The Subtle Game

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Watching my nephew, his wife, and their daughter all sitting on the couch, the TV blairing away while each of them gazed into their isolated technological worlds. Their cell-phones and eyes locked in a closed circuit loop, oblivious of the external environment or my conversation of five miniutes, I began thinking of this almost eerie truth: We are still the children of Kant, internalizing not only our gaze, but folding the world into our technological gadgets to live out our lives in an artificial maze of light.

The external world of the natural environment along with human senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing all focused to the empire of the eye lost in the gaze of our technological worlds, where our of emotions, the affective relations of the body itself is being eroded to the point that we are truly preparing for the moment when we will enter into these artificial dream worlds without so much as a remembrance of the external environment or our bodies. It is happening so slowly and subtly that we are even oblivious to our own process and complicity in this movement toward the eclipse of distance and the negation of the world for another one. For a technological world where the symbolic cages of our future desires will become part of a joyous new prison. We want even know we’ve lost our bodies in that world to come having become electronic ghosts or our former lives we’ll live out our days as bits of commercial feed-back in an endless economic game of holidays whose only goal is profit. Hell is a labyrinth in which one does not know it is so, there being no center or circumference; nor outlet. Only an endless vista for the eyes duplicitous gaze…

With the new VR tools that will become ever so refined over the coming decades (they being monstrous frog masks now!) we will forget that the natural ever existed, and will instead discover around us the merger of our technological dreamscapes and the outer world. We will be empowered by endless fantasies and technological entertainment systems that will lull us into our sleeping slavery happy and satisfied to be a part of the ever growing techno-commercial empires of our Plutocrats. Those who resist will be shown the door outside the gated and secure enclaves of the future, to ick out their bare existence as the denizens of a dark work world without the benefit of social interference or help. This darkling world we’re creating will not protrude too soon, but will happen as generation by generation the truth of the past, of history, of those alive who remember that reality was once different are all gone.

Even as I gaze back to my past life realizing how much has changed, and how my young family around me no longer sees or perceives reality in the way I do, knowing how far we’ve drifted from the 20th Century already I ponder this simple transition into the electronic void with neither fear nor trepidation. How can one fear what others see as joy and fulfillment of their deep seated desires? The concept of ‘joy’ must be understood here with a certain analytical coldness, emptied of the ideas of rapture, plenitude or jubilation that are commonly associated with it. One can experience joy at all levels of intensity, including very low ones, associated with the most ordinary; it can even go unnoticed, lost within a larger complex of affects that makes it hard to isolate. Once the idea of joy is purged of all connotations of effervescence and enthusiasm, it is perfectly correct to say that securing the money that allows the satisfaction of the basal desire causes joy – but in the same way that escaping death by becoming a slave causes joy.

This will be an age when the mass consumption of the consumer herself must be reached for the full scope of the Spinozist statement ‘they can imagine hardly any species of joy without the accompanying idea of money as its cause’ to become clear.  The supreme deftness of capitalism, in this respect decisively the product of the Fordist era, lay in using the expanded supply of things to buy and the stimulation of demand to provoke this reordering of desire, so that from then on the ‘image [of money] … occupie[d] the mind of the multitude more than anything else’.1 Yet, in this new age of the symbolic order the image of money will have given way to the gift of life in the eternal now of the virtual worlds of machinic existence, a world where security is handled by the great AGI’s – artificial intelligences who will manipulate every aspect of our holographic lives.

Those of us living now scoff at such conclusions, yet we want be there to see it. I speak of a time without such as us who think and believe differently. Oh, one could trace the genealogy of thought that has brought us to this point, how Kant turned away from reality in favor of the Mind’s own knowing – the inner turn being none other than this epistemic gaze. At the end of the 20th Century the divorce between sign and its referent, mind and its outer environment (nature) was complete, and the end of the Kantian experiment was at hand. No longer believing that the external world exists, we’ve allowed ourselves to build artificial playgrounds where our need for symbols and symbolic action will play out their destiny. Even the scientists work not with the actual, but rather with its symbolic equivalent in endless mathematical models of the universe to which it can create algorithms to evolve a future unbound. Whatever reality was for our ancestors, whatever we thought of the natural is no more; instead is this symbolic realm of endless signs that do not so much as reveal reality as construct it. This was the great postmodern vision, which is even now falling into ill-repute as many turn back to some form of realist discourse.

Yet, even as philosophers beg the question of reality, the world of techno-commercial consumerism continues as if reality no longer mattered. All that matters is the game of reality, the Reality Studio that is constructed out of all the vast machines of the Mediatainment Empire. In this transitional period between the old world of stable outer natural environment, and the new world cut off from its supports in reality living on symbols that no longer refer to anything other than themselves we exist in a carefully managed world of artificiality. And, even if the very real consequences of climate change, social chaos, disease, famine, war, etc. continue to exist these are not the center of the new arrangements of the techno-commercial empire. Even as the pressure of the old impinges on the new the Oligarchs of irreality continue to portray the world as a happy holiday in the sun.

In my own mind I realize the difficulty of trying to bridge the gap in understanding. Trying to explain such notions (not my own!) that the world and the artificial are growing ever wider in their gaps and cracks to the point that the old natural environs will one day flood back into our electronic mindscapes with a vengeance. They laugh at me as if this, too, were just one more crackpot theory. I realize it is slowly dawning on me that it is already too late to convince people of what is happening. I’ve a library filled with books on every aspect of our current malaise: Anthroposcene, Neoliberalism, Post-Marxist radicalism, Deleuze, Zizek, Badiou, Non-human turn, Post-human thought, novels, sci-fi, noir, Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Pynchon, etc. all warning us of the coming natural collapse around our planet. Yet, in our socio-cultural game of illusions most people could care less as long as they are gratified in this immediate now. In an age when the truth has given way to a post-truth world we are truly lost in our own machiniations, unable to think critically or even register the outer terror of the coming catastrophe of our extinction.


  1. Lordon, Frederic. Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire (pp. 29-30). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

Ernst Cassirer: The Last Kantian

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Why read Ernst Cassirer?  Cassirer occupies a unique place in twentieth-century philosophy. His work pays equal attention to foundational and epistemological issues in the philosophy of mathematics and natural science and to aesthetics, the philosophy of history, and other issues in the “cultural sciences” broadly conceived. More than any other German philosopher since Kant, Cassirer thus aims to devote equal philosophical attention both to the (mathematical and) natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften) and to the more humanistic disciplines (Geisteswissenschaften). In this way, Cassirer, more than any other twentieth-century philosopher, plays a fundamental mediating role between C. P. Snow’s famous “two cultures.” He also plays a similarly mediating role between the two major traditions in twentieth-century academic philosophy — the “analytic” and “continental” traditions — whose radically different (and often mutually uncomprehending) perspectives on the relationship between scientific and humanistic elements in their subject gave rise to a fundamental split or gulf between philosophy as it came to be practiced in the Anglo-American world, on the one side, and as it was practiced in most of the rest of the world, on the other. Cassirer, by contrast, had fruitful philosophical relations with leading members of both traditions — with Moritz Schlick, the founder and guiding spirit of the Vienna Circle of logical empiricists, whose work in logic and the philosophy of science had a decisive influence on the development of philosophy in the United States, and with Martin Heidegger, the creator of a radical “existential-hermeneutical” version of Husserlian phenomenology which quickly became dominant in continental Europe.1

Cassirer would flee Nazi Germany for America and bring his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms with him. Many of us already know the extent of the symbolic or linguistic turn in France. Alain Caillé suggests, “the bulk of the liveliest French thought of the postwar period gravitates around this notion of symbolism.”2 This is a trajectory with a complicated genealogy, reaching from poststructuralist figures like Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, and Jean Baudrillard back through structuralist thinkers like Roland Barthes, Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, and Claude Lévi-Strauss to interwar figures like Georges Bataille, Michel Leiris, the Collège de sociologie, and the surrealists to Marcel Mauss, Émile Durkheim, and Ferdinand Saussure.

It is a commonplace that Claude Lévi-Strauss, the key figure steering postwar French thought toward a preoccupation with the symbolic, conceived structural anthropology on the linguistic model pioneered by Saussure, Jakobson, Greimas, and others. Building on Saussure’s exclusion of the historical dimension of language in order to establish a synchronic science of language as a system, Lévi-Strauss defined the symbolic as a closed order of social representations that form a system, the function of which is to render the perception of the world coherent by superimposing on the continuum of reality a grid of taxonomic oppositions and syntagmatic associations. Likewise, Lévi-Strauss drew heavily from Saussure’s semiological principle, in which linguistic values emerge through differential relations among signs. Linguistics, as Marcel Hénaffwrites, opened for Lévi-Strauss a new approach to the study of myth, indeed of all cultural systems: “what is important is not the figures or themes as such but the system of their differences, of their reciprocal relations.” Accordingly, Lévi-Strauss and those directly influenced by him studied symbolism as a code, as an invariant structure, at the expense of acts of speech within living contexts. (Breckman, 10-11)

In a series of lectures in at the Warburg Library during the 20’s Cassirer would formulate his on theory of the culture industry. In these lectures he’d promote the conception of human beings as most fundamentally “symbolic animals,” interposing systems of signs or systems of expression between themselves and the world, then becomes the guiding philosophical motif for elucidating the corresponding conditions of possibility for the “fact of culture” in all of its richness and diversity. Because of his liberal humanist discourse, his proclivities to systematic thought he would for the most part go by the wayside during the so called postmodern era. And, yet, a careful study of his works reveals a man who was already investigating much of the same territory that only now in our post-Marxist age as the notions of Symbolic Order and the manipulation of our socio-cultural matrix by the massive Media-Industrial Complex is more and more exposed we would do well to return to such philosophers.

As Breckman states it the thought and work of Cassirer lie at a deeper, autonomous level that gives rise to the more sophisticated forms by a dialectical developmental process. From mythical thought, religion and art develop; from natural language, theoretical science develops. It is precisely here that Cassirer appeals to “romantic” philosophical tendencies lying outside the Kantian and neo-Kantian tradition, deploys an historical dialectic self-consciously derived from Hegel, and comes to terms with the contemporary Lebensphilosophie of Wilhelm Dilthey, Henri Bergson, Max Scheler, and Georg Simmel — as well as with the closely related philosophy of Martin Heidegger. One need not agree at all with Cassirer. I certainly do not, and yet one can discover in his thought the demise of liberal humanism which he entombs in his systematic philosophy. One might say he gave a rendition and summing up of the whole of Kantian Enlightenment thought in is German Idealist and Romantic streams. So for that alone one could benefit. As one of the last of the neo-Kantians Cassirer defines and delimits that era of thought, bringing the humanist and scientific worlds of culture together in a last ditch effort to provide a foundation of liberal humanist learning. That he would fail in the totalizing effort is not the point, but that his parallel stream of thought should be aligned in hour philosophical histories along with the vogue of all those French Intellectuals we seem to revere at the expense of many others.

In my own pantheon I place Cassirer with the novelist Thomas Mann, who also fled Nazi Germany for America, and represents the last encyclopedic effort of the liberalist humanist in German thought as novelist; an inheritor of Goethe’s Enlightenment and its Romantic and Late Romantic decadence. Mann’s two great novel’s (outside the mythical Joseph tetralogy), The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus would portray this symbolic heritage in dramatic fashion.


  1. Friedman, Michael, “Ernst Cassirer“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  2. Breckman, Warren. Adventures of the Symbolic: Postmarxism and Democratic Theory (p. 10). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.

Children Stories: Spaces of Freedom

The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever will be born must destroy a world.

—Herman Hesse
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I remember one of Hermann Hesse’s fables of a political prisoner who for years would paint and re-paint the same scene in his isolated cell. With little or no light he’d paint this beautiful garden world over and over and over. A guard once asked him why he didn’t paint something else. He answered: “I will just as soon as it becomes real.” Then one night he finished another of his renditions, set his palette down, carefully washed his brushes, put on his old cravat and street clothes, folded up his brief belongings and walked off into his garden world. The guards found the painting the next day, and one of the guards remarked: “Oh, I see he changed the painting.” The other guard, puzzled: “What? The only thing different is the little man walking there toward that cozy little home with the fireplace.” They both laughed, puzzled at how the man could have escaped his prison cell, there being no sign of exit anywhere.

The obvious notion here is that our keepers are all literalists, while imagination will always allow us freedom even under the most dire circumstances. Many – Freud included, affirmed the notion that madness is a form of extreme revolt against our keepers here in this dungeon world of reality. At times of direst exploitation the only avenue of escape is the mind itself, the greatest freedom is to be able to not only survive but to create a ‘space of freedom’ in which the keepers have no part or rule. In our desperate times we need those who have the fortitude and will, imaginative need and mental concentration to open up these ‘spaces of freedom’ that allow the multitudes avenues of exit from the Keeper’s World.

The literalist stems from all those like Plato who dichotomized two-worlds: the world around us as illusion and illusory, and some real world outside time and space that is eternal and undying, etc.. Others would say to us that there is no need for such a dualism, that what we truly need is to see this world under other eyes. That freedom and imagination are the keys to this realm which is already an open and strange multidimensional creation. That it is the literalists who reduce us to a two-world vision that have truly enslaved our mind’s in false dichotomies, while the others among us have offered another path, one that exit’s the false dichotomies for a vision of this world seen with other eyes.

Think of the statement I used from Hesse on the bird. One could see this as a Platonic parable of the bird awakening to the other world beyond, yet one could also see that what is truly being cracked open, allowing the bird to escape is the prison of the Mind that keeps us locked in all the dualisms of false dichotomies: one that allows the bird not to destroy our literal world, but rather to destroy the false image of the our world that has been taught us by all those who seek to keep command and control over our lives. All those who have build prisons of the Mind, or as William Blake once termed it “mind manacles” that bind us to a false Symbolic Order. We are all bound in sense in our socio-cultural contexts not knowing that it is but one among a multitude of possibilities. We perceive the world through conceptual and figurative forms that lock us into a vision induced from our collective schooling from the time of our Parents to the more formidable education (educing ) at the hands of the State. When someone awakens to other possibilities the State terms that person mad, insane, crazy. (Of course not all insanity is this, some is actual trauma, disease, physical and mental aberration etc. ) Yet, those who break out of the imposed constraints of the official reality system are deemed ‘touched’. The Shaman’s of old were such beings, isolated from the Tribe, usually forced into sacred zones of taboo, etc.

We’ve lost touch with the ancient views of our ancestral dreamtime, etc. In our age of Enlightenment we’ve locked ourselves into a world ruled by Reason, and everything else into Irrationalism. This false dichotomizing of the world into Reason and Madness has produced much of the vocabularies we use to describe paranoia and our politics of affective rupture. We’ve seen this in the recent election cycle in which the so to speak Establishment represents in our parable the Prison Keeper’s of a false worldview, while the fringe that see escape, exit, revolt are seen in the extremes of Left or Right as madness itself. Our Mediatainment systems portray this in a cartoon world of simplification rather than truly uncovering the complex dynamism at play. So we get the false wars between the Left and Right on the political scale that keeps us hating, rather than breaking out of our Prison. It’s this that Rousseau was actually speaking of when he said ‘Man was born free; and everywhere is in chains (The Social Contract, 1762).’ The Symbolic Order of our current global network Reality Studio locks us into a vision of hate, war, bigotry, mindless fear and terror… and, we buy into the cartoon vision portrayed in the Media Central.

Time to step out of the Reality Studio. That is the meaning of Hesse’s parables. Time to destroy the false world that would bind us in a Surveillance Society of Paranoia… That would bind us to some literal apocalyptic bloodbath and future of technological slavery and defeat. What we need instead is that poverty of mind (Emerson), imaginative need (Blake) that allows us to expand beyond the safe and secure perimeters of our cages, that allows us to enter into invention, imagination, and the power of creativity once again. To break free of this dead world of political and social chaos, and create new spaces of freedom and imagination for ourselves and our children. New stories that are not just vein fantasy, repeatable and forgotten, but rather stories about our actual lives in the here and now struggling to attain a world worth living in.

(Hmmm… I can imagine a Children’s story on this… the mind churns!)

The Great Menippean Tradition

I’ll admit my heritage is with the long line of pessimistic realists… the Great Menippeans!

The Encyclopedia Britannica will give us this rendition on Menippean satire: it is a seriocomic genre, chiefly in ancient Greek literature and Latin literature, in which contemporary institutions, conventions, and ideas were criticized in a mocking satiric style that mingled prose and verse. The form often employed a variety of striking and unusual settings, such as the descent into Hades. Developed by the Greek satirist Menippus of Gadara in the early 3rd century bce, Menippean satire was introduced to Rome in the 1st century bce by the scholar Varro in Saturae Menippeae. It was imitated by Seneca and the Greek satirist Lucian and influenced the development of Latin satire by Horace and Juvenal. The 1st-century-ce Satyricon of Petronius, a picaresque tale in verse and prose containing long digressions in which the author airs his views on topics having nothing to do with the plot, is in the Menippean tradition.

Oxford will tell us this Menippean satire is a form of intellectually humorous work characterized by miscellaneous contents, displays of curious erudition, and comical discussions on philosophical topics. The name comes from the Greek Cynic philosopher Menippus (3rd century bce), whose works are lost, but who was imitated by the Roman writer Varro (1st century bce) among others. The Canadian critic Northrop Frye revived the term in Anatomy of Criticism (1957) while also introducing the overlapping term anatomy after a famous example of Menippean satire, Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). The best‐known example of the form is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865); other examples include the novels of Thomas Love Peacock, and John Barth’s campus novel Giles Goat‐Boy (1966). The humour in these works is more cheerfully intellectual and less aggressive than in those works which we would usually call satires, although it holds up contemporary intellectual life to gentle ridicule.

Yet, during the modern and postmodern eras – so called, we saw the rise of what many term now the drift between maximalist and minimalist forms of Menippean satire, a fusion of socio-cultural critique that would take on the whole of ancient humanism as its target, undermining the very foundations of anthropocentric authority and exceptionalism. In the paradigmatic work of its age James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake would undermine the whole tradition stemming for Aquinas to the Great War flying past the world of race, religion, and nation, producing a work that would go even as far as smashing the world of language itself: abnihilization of the etym” (Wake). For Joyce Western Civilization was already dead and he would bury it in his book along with undermining any sense of resurrectionist ideology and pretense of reviving it. He would undermine the fascist stance of such authoritarian poetics of the Occult complicity of poets like W.B. Yeats and their ilk, along with a detailed undermining of the Catholic Church and its hold on politics and Ireland. He would also disallow any form of nationalist discourse, but would seek to explode the very roots of our rhetorical strategies by including a detailed comedy of politics as part of his drunken satyr play and Saturnalian festival.

