Prologue

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"All the analysis you want; none of the anal you don't."


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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Your Excellency

The good citizen must wish for the well-being of his fellows as earnestly as he wishes it for himself.  On this all the best thinkers, both ancient and modern, agree.  This is for the reason that by definition, society is comprised of a number of distinguishable but interdependent parts, each, ideally contributing to the stability and prosperity of the whole.  The happiness of the one is indeed ultimately dependent upon the happiness of the others.

Of course, it is impossible that any single person, let alone the entirety of the citizenry, should be at once capable of feeling the needs of all of his fellows to the degree that each feels his or her own, and wise enough to foresee the precise means of accomplishing it while at the same time having the practical means to realize it.  The expedient adopted by all societies to offset this defect is to promote mutual forebearance, on the implicit understanding that if no one is able to obtain perfect satisfaction for him or her self, at least they are all able to achieve a portion of it.

An excellent method of inculcating the principle of mutual forebearance is to multiply the number of interactions each member of society has with his fellows.  Perceiving many opportunities to arrive at the desired result, the citizen becomes less resentful of those occassions he or she fails to achieve it, confident that another opportunity will present itself shortly; if the failing today, he or she may succeed tomorrow.  Each citizen sees that his or her personal happiness is enhanced by interacting with his or her fellows.

But a "trans"-action is not necessarily an "inter"-action.  "Trans"-actions are those that occur across unlike parties; "inter"-actions are mutually undertaken among like parties.  One may negotiate, on more or less equal terms, the requirements of an "inter"-action, whereas the disparity of powers inherent to a "trans"-action compells one party or the other to simply accept its terms or do without in toto.

The significance of this difference is often lost in societies predisposed towards democracy.  It is not merely the function of the unsophistication of individual intellects, but the common imperative to respect one's fellows as equals in dignity.  Constantly reminding him or her self that all are entitled to an equal human dignity, the member of a democratic society is apt to forget that each is not endowed with identical capacities.

This diversity of capacities is often presented as the particular virtue of democratic societies, the theory being that democracy, being least prejudicial to individual interests, is, among all political forms, best constituted to harnessing individual energies to the common good.

But this is rarely the case.  It is often forgotten by those predisposed to see their fellows as equals in dignity, that the laws do not always proceed from the social mores of the people those laws govern.

Finding it odious to disparage others, citizens of good will are unwilling to question the aims of those who, unlike themselves, wish to obtain a secret command that makes transactions increasingly un-equal.  Cloaked by language directly opposed to his actual intent, the gifted dissembler obscures from us the fact that a moral agent is not necessarily a competent economic agent, and thus he encounters no serious barrier in his evil design to bind others to him by chains of obligation which they cannot scorn except at the cost of their livliehood.

What wonder, then, that simple souls, intending nothing but the honest well-being of their fellows, and committed to respect of the common law as they find it, step by step become unwitting accomplices to the destruction of everything they love?  For that is the case.  Sooner or later, the accumulated dissatisfaction of people living under such an un-equal system, as it becomes more and more apparent, must necessarily dissolve the bonds of mutual esteem that render a society coherent.  For this cause and for no other are societies destroyed.

So while the good citizen must wish for the well-being of his fellows as earnestly as he or she wishes it for himself, the excellent citizen must make careful inquiries into the particular qualities of each he encounters and take care that no one of them acquire command over too many.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Perfect Crime

In the coming days, weeks and months many influential public figures will spend a great deal of time and energy trying to convince you to take part in a crime.  I advise you to heed the advice of your “better angels” and refuse.

Events on the ground are developing rapidly, but as of the time of this writing it is clear that military forces of the Russian state and paramilitary groups serving it have seized property belonging to the sovereign state of Ukraine in the odd name of “stabilizing” the situation there.  The airwaves are being bombarded with continual updates of unverified information, but what is clear is that this is the sort of crisis in which the credibility of the international community of nation states is at stake; the roles they have assumed for themselves demand they take some sort of decisive action.

We know what “decisive action” means:  inevitably progress military escalation to open warfare.  Only for the purpose of “stabilizing” the situation there, of course.

Equally inevitably, in times of external crisis, all nation states demand redoubled internal unity.  Only for the purpose of “stabilizing” the situation over here, of course.  Your presidents, prime ministers, members of Parliament, Duma and Congress will ask you to stand “with” your country rather than “against” it; they will ask you to become an accomplice in your own murder.

