Monday, April 30, 2012

End the Fed....and guarantee banking hegemony.

Ron Paul's answer to our economic problems of ending the Federal Reserve would mean that the banks themselves, unregulated by the federal government, would be the ones setting the monetary policy of the United States. It's all well and good to want less of the federal government in your life, but what folks don't realize is that before the Fed existed economic policy was made by the virtual dictatorship of banking houses like J.P. Morgan, who had absolutely no public accountability. If you end the Fed, the very people who the Occupy movement objects to will take over. A better solution is to completely nationalize the Federal Reserve banks and create a national banking system instead of maintaining the  public-private partnership that currently exists .

Dan Savage on the Bible and 'bullying', thought offense as real offense

I wrote a couple of days ago about the tendency of some people to think that what is ideologically transgressive is on par with what's physically transgressive, and here's a perfect example of it.

Here's Dan Savage talking about how the Bible is wrong about homosexuality and how folks have learned to ignore other parts of the Bible that they no longer agree with:

Here is Fox News describing what Savage said as actual bullying:

As Savage himself indicates in the clip at the end of the appearance, there's quite a difference between being cornered in the hall and beaten until you're bloody while being called a faggot and saying bad things about the Bible that people take offense at. Yet when some folks hear things that criticize deeply held values, they take it as on par with being criminally attacked, and they ascribe bad character and immorality to the person dared to utter the offending phrase.

*on edit: disappointingly, this is a bipartisan tendency. I was on an activist list-serv a while ago and a fight about feminism in the activist scene broke out. At the conclusion, the woman who argued said that continuing the argument felt like a violation, that she felt that she had been violated, and that continuing the discussion was like sexual assault.

Obviously, typing on a keyboard, to someone you don't see, is not like being raped. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good (lengthy) article: "Hipster Racism Runoff And The Search for The Black Costanza"

Here. Although the title is a reference to the article by Lindy West, it's mostly about the series "Girls" and how there seems to be no people of color in it despite being set in Brooklyn, a trend  the article points out is endemic in NYC based shows. I haven't seen "Girls", but I have seen all the other shows it talks about, and I remember a parallel to "Girls" running when I was in college in NYC. For a year, I went to the expensive-beyond-belief College of Arts and Literature at NYU in Manhattan, living in a dorm on Washington Square Park. There was a show at the time called "Felicity", that was widely believed to be based on NYU, that featured very earnest, rich, students, having very earnest, vacuous, ennui dripped conversations in a mostly white New York City, where everyone wore preppy clothes.   

The article is very good and I recommend it. About Hipster racism....irony can be a great way to try to put some faux distance between yourself from what you're talking about, especially since you can claim to be making very dark, sarcastic, points and not actually meaning things in a racist way. But, well, if you aren't actually making some sort of greater point, if you're just being a dick, it doesn't really get you off the hook.  Sometimes a cigar is being used as a device being used to make a statement about the psychoanalytic obsession with penises, sometimes it's really just a recapitulation of that person's oral fixation, if you catch my drift. 

*side note, NYU: high quality education, very, very, expensive, lots of very, very, wealthy people who attend. I enjoyed my time there immensely, but that's a story for a different day.

Seattle Times' coverage of the Afghan mass murderer has been terrible

...demonstrating some of the worst tendencies of Pacific Northwest particularism, where being a home town boy (or being stationed at Ft. Lewis, south of Tacoma), matters more than gunning down civilians in cold blood. See, for example letter to the editor A monster in us all, an echo of David Brooks' op-ed on the same subject, which says, you know, sometimes anger takes over and you shoot a bunch of people, the AP story
Suspect in Afghan case a profile in contradictions, which asks the question of why such a gal durned good guy could do such bad things, the Seattle Times' story
which only starts reporting on the critical side of Bales after providing paragraphs of fellation trying to emphasize how awesome this dude was, and ends with a similar bowing. Then there's
Perilous web of mortgage debt ensnarled Army sergeant, wife which goes on to paint him as a victim of mortgage companies and predatory lenders,
Wife defends soldier accused in Afghan rampage", from the AP, that features the wonderful: 
"The youngest of five brothers, Bales grew up in the working class Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, Ohio, and has been described as cheerful, all around good guy.", and today's

The tone the Seattle Times takes in the stories it makes and republishes is sickening, with the headlines (that the newspapers themselves choose) always painting Bales in sympathetic, almost fawning, terms, as if they have no shame in disrespecting the memory of the victims by bending over backwards to honor the murderer.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fed up with where the economy's going?

*puts on his ad face* Did you know that in a socialist society you could vote on whether you wanted there to be more investment in industry or less imports? If the economy as a whole is directed by citizens, and not corporations, then citizens get to decide what they think would be the best thing for the economy to do.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Amazingly enough, "Bob Dylan, Toni Morrison among 13 tapped for Presidential Medal of Freedom"

Here. It's amazing because the people who are receiving it, for the most part, actually deserve it. Besides Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison you have Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers, who worked with Cesar Chavez, as well as

"– William Foege, a physician and epidemiologist, who helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s.

– John Glenn, a retired US senator and former astronaut who was the third American in space, and later became the oldest to travel there at the age of 77.
– Gordon Hirabayashi, who “openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II,” and took his challenge all the way to the US Supreme Court. He died in January and is to receive his award posthumously.
– Jan Karski, a leading figure in the Polish Underground during World War II, who later became a US citizen and died in 2000.
– Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the iconic Girl Scouts group, which in its century-long existence has grown into the largest educational organization for girls and has had over 50 million members. She died in 1927.
– Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in all of college basketball with 1,098 wins who led the Lady Vols of the University of Tennessee to eight national championships. She has been vocal in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, and recently revealed that she has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.– William Foege, a physician and epidemiologist, who helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tips for understanding Kant and Hegel:

Number one: read Aristotle and Plato. Both Kant and Hegel lived in a worldview that was shaped by classical philosophy to a much greater extent than the English philosophy of the 19th and 20th centuries. The reason has to do with a split that occurred in the 17th century between the worlds of English and German philosophy due to a difference of opinion between Locke and Leibnitz about Empiricism as it was applied to psychology and life.

Locke wrote the very famous "Essay Concerning Human Understanding", which tried to answer the question "How is it that we come up with the  things that we think we know?", advocating looking much more closely at the process with a critical eye in order to sort out what was justifiable to believe in and what was not. Leibnitz responded with the book "New Essays Concerning Human Understanding", that from the start accused Locke of devaluing the depth and breadth of human experience, of human psychology, in order to prove his points. This can be seen as an accusation of reductionism on the part of Leibnitz, and accusation that the empirical or analytic method when applied to human beings, the human world, and human thought would continue on through the centuries. Leibnitz advocated a more complicated way of looking at the human experience  that would take into account what he saw as the complexities and problems that Locke glossed over.

