Aug 27 2012
There have been a spate of articles in places as varied as the WaPo, Huffington Post, and the usual places where leftists publish articles (CounterPunch, TruthDig, here, and so on) about what is at stake in this election. Most of these articles do not tell us to vote for Obama but rather to seek some kind of alternative at best and something close to despair at worst. One of the best of these articles by Henry Giroux (Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism) has just been posted on CounterPunch. This article should be read by all here and offers about as exhausting an analysis as you could want on where we are at politically at this point in time.
Here Giroux provides a clear statement:
A catalogue of indicting evidence reveals the depth and breadth of the war being waged against the social state, and particularly against young people. Beyond exposing the moral depravity of a nation that fails to protect its young, such a war speaks to nothing less than a perverse death-wish, a barely masked desire for self-annihilation-as the wilful destruction of an entire generation not only transforms U.S. politics into pathology, but is sure to signal the death-knell for America’s future. How much longer will the American public have to wait before the nightmare comes to an end?
None of these articles provide us with a viable course of action (Giroux may be an exception), not because there isn’t one as I’ve often pointed out, but that, from a cultural perspective it is out of the question. For example, I have, for years, made the point that power comes from organized, committed and focused communities who are willing to go to the barricades if necessary to assert themselves. I’ve suggested communities, communes, cooperatives, and even creating leftist-oriented corporations either for-profit or non-profit. From that base power can evolve and be used to influence public policy. At this point in history the cultural reality is that people who profess leftist views can’t or won’t cooperate with each other but prefer to live, in large part, fairly atomized lives with occasional bursts of spontaneous chaotic action (Wisconsin and Occupy) during which they fill themselves with fantasies and illusions about their own sense of righteousness. Much of the fantasy around Occupy went like this: “isn’t it obvious that we represent the 99% and once we get out in the streets most people will join us.” Well that didn’t happen, in fact, most people, on balance, opposed these efforts in part because they were chaotic and disorganized and thus inspired little respect or trust with people who know, as a pragmatic reality, that that is not how the world works.
Oct 23 2011
(also published to DKOS)
I don’t like occupying myself with politics very much. It’s a part of life but a relatively minor part for me. If I had my druthers I would and pursue my real love which is art in all its forms. I am attuned and immersed in beauty not politics, business or economic life. However, political issues have to be front and center for all of us right now.
We are faced with such overwhelming collective issues that no one can stay on the sidelines-we must all carry some weight in the struggles we are facing. The most obvious and critical issue we face is the matter of climate-change. Because the Earth is a very complex system it is hard to arrive at any conclusive finding on what the results of human activity on climate are. In short, the science of any complex system can only be approximate and even then there’s always a possibility that the opposite of what we think is true may be true due to one critical detail we missed in our analysis. Such is the nature of complex systems. It is also a matter of philosophy that there is always dramatically more to life than we can ever know even if science were to systematically chart all possible avenues from here to eternity. I will not go through why I have come to that conclusion but that’s the conclusion I’ve come to from a lifetime of questioning, searching and, frankly, finding what I can only call “the mysterious.”
Sep 11 2011
In the late 90’s I shared an office with a Chinese academic who, because of the fact he belonged to a family of scholars going back many generations, was put in a work-camp on the Mongolian border during the Cultural Revolution during most of his adolescence. This was not a happy experience for him and had left deep scars in him. But he still was a Chinese patriot and we would have friendly arguments about Chinese/American conflicts. He expressed doubts that the U.S. would respond to provocations or crises in any muscular way–he saw us as “soft.” I told him that should we ever be attacked the perpetrators would experience a storm of violence beyond their imagining.
I felt, in those days, an underlying sense of frustration and repressed violence that was a result of being the lone superpower in the world yet, we weren’t able to just assert our superiority and, so it appeared to us, not get the proper respect and deference we deserved. I sensed this in American culture. Here we were, the most successful people on earth and we had no national mission like we did when we “fought” and won the Cold War. Capitalism triumphant, prosperity, but what did it mean? Who are we? Why was the most important news story for months a blow job? Neo-conservative intellectuals did write that only a “a new Pearl Harbor” would bring the U.S. out of its lethargy. They made much of our moral decline and need for a unifying enterprise and I think they were right–they saw us as drifting into hedonism and triviality which we were then and still are doing only now much poorer because of the way we reacted to 9/11.
