As Seen On TV

Bubbles is the philosopher of the trailer park. He, like Leo Strauss, cites Plato when advising Julian to use the Noble Lie. He cites Gordon Sumner when telling Ricky that if he loves something, he should set it free. He takes in kitties, as did Lenin and Dr. Johnson. He lives in a tool shed like Diogenes lived in a tub. He’s nearly blind, like Tiresias or Master Po in Kung Fu, and his coke-bottle glasses are an homage to good government philosopher Izzy Stone and musical/s&m philosopher Mark Mothersbaugh. His “Green Bastard” and Conky alter egos are in the manner of James Madison’s “Publius,” Lev Bronstein’s “Trotsky,” and Andy Kaufman’s “Tony Clifton.” He calls Randy a “cocksucker” and a “cheeseburger-eating bastard,” epithets frequently spewed, as everyone knows, by Nietzsche during his final days with tertiary syphilis. He was a foundling, like Aristotle and Moses. Like Confucius and Christ, he just wants everyone to get along.

Actually, this is all bullshit, done in mockery of hipster douchesnorkels who write wanky articles on the internet celebrating their own folly of digging far too deeply into perfectly shallow – yet perfectly decent and authentically artistic for that shallowness – pop culture material. Digging for the sake of digging, finding fool’s gold, and smugly telling the world it’s the real thing; meanwhile, look at this formerly lovely landscape their mining’s disturbed.

Say, Don’t Be Mean! Mean What You Don’t Say

Norman Mailer, on how vague and euphemistic language became under Soviet totalitarianism (at roughly 17m 57s):

I learned a lot about Soviet society…[we wanted to have the interpreter ask] ‘What year was your father in the gulag?’ since it had come up in the conversation in a roundabout way. And [the interpreter] said, ‘I will not ask that question; it will wreck the interview. You will insult them by such a question; it will not go on.’ So we said, well ask the question the way you want to ask it. So she asked the question and got an answer so we turned and said what did you ask them and she’d say, ‘I say to them: was there a year that was worse for your family than other years?’ And through that you began to get a sense of how aroundabout everything was in the old Soviet Union, that people became….not evasive, but they phrased questions in such a way that they had no sharp edges, there was no handle to the conversation so they could not be repeated definitively afterward in such a way as to incriminate you.

This, he goes on to say, in contrast to the native “brusque approach” of the Russian language which has “no definite or indefinite articles.”

Whenever I encounter someone talking about euphemism (e.g., PC), twistification (e.g., legalese, propaganda), and other forms of linguistic dishonesty, I think of two people who were excellent on the subject, rightly calling such phenomena precinctive to sick societies. George Carlin:


And Gore Vidal:

“Currently, any use of the word “race” in the United States is considered an a priori proof of the user’s racism. Abstract nouns are now subject to close scrutiny to make sure that the noun’s deployer is not a racist or sexist or ageist or bigot. Meanwhile, any word or phrase that might cause distress must undergo erasure while euphemism (the E- — or is it U- or Eu- — word?) is the order of the day, as “body bag” suddenly becomes, in Pentagonese, “human remains pouch” since “pouch” is a resolutely cheery word, suggesting cute marsupials Down Under, while “bag” is a downer, as in “bag lady,” Munich, appeasement, Hitler. A babble of words that no one understands now fills the airwaves, and language loses all meaning as we sink slowly, mindlessly, into herstory rather than history because most rapists are men, aren’t they?

when Confucius was asked what would be the first thing that he would do if he were to lead the state – a never-to-be-fulfilled dream — he said, __Rectify the language__. This is wise. This is subtle. As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: You liberate a city by destroying it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests. Fianlly, words must be so twisted as to justify an empire that has now ceased to exist, much less make sense.

War! What’s it Good For? Absolutely Everything!

….from the rightwing point-of-view. Consider the following, from the LRB. Labour’s Foreign Policy Quandaries:

The Labour Party has always been split over foreign policy. The Boer War, fought between capitalists and racists, made it difficult to choose a side; likewise the First World War (imperialism v. Prussianism); less so the Second World War, which divided the Conservatives more. The Falklands War was fought against a fascist dictator, but by the hated Thatcher and in defence of a colonial relic. And then there’s the Iraq War and the bombing of Syria.