In this, Leibnitz was following the tradition of the Renaissance humanists, who tried to look at all of the knowledge relating to their subjects, and who followed the Classical philosophers in this. Although Aristotle and Plato wrote works having to do with politics and works having to do with metaphysics, if you look at how they treated their subjects they don't obey any of the clean rules of classification that we have today. If you look at Aristotle's politics, you get a little bit of economics, some moral theory having to do with ideas of justice (gone into in much greater detail in the Nicomachean Ethics), and the divisions he makes regarding government don't correspond to our own at all. There's no strict division between public and private, no notion that government should be strictly limited in areas that it has a right to deal with. Everything is treated as forming part of a cohesive whole, one that Aristotle is not presenting in one book only because it's split across his  work as a whole. This sense of interconnectedness was resurrected by the Renaissance, and incorporated into its worldview.

Leibnitz, as the dominant figure of all of German speaking intellectual life in the 17th century, had a lot of influence, and because of this the more careful, classical, Renaissance mindset was preserved in the German speaking world--with alterations of course--to a greater degree than in the English world, that went gradually further and further away.  Because of this, there's more of a classical worldview in Kant and Hegel's work than there is in, say, Hume's or Jeremy Bentham's.

*on edit: it turns out that the New Essays themselves weren't published until 1765, meaning that although they expressed the ideas, Leibniz criticism came through in other writings.

How easy it is for people to generalize from disagreement to threat

Something that Nietzsche actually touched on in "Beyond Good and Evil".  There are two senses to the word "transgression". It can refer to someone transgressing an ideological norm, or it can refer to someone transgressing a core moral norm. Often, people who aren't that intelligent get the two confused, because when you're  faced with a belief or opinion that they don't like, conflicting with their own personal sense of values, it can feel like the person is committing a moral transgression against them. The hurt and discomfort is purely psychological. The source of this psychological discomfort can be treated as not only the bearer of transgressive opinions but a Bad Person, with a bad character who surely does bad things, because the ideas and values that are being attacked are surely so right that only a Bad Person could oppose them.

Small,towns and conservative societies are notorious for having the attitude, where someone offending the established idiocies of the day can be run out of town on a rail on the suspicion of secretly doing....something, we don't know what....Nietzsche pointed out how the idea of Good and Evil, or Good and Bad to use a more correct translation, can reinforce social conformity, but his corrective, was to get rid of the idea of Good and Bad, Good and Evil, totally and completely. Instead, perhaps it would be better to make a distinction between the private realm and the public realm, between personal ethics and morality and the realm of public opinion. There, Good and Bad aren't useful descriptive terms. Right and wrong, true or false, supported or unsupported, are useful, but Good and Bad are the definition of being morally loaded, and don't really apply. An ideology can promote doing things that are morally bad, and can be bad in practice, can be wrong, but it can't be Bad in the sense that attacking someone physically, causing them physical pain, is Bad.

To generalize from one to the other is an act of moral cowardice.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ending corporate dominance and ending the reign of capital are virtually the same thing

Because when Marx talks about the power of Capital, the businesses that he points to as really exemplifying it are what today we'd call corporations. Even though the division of labor between owners and workers exists in small businesses as well as in large ones, the divide is starkest where, because of their shear size, wealth, and accumulated power, businesses can completely overwhelm the individual and wages down on the whole. The power of Capital to shape society is most evident in the companies that hold the most of it---large corporations. Wal-Mart has a heck of a lot more Capital than your corner hardware store, McDonalds as a whole has more power than your local burger joint (if it even exists anymore). Corporations and big Capital are synonymous, although medium sized Capital matters as well. Saying that the power of Capital needs to be ended through nationalizing it and making it democratically administered, by making it public property organized on a participatory basis, is the same as saying that corporations need to be nationalized and run by the public for the public good.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Ukraine’s former female PM on ‘hunger strike’ "

The multi-millionaire oligarch strikes again. Ukraine’s former female PM on ‘hunger strike’ | The Raw Story It seems that Tymoshenko has learned what it takes to get Western media attention. Call a hunger strike, even though you're loaded with cash, and you'll look like a Bobby Sands-esque martyr to people who aren't paying close enough attention to what you're really up to.

The extension of the rationale of helping people with disabilities to affirmative action and socialism

Pretty straightforward. If we're talking about providing a level playing field, then things folks have no responsibility for, due to historical wrongs, should be righted. No one chose to be a slave, women didn't choose to be denied the right to participate fully in society. Because of that history, simply declaring that everyone is equal in the present does not fully ensure complete participation in society. Extra help should be available. If there is an area where discrimination in the past has been demonstrated, that discrimination should be countered by affirmative action. Because education is so vital for social advancement and full participation, it should apply there as a matter of course. None of this means that people who are completely unqualified should be given positions and slots, but that folks who demonstrate potential should be given opportunities.

How this feeds into socialism is that if you're really serious about making the playing field level, the division between capital and labor creates a barrier that can't be repaired through papering things over. If the model of the free market economists, were everyone was a free, equivalent, agent participating in the market place and concluding contracts in freedom was true, there wouldn't be a problem. But that isn't how the society actually works. Those who direct the force of capital have advantages far beyond the people who confront them in the labor force with no access to the advantages of capital. To create a truly level playing field, the force of capital itself needs to be taken out of private hands and socialized. Then, people will be able to participate society, and in the job market, as individuals in this respect.

The justification for helping out people with disabilities

At least the liberal one, is that people should not be penalized for things that they had no hand in creating. If someone was born with a condition that interferes with their ability to live a full life, but that can be addressed in a way that makes them productive citizens, why shouldn't  they have that opportunity? The cost of helping out the few who are disabled is a trivial cost to the community, and we as a community have the responsibility to help out those among us who have serious problems. A similar rationale can be applied to people who have conditions where help from the community can only make them marginally productive. If someone is born into this world with mental retardation, they didn't choose it, they're not responsible for it, so why should they be left out to dry, suffering,  because of it? Folks should be helped  to get to whatever level of functioning they can swing if they have a disability.

