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.

Julia Kristeva and the Abject Grotesque

Julia Kristeva and the Abject Grotesque

Far in the distance the tugboat whistled; its call passed the bridge, one more arch, then another, the lock, another bridge, farther and farther … It was summoning all the barges on the river, every last one, and the whole city and the sky and the countryside, and ourselves, to carry us all away, the Seine too —and that would be the end of us.

-Celine, Journey to the End of Night

In Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1982), Julia Kristeva describes the process of abjection as a form of expulsion and rejection of the Other, which she ties to the historical exclusion of women. Neither subject nor object, the abject, or the state of abjection, is articulated in, and through, grotesque language and imagery. The process of abjection is, then, associated with deformed bodies and oozing bodily fluids: blood, pus, bile, faeces, sweat and vomit break down the borders separating the inside from outside, the contained from the released. Abjection is a state of flux, where ‘meaning collapses’, and the body is open and irregular, sprouting or protruding internal and external forms to link abjection to grotesquerie.

“On close inspection, all literature is probably a version of the apocalypse that seems to me rooted, no matter what its sociohistorical conditions might be, on the fragile border (borderline cases) where identities (subject/object, etc.) do not exist or only barely so—double, fuzzy, heterogeneous, animal, metamorphosed, altered, abject” (Powers 207 ). “Not a language of the desiring exchange of messages or objects that are transmitted in a social contract of communication and desire beyond want, but a language of want, of the fear that edges up to it and runs along its edges” (Powers 38 ).

How do we align such a vision of exclusion, abjectness, borderline breakdowns, fear and terror of the Other to the current world of refugees and the wars of nations: economic slavery, austerity, and the darkening hatred and recurrence of fascist tendencies in our time? How speak to that hunger at the center of the void, the lack, the want of which Kristeva’s notions of the comedy of the Abject speak? Have the refugees, as well as women, the LGBTQ community, and many other aspects of our planetary society and civilization become the excluded Other of which we are now faced with the impossible dilemma of either inclusions or expulsion? Maybe these excluded others view us morbid parasites feeding off the global excess, as creatures of grotesque proportion whose shadow worlds of thought and culture are but the fetid apertures of a dying body, a civilization on the edge of destruction, chaos, and apocalypse? It’s as if the open wounds of the world body we are seeing is connected to an ancient curse of civilization, one that stretches back into the hinterlands ten thousand years ago when the first cities began accumulating, hoarding, and guarding their agricultural harvests against the nomadic wanderers and raiders of the outer reaches. This notion still seems still to pervade the modern psyche, as if civilization from the beginning was shaped by a dark and terrible deed, a grotesque system of dominion, slavery, and exclusion that has ever since haunted the mindscapes of every nation on earth.

Continue reading

Notes from the Apocalypse #1

Arrogance, lack of achievement after a prosperous period, selfishness, shirking work, and liberalism, are all evils to be avoided… Liberalism is taken to mean that one may avoid conflict or work in order to be more comfortable for the moment, while the problem continues to grow.
……..– Chairman Mao to his People

“I must now shock you by telling you that we have no longer anything which you, a native of another planet, would call a government. … As a matter of fact, the history of the terrible period of transition from commercial slavery to freedom may thus be summarized. When the hope of realizing a communal condition of life for all men arose, quite late…  the power of the middle classes, the then tyrants of society, was so enormous and crushing, that to almost all men, even those who had, you may say despite themselves, despite their reason and judgement, conceived such hopes, it seemed a dream.”
………– William Morris, News From Nowhere

Our problems have grown too great, our leaders to fat and happy, our rich and elite abandon their nations going rogue and too global, and out of joint with the populations – living in their dream palaces and travel-channel yachts and deco-punk cities; the sovereignty of nations is failing, the world of boundaries dissolving, migrations hollowing out the earth in civil-war, ethnic cleansing, broken and viral epidemics, climate catastrophes…. we seem tittering on the edge of doom; and, like citizens from an alien planet wondering what will come next we watch on sadly knowing it want be good, yet believing we are powerless to alter the shape of the future…