Many of the young scholars today are much too lazy to actually delve into the great spread of ancient, modern, and postmodern thought, literature, and philosophy and discover or invent a path forward for our world.   The only lost potential failure in our time is the failure of imagination and reason: it is the failure to do nothing at all, to sit back and allow authoritarian power to diminish us, to strip us of our dignity, our rights, our ways of life. As I show below, there has always been times when authoritarianism ruled, and yet many artisans of that ancient light of reason, the great Menippeans pulled out the truth of their time and shined a light on the darkness with verve and energy of satire, wit, and critique that allowed people to learn the truth by other means: laughter. As Bataille would make this the cornerstone of critique, as would Nietzsche before him… people forget that the tools for battling authority are always ready to hand for those intelligent enough to use them. No matter the darkness of authoritarianism surrounding them. Only those who give up and allow the authorities to win are the true cowards.

There’s a whole world of past literature and culture that many seem ready to obliterate that could teach them a thing or two about the use of language as a weapon: the whole tradition of Menippean satire from Lucian to Pynchon brought to bare every aspect of this technique, which in times of authoritarian rule becomes the low-brow path of critique through sardonic laughter and sadness. The great pessimist realists were all Comic satirists of their age: Chaucer, François Rabelais, Robert Burton, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Nikolai Gogol, James Joyce, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, Stanislaw Lem, Mikhail Bulgakov., DeLillo.. just to scratch the surface. So I’m in good company… I could as well bring in the great writers of the Third World nations, too. From the Middle-East, Africa, South and Middle America, China, and the Island nations, India, the whole world has a literature awaiting us… my only regret at sixty-five is that I had to plunder whole forests to discover the narrow world of my current list of great thinkers, poets, satirists, essayists, etc.

Most of us find our way in the dark forests of an overwhelming and overloaded world of thought. Some term our age the Infobomb implosion because we are stuffed with too much information, too many books, millions of bits of useless data with no rhyme or reason, organization or path into its maze. There was a time when the literary critics task was exemplary at weeding and filtering the wheat from the shaft in current literature, philosophy, historical writing, scientific literature, etc. Now we live with well paid ad men and women who work to promote not truth but the well-paid propaganda of their overlords. We lack the power of the critical gaze, we’ve even begun to shrink from the tradition of ‘critique’ as if it, too, were passé – a dead issue. People turn blankly at the online libraries, blogs, Face Books, Twitters, Linkins, etc. for something worthwhile and find only the echo chamber of their own miniscule minds thrown back at them. The sigh, or get angry, rage at the stupidity of the world. They are blind to the links from the great traditions of thought, literature, philosophy, etc. that would give them the necessary tools to actually think their own thoughts. Rather academics specialize in exceptional vocabularies that no longer speak to the common reader, the regular man and woman in the streets who could use their vast knowledge base. This is where the great books of the Mennipeans came in to fill in that gap in learning and provide in a humorous and equitable feast of mind and eye a festival of thought and learning palatable for all to enter into and bring away something no matter their education, race, gender, or class relations. These were the true democrats of thought …

In many ways the premier writer’s writer of the postmodern age was John Barth whose localized rendition of the whole metaficitonal sequence of writing was none other than a learned discourse on the rhetoric’s underpinning the ancient world of the Menippean satire from its maximalist to minimalist designs, styles, theories, critiques, parodies, pastiche… a school of wit, comedy, and gentle persuasion, a slow learner’s manual for understanding the inner workings of Western Enlightenment traditions, and its tools of critique and rhetorical strategies and forms, etc. Pynchon would do the obverse, he would run the gamut of categories: exposing the diseases of intellect underpinning our fall into fascism and authoritarian rule. Others like Twain and Vonnegut would strip the illusions that keep us bound to our stupid factor, bound to the chains of our own self-made delusions. Lem and Bulgakov would center on the great institutions of middle-managerial power that automates society in an endless bureaucracy. DeLillo and Wallace would show the bottom-feeder world between paranoia and hysterics where people have become the utter victims of a duplicitous crime world. Zadie Smith would bring to bare the voice of the downtrodden and gender and racial extremes of our cultural malaise, expose the stupidity of allowing our world to continue in this putrid state of imbecility. All would scope the tools necessary for us to rise above it and build another world worth living in.

I could go on and on… but why be a bore. Explore it yourself. Do something creative, today. Pick up a book, begin the long road of recovery. Begin!

Topsy-Turvy

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It’s as if we’d stepped into Gibson’s Sprawl, but this time it’s no joke…

The world as a sandbox, a live action video game, an MMO for adults where reality becomes passé and fantasy becomes the order of the day. Over and over I keep thinking that it’s not paranoia we’re experiencing in these supposed post-truth days, rather it’s this feeling that the long awaited apocalypse happened yesterday but no one has yet awakened to that fact; and only now are we acknowledging that the world didn’t die in a bang or a whimper, but entered that static Disneyland of the mind where the only loser is reality itself.

Having closed the doors on reality the world is moving into hypertime. Now begins the age of magicians, a world where desire is meshed with its dreamscapes and people leave the Reality Studio behind for the Hall of Mirrors Funhouse. A realm of Saturnalia, a festival of madness, topsy-turvy land, where the Fool becomes President and the people run riot in the streets. Distraction and delirium set the pace of an accelerating festival of desire, and the wasteland of our collapsing civilization becomes the ultimate Reality TV show. One in which we are all guaranteed to become participants.

 

Vladislav Surkov: Portrait of the Kremlin Demiurge

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In his Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia, Peter Pomerantsev describes Vladislav Surkov in a singular portrait:

Though we are expecting Vladislav Surkov, the man known as the “Kremlin demiurge,” who has “privatized the Russian political system,” to enter from the front of the university auditorium, he surprises us all by striding in from the back. He’s got his famous Cheshire Cat smile on. He’s wearing a white shirt and a leather jacket that is part Joy Division and part 1930s commissar. He walks straight to the stage in front of an audience of PhD students, professors, journalists, and politicians.

“I am the author, or one of the authors, of the new Russian system,” he tells us by way of introduction. “My portfolio at the Kremlin and in government has included ideology, media, political parties, religion, modernization, innovation, foreign relations, and . . . ” here he pauses and smiles, “modern art.” He offers to not make a speech, instead welcoming the audience to pose questions and have an open discussion. After the first question he talks for almost forty-five minutes, leaving hardly any time for questions after all. It’s his political system in miniature: democratic rhetoric and undemocratic intent.

As former deputy head of the presidential administration, later deputy prime minister and then assistant to the President on foreign affairs, Surkov has directed Russian society like one great reality show. He claps once and a new political party appears. He claps again and creates Nashi, the Russian equivalent of the Hitler Youth, who are trained for street battles with potential prodemocracy supporters and burn books by unpatriotic writers on Red Square. As deputy head of the administration he would meet once a week with the heads of the television channels in his Kremlin office, instructing them on whom to attack and whom to defend, who is allowed on TV and who is banned, how the President is to be presented, and the very language and categories the country thinks and feels in. The Ostankino TV presenters, instructed by Surkov, pluck a theme (oligarchs, America, the Middle East) and speak for twenty minutes, hinting, nudging, winking, insinuating though rarely ever saying anything directly, repeating words like “them” and “the enemy” endlessly until they are imprinted on the mind. They repeat the great mantras of the era: the President is the President of “stability,” the antithesis to the era of “confusion and twilight” in the 1990s. “Stability”—the word is repeated again and again in a myriad seemingly irrelevant contexts until it echoes and tolls like a great bell and seems to mean everything good; anyone who opposes the President is an enemy of the great God of “stability.” “Effective manager,” a term quarried from Western corporate speak, is transmuted into a term to venerate the President as the most “effective manager” of all. “Effective” becomes the raison d’être for everything: Stalin was an “effective manager” who had to make sacrifices for the sake of being “effective.” The words trickle into the streets: “Our relationship is not effective” lovers tell each other when they break up. “Effective,” “stability”: no one can quite define what they actually mean, and as the city transforms and surges, everyone senses things are the very opposite of stable, and certainly nothing is “effective,” but the way Surkov and his puppets use them the words have taken on a life of their own and act like falling axes over anyone who is in any way disloyal.

One of Surkov’s many nicknames is the “political technologist of all of Rus.” Political technologists are the new Russian name for a very old profession: viziers, gray cardinals, wizards of Oz. They first emerged in the mid-1990s, knocking on the gates of power like pied pipers, bowing low and offering their services to explain the world and whispering that they could reinvent it. They inherited a very Soviet tradition of top-down governance and tsarist practices of co-opting antistate actors (anarchists in the nineteenth century, neo-Nazis and religious fanatics now), all fused with the latest thinking in television, advertising, and black PR. Their first clients were actually Russian modernizers: in 1996 the political technologists, coordinated by Boris Berezovsky, the oligarch nicknamed the “Godfather of the Kremlin” and the man who first understood the power of television in Russia, managed to win then President Boris Yeltsin a seemingly lost election by persuading the nation he was the only man who could save it from a return to revanchist Communism and new fascism. They produced TV scare-stories of looming pogroms and conjured fake Far Right parties, insinuating that the other candidate was a Stalinist (he was actually more a socialist democrat), to help create the mirage of a looming “red-brown” menace.

Living in the world of Surkov and the political technologists, I find myself increasingly confused. Recently my salary almost doubled. On top of directing shows for TNT, I have been doing some work for a new media house called SNOB, which encompasses TV channels and magazines and a gated online community for the country’s most brilliant minds. It is meant to foster a new type of “global Russian,” a new class who will fight for all things Western and liberal in the country. It is financed by one of Russia’s richest men, the oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who also owns the Brooklyn Nets. I have been hired as a “consultant” for one of SNOB’s TV channels. I write interminable notes and strategies and flowcharts, though nothing ever seems to happen. But I get paid. And the offices, where I drop in several times a week to talk about “unique selling points” and “high production values,” are like some sort of hipster fantasy: set in a converted factory, the open brickwork left untouched, the huge arches of the giant windows preserved, with edit suites and open plan offices built in delicately. The employees are the children of Soviet intelligentsia, with perfect English and vocal in their criticism of the regime. The deputy editor is a well-known American Russian activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, and her articles in glossy Western magazines attack the President vociferously. But for all the opposition posturing of SNOB, it’s also clear there is no way a project so high profile could have been created without the Kremlin’s blessing. Is this not just the sort of “managed” opposition the Kremlin is very comfortable with? On the one hand allowing liberals to feel they have a free voice and a home (and a paycheck), on the other helping the Kremlin define the “opposition” as hipster Muscovites, out of touch with “ordinary” Russians, obsessed with “marginal” issues such as gay rights (in a homophobic country). The very name of the project, “SNOB,” though meant ironically, already defines us as a potential object of hate. And for all the anti-Kremlin rants on SNOB, we never actually do any real investigative journalism, find out any hard facts about money stolen from the state budget: in twenty-first-century Russia you are allowed to say anything you want as long as you don’t follow the corruption trail. After work I sit with my colleagues, drinking and talking: Are we the opposition? Are we helping Russia become a freer place? Or are we actually a Kremlin project strengthening the President? Actually doing damage to the cause of liberty? Or are we both? A card to be played?1


  1. Peter Pomerantsev. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia (Kindle Locations 1024-1042). Perseus Books, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Adam Curtis on Vladislav Surkov: Perception Politics and Dark Gnosis

Adam Curtis

Charlie and I discussing the Russian Vladislav Surkov who is behind the constrution of misperception politics of Putin. Also a link to small youtube vid by Curtis on Surkov. I’ve always felt that much of the crackpot narratives of conspiracy theory are the shadow mirror of our fears and trepidations not seen through the eyes of the liberal academic elite, but rather the world of reactionary thought-forms that permeate the illeterate and destitute who we’ve castigated and maligned. One need only study this whole strange almost science fictional world of thought to understand how deeply entrenched we are in a Counter World of the Christian, Muslim, and Hebraic monotheisms which seem like shadow vipers to continue controlling major chunks of the populace.

screen-shot-11-30-16-at-01-44-pm

What Surkov represents is the ability to create the illusion of change – (Mis)Perception Politics, to stage conflict, to create oppositions that seem to undermine the politics and social structure, but are in themselves tools in the hand of power without even knowing it. The notion that Surkov has funded both extreme Left and Right Wing movements in Russia as subterfuge, to keep people guessing, to undermine peoples sense of reality. To allow Putin to seem the saviour figure to balance both sides of the opposition.

In his Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia Peter Pomerantsev describes Surkov us:

Though we are expecting Vladislav Surkov, the man known as the “Kremlin demiurge,” who has “privatized the Russian political system,” to enter from the front of the university auditorium, he surprises us all by striding in from the back. He’s got his famous Cheshire Cat smile on. He’s wearing a white shirt and a leather jacket that is part Joy Division and part 1930s commissar. He walks straight to the stage in front of an audience of PhD students, professors, journalists, and politicians.

 “I am the author, or one of the authors, of the new Russian system,” he tells us by way of introduction. “My portfolio at the Kremlin and in government has included ideology, media, political parties, religion, modernization, innovation, foreign relations, and . . . ” here he pauses and smiles, “modern art.” He offers to not make a speech, instead welcoming the audience to pose questions and have an open discussion. After the first question he talks for almost forty-five minutes, leaving hardly any time for questions after all. It’s his political system in miniature: democratic rhetoric and undemocratic intent.

As former deputy head of the presidential administration, later deputy prime minister and then assistant to the President on foreign affairs, Surkov has directed Russian society like one great reality show. He claps once and a new political party appears. He claps again and creates Nashi, the Russian equivalent of the Hitler Youth, who are trained for street battles with potential prodemocracy supporters and burn books by unpatriotic writers on Red Square. As deputy head of the administration he would meet once a week with the heads of the television channels in his Kremlin office, instructing them on whom to attack and whom to defend, who is allowed on TV and who is banned, how the President is to be presented, and the very language and categories the country thinks and feels in. The Ostankino TV presenters, instructed by Surkov, pluck a theme (oligarchs, America, the Middle East) and speak for twenty minutes, hinting, nudging, winking, insinuating though rarely ever saying anything directly, repeating words like “them” and “the enemy” endlessly until they are imprinted on the mind. They repeat the great mantras of the era: the President is the President of “stability,” the antithesis to the era of “confusion and twilight” in the 1990s. “Stability”—the word is repeated again and again in a myriad seemingly irrelevant contexts until it echoes and tolls like a great bell and seems to mean everything good; anyone who opposes the President is an enemy of the great God of “stability.” “Effective manager,” a term quarried from Western corporate speak, is transmuted into a term to venerate the President as the most “effective manager” of all. “Effective” becomes the raison d’être for everything: Stalin was an “effective manager” who had to make sacrifices for the sake of being “effective.” The words trickle into the streets: “Our relationship is not effective” lovers tell each other when they break up. “Effective,” “stability”: no one can quite define what they actually mean, and as the city transforms and surges, everyone senses things are the very opposite of stable, and certainly nothing is “effective,” but the way Surkov and his puppets use them the words have taken on a life of their own and act like falling axes over anyone who is in any way disloyal.1

 Reading the mantra of “Stability” I was reminded of the new vision for America at Trumpland U.S.A.: “We’re going to make America Great Again!” Then I ask: But, for who?

Years ago, all the so called Color Revolutions in the Balkans were done the same way from powers behind the scenes in America: funding both Left and Right wing oppositional parties who sought to bring down the old rearguard Communists regiemes, etc. We know that George Soros and even the Koch Brothers helped fiance many of these Color Revolutions, etc. Our on Left and Right Establishment working together behind the scenes to topple regimes for profit, and Mitchell’s The Color Revolutions.

As Lincoln A. Mitchell explains in The Color Revolutions, it has since become clear that these protests were as much reflections of continuity as they were moments of radical change. Not only did these movements do little to spur democratic change in other post-Soviet states, but their impact on Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan themselves was quite different from what was initially expected. In fact, Mitchell suggests, the Color Revolutions are best understood as phases in each nation’s long post-Communist transition: significant events, to be sure, but far short of true revolutions.

The Color Revolutions explores the causes and consequences of all three Color Revolutions—the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan—identifying both common themes and national variations. Mitchell’s analysis also addresses the role of American democracy promotion programs, the responses of nondemocratic regimes to the Color Revolutions, the impact of these events on U.S.-Russian relations, and the failed “revolutions” in Azerbaijan and Belarus in 2005 and 2006.

Sreeram Chaulia’s article Democratisation, NGOs and “colour revolutions”  is worth reading.

Adam Curtis on Surkov:


  1. Peter Pomerantsev. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia (Kindle Locations 981-985). Perseus Books, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Adam Curtis’s HyperNormalisation – Afterthoughts…

hypernormalisatio

What I took away from Adam Curtis’s recent docu-film, HyperNormalisation was this:

The world around us is much too complex for our leaders to handle, so instead they’ve built up over the past hundred years or so a simplified vision of reality and the world and our place in it, a nice cartoon vision of the world filled with bad guys who need to be put down. Using Muammar Gaddafi Ronald Regan began a campaign against a boogeyman dictator so that he wouldn’t have to face dealing with the larger and more complex issue of Syria’s dictator – (whose son we’ve all read of in the past few years), who many in the European community of intelligence saw as the real culprit  behind many of the suicide bombings, plane bombs, and other bombings around the Middle-East and world ( a long history there!).

So instead the world’s leaders went along with the more simplified non-issue of using such figures as Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and others to blame their problems on, as stooges for whom they could carry out their illegal wars in the Middle-East, etc. of course Curtis goes into the whole system of immersive reality systems (Propaganda, Public Relations, Mind Control, manipulation galore, Rise of the Internet as a tool for command and control, algorithms and AI’s that develop and feed back the echo chamber of our current Twitter, FaceBook, echo-chambers wherein we only ever get back what we put in, etc. Radicalism democratic or otherwise being filtered away from the mainstream users into a black hole of oblivion – this later done in collusion with government and corporations, etc.).