All of this bears on the idea that pre-existing conditions shouldn't disqualify someone from getting health insurance. The the folks who fit into that category are probably the ones who did not bring their conditions on themselves, and who most need insurance to function on a basic level., They shouldn't have to earn the right to live a productive life. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The problem in America right now is not lack of a center

That people can agree on. A Washington Post editorial today suggested that was the problem with current politics. What's happening right now in American politics is that we're deciding on whether we want to be a mostly right-wing country or a mostly progressive-liberal one. The center of gravity doesn't lie in a literal center that's a mean between the beliefs of the two dominant parties. Instead, the true center of gravity is the center of accepted public opinion about political, economic, and social issues, that changes position all the time. During the Reagan years, that center was further right, during the Kennedy and Johnson years, it was further left. After 9/11 the center made a radical move to the right,  trashing the literal neo-liberal centrism of Bill Clinton and casting people further to the left as traitors, and now we're seeing a move to move the center back leftwards. But today folks have an increasing awareness that we just can't go back to Clinton's centrist ideology to defeat the radical Republicans, but that we need a Progressive alternative if we want to win. People who want no more extreme right wing ideology are trying to confirm once and for all that the center of established public opinion in the Untied States is located further towards liberal-progressive ideology and farther away from the Tea Party, even though the Tea Party makes a lot of noise about representing the 'Real America'. 

Idiocy in America caused by the worship of money

Because that's the only thing folks here use as a standard  to judge the usefull or non-usefulness of something: whether it makes a buck. I should say, by the way, that despite my last name I was born and raised here, and so where my parents, grandparents, and many of my great grandparents. In any case, the stupidity of American culture is brought on by money being the measure of all things, and the sharing of small town, small scale, bourgeois capitalist mentality across and throughout American culture as the standard of 100% Americanism.

We want shit, produce shit, and sell shit to each other, basically, and then because we're happy rolling in it we think that nothing else matters, because, in the immortal words of William S. Burroughs "I've got mine, so fuck you." 

The plague of Young Adult Fiction....Harry Potter

I have to say that the popularity of books like "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Twilight" has finally demonstrated that the average reading level of people here in the U.S. is that of a Young Adult. To me, and probably to many other people as well, the popularity of these books, the fact that publishers can publish them with a straight face, is an indication of just how semi-literate, stupid,  and commercialism driven our society has become.

Harry Potter inadvertently opened the door to this flood of fecal fluid. Now, I'm not against Harry Potter. I think that Harry Potter became a hit because American literary culture had been focussed on the critical for so long that people were looking for an epic counterpoint to. Although I got this second hand, I believe Northrop Frye points to a tendency in society for people to prefer epic stories, then critical and cynical ones, and then to return to epic stories, in a sort of constant, regular cycle. Harry Potter presented a nice escape through basic myth making that made a nice, entertaining, series of stories. Sometimes, you need that sort of thing among all the heavy seriousness of literature, and you need someone to come along who's willing just to tell a silly story. However, its popularity also made it acceptable for adults to read Young Adult literature, setting the stage for the semi-literate resurgence we're seeing right now.

It made it possible for grown adults to show no shame reading books intended for adolsecents.

Paul Constant of "The Stranger" has a great take down of "Fifty Shades of Grey" Here.

*on edit: I should add that all this exists in an environment where "Cajun Pawn Broker" and "Auction Hunters" (about people buying abandoned storage units) are good 'ole TV fare.

Friday, April 20, 2012

American politics: because it's easier to express righteous indignation than to make substantive arguments

Just sayin'. Now everyone is in on the game, right, left, and center, and we're seeing 'well I nevers' flying this way and that, as people are egregiously offended about trivial things scoring political points for their side. Everything is the worst insult ever, everything is shocking. Bill Maher was completely right when he wrote in his op-ed in the New York Times that people should please quit apologizing.

*on edit: personally, I've been noticing that the outrage cycle, the time between when someone says something and when the world gets up in arms about it, is shrinking. Perhaps we're approaching a singularity where the outrage will consume itself and disappear into a black hole.

Tanzen Mussolini...revised previous article about the Corporate State


"The usual insights consist of Fascism defined as the intersection of state and corporate power, with not  lot  else being added. What the constant repetition of the slogan misses are the ideological justifications that Mussolini gave for selling out the working class. The justifications Mussolini used can tell us a lot about what's going on today."

"Author faces civil suit over 'Three Cups of Tea' "

Here: Author faces civil suit over 'Three Cups of Tea' | Books | The Seattle Times. Why? Because he didn't tell the truth, an insane argument. I'm curious, though: what are the chances that the people suing him are entitled yuppies who feel they've been egregiously wronged by reading and believing in a book that turned out not to be true? So sue him, sue him, sue him. The First Amendment and free speech aren't as important as our righteous indignation over having our heart strings falsely pulled.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strict Constructionism vs. Experience, or academic debates vs. practical ones

People who defend the strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution love to point out how much the Founding Fathers labored over the question of how to found a functioning Republic on the scale of the United States, since such an entity had never been created. And, yes, they did do quite a bit of research, thinking, philosophizing. But, strangely enough, after they ratified it in 1789, 223 years passed, bringing us up to the present day. In all that time we've had plenty of experience in what works and what doesn't in how to organize governments. Not only that, but ever since the French Revolution so has the rest of the world. 

We have a vast experience of real, empirical, data to draw from, yet the Strict Constructionists want us to return to the books, to how the Founders understood things like "The Commonwealth of Oceania" by James Harrington and "Discourses Concerning Government" by Algernon Sidney in order to figure out what we should do now. Don't get me wrong, I like books of that type, but expecting us to deal with the problems of the current day by reconstructing what was percolating in the heads of the Founders, while ignoring what's come after, is a little like asking medical students to go back and read Galen over and over in order to get the fundamentals of how to cure illness. Yet the Supremes go out there and augustly intone about the thought of the Founders, about their transcendent legislative will, as Rousseau might have styled it, while thinking about  how to count the number of angels on the head of a pin.

Anti-Democratic measures in the Constitution: no election of Senators until 1913

Which is a little different than the character of the folks who founded the country. Up until 1913 the State Legislatures selected who would be the two Senators sent to Washington, some with input from constituents, some without. This isn't ancient history. Essentially you have half of Congress being selected by the political establishment of the States, who were told to select the 'better sorts of people', from 1789 to 1913, meaning that the great Senators sometimes presented as august leaders of the country may have been selected through good ole' boys networks instead of by citizens themselves. 

"National Review's John O'Sullivan: On the Board of Directors of a White Nationalist Group"

I never thought in a million years I'd link to anything on "Little Green Footballs", but they appear to have made very substantial changes: National Review's John O'Sullivan: On the Board of Directors of a White Nationalist Group

"Documents obtained from Guidestar reveal that John O’Sullivan — former editor and current staff writer and “editor-at-large” for National Review — is listed on the board of directors for the white nationalist organization Lexington Research Institute Limited (aka The VDare Foundation) most commonly known as VDare.
Form 990s obtained from Guidestar reveal he was on their board from 2009 to 2010 with the overview report indicating him on the board of VDare from the 2006 to 2010 (Fiscal year ending on December 31, 2010).
John O’SullivanOn March 15, 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that white nationalist Richard B. Spencer of Taki’s magazine (see John Derbyshire firing) began a venture with Peter Brimelow, et al, to create a new online white nationalist magazine, Alternative Right."