Our generation, for all our sins, foibles, errors and misfortunes does have one happy blessing, however, that sets us apart uniquely from all generations that went before us:  we have lived through a decade of warfare whose most intimate operations have been laid bare to us in real time, courtesy of the likes of Alexander Litvinenko, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and the like.  Serhi Scherbyna, editor of the Ukrainian investigative journalism team at Insider, has published thousands of documents saved from destruction by the fleeing regime of ousted president Victor Yanukovych.  This has been publicized through western media such as The Globe and Mail in Canada.

These documents reveal that, despite convenient claims of all international players to the contrary, these recent events have occurred, not as the sudden, unpredictable consequence of civil unrest in Ukraine, but a coordinated effort of BOTH western AND Russian elites to manipulate public opinion and defalcate billions of dollars in public assets to their own private benefit.  For instance, not only did Yanukovych personally plan and coordinate a foreign military intervention, but he also hired numerous highly placed western lawyers (e.g., Gregory B. Craig, a close advisor of Barrack Obama, et al.) to craft legal and public relations strategies regarding a series of political show trials to stifle internal dissent.

So, in essence, when events inevitably arrive at open military hostilities, your nation state’s political leaders will ask you to die to distract attention from their own crimes.  You will be asked to kill innocent strangers and be killed in return in order to sustain the fiction that the “leaders” of the nation state—ANY NATION STATE—has the interests of their subjects at heart.  It is a tactic as old as the nation state itself, but now it is being (mis)applied outside the context of one-way legacy media conduits that gave it credibility.

The “perfect crime” is often used to mean one that goes undetected, but  I beg to differ.  I assert that the “perfect” crime is one that co-opts its victims to the extent that nobody has any interest in prosecuting its perpetrators.  Don’t make this the perfect crime.  Don’t become an accomplice in your own murder.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Rx for Revolution

Pugachev Administering Justice by Vasily Perov

"We were probably the most conservative-minded revolutionaries who put through a successful revolution." Kevin O'Higgins

"If they have real grievances redress them, if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them . . . . If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once. "  George Washington, letter to Henry Lee, 31 October 1786

"I am a monarch of God's creation, and you reptiles of the earth dare not oppose me.  I render an account of my government to none . . . ."
Napoleon Bonaparte, speech at Breda, 1 May 1810


While the exact precipitants of overt rebellion are perhaps impossible to predict, history does grant us absolute certainty that the next regime will be a fundamentally conservative one.

The revolution of 1789 may have been reasonably foreseen given that country's horrific long-term economic trends and decades of fiscal mismanagement by the French Crown.  However, before Easter 1916, few would have dared prophecy an end to nearly 800 years of English dominance in a disgruntled and disenfranchised but thoroughly exhausted and demoralised Ireland. And even today it is more than a little perplexing as to why 1773 in particular should be the occasion for violent resistance to British Crown policies which had been pursued at least since 1696, when William III established the Lords of Trade.  But inevitably each of these momentous events was succeeded by a conservative regime.

The art of successful revolution lies in the reconciliation of the iconoclasm required to dismantle the old regime while simultaneously projecting the familiarity (comfortable or otherwise) required to elicit the confidence of the political nation.  It is, to say the least, a difficult thing to achieve.

During the ten thousand years or so since the adoption of agriculture demanded a fixed ordering of society along more or less arbitrary lines, the specialization of labor has reinforced the naturally uneven distribution of qualities among its members to the point where the presumption of "standing"--the moral right for the individual to meaningful participation in society's ordering institutions--is not so much questioned as it is ridiculed as inchoate nonsense.

In sedentary societies the economic imperative is conformity, based on the conviction that the fundamental questions of physical necessity have been adequately resolved, and that all that is required is their implementation and further elaboration along the established lines.  Deviance, dissent and variation are no longer viewed as presenting valuable new contributions to society's repertoire of resources and techniques, but existential dangers.  This is to say, the only value the individual has to offer society is his consent.

Therefore it is to be assumed that there will always be a fundamental cleavage between the political role of the productive classes (i.e., the masses whose lives are almost wholly given over to the performance of economically productive activities) and the leadership class (i.e., those few who supervise the toil of the many).  Whether or not a given laborer is cleverer than a given member of the ruling classes matters not--his very status as 'laborer' undermines his ability to effectively assume a leadership role.  The fact that the current incumbent may be spectacularly stupid does not matter either, because it is not the validity of the individual which is crucial, but that of the overarching social model, which is usually taken for granted.

As long as the leadership class are capable of wringing at least a subsistence level of economic productivity from the orthodox model, their privilege cannot come under serious internal challenge.  The only people likely to express dissatisfaction are those whose opinion, by definition, does not matter.

So, in other words, the onus on the successful revolutionary is to present himself not as the successor to the existing regime, but the restoration of the productive primal order which justifies the inescapable suppression of individuality which is the lot of the vast majority of people in sedentary societies.

