Monsterland: The Last Days of Democracy

 

People will believe anything as long as it coincides with the cultural script they’ve inherited through parental, institutional, or political propaganda and fear. The elite sponsor hate wars of all against all with one exception: the elite themselves – and by this I mean the power elite of the upper .01%, the Oligarchs and Corporate Monopolists. We live in a corporate welfare state, a world in which the last dregs of capitalism feeds off the very institutions it once invented to support its own initiatives.

The half dozen corporations that own most of the media have worked overtime to sell to a bewildered public the fiction that we are enjoying a recovery. Employment figures, through a variety of gimmicks, including erasing those who are unemployed for over a year from unemployment rolls, are a lie, as is nearly every other financial indicator pumped out for public consumption. Marx knew that once the market mechanism became the sole determining factor for the fate of the nation-state, as well as the natural world, both would be demolished.1

As deteriorating infrastructure and ongoing layoffs continue to beset the nation’s cities, more dramatic signs of neglect will appear. Garbage will pile up uncollected on curbsides. Power grids will blink on and off. There will not be enough police, firefighters, or teachers. Pensions will be slashed or paid sporadically. Decent medical care will be reserved for the rich. Those who die because they cannot afford health care—now 45,000 uninsured people a year—will perish in greater numbers. Fuel and food prices will climb. Processed food laden with preservatives, sugar, and fat will become the staple diet. At least a quarter of the population will lack adequate employment. Law and order will break down. Crime will become endemic, and in a nation where nearly anyone can get a gun, death rates from violence will rise. Riots, if the unraveling is not halted, will erupt across the country like wildfires. Random and mass shootings will grow more common. Hate groups will proliferate like lice. And widespread disgust with the political elites, as well as the uncertainty and chaos, will make some kind of militarized solution increasingly attractive to embittered, demoralized Americans. (Hedges, KL 235)

The most ominous danger we face does not come from the eradication of free speech through the obliteration of net neutrality or through Google algorithms that steer people away from dissident political sites. It does not come from the 2017 tax bill that abandons all pretense of fiscal responsibility to enrich corporations and oligarchs and prepares the way to dismantle programs such as Social Security. It does not come from the opening of public land to the mining and fossil fuel industry, the acceleration of ecocide by demolishing environmental regulations, or the destruction of public education. It does not come from the squandering of federal dollars on a bloated military as the country collapses or the use of the systems of domestic security to criminalize dissent. The most ominous danger we face comes from the marginalization and destruction of institutions, including the courts, academia, legislative bodies, cultural organizations, and the press, that once ensured that civil discourse was rooted in reality and fact, helping us distinguish lies from truth, and facilitate justice. (ibid.)

This is the so called post-truth world we’ve been led to believe in as if the world were part of a simulacrum of nihil, a world where meaning no longer exists and people are bound to a tissue of lies, deceit, and corruption. A world where the very institutions that once offered us a safety net, security, and truth have become nothing more than the purveyors of a postmodern horror show of absolute relativism in which “anything goes”. “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed,” Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism.

George Orwell in his dystopian novel 1984 presented such a post-truth society guided by Newspeak. Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, meant to limit the freedom of thought—personal identity, self-expression, free will—that ideologically threatens the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who thus criminalized such concepts as thoughtcrime, contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy. For us this same notion is termed Political Correctness. On the Left the term has come to refer to avoiding language or behavior that can be seen as excluding, marginalizing, or insulting groups of people considered disadvantaged or discriminated against, especially groups defined by sex or race. In public discourse and the media, it is generally used as a pejorative, implying that these policies are excessive or unwarranted. On the Right the term “right-wing political correctness” is sometimes applied by commentators, especially when drawing parallels: in 1995, one author used the term “conservative correctness” arguing, in relation to higher education, that “critics of political correctness show a curious blindness when it comes to examples of conservative correctness. Most often, the case is entirely ignored or censorship of the Left is justified as a positive virtue.  A balanced perspective was lost, and everyone missed the fact that people on all sides were sometimes censored.

Yet, as we’ve seen the lines have been blurred and the very power of PC culture has permeated our culture as a new censorium in which we the people have begun doing the work of policing ourselves in a reverse McCarthyism. In the 1950’s the fear of communism which was driven by the power elite to empower the warrior culture and the thriving Industrial-Military Complex and their beneficiaries created a culture of absolute paranoia in which the citizens fear of the neighbor as an enemy became the center piece of a witch hunt society. In our own time the same kind of cultural praxis is used by the elite to turn citizens against each other and distract them from the real enemy: the elite and powerful Oligarchs and Corporate Monopolists. We turn on each other through identity politics and various socio-cultural mechanisms to enforce censorship and behavioral change upon our selves while the real culprits at the top are laughing all the way to the bank.

“The venal political figures need not even comprehend the social and political consequences of their behavior,” psychiatrist Joost A. M. Meerloo wrote in The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing. “They are compelled not by ideological belief, no matter how much they may rationalize to convince themselves they are, but by the distortions of their own personalities. They are not motivated by their advertised urge to serve their country or mankind, but rather by an overwhelming need and compulsion to satisfy the cravings of their own pathological character structures. The ideologies they spout are not real goals; they are the cynical devices by which these sick men hope to achieve some personal sense of worth and power. Subtle inner lies seduce them into going from bad to worse. Defensive self-deception, arrested insight, evasion of emotional identification with others, degradation of empathy—the mind has many defense mechanisms with which to blind the conscience.”

Mass culture in the hands of corporate powers is a potent and dangerous force. It creates a herd mentality. It banishes independent and autonomous thought. It destroys our self-confidence. It marginalizes and discredits dissidents and nonconformists. It depoliticizes the citizenry. It instills a sense of collective futility and impotence by presenting the ruling ideology as a revealed, unassailable truth, an inevitable and inexorable force that alone makes human progress possible. It uses the cant of nationalism and patriotic symbols to mount a continuous celebration of American power and virtues. It disconnects the working class in one country from another—one of the primary objectives of the capitalist class.

Mass culture is an assault that, as the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci wrote, results in a “confused and fragmentary” consciousness, or what Marx called “false consciousness.” It is designed to impart the belief to the proletariat that its “true” interests are aligned with those of the ruling class. It transforms legitimate economic and social grievances into psychological and emotional problems. It uses nationalism to discredit class interests.