Curtis obviously relies on sixty years of post-modern and other thought to develop his notions of HyperNormalisation – a Russian developed this concept (funny he never mentions who?): a notion that we’ve all been duped, a slow and methodical enchainment in illusionary worlds of techno-capitalism promoted by Academia, media, Corporate and Government, think-tanks, foundations, etc. A world where the future is controlled by computer modeling, closed off from us, a world simplified by algorithms that trap us in an echo-chamber of narcissism, a realm where all the feed-back mechanisms give us only our own thoughts and images back. A world where nothing changes, everything exists in an eternal now. A controlled world that even allows us to believe we are in control, that we are free, that we can change things.

Curtis went into the Arab Spring and Occupy movements detailing out our use of networks, mobiles, etc., but that not having a vision of change, of rule, of society, etc. that all of these movements ended in vacuums, leaderless and without any embodied realization of what a society based on freedom and equality would look like, etc. So many of the countries in which these uprisings occurred fell back into the hands of military or terrorist organizations instead. Or, like the Occupy movement were slowly allowed to echo themselves till people no longer could hear themselves in the echo… oblivion.

Curtis argues that an army of technocrats, complacent radicals and Faustian internet entrepreneurs have conspired to create an unreal world; one whose familiar and often comforting details blind us to its total inauthenticity. Not wishing to undersell the concept, Curtis begins the film with a shot of a torch shining limply into a thicket, so that viewers find themselves watching a flashlight in the darkness of our unknowing.

From there, HyperNormalisation tracks a course to the present day, allowing Curtis to weigh in on Trump, Putin and Syria. But those expecting a snappy crash course in our chaotic world clearly aren’t familiar with his methods. The film may address some of today’s most critical global issues, but it also allocates space to Jane Fonda, the fall of the Soviet Union and an interpellation of pre-9/11 disaster movies. And unlike Curtis’s earlier work for TV, HyperNormalisation immerses us in the illusions themselves that in our era now seem so antique and illusionary.

In some ways without ever saying it, Curtis moves back to the old school of thought that we have no clear vision of what we want. No notion of the Good Society. All we have is a varied set of grievances: all the myriad gender, race, and class bound issues under the rubric of current progressive politics. And, yet, when the democratic machine was put in office it, too, was shown to be under the thumb of the Corporate, Banking, and other financial institutions. This was the key to Curtis’s film: this notion that politics no longer matters in our world, and that most Governments are under the thumb of the Financial Dictatorship of Bankers, Lawyers, and Corporatist interests. We’ve been bound within a system of impersonalism and indifference in the US and EU in which Financial capitalism dictates to society, not democratic politics and the rule of the demos.

This is the age we have to decide whether security and safety (living in a static world controlled by computational algorithms, economics, and predictive AGI’s), outweighs our need for freedom. We’ve trapped ourselves in an immersive game of Security, a bargain with the devil of modern finance to keep the wolves at bay, but in the process we’ve allowed the world to become a Global Prison System run by impersonal agents of the Machine. Sadly the Machine is now gaining speed, accelerating past the human into an age of automation in which human’s themselves will become obsolete, obsolesced, and left out to pasture.

(I stop here, realizing that what comes next is a Vision of the Good Society. What do we want? That’s the big question… facing humanity: Security or Freedom? The good thing is that the Reality TV Show that Finance built – our Neoliberal World Vision – is crumbling around us: the Establishment does not have an answer, is foundering, no longer has a vision and its leaders are now seen for what they are: Clowns! We have a chance to revolt against this Reailty and Change it in our Generation if we will, but we need a Vision of The Good Society to which we tend… no one single thinker, artist, or creative person can come up with such a thing: now is the time when the people themselves in a collective project must come together and rethink our place in the universe for our time. This is a struggle, not a book. It’s our lives, not some fiction. We are the one’s living in a precarious age in which humans might go extinct. What will we decide? Or will we continue to blindly follow the Machine?)

Civil War of the Mind: Adam Curtis and Hypernormalisation & Algorithmic Tyranny

Watching the recent elections and of various artists confrontations, along with the reaction on the Left, I’m beginning to see that our moment has opened a great gap or crack between these opposing views of our life world, a gap so huge that those on each side of this divide can no longer tolerate the other’s perspective or stance. We are truly in the midst of a Civil War of the Mind, one I hope will not become a civil war across the planet, Yet, as a pessimist I do not hold out on hope, it always being a vanity of the optimistic mind. Rather it appears the next stage of our collapsing civilization will be this dark and abiding war that no one has yet to acknowledge at the level of cultural awareness.

Lately watching some friends posts about the collapse and chaos in India and surrounding nations as they seem to be struggling through all the varied problems of politics, climate change, drought, famine, disease, overpopulation, racism, gender issues, class struggle, etc. I’ve wondered when the civil war for the human soul of the planet will reach the proverbial butterfly effect? We seem to be on the tip of the iceberg, and it is melting fast. Violence seems to pervade the breath of FB in its hatred of each other’s views in the extremophile sections. While even those of moderate cast seem to be turning to the panic stream of thought and turning up the volume. Horror writers seem in vogue, because they speak of the inherent inhumanity of man to man, our darkest desires running rampant in the resurrected myths of our ancient fears and terrors.

In conversation with Glyn Daly, Slavoj Zizek said that even in our age of philosophy “we are confronted more and more often with philosophical problems at an everyday level” (58). It is not that you withdraw from daily life into a world of philosophical contemplation. On the contrary, you cannot find your way around daily life itself without answering certain philosophical questions. It is a unique time when everyone is, in a way, forced to be some kind of a philosopher.

One of the greatest notions floating around at the moment is that the past is no longer available to us as a guide or resource. The literature, philosophy, art, etc. of the past is truly dead to us who face such strange and overpowering future catastrophes. Our nostalgia for the past is on the rise, while the very function and structure of that world lies in ruins all around us. Politics of the traditional and the safe, the conservative and the reactionary is on the rise because people are seeking to stabilize their lives, revitalize the old mythologies in the wake of despair and economic collapse and change. People no longer trust the scholars, the artists, the politicians — Authority and legitimization in all its varied guises. The Symbolic world we’ve enclosed ourselves in is under siege from within and without by the an almost self-serving elite caste of Oligarchs, Plutocrats and the varied Military-Media-Industrial Complex of academic, think-tank, foundation, and media pundits and their minions that support the collective consensus reality system, and secure its defined perimeters: ethics, politics, sciences, educational, legal, and other institutions in a Telecommunications systemic network of Global Reach.

“I love the poorly educated.”
—Donald J. Trump

He would, wouldn’t he. In one sentence he underlines the whole reactionary approach of the extreme right, punctuates its stance toward literature, philosophy, and thought per se. What we are facing is not a crisis of Republican implosion or political deform; this is not your MSNBC smug defense of the Democratic Party’s sanity in the face of Republican insanity. We should harbor no such illusions: “The spirit of authoritarianism cuts across both political parties.” Both parties have sold us out, and Trump is not the answer, but just the embodiment of our frustration with the staid and cool, corporate fascism of the neoliberal jet set. As Zizek admitted, Trump is a nasty old racist, and yet a vote for Hilary would have just returned us to the illusionary politics of neoliberal slavery. So a vote for Trump was ultimately a vote for some kind of change, any change, even for the worse. Personally I detested both candidates as the worst choices of the Presidency in its entire two hundred years plus. Such seems to be the effect of our times and our bland indifference and ignorance.

The point here is that we shouldn’t be interested in Trump the clown, Trump the narcissist, Trump the racist, or even Trump the con artist. Instead, he turns his critical sights on the society that produced and legitimized him. From his rabid and rapidly growing right-wing  and left-wing of both parties following to the channel surfers seeking a good chuckle to the liberal elite or republican yokels of Establishment quick to dismiss The Donald with smug indifference, our country and its democracy is in steep decline. After all, this is the same society that holds 2.5 million in cages, most of whom are black and brown and poor; whose military budget is larger than that of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the U.K., India, and Japan combined; where the killing of unarmed Black people by police, security guards, or vigilantes has become almost a daily occurrence; where the toxic mix of privatization, free-market ideology, and a “punitive state” has turned our schools into high-stakes testing grounds and human warehouses in which the administration of discipline has shifted from teachers and principals to the criminal justice system; where the War on Drugs, with “zero tolerance” policing, turns some neighborhoods into open-air prisons, strips vulnerable residents of equal protection, habeas corpus, freedom of movement, even protection from torture; and where, in states such as Michigan, local governance has been replaced by so-called Emergency Financial Managers whose primary objective is to privatize public resources and basic needs (e.g., water). And the band plays on . . . or, as Giroux so aptly puts it, we move “from a culture of questioning to a culture of shouting.”2

I remember growing up where the Preacher (Southern Baptist) would hold up the Bible in one hand, and Darwin’s Origins of the Species in the other and ask the congregation: “Which of these books would you put your trust in?” At the time (I was eleven!) I’d only vaguely ever heard of Darwin or his book, so I went to the school library to find it. The librarian told me it was much too controversial a book for a sixth grader to read.

So I asked my Father (an atheist), not my Mother (who was devout, but not dogmatic) to get me that book. I remember him looking at me, wanting to say something, but not saying because he’d promised my Mom he’d not inculcate her children with his atheistic ideas. (He’d later laugh about it all. His compromise was that if we ever inquired into his beliefs he wouldn’t hide them or his learning. He had a large library of books he left me, that as I grew up were safely locked away from us by my Mother). So it goes… He gave me the book by Darwin. I read it, puzzled over it, asked him questions.

After a few months it dawned on me why this Preacher man was so afraid of Darwin: If he was right then every aspect of the Bible would prove to be a fiction, a nice story about a particular tribe of people who needed a system of Law and Regulations, Stories and Parables, to keep their culture ongoing. Religion appears to be this binding back upon one’s cultural heritage, which oddly is the meaning of Torah. The People of the Book. But are not all the monotheistic religions about the one true Book, rather than the books of men, they hold their Book to have been written once by God in Heaven, etc.

I learned that there were other ideas in the world that spoke of a different truth. It was this first book by Darwin that began my long voyage into what we so mistakenly term Western Culture and Civilization (another of those umbrella concepts that should go away someday!). The past is multivalent and a site of competing voices and utterances rather than as in religion of recieved tradition. History is important because it is not monolithic, but rather a contested realm of memory and temporal voicing and writing that helps us discover not our origins but rather how we produced and invented ourselves from such fragments as these.

Adam Curtis: HyperNormalisation

Adam Curtis’s new BBC project reminds me of this strange paradox. The aim of the film he is making—HyperNormalisationis to bring that new power into focus, and show its true dimensions. It ranges from a giant computer high up in the mountains of northeast America that manages and controls over 7 percent of the worlds total wealth, to the complex algorithms that constantly monitor every move and choice you make online, to modern scientific ideas about what the normal human being should be—in their weight and in their feelings and moods.   As he states:

What links all these systems is an overriding aim is to keep the world stable. To avoid all change. The giant computer constantly compares events happening around the world to events in the past. If it sees a dangerous pattern, it immediately adjusts its trillions of dollars to keep things stable. That is real power. The algorithms on social media constantly look at the patterns of what you like and then feed you more of that—so you enter into an echo chamber that constantly feeds you back to you. So again nothing changes—and you learn nothing new that would contradict how you feel. That too is real power.

What results is a system which cocoons us and makes us feel safe. And that means we have become terrified of all change. But that fear of change is in the interest of a system that wants to hold everything stable. And stops us from ever challenging it.

But it is impossible to keep things frozen forever. The world is dynamic. Things happen that you can never predict just by reading the past. This is why more and more we are being hit by events—the horror in Syria, Brexit, Trump, the waves of refugees—that neither we nor our leaders have the mental map to understand let alone deal with. Because we have bought into the dream that the world can be held stable and safe.

The short film I have made for VICE is about how, if you pull back and look at the everyday life all around you, you can see the cracks appearing through the shiny surface of the cocoon we are living in. So much of the modern world is beginning to feel odd, unreal, and sometimes fake. I think these are the dynamic forces outside beginning to pierce through as the system begins to fail.

It will fail – because a system of power that has no vision of the future can never last. It cannot deal with change. We have to begin to look outside. Because there is more out there…

After watching the clip I was reminded of Axël a drama by Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam published in 1890. It was influenced by his participation in the Paris Commune, the Gnostic philosophy of Georg Hegel as well as the works of Goethe and Victor Hugo. It begins in an occult castle. The Byronic hero Axël meets a Germanic princess. After an initial conflict they fall in love. They speak of the amazing journeys they plan to have. But they realize that life will never measure up to their dreams. They then commit suicide.

Our elite rulers are like these romantic gnostics, closed off in their corporate enclaves, living out their occult praxis and magical economic systems in a world of presentism where everything remains the same and nothing changes. The most famous line in that play was “Vivre? les serviteurs feront cela pour nous” (“Living? Our servants will do that for us”). This sense that the upper echelons and .01% percenters are truly Vampires, of which Marx once stated: “Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him.”

What so many on the Left term ‘neoliberalism,’ a term that means nothing or too much, is just this sense of the fake world we live in with all its sense of futility, market driven, global, and enclosed in debt without any end: an absolute hell for the workers (Third World or First!), who must suffer through the extreme degradation of being spoon fed media fantasies of the Rich and Stupid in their Hollywood Towers that the worker herself will never ever have access too. We return from our part-time jobs to our local pubs and bars, our drug infested dens, our shanty town tin roofs and dream of escape. Knowing deep down there is not end to this eternal round of the Same, to endless days of work and labor ahead in either factory, service industries, or even the veil of upper white collars who on call 24/7 to their masters by way of mobile lives lead lives of gray despair: these dividuals (indexical lives of wire and fleshscape dream) who exist not as flesh and blood organics, but as fragments of a corporate personality and inforgs (informational organisms) whose lives are not lived in real-time, but in the hyperchaos regions in-between circulation and profit, greed and expenditure.

In ancient Greece the Paideia or the education of the Citizen took in both body and mind, teaching and educing out of the naïve and ignorant young the physical and mental prowess and intelligence to understand what it meant to be part of the public way. We’ve lost our Public Sphere, it having slowly been privatized and dismantled by the very instruments of technology we once thought would gain us more freedom: the internet and its mindless chatter of media driven repeats, twits, and links into the ever same message of the day. From Reuters to the most radical publication the Same has become the Order of the Day in which we live, an echo chamber of our isolation being fed our likes and dislikes in packages of bits and data already massaged and filtered for our absorption like the commodity fetish it is.

As Kelley said in his preface to Henry Giroux’s recent America at War with Itself:

America at War With Itself demolishes the pedestrian (and dangerous) argument that Trump appeals to legitimate working-class populism driven by class anger. The claim that Trump followers are simply working-class whites expressing class resentment ignores both the historical link between whiteness, citizenship, and humanity, and also the American dream of wealth accumulation built on private property. Trump’s people are not Levelers! (Nor are they universally “working-class”— their annual median income clocks in at about $ 72,000.) They strongly believe in private property and the right to bear arms to protect that property. They don’t just ignore Trump’s wealth; they are enamored with it. They embrace the dream that if only America can be restored to its mythic greatness— which is to say, to return to its status as “a white MAN’s country” (as if it is not now)— they, too, can become a Trump. But their racism, reinforced by civic illiteracy, has convinced them that it is the descendants of unfree labor or the colonized, or those who are currently unfree, who are blocking their ascent to the world of Trump and the billionare Koch brothers. (see below)

What he’s saying is that the bland blanketing by the Left misses the point, these followers of Trump are and remain the central players of what was once the American world view. It is the Left that has tried, in vein, to displace this older America and over the past sixty years unsuccessfully to take over the Academy and teach the progressive world view without realizing that the majority they needed to educate were being ostracized, dammed to illiteracy by the very institutions of the Left elite themselves. The Left have only themselves to blame for this situation. Not Trump, not his followers, but the Left who in their snobbish elitism and belief in their more intelligent cultural world of academia did not need to bend low, to reach out, to speak to all the rest of America about America. They forgot the others who also live here and are also Americans.

It is these others that the Left has repeatedly demonized and left to rot in their dying country towns and lower worlds of poverty and isolation. The Left alone is responsible for this ignorance and apathy. The Left sold out to the Neoliberal world long ago, and worked closely within its Cathedral of academia, think-tanks, and white collar precincts shielded by a false ideology and security system. And now that it is unraveling around them they are even more entrenched and reactionary than the right-wing thinkers ever were. They react to the change going on around them without any new thoughts, ignorant and repeating the shibboleths of the 1930’s on Fascism and Populism as if that explained anything at all. It doesn’t. We are not in some Hollywood or some German Propaganda film narrative. We are not those people. Do not think their thoughts. This is something else, but as long as people continue to fall for the old myths and staid critiques of ancient fascism nothing will transpire.

People need truth, not some vein bullshit about ours is a an age of “Post-Truth”. What a crock of horseshit that is. But one hears that from Oxford:

Oxford Dictionaries has selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year, after the contentious “Brexit” referendum and an equally divisive U.S. presidential election caused usage of the adjective to skyrocket, according to the Oxford University Press.

The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

What a crock? That used to go under the rubric of Ideology. Pure and Simple. What Marx to Sartre to Adorno and Jameson termed false consciousness:

False consciousness is a term used by some Marxists for the way in which material, ideological, and institutional processes in capitalist society mislead members of the proletariat and other class actors. These processes are thought to hide the true relations between classes and the real state of affairs regarding the exploitation suffered by the proletariat.

In other words they construct a narrative to hide the truth from the public at large, one that is then presented by the Media-Tainment Industrial Complex through news, papers, journals, reports, broadcasts, TV, movies, books, literature, art, music, dance, theatre, etc. Post-truth is nothing but a euphemism for the older Marxists notion that the Symbolic Order of the Economic World Order tries to Control the Reality Systems under its Laws and Regulations.

What many on the Left or Right will not admit to themselves is that they have both been duped. Yes, that’s right. The very narratives of the Left and Right are scripted and presented under the careful guidance of well-planned network of thinkers, foundations, think-tanks, academic and political groups that work both sides of the fence, while the average person is gulled into the illusion that what their being taught is learning rather than the propaganda that goes by the name education in America. This isn’t some conspiratorial theory, not magic men behind the screens pulling the wires. No Soros or Koch Brothers working the fabric of reality. All that is staged play more akin to such things as Alien History on History Channel of Gaia; or the libertarian front of conspiracy from Glenn Beck to Alex Jones. All these are well funded fronts to keep people off the real ball, the real power hidden not behind some secret curtain, but right in front of their noses, everywhere.