Very rarely combined in one person are both the social facility needed to convincingly perform such an astounding feat of hypocritical playacting and the wisdom needed to recognize and productively direct a cadre of competent followers from the unruly mass of displaced peasantry which is the inevitable result of rebellion.  One is tempted to say that, relatively speaking, serviceable acting skills are more easily found than acceptable management skills, given the extreme infrequency of successful revolutions, but that would be to ignore the fact that given society's conservative nature, the opportunities for play acting are so much more abundant than the opportunities for active management.

In light of all this, it shouldn't surprise us at all that successful revolutionaries, almost without exception, are a very conservative lot.  Indeed, to the extent that a successful revolutionary accepts (or at least does not avowedly contradict) any egalitarian ideals incidental to the movement that brought him into power, he is obliged to balance them against pressing threats to the public to preserve fundamental inequalities. 

This was accomplished in the early days of the Republic of Ireland by Fianna Fรกil's reinforcement of Catholic orthodoxy and an Anglophobic rhetoric which were aimed more at crippling internal dissent and managing unrealistic economic expectations rather than accomplishing their stated objective of political independence of the entire island from Britain.

Washington was faced with a more unique challenge in that, as captain of an entirely new polity, there were few established institutions commanding the unequivocal allegiance of all the former colonies.  He generally steered a very careful, non-committal course between the near anarchic egalitarianism favored by many prominent social philosophers, like Jeffersons and the muscular authority proposed by thinkers preoccupied by the economic development of the American federation, such as Hamilton.  But when this uneasy equilibrium was put to a decisive test, he was not ambiguous.  He quickly availed himself of the opportunity to used armed force against an unpopular minority, the so-called Scots-Irish of America's backwoods regions, to underscore the primacy of the east coast political elites during the Whiskey Rebellion.

In the wake of the disasters of the early revolutionary period, including the generally abysmal conduct of the War of the Second Coalition by the Directory, Napoleon almost immediately recognized that a more dramatic, conventional sort of authority was required to restore public confidence.  He lost little time in leveraging his military credentials to the consulship, and ultimately emperor's throne.  From then on, whatever remained of the high-flown ideals of the Rights of Man were to be brutally (but, within France at least mostly willingly) subordinated to the glory of the French Empire.

Even if we allow ourselves to indulge in the momentary thought that the recent incredible dysfunctions on display in the US Congress heralds the immanent collapse of American Empire, we should be under no illusion that what replaces it will be the dawn of a Utopian society.  Even if the new order is established only after considerable culling, it can in no way base itself on the active political participation of its subjects, for the simple reason that the fundamental top-down economic paradigm remains unchallenged. 

So-and-so or such-and-such may be president or prime minister tomorrow; we may or may not find ourselves with the opportunity to vote over contentious legislation; we may or may not be allowed to assemble in public spaces.  But no one at all seriously expects that he/she will not be required to report promptly as ordered by the workplace supervisor.  Indeed, that we may not be allowed to do so is a very mortal terror.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We Are Legion

Detail from the frontispiece of the 1651 edition of Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathan"


Any experienced manager will tell you that the single most challenging part of his or her job is not to be found within the mass of technical details that run through a given project's design, but keeping their workers productively occupied during the inevitable yet unpredictable lulls and logjams that force their way through at inopportune moments.  Power outages, equipment failures, traffic jams, sudden, urgent changes in customer specs, etc., etc., will all, at one point or another, intrude upon the orderly execution of any significant project, totally f*ckin' up your sh*t unless you can convincingly improvise on short notice.

Time is money, and labor is only borrowed, not owned, so you sitting there on your hands is usually not an option.  Unless you do something about it now now NOW you're gonna be up sh*t creek, mon frere.  The consequences don't bear thinking about.

And to add insult to injury, your team, just as inevitably as these interruptions will occur, will view them as opportunity to prove the old adage "idle hands are the Devil's workshop".  Sure, the odd individual here or there may prove to have some initiative of their own, seizing some previously unidentified flexibility within their own assignments.  But that flexibility will always be limited.  And frankly, despite the pseudo-folksy drivel of communistic America-haters like Garrison Keillor, it is simply mathematically impossible for ALL the children to be "above average".

The sad truth of the matters is that all men are NOT created equal.  We will never become successful managers of our own affairs until we admit that plain fact.  It is not merely an absurdity, but a malicious deception to tell a child that he or she can "grow up to be anything." 

A blind narcoleptic will never become an airline pilot.  A child suffering from uncontrollable tics and spasms will not become a band saw operator at a wood mill.  A soul burdened by excessive concern with ethics and transparency will never become an investment banker or politician.