The Great Divide in the United States between our anemic left politicos, academics, and cultural elites and the actual working class has allowed proto-fascist forms of authoritarianism to arise. The cultural divide between the real working people of the United States and its supposed elite Leftists has broken the bond between true revolt and rebellion. The ridiculing of Trump supporters, the failure to listen to and heed the legitimate suffering of the working poor, including the white working poor, ensures that any revolt will be stillborn. As Hedges states it: “Those of us who seek to overthrow the corporate state will have to begin locally. This means advocating issues such as raising the minimum wage, fighting for clean water, universal health care, and good public education, including free university education, that speak directly to the improvement of the lives of the working class. It does not mean lecturing the working class, and especially the white working class, about multiculturalism and identity politics.” (Hedges, KL 379))

Since the 1960’s the slow and methodical destruction of democratic institutions has led to the invasive authoritarianism we see in our midst. The State in collusion with the Monopoly Capitalism of Transglobal Capital slowly  destroyed our two-party system. It destroyed labor unions. It destroyed public education. It destroyed the judiciary. It destroyed the press. It destroyed academia. It destroyed consumer and environmental protection. It destroyed our industrial base. It destroyed communities and cities. And it destroyed the lives of tens of millions of Americans no longer able to find work that provides a living wage, cursed to live in chronic poverty or locked in cages in our monstrous system of mass incarceration.

As Hedges puts it political rhetoric has been replaced by the crude obscenities of reality television, the deformed and stunted communication on Twitter, professional wrestling, and the daytime shows in which couples discover if their husband or wife is having an affair. This is the language of our political elites, who view the world through the degraded lens of television and the sickness of celebrity culture. These electronic hallucinations have replaced reality with a pop-cultural simulacrum of mediatainment. (Hedges, KL 443)

Orwell would later reject his own notions of newspeak in an essay “Politics and the English Language” (1946), wherein he criticises the bad usage of English in his day: dying metaphors, pretentious diction, and high-flown rhetoric, which produce the meaningless words of doublespeak, the product of unclear reasoning. Orwell’s conclusion thematically reiterates linguistic decline: “I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this may argue that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development, by any direct tinkering with words or constructions.”

In world such as ours where irrationalism pervades every aspect of our lives, in which conspiracy theory and apocalyptic thought rule the masses, and the power of the elite who script the daily mediascapes with their twisted versions of reality we no longer have the discernment to discover the truth for ourselves. We become victims of a seditious and darkened world where lies and deceit rather than truth and justice rule the affairs of men and women. In a world where all authority has lost its connection to the value systems that once helped humans survive and flourish, we have substituted it for a completed nihilism of relativisms and endless stupidity. The very institutions of democracy that once promised freedom and justice for all have been swept away for this monstrosity. Welcome to monsterland…


  1. Chris Hedges. America: The Farewell Tour (Kindle Locations 231-235). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

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

Reading Ervin D. Krause’s ‘You Will Never See Any God: Stories’

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Krause (Left) with brother, Gerald (Right)

The boy felt a shudder—it was not the air and the wisps of drizzle. He knew what it was—there was evil here. He had a swift recognition of the evil of something warped, the terror of darkness and the strange; he had felt it before, on cold lightning-fired nights, in the chill of the church on Sunday mornings, on entering an unlighted barn. This had always held a secret terror for him, for he went much to Sunday school and church, and he had heard much of evil, had known it to be rampant and secret, and it had always been hidden secretly from him, behind bannisters on stairs, in the darkness of doorways at church, behind corners cringing in barns, in the dank, tree-overhung lagoons that were nursed with bad water and a stench down along the river. It had always been a secret terror for him before, but now it was here, very near to him; he could look up and see the heavy, mudded shoetops of the neighbor with that face strange, carved as if from red and rotted wood with the purple, bloodless leer and the red-rimmed, gouged eye.

—Ervin D. Krause, You Will Never See Any God: Stories (“The Right Hand”)

Once all but forgotten, writer Ervin D. Krause, the son of a Midwestern tenant farmer, ranked among the best short story writers in the country in the early 1960s. Championed by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Karl Shapiro, then editor of Prairie Schooner, Krause’s work was reprinted in both the O. Henry Prize and Best American Short Stories anthologies, sharing space with luminaries like Flannery O’Connor, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates. At a time when American literature was still heavily preoccupied with the beatniks — the breathless bebop of Kerouac, Burroughs’ cut-ups and more — Krause wrote hopeless stories in gimmick-less prose, stories that open doors only to slam them shut, stories as dusty as a November cornfield and populated with the characters of his childhood.

As Carson Vaughn says it Krause’s stories evoke a grim determinism more in line with the naturalists of decades prior, a cold reality mimicked by a “frigid sun” or a farmstead “abandoned and gray.” “None of his characters finds peace, none finds a sanctuary of comfort, all find failure and defeat,” Krause wrote in the introduction to his 1957 master’s thesis, “The Three Views of John Dos Passos.” The same could have been written about Krause’s stories themselves, their tone pessimistic, skewing always toward a harsh and unrelenting realism.

I’ve barely begun reading these stories, but already their dipping me in that ancient loam of darkness surrounding us, an abyss of primal worlds that seep into ours every night in the realms of nightmare. And, yet, his stories also touch base with an older world of humanity in the early Agricultural realms of the Icelandic Sagas, a realism that pits humans within a mythology of the elemental earth and its organic cycles. A place we have tried to forget in our urban worlds of artificiality. Krause would remind us that beyond the glitter of the night skies of the great skyscrapers lies another world, the realm of stars and evil energy arising not from some transcendent realm of gods, but rather closer to home in the very soil of our climatic earth where all civilizations have always found their fatal outcomes from womb to tomb.

One perceives this in stark terms as the boy from the short story I quoted in the beginning, ‘The Right Hand’ watches the neighbor farmer as he tries to nurse a young calf back to health whose front forelegs to the nib were gnawed off by his hogs:

After two days the calf would not eat anymore and even then somehow it managed to stand, its sides transparent against the toothpick, tiny-slat ribs, and it wandered thus, falling and rising and floundering in the dust of the yard, like some mad tormented creature, driven by something inexplicable and terrible, seeking to hide in the shade of the plum brush, but always falling and being drawn in the wrong direction, wandering, mad and awful, disfigured and torn, yet somehow, madly, relentlessly living, driven like its master to live, in spite of the want for death, until at last it did die, with even the last death motion feeble, and the calf bellow only a gurgle in the quivering throat, and in the evening when the dust had cooled and Stark came back in from the fields, he took the calf and carried it up the pasture hill and buried it.

