a dog in this fight, and your humble author who, just like Ferris Bueller doesn't believe in isms, would tell you he is neither Right nor Left, but maybe, if he had to label himself, is a John Stuart Mill Utilitarianist with Thomas Paine Libertarian tendencies and a slightly Aristotelian disdain for the unwashed masses (so maybe you shouldn't ask)."

My first response, after tracing out the different threads of political ideology, was to say (in a sort of collegial way) "You fucker!", instead of saying "What the hell is he talking about?"

Reminds me of the joke where two people are talking about religion and they both say they're Baptists, then one of them starts to question the other about just what particularly branch of the Baptist Church the other is from. They go down the line talking about different conventions, conferences, that sort of thing, until it's revealed that the other guy disagrees with some sort of support that the other guy's church has for some minor agreement, whereupon he says something like "Unbeliever!" or "Heathen!".

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Gute und Böse Zeiten in Verdammt Amerika

"Bild Zeitung Rules Germany

Germany's wildly successful Bild newspaper flies just under the nonsense threshold of American and British tabloids. But the publication's mix of sex and scandal makes it a bestseller." From "Der Speigel". Title link leads to the article, excerpts below.

"For German politicians, it's a necessary evil. For German journalists, it's mandatory daily reading. For the German desperate, it's a daily dose of high-resolution soft porn. And for millions of Germans, it's the primary source of news."

"Last year the paper scooped every other news source in Germany with an exclusive on a Danish dominatrix and her dwarf: "Bild found the weirdest sex pair in the world in a suburb of Copenhagen," the reporter announced. A recent issue of the paper blared about "the big SEX report," a disturbing nationwide study of adolescent sexual activity that found, among other things, that "every fifth 14-year-old has already had sex," and "30 percent of girls fake orgasm." These parent-scaring shocker-facts came above the fold. Below it? A photo of Alex, a bodacious tanning-bed brown brunette, and her breasts.

But Bild does have a few standards. It was shocked, for example -- shocked! -- when the British Sun published paparazzi photos of Chancellor Merkel's naked derriere (more...) while she changed bathing suits on vacation in Italy last week. "In any case the rear end of my chancellor is nicer for me to look at than your whiskey-bloated ass-faces in London," wrote Bild's gap-toothed commentator Franz Josef Wagner. Whether Herr Wagner would be quite so het up if she was someone else's chancellor isn't clear. "The only language you understand," he goes on, "is the language of soccer." He concludes: "We will destroy you at the World Cup.""


It says it was founded by Axel Springer in 1954. Wasn't Axel Springer the guy who founded the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which is a major nationwide conservative high end paper?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Interesting NYT article on Ayn Rand

It makes a statement that should be looked at more closely, because it reveals a lot about Rand:

"Rand’s free-market philosophy was hard won. She was born in 1905 in Russia. Her life changed overnight when the Bolsheviks broke into her father’s pharmacy and declared his livelihood the property of the state. She fled the Soviet Union in 1926 and arrived later that year in Hollywood, where she peered through a gate at the set where the director Cecil B. DeMille was filming a silent movie, “King of Kings.”"

In other words she was a White Russian. The term White Russian refers to Russian exiles, as opposed to Red Russians i.e. pro-Soviet Russians still in Russia. This is important because the White Russians were the equivalent of the Cuban exile community in south Florida.

If someone from the Cuban exile community wrote a book about Castro and Castro's Cuba, or wrote an anti-Communist book inspired by their experiences as a young adult in Cuba, there'd be a question of its objectivity, of whether the book was really an honest examination of the issues or whether it was based on having an axe to grind against Communism and Cuba.

But with Rand her interpretation of her background and the idea that her background directly inspired her writings in the way she states, i.e. in a logical and purely philosophical way, is not questioned.

Why should anyone take Rand's philosophy at face value? She was a Russian exile with a grudge against the Russian state, which if we're looking at things objectively should be examined from all sides with Rand's version being looked at as critically as any other version.

But despite being called "Objectivism", her philosophy doesn't encourage people to look at things objectively but instead pushes people in the direction of confirming their own prejudices with a pseudo-philosophy that falsely claims that it's based on pure logic.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sting photographed outside of German brothel

Where brothels are legal. Prostitution has been legal in Germany for several years, and before the official legalization was officially tolerated for many more. So......Sting outside a brothel? Grow up people. The title link of this post leads to a UK Daily Mail article on it that doesn't once mention that prostitution is legal in Germany and that paints the place he went to as a strip club that secretly allows prostitution. Paragraph after spindly little paragraph, spindly because they're short and punctuated by pictures relating to Sting and relating to the brothel, goes into the supposed iniquity of the whole thing.

