Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From the "What in the Fuck is Going On Here?" category: Diary of an Unborn Child, MP3 file

Here. From April Winchell's excellent archive of strange, offbeat, bad, and obscure music. What can I say about this one, without giving the thing away? It's produced by a Christian group and is an unborn fetus narrating its life story, in the most ridiculous voice possible. The whole thing is a train wreck of mind blowing uncomfortableness and hilarity that demonstrates just what is possible if you have a little bit of Jesus in you.

Nietzsche and Protestantism II

The thing about Nietzsche's critique of Christianity is that it really hits home in relation to one interpretation of radical reformation sects but fails as an evaluation of Catholicism or Orthodoxy. It should be kept in mind that Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran minister. The sort of radical demands for equality as well as meekness that Nietzsche disapprovingly treats really only came about as a reaction to Catholic abandonment of the same. Catholic culture, in the eyes of reformers, was hypocritical in that it preached Christian virtues while simultaneously breaking them through approving of war, class rule, and excess by those at the top as well as throughout the church itself, which in general had an incestuous relationship with power and the powerful. Yet here we run into a problem: what exactly 'is' Christianity? Looking at it from an unbiased historical and scholarly perspective it makes little sense to take the side of the Reformation through viewing it as 'true' Christianity while dismissing the many centuries of Catholic and before that Orthodox rule as representing 'false' Christianity. To then make a blanket attack on Christianity as a general ideal while in practice only talking about one variety, which you consider to be the 'true' one, is to undercut your argument severely through engaging in a logical fallacy. If Christianity is in your opinion wrong in general then why take the side of any one particular variety of it? Wouldn't it be better to condemn it based on an evaluation of all the different types as opposed to one subset? This Nietzsche does not do, in my opinion.

Nietzsche and Protestantism

The interesting thing about Nietzsche is that the version of Christianity which he skewers is very obviously that of Protestant Christianity as opposed to Catholicism or Orthodox Christian thought. The sort of praise of weakness and love of the least common denominator make sense if you're coming from a Protestant perspective but less sense otherwise. The problem is that pre-Reformation Christianity was a lot looser regarding what could be thought of as stereotypical Christian ethics, with the Church approving of both the wars that nobles fought against each other and the class system that put the same nobles on the top of the heap. What happened with the Reformation is that a sort of fundamentalism came to replace the admittedly mixed nature of Catholicism, where Christian practice was advanced to the breaking point of almost requiring people to become monks while still being present in the world itself. This is the Christianity that Nietzsche is opposing. His stereotypes and his extreme sorts of prescriptions are in a sense not a fair evaluation of Christianity but are instead a distorted picture of a faith that's already distorted from the source, meaning that the overall validity of it is compromised somewhat. If Christianity doesn't really embody weak willed "slave morality", then the amoral Will to Power doesn't necessarily stand as a viable alternative. Amoral cruelty becomes just the shadow perspective of fanatical Protestantism moralism.

So where does this leave us and Nietzsche? Not at the sort of dead end that folks have identified as being one of his contributions to modern philosophy, brought about by the slide into total relativism with the very concept of a moral truth being compromised. Instead, it puts us on a more complex footing, where in order to demonstrate some of the same principles contained in his philosophy we have to reckon with a worldview that recognizes both strength and weakness, egalitarianism and inequality, hypocrisy as well as a sort of armed idealism that Nietzsche would likely have admired, proto-fascist as it is. This unity within contradiction suggests that both the Nietzschean viewpoint and the viewpoint that Nietzsche was reacting to got it wrong.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

One of the reasons for the Golden Age that allowed white workers in the U.S. to have a high standard of living was Keynesianism

Keynsian economics, which in this case said that society can in fact benefit if companies don't cut wages to the lowest possible level but instead preserve them higher artificially. More wages by people who use the money (as opposed to having it sit in a bank someplace) means more dollars driving consumption meaning more products bought, translating out into more economic activity in general. If you put wages too low you undercut the ability of people in general to buy the products you make, thereby causing the economy to contract since it can't support the same amount of factories that it once could. The higher wages were part of a general post-war compromise that saw unions give up much of their militancy in exchange for stable benefits and a place at the table of both government and corporate board rooms. And the wages in general were made easier to fulfill by the fact that U.S. industry was the only intact international industrial system after the Second World War.

Ever since the downturn of the '70s hit that agreement that Keynesian wage policies are good has been under fire. Part of what we're experiencing now economically is a result of abandoning these policies. By allowing the tendency of capitalism to reassert itself society has opened up the door for an increasing division between capital and labor, between folks who find themselves doing jobs that aren't either in a position of authority or in white collar trades and people who do find themselves in those positions. Class begins to matter more now than in the past. This is extremely important because from the '60s on the idea was for folks from minority backgrounds to try to become part of the deal that was established, that white people were already benefiting from, but from which they had been excluded.

The issue at hand is whether this second fissure will really equalize power between the races by throwing white people down the class ladder or if it will somehow maintain the racial hierarchy that exists in the United States while intensifying the overall class differences in society.