The non-existent plague of child sex-trafficking...

The Village Voice has a good series of articles about it, defending themselves and against the charges, which have recently been re-echoed today by Nicholas Kristof.  Particularly good is Stuck in Trafficking. The point made is that it's the latest incarnation of the perpetual witch hunt mentality that exists in American culture, the same impulses that give to things like the false pedophilia scandals of the '80s and the over-the-top accusation that kids were being ritually slaughtered. Moreover, although the linked article doesn't cover it, we're seeing a situation like that of the early '80s, where progressive advocates for women and for the rights of children are made common cause with right-wing and Christian forces through things like  the Meese commission on pornography.  These are the same forces who want to see women get back in the kitchen. Perhaps that should give progressives pause in working with them. Nicholas Kristof, who is one of the people stirring the pot about trafficking the most, is a Rockefeller Republican, a person who is somewhat liberal on social issues, and conservative on economic ones. He's made a name for himself expressing the moderate to liberal elite consensus on world events.

In my opinion, the to-do about trafficking is the latest attempt of the anti-sex lobby to cast natural human urges as linked to defiled, degraded, behavior. Backpage aside, these folks seem unable to believe that consenting adults could choose to engage in sex acts for money without being completely and totally oppressed. That, in turn, is indicative of a greater opposition to the increased acceptance of expressions of sex in American culture, not sex on a theoretical birds and bees basis, made very neat and clean, but sex in all its aspects, the ones outlined by Henry Miller as well as those outlined by Dear Abbey.

*on edit: see also

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One more on the Seattle fake Starbucks....Zuco 103

Referring to the fake Starbucks on Roy street, by Cornish at the top of Broadway. While I was there I heard some familiar Zuco 103 songs in the background, no doubt carefully chosen by Starbucks' headquarters as representing what's  cool and up to date. That's entertaining to me, because I was listening to the same album  in 2003, and I believe it came out a year or two before that. In other words, it only took them 9-10 years for Starbucks to catch onto it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pacific Northwest contrast: tuition protest vs. overweening parent

Juxtaposed in two places. They were having a protest against the cost of higher ed in the U-District today on University Avenue, with folks standing by the post office down the street from the Bookstore with banners and signs. Nice folks. I took their literature, then went to a cafe not too far away to do some work, and sitting right by me was a guy who was teaching his daughter, who must have been five or six, Spanish and Chinese. First he taught her days of the week and months in Spanish, then the did the same thing in Chinese. Then he had her her mix them up and say what the Chinese day of the week would be in Spanish. Even considering the possibility that this guy was in fact tri-lingual, it seemed to me that he was pushing the kid really hard, and possibly doing it for his own benefit.

What a contrast. On the one hand, folks objecting to the rising costs of school that make it harder for people to attend even while working and taking out loans, on the other, a guy who obviously has the time and attention to teach his kid things other families would never even dream possible, with the potential side effect of lots of therapy and/or a mental breakdown later in the kid's life.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Office of Faith Based Initiatives vs. the defunding of Planned Parenthood: evidence of selective anti-statism on the far right

Because the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, started under Bush, that channels money to religious groups in order to assist social welfare, still exists. In fact, renamed as the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships its website is Here, under the umbrella of the Health and Human Services department.

Now, I know that the typical American political person has the attention span of a gnat, and that it's likely that  some of those in the Tea Party and on the right wing of the Republican Party may simply not be aware that the program started under Bush, still exists yet it is striking that in all the talk about government supposedly funding 'biased' and 'controversial' organizations like Planned Parenthood and ACORN, and about what an overreach of power that is, nothing is being said about faith based programs, which are certainly seen by some  as a biased, controversial over reaching of state power. Instead, it's only the liberal groups who are getting the flack. Either they haven't done their homework, or they honestly only care about getting government out of people's hair when it's convenient for their own particular ideological bias.

This kind of putative, selective, anti-statism can also be seen in the rush to have public schools approve not just prayer in school but broader promotions of religion in general. Public schools are part of the State. By pushing for 'faith' or prayer, or religion, in schools you are by definition advocating Statist sponsorship of religion and ideology. Yet, the Tea Partiers seem to believe that keeping the State out of religion is somehow in itself Statist, and they see it not as maintaining neutrality in order to guarantee religious freedom, but instead as a promotion of the pseudo-ideology of "Secularism". Their supposed antidote for the non-existent Statist incursion of "Secularism" is itself Statism in its purist form.

*on edit: the same reasoning can be applied to the teaching creationism in schools. Teaching the current science about the origin of the world and of humanity is really a neutral position, because if you go into the totality of religious traditions there are quite a few different explanations for both of them. By attacking the neutral position as being ideological, and then saying that one particular religious tradition, that of Christianity, needs to be represented in order for what the schools teach to be non-ideological, you're advocating State endorsement of religion, specifically Christianity. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

The 9/12 Project, 9/11 and the idea of a "National Revolution"

There's a very interesting book out there called Mussolini's Intellectuals" by A. James Gregor. Gregor is a scholar of Italian Fascism who is clearly sympathetic to his subject, but who nonetheless is a true academic who brings real insights, and is the opposite of a simplistic apologist. One of the most interesting interludes he brings up is the change of Italian Anarcho-Syndicalist Sergio Panunzio from Syndicalist to  Fascist ideologue, a position he retained throughout the Fascist regime. Particularly interesting is Panunzio's feeling that the First World War produced a unity in Italy that served as a "national revolution", a unification of Italian society under the watch of nationalist principles. This "national revolution" was of course the foundation of the later nationalist/Fascist violence committed against Communists in the wake of the war, where the ultra-nationalists formed Fasces di Combattimento, street violence groups, and beat up Communists and union members who tried to push for an Italian socialist revolution like the one that recently took place in Russia. How interesting, then, is the Glenn Beck founded  "9/12 Project" that, though less active than last year, still seeks to be a force "uniting our communities back to the place we were on 9/12/2001." 

There are quite a few parallels between the 9/12 Project and the ethos of early Fascism, not to mention the  Patriotic upsurge that followed 9/11 itself, where the supposed spirit of society, its putative 'general will' was acted on by President Bush as the 'Decider' to put in place dictatorial measure and make war on the world. But lets focus on the 9/12 Project  now. 