As Curtis is trying to do in his film, the immersive world of our everyday life is this conspiracy world fulfilled. We are so immersed in a false world of conscious invention empowered over the years by trillions of dollars in public opinion and advertising and front men of corporate and government Leadership that we no longer call it propaganda, because it is our lives. Of late one of the ploys is that we no longer need critique of society and civilization, that critique and theory are dead, mute. Where is this coming from? Who is instigating this non-interventional non-philosophy, non-theory, non-critique. I wonder what my old barbs Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. would say to all we see now. My touchstones has always been the great satirists who tried to punch through the facades and illusions that encompass us, that make us stupid. As Twain once admonished: ““Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” One that sums up to me the truth we need most is this from Twain:

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

Even Twain was keen to realize why we’ve become stupid: “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made school boards.” On the media of his day: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” And on Education: “Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.”

These humorous quips had an edge that also spoke truth, a truth that we need dearly. We do not live in a ‘post-truth’ age, we live in an age that has forgotten that truth exists and we can know it and it can set us free of these Symbolic Chains encompassing us. There is no such thing as absolute freedom without necessity, which means we are social beings encompassed in immersive worlds of language and thought. No way around this. All we can muster is a way to build our Symbolic House where the inmates are no longer bound by the extremes of the Super Rich and the Desolate. We can and must encompass a world of change, that can see with open eyes the truth of the world, one that will openly understand the issues we face in the 21st Century without letting the few and powerful elites and Oligarchs control 98% of the world’s wealth. This must end… all the other major problems from Climate degradation to race, gender, and class war are secondary to the economic inequality of the World’s great populace.


  1. Daly, Glyn; Zizek, Slavoj. Conversations with Zizek (Conversations) by Slavoj Zizek (2003-12-30) Polity.
  2. Giroux, Henry A.. America at War with Itself (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 71-82). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Subtractive Way


Humanity’s philosophy is additive, when it should be subtractive.

One of the reasons I’ve taken up a more Comic Pessimism is just that: as a young man I took all this so seriously, so horribly; suffered it all, etc. Then as I plundered literature, philosophy, sciences, art, politics, through all their various guises I realized that many have done the same: this is what secular culture is – this utter devastation that we were ever immersed in such fictions to begin with. And, yet, then one wakes up and realizes the same of Secularism itself; that it, too, is another grand narrative, a ficition to believe in no belief, etc.

To ironize all beliefs to the point that one is once again immersed in a belief system that one does not know is a belief. We call it believing in the truth, as if the Universe was meaningless (nihilism) to justify our escape into this new safety net. After this one comes upon that very realization and awakens to the truth that all truths are relative: the postmodern turn, that suddenly nothing is true, everything is allowed. All grand narratives are bullshit. But then again one enters a later stage and realizes that if nothing is true, or everything is true, the truth is null and void.

One enters depressive realism where one sees the nullity for what it is: a grand comedy of laughter. One becomes a trickster, a shaman, a dreamer for if we are in a mutant world where people and beliefs are malleble, changing, then what counts is one’s ability not to take any of these various systems as truth or static. But that they all represent various modalities of the human project: our drives of sex and power churning among the endless gambits of thought seeking answer to the inssoluable dilemma of being human.

Freedom is the release from the cage of our prisons: our beliefs, or disbeliefs. In the end one either goes totalliy mad, or one accepts that we are fallible animals with limited reasoning powers and will always be doing what we are doing now over and over and over again. Twain in a humorous moment said the best a writer can do is “dip his pen in hell”. Of which we partake, repetitively, compulsively, endlessly. This is life. Humans cannot remain without some guideposts, so there being no outer truth, we invent a thousand and one tales to add.

Humanity’s philosophy is additive, when it should be subtractive. If we subtracted all our human meanings, depleted the universe of the human what remains?

Slavoj Zizek: The Figure of the Postmodern Magus

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When I began thinking of this essay I began rereading that hyperreader himself Slavoj Zizek not as a philosopher, but rather as a postmodern magus conjuring out of the figurations of concept and notion the dialectical patterns of his own hagiography. Reading and rereading from Zizek’s vast oeuvre, which to be honest would take a few years to read once – much less the cycle of close and careful rereading necessary for scholarship or comparison of the many Zizek’s that have cycled through various iterations, completions, and transformations. Each of his works is part of a vast autobiography of a philosopher whose only endless subject has been just that – the Subject.

There is no consistency throughout this prodigious oeuvre, and yet there is a guiding thread that has always pervaded its labyrinth: an Ariadne scarlet thread of the Subject which has led closer and closer to that fatal beast at the center: the Void. One might say that all the books have been a prismatic ensemble on this empty swirl of the Void and Nothingness at the core of the human: the Subject. Like a postmodern magus Zizek has conjured up figuration after figuration of this never restless core of the inhuman from a thousand and one perspectives, turning the conceptual universe of the philosophers, scientists, and scholars every which way to understand the endless possibilities that condition our world.

One of the best, or – should I say, most revealing works on Zizek is Daly’s Conversations with Zizek. Still worth a read to understand the self-image of Zizek onto his own past life as man and philosopher. To understand Zizek is first of all to place him in his homeland, Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, in postwar Yugoslavia. It was here that Zizek in his late teens would decided to become a philosopher. After University he was not allowed to teach philosophy, so was forced for eleven years to teach Sociology. Amusingly Zizek will tell Daly that philosophy was not his first choice:

For me, as is clear from my writings, it was cinema. I started when I was already about 13 or 14; I even remember which movies absolutely fascinated me when I was young. I think two of them left a mark on me: Hitchcock’s Psycho and Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad.1

Zizek has written extensively on cinema throughout his career, one of the more interesting being Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Lacan . . . But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock, along with The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime: On David Lynch’s Lost Highway, and The Fright of Real Tears: Krzystof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory among other myriad essays and asides strewn throughout his oeuvre in essays, articles, and various off the cuff remarks.       

Asked when he came to the point that he was a philosopher he tells Daly he understood the central point that “philosophy is not simply a kind of megalomaniac enterprise – you know, ‘let’s understand the. basic structure of the world’ – that philosophy is not that”. (29) Going on to describe his central insight, that in Heideggerian terms, he came to the basic question of the structure of the world is important, the “notion of the world is not simply the universe or everything that exists” (29). Rather, for Zizek, the ‘world’ is a certain historical category, and understanding what the world is means, in transcendental terms, understanding some pre-existing, at least historically, a priori structure which determines how we understand how the world is disclosed to us. “This for me is the crucial turn.” (29) So epistemology, or how we come to understand how the world is disclosed (or conditions or view onto that world) to us is more important to him than the actual ontological question of the ‘structure of the world’ per se. The point for Zizek is not to speak the truth of the universe, but rather to uncover the common conceptual presuppositions that guide our understanding of the universe, whether as scientists or philosophers, or – even common humanity. So that Kant became the model of the philosopher for Zizek, not that he was correct, but that he asked the simple question: ‘What is it that we have to presuppose is true by the mere fact that we are active as ethical agents?’ (30)

In fact, for Zizek Kant was the beginning of philosophy, rather than the culmination of a certain tradition for the simple reason that he was able to stipulate this epistemic perspective in a way that none of the philosophers before him could. With the transcendental turn (inward turn) “Kant opened up a space from which we can in retrospect read the entire canon of previous philosophy” (30). For Zizek the key is to read all previous pre-Kantian philosophy by way of the Transcendental Turn: the hermeneutical approach, rather than ontological (31).

His love/hate relation to Heidegger’s philosophy comes from the era in question, one in which almost all philosophers were influenced by the German thinker. As he tells us “I am more and more convinced that Heidegger, in spite of all the criticism which he deserves, is the philosopher who connects us in the sense that, in a way, almost every other orientation of any serious weight defines itself through some sort of critical relation or distance towards Heidegger.” (32) It’s this tension and critical evaluation of Heidegger that is key, rather than the man’s life (which Zizek and others repeatedly detest for his moral stance in relation to fascism). For Zizek many in the nineteenth century were anti-Hegelian, while many in the post-modern vision were anti-Platonists, and those that would come later became -as he, anti-Heideggereans. And, the way that many of these anit-Heideggerans would go was the notion of “Oh, yes, Heidegger was right about this, but he ‘didn’t go far enough’.” He mentions Derrida, the Marxists, Foucault, and others in this regard.

He admits that the linguistic barriers to International philosophy were prevalent in Slovenia, and yet they were all reading (Zizek and friends) the new work of Derrida (whom he would later turn away from), whose works became a revelation to him and his circle as a way to distance themselves from Heidegger’s influence. It was not until 1975/76 that Zizek and others in his circle would make the transition to Lacan we see in his work now. From 1968 thru 1975 he admits Lacan was incomprehensible to him. As he admits he was never a Marxist per se, although influenced by aspects of Althusser, for the simple reason that the hard-liner Marxists in his own country were dogmatists who were “ferociously opposed to French thought: structuralism, post-structuralism etc.” (35). Because of his interest in French thought the rulers of the educational systems in Slovenia would disallow Zizek from teaching. So he would spend several years unemployed and unemployable: “I was young, I had a child, I was unemployed and, to their credit, they were quite honest about the situation. They told me that in the present political situation it would be out of the question for me to become a teacher…” (35). So that for almost 10 years from 1969 (Graduation) to 1979 when he finally was given a post in sociology (“through my Heideggerian friends, I got a job at the Department of Sociology in the Institute for Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana”) he lived on the skids with the help of friends.

Yet, as he admits for him this difficult period of life was not to be expunged, but rather to be what it was for him an ‘opportunity’. Telling Daly that if he’d gotten a job earlier “I would now be a poor stupid unknown professor in Ljubljana, probably dabbling in a little bit of Derrida, a little bit of Heidegger, a little bit of Marxism and so on” (37). The point for him was that such a rough and tumble life was a ‘blessing in disguise’ (38). He was able to secure for a couple of years a position as Foreign liaison for Lacanian events, and came under the tutelage of Jacques-Alain Miller for whom Zizek says that it was Miller’s Lacan to which he is subservient: “I must say this quite openly that my Lacan is Miller’s Lacan. Prior to Miller I didn’t really understand Lacan, and this was for me a great time of education.” (38) In fact it was the study of one of Miller’s seminars that would be the most formative of Zizek’s life:

a whole semester we studied Kant with Sade, line by line, then we went on to ‘Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire’, and so on. Again, this really opened up Lacan to me. Without that, it would be something totally different probably. That was my big formative experience. (38)

The other formative event in Zizek’s life came with a return to Slovenia and working within the Communist system, realizing that at root it was based on cynicism, or – as he suggests, the acknowledgement of not being too serious about one’s ideology; and, in fact, realizing that for the top echelons in the Party a distancing from those who were too dogmatic, too serious as potential threats to the stability of the party, as verging on dissidence from within.  One might see this in American politics as well, of the almost carnival Hollywood aspect of politics as charade, as a Reality TV extravaganza with clowns and puppets on the stage (and, the biggest threat is to discover someone who is too serious! to the Established Rules of the Political Game).

For Zizek having been raised up under the old Stalinist guard and hard-liners he has been immersed in that universe of meaning for so long that the metaphors he falls back on are from that era. He told Daly he has tried to wean himself from it but that it is so pervasive in his psyche that he naturally falls back into the pit. “So, if anything, the transference is still going on, I am not yet over it. I fully admit it, but it is also my pleasure.”(40)

Zizek as Con Artist comes out in his anecdotal history of the Society of Theoretical Psychoanalysis that he, Alenka Zupancic, Mladen Dolar initiated to publish works. The Society itself does nothing. Once in a while students will come from foreign lands to visit and document the archives of the Society and Zizek will relate to them that there are none, that in Slovenia to publish one must do so through an institution, so the three of them had gone through the tedious task of gaining this from the bureaucracy of the Central Committee. He also admits that another part of his con was to lift stationary from various universities he’s traveled too outside his country so that if a student or colleague needed funding to travel outside to a conference or event he would use this stolen stationary to make up a fictional introduction to gain the funds for these various travel expenses etc.

So we faked it all, whatever was needed, all the data – and of course we always invented the colloquium. I mean, I simply said ‘on behalf of’ and I faked the name so that none of my friends would be offended if it all came out. At some point I remember once that there truly was a colloquium, but I said, no, this is not ethical and so I invented another one. I said I cannot stand writing the truth, it must be a lie. (42)

This sense of the Trickster is prevalent in Zizek, another aspect of his being a postmodern Magus who uses trickery and deceit to circumvent the regulated Reality systems of Tyranny and the State. “I am a workaholic: I do my work, but I have this terrible desire to fake things at this level; to fake institutional things. I think that everything to do with institutions should be faked. I don’t know what this is, I never analyse myself I hate the very idea of analysing myself.”(43) One could probably spend a long while uncovering the traces of the Trickster Gods in Zizek’s make-up, from Loki to Coyote this sense of overturning the powers that be, of a certain cunning reason that circumvents the reality protocols that make up the Symbolic Order of the Big Other etc. But, I too, will leave that for others.

Speaking of the Philosopher as philosopher Zizek believes there must be a Collective Project, but not a collective dialogue; instead, philosophy is a singular enterprise: “No, I think that with all radical, true philosophers, there is a moment of blindness, and that is the price you have to pay for it. I don’t believe in philosophy as a kind of interdisciplinary project – this is the ultimate nightmare. That’s not philosophy. We philosophers are madmen: we have a certain insight that we affirm again and again.”(45) I remember Graham Harman suggesting that all philosophers produce at most one great idea, which they reiterate under various guises and in myriad perspectives over and over in tedious repetition. For Zizek the  idea or concept is the “Subject” under its various guises and multifaceted thought forms. In this sense philosophy is not so much the pursuit of Wisdom, as it is a madness in love with its Idea. Usually philosophers when they castigate another philosopher its because their one idea does not mesh with the one that philosopher is fetishizing. Maybe all philosophers have a monocular vision concerning Ideas, especially their own. Speaking of his troika with Mladen Dolar and Alenka Zupancic and their friendship in an ongoing philosophical community: “We talk a lot, we discuss, but ultimately we are alone, and this works perfectly I think. We don’t take any workshops together. When we need to talk, we talk. There is an old romantic formula: the true company is only when you can share your solitude, or some such rubbish. And that’s how we function.” (46)

I can see this is leading me into a long post… I’ll continue this another day. For me Zizek is a touchstone of contemporary thought. I don’t always agree with him. Yet, many have tried to disparage him, take his provocative statements and twist them about against him, which seems to be dubious at best. Many speak of him second hand, or from disparaging and erroneous critiques of his work or statements by enemies. To me if you’re going to spend time developing a relation to a philosopher, especially one who has spent time milling about in the psychoanalytical world of Freud and Lacan, postmodernism, Heidegger, Hegel, Kant, etc., then one should get to know that man behind the mask. This group of conversations may not reveal the real Zizek (is there such a thing?), but rather the refracted mirror image in its broken crystals. None of us is whole (All), we’re all mere fragments of time and memory, traces of events and non-events, scramblings of the noise and music of our age. Zizek is a part of the high-low cultural baggage of our age, a man who incarnates both its contradictions and its questions. I am not done with him. Emerson wrote a book, Representative Men. In my mind’s eye Zizek is one of those Representatives of our Age. There can be no correct view of the man or philosopher. As Harold Bloom once stated there can only ever be “interesting readings or misprisionings”. As a postmodern Magus Zizek conjures up the self-reflecting nothingness of the Subject/Self through all its mutant disguises and repetitively demonstrates the split or gap between it and that in a comedy of dialectical prose that belies the never-ending restlessness of his mind.


  1. Daly, Glyn; Zizek, Slavoj. Conversations with Zizek (Conversations) by Slavoj Zizek (2003-12-30) Polity.

What happened to Democracy?

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really?

– BBC, promotion of The Century of the Self by Adam Curtis

Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, the father of propaganda used Freud’s early work to shape the progressive era isolationists of the U.S. through manipulation of mass media of that era. With a media campaign full of lies and mythical stories Bernays presented story after story of half-truths through silent-films, newsprint, magazines, etc. to sway people from their isolationist policies. Working for the administration of Woodrow Wilson during World War I with the Committee on Public Information, he was influential in promoting the idea that America’s war efforts were primarily aimed at “bringing democracy to all of Europe”. This slogan became the key component in his campaign and was attached to a myriad of products, labels, eye catching signs, ads in stores, in newpapers, etc. across the nation. He had awakened the emotions of the American popular imagination and released certain innate desires.

Bernays was influenced by the French writer Gustave LeBon, the originator of crowd psychology, and of Wilfred Trotter, who promoted similar ideas in the anglophone world in his book Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War. Bernays refers to these two names in his writings. Trotter, who was a head and neck surgeon at University College Hospital, London, read Freud’s works, and it was he who introduced Wilfred Bion, whom he lived and worked with, to Freud’s ideas. When Freud fled Vienna for London after the Anschluss, Trotter became his personal physician, and Wilfred Bion and Ernest Jones became key members of the Freudian psychoanalysis movement in England, and would develop the field of Group Dynamics, largely associated with the Tavistock Institute where many of Freud’s followers worked. Thus ideas of group psychology and psychoanalysis came together in London around World War II.

He would realize after the war that what had worked in shaping peoples imaginations to got to war would work just as well for businesses, so he created the first private public relations firm in the U.S. Realizing that the term propaganda had negative connotations he switched it to public relations to soften its power. He was able to influence the political, social, and business elite that his ideas and methods could be used to sale products and manipulate peoples desires to effect behavioral change. Walter Lippmann, a leading progressive intellectual would write a book Public Opinion to earmark a critical assessment of functional democratic government, especially the irrational, and often self-serving, social perceptions that influence individual behavior, and prevent optimal societal cohesion. The descriptions of the cognitive limitations people face in comprehending their socio-political and cultural environments, proposes that people must inevitably apply an evolving catalogue of general stereotypes to a complex reality. This notion that the mass man in the street was a full of contradictory and somewhat dangerous emotions, that he was in effect an irrational being that needed the guidance and governance of an elite of experts and public officials would guide both government and business practices in the coming decades. Some say such ideas still guide decision making processes around the globe.