Socialism, in whatever sense you want to take it, anarchist or not, can also be seen as a completion of the movements started in the '60s

One thing that was the great fortune of the movements of the '60s and '70s to have, but that turned out to be not long lasting, was the favorable postwar economic climate, which allowed basic country wide economic issues to take a sort of second place to social issues. This turned out to be a positive thing because movements that had subordinated themselves to economic struggles in the past were able to speak for themselves without having to work with organizations that were fighting for generic, white centered, change in the social environment, but it didn't last. What I mean is that in the post-war boom basic class struggle within white society was thought to be over, meaning that there was now no obstacle to asking the question about why aren't there more minorities making the same money as white folks, why aren't black auto workers promoted as much as white auto workers, and why is it that the people who are in charge of it all don't resemble the workers on the ground floor? Since then, though, we've returned to a system where both black and white face significant and increasing class divisions, with economics manifesting itself in people's lives like never before, and where both black and white workers would benefit greatly from cooperating in pursuing social change with each other. And organizing between minority communities and non-minority communities is probably going to be more essential in the future than ever before as the economy either goes downhill further or stays where it is for an extended period of time. The tendency, which first showed itself in the late '70s and early '80s when the economy went south and the golden age ended, is for minority communities to experience hostility from whites when the sort of middle class deal, where prosperity and some social mobility was assumed to be a normal part of life provided no one rocked the boat too hard, starts to collapse and class starts to more obviously reassert itself as a force. This fueled the anti-welfare and anti-affirmative action movements, it's fueling the anti-immigration movement today. In order to defuse that class conscious movements that also recognize not only basic minority rights themselves but the validity of the movements that formed in the '60s and '70s need to be forged. The choice shouldn't be put in terms of either class or minority rights, which is how the populist right is putting it, but in terms of both class and minority rights acting together for a common purpose, which is to make all of our lives, black and poor white both, and brown and yellow, better. Because it's not just black and white anymore, it's also black and white, on the one side, and the owners on the other. Being white doesn't necessarily gain you a ticket into the middle class or into greater social mobility anymore.

Your moment of Black Flag: "Black Coffee"

Greenwood Car Show today in Seattle

It was really nice. Being from the Detroit area car shows have been a part of my life since I was a little kid, but unfortunately I haven't been able to make it to any for several years. Lots of great cars both restored to factory condition, modded in a way that fit into the time period, then sort of tricked out and modified as far as you can go. All manner of nice rides. Took place in a sort of chi chi section of town, where I'm sure the presence of parts of the unwashed masses wasn't appreciate by the yuppies used to dining at places with names like McLaughlin's Whimsical Party and Happiness Cafe and Bakery. Strangely enough, didn't see a lot of the tough looking semi-hipster folks who sport sleaved tattooed arms. Maybe I just missed them. Or maybe they're just hanging out in West Seattle acting bad ass instead of actually going to an event where there are real working people hanging out. Saw 1%er bikers there. They, in general, had less tattoos than the sleaved folks.

According to Gallup, Conservatives outnumber Liberals in the U.S., but it's not as simple as that...

If you scroll down on the page and look at what people who identify as Democrats say they are the picture gets a little bit more complicated. This is because the amount of Democrats who say that they're moderates is close to the number who say they're liberal, while people who say that they're Conservative form the vast majority of Republicans. What this means is that a big percentage of the people who identify as moderates are actually liberals because they support the Democratic party, but they don't identify themselves as the label 'liberal' because that denotes a sort of militancy in today's society in the U.S. that they might not feel they go along with.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Holy Jesus Christ! William Domhoff has a webpage, and here it is:

Here. G. William Domhoff is the researcher/professor responsible for the classic "Who Rules America?", which seems to have gone out of print (or maybe I just haven't seen it lately)....but while his book is less available he has a webpage on his UC Santa Cruz site that updates wealth and inequality trends in the United States, plus has some essays about wealth and power in this country. Highly recommended. Going on my sidebar.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

While we're on the subject of Michigan---Almont and Elitism

I sometimes get accused of being elitist and too bookish, but I'd like people to look at a little place called Almont Michigan, which is where I'm from along with Romeo, it's neighbor. Almont is a mostly poor redneck town about forty miles north of Detroit. I didn't live in the good part of it. Neither did I live in the ultimate worst part, but not in the true middle class section of town. Look around there, if you by any chance find yourself in that neck of the woods while you're in Michigan and tell me if this is an elitist, privileged, town. From the grain elevator at the feed store to the fact that, at least in years past, the town had one of the worst funded school systems in the state, it shrieks of elitist privilege. Ah, I remember stuff like hanging out with folks who were members of the Latin Counts, who had been exiled there from the city. Good times. Ask about someone named "Carl Schultz". Some old timers there, if you prodded them, would have quite some stories to tell.

And quite frankly I'm glad that Communists are giving workshops and talks at the US Social Forum

Because they make up the fabric of the progressive and left culture of the United States too. It's not just anarchists. Communists, social democrats, general socialists, unions who aren't anarcho-syndicalist, and community groups who are basically anti-capitalist but who don't have a particular ideology, along with others, are just as much a part of movements for change here as folks who identify themselves as anarchists, sometimes more so in fact. The practice of anarchists shouting down all people who are non-anarchists not on the principle of what they're doing but on the principle of their ideology being different is a bad precedent that's obviously been broken at the Social Forum. Folks should not feel that just because they're anarchists, and anarchists are supposedly free from all oppressive features and oppressive baggage, that they're therefore morally right in all matters.

*on edit: and they're more powerful than you think. The traditional notion of Marxism as relates to anarchists as being mostly embodied by campus Trotskyist groups doesn't reflect the reality of the situation in the United States, neither does the existence of the RCP as the most visible self declared Communist group define that reality either.

The truth is

That we work at corporate jobs, eat corporate food, drive in corporate cars, and shop in corporate stores. And they all work for private profit. Why don't we control them, and in turn control our lives?

U.S. Social Forum!