After talking about the putative expansion of Statism in the wake of Obama's election, while saying nothing about the actual expansion of Statism under Bush, the 9/12 site makes this statement 

"Do we need a Paul Revere. No we need hundreds if not thousands of Paul and Paula  Revere’s. The water is getting warm, but like the proverbial frog, it will be too late to jump once the water starts to boil. When the history of our time is written, what will be said of us? Will we be the generation that stood strong and maintained the defense of our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Will we stand up for and defend the Constitution?" 

Interesting, Paul Reveres, potentially in the streets? 

And as part of it's Nine Principles and 12 Values   we have these:


The 9 Principles

  1. America Is Good.
  2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
    God “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” from George Washington’s first Inaugural address.
  3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
    Honesty “I hope that I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider to be the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” George Washington
  4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
    Marriage/Family “It is in the love of one’s family only that heartfelt happiness is known. By a law of our nature, we cannot be happy without the endearing connections of a family.” Thomas Jefferson
  5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
    Justice “I deem one of the essential principles of our government… equal and exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political.” Thomas Jefferson"
The whole Nine Principles could be charitably named 'The Nine Principles of American Nationalism'. There are of course more Principles, but these have been omitted to make the post shorter. Many of them affirm the rights of the individual against government, particularly against a supposed encroaching government tyranny, but they seem oblivious to the fact that the only way you can truly realize many of them is through government intervention. For instance, affirming the family means either not certifying gay marriage or criminalizing homosexuality, and affirming God as the Center of one's life as a basic principle is only possible on a social level by attacking the secular basis of American government and replacing it with government endorsement of Christianity. Not to mention the statist concern of the swift administration of justice. For sure, I assume that apprehending terrorists through the USA-PATRIOT Act wiretapping, mosque infiltration, and the invasive procedures of the TSA are not something the 9/12 project objects to. Nowhere is statist action in the form of the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan or the prison at Guantanamo Bay or the torture that is practiced there mentioned. 

By implication through its association with the Tea Party and Freedomworks, and selective silence on issues of government abuse that doesn't fit in with its ideology, the 9/12 Project proves itself not,  in point of fact, to be anti-statist or anti-government at all, but supportive of the worst statist excesses in American government, and to approve of a popular movement that will bring back the sense of fear and intimidation associated with 9/12  reminiscent of the early Fascist movement. In the name of Unity, of course.  Intimidating everyone to echo American patriotism, and having that reflected in schools, in the media, and everywhere else, through returning to the climate of fear and intimidation that prevailed after 9/11, the 9/12 project would institute a conservative dictatorship centered on an idealized American state of the kind presented in conservative constitutionalism.

But don't say that, because, they don't,  you know, like the idea of government that's put forward by a black man, who is a Democrat, that has less rhetoric in it.  This they find objectionable and intolerable, use it to promote themselves as against government excess. Because, you know, social programs are, like, dictatorial, but rancid mob rule in the name of patriotism is as American as you can get.

The fake Starbucks on Roy Street in Seattle

Like walking into a parallel universe where everything is a little bit off. Roy Street Coffee and Tea is part of Starbuck's attempt to ease in on independent coffee shops by putting together cafe's not labeled as Starbucks that have a pseudo-hip vibe. But there's a problem in that although it doesn't look like Starbucks it doesn't really look or feel like a normal indie coffee shop either, because the decoration feels like someone found some really interesting fixtures, etc... and then a committee discussed it and changed them ever so slightly because on reflection they felt they weren't quite right.  It looks hip-ish, but not quite honest. The staff there are great, this is  no comment on them, but there's a difference between a simple, good, design that people who  put together an independent coffee shop have likely made and an overly planned attempt at replicating that feel. Probably both  because of the knowledge that it's "Inspired by Starbucks" as well as its ambience, the place feels like a Venus Flytrap, a carefully constructed illusion that you expect to snap closed on you once you've taken the bait.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Seattle Freeze, sometimes physically violent

And not just benign neglect. The Seattle Freeze is the silent treatment that people in Seattle give to folks who move here from out of state. It's where they'll say hi and make a few words of chitchat, but won't let you get anywhere near them personally, no matter if you've 'known' them for a long time. It goes to an extreme that's not been paralleled in any other city I've been in, not even in New York City, famous for its hostility.

My story of violence connected to the Seattle Freeze took place during a New Years Eve party, on New Years Eve 2007. Me and a group of friends were invited to a get together at a friend's parents' cottage in the country. We got there and it turned out to be one of these things where it wasn't just a few friends, but instead it was the family, the siblings, and the friends from high school, among others. People were having a good time, and drinking, but at a certain point the evening started to get a little rough.

We were all staying out in this structure on the property, going to sleep, drunk, with about twenty other people, when someone from our group inadvertently made a stupid comment, that made folks mad.  My friends tend to have wicked senses of humor, and to be abrasive sometimes. .Since my friend's brother was there, he decided to try to smooth things over, and instead was confronted with an overgrown blonde twenty something with a big heavy mag light beating a sleeping bag  he thought my friend was sleeping in and yelling at him for being "The person nobody knows". Obviously during the evening there had been previous things said that had rubbed someone the wrong way. He wasn't in the sleeping bag, so he wasn't hurt, but this guy kept on beating what was likely a pile of blankets.

Now, we had been with these people the whole evening, talking with them, having what we thought was a good time,  but when it came time for drunken violence we became those people "who nobody knows". He said the phrase a couple times while thought he was beating up my friend. During the drama he confronted me too, but I kept my mouth shut and didn't give him any ammunition.

 I have to say, even though we were invited guests and friends of the person whose parents owned the place,  when the drunken chips were down, we became the people no one knew, people who it was okay to go apeshit on and try to hurt. All of this is both outrageous and directly connected with the same ethos that motivates people here to freeze out those who they don't know. To me, this incident represented the iron fist behind the velvet glove of the freeze, where the underlying tensions of natives  really not liking folks from outside of the state boiled over and vented themselves due to alcohol and perhaps other drugs too, for all I know.

Mind you, these folks weren't  people who had lived in the backwoods all their lives. They were folks who had gone to one of the top public schools in Seattle, and who had grown up in a rich and tony neighborhood there.

The freeze and its attendent inhospitability is such that it appears that people are apparently willing to place their shit bag friends from highschool, who are still hanging around,  over folks who they've met in their current lives.

After the violence, someone came up to my friend the next day and said that the person who tried to beat the shit out of him was just jealous about his friendship with the person whose house we were staying at. Really? What kind of low browed Neanderthalic fucker looks at the world like that?

 There were bullshit apologies all around, but the taste of Pacific Northwest particularism lingered in my mouth.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One of the reasons Rednecks believe strange things...