This sense of the life force at work in the calf, the blind need to exist, to move, to live. Schopenhauer would see in this physical enactment the power of the will. He’d teach us that through both first and third person perspectives we can by way of self-awareness, by peeling away its layers of meaning, we will inevitably come to the conclusion that the inner essence of things is nothing less than the will. Schopenhauer’s first step toward that conclusion is a simple distinction between two forms of self-knowledge. I know myself as an individual, he explains, through my body, which makes me just this individual and no other. But I know this body in two ways or from two perspectives (I. 157; P 100). I can view it from an external or third-person perspective, where it appears as one object among others; but I can also view it from an internal or first-person perspective, where it is the single, unique object of my self-consciousness. Schopenhauer stresses that these two modes of knowing ourselves are utterly distinct from one another. They are two incommensurable perspectives upon one and the same thing: namely, my body (I. 161; P 103).1

Krause in his vision of evil would see this will to live, this Schopenhauerian energy and drive to exist as a part of the fatal evil of existence, not some metaphysical evil of external devils, etc., but rather the inherent drive of life in its will to exist, to remain, to blindly keep on struggling. In the story the boy learns the difference between actual and metaphysical evil in life and the physical world, and that the two are twain, divided, different.

As Krause relates of the boy, in his mind the farmer was evil for wanting to help the young calf survive. Because of his Christian belief system, taught by his Mama and the Sunday school he is mixed in his views of the natural and metaphysical. Here is his reception of Stark:

After that the boy had even a deeper terror of and hatred for Stark. It was not because of the calf; he had no sympathy for it, for he had seen suffering, he had witnessed agony and seen the dumb struggling eyes of animals in pain, and he had grown used to it, had felt nothing at seeing death—no, that was not it—it was that Stark could want something so misshapen, so awful around, and would want to make it live.

The boy’s sense of evil, taught by his Old Testament knowledge of Cain and the Mark, etc., makes him see evil in this metaphysical light: “The boy wanted to destroy the calf the first time he saw it because it was so badly disfigured, just as he had calmly destroyed ducklings with misshapen beaks and pigs that were born with their guts outside themselves. That which was misshapen and marked was evil, was not natural, and needed to be destroyed, and he felt a shudder run through him, remembering how Stark wanted to keep the animal alive.”

So that the boy imposes an evil on things and animals that are not part of the farmer’s life and being, a metaphysical imposition that rakes across the world a fear and trepidation of all things scarred and misshapen. At the heart of the story is the birth mark on the old farmer Stark himself, whose face is seen in the early description:

The birthmark pulled the lips crooked, made them seem open, even if they were not, made them look dead with that deep-purple, bloodless, blooded color. It was the purple of something dead—the purple on dead horses’ heads before the rendering truck or hogs come to them. The boy stared at this face, the face reflecting the sorrow and the sufferings of lifetimes, a face with the mark of Cain perhaps, or just of the man’s parents; it was a face with that naked hurting look of a burn or a brand healing and yet never quite healed, always inflamed and sensitive and sore; it was a face of terror and of bad dreams, giving to anyone who saw it a weird and evilfearing anxiety.

The boy raised up on Old Testament horrors and tales sees pain and suffering everywhere, as if these were signs of evil and punishment. While Krause himself portrays the farmer as just a man living in the elements of his world of earth and soil, a man who does what such men do, not bothered by such metaphysical fictions but rather existing in a world without gods or such mind bending tales that warp the psyche beyond repair. I want spoil the tale for you with the ending, just to say that in the end we discover that the evil has all along resided not in the Old Farmer, Stark, but in the boy who has impose upon the world what lies only deep in his own Bible bound metaphysical mind, an evil that has shaped his psychopathic psyche and being, twisting it beyond all telling…

Yet, if there is an epiphany in this short story, it comes not by some sublime enlightenment, rather it comes in the very moment of the common, of the dull, of the truth of our shared lives. The boy who has been working his way up to sneak into the old farmer’s house while he is out and about, thinking in his devious boy’s heart that there must be some hideous evil lying in wait within those four walls, enters the farmer’s domain only to find no real evil other than loss. The boy comes into the old man’s bedroom and finds nothing more in it than a few pictures with memories:

 In the picture, too, were a boy and a girl, the boy younger, both plain, vacant-faced children, like any other boy and girl. And on the picture, written very faintly, but carefully, too, as if it had been written a long time before, above the man’s head were the words “Ezra Stark, Sr., died 1938,” and above the woman’s “Mathilda Stark, died 1943,” and “Carl” beside the boy, and “Harriet” beside the girl. He did not know why the picture was there, and he did not really care.

This moment of the realization: “The boy surveyed the room again. He was genuinely disappointed. He had expected something of a purpose perhaps, overwhelming and evil, a mad old woman, an opium den, a room full of glowering icons, but instead there was only the single dull picture.” And, yet, it is this singular object, this ‘dull picture’ that holds the key to the story, the memories and history of a man, alone, a man who has seen his father, his mother, his wife and children all die before him; a man who will seek to keep alive the things of the earth and soil that are his charge for as long as it takes, a man whose memories and keepsakes are all he is and has…

And, a boy, who is beyond that ability to see just this and, instead, sees nothing there at all but a dull old picture that means nothing. The boy not even adult has already entered into that nihilistic world through the very power of a darkened Biblical vision that has hooked his psychopathic heart, lured him into a world where memories and feelings no longer exist. Only his mission to discover and wipe out evil like some inquisitorial ambassador from an earthly hell…

I’ll not say another word on that story… you will need to read it. Krause’s stories may not be for everyone. His dark vision of life and our ruinous ways is part of what quickens me to write of him. Like Flannery O’Conner there is a deep-seated vision and moral power there in these works, but not one that is pervaded by ancient religious consciousness but rather by something older, darker, and more powerful springing up from the very core of the inhuman earth. His is a violent and twisted world full of weird and at last ghastly figures, at once macabre and horrific, and yet within that is still this sense of a code of being that knows the ways of earth and the elements, the patterns of the stars and fate; and, as well the freedom of decisions and retroactive thought that challenges the deterministic threads that would weave us into some death bound universe of lifelessness. For him evil is not in the world so much as it is the terror filled power of our own mind’s to hide from the truth of the world.

Krause’s posthumous work is out finally in book form: You Will Never See Any God.

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  1. Beiser, Frederick C.. Weltschmerz: Pessimism in German Philosophy, 1860-1900 (Kindle Locations 1061-1066). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Why Am I Writing Country Noir?