Jun 21 2011
NPR is not exactly gung-ho on covering Climate Change but it presented a thoughtful (for NPR) segment on climate change and the fact that Americans are less likely to “believe” in climate change today than a few years ago despite the fact that scientists are more convinced of the reality of human caused climate change than ever; and b) most Americans believe, or claim to, in science and scientific findings. NPR also pointed out that the most significant trend in climate-change denying is in the GOP and its stalwarts; however, NPR did not, as I guessed it would not, go into why this is so because it would have put its own funding at risk.
So I will say why it is so and I’m not going to blame the politicians. First though I want to emphasize how important the issue is. This issue strikes at the heart of what it means to be a responsible human being and even at civilization itself. We are choosing to live a lifestyle that is clearly and unambiguously destructive to the environment and, in my view, destructive to human society and individual morality even more. By persisting in destructive behavior despite the clear facts–and even if there was some doubt that applying any normal risk-analysis system to the problem would come out, overwhelmingly, to taking action. It is, in short, pragmatic to act on the climate change issue. What I’m interested is why we don’t act on it and what that tells us about us.
May 19 2011
I will first refer to Chris Hedges’ book The Death of the Liberal Class. His analysis of the Americna left’s turning it’s back on the very values it professes is beautifully presented. I will not re-capture his argument here. There are YouTube videos of him giving talks on the subject that I urge you to listen to if you are unfamiliar with his POV. Suffice it to say that what it left of the left is fairly isolated and so far-outside the mainstream that most Americans don’t even know it exists. What the right, for example, terms as “the left” is largely fantasy and projection based on the bizarre idea that Obama is a socialist despite the fact that even rhetorically he is, by Euro standards solidly center-right politically, if not on the right.
The left, in terms of function, today is mainly made up of the extreme right-that is, it is on the right that you see real commitment to revolutionary and fundamental change since the liberals and progressives seemed to have abandoned much interest in the working-class. The militant masses have gone right not left and the most fertile ground for the left is on the libertarian right particularly those gathered around Ron Paul. Paul represents a critical interest that should be first and foremost on any real leftist’s mind. That concern is structural and procedural. How do we re-establish Constitutional rule (in case you haven’t heard it has, in many ways, been suspended) and basic rule-of-law. Honest law, honest law-enforcement, honest courts, and so on are essential. The left cannot succeed at anything if the oligarchs can jail us, torture us, kill us, seize our property, watch us, enter our homes without a warrant often without any reason. Lettres de cachet are now mainstream law. War is carried out on “terror” which is impossible no matter the definition you have of the word-you can have war on France or even a criminal gang but you cannot have a war on terror. Yet this Orwellian term is accepted by the mainstream without any sense of irony, without any question as if it was all perfectly sensible-well it is not in any way sensible. And if you accept that “war” then you accept nonsense and illogic.
It is the libertarian right that is on the forefront of talking about civil liberties, about clearly illegal wars and the growing power of the federal government. As a social democrat it is difficult for me to say “government is the problem” but today I will say that government is the problem. It is the problem because, in most situations and in most of the government, it is acting in the interests of the oligarch class and not the majority of people and furthermore is so constructed that it is furthering an anti-Constitutional, anti-liberty, and anti-human agenda that the libertarian right-wing condemns and the left seems to be ambivalent about. Nothing the government does can be trusted to be anything other than some form of racketeering just as nothing that is said in the mainstream media can be believed even if some of what is said is true. The government is now in service of a criminal class and the right notes that more than the left which seems stunned and hypnotized by the magician Obama.
And worse, it seems more common to see 9/11 skeptics on the right than on the left. The left seems to have swallowed the government/media story without any question–this is stunning in itself. I repeat, even most of the more radical left, including Hedges, accepts the government narrative without question–it is still forbidden on blogs like DKOS to suggest even a minor quibble about the events on 9/11. This to me stamps what is left of the left as dead. When you abandon reason, when you, as a leftist accept government proclamations without question, then how can you consider yourself on the left?
May 12 2011
I like Alex Jones but I don’t trust him. He’s sly but he’s also courageous and he’s unique as a commentator but, above all, he is a salesman. He is one of the only people who predicted 9/11 a few months before it happened–mind you he predicts a lot of things that don’t happen but his prediction of 9/11, nonetheless was uncanny–did he just hit a lucky number? Did he get some inside information–he claims to be privy to insider gossip and certainly the people that populate his shows are interesting. Mind you, I don’t like a lot of the crazy right-wingers he seems to agree with on his show (he tries to agree with everyone) but I think these ideas need airing and I don’t have to agree with people to consider what they are saying.