While populism grows in Russia, the EU, and the U.S.A., a world full of middle-class fervor seeks regain its former strength and power, seeking to seize the day lest the rest of the planet sinks into a fetid quagmire of local turmoil and chaos. Racism, speciesism, the methodical hate squads arising everywhere… All the while global corporations and criminal cartels cannibalize the remaining resources of the planet, bringing death and division everywhere, seeking only to profit from war, chaos, and utter defeat. Is this a time of Apocalypse? Doom? Our pundits and experts spout cliché’s, our philosophers turn away from human affairs to the nonhuman… our young play idol video games of pure war and fantasy… our politicians bring us news of austerity and debt… and, our matinee idols of music, Hollywood, and sports live out the corruptions of late capitalism as if there were no tomorrow.

As a young man I began reading Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, Hegel, Bataille, and others… realizing we we’re all failed Utopians. Pessimism is the face of Utopianism in the world today rather than Hope. Ernst Bloch once stated “Evil does not approach us as pride any more, but on the contrary as slumber, lassitude, concealment…”. One wakes up and realizes the real world has become a Reality TV series, a fantasy for a middle-class that cannot be bothered with the world’s problems but would rather wile away their hours in make-shift paradises of illusion and self-enslavement to desire and narcissistic self-love. Despair is born of hope, a dis-ease with the way things are… some of us on the Left are Marxian optimists with a vengeance, except that the world Marx once critiqued is dead and buried under a thousand flowers. In its place is an immaterial financial world, and invisible empire of risk and electronic counterfeit built on cynicism, profit, and global catastrophe. Hedging their bets against apocalypse these casino players of the new economics slip into pocket niches, playing the roulette will of capitalism with weak AI algorithms that can make or break a nation in at the speed of light.

Today we are living in the midst of Generation X’s coming of Age Party as the Middle-Class. The old structures and forms of the world based on liberal and conservative visions are dead, they were ruled by other media  and control systems than today… Generation X grew up with the net, children today even in some parts of the Third World are immersed in the net… it feeds their minds.

Yet, capitalism has migrated there, too. Colonizing the young with their capture systems, prodding them on into madness, chaos, video games, toys, global crapology… We had a chance in the 90’s to keep the net free, that’s gone… now we live in stupidland, a realm of commercial search engines that promote the fourth wave of industrialization, the second machine age, the capitalist anti-utopian future… and excess without humans… a future full of transhuman and post-human beings where auto-modification, cross-gender excess and biogenetic experimentation would make even H.G. Wells think twice…

I grew up in Podunkville U.S.A. in the fifties… the world is no longer my world… which is a good thing. Information overload may be here, but the children of our age know that and are developing tools to work this knowledge base and turn it into something that can shape and change our minds and our worlds. So, yes, I’m still a utopianist… it’s us, the oldsters who need to change, begin to listen to the youth once again. All these young philosopher wannabes are scattered across the world speaking to us of their hopes and dreams. Yet, before them there is this uncertain future of Climate Change, World Civil War, Secular and Religious turmoil, Ethnic violence everywhere, social decay… one wants to repeat Mao:

“Socialism must be developed… and the route toward such an end is a democratic revolution, which will enable socialist and communist consolidation over a length of time. It is also important to unite with the middle peasants (classes), and educate them on the failings of capitalism.”

Some saw Mao as a little too utopianist as well (cultural revolutions gone mad…), but in the above one sees a man shrewd enough to realize it was the Middle-Estate, the middle-classes that needed education and leadership… here at least in the U.S.A. the middle-class is Generation X’s coming of age party… those who were entering their teens in the 90’s are now the middle-class, and they know the difference, and are educating themselves the hard way. The democrats and republicans both speak to a middle-class that died long ago… the world has changed and neither the dems or the reps understand this. Populism seems to be the order of the day everywhere? Why? Because these middle-classes have seen themselves, their parents, and the future of their children sold down the river by thieves and scoundrels after the 2007 crash… they’ve seen the Bankers grow rich at their expense, the elite .01% walk away unscathed while they and their children gained nothing in return… this is the legacy of corruption and excess… Capitalist Utopianism at its degrading best… a legacy of doom.