Is cultural marginalization through living in rural areas and through being working class people. Some of them feel like they're shut out of  mainstream U.S. culture. In that context, folks believing weird things like that Obama was born in Kenya, and conspiracies involving the Federal Reserve, and are somewhat understandable. Not participating in U.S. culture, they go in on themselves and create an alternate universe that has no reality check built in. It should be noted that this is a more isolated culture than anything the left has produced. However, a cultural product of marginalization isn't therefore right because it's marginalized.

 Similar phenomenon can be found in other cultures, such as the Nation of Islam in Africa-American society,  based on marginal culture wedded to the Quran, and smaller groups like the Black Israelites. But though all of these have been born out of desperation and alienation, with some of that desperation being much more severe, only the beliefs associated with rural white folks have been given a national platform and a degree of respect, even though they're idiotic things that no intelligent person should have to give lip service to. 

Cuba: U.S. locked in Cold War | The Raw Story

Cuba: U.S. locked in Cold War | The Raw Story, in reference to Cuba being denied participation in an Organization of American States meeting.  Interesting, because Cuba was denied participation despite the U.S. having in the past  no problems with Pinochet's Chile or the Generals' Argentina participating.

...and the paragraph breaks have been restored to recent posts

Because, strangely enough, the new default interface for Blogger has not been recognizing line breaks as paragraph breaks, leading to vast single paragraphs instead of the usual stuff.

The Zeitgeist and the Absolute Ideal, w/Punk Rock as an example

Because these things need to be brought into life sized doses. The Zeitgeist, or spirit of the times, is a term that most people are familiar with, that refers to trends seem to be seize society and culture as being the next big thing, and that are on the cutting edge of history, whatever that means. Hegel's Absolute Ideal is a much less accessible idea. There are several ways you can look at it. First there's the idea in its complete and total sense, then there's the concept of an Absolute Ideal as it applies to human beings and human potentials. The first refers to the totality of everything, of every piece of matter, every idea about every piece of matter, of all the potentials contained within that matter, everything within the minds of human beings, everything that's possible to be thought of, and every thought about the thought. It contains everything in the universe completely realized. The idea of the Absolute Ideal in relation to human beings is something else. Here, I should say, I'm being deceptive, because this isn't the Absolute Ideal in its fullness but the application of the idea of complete actualization to human beings, but I think it's illustrative. As I'm using it, the Absolute Ideal refers to all the potentials within humanity for thought, action, self realization, production, and culture, as well as for all the human thought produced by or stimulated by the products of human culture and society, and the history that's made by human society building on the historical processes that have come before it.

So, the Zeitgeist, how does it refer to the human-sized Absolute Ideal, and how does Punk Rock fit in? Like this: Punk rock emerged in the '70s as the Zeitgeist of youth culture, as a movement that consciously rejected the sound of the very elaborate star centered Prog Rock of the day and instead promoted the idea that people could do music themselves, without being insane virtuosos, by just making basic rock beats. The star system itself came under fire: people wanted to be their own heros and not live through worshipping rock stars who were marketed to them by record companies. Consumerism, and niceness in the form of glam-rock elaboration and hippy pretensions came under attack. Under attack as well came the absence of class commentary by the hippy counterculture, with many of the original punk rockers coming from backgrounds that didn't give them a nice, happy, perspective on life in line with that of their hippy comrades.

You can look at all of this as being a negation of the '70s counterculture that came before it, as something reactionary rather than inherently innovative, and in fact we've been trained to think that way by pop-Hegelianism in music criticism. That criticism looks at the good old trinity of Thesis, Anti-Thesis, and Synthesis, but a more fruitful way of looking at trends is to look at how they relate to society as a whole, as opposed to what immediately and linearly came before. To do so would involve asking the question of what a musical and social movement with the features of punk rock, existing from '76 on up, says about society in general at that point in time, irrespective of any interplay between with the hippy movement, and then asking what does that say about society in a bigger, broader, longer perspective.

For instance, you could say that the movement, instead of being only a response to the hippy movement, was also created by the general downturn of the English economy in the late '70s, part of the downturn of the global economy as a whole, that ended the post-war golden age. That downturn particularly hit the working class, who had benefited greatly from that prosperity. Also, you could say that the movement was made possible by the development of a mass media and of a youth culture that was able to connect with that mass media, that in turn enabled working class youths turned out by their parents and forced to live on the margins to participate in popular culture and have their voices heard, something that would have been unthinkable several decades before.

Then, you could ask the second order questions: what did the economic downturn of the late '70s mean in relation to the development of the economy of the 20th century in general, and culturally, what does the intersection of technology, the liberalization of culture, the creation of a youth culture, the rise of an independent pop culture, and a sense of empowerment by the working class that was complemented by a decline in the economy mean for 20th century society as a whole? The empowerment of the working class? The empowerment of marginalized youth by the youth culture, that was a product of post-war prosperity and technological mass media that allowed them to get more of a voice, and actual power than ever before? Getting to those more fundamental questions brings us to general questions relating to the warp and weft of human society as a whole. It brings the Zeitgeist, whatever it may be, into a relationship with a human sized Absolute Ideal as used as a term representing all of the different possibilities for human society and culture. You can ask those questions as many times as you want, expanding the scope more and more, and getting closer to an Absolute limit of meaning that can never be reached, if you keep getting answers that stand up as being significant.

By doing this you can take social and cultural movements out of the trap of being simplistic linear responses to other movements and look at them instead on their own terms. This is what the idea of simple cause and effect in pop-culture misses. Hegel actually insisted that the idea of a base concept, then its negation, then a negation of the negation, what's termed synthesis, was actually an artificial way of talking about a constant process, and that that this constant process could be related to the whole. Saying that the Hippies lead to the Punks who lead to the New Wave sets up an artificial series of causes ultimately functions as a lazy person's guide to history.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The fundamental fallacy of the "Failed State"

Many questions arise with regards to this very questionable state of affairs. If a state "Fails", then what's the opposite, that it succeeds? If you look at the "Successful" states out there, there are many "Successful" states that are pretty mediocre, yet they work and function properly. That being the case, what does "Failure" really mean? Is it a contrast between being "Excellent", meaning that it does really well at various things, and "Failing" as a state? In either case what's being implied isn't something that can only be explained by the concept of "Failure", which is a human-created concept, but that can also be described by dysfunction, or inefficiency. A State can be dysfunctional in its governmental system, in its economy, and in the health of its civil society, and this can lead to its internal functioning being very unpleasant. An aspect of a state, such as its government, can not function effectively in various capacities, but none of these things imply 'failure' in the sense of the term 'failed state'. If failure implies a crisis on the part of the government, perhaps a better term would be a crisis of legitimation, meaning that the government and its functioning have become so corrupt that they no longer are seen as being legitimate by the populace, but that state of affairs implies a mass of human judgments being made by the people in the country, in that the state has become illegitimate to them, not illegitimate in a kind of abstract or absolute sense. The government itself could, in a situation like that, improve, continue to function badly, or deteriorate, but it can't, by definition "fail"... not only because there's no criteria with which to measure success in a non-trivial way, but also because the notion of "failure" implies an end state that can't be changed, and governmental and social institutions are dynamic entities that never reach a decisive conclusion that you can look at and say "That state failed, for all time". What happens if a "Failed state" remains in a state of failure for years? Does that mean that it's being successful at having failed? You can't just say that that state over there failed on friday, and that tomorrow it'll start again, with a clean slate, like nothing happened in the mean time. In any case, what's the distinction between a state that's very ineffective, one that's failed, one that's slightly less ineffective, and one that's only sort of ineffective.