Yay! As someone who is from the Detroit area, but not from the city itself, I'm very proud that the city of Detroit is the host of the Social Forum. It's wonderful that the progressive forces of the United States are meeting there and I hope that this will help spark greater activism both in the city itself and in South East Lower Michigan in general.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Socialism is the completement of liberalism, not its negation

At least this is what I feel, along with a lot of other folks. Principles like freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and democracy that were established by the Enlightenment are ultimately guaranteed by concentrations of economic power being restrained and working for the benefit of society as a whole as opposed to narrow private interests.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another interesting group in the Russian Revolutionary era were the original Eurasianists, NOT the ones currently existing in Russia

The people who are now organized under the Eurasianist banner are racists and neo-fascists, pure and simple. Dugin is not a person to admire. But the original Eurasianists were interesting in that they built on Russia agrarian populism and non-chauvanist Slavophilism, different than pan-Slavism, by saying that Russia was unique culturally because it was a mixture of Asian culture imposed by the long dominance of the Mongol Golden Horde and European culture. And that this was a positive thing that should be preserved and encouraged, along with progressive social reform. The different Asian, Central and other, cultures in the Russian Empire would have been autonomous. But mostly it was a movement that tried to emphasize a unique way of viewing the world that has much in common with some Third World progressive philosophies that tried to anchor social change in indigenous ways of viewing the world, whether that meant Middle Eastern, African, or Asian (to a lesser extent). Some of these were in fact far right, others, like Ali Shariati's movement in pre-revolutionary Iran, were in fact progressive and tolerant. Troubetzkoy's book "The Legacy of Genghis Khan" is available for a very high price from University of Michigan publishers. The whole thing, including the movements in the Third World, presents an interesting questioning of the whole idea of what 'West' really is. Hard to directly apply it to the United States, but even that can be done if you're creative, which doesn't mean applying arguments that were formulated for Russia to the United States but deconstructing Western identity in the United States to include the multiple perspectives that a multi-cultural society should bring.

Good factions in the Russian Revolution

I may have covered the same territory a few years ago in a post, but here it goes. Really interesting folks in the Russian Revolution were the Anarchists, the Left Socialist Revolutionary Party people, and the ultra-Left Bolshevik tendency inspired by Alexander Bogdanov, which had a long history but which was diffusely organized formally during the revolution itself, although some people associated with the Mezhraiontsy tendency were associates, and the current gained lots of power post-Revolution through the Proletkult organization.

All of them are interesting currents. I'm assuming that folks who see this web page are at least somewhat familiar with the anarchists, but the Left SRs and Bogdanov's group are much more obscure. The Left SRs were a group that came out of agrarian communism and combined a sort of pre-modern consciousness on the topic of private property with a will to also organize industrial workers. Influenced by Marxism but not nearly as nit-pickingly Marxist as the Bolsheviks, they also rejected the idea of industrial workers as being the vanguard of the whole society as well as the idea of a vanguard party representing this vanguard itself. Later, they formed a coalition government with the Bolsheviks, then had their party dissolved, whereupon lots of SRs joined the Bolshevik party and worked for their goals through the prevailing system of the time.

Bogdanov is a book in himself, and possibly the more interesting of the two non-anarchist currents, but suffice it to say he came close to a sort of Left Communism in his opinions, and had an interesting approach and philosophy to boot. Search "Bogdanov" in the tool bar on the top of the page for previous mentions, which go back all the way to the very start of the blog. I found out about Bogdanov in 1998 through finding the book "Lenin and the Cultural Revolution" by Carmen Claudin-Urando in a used bookstore in Windsor, ON, across from Detroit, and have been a fan ever since. He forms a foundational part of my thought on things.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Marx and Corporatism, or a response to "The Nationalisation of the Land

Which is Here. There are a lot of trends in Marx, one of which is revolutionary and one of which is evolutionary. The one that's revolutionary tends to have more opportunities for a non-statist interpretation than the evolutionary one does. In "The Nationalisation of the Land" Marx foresees the necessity of small scale agriculture giving way to large scale, organized, cultivation using modern technology and science. This is seen as a need that will lead to socialism by legislative fiat, with the State taking over land as a whole and then leasing it out to democratically organized associations, which presumably would be integrated into a large scale plan lead by the State itself. Putting aside concerns about modern technology in the form of fertilizers and such along with the real effects of this sort of production for the moment, it looks as though Marx was onto something, but that that future sort of social production he was predicting hasn't come to pass as socialism but as corporatism, with corporate Agribusiness fulfilling the role of the coordinator and organizer of agricultural production. There's plenty of science, plenty of research, plenty of planning, in large scale farms. It has increased yields, although the penalties for pursuing those avenues are adding up. The problem is that there's nothing democratic about it. Neither is the production being done for the benefit of anyone else but the corporations themselves. It seems that it's more than possible for a collective, scientific, planned sector of an economy to be totally in private hands and to totally support the values of the capitalist system, to in fact become the system itself.

Most people would see corporatism as a sort of Fascism, rather than socialism. If this is the case, it suggests that something radically different from simple collective planning of production is necessary to really make a socialist society, that capital is not going to peacefully give up it's power and automatically transform itself into something reminiscent of socialism, and that most importantly that capital can absorb some of the lessons of socialist organization without thereby becoming socialist itself. Corporatist capitalism is as much capitalism as anything else.

A solution would be to focus on basically taking over and constraining, or destroying, large parts of the corporate system and the capital that it embodies, binding it to the ground instead of letting it sort of float free over everyone.

*on edit: what this suggests is that nationalization is not enough. The corporate system has to be restrained and brought down, and that can only truly happen in a movement from below.