But in case the Daily Mail editors haven't realized, talking about notorious brothels in Hamburg is like talking about the notorious red light district of Amsterdam.

The repressed anglo readership, consisting of bored housewives and other species of person secretly thrilled but publicly outraged by scandal, is now eating up the story that Sting has been a naughty boy.

Maybe they should stop thinking about celebrities as boys and start thinking of them as men, and women.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Reasons for anarchist deportations after World War I

Racial hatred, not just anti-radicalism. In the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution there was a huge wave of anti-radical action that saw the IWW be pretty much destroyed through mass prosecution, that saw other socialists, including Eugene V. Debs of the Socialist Party, thrown in jail, and that also saw anarchists who were born abroad deported to Russia.

The question comes up of why exactly did the U.S. government deport anarchists to Russia, a place that most of them were skeptical about? I think the reason lies not just in their radical politics but in the ethnic politics of the day. People like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were Jews, immigrants from Eastern Europe, or both. The politicians of the time looked at them, decided that because they were Eastern and Russia was Eastern, and that Russia was socialist and they were socialist, that they were a potential fifth column in the United States, not just radical but wily Slavs who would follow their Russian brethren. There's an interesting source that I know off the top of my head that lends support to this and I'm sure there are others.

It comes from the biography of Mark Rothko, by James Breslin,the famous American modern artist, whose name was originally Mark Rothkowitz and who emigrated with his family to Portland from Latvia before World War I. Rothko's family was socialist, and in the book, I believe based on primary sources from Rothko himself, letters, things like that, he puts forward his impression that his family was harassed and felt pressure from people who were anti-socialist not just because of their politics but because of their ethnic and religious origin. They were potential enemy aliens.

The perception that foreign radicals were entering the United States and causing trouble, something that had been a sort of standard theme before World War I, may have been part of the cause of the passing of the Immigration Act of 1920, that shut out immigration from Eastern Europe and Italy, that was based in part on racist eugenics theories, and that was in place until after World War II. Interestingly enough, if you look at the dates, the Immigration Act, which was supported by people in Congress influenced by racial theories that put Germanic people, including the Anglo-Saxons, on the top of the heap, was in place during the time when Hitler and the Nazi state were saying the same thing. But I'm getting off topic.

The ethnic component of persecution for labor and socialist related activities has never really been looked at, except maybe in "A People's History". The fact of the matter was that these trouble causing immigrants were just average people of their time, which in Europe meant a developed trade union movement and a growing socialist movement. The United States was provincial. Another tidbit: eventually the U.S. put an anti-radical clause into immigration law that stated that people immigrating had to sign off on something that said they weren't radicals and that could be used to deport them if it was found out that they were.

According to Howard Zinn, not in People's History but in a collection of essays whose name I unfortunately can't remember at the moment, which is really bad since I want to make this thing more scholarly, ethnic European Americans didn't get recognition as being really equal until World War II, when talking about the racial superiority of Germans and the inferiority of Poles would have been kind of embarrassing, considering that that's what Germany declared when it invaded Poland and started World War II. But it definitely existed before that. There's a book, and unfortunately I can't remember its name and unfortunately I saw it in Eugene Oregon, which is about a day's drive from me, that catalogues cartoons and examples of racist thought against ethnic Europeans. It's one of a series; there's also Asians, Native Americans, Blacks, etc.. I remember a cartoon about Italians from early in the century that portrayed Italians as street peddlers and monkey grinders. Interesting stuff. Unfortunately, not only is this forgotten, but after World War II, due to McCarthyism and the then Red Scare that brought out demands for Americans to be "Americans", i.e. to give up their unique ethnic identities for Anglo ways of living, the cover that was lifted during the war slammed back down, and wasn't lifted at all again until the '70s. It's still on pretty tight unless you count a few sitcoms, Mafia movies, and bad chain restaurants as counting as acknowledgments of ethnic European culture in America.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Question for Wiccans

I have friends who are Wiccans and have been a general neo-pagan for....roughly 15 years....but my taste in religion is different from the subset of Wiccans typified by younger people who are totally into peace and love and being a witch! Sometimes people do not grow out of it. I've seen people who haven't. People who care about this kind of thing call them "Fluff bunnies" or "Fluffy Bunnies" to illustrate their flakiness and general everything is good attitude towards, well, everything.