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Sometime I’m going to do a blog post on the Followmeter about watching my followers rise and fall according to if I’m writing essays, politics, stories, poetry, or philosophy… I get a laugh at how I gain or lose people following me based on assumptions.  It’s like a comedy meter for me watching people come and go so anonymously without ever knowing why … we live on the net in our private hells, and other lonely people wander by, sit for a while, listen to us patter about nonsense, then leave for parts unknown without ever leaving a trace except the little meter ball that flicks up or down… sad really that communication and community have become nothing more than a button pushed or unpushed; a like or not like button world, a sort of preview of the next wave of our automated society as the neutered minds of the mobile phone generation fade in or fade out based on whim. I joined Wattpad recently and was told to shorten all my stories into small chunks so all the millions of mobile phone users could flip through my stories easier. We’ve become a mobile nation that sees the 3 inch screen of a diode while the rest of the universe goes unnoticed and expelled from consciousness like a faded dream of reality that has been replaced by this plug’n play universe of text messages, and photomatrilia extravaganzas and youtube spawn casts… yet, a funny thing about technology, it comes back to bite you in the ass. Yes, it does. Now mobiles have become weapons and spies onto the corruptions of the world, letting the darkness seep into the viral plumage of this worldwide monster, with her webbing strung across nations and the planet to link the underworlds together in some nefarious three-ring circus of pornography, sex-slaves, and cyberwarfare. Now the world has come home to the small towns across this ancient land, dispersed its meth and heroin, its broken love and sweet promises of foreign dreams to buy and bring home to roost. Our world is no longer separate and alone, but very much overcrowded by monsters everywhere in this virtual nation of horrors. Now you can hide among the darkest corners of the darknet and commit acts of fatal madness and never leave your porch where the old hound dog is sleeping. Now the country is a hellzone for predatory minds everywhere, unbounded by the old causal chains of physical prowess it can move among the symbolic waves like a spring board to catastrophes never dreamed of in the pulp age.

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Gun Crazy Nation: Violence, Crime, and Sociopathy

The trajectory of sociopathic society is toward destruction. It promotes destruction of other nations, of its own citizens, of the natural environment, and, ultimately, societal self-destruction.

-Charles Derber,  Sociopathic Society: A People’s Sociology of the United States

Robert W. McChesney in the preface to Noam Chomsky’s Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order admits that neoliberalism is the defining political economic paradigm of our time— it refers to the policies and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit. Associated initially with Reagan and Thatcher, for the past two decades neoliberalism has been the dominant global political economic trend adopted by political parties of the center and much of the traditional left as well as the right. These parties and the policies they enact represent the immediate interests of extremely wealthy investors and less than one thousand large corporations.2 When people refer to the global establishment, this is what they mean.

One reason I’ve spent time and effort reading pulp fiction: proletariat, science fiction, noir, low-life, apocalyptic narratives, YA novels, dystopian, etc. is that the underlying mythos and ideological aspects that seem to slide away from us in more intellectual and high and late – modernist or post-modernist texts is what Richard Slotkin ages ago in his three-volume cycle on the myth of violence and manifest destiny, frontier and domination, etc. once stipulated this way (The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800–1890:)

“At  the  core  of  the  Myth  is  the  belief  that  economic, moral,  and  spiritual  progress  are  achieved  by  the  heroic  foray  of  civilized society into  the  virgin  wilderness,  and by  the  conquest  and  subjugation  of wild nature  and savage mankind. According  to  this  Myth, the meaning  and direction  of American  history-perhaps  of Western  history as a whole­ is found in  the metaphoric representation of  history as an extended  Indian war.  In  its  original  form,  this  Myth fleshed  out the metaphor  with the imagery  and  personalities  of  agrarian  development;  it equated  the value of the wilderness with land,  identified the savage  opposition  as  Indian,  and envisioned  as  heroes men who  embodied  the  virtues  and  the  liabilities  of  entrepreneurial individualists. (Page 546).”

When I read of Elon Musk and of others spouting frontier talk of space and Mars, Moon, or Asteroids … the wilderness of Space Exploration, the taming of the Solar System, etc. I remember this work… Even all the gun violence and NRA etc. seem to devolve into this old habitual form within the American psyche as a sociopathic reminder of our roots in violence, domination, and manifest destiny ideology that justified slavery, takeover of the Indian nations, etc. Many now just turn a blind eye to the terrible deeds of our Anglo-Saxon, French, Irish, German … Continental heritage …

Even now as our California entrepreneurs develop technical know-how to expand into the cosmos we should be reminded of the old mythologies of the Western Expansion of Manifest Destiny. Back then it was talk of opening a “virgin land” while now we speak of a “resource Frontier”; a realm of vast resources available for planet earth, etc. All this while spawning a myth of darkening prospects for earth’s populations: depletion of resources, climate change, viral outbreaks, war, dwindling water, food, seeds, etc. It’s as if the ideological campaign supports both a positive and a negative trope, a mythology of escape and exit; and, one of pessimism and despair on the home world, etc. We love our media-dreams, our cinematic utopia-dystopias, our apocalyptic and survivalist crazies, our decadent Hollywood Reality-TV, our elaborate rituals of Country music, Rock-n-Roll, the Hip-Hop, or Ecstasy culture clubs. Our leaders turn into cartoon jokes, our society frames itself as an ideological war between the Left and Right which keeps the narrative going, the war among the people, the masses, who love a good fight against the bad guys: the Wall-Street, Bankers, elite Oligarchy, etc.; all the sponsored infowars, the conspiracy advocates that keep things stirred up by CIA, NSA, disinformation nexus… We seem to riddle ourselves with trivia games of culture and oblivion trying to forget our actual lives of humdrum servitude.

We’ve known for ages that the consumerist imperative is unsustainable and both socially and environmentally destructive.1 Yet, it is still one of the key drivers of media, advertising, and the governmental and corporate initiatives to keep a healthy economy going: buy, buy, buy… new cars, gadgets, homes… the great obsolescence of things. Our lives are built around impermanence and trash. The bleak landscapes and unremitting poverty of many of our nation’s cities is due not to the pressure of class warfare as much as it is to corporate abandonment. Detroit is probably one of the great cities that typifies the downturn and ruination of many cities due to globalism. With the breakup of the old industrialist systems and export of industry to third world nations we’ve seen the decline of many American cities into both political and social turmoil: the persistence of housing and workplace discrimination, poverty, and racial tensions, crime and drugs.