A good speech by Marx that you might like: "Speech at anniversary of the People’s Paper"

Here:

"On the one hand, there have started into life industrial and scientific forces, which no epoch of the former human history had ever suspected. On the other hand, there exist symptoms of decay, far surpassing the horrors recorded of the latter times of the Roman Empire. In our days, everything seems pregnant with its contrary: Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labour, we behold starving and overworking it; The newfangled sources of wealth, by some strange weird spell, are turned into sources of want; The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character.

At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to his own infamy. Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but on the dark background of ignorance. All our invention and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force.

This antagonism between modern industry and science on the one hand, modern misery and dissolution on the other hand; this antagonism between the productive powers and the social relations of our epoch is a fact, palpable, overwhelming, and not to be controverted. Some parties may wail over it; others may wish to get rid of modern arts, in order to get rid of modern conflicts. Or they may imagine that so signal a progress in industry wants to be completed by as signal a regress in politics. On our part, we do not mistake the shape of the shrewd spirit that continues to mark all these contradictions. We know that to work well the newfangled forces of society, they only want to be mastered by newfangled men — and such are the working men. They are as much the invention of modern time as machinery itself."

Would you rather have a sociology degree or a degree in hotel management? Or, sometimes liberal arts and social sciences are the way to go

Because we hear all the time that these degrees are useless in the real world. Well, the rejoinder to that is that life is long and that while they may not help you get a job right out of college as quickly as a business degree, they'll help you a lot in the rest of your life provided that you get some education and insights into how the world of white collar jobs works. Think of it this way: who would you rather hire, somebody who spent their college years studying society or someone whose best achievement in school was writing a paper about Marriot? Somebody who studied in depth the history of a society or somebody who studied how to make hamburgers more efficiently? What these disciplines take away in the immediate they give back in the medium term in that people who do them actually know something about the world and not just about narrow business practices.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Now these are the sorts of values I like: Jesus statue on fire in Ohio after being hit by lightning

Since we're talking about values and all.

Ok, here's a slight immigration problem

One that's pretty small, but that I don't think people have talked about much. There has to be a downside to stuff, it can't all be roses. Anyways, this problem doesn't have to do with folks who come across the border and work as day laborers or hotel maids but folks who come over here and work as doctors, engineers, or big businessmen. Not folks who run a restaurant or a corner store but big business people. The problem is this: there are a number of people in these positions who have essentially come for the money and have little or no respect for liberal values, things like freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and who essentially see folks who are poor as not mattering whatsoever and having no rights. They also tend to absorb racism against blacks. They take most of these values from the societies they come from, in this case being the elite of those societies as opposed to peasant farmers. So they come over here and join the Republican party, if they're not Muslim, have hard line social conservative values, have lots of money, and have influence in society because of their careers. And they raise their kids in their image. Conformism is the norm, not questioning, and they look down on Americans who are in any way non-corporate and liberal in either their beliefs or in their lifestyle. They don't believe in equality and believe that they're the entitled elite, even though they really don't give a damn about some of the core values of this country.

They're a problem that's not often acknowledged. Fortunately, it's not like every immigrant in these positions is like this. Most really like America and American values, and are good people. But the bad apples are there and should be noticed for what they are.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Peak: an ecological idea about our present society, not necessarily havinng to do with oil

By the peak I mean a graph that sharply increases up to a high point, crosses a line, the peaks, descends below that line, then continues down. The graph represents resource use. Our insane consumption has endangered the world, but it's also opened up concentrations of knowledge that would have been literally impossible to amass before, and those new ideas, along with the technology that this consumption has produced, can in effect be used to create new methods of production and new consumption patterns that can preserve some of our quality of life while reducing resource use. In other words, the explosion of industrialism and capitalism has given us the potential to dismantle industrialism and capitalism in a way that could preserve some of the positive aspects of what it's produced, spread across society in a fair way. Industrial capitalism in our era is like a game of musical chairs: as long as the music keeps playing everything's fine, but when the music stops we'll find that one chair is missing, and that it'll only get worse. The better, then, to take what we've learned, with 'we' being admittedly the folks who have received more of the benefits that industrial capitalism has brought, preserve it, and find ways to continue it with less while the music is still going than to try to accomplish it after it's already stopped. The line in our graph is the level of resources and knowledge needed to come up with a set of solutions that will allow us to do this. We won't be able to stay above the line forever. After a certain point, if we haven't done the investment, we'll be facing taking on the crisis with less and less physical resources even though we'll still have increasing intangible resources like knowledge.

Yes, because the Third World will be saved by basket weaving....

A criticism of Muhammad Yunus and his insurgent popularity. Yunus is popular because what he advocates is capitalism, lots of capitalism, with the die hard American value that small business can save the world. Please. While this might make a concrete difference in some people's lives, at the end of the day the status of people in the Third World will be determined by the larger concentrations of wealth and power, economic and otherwise, that surround them. Unless Grameen started businesses can challenge that their effectiveness will probably be minimal on the national stage. It could be an interesting tool for development though if the people involved don't end up selling their wares to rich westerners but contribute to their own mainstream economy.

Multiculturalism, including massive immigration, not a problem for America

Unlike what many conservatives and Tea Party folks feel. The prime reason is that America, is based on a set of ideas instead of on the folkways of any ethnic group and so can assimilate a wide range of people without losing any sense of identity. Ever since the Revolution the thing that's defined the U.S. hasn't been, say, that the original colonists (mostly) came from England but values like liberty, democracy, hard work sort of, and the idea that anyone can be anything. All imperfectly realized, and in the case of hard work often exaggerated, but there as binding forces. What people learn, from many sources, when they get to the U.S. are these very general cultural values, that they then interpret themselves according to their own cultural background, which then goes out again and becomes part of the greater society. It works. There's harmony, at least if people don't hate each other. Folks assimilate to whatever extent they choose to the dominant, mainstream, culture, and add their own unique contributions to it in resisting assimilation and maintaining parts of their own heritage. But either way the same ideals maintain.