He has people I like on his show guys I would like hanging out with or who remind me of guys I liked hanging out with–Gerald Celente with his highly articulate ability to insult everyone in the best Italo-American tradition (I’ve hung out a lot with people like him), the Yale-educated intellectual and lover of Liebnitz (how endearing to listen to someone like that) Webster Tarpley, the grand southern gentleman Paul Craig Roberts and one of the most unique people in this country (who now lives in Mexico) Jesse Ventura. Because he keeps company with these highly interesting (btw, I don’t necessarily go along with everything these guys say but they base what they say on something real which is more than I can say about the MSM which is, in my view, consists entirely of edicts from the Central Committee. I have almost stopped listening to NPR unless it is a non- “news” show.
After the alleged assassination of OBL I got on the Alex Jones channel. I can’t listen to him for too long since he is, shall we say, somewhat erratic in his articulateness and “truthiness.” One of the figures who came out of the woodwork exclusively on the Alex Jones Show is Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, a collaborator on several Tom Clancy books as well as long-time government operative and Assistant Secretary of State–the guy seems to be a real person but since he’s basically a spook and the model Clancy used to create the character of Jack Ryan there’s little real info on him. Having heard the guy on Alex’s show what he said not only about the OBL hoax (I think that is pretty obvious–the governments is so pathetic you have to be stupid not to think something is funny about it) but about the general situation. To me these interview are so explosive, particularly, when he explicitly warned Obama and his people that there would be a revolution if he attempted another false-flag operation which sounded a lot like a threat yet there’s virtually nothing on this interview in the MSM. You would think that they’d try to debunk Dr. Pieczenik or note his very real threat to Obama. If the guy is real they should note it if the guy is a fraud they should debunk it. All I’ve seen is that his Wikipedia entry which suddenly got a note that it is a candidate for deletion.
So what is going on? Is Jones really on to something? Has he become a focal point for dissenters? How much of what he says can be believed? He’s constantly drumming up fear that some terrible things are about to happen most of which, eventually, turn out to be false. Can we support someone who’s on the right as far as immigration policy, about “socialism” and about climate-change, yet is with us (those of us who are highly skeptical of the the official 9/11 story and the weird OBL execution and burial at sea) as well as being an anti-imperialist, anti-globalist and anti-police-state activist. The guy does stand up relentlessly for these things. So what do you think?
May 11 2011
“Superhero movies are like fairy tales for older people,” continues Lee, whose voice envelops the listener with a raspy, lilting warmth. “All those things you imagined –if only I could fly or be the strongest — are about wish fulfillment. … And because of that, I don’t think they’ll ever go out of vogue.”
This is from article in today’s WaPo on Stan Lee’s take on super-hero films. The article is, as usual, puerile and unenlightening which is not the author’s fault who I know writes to the general standards of the WaPo that is militantly middle-brow-superficial. Still Lee’s insights say a lot.
Let me parse what he said just a little. First of all “fairy tales” are not just for children. I think it’s been pretty well-proven by now that these tales are the remnants of ancient teaching stories that go back millenia in one for or another. The most obvious of these stories (or collection of stories) are the Mahabharata, the Illiad and Odyssey, and the Bible are stories crafted over time to have resonance with children, average adults, and those that aspire to or have achieved a higher state of consciousness. These themes can be shown to have deep resonance in the human psyche. None of these stories were “wish fulfillment” stories though some contain elements of wish fulfillment. The modern super-hero myth, like the fractured modern version of fairy tales aimed at children, has no depth of wisdom. At best, as Lee later explains in the article the heroes have “personality” i.e., they are just like you and me with the usual life difficulties. This is a device to connect us viscerally with the characters and it works–but it is not wisdom it’s just a device.
May 08 2011
First, I’m not sure there’s any point to writing this. Aside from the fact this blog has fallen off rather dramatically, the subject of 9-11 is not a big favorite her or anywhere. However, I was taking a nice walk this morning and the though came into my head to write a diary on this subject. It may be one of my last ones–I’m kind of through being concerned about the political and cultural situation in this country. It has gone way too far into fantasy such that any kind of intelligent discussion is almost impossible since we have, even if we don’t admit it, lost sight of the foundations of Western Civilization which is the rationalistic “Great Conversation” as Mortimer Adler called it. Reasonable arguments go nowhere and are, in fact, automatically discounted usually as “conspiracy theories” since it is almost illegal to parse data and seek patterns. I will make absolutely no case for alternate explanations of 9/11, there’s no point–my beef is not with arguing the patterns that present themselves on the basis of available evidence–that’s a worthwhile argument. My beef is, as I’ve indicated, with the fact that any argument based on facts that goes contrary to beliefs that make people feel good is not only discounted but is utterly out of the question.