Something occurred to me as I was walking in a local video store and saw a documentary about Wicca that said that the Witchcraft 'cult' was really not anti-Christian because it worshipped the Goddess. There's a problem with this, and it that Wiccans also say that the Witchcraft religion was fiercely persecuted and went underground, persecuted by Christians. The persecution is very documentable. Now, if members of your religion were burned at the stake, and burning at the stake continued in England until the 17th century, although very infrequently, then would you preserve a nice and happy attitude towards Christians? Think about it.

Are we to believe that Witches survived all these years just basking in nature and worshipping the Goddess, while having no ill will towards Christians? Just dancing around in circles singing in the spring air.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter. Wiccans today are at pains to say that they aren't anti-Christian and that the idea of witches that fundamentalist Christians have is not right. The ideas that fundamentalist Christians have may not be right, but should that be a reason to bury the hatchet so soon? Maybe a dose of anti-Christianity would help Wicca along.

*on edit: it looks like the article has attracted some interest. I'll just let you folks work things out for yourselves.

Anarchists, Communists, and terror

Strange to write this on 9/11, but I guess the idea of terrorism is in the air. It's interesting that while the violence of the Cheka, the Bolshevik political police, against dissidents in the Russian Revolution is focussed on that not much is said about the executions of people, without trial, simply because of the class they belonged to, something that's been estimated at totaling between 10,000 and 15,000 people, based on names that were published in a paper run by the Cheka itself. Wikipedia has a good article on this that cites Zinoviev, one of the heads of the Bolshevik party, as declaring that "To dispose of our enemies, we will have to create our own socialist terror. For this we will have to train 90 million of the 100 million of Russians and have them all on our side. We have nothing to say to the other 10 million; we will have to get rid of them." I raise this because there's a perception that if the anarchists of the period, not anarchists in general or the anarchists of today, would have gained power that they would have done something different. Yet, there are accusations of the same sort of behavior by Nestor Makhno, including massacres of Bolshevik army personnel once the Red Army turned against them, something very similar to the killing of anarchists done by the Cheka. There's also the issue of the people summarily killed in the Ukraine under Makhno who, again, didn't necessarily do anything wrong but just belonged to the wrong class. Understand, this isn't putting someone on trial or instituting a kind of reform where they're literally expropriated, but instead arrested and shot--just like that.

Similar things happened in the Spanish Civil War, with atrocities committed particularly against Priests. And I can't help but wondering if Durruti and the "Friends of Durruti" either played a part in this or, if they'd have gotten power, would have instituted a further campaign of violence against the Spanish people. Of course the forces lead by Franco committed many more crimes, but when it comes to shooting people and killing them in other ways do you really want to weigh 38,000 people against 150,000? I mention Durruti specifically because, although gaining in popularity, the ideas put forward in "How we shall bring about the Revolution", specifically the idea of a "Revolutionary Junta", come very close to a vanguard theory of political action. The idea that the Junta would be authorized by the people and so responsible to them is almost the exact language that the Leninists used to justify the role of the vanguard, who would ultimately be responsible to the industrial proletariat. Additionally, there's the role of the "FAI", or the Federation of Iberian Anarchists, which was a group that existed beside the CNT, the National Confederation of Labor, which was the main Anarcho-Syndicalist union, which was to keep the CNT anarchist. To me this sounds a whole lot like the relation that the Bolshevik party had with its own sponsored labor unions, making the whole Soviet labor movement a puppet rather than something independent and vital.

The charge that anarchists would never do what the Bolsheviks did when they got power is often repeated, but in these two cases, the main times in the 20th century when the anarchists did gain power, their actions seem to raise a lot of questions about whether or not they indeed refrained from the things that they condemned. Which should tell people that history is more complex than the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other.

Note: I'm not trashing anarchism in general or even saying that all anarchists in Russia and all anarchists in Spain were either like this or responsible for these things, and I'm not saying that if today's anarchists were to gain widespread influence that these sorts of things would happen. Instead, what I'm saying is that the act of not imitating enemies is more complex than just being an anarchist, and that people might do good by looking at history from all sides and analyzing what happened in order to learn from the past.

*on edit: I'm also not saying that there's some almost genetic connection between the violence that took place then and later socialism and anarchism. Some conservative scholars have maintained that because of events that took place during the Russian Revolution that all subsequent socialism is either doomed to be, or bound to be, similarly violent, like some kind of guilt that was passed on from father to son. This idea reflects more a political bias, that says that Socialism and socialist action always has to manifest in this form, than an actual reasoned position.

