I always found time to struggle through Umberto Eco's stuff, even though it was a hard day at the literary coal face. Most literary philosophers are like that, of course; Foucault's Pendulum really made my eyes ache, and as Wiki points out, Anthony Burgess said that it had so many arcane references and allusions that to get all the jokes, you needed an index. Or, a crib sheet. Cliff notes. A tutor...
But, it was always worth the work. Even if you weren't so sure as to what actually went on and how it happened, it was one helluva ride. So, it was nice to be reminded of that this morning when going through The Guardian I found this:
The great philosopher-novelist Umberto Eco once declared that we will always come up against “the hard core of Being” and the “lines of resistance” that tell us when we are talking rubbish, or acting nonsensically. There was a time when I wondered bleakly if Donald Trump may be exempt from this philosophical precept.
British political reporter and Guardian Journalist Matthew d'Ancona rattles more than a few chains in Trump's attic and cages in his basement. Muslim Exclusion Act is one part of Being's hard core; the AHCA versus ACA is another; and the whole NATO kerfuffle is another. At some point, the whole house of Cheese will just melt into the Dumpster Fire of his ID and his lackeys' ideological venom and self-dealing desires.
In business, I refer to it as having a great idea trip over a relevant fact. Stainless steel pipe is really spiffy, except when you're using it to handle salt water where it will eat through the metal and leak catastrophically faster than cancer through a colon. You can't get jet fuel out of peanut butter no matter how hard you try. You really can't roller skate in a buffalo herd.
And, being President of a complex and multi-layered tripartite government is not the same as being the sole proprietor of a privately held firm. Nobody really has to listen to what you want in government; it's all fungible. You don't really have any privacy or the ability to just phone it in; when you do, something happens. When you get it wrong, people will notice. Smart people, with long memories, and not all that interested in trusting a con artist, poseur and hype-artist. People way smarter than you who remember insults and slights just as malevolently as you do, but wait for the proper time to get even. How much might Lindsay Graham or Ted Cruz enjoy casting the vote that impeaches his President and casts him out into darkness?
D'Ancona finishes like this, no time for parades and an auto da fe' of Breitbart, Ivanka's lingerie line and The Art of the Deal. At least, not yet. But the time is coming...if you keep smashing into Being's hard core by tripping over facts including "You're not the boss of me and you're not so big" you may be forced to drag you orange ass back to that Florida swamp and hand out timeshares.
To change the metaphor: the waves of Trump’s sociopathic belief that he can say and do what he likes with impunity are starting to hit the rocks of reality. There is nothing to celebrate yet, no cause to relax, no outcome assured. Let us just say that this may, conceivably, be the end of the beginning.
The UK is at least as diverse a nation as we are, with many similar problems, and we share a surprising number of anal-retentive characteristics. The Brits voted for BREXIT with less than half the electorate showing up and a lot of votes in favor of it just because they were pissed off at the seeming inability of government to cope and rather than blame it on themselves for electing the Tory wankers, they decided to blame the EU as the representative of all their woes.
The message of protest is often intrinsic or hidden. It has to be quietly subversive because our enemies are among us: our rulers and bosses
We, of course, had less than half the electorate show up and of that, less than half voted for Donald Trump. Our food, beer and dental work is superior; they have better schools for the most part and a functioning national health service, except they've shown in it and the other aspects of community life that if you want to have nice things as a nation, you need to spend the necessary money. Trump shares little with Margaret Thatcher except greed and basic deep-seated meanness.
on splicetoday and on twitter i've been arguing that trump may well have a point that he's been under surveillance. perhaps he went for those accusations of wiretapping after the intel people let him see that they have his communications. on the other hand, i think you'd say that that campaign should have indeed been under investigation. but lord living in the surveillance state is complicated and really we've undergone an intelligence coup, more or less.
It's out: the big old magnum opus. My first system of philosophy might have been high school. It was so wrong, though.
i'm apologizing for the $95 price tag. try inter-library loan? or there will be a cheaper paper later this year, i think. still not live on amazon, i guess. but they do exist. anyway, glad i lived to do the life's work.
This was in the LATimes circa 2003, also did some kind of bit on it on NPR.
By Crispin Sartwell
The other day my fifteen-year-old son needed to complete a homework assignment at the very last minute for his Spanish class. From a list of topics he chose to write a biography of Tito Puente. I asked what he knew about Tito Puente, and he told me that he'd googled and found that Tito Puente was a musician and also the leader of a European nation. It came to me that he'd confounded the King of Mambo with the Chair for Life of Yugoslavia.