The U.S. is not dominated by a single ethnic culture. 'White' is not an ethnic culture, it's a grab bag term for a number of ethnic cultures that have to one extent or another either given up or retained unique traces, while contributing to the whole. On the whole, however, 'white' is pretty generic, not really being rooted in anything whatsoever, not England, not Ireland, not Scotland. It's not really a culture, even, just a rough sort of category that a lot of people find themselves in. As such, it's more the default choice rather than anything. For most people, white people I guess, 'white' is something that's transparent, that's not even thought of as being part of one's identity unless you're interacting with someone who's a racial or ethnic minority, whereupon implicit prejudices often come to the forefront. Most white people don't go around thinking 'I'm White', they go around thinking that they're a person. And I'm pretty certain that racial and ethnic minorities would like to think the same about themselves, only they can't because of prejudice. The point is that 'white culture' can't really be threatened by immigration because outside of some general guidelines it doesn't exist as a real defined, static, culture. And besides, being an American is not about being white but about subscribing to common values. Besides, race and ethnic culture aren't the only identities that define us as Americans. There's regional identity, religious identity, political persuasion, rural or urban identity, and others, many of which are much more important in white people's day to day lives than the fact that they belong to the white culture in America.

"America" refers to Americans as a whole, of all races and ethnic groups. White America refers to a subsection of Americans and is not the same as "America" as a whole. It's also not quite 'mainstream America' since minority communities have made substantial gains since the '60s in asserting their place as being as 'mainstream' as white people and not some sort of second class citizens. If only more white people would fully recognize that as the case....

So I don't see immigration as being a great problem to the integrity of America as 'America', even though it might threaten the identity of bigots who do make the equation of white culture with America. There's no connection there, because the values are universal and not bound to any particular ethnic group.

Much of the anti-intellectualism in the "Just do it!" faction of hardcore culture and somewhat left culture just the reverse of consumerism

It seems to replicate the basic American approach to life rather than really challenging it. Don't get me wrong, I like action. Action is great. People need to take possession of their own lives instead of having people tell them what to do and they need to initiate interesting projects without waiting for the powers that be to grant them social permission to do so, and punk rock's general ethos that you in fact can succeed at all of this and make your own life and the life of those around you better is really positive. The problem comes when action is taken as an end in itself with appeals to thought dismissed as being irrelevant. And thought is being dismissed, and has been dismissed, not just classic ivory tower learning but seemingly anything down to the most basic literacy about the world around you. Instead, you just do it, or you're an elitist who's not hardcore enough, and who is probably from a privileged background as well. The truth is that the ethos of 'just do it' without any reflection is a lot like the 'just buy it, don't think about it' of consumer culture. Both are predicated on instant gratification. If you 'just do it' you supposedly get the immediate pay off, while when you 'just buy it' you get a similar thrill. Both encourage the sacrifice of long range insight for short term gain. Both dismiss, at least implicitly, the value of looking deeper into the world for insight. Instead, life is just a series of thrills.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Raw footage from the Mavi Marmara with commentary

Israeli Attack on the Mavi Marmara // Raw Footage from Cultures of Resistance on Vimeo.


And there you have it. A representation of the real situation on the boat. It's clear that what was going on is that people were prepared to defend themselves with things that they found on the boat and that some people had slingshots and small knives with them. The thing that seems to have set the Mavi Marmara apart, and possibly the reason why it was targeted by Israel, was that it contained regular Turkish citizens who hadn't been brainwashed by liberal activism and who instead were ready to do what any sane person would do when confronted with folks who were heavily armed and using violence against them: hold your ground and fight back. This is what the people in the video were doing. Not being insane out of control violent people, but instead demonstrating some human dignity when confronted with folks who wanted to hurt them, and who probably would have hurt them if they had gotten the chance.

A great encapsulation of this ethic is the footage showing a couple of guys firing slingshots at the Israeli helicopter that's dropping people. No one in their right mind would think that some stones or what have you from a slingshot is going to take down a helicopter; instead, it's the principle of the thing, the same principle that comes into play when Palestinians throw rocks at Israeli tanks, namely that you can't abuse us without us doing something about it, even if that something is purely symbolic.

We aren't talking about using rocket launchers here, we're talking about demonstrating some token dignity with sticks when confronted with people who want to shoot and hurt you.

"Atlas Ducked: Rand Paul & The Crouching Weasel Technique"

Awesome video from Jay Smooth:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Awesome--"Mr. Anonymous and the Not-so-spontaneous birth of the Libertarian Movement"

Here, where it's set out that Friedrich Hayek's career was basically subsidized by a foundation attached to the University of Chicago, itself funded as a pro-capitalist institution by the Rockefeller family,  because no reputable institution of higher learning would recognize him as a decent economist. Also Ludwig von Mises. Unfortunately, the writer doesn't provide enough references to check his work. The focus, though, is on how a rich investor created a fund that through its actions brought Austrian Economics to the United States and created a network of persons and institutions that gave birth to the modern U.S. libertarian movement.