The responsible parent or manager admits this up front. 

When a child or worker's lack of direction has led them away from the path of contented productivity, the loving parent or manager will provide his or her charge with an acceptable alternative path forward.  The excellent parent or manager will guide or her charge to the discovery of their own path forward.  The execrable parent or manager will let the chips fall where they may, hoping he or she won't get crushed in the fallout, whatever may become of his or her charge.

Sadly, it is the last sort of management style which seems to have captured the popular imagination for the last several decades, cynically perverting the laudatory notions of 'equality of opportunity' and 'equality of dignity' into the sick and destructive lie of 'guarantee of outcome' to give licence to the wicked and corrosive chaos that destroys faith and cohesion within a society.

The Law is not applied.  The weak and powerless are punished more severely[1] than the powerful and the privilegedRighteousness is punishedPrudence is ridiculedThe youth are not cultivated, but are left to wander the streets aimlessly like feral animals.

'Leading from behind', is a lie, because, in fact, leadership presupposes initiative.  'Leading by example' can only apply to those very few destined to become leaders themselves.  'Aggressive leadership' is a laughable oxymoron, because anyone emotionally mature and responsible enough to be an actual leader understands that the goal is mutually productive engagement--and that it is completely impossible, and indeed an abominable notion, to reduce another human soul to abject conformity.

The true leader will display 'engaged leadership'--an in depth sense of his or her charges' capabilities and contributions to the team that can only come from genuine and unforced interactions that are mutually reinforcing.  The true leader understands that he can neither destroy nor remake those who would be his or her followers, and so commits him or her self only to those endeavors which are worthy of the team.

This last point is why America is suffering in chaos, why there can be no true leadership here.  No American is willing to admit that the idea of the U.S.A. as some kind of comic book superhero is a perverse joke.  We have committed ourselves to an unrealistic and utterly inhuman project that is not only doomed to failure, but requires us to savagely destroy ourselves in the process.





Notes:
[1] "But federal research shows that the average sentence for a first time, non-violent drug offender is longer than the average sentence for rape, child molestation, bank robbery or manslaughter."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Only Real Reason American Conservatives Fear Gay Marriage


“The most effective form of police state is one in which the masses police themselves.”


Wives and children are little policemen.  Miniature Stasi agents.  Watching your—and more importantly, making you watch your own--every movement.

That, in a nutshell is it.  No more no less.  The traditional family model’s importance is solely the control of potential political subversion. 

They don’t care about Biblical injunctions against sodomy.  Hell, they’ve got the Vatican anchoring their side.  And last time I heard, Pope Benedict XVI was forced to resign due to pressure from a powerful cabal of high-level sodomists. 

Also, check out George Rekers' ‘stache.  A real Freddy Mercury type of thing going on there.  The Protestants are no better than the Catholics on this one.

I had the poor fortune recently of spending four hours at a local watering hole listening to an old college buddy of mine go on and on (and on and on) about how sh*tty his life was, how the boss was an *sshole, and how all he got at home from the old lady were complaints and insults, whining about how his crappy salary didn’t give them enough to meet the bills, and how the kids were always coming down with some bug or another and needed some type of treatmentment that his worthless insurance policy didn’t cover.  The litany seemed endless.

So how do you respond to this type of emotional toxic dump?  You may have a different opinion, but it seemed pretty clear to me at the time:  don’t respond at all.

I mean, seriously, what could I tell this guy?  “Just divorce that f*ckin’ hag and get on with your life, already!  Look at me—never married, never been married, never thought about getting’ married.  Got no kids—or at least none that I know of.  And I’m living the life of Riley.  Sure, I’ve got no television set or cable.  So if you was to quiz me on the latest episode of Jersey Shore or Duck Dynasty or whatever, chances are I’d fail miserably, but I regard that as an acceptable price to pay.  You tell me which of us has the better life?”

No, clearly that would not do.  For one thing, it would be just too brutal, even if every word of it is true.  You just don’t kick a guy when he’s down, just that simple. 

Plus, I know this guy well enough.  He wouldn’t have responded with anything remotely like, “Yeah, Liam, you’ve got me on this one.  Boy, did I really f*ck up when I married Trudy.”  No, he would have said something more along the lines of:  “Liam, you’re just not getting the whole picture here.  No offense or anything, but you’re as ugly as sin.  You’ve got the complexion of an olive loaf and the hairline of something that’s been left in the ‘fridge too long.  There was never any chance of you getting married in the first place.  You’ll never know the miracle of birth, the wonder of watching your kid’s first steps and whatnot.  Not to be cruel about it, but there’s a whole dimension to life that you only begin to discover when you become a father.  No offense.”