I sometimes feel like one of those cranks on the street corner spouting from a soapbox the coming apocalypse. Problem is it’s not coming, it’s all around us but we can’t see it or believe what is in front of our eyes. Apocalypse from Greek apokalyptein “uncover, disclose, reveal,” a sort of mystery novel or noir disclosure of those old standbys of fate and freedom, the pendulum of time swinging on Poe’s horror flicked stage of the world. A post-cyberpunk tale replete with all the usual morbidity of normalcy. That’s the problem it is all so normal now that it’s ubiquitous, we can’t see it because it’s everywhere. We kept thinking apocalypse would be some drastic one-time event. Instead its just our normal madness. We have created a mentality that accepts as normalcy the apocalyptic time of no-time, a present without outlet. We call it global capitalism and have convinced ourselves there is no alternative. So we lie down in our pits of revenge, our hovels of critical theory and critique and poke fun from the sidelines as if we might make a difference. While the sleepers continue their sleep unaware that reality TV is no longer a fantasy.

I just keep wondering when this generation now entering their 30’s and 40’s is going to find its voice and take control of the stupidity and act before it’s too late? In our time Global Capitalism is divorcing itself from sovereign nations, tearing down the walls between Third and First world, seeking migrations as tools to further their agenda of no more democracy… the rich, elite, powerful conglomerates and corporations are creating networks, laws, systems outside the sovereignty of nations… the don’t need democracy anymore. We do! We’ll people wake up and realize this before it’s too late. The rich are abandoning sites like the EU for have cities, evil dream cities of City States around the planet where they can live in luxury and decadence unheard of while those left in the old democracies pay the bill. We seem to believe in outmoded philosophies, politics, and revolutions of emancipation from a different world. Things have changed… we no longer have the luxury of time on our side. If we do not act in this generation it truly will be too late. I know, I know… this has been said before, too many times.. by me and others… but that doesn’t make it false. What do we want? What kind of world do you want for yourself and your children?

On the Left we target a ghost, neoliberalism as if it existed, we have all our cards laid out in a line, theories, histories, economic and philosophical; yet, under it all the truth is that neoliberalism was our fantasy, our construction kit for a world that has moved on… we’re targeting and indexing an object that does not exist accept in our theories. Reality is where people live and die, not some theoretical construction kit one can model like a weather application. Oh, don’t get me wrong…. geez … we need the modeling, too. What I’m getting at is that we need to know things from the street-level, from the gut-level… we have too much theory… too much of it is now repeating the same gestures, the same idiocies, the same groove over and over again… When was the last time you read a book, an article of substance that actually had something new to say? We seem running in circles saying the same thing in new metaphors… this is hyperdecadence or hyperawareness with a vengeance. Most of the philosophical and political bric-a-brac one reads is warmed over thought from the pomo era, either castigating or promoting Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, or German Idealisms, Heidegger-Husserl, or the analytical Sellars-Brandomonian normative pack… then all these New Materialisms, Objects, Realisms spinning out what? What is ontology getting us? Is this going to change the world for the better? Are we just following the reality game into utter doom with either our direct or indirect access to it processual or structural insanity?

Maybe I’m an old fool, my time done or nearing… Nah… I’ll keep fending off the death-squad a while longer, thank you… and, I’ll continue being a Crank, churning out my little bit of narrative disruption here and there trying to wake people up… what else can one do? I still believe in hope… I dream… I seek a way forward… a world worthy of human love… maybe I’m just a stubborn old fool, and Jesus used to say we should just “turn the other cheek,” but I’m tired of turning that cheek, tired of watching the world sink down into oblivion, I’m – as Peter Finch in Network once said:

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Think on it… notes from the Apocalypse…