So it's 9/11 again

One of the things that I've always resented about the wave of pseudo-patriotism that swept the country after 9/11 and that has manifested on its anniversaries is the sudden compassion that people from the South, from the West, and from other ultra-conservative areas show for New York City. I lived basically in the South, that is in North Florida, when 9/11 hit and suddenly the town, where you'd see Confederate Flag bumper stickers on a lot of cars, suddenly took up the cause of New York City. Which is not saying that there aren't people there that are genuinely compassionate, but instead that many of the people who seemed to manifest compassion probably didn't think that highly of New York City in the days before 9/11.

Although it was by most standards a very brief period, I did live in New York City right after High School and I can tell you that the things that I thought were great about it, the openness, the many different cultural opportunities, the mix of people from all over the world, were things that conservatives usually hate. Acceptance of gays?! Modern Art and other egg headed things?! People from foreign countries speaking their own language, and non-white countries at that?! New York City has served as an American Sodom and Gomorrah for American conservatives for a long time, an example of what could go wrong in the rest of the U.S. if sneaky liberalism gets its diabolical claws into things. But suddenly all the conservative pundits, magazines, papers, TV channels love New York. And here's the kicker: if you actually like New York as it really is and you object to what the conservatives are trumpeting then you're not just unpatriotic but you're dishonoring the memory of the people who died in NYC on 9/11.

Of all the nerve. They've appropriated a city for their own purposes, making it a symbol that has nothing to do with the actual place and that signifies something probably opposed by most New Yorkers themselves: rampant conservative patriotism and the destroying of civil liberties at home, not to mention the two wars that are now being fought in the name of New Yorkers killed on 9/11.

So what to make of all of this? Well, sometimes the worst thing that can happen is a backhanded compliment by your enemy. And there sure have been a lot of backhands given by this administration.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A better definition of the word "Übermensch" ( or Ubermensch) as used by Nietzsche

For all of you extreme individualists and partisans of Nietzschean Nihilism and philosophy.

The definitions of Übermensch as either Super Man or Over Man are pretty false, with "Super man" being totally false and "Over man" being kind of true but usually contextualized in a way that obscures just what it means.

A clue to what Übermensch means comes from a parallel usage in French. The word "Surrealism" was coined by pairing the french word "Sur", which means on like a bridge over a river or a town on the side of a mountain, or a town on a lake or river, to realism, meaning that Surrealism was something that went on top of reality or beyond reality and realism.

Über literally means over, and in other constructions is used just like that, for instance in the town name Oberammergau, famous for its Passion Play. I would say that Nietzsche employed the prefix
Über like the Surrealists used Sur to indicate that the Übermensch is a man beyond men. The idea "beyond" is key here.

Nietzsche was a misanthrope who believed that most people in his day and age were pretty corrupted, repressed, and hypocritical, and that this was the reality behind the praising of "Humanistic" principles. Man, the man of the 19th century humanists, related to mainstream German philosophy of that time (which was not something that Nietzsche was part of), was to Nietzsche something that was currently flawed. He even titled one of his books "Human, all too Human", in examining the human folly around him. So I don't think that he would have called his concept of what kind of person would be better than the people he saw around him the "Super Man", because Super in this case implies an amplification. A "Superman", like in the Superman comics, would be a sort of exaggeration of how humanity already is. And interestingly enough the comic portrays just that: "Superman" holds up the basic morality and mores of the day, and his superness is expressed in being the sort of muscle bound ideal man that men of the time believed was the ideal. Which brings us back to the "Over Man".

The phrase "Over Man" has been used in more literal translations of Nietzsche, that unfortunately butcher the writing because every person is used to reading "Superman" and no one knows what the fuck an "Over Man" is, frankly in order to make Nietzsche look less Nazi-esque, something that doesn't need to happen. It's sort of the bawdlerization of Nietzsche, but I digress.

What Overman means is something closer to trans-man, man who has gone beyond man as Nietzsche defines him. Nietzsche often made reference to the necessary trans-valuation of all values, the complete redefinition of values according to an entirely new system that wasn't hypocritical, and it's not too much to apply this concept to his definition of the sort of person that he thought should replace how humanity was currently.

What Übermensch ultimately means is a man who has transvalued man, so to speak, who has gone beyond the state that Nietzsche associated with men today and has established a different form of ethics and way of life. It doesn't entail superior strength or necessarily mind power, although Nietzsche comments that Christian culture makes people stupid. Just a different way of living, but not a way of being that's either an amplification of today's norms to an extreme or just some sort of weird "Overman", a word that means nothing to people who think in English.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Labor Unions and economic efficiency

Mainstream economics argues that unions are bad for the economy because they impede economic efficiency, but what does this mean? If you dig down into the reasoning of mainstream economics you find two basic ideas about what a optimally running economy should be like: first, that resources are used efficiently so that the most stuff is produced that can be in the best way possible, and second, that the resulting goods are distributed in the fairest way they can be based on the amount of work a person puts in, the demand for that sort of labor, and the basic value of that type of labor itself.