Such views reveal, unintentionally yet very convincingly, the architecture of the conservative’s plan to control society:  control it by sentimentalizing the very means of oppression.  If my friend was inhibited from effectively challenging the immorality inherent in contemporary capitalism by his family’s incessant demands upon his time and resources, he was absolutely precluded from even questioning it by the delusion that the bars of his prison cell as wonderful gilded doors.

Throughout history, all the greatest thinkers have been terrible husbands and parents:   Karl Marx, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire.  And really, when you get down to it, Jesus may have been able to walk on water, but not even he could have achieved anything noteworthy if he’d listened to his Jewish mother and settled down and gotten a law degree like she’d insisted.  Family life is the yoke of mediocrity.

It scares the living bejeebers out of conservatives that their most effective means of surveillance and control might be prized from their filthy paws.  If legitimization of personal relationships is not monopolized by a centralized hierarchy and enforced by arbitrary violence, what is to prevent people from seeking their own happiness?

For the vast majority of its history, the Church hasn’t given two sh*ts about marriage except as a means of political control. 

Oh, occasionally they illegitimated the offspring of some royal union on the grounds of consanguinity during the Middle Ages.  But that was only enforced against rulers the Pope didn’t like.  Jeez, look at the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs.  Theirs was more like a family shrub than a tree.  Tons of first cousin marriages and more than one uncle/niece marriage, to the point where the dynasty collapsed upon itself in a fetid soup of incest with Carlos II, “El Hechizado” (i.e., “the Cursed”).  All tolerated because of their uncritical endorsement of the papacy.

But the relationship between the spouses themselves wasn’t even considered important enough to merit an official sacrament until the Protestant Reformation gave the Church a reason to claim a monopoly on all marriages.  Clear through the early 1500’s we have literally tens of thousands of examples of courts upholding as legitimate and perfectly legal the informal union of individuals who did nothing more than privately declare themselves to be married—without so much as the presence of a third party witness.  This type of off-the-books yet fully recognized transaction is at the core of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliette”, and is notably celebrated in the marriage of young Margery Paston and Richard Calle of the “Paston Letters” fame.

Back then, that sort of do-as-you-like behavior could be tolerated for the lower orders of society, when autocracy was the only political endorsed by ‘right thinking people’ everywhere.  No point in spending a lot of time actively policing people whose opinions could not, even theoretically, matter.

That all changed with the advent Martin Luther.  The inescapable implication was that, in theory, if not in actual practice, that every man and woman had a right to interpret the world as he or she sought fit—despite the zealous efforts of Luther himself to convince peasants that a Protestant peasant was still just a peasant.

Until the late 19th century, peasants had far too much to do to ensure their own mere physical survival, much less develop elaborate ideals about proper social and political relationships.  There was still little political need to officially proclaim a monopoly on all human relationships.

But what do you do in a world of plenty?  When technology has increased human productivity several hundred times over and yet minimum required caloric intake remains just the same as it ever was?  How do you justify an arbitrary authority when systems are so diverse and interdependent that no one person or institution could ever hope to control the economy’s physical choke points?  Even if they are inclined to apply a brutal physical violence, conservatives become like sharks, doomed to circle their prey, endlessly and sleeplessly, inevitably to fatigue themselves with their own greed.  Even sharks must die.  Much better to convince the serfs to police themselves.

This, when you think of it, on a planet as horribly overpopulated as our own, is the most compelling social function of child bearing.  Without the cutesy factor of kids, with their aura of charming innocence and all-consuming dependency, how long would most of us put up with the ceaseless and irrational demands of marriage?  What, maybe five percent, tops?

What kind of decent state-subsidized Ponzi scheme or illegal military adventure could a nation sustain if a mere five percent of your population were too preoccupied to resist?  If the shabby ideological framework of neoliberal capitalism chains us to our economic masters, the ridiculous and totally ahistorical conservative notion of ‘traditional’ marriage and childrearing chains us to our spiritual masters.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Recipe for Cultural Fail: One Part Murder, Two Parts Rape

If recent events prove nothing else to the world, it's that Americans are effeminate b*tches.  I refer, naturally, to the deluge of predictably worthless public reaction following the shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

Of course, I mean "effeminate" in a very specific way.  Not in terms of having two X chromosomes or regularly shaving one's legs.  More in a sort of "thinking-that-'Fifty-Shades-of-Grey'-is-something-other than-a-steaming-pile-of-dreck" way; a way that reinforces and insanely celebrates our culture of debility.