Edward Bernays just before WWII would help his uncle, Sigmund Freud, to escape his native Austria, allowing him and his daughter Anna to go to England. As part of this gesture he was able to get his uncle to buy into publishing his complete works into English in the United States. Freud hated the U.S. but consented to the publishing of his works. It was from that time that the influence of psychoanalysis and the theories of Freud would become mainstream business in the U.S. Curtis in his documentary ties most of this history together in a narrative of power, influence, and control both political and corporate as different forces vied with each other to incorporate Freudian theory and practice into the new consumerist society arising in the U.S. and U.K.

In 1939 Freud would die of cancer and leave his legacy in the capable hands of his daughter Anna. She would become the iron leader of the psychoanalytic movement from that time forward, promoting her father’s work at every opportunity even to the point of covering up its underlying failures. What’s of interest in this tale as we follow Curtis’s narrative is the manipulation of humans by both governments and business without any sense of ethical oversight. At every step of the way the underlying mythology of Freud of the irrational sexual and aggressive nature of humans is never questioned. And, when it is done so by such Freudians as Wilhelm Reich, the power of the mythology of a pseudo-scientistic psychology becomes the arm of the State to expunge such dissidents and silence them through legal pressure. Isolated and alone, Reich would develop a set of liberatory theories based not on sex and aggression, but on desire and emancipation as the driving force within humans. This force he would give a name: orgone energy, another mythic icon, revealing the notion that humans did not as in Freud need to be constrained, repressed, and controlled because of their irrational emotions, but rather they needed just the opposite the release from those repressive constraints that warped their characters and forced them into molds and conforming restraints that turned innocence into the deadly monstrous demons of repression. He tried to show how leaders in Fascism had manipulated these repressed desires and channeled them toward other ends using ritual, myth, and sacred scapegoating techniques as old as humanity. Rene Girard and other scholars would later show how such behavior was based on mimetic techniques in all societies in one form or another.

Be that as it may, Reich was ousted from the Congress of Psychoanalysis by Anna Freud herself for his heresies. Curtis presents this and much more about Anna and her promotion of Freud’s theories across the Ocean. Bernays himself would be one of those that would use his own public relations firm to promote these ideas in lectures to businesses around the country, thereby informing and building the consumer society we see around us today. His early branding techniques and ad campaigns, along with trendy slogans, etc. would speak to the mass individual’s desires rather than reason They felt that one could bypass reason and go directly to peoples desires and manipulate them through attraction, allure, and other affective techniques to buy products. Such things did not go unnoticed by those in Germany in the thirties.

It would be Joseph Goebbels himself who would notice that “task of centrally leading both propaganda and education, uniting two concepts that are related but not identical, molding them into a unity that in the long term can serve the government and people.”1 Better than most Goebbels would cut to the core and realize the essential elements of the propaganda system:

Propaganda too has a system. It cannot be made any old way. In the long run, it can only be effective in the service of great ideals and far-seeing principles. And propaganda must be learned. It must be led only by people with a fine and sure instinct for the often changeable feelings of the people. They must be able to reach into the world of the broad masses and draw out their wishes and hopes. The effective propagandist must be a master of the art of speech, of writing, of journalism, of the poster and of the leaflet. He must have the gift to use the major methods of influencing public opinion such as the press, film and radio to serve his ideas and goals, above all in an age of advancing technology.

This notion of fusing propaganda, media and education would allow Goebbels to engender a new form of governance and social control; one he learned from Bernays and Lippmann. For as Guy Debord and so many others have recounted over the years, we are immersed in a propaganda machine, an infosphere of ideology that surrounds us like an invisible envelope, a transparent bubble of information and data that shapes us through powerful Information and Communications Technologies that have been naturalized for the most part in our lives like a seamless dream.

After WWII the consumer society would enter a new phase. With soldiers returning from war, with industry change over from war to civilian economies, with the need to build a new world in which the mass consumer would be taught to buy, consume, and discover the obsolescence of last years product and the need for this years. The capitalist utopia of conformity and compliance shifted gears into hyper-consumption and obsolescence, composition and decomposition, the endless cycle of production and consumption; profit over people. People wanted things, lots of things, a complete house and yard full of things. It was during this era that the greatest control device known to man up to that time was introduced: the television. Television created the couch potato, the passive citizen locked into watching endless cartoons, war films, romances, westerns, crime shows, etc. A world that could be controlled and manipulated by the elites for the elites, the perfect system in which to teach the new consumer society not only what to buy, but how to live, how to behave, how to become what the elites wanted them to become. One can go back and watch many of these early black and white shows from different venues around the web and study the power of this media to shape these fifties citizens. I don’t have time to go into a listing of shows, etc. William Boddy’s book Fifties Television: THE INDUSTRY AND ITS CRITICS gives an informed look at this history for those interested. Tons of related works on media theory and its use as control and propaganda system are available in sociological, psychological, and legal, marketing, and other literatures. Fascinating to see the hype of public opinion, and the actual workings in the backgrounds as elites controlled and manipulated the systems for economic and governmental agendas.

The slow process of remythologizing society over the past century has been a fascinating study in itself. The quirky systems of information management and public relations of Bernays became over a hundred years the emergence of an industry that’s only purpose is to deceive, manipulate, and entertain its consumers as producers of their own desires to consume endlessly.

Think of it with the new neurosciences big business is learning to intervene directly into your actual physical systems now. Just as the early marketers learned from Freud, then from the Human Potential Movement. The problem with the Matrix we live in is that it seems to be crumbling around the edges, it seems to be breaking down, and all the nuts, bolts, hype will never put it back together again.  So goes the story…

For Bernays, Goebbels, and any number of media relations propagandists and manipulators of Public Opinion the keys were to simplify, riddle the world dramatic, formulate the clichés that can bolster the most vibrant enthusiasm. Bernays once said of the average Joe on the street:

The mental equipment of the average individual consists of a mass of judgments on most of the subjects which touch his daily physical or mental life. These judgments are the tools of his daily being and yet they are his judgments, not on a basis of research and logical deduction, but for the most part dogmatic expressions accepted on the authority of his parents, his teachers, his church, and of his social, his economic and other leaders.

Most of us don’t want to believe we are less than individuals, that we’re closer to an amalgam of competiting opinions (doxa) and judgements not our own, and that for all our deep and abiding belief in the notion of the liberal individual Self / Subject what we are in the end is nothing but these floating bits of ideas circulating in that indistinct social assembly system we term society, culture, or —the Symbolic Order. The point here is that most humans are walking clichés, their minds riddled with thoughts and judgements not their own. Which brings us to the old argument of Copy and Simulacrum, or Originality and Plagiarism, Public and Individual Mind. Adding to the mix, postmodern literary theory reminds us that nothing is wholly original-that we depend on remixing and reusing the past, adding to or remaking old plots, insights, and ideas. Across disciplines and fields, we find that plagiarism is not a simple wrong; a full understanding of its role in contemporary intellectual life depends on a broad approach that includes notions of what is original and what role imitation plays in the creation of new texts, individuals, and societies.

It was Montaigne who noted that all knowledge is public property. Rousseau challenged the alternative notion of private property saying it was the cause of every major disaster to befall human society. In his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality he warned us to beware of the imposter who would have you believe property can be private, and admonished us lest we become lost and “forget that the fruit belongs to everyone, and the earth to no one.” Every legal notion of copyright is based on private property laws. But as Eliot once said, the “Originals were never original anyway,” then what is it that is private?

As numerous contributors remind us, at no time has copyright law guaranteed complete control over an individual work or property. All this reminded me of the recent suit brought by the country of Iceland against a British food chain, Iceland Ltd. for infringement on copyright law. As the Food Chain said in a statement: “While we will vigorously defend Iceland Foods’ established rights where there is any risk of confusion between our business and Iceland the country, we have been trading successfully for 46 years under the name Iceland and do not believe that any serious confusion or conflict has ever arisen in the public mind, or is likely to do so.”

The use of “public mind” as a legal defense in the above is almost hilarious if it wasn’t such a serious case and precedent. Yet, isn’t this at the heart of the essay: the distance between public/private has become indecipherable over the past couple hundred years. We used to hold that the barriers between public and private were essential for a democracy. But we’ve seen the barriers slowly erode and disappear in the past few decades to the point that the public and private as categories of political, or even legal systems means nothing anymore. In a world dominated by digital reproduction and mass replication of data we’ve entered a new era. “Piracy” has become a favorite word to describe even legal copying of material because in the digital age the potential arises to make millions of copies easily.

Even DNA/RNA has become a hot topic in the public/private debates. With cloning and replication, 3D Printers enabled to replicate anything from weapons to biosynthetic molecules we’re living in a realm of CRISPERS and DYI Genetics. The world is becoming strangers day by day, but so is the command and control systems. Surveillance or the replication of the ‘eye’ and ‘gaze’ of the legal and State machine to strip the world of all its hidden spaces and privacy is becoming more and more important in the larger megacities. Civilization is mutating at an accelerating pace into a multitude of niche markets and worlds as if sociocultural evolution was exploding beyond the old public/private distinctions.

If the public/private distinction no longer holds then what about democracy itself? Can we say that in the world where nothing is private and everything has become unoriginal and a copy of a copy to the point that individuality no longer exists and we’ve all become ‘dividuals’  – mere datablips in an organized Surveillance State then what remains of the Enlightenment dreams of Reason? Bernays would once admonish his readers: “The only difference between “propaganda” and “education,” really, is in the point of view. The advocacy of what we believe in is education. The advocacy of what we don’t believe in is propaganda. Each of these nouns carries with it social and moral implications. Education is valuable, commendable, enlightening, instructive. Propaganda is insidious, dishonest, underhand, misleading.”

But then again “belief” is in itself a question of Opinion, public or otherwise. So that GroupThink becomes the order of the day, and what one group believes becomes Law and Education. To hook such a notion to the State is insidiousness itself. Are we not seeing this in our own current and past governments. Hasn’t democracy been under such a dark and secret heritage from the beginning? Have we ever truly had a democracy in America, or was it a trick of propaganda and public relations all along? Socrates once admonished that he was an ignorant man, maybe this is a good place to acknowledge just how ignorant we have all become. That for all our modern and post-modern elitism most of our academics, scholars, intellectuals, philosophers, scientists are all under the illusion of living in a democracy when in fact its never been one but in name and myth. Is it time to wake up yet?


  1. Goebbels, Joseph (2009-05-31). Goebbels on the Power of Propaganda (Kindle Locations 34-35). Shamrock Eden Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  2. Bernays, Edward L.. Crystallizing Public Opinion (Kindle Locations 962-968). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

 

 

The Gap That Tests Us: Temporal Implosion of the Void

Zero, however, intrudes diagonally.  […] Between the world we would like to inhabit, and the world that exists, there’s a gap that tests us. Even the simplest description of this gap already calls for a decision.

—Nick Land,  Calendric Dominion

Maybe what is happening is the temporal truth that Time is breaking down. In the Progressive myth of Improvement the present has been considered to be inferior to the future, and time became an agent; not only was it palpably accelerating, but one must make it move faster still. The future lay in speed. Attempts were made to break time in two and insert the future directly into the present. Is that happening now? Is the future imploding into the gap? Are we victims of a darker truth unfolding as from the other ends of time?

Are we to conclude that experience and expectation have moved so far apart that the tension between them has reached breaking point, that we are at a point where the two categories have come apart? Whether this is a temporary or a permanent state, the fact remains that this present is a time of memory and debt, of daily amnesia, uncertainty, and simulation. As such, we can no longer adequately describe our present—this moment of crisis of time—in the terms we have been using and developing as a “gap” between past and future. The present can no longer be understood, or only partially, as an “odd in-between period” in historical time, “during which one becomes aware of an interval in time which is altogether determined by things that are no longer and by things that are not yet.”

The Gap is as wide as the Mind. Let the Test begin…

Lest We Forget: Eugene V. Debs and American Socialism

eugene-v-debs-emerges-from-prison-1

 “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

—Mother Jones

Most young people don’t even know who Eugene V. Debs (Socialist Populist, Founder of the IWW) is, much less that he was sent to prison for 10 years for criticising a sitting President (Woodrow Wilson, Progressive) for going to War (WW I):

Nearly a million Americans, in fact, voted for federal prisoner number 9653 in 1920, and many of them were odd comrades like my Republican grandfather: people who didn’t necessarily agree with Debs’ politics but who admired his devotion to the cause of labor and his courage in speaking out against the carnage of the First World War. According to my mother, my grandfather had once heard Debs speak from the caboose of his famous “Red Special,” the train that carried him across the Midwest during the election of 1908, and was appalled that” America’s conscience” had been sentenced to ten years in federal prison for criticizing President Wilson and the war in his famous Canton, Ohio, speech in June 1918. He was particularly angry at Wilson for keeping Debs and hundreds of other Socialists and trade unionists in prison long after Armistice, and for deporting thousands of “subversive aliens” in 1919 without any semblance of due process. Grandpa thought Wilson was drunk on power, intoxicated by his own sanctimonious rhetoric.

-Mike Davis in the Preface from The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs

It was the Depression of 1893 that propelled Eugene Debs into a lifetime of action for unionism and socialism. Debs was from Terre Haute, Indiana, where his father and mother ran a store. He had worked on the railroads for four years until he was nineteen, but left when a friend was killed after falling under a locomotive. He came back to join a Railroad Brotherhood as a billing clerk. At the time of the great strikes of 1877, Debs opposed them and argued there was no “necessary conflict between capital and labor.” But when he read Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, it deeply affected him.

“The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough. Money constitutes no proper basis of civilization. The time has come to regenerate society— we are on the eve of a universal change.” -Eugene Debs

James Green describes these Southwest radicals, in his book Grass-Roots Socialism, as “indebted homesteaders, migratory tenant farmers, coal miners and railroad workers, ‘redbone’ lumberjacks from the piney woods, preachers and schoolteachers from the sunbaked prairies . . . village artisans and atheists . . . the unknown people who created the strongest regional Socialist movement in United States history.” Green continues:

“The Socialist movement . . . was painstakingly organized by scores of former Populists, militant miners, and blacklisted railroad workers, who were assisted by a remarkable cadre of professional agitators and educators and inspired by occasional visits from national figures like Eugene V. Debs and Mother Jones. . . . This core of organizers grew to include indigenous dissenters. . . . a much larger group of amateur agitators who canvassed the region selling newspapers, forming reading groups, organizing locals, and making soapbox speeches.”

-from Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States (p. 278). HarperCollins.

With Eugene V. Debs as its spokesman the an American form of Socialism moved out of the small circles of city immigrants— Jewish and German socialists speaking their own languages— and became American. The strongest Socialist state organization was in Oklahoma, which in 1914 had twelve thousand dues-paying members (more than New York State), and elected over a hundred Socialists to local office, including six to the Oklahoma state legislature. There were fifty-five weekly Socialist newspapers in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and summer encampments that drew thousands of people.

Arthur Schlesinger once wrote: “Liberalism in America has been ordinarily the movement on the part of the other sections of society to restrain the power of the business community.” Eugene V. Debs came to the forefront because that was no longer true. Even during the supposed Age of Reform (Hofstadter) or what we now term the Progressive Era in politics (strangely that world is nothing like the progressives of our time!). Most of the reforms had just the opposite effect, they benefited Big Business and pauperized the masses. Even when Workmen’s Compensation laws were enacted, it was to the benefit of the employer, not the worker in the long run. As Zinn attests:

In this period, cities also put through reforms, many of them giving power to city councils instead of mayors, or hiring city managers. The idea was more efficiency, more stability. “The end result of the movements was to place city government firmly in the hands of the business class,” Weinstein says. What reformers saw as more democracy in city government, urban historian Samuel Hays sees as the centralization of power in fewer hands, giving business and professional men more direct control over city government. (353)

We’ve seen that with the privatization of Health Care in Obamacare, which on the surface seems a good thing, but in fact with privatization and regulation now in the hands of the Factory Insurance systems organized under regulatory systems of profit, care will not go up but is not under the control of Big Business. Our supposed reforms once again benefit business, who now has reduced the overcost of insurance it once had to pay, as well as in most of the service sector skating by with minimal or nor compensation through reducing work to part-time and disallowing full-time jobs to save on many of the remaining regulated systems in place. Everywhere you look Big Business has monopolized and unloaded its shifting responsibility on the private sector to the detriment of workers everywhere.

The outcry against the Great War forced Woodrow Wilson to act. Wilson was under the thumb of Big Business to enter the war, and the likes of Debs and other socialists, anarchists, and ant-war protestors were beginning to take a toll and sway the public at large. Congress passed, and Wilson signed, in June of 1917, the Espionage Act. From its title one would suppose it was an act against spying. However, it had a clause that provided penalties up to twenty years in prison for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall wilfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the U.S. . . .” Unless one had a theory about the nature of governments, it was not clear how the Espionage Act would be used. It even had a clause that said “nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or restrict . . . any discussion, comment, or criticism of the acts or policies of the Government. . . .” But its double-talk concealed a singleness of purpose. The Espionage Act was used to imprison Americans who spoke or wrote against the war. (Zinn, 365)

Debs was arrested for violating the Espionage Act. There were draft-age youths in his audience, and his words would “obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service.” His words were intended to do much more than that: Yes, in good time we are going to sweep into power in this nation and throughout the world. We are going to destroy all enslaving and degrading capitalist institutions and re-create them as free and humanizing institutions. The world is daily changing before our eyes. The sun of capitalism is setting; the sun of Socialism is rising. . . . In due time the hour will strike and this great cause triumphant . . . will proclaim the emancipation of the working class and the brotherhood of all mankind. (Thunderous and prolonged applause.) (Zinn, 367)

Debs would remain in jail through the war and not be pardoned till 1921 by President Harding.