In truth, what's happening when people use the term "failed state" is that they are attributing a characteristic of Being, of substance, to a concept, the State, the Nation, or the Government, things that are not solid entities with single characteristics that can either have the value of success or failure. These things are human terms, and by using them we're anthropomorphizing features of other societies and attributing motives, goals, successes, and failures to them.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The idea of a "Meaning of Life" in relation to Science

Not 42. When people have talked about a "Meaning of Life", it's always implied that it's a meaning that's attached to human life. Science, with it's great collections of information about how the world works, can provide one level of meaning, but ultimately any meaning of life that a person decides on would have to bring that mass of material into a relation with the lived human experience, in order to provide insights into human life. That's what a "Meaning" to Life would be founded on, a meaning relative to the human experience, acknowledged as not being absolute, but instead eminently useful for human beings living and existing within the world of human life. Any meaning that people find for their lives is therefore based on bringing aspects of the greater world and a person's interaction with it into relation with their self. To go the other way, to find a relation of the self to the external world, is less fruitful because it's the human personality that gives meaning to our human lives, which are lived by our selves, who are human, and not by the outside world, which remains cold and based on purely analytical data when separated from the self.

Objectivity in Science and Philosophy, not sufficient for a human society

Let me start out by saying that what I mean by Objectivity is quite different than what most people mean. It does not really refer to what they mean when they talk about being Objective. I mean Objectivity in the literal sense of looking at the world as pure object as opposed to taking into account the parts of experience present in the interior experience of subjects, of human beings. While Objective fact, looking at the world through a lens identifying the prime manifestation of the world as being cold and object oriented, has brought us great advances, it has disempowered human society by discounting the commonly held subjective features of life that create the context through which those objective facts obtain true meaning in relation to humanity. Human life has been dichotomized into an Objective realm outside of the individual, thought to be the realm of truth, and a subjective realm within the individual, thought to be the realm of pure arbitrariness, of things purely belonging to individual subject and their particular selves that can't be generalized to other people.

In reality, I feel that the subjective aspects of human experience bleed over into our experience, knowledge of, and interpretation of Objects and of Objective reality, both individually and socially.Science itself may be objective, but the human, anthropological, social experience wherein life is lived simultaneously combines the subjective and objective in both an individual and communal way. By privileging only the objective part of this inter-subjectivity, we disempower and discount the features of social life that come from things like community and association, friendship, that help to constitute the core foundations of our normal lives. The uniting of individuals with each other, who then unite with nature through work for common ends, constitutes the framework in which objective facts will always live.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The collective nature of production versus the individual nature of businesses

Something that Marx talked about that bears repeating. The idea that modern industrial production is getting to be more and more collective came from observing what advances in technique had lead to in contrast to traditional, craft based, production. Adam Smith's idea of the increasing division of labor fit the explanatory bill perfectly: instead of one person doing all the work in assembling and manufacturing a single product, that work was now being spread across the hands of many people, with new jobs and positions being opened up that only did the work of a particular phase of manufacture. That situation has become so commonplace that these days folks don't realize it wasn't always the case.

Think of the effort that goes into making a new line of shoes for Nike, for instance. You have all the design done collectively by different groups of people focussing on different aspects of it, and you have the manufacture, that is broken down into specific tasks for people in the third world to do on a mass production, likely assembly line, basis. Shipping back to the U.S. is included in the work, as well as the communication and coordination between the U.S. and the factories oversea. Look at how different that is from a cobbler working in a village making pairs of shoes by hand. It's a massive, collective, enterprise that employs thousands of people.

Yet despite the collective effort, all of the ownership and control belongs to one or two companies, to Nike and to the company overseas that makes the shoes. These are reported to be individual contractors as opposed to actual parts of Nike itself. Everyone who works for the companies are included under the umbrella of the corporation, either as hourly, salary, or slave workers, in this case. The problem raised by Marx and others is that if this massive, collective enterprise is being run by many people and many groups of workers acting in cooperation, why is it that they themselves don't own and control, the companies?

*on edit: I should also say that modern corporations act like huge contractors or agents, with an executive level that's in charge contracting down other people to do the work of the company. This is in keeping with the origin of modern manufacturing businesses, in that they were started by merchants who made exclusive contracts with particular artisans to make goods for them, to be sold in whatever way and at whatever price the merchant decided. Eventually, the merchants, who were the ancestors of the modern executive level of businesses, bought the means of production, the tools that folks used to make goods, and employed the artisans as out and out employees instead of individual contractors, leading to modern business capitalism today, in its many forms.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Human self-realization, the point of the game with socialism

And anarchism. A perspective that's sometimes missed is the socialist humanist underpinnings of both Marx and anarchist thought of the 19th and 20th century. Marx in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, as well as in "The German Ideology", puts forward an conception of socialism where the resolution of the problem of capitalism's division of people into owners and workers is a foundation for a socialist society of truly integrated human beings. This would be a society where both the head and the muscles get the opportunity to be put to full use and creativity and where creative action would inform personal, work, and social life. Coming off of Hegel's "Master/Slave Dialectic", portraying a semi-capitalist situation where the Masters are educated for executive decisions but don't have the skills to put the decisions into action, and where the Slaves are educated for action but not encouraged to make executive decisions, Marx outlines the foundations of an ideal state that would resolve the parallel capitalist situation, leading to a cooperative society where the capacity for full self realization by all would be possible.