James Holmes
One persistent theory of gender relations is that females appear to be, on average, more passive than males because evolutionary biological pressures made them the default caregivers--therefore far more concerned with maintaining a stable child rearing environment than males, who were therefore free to pursue a more aggressively transactional approach to their undertakings.

I buy that, to a degree.  With the caveats of extreme individual variation around a statistical mean, and the awareness that current technological and demographic trends seem to mitigate against this being an immutable physically determinate characteristic.  In fact, I'd say there's a good case to be made that the American impotence exhibited following the Aurora shootings is a clear symptom of the devaluation of of the transactional, male principle in contemporary culture.

Here's what I mean:  following the death of those 12 people in Aurora, the airwaves were filled to bursting with panty-wetting, tear-filled sobs of helpless terror that would have embarrassed a North Korean anchorperson.  The Romney and Obama campaigns both suspended activity after issuing suitably conventional statements of feigned piety, as good girls will, but there was no shortage of hacky partisans publishing one of  the two ur-varieties of opportunistic polemical garbage:

1.  The killer is a symptom of our out-of-control politics, being clearly a member of some dodgy right  or left wing roup.

2.  OMG!  We have to stop this from EVER HAPPENING AGAIN!!! Which means either:

     a.) Banning all sales of any item capable of causing a bruise anywhere near the order of magnitude
          rendered by a Nerf(tm) football, or

     b.) Subjecting anyone passing through the United States to an incredibly invasive series of psychological
          and physical examinations, possibly on a secret and ongoing basis.

From the transactional, masculine point of view, all of this is clearly an unproductive waste of time.

Politically, this election will probably go down in history as the high point (or low point, depending upon your point of view) of American consensus.  Never before has the American public had to endure such a farcically hopeless choice between two bland and barely distinguishable clones. 

The key platform of the Republican candidate, whose drab monotone voice is a dead giveaway that his handler's pack him each night in a cardboard box filled with styrofoam peanuts, is repeal of the health care law that he pioneered.  And the supposed theme of the Democratic candidate is the expiration of the millionaire tax cuts that he himself actively campaigned for, over the objections of his own caucus, who had veto-proof majorities in both houses when he signed them into law in 2010.

The fact that these two eunuchs are considered to be the most powerful politicians in the U.S. is a clear indication that America is not even trying politically.

And the obviously doomed prescription of preventative measures just reinforces the point.  In case you hadn't noticed, Humanity has several millenia worth of laws outlawing murder on the books.  Unsurprisingly, the deterrence value of these laws has proven mainly effective on the law abiding segments of the population.

As a matter of fact, there is a considerable body of evidence to the effect that Americans are, in an absolute sense, completely indifferent to murder and sociopathy.  Just hours after the Aurora shootings, it was announced that an even larger number of people--14 immigrant workers--were killed on a Texas highway, and I guarantee you neither Romney nor Obama issued any statement about that.

Only a handful of commentators would have noted that Americans' poor diets and ordinary traffic obstacles are far more statistically dangerous than any firearm. 

Also, to my knowledge, absolutely zero percent of them even bothered to ask the practical question of how injured survivors are going to PAY for their medical treatment.  Didn't we just go through a near civil war about this very issue?  If ever there was a viscerally engaging illustration of the non-discretionary character of health care, and the utter necessity for America to adopt universal single payer coverage, this was it.  We may not be able to outlaw danger, but we certainly CAN do better in dealing with the aftermath.

Actually, we Americans love murder and mayhem when it happens in Afghanistan or the Palestinian territories--provided it serves to boost our perceived sense of control over politically volatile client states and gas prices.

So what's up with this circle jerk of totally empty gesturing?  I say it's an example of the stereotypically female behavior of "talking to be heard" rather than "talking to be understood". 

The stereotypically masculine analysis of the events in Aurora admits that they present us with two broad categories of problems:

1.  Problems which can be reasonably be solved, such as providing cost effective health care.

2.  Problems which will never be solved--such as eradicating existential evils, whatever that might mean, or preventing petty disagreements and all remotely possible physical dangers.

Proceeding from this analysis, a male would conclude by passing discussion on those items which can never be solved and focusing all of one's energies on practical remedies for those problems which can be solved.  But what Americans have opted to do instead, is engage in an embarrassing b*tch fest about what a scary nasty world it is out there.  This will definitely not give provide us with even the slightest bit of practical relief.