But the biography would be richer in detail and more coherent if it conflated these eminent lives and so I resolved not to disabuse him. Here, word for word, is his report, for which, with a faith that touched me deeply, he depended on me for the research.
Marshall Tito Puente was that rare combination: political strongman and mambo percussionist. He played the timbale and the vibes as perfectly as he played the political winds that blew through Eastern Europe in the wake of World War 2, riding them to an ecstatic synthesis of absolute power and worldwide pop superstardom.
Indeed, he anticipated the astonishing political/pop crossover acts of our own era, displaying simultaneously the political acumen of a Barbra Streisand and the irresistible pop hookcraft of a Richard Gephardt. He purged his political rivals with the same improvisational megalomania that he employed to dominate the luxurious New York ballrooms of the fifties He'd beat you to death, as it were, with the same sticks he used to make you slither drunkenly around the dance floor in your best outfit.
Marshall Tito Puente was born Josip Broz in 1892 in the tiny village of Kumrovec to a peasant family. He made his name as a salsa agitator in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes between the wars, and was at first an enthusiastic ally of Stalin. Around the same time, he and his sister joined the "Stars of the Future" neighborhood arts organization, where young Tito was noted for his precocious cha-cha. Stalinism served as the model for Tito's "iron irritant of bureaucracy," as well as for his uproarious stage antics, imitated in turn by everyone from Desi Arnaz and Sheila E to Saddam Hussein.
But after leading the Puerto Rican resistance to Hitler - with his death camps and obsession with Patti Page - Tito Puente emerged as the primary figure in the newly constituted Leninist music fad. He served an apprenticeship in some of the finest Latin bands of the period, including those of Juan Peron and Fidel Castro, whom Tito always credited for teaching him the music business.
Finally, he led a fiercely independent Yugoslavia to its break with Charo, whose control of communism on the American airwaves was sagging even as her behavior became more erratic and Diva-esque. At the decisive moment, he issued the classic Dancemania, named in one critics' poll as one of the 25 most influential political manifestoes of the twentieth century.
A newspaper review of the period referred to Tito's "ability to literally drive a crowd crazy with his spicy heat from south of the border," a skill that served him well in international diplomacy, as well as in his efforts to confine political opponents to psychiatric facilities. Later he was to train that seductive beat squarely on Richard Nixon and a series of other American presidents, who invited him to perform at the White House even as they attacked his brand of Marxism. As Watergate broke over a shocked nation, Tito moonlighted as the eldest member of the Jackson 5.
He was declared President for Life in 1976, and in his career recorded about 120 albums, more than almost any other dictator in history. He won five Yugoslav Grammies. His influence is still felt today among members of the current generation of Latin music stars, such as Selena, Enrique Iglesias, and Pervez Musharraf.
So when someone tries to tell me I can't, I tell them right back about Marshall Tito Puente. Anything you can dream of being - tap-dancing firefighter, incredibly stupid professor of physics, white NBA star, or sweet and sour pork - you can be. Be it all and - like Tito - be so much more.
Crispin Sartwell's latest book is "Extreme Virtue: Truth and Leadership in Five Great American Lives"
The Art of Living: Aesthetics of the Ordinary in World Spiritual Traditions (SUNY 1995)
I was fairly early on the idea of 'aesthetics of the everyday,' working from Dewey. Trying to go multi-cultural and Taoist/Buddhist, etc. I give my theory of art (the process theory: still your best bet).
Obscenity, Anarchy, Reality (SUNY 1996)
Written in a personal crisis and period of transformation: a Nietzschean affirmation of the entire universe!?
Act Like You Know: African-American Autobiography and White Identity (University of Chicago, 1998)
I was also fairly early on 'white identity studies.' I still think that was an important phase of self-reflection. I fell in love with Zora Neale Hurston, and wrote about hip hop.
End of Story: Toward an Annihilation of Language and History (SUNY 2000)
Really it's an attack on linguistic constructivism and postmodern narrative theory a la Rorty, MacIntyre, Ricoeur. Plenty of Kierkegaard and Wodehouse.
Extreme Virtue: Leadership and Truth in Five Great American Lives (SUNY 2003)
Namely, Emma Goldman, Voltairine de Cleyre, John Fire Lame Deer, Malcolm X, Barry Goldwater
Six Names of Beauty (Routledge, 2004)
Beauty is the object of longing. Little vignettes or essays in world-appreciation.
Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory (SUNY 2008)
Did you know that the arguments for the moral legitimacy of state power are an embarrassment to the human intellect?
Political Aesthetics (Cornell, 2010)
My best book! A new discipline! But maybe it is out of print.