It takes more than winning the class struggle to make a good society, or, don't put all your eggs in one basket

Which is something that the Communist movement tended to do. Although class is primary, to make any good society I feel you have to go beyond just redistributing wealth and power, and if you don't you end up with a historical dead end that will probably be subsumed into the greater world at some point. What I'm pointing to is human alienation and what it takes to make a rich life in the world. Take the Communist countries. Sure, there was a rough equality and a series of revolutions, some more authentic than others, that really did put workers in control, but you had people living in anonymous concrete apartment complexes, with little freedom on the job, and a corrupt bureaucracy running things. Instead of addressing these issues of freedom and alienation alongside class struggle they were folded into the idea of class struggle, meaning that it was just assumed that when the class struggle was won that these problems would take care of themselves. It didn't happen. And it won't happen again in any future state where class struggle on its own, without a parallel sense of greater human needs, is made the sole focus of the movement.

Why anarchists and activists, and punks for that matter, should study philosophy: because it allows you to do things in the real world.

I know. A heretical statement, the last thing that you'd expect philosophy to actually do for you. Yet, it's true, if you use it properly. The problem hasn't been with philosophy itself so much as it's been with the way that it's been taught and applied, at least in the United States and possibly elsewhere. Here, despite the foundation of Socratic questioning that underlies Western philosophy, it's descended into a sort of hermetic discipline that's cut off from the rest of the world. But philosophy hasn't always been like this and doesn't need to be like that. For centuries philosophy was taught to the upper classes in Europe, not for the sake of giving idle people something to contemplate but for the sake of preparing them to be leaders. Philosophy, at it's core when wedded to action, is about how to think critically in a way that can increase your effectiveness in everyday life.

A lot of people have a kind of "Just Do It" attitude. Just do it, do what's obvious that it needs to be done, and then when that's done do the next obvious thing. But at some point there's going to be questions about what to do and how to do it. If you want to accomplish a goal how do you move towards it, think about strategies to achieve it, organize the resources necessary, and implement it? The critical thinking process fostered by philosophy can help with all of those areas. The same sort of reasoning process that engages people in the quest to define what Truth and Beauty are can help you strategize, plan, and implement goals. In this sort of reasoning you engage in a Socratic dialogue, either with yourself or with other people, coming back to the core questions and being tolerant of ideas that come up, fostering ideas instead of shooting them down, then working with the ideas themselves, asking the questions of them, which in turn generates ideas, which in turn spawns questions. Through this real, valid, points that you likely would not have thought of come up and can be synthesized with the whole strategy, they can be gathered from the process and collected, then integrated and acted on in order to increase the power of the plan.   

It doesn't matter if you're planning on how to put on a show or to do a demonstration, whether you want to fundraise or put out launch a public awareness campaign, the principles are the same. You can also apply the principles in your personal life to great effect, and this is where the wedding of philosophy and action is still to be found in books about personal success, usually penned in pro-corporate and pro-business help books intended to advance your career. It's also the standard process that corporations themselves use to brainstorm and plan the next course of action. The difference is that they don't formally study philosophy in order to do this. Instead, the techniques by themselves are taught without the context, possibly created independently by folks who never came in contact with the original way it was taught, possibly inherited from folks who really did study some philosophy as part of, say, an Ivy League or upper class education.

By actually studying philosophy though, and then bringing philosophical reasoning to the table, you gain a large advantage over people who have only studied it second hand. While they have a sort of vague knowledge about how to do things your abilities will be honed because you've actually had particular, universal, topics on which to practice. So study the early Socratic dialogues of Plato, and then move on to other views and opinions about ethics and about the political nature of society, then go on to the nature of reality itself. It won't disappoint you if you also keep your eye on action as well.

*incidentally this sort of reasoning process is what many people who get a lot of their education through being Marxist activists, not Trotskyist sect members but people on the ground who come into contact with Communist groups who are dedicated to really doing stuff, receive through the process of Marxist reasoning. It's not necessarily the Marxism that they learn, but the process of how to think about society and about life that they really benefit from.

Compassion

Despite my harsh words about Mercer Island it's important to have compassion as well and not be committed totally to hard ass positions that possibly will have the FBI concerned about you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mercer Island, thoughts

Mercer Island is probably the richest enclave in Western Washington State. Medina, where Bill Gates lives, is also really really wealthy, but it's pretty tiny compared to Mercer Island, so it's not really in the running. I stopped over in Mercer Island after doing some things on the East Side, which is what the eastern suburbs across Lake Washington, where Mercer Island sits, are referred to as. Went around the island, was surprised that there were many large homes but next to no businesses that I could find.
All in all I left thinking about what to do about Mercer Island. Possibly nationalize the houses and relocate the residents, intern them and teach them manual labor skills then forbid them from occupying anything other than minimum or near minimum wage jobs? It's a possibility. Subdivide their large houses into apartments and make it affordable housing, like the Soviets did to the mansions in St. Petersberg? Maybe, maybe.

*maybe not subdivide their houses into apartments. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Candide at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle

Just saw it. It's an adaptation by Leonard Bernstein of Voltaire's novel.  Although entertaining and good for getting a few digs in at various established power structures the play was hampered by a very wooden script that left many scenes being vague and without real meaning within the context of the larger play. There was little flow to it and a lot of dead weight. The direction, while not bad, appeared to not mitigate the problems that the script brought to the table.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A fundamental misconception that the Tea Party has--that the U.S. economy is being socialized because of bankruptcy

Or, you can't have it both ways. The first complaint of the Tea Party is that the government bailouts that have taken place in the last two years have mortgaged their children's future and have been ineffective, that they have essentially just been throwing money at the problem. Yet when as part of the bankruptcy process the government intervenes and restructures companies, changes how they work, and makes demands on them in order to change the practices that lead to the bankruptcy in the first place they're pilloried as taking over everything. The changes are done specifically so that the money used isn't thrown away and so that real change does happen that helps fix the economy. It actually moves the country towards the goal of economic recovery that the Tea Party says it wants. You can't criticize the government for just throwing money at  an issue and then when they actually try to do something about it accuse them of being authoritarians who want to enslave you. All of this restructuring is normal practice with corporate bankruptcies. None of it is special in any way that would single out what's happening now as being qualitatively different from what happened before.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A culture of liberation, or, a culture created by liberation