  • June 16, 1918 — Debs made his famous anti-war speech in Canton, Ohio, protesting World War I which was raging in Europe. For this speech he was arrested and convicted in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio under the war-time espionage law. He was his own attorney and his appeal to the jury and his statement to the court before sentencing, are regarded as two of the great classic statements ever made in a court of law. He was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.
  • April 12, 1919 — Debs began serving his sentence in Moundsville, W. Va. State prison and was transferred to Atlanta, Ga. Federal prison two months later. His humility and friendliness and his assistance to all won him the respect and admiration of the most hardened convicts.
  • 1920 — For the fifth and last time, while a prisoner at Atlanta, he was nominated to run for president on the Socialist party ticket. Conducting his campaign from inside the prison, he was given nearly a million votes but was defeated by the Republican, Warren G. Harding. On Christmas Day, 1921 President Harding released Debs from prison, commuting his sentence to time served.
  • Dec. 28, 1921 — Debs arrived home in Terre Haute from prison and was given a tremendous welcome by thousand of Terre Hauteans. Debs spent his remaining days trying to recover his health which was severely undermined by prison confinement. He made several speeches, wrote many articles and finally in 1926 went to Lindlahr sanitarium just outside of Chicago.
  • Oct. 20, 1926 — Eugene V. Debs died in Lindlahr sanitarium. His body was brought back to Terre Haute where it lay in state in the Terre Haute Central Labor Temple. Great men and women from the world came over to Terre Haute for his funeral which was conducted by Norman Thomas from the front porch of the Debs home. ThIrty-eight years later, Thomas returned to Terre Haute to dedicate the Debs home as a memorial to the great humanitarian. Debs was cremated and his ashes were interred in Highland Lawn cemetery, Terre Haute, with only a simple marker. Ten years later his beloved wife, Kate, was buried beside him. Over the years, hundreds have journeyed to his grave to pay tribute to this great man whose many reforms have now become a part of the American way of life. There is hardly any American alive today, rich or poor, whose life has not been touched in some beneficent way by the influence of Eugene Victor Debs.

 

 

 

The Pain of the World

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

from T.S. Eliot’s Hollow Men

For me the Pessimist is first and foremost a realist who sees too much. Thus the cause of despair. I remember the refrain from the Book of Ecclesiastes which I had memorized as a young man it spoke so closely what I felt. Here is the passage of the King of Israel who in this Book we know as the Preacher: “I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” As I look around at my country I ask myself if we’ve got a chance in hell of democracy continuing. And, by that, I’m not going to get into some diatribe against either the Left or Right. Plenty of bullshit is being written on both sides of the political spectrum for me to add my own crapology to the sinkhole of endless pissing in the wind. No. My hunch is that we’ve got to move past this, we’ve got to rethink not only politics, but what it is as a species on a planet that some have observed is in the midst of both a fierce emergency (Sixth Extinction Event, Climate Change, Global Wars and rumors of more wars, famine, disease, political unrest, etc.) across the globe.

4

Looking at this scene in Aleppo, Syria reminds me of many of the old pictures of WWII and its aftermath, and how the supposed War to end all Wars was supposed to make the world safe and democratic. Right! We’ve seen the world’s leaders sit back and watch for years, doing nothing, then suddenly decide to allow refugees into their countries. Then retract it and decide otherwise. Rather than creating a stable and protective environment for all on this planet we’ve brought a brutal and cruel world of thugs who can without the blink of an eye bomb their own citizens. And, then when the Superpowers finally step in they do it all half-ass, without plan are notion of what it is their doing. Such is the State of stupidity in the Free World. A world on the brink of economic and social collapse do to this very indecisiveness and lack of courage to act.

Imagine a world where the technological promise of human connectivity is supplanted by forms of surveillance that encourage citizens to actively participate in their own inescapable oppression. Imagine a world that proclaims an end to the brutality of colonialism, all the while continuing to consciously vilify, target, incarcerate, and kill those of a different color. Imagine a world where the forces of militarism have become so ingrained that they are inseparable from the daily functioning of civic life. Imagine a world where the institutions tasked with producing the most brilliant and publicly engaged minds are put to the service of an uncompromising war machine. And imagine a world that has lost all faith in its ability to envisage— let alone create— better futures, condemning its citizens instead to a desolate terrain of inevitable catastrophe. The great tragedy of the current historical moment is that we can imagine this world all too easily, for it is the picture of the world that dominates the realities of our present condition. It is a world most people experience on a daily basis— a world that has become normalized and for which there is no immediate alternative— a world we understand as neoliberalism.1

As I study the situation of both migrant workers, refugees, and immigrants into the First World I ask myself: What if the shoe was on the other foot? What if it was New York City, San Francisco, Los Angelos, Phoenix, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, or any number of cities here in the States or in the EU that were bombed out with citizens scrambling for their lives, seeking to survive, being turned back at the borders of other cities or States? What if it were my family? How would I feel? We are so immersed in images, TV, Internet, Movies… that everything we perceive is at second remove, mediated by the Screen … We are the products of a Screen World, a world where everything is framed, staged, already removed from the cruel and dark emotional tide of pain and human flesh in its misery and spiritual loneliness. We do not feel what these people feel, we can only see – but blindly, for we are not emotionally invested in their lives, their problems. For most of us its: “Oh, how horrible, how sad, how tragic for them…” And, in the back of the mind for many it’s the “Oh, but for the grace of God…” or as a secularist “Oh, certainly glad we lives in such a country that such things can’t happen, etc.”. We have our little fables, our little lies to keep us at a distance from such feelings. We worry over gas money, our hair-do appointments, our kids running shoes, our next dance party… we are so busy with our lives that we can’t stop and think. To think or feel would be just too much. And, of course, many just no longer have the ability to think or feel. A sociopathic culture of indifference, apathy, and affectlessness pervades many peoples actual lives at home or work.

Oh, yes, I could pull out a parade of books to back up all this claptrack. Would that help? Or hinder the truth, that we’re powerless to act in our own world even if we chose too? Really after the recent election where does our power lie? Some take to the streets and protest. Fine. Will that change anything? Others spin the wheel of memes of Facebook and Twitter or any other meme rotary tool available. lambasting the net with pros or cons of the current Presidential selection. Does that do anything? Are we speaking past each other? Whose really listening? Are we speaking to the choir? To  ourselves? Telling ourselves endless tales of comparison with dead worlds of Italy and Germany? How does that change anything? Tell me, I truly would like to know? I remember watching Putin come to power, and how he silenced his critics by having them killed. Simple. Quick. Efficient. Do we worry about such things here in the States? Recently Donald Trump brought a group of high-caliber TV Pundits to his High Tower for a visit. As one participant described it:

On Monday afternoon, he had a contentious Trump Tower meeting with another one of his chief adversaries: members of the news media.

In the session with more than a dozen television executives and on-air journalists, Trump was highly critical of coverage of him, according to several people familiar with the gathering. Keeping his voice calm and his tone flippant, he told the group sitting around a conference table that they failed to provide their viewers with fair and accurate coverage and told them they failed to understand him or his appeal to millions of Americans.

Trump expressed particular ire at CNN and at several reporters at other cable networks whom he sees as unreasonably antagonistic toward him, though he did not mention them by name.

The people variously described Trump as “combative,” “proud,” and “dismissive” toward the news organizations present. He also shrugged off the need for a constant pool covering him, they said, although he did not delve into specifics.

 Problem with all this Trump bashing is that the Democrats themselves opened the door to it. President Obama expanded the Presidential powers of the Executive Office more than any previous administration, while at the same time castigating the coming regime change and Trump’s coming to power. As Greenwald states it:

…beginning in his first month in office and continuing through today, Obama not only continued many of the most extreme executive-power policies he once condemned, but in many cases strengthened and extended them. His administration detained terrorism suspects without due process, proposed new frameworks to keep them locked up without trial, targeted thousands of individuals (including a U.S. citizen) for execution by drone, invoked secrecy doctrines to shield torture and eavesdropping programs from judicial review, and covertly expanded the nation’s mass electronic surveillance.

Blinded by the belief that Obama was too benevolent and benign to abuse his office, and drowning in partisan loyalties at the expense of political principles, Democrats consecrated this framework with their acquiescence and, often, their explicit approval. This is the unrestrained set of powers Trump will inherit. The president-elect frightens them, so they are now alarmed. But if they want to know whom to blame, they should look in the mirror.

 Yet, now, once again they decry that very power in the hands of a Republican. Hypocrisy?

I think what bothers me most at the moment is the Leftwing Meta-Narrative and Mytholigization of Trump and his followers. Taking the extreme limits of the spectrum one is seeing the pundits and meme twisters reducing the Trump world to Fascism, comparing him to Hitler and Stalin. Instead of taking the long hard look at their own failures, the Democrats are spending time building up a fear and terror narrative staging Trump as some ultimate dictator in a play scripted by the Democratic Nightmare Squad.

As an Independent it irks me to no end that both parties are stooping into such antics. It’s more like a childish game, but one that has consequences in the real world. What we need is to create a stable and livable environment on this planet where humans and non-humans can share whatever time is left for this earth and its resources. But, no, people can’t push past their ideological punching bags, and would rather sink into fear mongering and terrorizing each other with Horror Stories and Brutal insane scenarios of the future.

Sadly there’s no place to get away from such things anymore. Where would you go? I’ve heard many speak of secession? Pipe dreams… hogwash! Either we learn to live on this planet together, or we will find we will all definitely die together. Caput!

We live in a transitional period that could go either way. At the same time, the narrative world of neoliberal ideology, policies, and modes of governing have become so normalized as if there is no outside or alternative to capitalism. As corporate power replaces political sovereignty, politics becomes an extension of war and all public spaces are transformed into battle zones. Not only are all vestiges of the social contract, the safety net, and institutions of democracy under siege, but so too are all public spheres that support non-market values such as trust, critical dialogue, and solidarity.

One thing for sure is that Democracy is on the line, this time. The Republicans have the House, Senate, and Presidency. Will they destroy it or reconstruct it, and thereby revive it? Most on the Left see ‘doom’, as an Independent and a pessimist realist I’m neither optimistic nor doom ridden, but rather observing and challenging. Doing the only thing I can do speaking out for the working class not matter the ethnic, gender, or class. For those that cannot help themselves. Even though I’m an unbeliever, I still remember that man who once turned over the money changers tables and helped the poor, lame, blind and diseased. And, if he lived now, would probably been as riled up at the current bullshit as I am across this planet and its brutalization of life.


  1. Giroux, Henry A.; Evans, Brad. Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 138-146). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

After the Election: A Few Books to Read

A few books on my list:

The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump’s America by Alexander Zaitchik

“The Gilded Rage offers a sharp corrective to the panicked schematic analysis of Trumpism as another GOP-choreographed hoodwinking of disgruntled grassroots conservatives. By focusing on the Trump phenomenon as a social movement, Zaitchik astutely shows us how Trump’s mass appeal … arises out of the same populist discontent that the GOP leadership has stoked throughout the Obama era, without even pretending to assuage it. To his great credit, he listens while his subjects offer up complicated, often self-questioning accounts of their ardent Trump support. There’s nothing here that resembles the glib demographic explanations-cum-dismissals of Trumpism that are now fashionable among liberals in the Northeast corridor… The overall effect of Zaitchik’s unrushed, painstaking interviews is to show a Trump electorate whose members … are deeply anxious about their precarious standing in a political and economic order that hasn’t given them any grounds for hope.” — Chris Lehmann

(Buy)

George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America:

The Unwinding, George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, tells the story of the United States over the past three decades in an utterly original way, with his characteristically sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives.

 The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet’s significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the era’s leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their undercurrents.

The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.

(Buy)

Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra:

How can we explain the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world – from American ‘shooters’ and ISIS to Trump, from a rise in vengeful nationalism across the world to racism and misogyny on social media? In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra answers our bewilderment by casting his gaze back to the eighteenth century, before leading us to the present.

He shows that as the world became modern those who were unable to fulfil its promises – freedom, stability and prosperity – were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who came late to this new world or were left, or pushed, behind, reacted in horrifyingly similar ways: intense hatred of invented enemies, attempts to re-create an imaginary golden age, and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected that the militants of the 19th century arose – angry young men who became cultural nationalists in Germany, messianic revolutionaries in Russia, bellicose chauvinists in Italy, and anarchist terrorists internationally.

Today, just as then, the wider embrace of mass politics, technology, and the pursuit of wealth and individualism has cast many more billions adrift in a literally demoralized world, uprooted from tradition but still far from modernity – with the same terrible results.

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There Is No Image For It

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Maybe it is true after all, maybe it isn’t. This world a vast Simulator, we the programs of some edgy or stupid modeling software repeating the nightmares of a child gone lucidly bunkos. Even after a 1001 scenarios the game goes on and on and on… to no purpose, only whim and sardonic laughter.

Baubles of a mindless god…

Sometimes I scare myself… then I remember that even nightmares are illusions and delusions luring us into despair. Even the worst image of life or death is but a mental construct, a fake apprehension of that which is no image. We have no image for the unknown, only apprehensions. We do not fear what we can see, as much as we are in terror of the unknown we cannot. Fear is not an image one can simulate, nor terror a product of the mind’s vast repertoire of image making power. Humans are ultimately tied to their affections, not their intellect. Feelings, not intelligence drives us anxiously to exist: Survive!  Even the urge to procreate, the sensual lure of sex is a driveness of deep-seated feelings and needs to continue, rather than some mental or intelligent decision on our part. At the core is this inhuman need to continue, to survive, to reproduce, to go on. Our enemy, time and death. Immortal drives seeking the endless circle and labyrinth to stave off the inevitable zero point of oblivion. It moves, the void: it is the blank in the eye, the blind spot in every theory.

Or, should we reverse this? Maybe it is intelligence that has for so long used the apprehensions and feelings of affective beings toward its own goals, sought through the labors of endless repetition and cycles within cycles of organic life forms the cunning road out of organicity? Maybe after all the dreams of Reason are but the graspings of this unknown in us seeking a path into immortal form? Then the driveness would seem but the chrysalis of the worm seeking the beauty of the butterfly. The dreamer and the dream, Old Chuang Tzu wondering if he is the dream or the butterfly dreaming he is a man. Between form and formlessness, the adamantine body and the body of wind lies the central point of a truth we have as yet not perceived.

Dropping the metaphors we could use any of the man made linguistic vocabularies: science, poetic, rhetorical, philosophical, musical, mathematical, etc. All that would gain is the snobbery of the specific, and egoistic apprehension of our ignorance. Even as the great physicists construct their mathematical cathedrals of theory: from quantum gravity to string theory it is still bound to those subtle effects that transpire outside the range of human limitation. We gain insight only into that which we cannot perceive (i.e., the unknown surrounding us on all sides.). We give it nice metaphors such as Dark Matter and Dark Energy to fill in the gaps of our non-knowledge with mathematical models of that missing stuff which will not expose itself to our organic senses and sciences, our filters, our appendages, our tools and apparatuses.  So that even the sciences come to darkness in the end, probing the void for answers much as astrologers once probed the heavens for signs. Complexity for complexity’s sake? Or, to put an end to the questioning?

And if we discovered the end of things, the last particle, the ultimate reason and cause of things: What then? Would this be the end? Or, a beginning?

Philosophers for millennia have drifted between hope and despair of wisdom. Is there no end? Has Wisdom been found, yet? Are we the never ending unsatisfied animal? The one that cannot be at home in the universe? The squanderers of meaning, who no longer believe in meaning of value? Is it so? Or, have we discovered that meaning is not fixed, that there is not one unique and defined meaning, no literal world or universe of meaning, but as many meanings as there are stars strewn through the abyss? For two hundred years we’ve questioned the meanings of our ancestors and found them lacking (or some have!). Some speak of de-programming the mind of Western Civilization, of the great demythologization of our inheritance, of stripping it of its last anthropomorphic blight. So what has this gotten us? A world without us, some say. The non-human or inhuman turn away from the human, etc.  As if being human were now a disease from which we must recover? But then they say Nature is no more, that that too was but a construct of the human – a flight of anthropomorphic poetry and imaginal embellishment that must be stripped away revealing the stuff ‘out there’. That, too, sadly, may be illusion and delusion, too.

Some say that philosophy itself is at an end, the road to Wisdom is defunct, no more wisdom to be found. True? Untrue? Some say its all mute anyway, because the human is the last myth to go, that in an age of transition such as ours, and as the sciences of genetics, nanotechnology, robotics, and AI converge we will no longer remain even the physical creatures to which the name ‘human’ has attached itself for so many thousands of generations. We shall become something else? Transhuman? Machinic? What? Again that old question arises: is intelligence piggy-backing on the organic to emerge from its chrysalis into some other form? Or, is, this too but a false dream of reason? A nightmare scenario rather than a truth?

Some envision the Universe itself as already being a great machinic entity, not a god with some grand scheme, but a mindless indifference dreaming its own dreams in an unknowing endless repetition of blindness and insight without end. Stripping an form of personality from this endless process to realize it, too, is but an impersonal and immortal circle and labyrinth. As our earth cannibalizes the Continents in its endless churning and folding and unfolding and eruptions: a process that will continue till the engine at the core goes dead and silent. The vast cosmos is this cannibalistic process of endless creation and destruction: a thought that the psychomythologists of ancient India were the first to surmise eons ago.

Maybe in the end even our thought is circling back on itself again and again, repeating under other forms and gestures age old mythologies; maybe, even our sciences are caught in this trap of thinking purified of its entrapments in myth, but discovering that the patterns of the underlying form that produced the myths and images are and have always been there in the mind from which they did and still do arise. Are the patterns in our mind, or out there in the world? The age old battle of the realist and idealist enacted in some comic parade of endless repetitions?

For me there are no definitive answers or conclusions, the Universe is open and incomplete, unfinished. I cannot answer if we’ve been through this circle before, no one can; if we are but the mental constructs of some sadistic child, or if we are the singular and unique forms that seem to see and thing as we do now, once, and never again; differences that are absolutely singular and unrepeatable. We are here, now. Only this I can affirm, all else is the drift of thought, endless thought. I feel, I think: both seem a part of what it is I Am. This too may be illusion, delusion. Yet, I’ll work with that: What else is there? Impure and restless I churn in the organic seeking neither outlet nor some prolonged agony, only the curiosity of my kind at being here in this place, this time.

That is enough… there need be no definitive answer from the cosmos, only our curiosity and surprise at being here, now, alive.

Feudalistic Corporate Empire vs. First Americans?

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Little has been represented in the Feudalistic Corporate Media of late on the dark encroachment of Oil upon the Sacred Burial Grounds on the Sioux Nation. Last night a tipping point was breached by the armed enforcers of that Corporate Empire that hovers over North Dakota like the forked tongued lies of a feudal empire. In sub-freezing cold tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and concussion grenades were deployed on 400 protesters trapped on the Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806, just north of the main protest camp.

“They were attacked with water cannons,” said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Standing Rock Sioux tribe member and founder of the Sacred Stone camp. “It is 23 degrees [-5 °C] out there with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, etc. They are being trapped and attacked. Pray for my people.”