Thomas J. Sugrue The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit tells us that Detroit, like many Rustbelt cities, is plagued by joblessness, concentrated poverty, physical decay, and racial isolation. Since 1950, Detroit has lost nearly a million people and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Vast areas of the city, once teeming with life, now stand abandoned. Factories  that once provided  tens  of thousands  of jobs  now  stand  as  hollow  shells, windows broken,  mute  testimony  to  a  lost  industrial  pas t.  Whole  rows  of  small  shops  and  stores   are  boarded  up  or  burned out .  Over  ten thousand houses are  uninhabited; over  sixty thousand lots  lie  empty,  marring almost  every  city neighborhood.  Whole  sections  of the  city are eerily  apocalyptic.  Over  a  third  of  the city’s residents live beneath the poverty line, many concentrated  in neighborhoods where  a ma­jority  of  their  neighbors  are· also  poor. A  vis it  to  the  city’s  welfare  offices ,  hospitals,  and  jails   provides  abundant  evidence  of  the  terrible  costs  of the city’s  persistent unemployment  and poverty.3

But it’s not just the older industrial cities, we see this in small town U.S.A. as well. It’s as if America is becoming a great ghost town ridden wasteland, a place of ruin and decay. Oh, sure there are the gems and hives of the dense hyper-cities: New York City, San Francisco, L.A., Miami, Atlanta, Austin, Seattle, etc. where people are forced between the elite rich who own the vast high-rise monopolies, and the workers who live on the fringe in rentier infested subhuman realms, marginalized at the periphery. Yet, many try to white-wash this, try to downplay it, try to hide it, sweep it under the rug or just plain silence it in media, press, and governmental outlays. As Charlie Leduff recently said of Detroit:

General Motors and Chrysler continue to make cars thanks in large part to the American taxpayer, who bailed them out (and are stilled owed billions of dollars), and their creditors, who took it in the shorts and received almost nothing for their investment. Ford too is profitable again. And for the first time ever, more cars were sold in China than in the United States. American Axle moved much of the remainder of its Detroit jobs out of state and country. The stock moved up. Detroit, I am sure, will continue to be. Just as Rome does. What it will be and who will be here, I cannot say. The unnecessary human beings will have to find some other place to go and something else to do. The Great Remigration south, maybe.4

This sense of “unnecessary human beings” of humanity itself being abandoned, expulsed, disposable is become more and more prevalent across the planet, not just here in the U.S.. As Saskia Sassen reports we are confronting a formidable problem in our global political economy: the emergence of new logics of expulsion. The past two decades have seen a sharp growth in the number of people, enterprises, and places expelled from the core social and economic orders of our time. This tipping into radical expulsion was enabled by elementary decisions in some cases, but in others by some of our most advanced economic and technical achievements. The notion of expulsions takes us beyond the more familiar idea of growing inequality as a way of capturing the pathologies of today’s global capitalism. Further, it brings to the fore the fact that forms of knowledge and intelligence we respect and admire are often at the origin of long transaction chains that can end in simple expulsions.5 As Kevin Bales in Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy says it point blank

Slavery is a booming business and the number of slaves is increasing. People get rich by using slaves. And when they’ve finished with their slaves, they just throw these people away. This is the new slavery, which focuses on big profits and cheap lives. It is not about owning people in the traditional sense of the old slavery, but about controlling them completely. People become completely disposable tools for making money.6

This is our world. Henry A Giroux and Brad Evans will tell us that disposability or the notion of intolerable violence and suffering in the twenty-first century would be recast by the very regimes that claimed to defeat ideological fascism. “We are not in any way suggesting a uniform history here.”7 The spectacle of violence is neither a universal nor a transcendental force haunting social relations. It emerges in different forms under distinct social formations, and signals in different ways how cultural politics works necessarily as a pedagogical force. The spectacle of violence takes on a kind of doubling, both in the production of subjects willing to serve the political and economic power represented by the spectacle and increasingly in the production of political and economic power willing to serve the spectacle itself. In this instance, the spectacle of violence exceeds its own pedagogical aims by bypassing even the minimalist democratic gesture of gaining consent from the subjects whose interests are supposed to be served by state power.(ibid., p. 7)

This notion of the “production of subjects” of those willing to serve this system of violence and corruption as being part of a globalist system of pedagogy and enslavement, ideology and disenfranchisement, incorporation and transformation that has tranmorgaphied the older external authoritarian fascists systems into more subtle or inverted forms of democratic tyranny that since the end of the Cold War have turned inward rather than extrinsically. As Sheldin S. Wolin in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism reports the new imaginary, too, depicted a foe global, without contours or boundaries, shrouded in secrecy. And like the Cold War imaginary, not only would the new form seek imperial dominion; it would turn inwards, applying totalitarian practices, such as sanctioning torture, holding individuals for years without charging them or allowing access to due process, transporting suspects to unknown locations, and conducting warrantless searches into private communications. The system of inverted totalitarianism being formed is not the result of a premeditated plot. It has no Mein Kampf as an inspiration. It is, instead, a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences. This is the achievement of a nation that gave pragmatism, the philosophy of consequences, to the world.8

What we’ve seen is American consumerist society slowly made obsolete as a profitable system in a globalist market, and now what we’re seeing is a system where absolute profits over people is the imperial mandate of the rich and powerful nations and transnational corporations across the globe. If Hobbes’s Leviathan has any pertinence today it is that this global behemoth is eating the planet alive, humans have become a commodity within a system of production: knowledge-workers are the engine of this new world of automation that is abandoning the pretense of a goods and services economy for a hyperaccelerating finance based system of immaterial goods and trading that no longer needs humans for its profitability. Rather this is a realm of pure and absolute Capital devoid of any pretense to human or natural subsistence and affordance. We are slowly being disposed of through various avenues of toxic infestation, viral apocalypse, war, civil and racial strife, migrant and refugee systems of civil-war all brought to bare in widening the gap between various ethnic and social sectors across the globe based on race, religion, and ethnicity. The elite promote strife across the planet in hopes we may doom ourselves. Like some Orwellian tripartite system of bloodletting the world of strife is being internalized toward each nation in hopes of ridding and expulsing the “unnecessary people,” the disposable people, the masses and unwanted, untrainable, the sacrificial. Isn’t this it, a secular Sacrifice? A ritualized immersion in the oldest form of bloodletting known to humanity?