This is a follow up to the previous post about how to deal with nationalism without becoming a nationalist. Conservatives generally see culture as a repository of values that helps society function through keeping it in line. We have certain rules and mores that have been proven to interpersonally make things better, or to ensure survival, and these form values that should be adhered to in order to keep this process going, or so we're told. Culture in this reading becomes a kind of static prison, something that exists outside of and beyond the individual, that dictates individual life and to which there is no recourse. Culture dictates individual behavior. The liberal position, or at least the enlightenment position, is that people can essentially make up their own minds about how they want to act and rationally direct themselves in beneficial ways without needing an outside force or code to keep them in line. Values don't have to be enforced in order for society to stick together, just punishment when actual law is broken, along with knowledge of what that law is, which is something that's quite different from the intense depth of invasion of self that conservatives advocate for. Rational thought, thinking about how to act yourself instead of just obeying outside dictates is considered to be enough for people to make choices that keep society going and stop it from self destructing. There's an important equation there of decent living with what can be produced by rational analysis. But leaving that for a second there's a problem in that to really rationally make all your choices through analysis would entail spending an enormous amount of time just thinking about every little thing that you have to do. This would tend to defeat the purpose. A crib sheet is needed. The space that's occupied by culture can be a repository of just such a crib sheet. By having values loosely disseminated you help to give people rough guides so that they don't have to make every decision themselves, even though in this scenario they'd still be making most decisions themselves. More importantly, though, if you look at the mental space occupied by culture as something that could contain a kind of crib sheet, the space that's open can in fact be populated by the by products of actual rational action. If culture is a byproduct of some sort of action and deliberation by people in their lives, then it ceases to be a sort of self perpetuating tradition and becomes something that's both highly malleable and under the control of people themselves, as opposed to the other way around.

Let's take it farther. Say that a worthy goal for a society would be the promotion of both individual and collective self realization. Individual self realization, becoming an individual who has realized their potentialities in many areas of life, is seen as a positive value. Communal self realization could follow as an extension of the principle into the interpersonal arena. If people seriously pursue self realization, then eventually what will happen is that foot notes and observations about what works and what doesn't, what problems happen and what possible solutions there are for those problems, accumulate. These things can become the collective wisdom that in turn becomes the culture, or at least the part of the culture that deals with values. Cultural values, then, become the byproduct of the process of liberation and support it, with the process being the primary activity.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

How to deal with nationalism while not becoming a nationalist yourself...some incomplete thoughts

One thing that's been a constant in my thought over the past three years or so, maybe more, is that simply looking at politics as consisting of a base and a superstructure, or even an economic base and a sort of mediated superstructure with various variants of hegemony and semi-autonomy for different parts is insufficient without looking at factors that are labeled 'culture'. By culture I mean the things that bind a group of people in their sense of belonging and that help prevent alienation. I don't see culture in and of itself, i.e. it's specific contents, as being important, see that what often happens is that groups of people undergo alienation due to capitalism or to historical events, that shatters their more atmospheric sense of belonging, and then create nationalistic movements based on an imagined picture of that culture that are then used to impose far right government on people. The challenge, or how to deal with nationalism without becoming a nationalist yourself, is how to counter that alienation, while working on ways of transforming the economic base and other features of society, so that instead of going towards fascism or neo-fascism, or towards some general nationalistic far right doctrine people stay relatively integrated into the world. I think that to achieve this some sort of focus on culture that takes the term away from a historical context, denoting some sort of deep rooted thing, and towards a more civic and up-to-date context is necessary. Alienation from cultural dislocation provoked by capitalism can hopefully be countered by people creating cultural forms that promote personal self-realization as opposed to conformity and living through a conformist ideal. I don't think that the solution is to just try to substitute a culture with left wing values or what have you for one of right wing values because the same underlying problems continue, namely the problem of relying on something that's in the end disempowering rather than empowering to give solidity to society.

*on edit: this sort of substitution of Left for Right was satirized in a comic about Nazis and Communism that ran before World War II, I can't even begin to say where, that featured a drawing of a huge statue of a worker in front of a large building with a swastika on it, and then in the next frame featured a drawing of the same heroic worker in front of a large building with a hammer and sickle on it and the worker holding a hammer. It's a similar oppressive cultural idea.

The duality of ruthlessness, a personal reflection

Not so much for the greater political arena but more for everyday life. I think that people should cultivate integrity, honesty, honor, virtue, and general good character in themselves and simultaneously cultivate the capacity to act with ruthlessness against those in their day to day lives that they encounter who demonstrate lack of those capacities. The duality part comes in in that ruthlessness without virtue is just barbarity while virtue without ruthlessness is ineffectuality ultimately leading to personal defeat. The sword is backed up by the rose.