The unbalanced, mostly effeminate American isn't interested in solving problems.  What this whinging accomplishes is nothing more than a "relationship tweak", merely acclimatising us to the incompetence and abuse from our supposed institutional "leaders" like the crocodile-tear shedding Willard Romney and Barry Obama.  This is the actual point--avoiding meaningful confrontation and making Americans feign affectionate intimacy with their rapists.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sh*t I Personally Guarantee You Will Never, EVER Hear Said Aloud, Even If You Live to Be One Thousand Years Old

The French composer Claude Debussy is quoted as saying that, "Music is the space between the notes".  I think that's a very apt recognition of the shared responsibility between artist and audience in unearthing the latent content of any piece of art, and I very much like it.  Make your work too overtly programmatic, and you end up with stale self-parody, a la Norman Rockwell.  Overburden it with too many layers of obscure, self-referential ciphers, like Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake", and risk alienating your most enthusiastic audience.

But if you have a lot to say, it can really be difficult to avoid the "Finnegan" trap.  The very fact that you are capable of generating enough observations worthy of communication, of making very fine distinctions in kind and degree, springs from a hypersensitivity that can seem emotionally overwhelming, and very much at odds with one of the inviolable principles of effective communication itself:  clarity.

This is where a solid understanding of the rhetorical ecology will come in handy.  In order to be truly effective, you need to be able to "play the music between the notes", which is to say, have an appreciation for the various types of person who will read your work the context in which it will be read, today, tomorrow and 200 years from now, and what they will be looking to draw from it.  And you need to accept the fact that some of your strongest, most affecting points will not be articulated by you, but by your critics.

A lot of creative types say that they never read critical reviews of their work because it over-intellectualizes the process and drives from them the passionate commitment they need to perform with conviction.  That may be their reasoning, but I say it's a pretty sad commentary on their perspicacity and emotional stability.  Rather, I would ask them, "How can you claim to be committed to your craft if you don't care how it's interpreted?"  On the contrary, I say that artistic conviction itself is not possible without engaging a work's limitations and repercussions.  The relationship between the critic and the artist is ultimately symbiotic, not adversarial.

The same applies to polemical speech, although it seems not to be generally understood or acknowledged.  Many poor fools have allowed themselves to be deluded by the outwardly combative character of electoral politics into believing that all one can hope to achieve from the analysis of political speech is a depressing laundry list of nominal yet irrelevant "facts" that come no nearer to establishing any objectively true proposition other than the speaker is determined to capture your vote.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

You, as critic, play the most vital role in forming the prism through which the prevailing discourse is viewed.  And you have some powerful yet deceptively simple techniques close at hand and totally free of charge.  For example, the technique of focused absurdity.

By imagining a statement that anyone can agree WILL NEVER BE SAID in the context portrayed, you, as critic, contribute to the civilizing of mankind, identifying, revealing and rolling back the limes[1] of dark misunderstandings cast by society's "leaders".  An artistically cast bit of unadulterated critical blasphemy is probably your best opening gambit to establish what yer man did NOT mean to say--and thereby better define the limits of what he DID mean to say.

Just how long it takes you and your interlocutor to decide precisely how much of this "non-statement" is due to objective falsity or strategic opacity will depend on your creativity, generosity and intelligence--but at least you will have established one incontrovertible point of agreement.  And acquired an appreciation for the wealth of complementary and sometimes counterintuitive rhetorical tools available to you.
So in this spirit, I offer to you, a small sample of sh*t which I personally guarantee you will never EVER hear said aloud:



"I am personally responsible, as an individual, for foisting a dishonest criminal governor upon the state of Wisconsin.  I should have realized that my critics were right--I am a bland, insincere drone next to whom a flabby, balding felon like Scott Walker seems positively glamorous.  There is a reason I received no major union endorsements during the primary--because I actually used Scott Walker's law to undermine the public union workers whose cause I unconvincingly co-opted in an attempt to advance my personal career.  I should have known from the beginning that my candidacy would be seen by Wisconsin voters as the betrayal of what had been a populist uprising on behalf of workers' rights into a cynical rehash of my perennial failed partisan ambitions."
          Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee and three-time losing gubernatorial candidate

"Throughout my career, my most valuable asset has been and remains the partisan Democratic voter.  The tens of millions of dollars in out-of-state contributions from a murky cabal of trust fund brats and ideologues didn't hurt, but I never could have done it, never could have survived the furore over my crypto-fascist endrun around parliamentary procedure if loyal Democrats hadn't gone out of their way to identify the least charismatic man in the lower 48 and run him against me."
        Scott Walker, once-and-future governor of Wisconsin

"The most daringly radical aspect of my career has been the unimaginative and transparently stupid nature of my policy positions.  In fact, I offer nothing that has not been in the programme of each and every administration for the last thirty years--just more tax cuts for the wealthy, increased military spending and a reduction of governmental services.  Christ!  Even my hair's been lacquered into a frozen torpor redolent of Ronald Reagan, Brill Creme and the vague nursing home perfume of Ben Gay and stale pee."
       Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Committee on Budget