I just want to say that the damned Trump administration and surrounding crap is driving me crazy. It's not a dumpster fire, it's a goddamned parade of mobile dumpster fires. I sit down yesterday to write a serious albeit snarky piece largely about the state of the union address and how low the bar can get -- he didn't drool, he didn't grab any women, he stayed on the script (for which he's now taking credit), he didn't ad lib (Although I think "great great wall " was partially ad libbed) except for that confusion about ratings and applause meters and condolences...oh, he wore clothes and didn't take off his shoes and play with his feet. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN...
Taking a break to go to dinner for Ash Wednesday ( I had rare steak, she had fish) I sit down intending to watch Sam Bee, some stuff on SCiFI and Lethal Weapon, and what do I get -- Brian Williams announcing that the Obama administration hid intelligence info all through out the government so Trump and his other highly ethically challenged fools couldn't obfuscate it. Erase it. Redact it...open an electronic file for Home Economics at Education, and transcripts of Trump's conversation with a Belarus Hooker would be where you thought sponge cake was going to be....then the story breaks about the Sessions thing.
Frankly, I always thought that Jeff Sessions good old boy act wasn't just being down home. I know a lot of really smart folks from Bama, and Sessions seeming stupid always struck me as Sessions being stupid because he was a couple of monkeys short of a monastery as they say in Gadsden.
And now, he's recused himself because he can't investigate himself. Seriously, you know who's a Russian agent? Ivanka...think about it. As for the Russian Ambassador...he has the biggest FSB Station outside of Moscow in the world, and more GRU operators than the rest of Russian Intelligence and he's not at least a talent spotter? And my cat can do Smokey Robinson's Goin to a GoGo in Swedish!
Those who hope to persuade a nation to exert itself need to remind their country of what it can take pride in. . . . They must tell inspiring stories about episodes and figures in the nation's past - episodes and figures to which the country must remain true. Nations rely on artists and intellectuals to create images of, and to tell stories about, the national past. Competition for political leadership is in part a competition between differing stories about a nation's self-identity, and between differing symbols of its greatness.
that is why i have assembled this pantheon of quintessentially american spielers, liars, inside traders, power-grabbers, bottom-dealers, pugilists, totalitarians, know-nothings, mischief-makers, ego trippers, gropers, spellbinders, role players, and illusionists.
here is a classic expression of american identity from one of my heroes on the list, s.w. erdnase (preface to the expert at the card table).
In offering this book to the public the writer uses no sophistry as an excuse for its existence. The hypocritical cant of reformed (?) gamblers, or whining, mealymouthed pretensions of piety, are not foisted as a justification for imparting the knowledge it contains. To all lovers of card games it should prove interesting, and as a basis of card entertainment it is practically inexhaustible. It may caution the unwary who are innocent of guile, and it may inspire the crafty by enlightenment on artifice. It may demonstrate to the tyro that he cannot beat a man at his own game, and it may enable the skilled in deception to take a post-graduate course in the highest and most artistic branches of his vocation. But it will not make the innocent vicious, or transform the pastime player into a professional; or make the fool wise, or curtail the annual crop of suckers; but whatever the result may be, if it sells it will accomplish the primary motive of the author, as he needs the money.
I'm going to try briefly to intervene in a debate between Daniel Dennett and Thomas Nagel on consciousness, spurred by Nagel's review of Dennett's From Bacteria to Bach andBack in the March 9 New York Review of Books.Dennett maintains (putting it simplistically) that human consciousness is an illusion, or some kind of misinterpretation of neural processes. Nagel holds that the reality of subjective experience ought not to be or cannot be denied (setting up this whole thing this simply is unfair to the full-blown philosophies).
Nagel says (over and over) that his position is the 'natural' one, by which he means it's the obvious intuitive pre-theoretical position that we all have. He expresses the natural, intuitive position like this: "When I look at an American flag, it seems to me that there are red stripes in my subjective visual field." This is wacky, I believe, more or less the most 'unnatural' or theoretically-laden sentence ever produced. Next time you're at a high school football game or something and they play the national anthem, elbow the soccer mom next to you and ask her whether it seems to her that there are red stripes in her subjective visual field. The response is, or ought to be, 'What's wrong with you? Are you okay?' Or ask her to point to the red stripes, and see if she points to her forehead, or indeed to her subjective visual field, floating on an exoplanet somewhere, maybe. No, Tom, the red stripes are out there, on that piece of cloth, located in the visible real-world football field not the subjective visual field. Then no doubt Mom pops up with 'Look they just apparently tackled sense-datum Bobby in my subjective visual field!' In my view, the football field, out there in the world, is also her subjective visual field.