I want to examine, briefly, just how different the world is now than it was ten years ago. Frankly, if I think about it too deeply I want to weep not just for our political situation but for myself who is now living in an irrational world. I feel I am falling with no place to plant my feet and the sad part is that I see other people in the same situation only they don’t even know it. If you turn off your consciousness, if you devolve, morally, spiritually and intellectually then you are fine–that sense of “falling” I describe is not perceivable unless you are sensitive to the historical and spiritual dimension.
May 02 2011
The killing of Osama Bin Laden the late scion of a great Saudi family closely connected to the Saudi royals shows the exact condition of American culture. Bin Laden and the other people who were in the compound could have been arrested. I doubt, surprised as they were, they offered much resistance against heavily armed and armored troops. It will be interesting to hear if anyone in the propaganda media will wonder why these people were killed. Also, it is interesting that he was said to have been “buried at sea.” Of course no one will wonder–well did they actually kill Bin Laden? We have no proof he was killed. It is possible, for example, that Bin Laden had been dead for quite a while and the PR people figures it was time to rev up some blood-lust.
This sort of brings us full-circle to the question of what really happened on 9/11 and whether Bin Laden was ever really involved. I have, personally, seen no evidence of his involvement though clearly an organization called Al-qaida seems to have been involved. But who were these people? Where did they come from? I leave that to the reader to look into. Since I have some knowledge of how covert ops and politics (which is often full of all kinds of covert ops, false flag operations and so on) I know that evidence is important in these matters and the evidence for any of the governments assertions is just no there. And it seems to be a pattern. Oh, you killed Osama–where’s the body? Oh, we dropped him in the ocean man he was, like, heavy. Ok, of course I believe you–you are the U.S. gov’t and you’re always straight with us, right?
Apr 08 2011
I just wanted to comment on this briefly as I was just reading in a WaPo piece by Cillizza how the citizenry probably will just hate on both parties should the shutdown actually happen.
For those of us in opposition this is a golden opportunity to do our little bit to break people out of the hypnotism that the major parties are anything worth supporting–the issues are utterly puzzling to everyone including me and I’m not usually puzzled as much as this by Washington politics–something very strange is going on here.
Apr 08 2011
We can blame “them” all we want but as my first teacher in politics Walt Kelly had his main character Pogo say “Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.”
Leaders and media personalities all have their own motivations and little cabals and interests and careers but in the end they reflect who we are. It isn’t just because we are, a democracy (more or less) but that the cultural ambience always has an effect at least for those who interact on various levels with the world. The more rarified and wealthy a person, of course, the more likely they will be out of touch with everyday interactions. But even then there are influences of the media, the music, the arts (both good an bad) and even the language itself. In fact, as an aside, language itself carries inherent values not only in the meanings but in the rhythms and sounds as well. We are, also, influenced by each other in other ways, body language, facial expressions, clothing, hair styles even moods and “vibes.” We are far more connected than we think. Yet, part of that connection involves a culture that is focused on what I describe as narcissistic isolation. To be more precise, the culture encourages people live separate lives focused on fulfilling fantasies. Work life and “personal” life are largely segregated-a person has to put on a work mask and take it off and be “real” when they home. Work is, usually, a place where arbitrary and often inexplicable goals and values are pursued where mysterious and all-powerful hierarchies largely frame your work life. When we get home we play, like children, at life-play fantasy sports, watch porn, shop for clothes so that we can be our very own dolls, and “unwind” (does anybody wonder why we have to be wound up in the first place).
Apr 07 2011
Dmitri Orlov is an interesting commentator. He has been claiming publically since about 2006 that the U.S. is on the edge of collapse similar to what the Soviet Union went through only a bit worse. He was born in Russia and experienced first-hand the privation of the post-Soviet period which, if you dug a little, was pretty bad. Interestingly this collapse had been predicted up to a decade before it happened but was not widely reported because of the Reagan agenda of demonizing the Soviet Union as an existential threat to the U.S.
Orlov along with people like James Howard Kunstler and many others on both the right and left-in fact, my monitoring of this movement shows a real blurring of left/right distinctions that is interesting in itself. I won’t go into the merits of Orlov’s predictions here but only want to say that the movement towards survivalism and a fascination and even longing for a collapse seems to be spreading in this country. I don’t believe this movement is irrational at all. Why do I say that? Because it should be very clear that we are in a kind of serious decline, not just economic decline, but serious political and social decline that we ought to wake up to or Orlov’s collapse scenarios may in fact take place.