As  René Girard said humanity results from sacrifice; we are thus the children of religion. What I call after Freud the founding murder, in other words, the immolation of a sacrificial victim that is both guilty of disorder and able to restore order, is constantly re-enacted in the rituals at the origin of our institutions. Since the dawn of humanity, millions of innocent victims have been killed in this way in order to enable their fellow humans to live together, or at least not to destroy one another. This is the implacable logic of the sacred, which myths dissimulate less and less as humans become increasingly self-aware.9 This sense that we are to do the work of sacrificing ourselves at our own expense, that the underlying initiative of the elites is simple strategy of stirring the pot of ethnic, racial, and economic hatred, allowing the uneducated and poverty stricken to murder and kill off each other and the those around them in a blood bath of sacrifice. While the rich and powerful assume safety nets, create city-states of neoliberal surveillance capitalism to protect themselves against the new barbarism.

It’s not that this is being done consciously, but that as part of the world of late capitalism this is the truth of its self-evolving perimeters, the logic of violence and economic pressure that is working within and through the very logics of capital to bring about this strange and twisted system of violence already well marked out by the notions of Manifest Destiny in previous eras. There is no grand conspiracy in place, not secret organization behind the scenes; that is all bunk, disinformation. No, the logics of capital are pragmatic and non-dialectical, demarcated within the history of our actual systems across the globe. The logics of profit. Girard makes an interesting observation about the notion of gift:

This is why a present is always poisoned (the German word Gift means “poison” but also “present”) because it does not presuppose monetary neutrality. It brings two people into play, and there is always the potential that they will come to blows. In a way, a gift is always an object that we try to dispose of by exchanging it for something that our neighbor also wants to get rid of. Here we are touching on the ambivalence of the sacred. What makes our life intolerable is expelled, less to poison the life of the other than to make our own tolerable. We get rid of what poisons us like a “hot potato” that is tossed from hand to hand. This is the primitive law of exchange, and it is highly regulated. For conjugal peace we must choose partners born in families far from our own domestic conflicts. (ibid. p. 60)

This is where the age old logics of scapegoating, etc. come into play. Again Girard: “The fetters put in place by the founding murder but unshackled by the Passion, are now liberating planet-wide violence, and we cannot refasten the bindings because we now know that scapegoats are innocent. The Passion unveiled the sacrificial origin of humanity once and for all. It dismantled the sacred and revealed its violence.” (ibid.)

This is the slaughter of the innocents… we have entered the age of sacrificial violence. But should we allow it to happen? Should we become victims of our own tendencies to violence? Charles Derber says no, as he states it:

The situation reminds me of the film Pleasantville, where everyone is living in a 1950s world of living death, without any color in their conformist, doomed universe (filmed in grainy black and white). But a few people, including a time traveler from the future, rise up against this dead world and start to break the lifeless, authoritarian rules. They begin to see and paint colors— orange and red and, yes, green— and then they themselves begin to turn from pale white to the vibrant flesh color of truly living beings. All of Pleasantville eventually blossoms into radiant color.(ibid.)

Isn’t that it? Isn’t it time to break free of the Symbolic Order imposed on us? To dismantle the world of fake symbols and propaganda? To destroy the very underpinnings of this myth of neoliberal manifest destiny once and for all? Thing about revolt and revolution is that we need not turn it into a violent bloodletting – which is exactly what the neoliberal system is hoping for, so that it can alleviate and remove the disposable among us; no, the revolution can be in just remaking ourselves, remaking our lives, developing local and global systems of support, depending on crossing the barriers that divide us – whether of ethnic, religious, or economic… our leaders have abandoned us to our own devices and hope we will destroy ourselves in the process. We must not give in to such inept designs.

As Andrew Culp in his recent Dark Deleuze suggests, the Neoliberals philosophically have developed a system of world-wide connectivity, which is about “world-building. The goal of connectivity is to make everyone and everything part of a single world.”10 The notion of homogenization of the world market has been going on for two or more centuries, but now with the advent of global logistics and just-in-time supply-side demand the actual ability to do it has finally equaled the technics and technological program. In his book Andrew seeks redress this by teasing out those various concepts and abstract engines a critical apparatus that might help bring about the “death of the World” by which he does not mean the physical annihilation of the earth so much as the destruction of our false Image of a certain kind of Thought that has captured Deleuze’s conceptuality, hijacking it into capitalist modes of affirmation and joy that have twisted and corrupted the very power of his war machines. Instead Andrew seeks to critique “connectivity and positivity, a theory of contraries, the exercise of intolerance, and the conspiracy of communism” (66).

In fact, what seeks is to promote not the Deleuzian bandwagon of joy and positivity, connectionism has built, one based on notions of “rhizomes, assemblages, networks, material systems, or dispositifs” (67). For Andrew this World of the Light, the Deleuzean world of Joy has worked in apposition to Deleuze’s intent, and instead has been easily hijacked by the Neoliberal’s modes of productivism, accumulation, and reproduction. Against this he proposes to attack what he terms the “greatest crime” – that of the joyousness of tolerance. Following Wendy Brown he sees this regulatory ethic of political correctness as part of the “grammar of empire,” a discourse of ethnic, racial, and sexual regulation, and as “an international discourse of Western imperialism on the other” (67).

Ultimately this new intolerance is not about becoming “obstinate,” rather it is about finding “new ways to end our suffocating perpetual present” (69). We have been cut off in an eternal present without future for some time now: what some term “presentism”: the notion of using or abusing past to validate ones own political beliefs. We heard this from the Neoliberals starting with the demise of Socialism in the old regimes of Soviet Russia and Maoist China. The notion of the End of History, no other alternative to capitalism, etc. This notion that we are now living in a totalistic or global civilization where there is no escape, no exit, etc. It’s against this false presentism that Andrew offers “escape,” saying:

“Escape need not be dreary, even if they are negative. Escape is never more exciting than when it spills out into the streets, where trust in appearances, trust in words, trust in each other, and trust in this world all disintegrate in a mobile zone of indiscernibility. It is in these moments of opacity, insufficiency, and breakdown that darkness most threatens the ties that bind us to this world. (70)”

Ultimately we must “all live double lives” (69): “The struggle is to keep one’s cover identity from taking over.” By which he means one’s life with one foot in the old world of neoliberal fakery and compromise, and the other foot moving into the flight path of escape, crafting “new weapons while withdrawing from the demands of the world” (69). I put it this way: We must build a new world out of the ruins of the old, dismantle the empire of the present global order from within, and dissolve its profit making system of toxic waste and disposability, violence and sacrifice; and, in its place construct, day by day, a world worthy of trust, respect, and care. A world where the natural and artificial, abstract and material labors of life promote sustenance, courage, and exacting tribute to the earth and animals we share this realm of life with.