All these conflicts have posed genuine moral quandaries for ‘progressives’, which is why they have been so damaging for party unity. Suspicious leftists have occasionally wondered whether they might not have been deliberately provoked by the right in order to have this effect, an idea that goes back to the mid-Victorian Liberal Richard Cobden. It seems unlikely, though Thatcher and Cameron have obviously been aware of the benefit for them.

War is always favored by the right for the psychological dividend it pays: nationalistic sadism, surrogate testosterone, war porn. These people are political – and often literal – sociopaths. War is also favored by the right as a means of social engineering. And I’m sure “suspicious leftists” are correct about its tendency to split the left being a permanent part of wingnut political strategy. Wingnuts love war for its own sake; plus, it injures the political enemy – what’s not to like, from their point of view?

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Not mentioned, though, is a fact of war just as crucial for, and attractive to, the right: its economic effect. The grocery list of government spending programs acceptable to the rightwing is short; at the top is military spending. The pattern for the last 35 years has been that when the rightwing is in power, it increases “defense” spending while either cutting or maintaining existing tax rates. The result is a ballooning deficit that is either ignored or falsely blamed on social programs. When the right loses power it leaves a fiscal mess for the other party to clean up, often at the budgetary expense of social programs – war as a sort of prophylactic against useful public works, even when the other side is in office. Heads, the right wins; tails, the left loses. Viewed as such, war is an irresistible tool for the right. That’s the real and only reason why its party establishment purged its (relative) peaceniks, the paleocons, while with careful dishonesty publicly stating that the rationale was cultural. They won’t be denied its use if they can help it.

Putting the Ec(h)t In Sects

Isn’t it odd how many high level Republicans are or were members, latent or otherwise, of obscure or at least relatively unusual Protestant denominations? So many that it’s nearly typical – and quite apart from the two cliche wingnut Protestant types: the country club Episcopalian businessman and the working or middle class (often Southern) Baptist.

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Hoover was Quaker. Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman, Nixon’s “Prussians,” were Christian Science. Reagan was Disciple of Christ. Orrin Hatch and the Romneys are Mormon, as was, briefly, Marco Rubio. Nixon, of course, was Quaker – perhaps the worst Quaker ever (William Appleman Williams wrote a great rant on the difference between Hoover’s faith and the 37th president’s). Ike was raised by a Jehovah’s Witness. TR was Dutch Reformed. Michelle Bachman’s church was of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. If this is really a thing then look out for Ben Carson, who is a Seventh-Day Adventist.

Via Negativa

It’s not exactly that I don’t care what you admire or whom, what you believe, your ideals. It’s just that positivity isn’t nearly as interesting, and just as importantly isn’t as informative, as negativity. Please do not praise unless you’re using sarcasm. Rather, do me the favor of sharing your most rancorous beliefs; rant for me. Tell me what and who you hate, what you think sucks, and why. Mock, sneer, snarl – but be intelligent about it. Condemn and justify! And don’t give me that fake-hippie garbage that hating is wrong, that you don’t hate; it’s bullshit, and you’re lying.

Warren Harding, a boringly sunshiney proto-Reagan said, “There’s good in everybody. Boost. Don’t knock.” Well, fuck a bunch of him. Better is Alice Roosevelt Longworth, his contemporary, whose famous line “if you haven’t got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me” isn’t as much about petty gossiping as it’s a grand critical and artistic statement.

Socialism Vs. Neoliberal Identity Politics

Zizek in the video above beginning at about 9m30s, is righteous:

Post-political society, where social-political life or state rule, is more and more reduced to rational administration. Like, we don’t debate about economy. As Peter Mendelson put it nicely two, three years ago (of course I disagree with him…) but he said, “let’s admit it: we are all Thatcherites in economy.” So the only thing we can do is – you know, when I was young we were still dreaming about ‘socialism with a human face’ — his point was, all we can do is ‘global capitalism with a human face.’ You know, we change a little bit – more tolerant laws, more rights to this/that, more social security – but you accept the rules of the game.