And, this in the supposed Land of the Free. No more. Big Oil applying its will and backed by the Feudal Empire of American Law and Justice stomps upon the rights of First Americans in their own lands.

Since the North Dakota Access Pipeline was first announced in 2014, opposition to it has slowly gathered momentum, culminating in high-profile protests last week.

The Reason it is being built?

The oil potential in North Dakota’s Bakken formation is huge. Oil was first discovered there in the 1950s and the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the region holds an available 7.4 billion barrels of oil.

The 1,172-mile project is expected to carry nearly half a million barrels of crude oil daily—enough to make 374.3 million gallons of gasoline per day—from the hydrofracked sites in the Bakken formation in northwestern North Dakota  through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. From Illinois, shippers can access Midwest, East Coast, and Gulf Coast markets. The project is also referred to as the Bakken Oil Pipeline, named for the oil-rich area in North Dakota.

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Irving Howe: Old School Democratic Socialist

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Irving Howe

From 1981 Dissent Mag: On the Moral Basis of Socialism:

In a luminous sketch the Italian writer Ignazio Silone recalls an incident from his childhood. He once saw “a small, barefoot, ragged little man” being dragged down the streets of his village. “Look how funny he is,” the boy said to his father.

My father looked severely at me, dragging me to my feet and led me to his room. I had never seen him so angry. . . .

“What have I done wrong?” I asked him. . . .

“Never make fun of a man who’s been arrested. Never!”

“Why not?”

“Because he can’t defend himself. And because he may be innocent. In any case, because he’s unhappy.”

This anecdote yields a moral perspective that sustains a politics of socialism. We are asked to concern ourselves with the victim through an act of imaginative relation. We are instructed tacitly in the oppressive weight of power. We are incited to the values of skepticism and sympathy, the two responses that, together, form the basis for whatever remains of civilization in the 20th century. Without invoking God or religion, though these may nevertheless lie behind it, Silone’s story affirms the essence of moral response: a lively awareness of what the other needs and how the other feels. Silone’s anecdote thus has its evident ties with the Kantian view that each man, as a rational moral agent, is owed respect simply as a man—and, adds Bernard Williams, “since men are equally such agents, [this respect] is owed equally to all, unlike admiration and similar attitudes, which are commanded unequally by men in proportion to their unequal possession of different kinds of natural excellence.” The respect put forward in Kantian theory is a kind of secular analogue to the Christian conception of what is owed equally to all men as children of God.

Somewhere in Marxism there is buried an infatuation with Justice. There is intense moral indignation in Marx’s Capital that cannot quite be reconciled with his claim to be a mere scientist charting the course of capitalist economy. It is, oddly enough, in Lenin that one can see most sharply the contradiction between the claim to historical objectivity and the energies of moral passion. He writes that “Marxism contains no shred of ethics from beginning to end”; but he also invokes “the revolutionary consciousness of Justice,” which, capitalized or not, surely must contain at least a shred of ethics; and he tells us also that “Men liberated from capitalist exploitation will gradually become accustomed to abide by the elementary rules of social life known from time immemorial”—which sounds suspiciously like a relativist casting a warm eye at rudimentary absolutes.

To assert that a commitment to socialism somehow entails moral virtue is to risk collective arrogance, which, in breeding fanaticism, is far more dangerous than individual arrogance. And when socialist groups are small, there is a special temptation to fall back upon moral posture: we are powerless, ergo, we must be good. It might, after all, mean we are wrong. The moral value of a political position must always be tested anew. It rests much more with immediate, particular consequences than with cloudy, ultimate ends.

Socialism must always in some sense be a Utopia, that is, an envisioned good society enabling and guiding our conduct of the moment; but it withers into lifelessness, and can even be a menace to freedom, if allowed to become an absolute in the name of which anything may be justified or nothing done. The vision of the good society enlarges moral life insofar as, through the very grandeur of its claims, it reinforces small actions.

In this same article he gives clear indication that democratic socialism if it is to actually reach people, actually produce a viable alternative to the elite liberalism and right-wing capitalism of the market society of plunder and wage slavery then it must envision what a Good Society actually is, and it must provide a path toward such a society that does not entail false means to that end (i.e., a world of violence and upheaval, destruction and chaos, etc.). As he’ll suggest, socialists must listen to the arguments of its enemies and realize the dark side to which socialism tends in authoritarian structures and notions of bureaucratic centralization:

That the effort to construct a socialist society must necessarily entail a large amount of bureaucratic centralization, which, in turn, means the danger of authoritarianism. Have we not, explicitly or tacitly, granted at least some force to this argument? Do we not recognize that a completely nationalized economy, insofar as it places a fearful power in the hands of the state, contains a probable thrust toward authoritarianism? That is why we have moved away from statist visions of socialism to stress decentralization, political freedom, workers’ control of production—the last would become especially important if we could ever determine what we mean by it. [my italics]

Democratic socialism must necessarily be an imperfect system, as are all forms that seek to democratize government (i.e., humans being fallible, egoistic, prone to power plays, violence, desires, etc.):

That there is an inescapable conflict between liberty and equality, which the effort to build socialism would excite in deplorable ways. Allow sufficient liberty and society must turn increasingly inegalitarian; try to enforce equality in stringent ways and you do so at the cost of liberty. There is, we now recognize, “something” to this, and thereby our vision of socialism becomes “less perfect” but perhaps better.

For Howe the Symbolic Order within which we share our commonality must be grounded in some acceptable system of laws, codes, and rules:

The transformations of modern society prompt us to ground the case for socialism more strongly than ever in moral claims. Precisely our strong reasons for doing this may constitute—at least if one has some skepticism about the human enterprise—strong reasons for being cautious, modest, self-critical in our moral assertions. We want to link the guiding ideal with the immediate purpose, but to invoke the need for doing so is not the same as doing it. Perhaps there is only one way of minimizing our mistakes, and that is to see democracy, the freedom embodying our moral values, as the foundation of all we do, all we want, all

Howe was an Old School Socialist whose vision remained in the Enlightenment Project of secular humanist traditions. Even through the whole postmodern era he would challenge the New Left in his magazine Dissent. Many want to deride the old secular humanism as if it were now dead and mute issue, which it is not. Many have turned away from the human in our time toward the anti-human, inhuman, non-human, etc. Yet, there were some who kept to the old ways of being human in a world among humans and others, holding open a skeptical and challenging gaze upon external and internal forms of injustice. Howe was one such light bearer of justice in our world. As he said: “Perhaps there is only one way of minimizing our mistakes, and that is to see democracy, the freedom embodying our moral values, as the foundation of all we do, all we want, all.”

A completed democracy has yet to be attained, even here in America we have seen bitter wars fought on the very concept of the Good Society. We’re seeing as we move into this new cycle of Republican ascendency the anger and resentment of many who were left out in the cold by the Obama factory progressivism and corporate vision. With the door slammed in Hilary Clinton’s face due to lack of votes from those she expected the Mevillean Bartleby effect of “No” was in effect. Many just said no to Hilary…

Now the Party masters and their media pundits are trying their best to rewrite the disastrous consequences of their failure and present another false image to appease. Let this not happen, otherwise there will be the same old same old repetitive politics of defeat in the democratic party. I’ve been an Independent for a long while now, unable to accept either party, seeing in both the power of Corporate Inversion and tyranny by proxy of our government through political pay back and chicanery of foundations, funds, jobs, spin, etc. We do not have a democracy anymore, we are living in a Plutocracy in which oligarchs hold sway over the moneyed classes.

We’ve forgotten our enemy: the moneyed classes. Howe was one who kept reminding us of that fact.

Like many New York Intellectuals, Howe attended City College and graduated in 1940, alongside Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Upon his return, he began writing literary and cultural criticism for the influential Partisan Review and became a frequent essayist for Commentary, Politics, The Nation, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books. In 1954, Howe helped found the intellectual quarterly Dissent, which he edited until his death in 1993. In the 1950’s Howe taught English and Yiddish literature at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. He used the Howe and Greenberg Treasury of Yiddish Stories as the text for a course on the Yiddish story at a time when few were spreading knowledge or appreciation of these works in American colleges and universities.

Since his CCNY days, Howe was committed to left-wing politics. He was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League and then Max Shachtman’s Workers Party, where Shactman made Howe his understudy. After 1948, he joined the Independent Socialist League, where he was a central leader. He left the ISL in the early 1950s. As the request of his friend Michael Harrington, he helped co-found the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee in the early 1970s. DSOC merged into the Democratic Socialists of America in 1982, with Howe as a vice-chair. He was a vociferous opponent of both Soviet totalitarianism and McCarthyism, called into question standard Marxist doctrine, and came into conflict with the New Left after criticizing their unmitigated radicalism. Later in life, his politics gravitated toward more pragmatic democratic socialism and foreign policy, a position still represented in the idiosyncratic political and social arguments of Dissent.

Known for literary criticism as well social and political activism, Howe wrote seminal studies on Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, politics and the novel, and a sweeping cultural history of Eastern European Jews in America entitled World of Our Fathers. He also edited and translated many Yiddish stories, and commissioned the first English translation of Isaac Bashevis Singer for the Partisan Review. He also wrote A Margin of Hope, his autobiography, and Socialism and America.


Download: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/wp-content/files_mf/1447453015HoweMoralBasisofSocialismFall1981.pdf

Chris Hedges: The Deplorables

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Read Article on TruthDig.com

Chris Hedges tells us:

“My relatives in Maine are deplorables. I cannot write on their behalf. I can write in their defense. They live in towns and villages that have been ravaged by deindustrialization. The bank in Mechanic Falls, where my grandparents lived, is boarded up, along with nearly every downtown store. The paper mill closed decades ago. There is a strip club in the center of the town. The jobs, at least the good ones, are gone. Many of my relatives and their neighbors work up to 70 hours a week at three minimum-wage jobs, without benefits, to make perhaps $35,000 a year. Or they have no jobs. They cannot afford adequate health coverage under the scam of Obamacare. Alcoholism is rampant in the region. Heroin addiction is an epidemic. Labs producing the street drug methamphetamine make up a cottage industry. Suicide is common. Domestic abuse and sexual assault destroy families. Despair and rage among the population have fueled an inchoate racism, homophobia and Islamophobia and feed the latent and ever present poison of white supremacy. They also nourish the magical thinking peddled by the con artists in the Christian right, the state lotteries that fleece the poor, and an entertainment industry that night after night shows visions of an America and a lifestyle on television screens—“The Apprentice” typified this—that foster unattainable dreams of wealth and celebrity.”

Reading his article I was reminded of my own family group scattered from Oregon to Texas to North Carolina to Colorado to New York to Pennsylvania… people who fit this same scenario in different places, but under the same pressures and problems.


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Alain Badiou on Our Recent Elections

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We can do some­thing. And we must do, because if we do noth­ing at all, we are only in the fas­cin­a­tion, the stu­pid­ity of fas­cin­a­tion…

—Alain Badiou

Badiou’s view of the Left’s Bankruptcy and where we might go from here. After reading his speech I ask myself if we are enacting pre-Weimer Germany but on a vast untold scale across the planet’s surface, if the vacuum in world leadership, the global captilist prison system, the dark insidiousness of the economic devastation, climatic change, and rampant devastation of crops, disease, famine, war, etc. are a prelude to an even darker and more troubling world arising from the ashes of history in some parody of retroactive emergence and parody? Are we preparing the way for a future tyranny from the hinterlands of our unknowing world?

I think both Badiou and Zizek seek to spur change on the global Left to action and thought, to renewed diliberation rather than this continued mourning of its failures… so do I. This sense of a subjective crisis, rather than political and economic is in a sense at the forefront of this global crisis. As he says:

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Who runs America?

Who truly runs America?

The wealthiest 1 percent of families in 1890 owned 51 percent of the real and personal property; the 44 percent of families at the bottom owned only 1.2 percent of all the property. Together, the wealthy and well-to-do (12 percent of families) owned 86 percent of the wealth. The poorer and middle classes, who represented 88 percent of families, owned 14 percent of the wealth.1

As billionaire Warren Buffet puts it, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

While we worry over the political demolition team of Trump, the real culprits of wealth in the Plutocracy of American where the oligarchs like Buffet sit back and laugh and even boldly lie to us as if they gave a shit. Yea, the only thing they care about is the bottom line: profits, and be dammed to all who get in the way of that. So read the article below for the details. And, quit your weeping self-pitying over Hilary and do something. In an article on the Washingtonpost.blog THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN AMERICA: CONSEQUENCES, CAUSES, AND REMEDIES (1 of 5)

“A recent paper from the Institute of Policy Studies reports that the “wealthiest 20 Americans own more than half the American population” combined. As a depiction of the inequitable distribution of wealth in America today this is accurate as far as it goes but it is stated in a way that presents a distorted view of the scale of wealth and poverty and of the discrepancy between them. True enough, the wealthiest 20 Americans do own more than the poorer 160 million of us put together, but this actually reveals less about the concentration of wealth at the top than about the dispossession of most of the population, which it glosses over. Half of us together own less than 1% of our country’s wealth; we hold on average less than one fiftieth of an equitable portion. Many are entirely dispossessed of everything of pecuniary worth besides personal property of no value outside a used car lot or a pawnshop. The way the Institute of Policy Studies phrases its findings collaborates in the concealment of a salient fact of primary significance — the permanent impoverishment of over 160 million Americans.”

Read that again: 160 million living at or below the poverty level with no likelihood of ever rising above it: permanent impoverishment. This is our America. A place where people are blinded by a mediatainment propaganda system that sends a message led by the wealthy for the wealthy. While we berate the political shenanigans of Democrat/Republican as if politics actually worked for the people anymore is beyond telling. We are blind to the power that masks itself in the Plutocracy and Oligarchies of the Wealthy who run the show of these fool politicians. A game they play out in the staged election cycles like some new fangled Roman Gladiator contest for idiots.

“The Institute of Policy Studies paper goes on to say (but the media omits to report) that “the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61% of the country combined — 194 million people,” a phrase which avoids disclosing that 61% of us put together possess under a 2% share in our country. The Forbes 400 can buy 200 million of us out more than twenty-five times over. But actually, even the combined riches of the entire Forbes 400 are just a drop in the bucket of the American plutocracy. These four hundred richest Americans represent just the top fortieth part of our richest one-in-ten-thousand, the 0.01%, the top 1% of the top 1%, the 16,000 families who together own over an eighth of everything in our country (14%), and they represent merely the top four-hundredth part of America’s wealthiest 160,000 families, the elite one-in-a-thousand (0.1%) who together possess over a quarter of all wealth (28%), more than the combined holdings of 310 million Americans — 95% of us.”

Yes, we are all dupes now. We would assume that the government would protect us, have our interests at hear. That myth died long ago. The government duopoly has been in accord behind the masked poppery with the top .01% for decades. We’ve mythologized it to death in academia under the rubric of Neoliberalism. What another sham foisted on the supposed thinking class. Even that has become bankrupt in our time. Thinkers? Philosophers? Critique? Foppery in an age of intellects who would rather teach you how to mourn death of politics, rather than to pick your ass up and do something. We’ve lost our courage. Why? Because no one has backbone anymore. You’d rather go to some session on mourning and self-pitying your crying wimpy self than actually get you ass in gear and think through why this is happening. Quit listening to the losers, the suppose academic trumpery and flagrant bankrupt class of pundits. They’ll offer you nothing. You have to do it for yourself. Or it want get done.

Sure, I’m an old fool, too. I admit it. I’m an old leftist, never an academic. Our age was full of bluster and street violence against another war and age of crap. Street protest does nothing, now. Most people at the street level are dying of jobs, no work; or, families having to work two jobs (part-time at best) to make ends meet. So that for them to think at all is difficult. Coming home, eating, and sleeping, or a few moments of grasping each other in the night. This is the American Nightmare writ large. The American dream died long ago. It will not return.

What we need is not dreams, what we need is courage of our convictions. And the gusto and staunch belief in our selves. Even that has been eroded over the past sixty years, the whole liberal individual self has been plundered, wiped out to the point by academics tripe’s that people believe that they are no one and nothing. No wonder the liberal progressive strain in politics is upended. We have no belief in our selves, how could we believe in politics. It’s been gutted, and slain by the tribe of turn-coat academics and neuroscientists in pay to the wealth of the world. Our liberalism was based on property rights and the individual. Both of these have come under attack for so long that the very foundations of the democratic state across the planet are in disarray. The young turn for answers, and there is none, because the academics live at the end of nihilism and have no value or meaning system to offer them.

Enough. Do or die. I’ll be an old liberal in a dead world, or none at all. Wake up and remember who you are and were. Retroactively change what you are and want… remember you do exist and have rights.


1. Painter, Nell Irvin. Standing at Armageddon: A Grassroots History of the Progressive Era . W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Why do we need poetry?

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James Wright once asked in an essay on the great poet Pablo Neruda:

“Why do we need poetry?”

His answer:

“Great poetry folds personal death and general love into one dark blossom.”

This is the sense of the concrete universal and singular truth of death’s finality, combined with the abstract truth of love brought under the wings of a folding thought as in the vestiges of night the bloom of a black orchid will close in the shadows of the dawning sun. Poetry folds the cosmos into the mind, brings to us the treasures of things that barely acknowledge us. Language through poetry is a bridge to the unknown surrounding us, the vehicle of that stubborn world of sound and thought that cannot be abstracted out of things, but must lure the dark secrets into strange realms. The translations of this disturbance of things, the blindness of our mind seeking answer to the broken links between eye and stone. Even in the moment of apprehension poetry reveals only the temporal register of its unknowingness, rather than some profound knowledge at the core of its linguistic utterance. It opens us to the mystery of darkness like an orchid flowering on the edge of oblivion.

Kurt Vonnegut: Letter to America 2088

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Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to the “Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088” begins as follows:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come’? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’

Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?

For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn’t do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don’t need an enemy.

A Schizophrenic out for a Walk…

A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch. A breath of fresh air, a relationship with the outside world.

-Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

Actual, not virtual, relationship: reconnecting to things, to objects, to the literal world out ‘there’; rather than the endless patter and hum of one’s speech and thought to a hidden god behind the couch or screen. In web culture we’ve become invisible, culling the nightmares of other minds chattering in the cave of a global river, where Heraclitus rather than Lucretius reigns. D&G would call you out of the cave and into the sunlit world of time… you’re not a rummaging mole, but a cunning fox to scatter thought in the chase of change and becoming.