  1. Chomsky, Noam. Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Kindle Locations 28-32). Seven Stories Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Derber, Charles. Sociopathic Society: A People’s Sociology of the United States (Kindle Location 477). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
  3. Sugrue, Thomas J.  The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton University Press, 2014)
  4. Charlie Leduff. Detroit: An American Autopsy (Kindle Locations 3215-3220). Penguin Press HC, The. Kindle Edition.
  5. Sassen, Saskia. Expulsions (Kindle Locations 39-44). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.
  6. Bales, Kevin. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (p. 4). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
  7. Giroux, Henry A.; Evans, Brad. Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 84-91). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  8. Wolin, Sheldon S.. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (Kindle Locations 1102-1107). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
  9. Girard, René. Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, & Culture) . Michigan State University Press. Kindle Edition.
  10. Read Dark Deleuze: https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/dark-deleuze

Arthur Kroker: Technopocalypse & Slow Suicide

Today, the emblematic signs of the technopoesis that holds us in its sway are symptomatic of a future that will be marked less by the violence of an always imaginary apocalypse than by slow suicide. While Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Heidegger, and Arendt can console us, and perhaps even guide us, nothing has really prepared us for a future that will be fully entangled in the new technopoesis of accelerate and drift, with a still undetermined, deeply intermediated, aftermath of spectacular creativity, fierce violence, and unexpected crashes. For example, digital devices, once thought safely outside ourselves, have now broken barriers of skin and mind, shaping from within the deepest recesses of consciousness, desire, perception, and imagination. Whether at the level of philosophical meditation or personal sensibility, nothing has really prepared us to live out a deeply consequential future prefigured by the specters of drones, algorithms, image vectors, distributive consciousness, artificial intelligence, neurological implants, and humanoid robotics. What is required, perhaps, is an ethical preparation for the slow suicide of technological end-times that are now only just beginning along the watchtowers of fascination and despair, righteous anger and pleasurable nihilism, of speechless moral incredulity at observing the cynical pleasure by which the powerful inflict pain on the powerless, the weak, the poor – all those bodies that don’t matter – and passionate, maybe even, complicit mass resignation.1


  1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 20-21). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Evgeny Morozov on The Taming of Tech Criticism

Good article by Evgeny Morozov on The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, by Nicholas Carr on The Baffler. As he admits most tech criticism has become conservative rather than radical:

A personal note is in order, since in surveying the shortcomings of thinkers such as Nicholas Carr, I’m also all too mindful of how many of them I’ve shared. For a long time, I’ve considered myself a technology critic. Thus, I must acknowledge defeat as well: contemporary technology criticism in America is an empty, vain, and inevitably conservative undertaking. At best, we are just making careers; at worst, we are just useful idiots.

Since truly radical technology criticism is a no-go zone for anyone seeking a popular audience, all we are left with is debilitating faux radicalism. Some critics do place their focus squarely on technology companies, which gives their work the air of anti-corporate populism and, perhaps, even tacit opposition to the market. This, however, does not magically turn these thinkers into radicals.

In fact, what distinguishes radical critics from their faux-radical counterparts is the lens they use for understanding Silicon Valley: the former group sees such firms as economic actors and situates them in the historical and economic context, while the latter sees them as a cultural force, an aggregation of bad ideas about society and politics. Thus, while the radical critic quickly grasps that reasoning with these companies—as if they were just another reasonable participant in the Habermasian public sphere—is pointless, the faux-radical critic shows no such awareness, penning essay after essay bemoaning their shallowness and hoping that they can eventually become ethical and responsible.


Read more: The Taming of Tech Criticism

A Stick Figure World: Politics as Rotten Cartoons

Branco-Trump-and-Hillary

Politicians are stick figures in a rotten cartoon factory, one that produces the State as pure anti-hero. But where are our super-heroes? And, one must add: Where is the door out of this cracker-jack box?

More and more the irony of this year’s election is bringing out the truth that we live in a post-democratic society here in the good old U.S.A.. At home and abroad America is taking a dive, demoralized we’ve become the stock and trade joke of the early 21st Century. A government that would rather bail out the Plutocrats than its own citizens no longer deserves anything but derision and satire. Yet, this isn’t the end of it, citizens will need to do more than laugh in the months and years ahead.

Satire has a rich and varied history. Juvenal, the Roman satirist, lived under the dreaded Domitian and wrote of his life as an administrator (bureaucrat). He wrote of the corruption of society in the city of Rome and the follies and brutalities of mankind. In the first Satire, Juvenal declares that vice, crime, and the misuse of wealth have reached such a peak that it is impossible not to write satire, but that, since it is dangerous to attack powerful men in their lifetime, he will take his examples from the dead. He does not maintain this principle, for sometimes he mentions living contemporaries; but it provides a useful insurance policy against retaliation, and it implies that Rome has been evil for many generations.

Of his satires it is Satire 7 that depicts the poverty and wretchedness of the Roman intellectuals who cannot find decent rewards for their labours. In the eighth, Juvenal attacks the cult of hereditary nobility. One of his grandest poems is the 10th, which examines the ambitions of mankind—wealth, power, glory, long life, and personal beauty—and shows that they all lead to disappointment or danger: what mankind should pray for is “a sound mind in a sound body, and a brave heart.”

Today Juvenal would probably be labeled a moralist and reactionary in some ways, yet he was able to give us a pattern and set of tropes that guide much of our critical arsenal today. Satire was to expose the darkness hiding in plain site, the underbelly of our political and social worlds, and those minions of power and fame that hollow out the core of a nation’s life. We live in an age that is beyond satire, a time when the very meaning of satire no longer goes far enough to shape the truth. For our age has no truth, ours is nihilism defined; a time when men and women play at playing on the stage of media worlds that have become nothing more than the One-Dimensional sounding boards of their vein narcissism. The cardboard characters that strut the stage of our late spectacle no longer define life, but instead define the cultural death squads of a future without hope. Our despair is not that we want find the Good, but that the Good has already become our Evil. Ours is the age of Cartoons, a time when the scripts that politicians follow are mere facades for the idiocy of a post-mediatocracy that presents the spectacle as the only show in town.