The gist of it is that, on top of the division of society into capitalists and workers being unjust in a Master-Slave way, capitalist society makes labor the property of one class, with another class forced to sell their labor to it, and on top of that labor is in reality both collective and individual.While one class of people should not be able to monopolize creative initiative, one group of people should not be the only buyers and then possessors of labor, and labor itself has both an collective and individual aspect. This is true because most of the products we use and deal with, and most of the work that individuals do, are the products of collaboration with others and not done on an individual basis. If this is not explicitly the case it is the case implicitly in the sense that most products that are made are made based on modifying the work of others. Because of this, the benefits of the labor of society should accrue both to society and to individuals. If one group no longer owns the labor of society it should belong to society as a whole in one aspect and to individuals in another, with individuals, receiving both general social benefits and subsidization in many areas of life, and then also receiving a component of individualized compensation commensurate with differences in individual contribution to social labor. The labor that would go back to society would be labor that is appropriated currently by capitalists. This includes both collective and individual labor. A component in this type of socialist society could also be a higher return to individuals of compensation for their own unique labor, but it would have to co-exist with social benefits, and would possibly be merged with them to some degree in the form of higher wages across the board, because of the presence of both collective and individual labor in the appropriation of capitalists.

*on edit: Marx makes the point that although individual labor can be seen to a certain point in certain paradigmal occupations, after a certain point it becomes impossible to see where one person's labor stops and another person's labor starts, because of mutual reliance and cooperation in modern work. When that happens, it's no longer fair to try to reduce compensation to a purely individual standard, although again, differences in individual effort within a group setting should still count for a difference in collective compensation. The collective compensation accumulates to society as a whole, as collective cooperation builds on collective cooperation, and therefore should come back to society as a whole in the form of a literal common-wealth, a common higher standard of living gotten from everyone doing their best in their work.

*on edit again: social labor compounds on social labor across businesses and occupations until everything is united in a web of mutual interdependence and cooperation, where everyone does good through everyone doing good at their jobs, ultimately in an ecological way.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Is Romney a moron? “I think there is a desire to establish a religion in America known as secularism.”

Here. One has to wonder, because the level of dumbth necessary to actually believing that is pretty high.

Conservatives use strict constructionism because they dislike democracy

In particular, the democratic decisions that people make and then transmit to their legislators, who then push for laws that they don't like. The Constitution is not meant to dictate substantive aspects of particular law, it's intended to be a framework within which any of a number of kinds laws can be passed, according to what the people want. This means that the Constitution has to be a neutral document with regards to partisan sentiment. However, since the President is the only other checking force in our system of government, if the Presidency is held by someone who folks on the other side don't like, and they're frustrated about not being able to get anything they want passed, the only recourse for them to try to stop laws that they don't like are specious appeals to Constitutionality via the Supreme Court.

"Strict Construction" is code for making the Constitution into a document that's biased in favor of conservative social and economic policy as opposed to one that's simply a framework that's intended to be used in whatever way the people choose, by whomever the people actually decide to elect.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Hegel and the State, some confusions in terminology

Hegel is in fact not as Statist as he's often portrayed in the English speaking world. Although a conservative, Hegel was not, in my opinion, at all a totalitarian. The confusion comes from the different terms used in the German and English speaking worlds to refer to the same things. In this case, although Hegel's "Philosophy of Right" makes many statements about "The State", about "The State" being the realized absolute freedom of humanity in spiritual as well as normal ways, etc...if you look at what he's really talking about, it's not government he's referring to, but a state of affairs in the country itself. The State in Hegel does not automatically refer to the Government.

The parts of Hegel's philosophy of right are very clearly set out: there are three spheres of human activity, that of the family, that of the world of individuals, and that of the State. The family corresponds to rural small towns, the world of individuals refers to commercial towns where business is done, and the State refers to political entities that encompass features of both, of agricultural society and commercial trading, along with commercial production. In other words, the State that Hegel talks about is what we in the U.S. would probably call a Country, or, literally, a particular State in the U.S. like "The State of Michigan" or "The State of New York", referring to all of the activity of people that happen within that State, but not necessarily including the government of that State itself.

One could also label it the Nation-State.

Because of this it's clear that Hegel's many statements about the State being the realm of freedom refer to a social change in how everyday life occurs in a developed political entity. The State, the form of a modern country, resolves the age old contradiction between conservative rural life and individualistic city-state life by allowing for both collective or communal forms of organization as well as individual freedom. This is very close to socialism, with the proviso that Hegel most likely thought of this as being an extension or accommodation with paternalism rather than the complete overturning of it and use of collective organization in non-paternalistic ways.

Evidence for the separation of Government from The State in Hegel comes directly from the fact that he treats Government separately, explicitly so, as something that acts in harmony with the State but that does not constitute the entire State. The State exists, but government exists to reinforce the norms that The State has already established, and implement various projects for the general welfare based on the feelings and wishes of all actors in The State taken together.

"273. The political state is divided into three substantive branches: (a) The power to fix and establish the universal. This is legislation. (b) The power, which brings particular spheres and individual cases under the universal. This is the function of government. (c) The function of the prince, as the subjectivity with which rests the final decision. In this function the other two are brought into an individual unity. It is at once the culmination and beginning of the whole. This is constitutional monarchy.

" The fanciful abuses of this idea of The State by some are just that. For instance, Giovanni Gentile's conception of Hegel is like a watered down mockery of Hegel's actual philosophy done by someone who wasn't very intelligent to begin with.

on edit: from Hegel,section 278 of Philosophy of Right

"Because sovereignty is the ideality of all particular powers, it easily gives rise to the common misconception, which takes it to be mere force, empty wilfulness, and a synonym for despotism. But despotism is a condition of lawlessness, in which the particular will, whether of mon- arch or people (ochlocracy) counts as law, or rather instead of law. Sovereignty, on the contrary, constitutes the element of the ideality of particular spheres and offices, in a condition which is lawful and consti- tutional. No particular sphere is independent and self-sufficient in its aims and methods of working. It does not immerse itself in its own separate vocation. On the contrary, its aims are led by and dependent upon the aim of the whole, an aim which has been named in general terms and indefinitely the well-being of the state.

This ideality is manifested in a twofold way. (1) In times of peace the particular spheres and businesses go their way of satisfying their particular offices and ends. According to mere unconscious necessity self-seeking here veers round to a contribution in behalf of mutual pres- ervation and the preservation of the whole (§183). But, also, through a direct influence from above is it that these employments are continually brought back and limited by the aim of the whole (see “Function of Government,” §289), and led to make direct efforts for its preservation. (2) In circumstances of distress, internal or external, the organism con- sisting of its particulars, comes together into the simple conception of sovereignty, to which is intrusted the safety of the state, even at the sacrifice of what is at other times justifiable. It is here that idealism attains its peculiar realization (§321). "

Sovereignty here is the power of the executive. Hegel goes on to say that, basically, the sovereign, in this case the Constitutional Monarch, should be someone who is fully representative of the character of the people, and who is also constrained in action by the Constitution, which is also an emanation of the character of the people.