"I'm just an average Joe.  Yeah, I attended a few college-level classes, and possibly even received formal credit for them, but I only paid the bare-minimum attention to history, economics and philosophy.  Mostly because I don't believe there is such a thing as 'objective truth'--only a consensus experience of reality determined by whatever the guy shouting loudest is saying at any given moment.  But can you blame me?  I'm just one, very very small man.  It's simply not realistic to expect me to buck any major trends.  However, I am willing to vote for someone who claims HE is--especially if he's not really.  That guy's like a hero to me."
      Average voter, Anywhere, USA

"I know I'm doing wrong, but I just can't help myself.  I mean, you can see where I'm coming from, right?  From the Right I'm dealing with upfront attacks on my very existence, and on my "Left" I'm saddled with a partner of obvious bumbling incompetence and dubious moral fibre.  I've taken it on the chin for "Lefty" time and time again, and almost certainly will again.  But I just can't abandon this arrangement--acting with real moral commitment takes too much effort.  With any luck my death will be a quick and painless one."
      Any labor union leader actually considering the endorsement of a mainline Democratic candidate

"Sh*t.  I really backed myself into a corner with all that 'Hopey/Changey' cr*p.  Only so many campaign promises you can break, so many plausible coverstories you can spin for the incompetent squandering of legislative majorities or administrative blunders before it all comes back to bite you in the *ss . . . . But I can still throw a few strategically timed wet sops like some non-binding temporary policy implementation orders.  I have to somehow bank on the fact that this other dude's no better . . . . You know what they say:  No one ever went bankrupt underestimating the intelligence of the American voter.  Guess there is some "Hope" there after all."
     Barack Obama

"What the f*ck does being rich have to do with knowing how to run an economy?  First off, I started off from a position of inherited priviledge--not as some kind of freak working his way through a sh*tty community college as a dead-end factory drone.  I don't know how to operate a dog carrier much less an economy.  Second of all, the very notion of private profiteering is intrinsically inimical to the notion of the public good.  The textbook definition of money is that it's a unit of account, store of value and medium of exchange.  How is the value of a medium of exchange supposedly enhanced by hoarding?"
    Mitt Romney, presumptive nominee of the Republican Party

"Y'know, I really am a kind of a genius.  For serial here, folks.  Now I don't mean in the sense of a super acute understanding of economics or the finer points of constitutional law--clearly I don't.  I mean in the sense of providing my followers with a robust, comprehensive world view.  See, by painting all of society's ills as the result of some dark, external force's hidden cabals, and prescribing a programme of opaque private institutions to combat them, I totally avoid the trap of creating a falsifiable hypothesis.  If the proof of your opposition's mendacity is the mere fact that they don't agree with you, how can you ever be proven wrong? "
     Ron Paul, libertarian candidate for the Republican Party nomination

"It's really a wonder that I haven't been tarred and feathered and run out of town yet.  The objective evidence is that my regime of deregulation and lowering tax on society's wealthiest has lead to a diversion of capital to unproductive speculative schemes like automated algorithmic trading, massive unemployment and severe declines in economic and defense infrastructures like education, communications and energy networks.  The ineptly top-down character of my policies of concentrating wealth and centrally planning the economy through an oligarchic elite is actually more reminiscent of the rotten carcas of the old Soviet system I accuse the opposition of supporting than anything else."
     Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform

"Yeah, yeah.  I know.  I said government regulators were an even bigger threat to the financial system than rampant fraud undertaken by taxpayer insured private banks.  And yes, my bank racked up at least $ 3 billion, possibly as much as $6 billion in speculative trading losses in a scheme so convoluted in its wackiness that it took three weeks to explain it to ME--even though I billed myself as the very model of an on-top-of-it global risk manager.  But on the other hand, what can you realistically do about it?"
     Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase

"As far back as I can trace my family, we've all been peasants.  Every mother's son of 'em, on each and every branch.  The world been f*cked up since time began and there ain't a good g*d-damn any peasant could ever do about it.  You can git outta line to 'fight the man', and 'assert your human dignity' if you like.  In fact, I encourage you to.  That just puts me one place closer in line for the *ss kissing.  The oily, nutty flavor of the corn in that guy's sh*t is really beginning to grow on me."
     Average American









Footnote

[1]Latin for "border" or "boundary", specifically chosen over any English cognates in this context for the connotative aura of intellectual abstraction and exercise that it imparts.  NOT the f*cking citrus fruit, you g*ddamned chimp.