Economists will tell you that economics is a positive science, meaning that it's value free, that values don't figure into standards of what's right and what isn't, but if that's the case then why champion economic efficiency at all? I mean, if we're truly looking at this in a value free way then why exactly is economic inefficiency bad? Why is producing the most goods in the most efficient way possible a good goal? There has to be an underlying value judgment that makes people desire economic efficiency and a sort of just kind of distribution of goods. That judgment isn't hard to find: it's the utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number, which was put into economics by the philosophy John Stuart Mill, who wrote extensively on the subject, in the 19th century. Now fairness is a strange word.

Another thing that economists will say when talking about the optimal kind of distribution of wealth is that fairness doesn't necessarily mean equality, that a fair distribution of wealth could in fact be very unequal, unequal but fair nonetheless. This is sort of a dodge, intended to ward off suggestions that we should just institute a perfectly equal economy by fiat, without any consideration of the practical issues involved. What the argument that fairness could mean severe inequality, or that it theoretically could mean a lot of equality, misses is the basic concept of what fairness is.

Fairness in distribution is a type of normative value, meaning that it isn't scientifically derived from absolute principles (like economists seem to think their whole subject is), but a normative value much different than blanket judgments like "Every one should be equal" or "An elite should control everything". Fairness is more complex than that. If I have an obligation to you and for some reason I have to break it, what would a fair reason be and what would an unfair reason be? Like I promised to help you move. An unfair reason would be that I just wanted to sleep and didn't want to exert myself. A fair reason would be something like an emergency came up that I had to address and that would mean that there would be no way I could do that and also help you move.

What I'm getting at is that the practice of fairness, the fairness of who gets what how and when, is based on a complex set of principles that are always interacting with each other. It's not just "this is fair" or "that's fair" but that in this situation this particular action is fair, and in that particular situation this particular action is not fair, not fair to either yourself or to others.

So in economics if we want a fair economy there are two parts: first, there are the basic sorts of transactions between people, between people and businesses, that can either be fundamentally fair or unfair and then there are the factors of skill, work, need on the part of the employer, all the basic things that economists say will guarantee fair wages and fair distribution of goods if they're allowed to work themselves out in a free market that puts no restraints on these things.

Is it fair to be compensated for your skills? Yes. Is it fair to have a decent wage for a decent amount of work? Yes. Now who says those principles have anything to do with the economy as it's currently set up?

That's the rub, that's the problem. Here you have an idealized notion of what fairness as applied to work, pay, and consumption but there's no guarantee that it corresponds at all to the reality on the ground. Economists say that the only impediments to this sort of fairness working itself out are regulations by government on what companies can do, and action by unions about how much companies can pay their employees, but what if that's not the whole story? What if there are structural factors in the nature of Capitalism itself that tend to get in the way of fairness, things that don't have to do with the government at all? If repealing government regulations, according to the economists, is a way to ensure fairness, then couldn't positive action, in the form of either unions acting to stick up for workers or in the form of different sorts of government regulations, also contribute to economic efficiency and the fairness that's considered to flow from that?

In this scenario unions would actually contribute to the health of the economy, at least as it figures into a fair distribution of goods, instead of impeding it by ensuring that work gets fairly compensated and that justice is done regarding other areas of work, like safety, that also may suffer from institutional impediments to optimality----which is another way of saying that work place safety in a free unregulated market goes down the tubes because the employers hold almost all of the cards, with workers only having the option of just not choosing to work there as their way to influence things.

Unions help to ensure fairness in the economy, and an extensively unionized economy would be substantially fairer, in a nuanced and non-simplistic way, than one without large union presence.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The question of labor and the labor movement

One of the biggest arguments against the labor movement in the United States is that having mass unionization would lead to people being trapped in jobs that they don't necessarily want to stay in for the rest of their lives. The ideal for America is people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, and collective action is seen sometimes as an admission that this isn't possible for a group of people, in other words it's seen as failure. What makes this idea somewhat stronger is the fact that many progressives who advocate unionization without much nuance themselves have privileged positions and therefore don't have to face the same sorts of issues that the actual workers that they're talking to, or are attempting to talk to, face. The idea that's put forth that, well, you've got to give in sometime, admit that you won't get out of the job, and join a union as a consolation prize doesn't sit well with a lot of people. But that attitude isn't the only one possible, and the idea of just sacrificing freedom for unionization isn't the only idea out there.