The destiny of such a Mediatocracy living in the gap between satire and farce is that it has suborned the real into a cartoon village world where pundits and citizens alike gaze on in stupefaction as the leaders play out an end game that has no future, only a present full of derision and vanity. No longer the days when we could hope for real change, reality has exited the stage and left us with this charade of wonderland. The apocalypse will not come by way of strange days, but rather with the whimper of a citizenry who allowed cartoon gods to rule over them.

American Society: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

Is there anything Good about American Society? A large share of Americans are turned off by the rancor of politics and the gridlock in Washington. Many wish their elected leaders would seek pragmatic compromises. However they are less likely to vote, and most lack the temperament and vocal cords to attract attention in today’s media culture. They might be seen as America’s new silent majority.1

According to Pew Research today’s Millennials – well-educated, tech savvy, and underemployed – are at risk of becoming the first generation in American history to have a lower standard of living than their parents. Meantime, about 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring every single day, many of them not as well prepared financially as they’d hoped. The graying of our population will put stresses on our social safety net and present our elected leaders with a daunting challenge: how to keep faith with the old without bankrupting the young.

Americans are more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past, and the U.S. is projected to be even more diverse in the coming decades. By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. Much of this change has been (and will be) driven by immigration. Nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the U.S. in the past 50 years, mostly from Latin America and Asia. Today, a near-record 14% of the country’s population is foreign born compared with just 5% in 1965. Over the next five decades, the majority of U.S. population growth is projected to be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration. American attitudes about immigration and diversity are supportive of these changes for the most part. More Americans say immigrants strengthen the country than say they burden it, and most say the U.S.’s increasing ethnic diversity makes it a better place to live.

The 2016 electorate will be the most diverse in U.S. history due to strong growth among Hispanic eligible voters, particularly U.S.-born youth. There are also wide gaps opening up between the generations on many social and political issues. Young adult Millennials are much more likely than their elders to hold liberal views on many political and social issues, though they are also less likely to identify with either political party: 50% call themselves political independents.

Millennials, young adults born after 1980, are the new generation to watch. They have likely surpassed Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) as the largest U.S. generation and differ significantly from their elders in many ways. They are the most racially diverse generation in American history: 43% of Millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation. And while they are on track to be the most educated generation to date, this achievement has come at a cost: Many Millennials are struggling with student debt. In addition to the weak labor market of recent years, student debt is perhaps one reason why many are still living at home. Despite these troubles, Millennials are the most upbeat about their financial future: More than eight-in-ten say they either currently have enough money to lead the lives they want or expect to in the future.

As the Supreme Court prepares to decide a key case involving states’ requirements to recognize same-sex marriage, public support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally continues its rapid rise: A 57% majority of Americans now favor allowing same-sex marriage and 39% oppose. As recently as five years ago, more opposed (48%) same-sex marriage than supported it (42%).

The Bad

The Pew Research Center reported in 2014 that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.

Across the world, higher education is linked to higher levels of employment and life evaluation, making it the proverbial ticket to a great job and a great life. But the most recent evidence suggests that the link between higher education and graduates’ readiness for today’s rapidly changing workplace may be broken.

On immigration. U.S. public seldom has welcomed refugees into country.

Bruce Jenner first became famous by winning the gold in the men’s decathlon at the 1976 Olympics, but in a recent interview with ABC News, he transformed his fame into something else — immediately raising the visibility of transgender adults in America. By one reputable estimate, transgender adults represent about 0.3% of the U.S. adult population, and about 5% of the adult lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population identifies primarily as transgender.

LGBT adults see relatively little social acceptance for transgender people. Fully eight-in-ten said there is only a little (59%) or no (21%) social acceptance of this group. Even among LGBT adults, a relatively small share in our survey said they could relate to transgender people: Only 15% of gay men, 11% of lesbians and 12% of bisexuals said they share “a lot” of common concerns and identity with transgender adults.

The Ugly

A staggering 75% of the American public believe corruption is “widespread” in the U.S. government. Not incompetence, but corruption. For the second consecutive year, dissatisfaction with government edged out the economy as the problem more Americans identified as the nation’s top problem in 2015. According to Gallup’s monthly measure of the most important problem facing the U.S., an average of 16% of Americans in 2015 mentioned some aspect of government, including President Barack Obama, Congress or political conflict, as the country’s chief problem. The economy came in second with 13% mentioning it, while unemployment and immigration tied for third at 8%.

Pervasive gloom about the World Economy. The public mood about the economy has worsened since 2008 in eight of 15 countries for which there is comparable data, while it is essentially unchanged in four others. The Chinese are the lone exception. They have been positive about their economy for the past decade.

Less than a third of Americans (31%) say the U.S. economy is doing well. That figure is up 13 percentage points from 2011. (But it is down 19 points from 2007, the year before the financial crunch began.) A median of just 16% of Europeans surveyed think their economy is performing up to par. That includes just 2% of the Greeks and 6% of the Spanish and Italians. Among Europeans, only the Germans (73%) give their economy a thumbs up. And just 7% of Japanese believe their economy is doing well.

Guns — a symbol of freedom from government tyranny to many people — are now a key voting issue.

To make matters worse, a dark cloud appears to be hanging over the growth of small business, which is where virtually all new GDP growth and good jobs originate. Simply put, startups and shootups (small businesses that grow larger) have been in a death spiral. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the total number of business startups and business closures per year crossed for the first time in 2008.

In Politics we discover a rise in identity-based animus of one party toward the other that extends far beyond the issues. These days Democrats and Republicans no longer stop at disagreeing with each other’s ideas. Many in each party now deny the other’s facts, disapprove of each other’s lifestyles, avoid each other’s neighborhoods, impugn each other’s motives, doubt each other’s patriotism, can’t stomach each other’s news sources, and bring different value systems to such core social institutions as religion, marriage and parenthood. It’s as if they belong not to rival parties but alien tribes.

A new Bloomberg Politics poll found that 53% of Americans don’t want to accept any Syrian refugees at all; 11% more would accept only Christian refugees from Syria. More than two dozen governors, most of them Republicans, have said they’ll oppose Syrian refugees being resettled in their states. And on Thursday the House of Representatives passed a bill blocking the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees unless they pass strict background checks.

Around the world seven-in-ten people live on $10 or less per day: “The vast majority of the world’s population lives on a budget that falls well short of the poverty line in advanced economies. Specifically, 4.4 billion people – 71% of the global population of 6.2 billion – lived on $10 or less per day in 2011, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recently available data.”


  1. Taylor, Paul. The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown. PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (January 26, 2016)