In this state of things, all conflicts are politically neutralized, they are no longer perceived as political economic conflicts; they are restated as cultural conflicts – in this sense, they are naturalized. And of course with cultures – different ways of life – all you can do is tolerate. The solution of the conflict is not ‘I will make you disappear or you will kill me’ but ‘let’s tolerate.’ A nice example is here in Mexico I read how Mexican poor farmers, they try to formulate their fight as exploitation of poor farmers. Nobody was interested. You know, the moment you complain in this way, there is always some neoliberal guy who says ‘yes, but sorry [this is a nice word] structural readjustments are necessary.’ So there is some intelligent manipulation; they reformulated their struggle as the struggle of indigenous people against the Spanish cultural imperialism. All of a sudden, they became much more popular. A nice example but for me a rather sad example of how to be heard at all you have to culturalize your predicament.

When exploitation is normalized by definition no one gives a shit. Only when the exploited can tie their predicament to some kind of social bigotry can they have any hope of remedy – and even then the compensation is less about return of resources and more about an empty recognition of the struggle by the creative upper middle class (“dignity”). Of course the problem is that exploitation and bigotry need not – and increasingly often do not – coincide. In fact the world is run by a veritable Benetton advertisement of a transnational, multiracial, religiously ecumenical neoliberal elite that is quite happy to exploit anyone it can, regardless of color or creed. Exploited groups incentivized to frame their plight as a result of historical bigotry rather than of contemporary economy in turn incentivize other exploited groups to do same in reaction and competition all of which further atomizes and particularizes working and middle class society into tribalist conflict – meanwhile, exploitation intensifies. This is our world, and it sucks.

Solidarity

You are a farmer. You live in a hot, arid place, so you grow a crop suited to your environment: a tree crop, probably olives, or possibly citrus like lemons or blood oranges, or perhaps something else like maybe figs or almonds. Like all farmers you feel a connection to the particular plot of soil from which you wring a living, but because you farm a tree crop this feeling is enhanced: you, literally, attend to and profit from the plants your grandfather or great-grandfather or an even more distant ancestor planted.

You own your land; you have the deed and your claim is recognized as legal and binding throughout the world; moreover, you can prove just title to your land without consulting a religious book. Your country was invaded in your grandfather’s day. Many of your kind were killed or kicked out of the country, but you remained; you are by legal definition considered a citizen of your country. And yet, your religion is different from the new majority’s who consider you a second-class citizen even though they promised the world they wouldn’t. This new majority is made of people who have been bullied and abused; they claim your land in the name of a deed their God allegedly signed over to them 3,000 years ago. Like many people who’ve been bullied, they have a huge chip on their shoulder: an abused child suddenly with all the power it ever wanted, looking for a smaller kid to kick around and vent frustration upon. You may or may not be personally very religious yourself but the degree of your belief is irrelevant; that you’re not of the same religious and ethnic background as the majority, is what matters.

Because of this very basic fact of difference, at any given moment the government of your country can and eventually will send a bulldozer, purchased with money donated by the United States taxpayer, to your farm. The bastard who drives it and his armed escort may or may not give you a warning before he levels your farm, your house, your patrimony, all that you own, because of the majority’s desire for lebensraum. Your consent or lack thereof is irrelevant; you are not paid for your loss nor will you be. You simply are a native who owns something the new majority desires, like an American Indian in the 1800s, or a Pole or Jew (irony of ironies) in 1939, except this might be 1985 or 1995 or 2015 and all years between and your country claims to be a representative democracy that respects the rule of law.

The majority has a world class army with the best equipment the world’s only superpower can donate; you, if you’re lucky, have an AK-47 and the ability to MacGyver bigger things. What do you do? Do you fight dirty, as the American Indians did? Probably so. And if you do, in my opinion you’re no more of a terrorist than Geronimo or Crazy Horse, and sadly just as doomed.