A much better idea is that whatever the future has in store, unions are helpful in the here and now. If you're doing a job that's unionized you may either go to school in the future and change jobs, or try something completely different like starting a business, but for the moment the union has the possibility of enhancing your life, of increasing your pay, making the workplace safer, and getting some extended benefits, as well as having a general voice in the workplace. Having a union job says nothing about what your family might do in the future either. Many union people see their kids go to college and go on to do whatever they want to do. So unionization doesn't necessarily mean constraints.

The fact that people are concerned about constraints on their futures and their families futures isn't a sign of a bourgeois attitude but is instead a rational response given the American political tradition.

Osama bin Laden message of 7 September 2007

Which is available here as well as through the title link. I encourage you to read it. People have been saying that it sounds like bin Laden has been reading lefty blogs because he mentions Noam Chomsky and Michael Scheur, who was the previously anonymous author who wrote "Imperial Hubris". Bin Laden also denounces corporations, American empire, the destruction of the environment, the claims of America to be a functioning democracy. But these things don't indicate that bin Laden is on the side of the left, instead they indicate something that the majority of commentators have ignored but that has been present from the start, which is that bin Laden and company are no fools.

Although they're Islamic fundamentalists the people who are at least at the top of the organizations that bin Laden funds benefit from the simple fact that they see the United States through the same lens that many of the people outside of the United States see it, which means that things like the sorts of analysis that Noam Chomsky and others offer isn't foreign to them. They're actually educated and savvy. People have erred in thinking that they're like the Taliban, i.e. ignorant. Instead, they used Afghanistan and the Taliban government for their own purposes. The irony of all of this is that people who support a fundamentalist Islamic State have turned out to be better informed about world events and about the United States itself than a majority of the actual citizens of the U.S. There was an interesting note that was published in the papers by Moussaoui that was intended for Bush and Rumsfeld that outlined a few simple history questions and questions about foreign affairs that he wanted to ask them, questions that anyone familiar with the subjects could have answered but that they seem to be ignorant of. The meaning was clear: Bush and company were ignorant idiots. To switch thing a little bit, the hiding out in a cave stuff is misleading as well because caves in Afghanistan, that have been inhabited for centuries, have things like electricity and running water and aren't isolated from the world.


The anti-capitalist parts of bin Laden's message should be measured against what he sees as the solution to the problems, which is a non-capitalist Islamic state. This is basically a right-wing alternative to capitalism, which is similar in kind to people who advocated, and sometimes still advocate, a return to the Catholic regulations of the Middle Ages, that on top of being theocratic were in fact anti-capitalist in that they restrained the power of industry. The analysis might be ok, but the solution I don't really care for, not because I have a problem with Islam but because I'm not a fan of right wing theocratic socialism, especially one where religious law would be rigorously enforced, to the letter, as bin Laden says.

The non-significance and significance of the Russian Revolution

If you ask people, hardcore Marxist-Leninists about the Russian Revolution they'll get really enthused, say that it was a great thing, but in the end not really have good reasons why it was a good thing beyond a general sense that it established 'socialism'.

Russia wasn't an industrial country, which is what Marx thought was necessary for a socialist state, and at the time of the Revolution it was barely a Constitutional democracy, the Duma having only been in place for.....twelve years? followed the previous Revolution of 1905.

Russia was located on the fringes of Europe and had the reputation as being one of the most undeveloped, backwards, states, something that had been ruled with an iron fist for centuries and was largely cut off from European thought until the 18th century. It followed a different religion, that of the Orthodox Church, and with it was linked more to the Eastern Roman Empire than the western. It could even have been called semi-Third World.

Why then was the Russian Revolution something other than a kind of vane attempt by socialist enthusiasts to institute the kind of state they wanted even though the country wasn't ready for it?

One of the answers, at least my answer, comes not from the economics of Russia but from the course of political change in western Europe during the 19th century. In terms of economics Russia was fucked, but in terms of politics.....things were somewhat better. The 19th Century saw a series of revolutions and attempted revolutions flow over Europe following the French Revolution and the unfortunate takeover of Europe by Napoleon, and during this time the ideas that motivated these revolutions and that motivated the general movements for change didn't remain static. Instead, as people struggled to define what in a post French-Revolutionary world constituted a just and good state they incorporated a lot of the new theories into their practice, for example a certain kind of nationalism, very unlike the type of nationalism advocated in the United States, that was based on the self determination of peoples. The evolution of political ideas had great significance for countries where the push for a liberal democracy was thwarted during the initial push in the mid 19th century.