Badiou would have you generate it out of the cave’s own geometric dream…

Zizek, that the obstacle in our path is a broken world of clay filled with cracks, scattered roots that we cling too like nightmares in an endless void.

Deleuze would tell you to touch your body-without-organs, for it is the body of the world; not a dream of time and space, but a place in which you live and die as a sensual medium among sense bearing beings.

Gilles Deleuze: On Human Rights

Human rights will not make us bless capitalism. A great deal of innocence or cunning is needed by a philosophy of communication that claims to restore the society of friends, or even of wise men, by forming a universal opinion as ‘consensus’ able to moralize nations, States, and the market. Human rights say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights. Nor is it only in the extreme situations described by Primo Levi that we experience the shame of being human. We also experience it in insignificant conditions, before the meanness and vulgarity of existence that haunts democracies, before the propagation of these modes of existence and of thought-for-the-market, and before the values, ideals, and opinions of our time. The ignominy of the possibilities of life that we are offered appears from within. We do not feel ourselves outside of our time but continue to undergo shameful compromises with it. This feeling of shame is one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs. We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them. And there is no way to escape the ignoble but to play the part of the animal (to growl, burrow, snigger, distort ourselves): thought itself is sometimes closer to an animal that dies than to a living, even democratic, human being.

—Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy?

 

Applied Ballardianism: Satire & Parody

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How many people remember the great parodies of late modernism? I’m thinking of both Hermann Hesse’s Das Glasperlienspiel (or, Magister Ludi: The Glass-Bead Game), Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, or work from Italo Calvino, Stanislaw Lem, or even Jorge-Luis Borges. I remember both Hesse’s and Mann’s pseudo-biographies of fictional figures of their times were written and introduced by academic bores and pedants. Both men in their exchanged letters to each other even admitted the comic and parodic element in both fictions which many scholars even to this day take seriously rather than as comic satires on the state of knowledge and culture of their respective eras.

A new online work by Simon Sellars of Ballardian fame, which I assume will eventually be a published work in book form is coming to fruition that seems to fit that same gambit for our own time in comic relief and scholarly pastiche and parody; or, if not, then a work in process published on Applied Ballardianism. Simon Sellars is well known for his Ballardian site which gave us up to date interviews, critiques, exposes, fiction, and news, etc. on the late J.G. Ballard. The new site seems to take it a step further by presenting a pseudo-scholarly work and theory on Ballard in a fictionalize form and space of imaginal possibility.

In the section of the site under About we are introduced to a strange figure in the personage of a man (whose anonymity remains, his name is never disclosed) one who as the pseudo-scholar Dr Ricardo Battista, School of Specialisation in Cryogenics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Hartwell University, Melbourne, Australia tells us left a work on J.G. Ballard named: Applied Ballardianism: A Theory of Nothing.

The said Dr Ricardo Battista as academic bore presents the figure of the anonymous theoretician as a mad man, an apophenic-schizophrenic whose ruminations in the first-person singular seem more like the conspiracist ravings of a fringe lunatic. As Battista describes it “‘Apophenia’, broadly speaking, describes a schizotypal cognitive condition—the mental state of perceiving patterns in meaningless, random and unrelated data. William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition brought apophenia to public attention.” The man who is never named once worked for the Dr as a research assistant. It was at that time he began to notice the subject’s – as he terms him – peculiarities,

For our subject, apophenia, filtered through his Ballardian lens, coloured his worldview so completely that he begin to perceive a paranormal element to Ballard’s work—the sense that the work was a conduit to other dimensions. He fell into the precise hell of the self-aware paranoiac, simultaneously ‘within’ and ‘without’ his inverted reality. He believed conspiracy theory to be the ‘people’s novel’—a chance for ordinary citizens to construct a fiction that opposed the dominant narratives of media, culture and politics.

Our interlocutor condemns at every turn the man’s writings, life, and work exposing his strange behavior and almost criminal fall into paranoia as he vanishes from at first the University, then his job at a local factory, then his wanderings that lead him to Australia’s outback. All that is left is the desultory task for the Dr to publish the work at hand because he alone was given the tedious task to executor of the man’s will. If not for this he’d of disowned the whole thing. As he says, snidely: “Our subject fancies himself a philosopher, yet his insight is too superficial and reckless to justify that stance. Thus, when his argument falls away, he reverts to first-person anecdotes out of a crippling sense of inadequacy and the document becomes a pathetic memoir again, yet it doesn’t work on that level either, being too self-indulgent and too larded with self-pity, even allowing for the excesses of that genre, to have any kind of literary merit.” So much so that his final words tell us:

While I highly doubt this book will be read by a great many people or that the ideas within it will be taken seriously by anyone working in Ballard Studies (given how cringeworthy and repellent the first-person material is, like the confessions of an imbecile, and how unscholarly and deranged the apophenic-paranormal elements are), with these final words I complete my obligation as the subject’s last academic employer, as decreed by his will, and beg my colleagues’ forgiveness for appearing within these pages.

May God have mercy on my soul.

The rest of the posts are snippets and fragments from the fictional theoretical work of the anonymous author. Under the first entry we see an encyclopedic list of influence machines moving from Ballard and William Gibson (SciFi) and ending in the Borges flowing through the said author. In Purple Light we see the young psychonaut wandering through Dubai “flattened under glass, observing this unborn dead city,” already in fusion between landscape and the mental states of some surreal mutation. One moves from there to a travelogue of entries that submerge the mind of the traveler in a world where the Ballardian flux and the Real seem to waver into each other, where one is never sure where the one ends and the other begins. Photographs from these travelgrams permeate each page in the cycle like amphibious beasts scuttling across the website revealing nothing so much as ‘nothing’ in particular. One is never sure if the image is image or a flash card for a new form of psychological warfare bringing with it new and vivid reminders of our ruinous age.

In the final installment, or the latest one? —we meet a paranoid tripster who enters the author’s life, a nurse masked bandit of psychic traumas. Our author, who seems in this place to be in Melbourne, Australia awakens from his strange journey like a fragmented Picasso painting, his “face was a bloody mess. My nose had been smashed to the side like a Picasso painting, my left ear was sliced almost in two and the lower half of my upper front teeth had sheared away.”

Like our own fragmented lives we are pitched into this tome without support or anchor, wandering through vignettes of a life that may or may not resemble actuality, but are assured to fit the world of our dark wastelands across a global disaster zone that has yet to find its apocalyptic finish. In the end maybe there is no end, only the fragments of a journey without beginning or end, a clock-work periodical of theory-fictions that dribble out of the madness of our age, encyclicals to the dementia and paranoia of our apophatic times.


One can find more on the new site: http://www.appliedballardianism.com/

 

Henry David Thoreau: Civil Disobedience and Our Time

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Thoreau, Civil Disobedience:

“I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government.”

“Civil Disobedience” is an analysis of the individual’s relationship to the state that focuses on why men obey governmental law even when they believe it to be unjust. But “Civil Disobedience” is not an essay of abstract theory. It is Thoreau’s extremely personal response to being imprisoned for breaking the law. Because he detested slavery and because tax revenues contributed to the support of it, Thoreau decided to become a tax rebel. There were no income taxes and Thoreau did not own enough land to worry about property taxes; but there was the hated poll tax – a capital tax levied equally on all adults within a community.

Thoreau declined to pay the tax and so, in July 1846, he was arrested and jailed. He was supposed to remain in jail until a fine was paid which he also declined to pay. Without his knowledge or consent, however, relatives settled the “debt” and a disgruntled Thoreau was released after only one night. The incarceration may have been brief but it has had enduring effects through “Civil Disobedience.”

In Walden’s Pond Thoreau once said:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it.

Whereas Ralph Waldo Emerson would take his secular gospel of Transcendentalism on lecture tours, Thoreau took his to the wilds. Transcendentalism became Thoreau’s intellectual training ground. His first appearance in print was a poem entitled “Sympathy” published in the first issue of The Dial, a Transcendentalist paper. As Transcendentalists migrated to Concord, one by one, Thoreau was exposed to all facets of the movement and took his place in its inner circle. At Emerson’s suggestion, he kept a daily journal, from which most of Walden was eventually culled.

And, yet, those who try to align Thoreau with the anarchist crowd of what he’d term the “no-government” men would be wrong, as he says: “But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.” Thoreau denies the right of any government to automatic and unthinking obedience. Obedience should be earned and it should be withheld from an unjust government. To drive this point home, “Civil Disobedience” dwells on how the Founding Fathers rebelled against an unjust government, which raises the question of when rebellion is justified.

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to  James Madison (Paris, January 30, 1787) said this on rebellion:

“Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable.

1. Without government, as among our Indians.
2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in a great one.
3. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics.

To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 1st. condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions indeed generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.”

Thoreau in his own New England vernacular would put it more pragmatically, stating that the machinic world of government acts like an agent of friction. Friction is normal to a machine so that its mere presence cannot justify revolution. But open rebellion does become justified in two cases: first, when the friction comes to have its own machine, that is, when the injustice is no longer occasional but a major characteristic; and, second, when the machine demands that people cooperate with injustice. Thoreau declared that, if the government “requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine”.

So the precedent for both revolt, rebellion, and civil disobedience are already a mainstay within our historical continuum, one that we should tap into and reenvision in our time. I’m not advocating revolt, or rebellion against our government, what I’m saying is that we need to revisit the world that brought us to the brink of such conflicts as the Civil War and other rebellious moments in our history. In some ways our moment is repeating aspects of the days that led up to the Civil War but on a different scale and under a set of different circumstances. This isn’t the place to go into detail on that issue. It could take a book to uncover such processes and the sociocultural forces, and individual, dividual, and other forces at play in our world today. What I will say is that we are at a crossroads in our nation, one that we should all be aware of and think and feel our way carefully and at length on. If we needed a great deal of revisioning, and recursion of our past into our present, it is now.  Thoreau is but one of those luminaries we should take into that reconsideration.

My Story “Laughing Jack” to be Published on Aphelion!

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Just got an update that my story “Laughing Jack” will be published on Aphelion! Officially it will be up on December, 4th, 2016. This is my third for the season… :0 I’ll post a link at that time!

Published since 1997. Free Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Webzine which offers original fiction by new and established writers published on the first Sunday of every month except January. Features include poetry, short stories, serials and novellas, flash fiction, and reviews of interest to science fiction, fantasy, and horror fans. New writers are encouraged to submit their work to the webzine, and feedback to the authors is encouraged.

Visit Aphelion: http://aphelion-webzine.com/

 

Throwing the salt…

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Yea, Trump’s a scumbag, a racist, a sexist… all the things people say; yet, he was voted in as President. So even if I disagree with him, I’m a citizen of the United States of America and will uphold the laws of the land. I served my time in the military. I got a partial education from the G.I. Bill. I owe this land and its people my love and gratitude. This isn’t some dam myth, it’s my life. I’m no gun-ho patriot, more a contrarian than anything; and just a man who has cared about this world and its peoples for sixty five years, and not about to cop out on some lame bullshit session because I might disagree with both parties.

I keep thinking to myself, having grown up in a world where I was handed down second hands, bought a beater Chevy at 16, put it in the garage and built a makeshift cage to pull the engine, gut the interior, and rebuild the sucker after I’d stripped it to the bone, sanding it by hand, stripping it down, painting it. Taking the engine apart and step by step putting it back together till I could do it in my sleep. I feel like that old beat up Chevy at the moment.

Trump. He had everything handed to him on a silver platter. Plenty money, plenty education, plenty of everything. Everything he’s done his whole life is part of the con of that world. And, even his ability to run for President is because he’s rich. No one would see a stiff on the lamb up there, nor would we have seen him there either, if his name hadn’t already been a part of the current mythology. A TV Reality host… a popular icon, etc. Trump was the first President invented by the Mediatainment Industrial Complex. Not a man who did it on his own, he was manufactured (in Chomsky’s sense of ‘manufactured consent’).

One can drive through most rural towns in American now and see for the most part a ghost world of their former selves. Methland U.S.A. a place with no jobs, no future, no place to go. No money for education unless you’re willing to sell your soul for the next sixty years to pay it all off in loans. Cargill of any of a number of the big combines own most of the farming land and profits from those lands now, the little farmer having been replaced with the Corporate ones long ago.

Where I came from in Odessa, TX once a boom town is now according to cousins still there the number one crime city in Texas due to job loss and drugs. So trying to make sense of why so many angry people voted for Trump has a lot to do with the anger against those who have like I’ve seen here on FB and Twitter lambasting the White Working Class and demonizing them for voting for Trump. Until people can begin to realize the enemy isn’t your fellow citizen, nor some fool twisted sex pot from NY City who will play the masked game of President for the next few years. It’s the movers and shakers you never see that are the powers to castigate. Always have been, always will be. The Plutocrats and Oligarchs who twitch the buttons from the suave Saudi Princes to the High Rollers in Vegas from NY City to LA. The moneyed classes are the enemy, the Corporations who are run by capitalist pigs like some of the Pharmaceutical companies seeking gargantuan profits at the expense of people’s health.

Representative democracy is on its last legs. So we can either work to rebuild it, or it will die a long painful death and our nation and this civilization with it. Which – who knows, may be a good thing, anyway. Maybe it’s time for a change that will be forced on us whether we will or not. The earth is in its own way challenging us, showing us that our supposed power over things is bullshit. We pretend that our little games at the U.N. and little Paris Accords will actually make a difference. No. They want… it’s all lies, all a game to keep you thumb sucking into their bullshit.

So you can spend your time bullshitting yourself, complaining about the 50% of the people on some other side – call if Right, call it Left… the Universe doesn’t really care one way or another, it’s totally indifferent to your prayers or your curses. Much like our government in that respect, impervious to our threats, our protests, our admonishments.

Some have gone so far as to say they’ll secede, they’ll leave, they’ll apply for citizenship elsewhere, that this isn’t their America. All I can say is why? Why isn’t this your land? Why did you let it get away from you? Why haven’t you owned up to the responsibility of letting it get out of your grasp? You allowed a liar and foundation owner, a Corporate Wall-Street Democrat sweet talk you into her lies with all those promises. Bernie copped out for reasons of his own. So your stuck between a hard place and no place.

But I’m sure those on the other side felt the same for the last eight years, too. Yet, even then you didn’t try to reach out and change their thought. No. Just wen along with the show and blame game and kept your distance, kept on demonizing and insisting your own glorified and dignified righteousness. Sound familiar? Puritan heritage? We’re the pure ones untainted. And, now, because of the whole multicultural heritage we see that even the white class liberals are becoming patsies of the minorities who hate all whites equally.

So far from the young academics I’ve seen very little wisdom or thought, but rather much invective and meme repetition of Trump bashing and Trump supporter bashing. How is this going to change a thing? Nada. It’s not even warning anyone, only producing the fear and terror you presume to alleviate. Creating panic attacks and fear mongering among democrats is a both stupid and less than becoming. I almost wonder how I could have at one time believed in the progressive cause. It saddens me and makes me fiercely decry it now for what it has become. Nothing, nothing at all… leaderless and heartless.

At this point in my own personal life it doesn’t much matter one way or the other, but for my children and grandchildren it does matter to me. I’m sickened that the democratic party I once fought for has decayed to this level of stupidity and self-pitying. Most of the leaders blame everyone and everything but themselves. Sick. There is a sickness in this Party. Will it find a way out? A Renaissance of its old values? A political path for the 21st Century? I do not have an answer to that. The Greens are no option… there is nothing else. Democracy is failing us altogether because we let it. We blinded ourselves and allowed the forces of money and greed to lead us down into a pit from which it may be generations to recover. Or, maybe never. It’s all up to the young people now. It’s your fight. Get up off your arses and do something. But above all quit belly aching, enough of the self-pity and blame show. Time to do or shut up. If I believed in a God  (and I don’t) I’d say a prayer. But like those old northern seamen all I can do is throw the salt and say move on…

The Bibliotherapist

I imagine her sitting in a quiet room at a table, a glass of water — iceless, before her; notepad and pencil by her smooth pink hands; no windows, a single candle lit: a dark atmosphere pervaded by emptiness. Her mind cleared, she takes the little orange pill, waits the prescribed twenty minutes, and slowly feels the lift of the veil, the waves of energy rising from the inner sea; the sudden weak drift of her oceanic mind as the images pulsate and throb into awareness. Her blue eyes dilated,  smoked by the grayness of the empty world surrounding her she sinks inwardly into that stillness that is aflame.

She pulls the threads of the inner nanoviewer: the plug-n-play reality of the drug manifesting, the dreamscapes exploding like a thousand flowers, and sees amid the dance of fire and shadow a man sitting at the other end, his lips moving soundlessly – thoughts snapping into her brain like recordings of lost books from a secret library. Her mind filled with fables and cartoons — manga figures from a posthuman dripspool; the laughter of children; the polished wisdom of ancient Taoist and Zen Masters; the crisp dialogues of Greek Philosophers; the portents of Nostradamus; the frog wisdom of Rousseau; the castigations of Nietzsche; the Mysterious Stranger of Twain beckoning to her; the flutes of Orpheus in Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’; men, women, and children parading across times and times; the darkened embers of fallen citadels, amid the burnt out timbers of a war torn world – the lonely hollows of a city in ruins, a dog barking in the distance; the Calypso tales of Odysseus, the lovely lotus leaves glint in the morning sun…

The biblioregistry of a million books speaking to her in unison: alive, musical, distant, near, alone – or together, the dialogues of authors from times long lost amid the sands… the careful weaving of elephants and unicorns, effigies and jungles, jaguars and tigers, peasants and nobles, merchants and thieves, urban streetwalkers and country soothsayers… a world brought alive by a voice gray and muted, rainbow and darkness; methodical, lifting, pitched, humming along in machinic precision. Caressing with her mental eye the vestiges of dead worlds, she receives this prismatic infoscapes like a dark diver in a sea of frozen fire.

The session comes to an end all to quickly. Her eyes once again registering the world’s blank interface. The quantum ties to the collective lifting her once again into the general intellect: connected, one, undefined, marginal; a worker, a numberless minion in the chain of endless algorithms of a social matrix where things drift among lost dreams to no purpose…

As she passes the desk, the automated figure taps her imprint, billing her session — time variants posted, the erasure of her session, the moments of past thought obliterated, the images of lost worlds vanishing even as she rejoins the tribal enclaves and her happy days of memoryless ease.