Monday, June 07, 2010

"Mugabe and the White African", or, Pity the poor white man... a movie at SIFF, Seattle International Film Festival

Just got out of it. Synopsis: a film crew follows around a white farmer in Zimbabwe and his family who are being evicted from their land and fighting it in an international court. The film, such as it is, devotes not a word to colonialism, not a word to the history of Zimbabwe, not a word to the British, but acts as if this farmer was someone in the United States or elsewhere whose land was being taken from him for no reason whatsoever. No arguments about why a British colonist should retain his land are given. The only arguments that are brought to light are that white farmers in Zimbabwe own only 2% of the land and so their possession is more of a propaganda point and that the people who the land is given to are cronies of Mugabe who don't farm it but strip the equipment down and sell it and then leave the land wild. But these two ideas get about five minutes total within the whole film. Most of it revolves around the white family crying because people are coming to take their land, and because people come into their farms attempting to evict them. Any time that there's been land redistribution, whether in France, Russia, or China, there have been tears and crying families. People have to toughen themselves up and not pay attention, or else the tears of a criminal will stop them from stopping a crime. That said, using force, which is probably inevitable in land redistribution, and which can come in many forms, doesn't mean indiscriminate force where people can do anything to anyone. At the end they were abducted and severely beaten after Mugabe's installation as President. That's not acceptable.


Mugabe is a brutal dictator, but his main victims are the black people of Zimbabwe themselves.

*on edit: despite all of this it's a question of priorities. At 2% of the land, white farms in Zimbabwe are far from the most pressing issue. Instead, Mugabe is singling them out in order to mobilize popular support behind his government, and some of the violence that's been visited on the white farmers has likely happened more because Mugabe has made them the enemy and less because people are just, on their own, angry enough to do stuff like that.

The Tea Party is the best argument against white supremacy that I've seen in a long time

Seriously. Just look at them, read their signs, and listen to them. I'm not sure what TV coverage is like in Iraq, or if many people have TVs, but I think that it would be the most depressing thing in the world to turn on the tube and see that these were the people who are dominating your country. Or at least some of them. I mean, shit, someone said it on the eXile site a while ago that at least the British, blood thirsty as they were, were competent in their empire. We're just a bunch of morons with guns.

Helen Thomas' statement

About Israel. Basically if you look at it she's giving an elaboration on "Go back to where you came from", only it's particularly mean in this case because 'where you came from' are countries where the folks who live in Israel were murdered. There's not a lot of chance that most Israelis would particularly want to go back there.  But she's right in that people in Israel came from Poland, Germany, and the United States, plus Russia and miscellaneous countries. It does bring up the question of where Israelis would go if they did leave Palestine. First, there's the Palestine that's recognized as such by the international community, that is Gaza and the West Bank, then there's Palestine in the broader sense of the land that Israel calls Israel, which was majority Muslim for over a thousand years before the state of Israel was declared. In a sense Helen Thomas made a good point in that if you look at where people have actually lived in the past, you see a diaspora with folks of Jewish descent living outside of Israel for hundreds and hundreds of years in Europe, while people still lived in what's now Israel, first with a large Christian community and then with the same people converting to Islam and living their lives. Europe was where the mass murder of the Jews occurred, but if that had not happened then it would be perfectly acceptable to say that you're not really from the Middle East, you're from Germany and Poland, which was the subtext of Thomas' statement. And something that people don't want to face. I believe Tzipi Livni, Israeli minister, has blond hair and blue eyes, for example, very Middle Eastern features.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Tea Party and militias, or, Wake UP! They're organizing already and so should we

Period. Look at this, it's an article on Alternet outlining Tea Party organizing that's explicitly about overthrowing liberal democracy, although of course it's always the "New World Order" that they're attacking. These people are organizing, accumulating weapons, and training to eventually make a move to impose their version of Fascism onto the United States. We desperately need to do some organizing of our own to counter them. When I say organizing I don't mean having marches, although that would be useful, but core organizing of people into militant groups pledged to oppose the Tea Party on the local and possibly national level if they try to make a move. I should be clear on this: militant means ready to oppose them in the streets, directly. More than just waving signs. Arms are a really bad idea, but there's nothing to stop people from organizing using their bodies. My idea at this point would be to start forming groups that monitor local Tea Party activity as well as activity on the national level, are discrete, don't call attention to themselves or put themselves in harms' way, meet, discuss issues related to the greater context that all of this exists in, and decide about both contingency plans and further organizing. It would be something that would be disciplined and not full of people wanting to wantonly cause trouble. The force would be essentially reactive, with ideas drawn up for if things start to hit the fan.

Decide whether or not you can commit to fighting them should that day ever come. This is, by the way, exactly what the "Oath Keepers", who are in fact armed and who are in fact police and soldiers commit too, and they talk about the Constitutionality of what they're doing all the time. It should be no different with us, except that since we're leftists of course everything will be different, but we should do it anyways.

Observe, think, organize.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The only thing wrong the Turks did on the Gaza flotilla was to fight back

Because that's something that's not permitted, especially against Israel, which is anointed as a state that can do no wrong. Next thing you know the people they shot will be accused of being anti-semites.

And Turkey in relation to Gaza, Israel and the United States

I can't help but think that one of the reasons the mainstream media in the United States isn't taking what happened seriously is because the people killed were Turks and, as non-Europeans, have less value in the eyes of white Americans as a whole, whether they acknowledge this or not. Turkish lives are worth less than American lives, it seems, and the emphasis on the activists who were arrested and detained who were Turkish, as Turks instead of as activists, confirms this. If it had been Irish people, people like those who are currently sailing on the MV Rachel Corrie towards Gaza, who had been killed there would surely have been more outrage.

***take for example This CNN article. The focus right off the bat is Turkey and Turkish members of the flotilla, and the Turkish government's response to the shootings, not on the flotilla itself and what it was doing. This frames the whole thing as involving a non-European power first and foremost, as opposed to involving a mission motivated by humanitarian sentiments. Likewise, the emphasis on Nicaragua, the small Central American nation, cutting ties with Israel in the first paragraphs, to the exclusion of the many condemnations that have been issued by governments like Ireland trivializes the world's response to the shootings by making it seem like only insignificant nations really care about it.