What happened in the states that were still monarchies and were still set up in an anti-democratic and anti-liberal way was that the movements for social justice progressively accumulated the different doctrines that were produced so that when they finally broke through to the surface all of the most current doctrines were there in the programs. Socialism, particularly the idea of a radical socialist state, was one of the radical products of the late 19th century. Revolution had been brewing in Russia for a generation, with various revolutionary groups engaging in organization among peasants, I hate that word, and various flat out terrorist actions taken against corrupt officials as well as the monarchy itself.

When the Russian Revolution came it happened because Revolution was bound to break out in Russia sometime, because, in part, the outcome of the Revolution of 1905 didn't satisfy a lot of people. The Bolshevik Party, besides doing a heck of a lot of organizing on their own, partially rode the wave that was bound to break out anyways, gaining power and instituting socialism as part of the ticket. Actually there was initially a modern liberal state instituted in February of 1917, but it didn't go far enough, and a structure of dual power where the government effectively shared responsibilities with the Soviets, socialist councils. The October Revolution saw the Soviets part of the government take power.

Lenin, it turned out, was right about the possibility of Russia leapfrogging over the rest of Europe in establishing socialism, but for other reasons than are normally given.

The same sort of leapfrogging can be seen in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, where liberated areas weren't just turned into models of Republican society, in the sense of "Republic" not in the sense of the U.S. Republican party, but into full out anarchist territories with workers' control (although the fact that Communists and Trotskyists participated shouldn't be overlooked).

The pattern was unfortunately disrupted by World War I. Spain was neutral during World War I and Russia of course pulled out, had a Revolution, and so didn't experience the peace terms. The aftermath of World War I lead to a formation of states from the former Austro-Hungarian and German empires that in many cases were extremely weak. Anyways, that's it.

To an extent one could see the Chinese Revolution as being the next phase of Revolutions, but it was marred by the ideological excesses of the Chinese Communist Party.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Freud, Jung, and Reich

The three big ones. Freud opened up the door to the other two by talking about the link between sexual drive and psychology, on the one hand, and the means of the unconscious (or subconscious) mind as a sort of intermediary between basic drives and the ego, something that is also a sort of repository for past traumas connected with unfulfilled or thwarted drives in psycho-sexual development. Whoah. I better slow down here. Ok, Freud.

Freud developed his psychology from two insights: first, that we all have certain instincts and drives, and second, that there are levels of mind that we aren't immediately conscious of, that are subconscious. The first was attested to by many authors from the literal dawn of time on, the second was discovered through things like hypnotism, which gave evidence of different levels of mind not normally accessible to people. Freud's genius came in connecting the two.

According to Freud, it's the drives, the instincts, that are connected to the unconscious functions of the mind. The instincts go through the space that hypnotism uses to the conscious mind. The ego, or I, is a sort of mediator between the information coming from the unconscious, which includes basic drives for things like sex and survival, and the outside world. The instincts aren't foreign to the outside world but have been developed purposely, over time, for survival out there, so that society could be seen as an intersection of people pursuing their instincts with the problems of life, navigating the problems of living through the instinctual urges that encourage them to do so. And also doing this in concert with each other. Freud made the claim that repression of some instincts, which in practice means modifying their expression so that they're not as direct, was necessary for advanced society, but I'm not going to get into that now.

The unconscious includes the id, which is the first intermediary between the raw instincts and the rest of the mind, the unconscious itself, and the preconscious, which is where the sort of thoughts and impulses that come into our minds, seemingly out of nowhere, come from. When you have an impulsive thought or reaction, it's related to your preconsciousness and can indicate an unconscious association that you have related to the event or to the contents of the thought. Why did it appear then? Why did you react like that now instead of some other time? That's a big subject that I'm not really that knowledgeable of, but it's the origin of the famous 'Freudian slips'.

To get back on track, Freud had two other interesting insights: first, that sexuality properly expressed was not bad and was actually good for mental health and second, that things that are unconscious and that are trying to force their way into consciousness shouldn't be repressed but should be let through and examined in order to get an insight into what the brain is trying to tell a person. Also, and this is related to two, that events in the past can themselves have hidden meanings behind them that can be brought to the surface, just like preconscious data, and that pursuing preconscious signals can lead to significant deeper memories that need to be dealt with.

Freud connected the two by saying that the problems manifesting in the preconscious, and in the conscious mind if you have a neurosis, are ultimately related in some way to the instincts and either the healthy expression or unhealthy expression of them, including the sexual instinct. The instincts are going one way, from the bottom of the mind out to the world, and the world is going the other way, from the outside in, and when they meet sometimes there are problems. The instincts can over power a person's interaction with the outside world and the outside world can damage the natural flow of instincts from the bottom of the mind outward. Both sorts of conflicts are lodged in the subconscious or unconscious mind, where they themselves cause trouble in the background that ultimately can lead to consciously felt problems. Psychoanalysis examines these unconscious conflicts, brings them to the surface, and through conscious examination helps resolve them so that the inward flow and the outward flow can commence in a healthy way.

From Freud branched off Wilhelm Reich and Carl Gustav Jung. Both of them in their own ways deepened the sense of the complexity of the unconscious mind, with Reich focussing on the complexity of the sexual instincts in their interaction with the conscious mind and with conscious experience and Jung focussing more on the complexity of the contents of the unconscious mind in and of itself.

Reich believed that the sort of instinctual flow from the bottom of the mind outwards was essential for mental health but that the scheme that Freud gave, which depended on thwarted sexual urges coming from problems in sexual development, was too simplistic to really gauge what was happening with people. Sexual fantasies and sexual problems were so much more complex, but Reich anchored this recognition of complexity with the yardstick of being able to fully experience the phenomenon of orgasm as the indicator of a resolution to these problems. He discovered something that is all too true, which is that if you really delve into peoples' attitudes and problems relating to the expression of sexuality you find enough material to keep you occupied for a lifetime. Resolving repressed and generally problematic attitudes towards the sexual urges coming from the person themselves and as they are expressed towards other people is far, far from a simple matter. And the point of his focus on the orgasm wasn't to have people have mind blowing orgasms, although pleasure is not bad, but for them to have healthy orgasms as the natural end to the expression of sexuality. Healthy orgasms in Reich's book were not just orgasms but were also the health of the psychological approach to the sex act itself as well as a healthy reaction after orgasm and the formal sex act is finished. It involves the attitude to the other person: are you objectifying them? Are you approaching the person projecting internal conflicts onto them? Can you truly let go of yourself and experience surrender during orgasm or are you thwarted by fear that if you experience surrender you'll therefore lose part of yourself, and so repress the feelings that lead to healthy orgasm out of fear of the potential consequences? Do you have self hatred in relation to sex or to sexual relationships? Where are your hang ups in reference to who you are attracted to? Are you trying to resolve family problems by being attracted to and pursuing a relationship with one type of person, or do you truly appreciate and try to understand them? The list of things that could be included here as problems related to the expression and psychological self conception of sexuality is literally endless. It is not a simple area. But it does provide an interesting gauge of mental health, since Reich like Freud relates the sexual instinct to other basic instincts and makes the deduction that if the sexual instinct is healthier then the rest of the instinctual interaction with the world is bound to be healthier.

Jung is another story altogether. The easiest way to start off with Jung is to say that he explored the weirdness of the unconscious mind. I have to confess, now that I've started this, that I'm much less familiar with Jung than with Reich or Freud. Anyway, Jung pointed out that there were contents of the unconscious mind that had little or nothing to do with actual symbols or data coming from psychosexual and familial conflicts. Not that these things weren't present, but that often there were other symbols, other ideas, other concepts, that went along with them. Where did these concepts come from? It seemed that there was all this sort of primal data that the unconscious just had, and that the unconscious used this data to express conflicts and problems dealing with the person right now. This is why he formulated his idea of the 'Collective Unconscious', a kind of repository based on common experience. But you don't have to believe in the concept of a literal Collective Unconscious to appreciate Jung.

When you look at the extra information that the unconscious puts forward you may notice certain primal themes that are used over and over again, in the expression of psychological problems and data. These things, Jung called Archetypes, and he related archetypes to almost mythological characters, i.e. the trickster, the hero, the mother goddess, things that were primal but seemed to form categories of thought that we unconsciously possessed and used.

What Jung ultimately came up with was that these primal things have relationships to each other that are their own and that represent another level of psychological data that need to be dealt with in themselves. In addition to the current psychological problems a person is having, that manifest in their preconscious mind, the depth problems, related to things buried in memory that are lodged in the unconscious also have an archetypical dimension in their placement and problems. Through treating both the traumas related to memories both in their literal and in their archetypal significance you get closer to resolving the problems than you would otherwise.

I think that Jung ultimately relates archetypes to the instincts.

So now we have an expanded task for mental health: deal with sexual attitudes, deal with archetypes as they relate to past memories and to problems, and deal with psycho-sexual incidents of unnecessary repression that interfere with the flow of instinct to the outside and information from the outside inwards. Wow. Tough job, tough job.