For Nagel, what will happen is this: it will be as though an apparent finger will seem to her to rise into her subjective field, and will seem to extend in the apparent direction of the apparent red stripes in her subjective visual field. Of course, this is what we'd naturally say in a case like this, if there were any cases like this. Oh no! There's a mental image of truck in my sensorium bearing down on the mental image I'm having of my own body. It's going to be hard to jump out of the way, if that's what you think is happening. Fortunately, an image of a truck can't really do any harm to anything, so you'll be okay.
What appears 'natural' to philosophers is what they learned in grad school, and in this case what seems natural is classical rationalist and empiricist philosophy; I swear, Descartes' Meditations and Hume's Treatise of Human Nature are, for Thomas Nagel, nature; they are in fact the source for the inevitable, natural interpretation of everything (everything). Pretty soon, 'I am being appeared to redly,' or 'I am having a red patch in the upper left quadrant of my visual field' sound to you like things people could say, or would say, under prodding, or are simple statements of the only, the inevitable way we experience the world. I say J.L. Austin blew that up in 1955, and I say it was was a complete dead end in the history of philosophy: it explained nothing, and just ended you as a solipsistic consciousness camping out in your own visual field.
But, I also think Dennett is haunted by the same spooks, though trying for an exorcism. He thinks the consciousness is or must be or would be the sort of thing Nagel or Descartes thinks it is. He does well to notice that it does not exist or that, if it does, it explains nothing, etc. So he bites the bullet. I think the beginning of a way out, is 'content externalism' or the 'extended mind thesis.' But I try to develop full-scale alternatives to this miserable apparent dilemma in Entanglements.
Cutting to the chase, what Dennett and Nagel share, what produces this fantastical dilemma (which we might just call 'modern philosophy') is the representational theory of mind, or the idea that we experience the world through the pictures in our head, which might then have to be conceived as neuron-firings or something to get anywhere in the vicinity of modern science. It is an optional view. It is a false view. It's the least natural, and the least naturalistic view that could be imagined. And it is a disastrous centuries-long philosophical mistake.
i'm in splicetoday this week with my peace anarchist schtick. when you're at the point where the anarchists are demanding speech repression, you really have run out of liberatory options. it's been months since i've seen a human being with non-totalitarian politics. scroll down for a gallery of some peace anarchists. i have some political advice: aspire. but don't aspire to be an oppressor. seek to refute rather than silence your opponents. don't focus your resistance on the realm of signs, symbols, words, awards shows. which is worse and which is real: 10,000 new ice agents, or milo? try to get somewhere other than mere hatred for your opponents, and remember that the fact that an argument has a conclusion you like doesn't make it sound. try not to devote the next decade to relentlessly insulting your enemies, for example by pretending to diagnose their mental illnesses. try to say what's true. i'd rather you didn't start a red/blue civil war, but if that's your direction, start by considering whether your mouth is writing checks your guts can't cash. peace, yo.
The invocation to prayer in the new religion - or ancient superstition - goes like this: 'words have power.' What that means is that you ought to be silenced, or, you answer to us for what you say. I'd call it voodoo, but that's unfair to voodoo. It asserts that words are supernatural weapons that can be wielded to commit assault at a distance. It asserts that I can reach out and 'literally' commit violence against whole groups of people and the individuals in them (if we can indeed distinguish any individuals in them), by sitting here in York Springs typing. While I do appreciate the supernatural powers you are attributing to me, I am not actually a witch, and I can't actually harm you with incantations, spells, or writing a word of power on a piece of paper and folding it up just so. You think you can control reality as a whole by silencing people; and you're gearing up to impose your superstition by an authoritarian regime. You have already verbally cleansed America's colleges, which at this point are the merest re-education camps. Simulated unanimity and continual self-censorship, produced under massive social pressure and by policy, are incompatible with education in a free society, obviously. I don't think you are any more democratic, rational, or decent than Trump, and I'm beginning to wonder where I can go to escape you both. I don't think you're doing anything substantive for social justice, just trying to achieve the impression or illusion of it. I do think you should turn your attention to the math department and work on suppressing oppressive numbers.
It would be hard to deny that numbers have power, if abstract things like words can have power. It would be hard to argue that, if words are the sort of thing that could oppress people, numbers are not. Indeed, you are being oppressed by numbers right now, even as we reduce your ass to statistics and your personality to your membership in some demographic segment. You're oppressed by your SAT score, by the balance in your bank account, by the numbers on the bills in your mailbox. You might want to think about the historical role of numbers in racism, for example: all those ledgers and bills of sale. And what if i call you a 0, or put a minus sign before the name of your group? We are very oppressed by our divisions, which are multiplying. Delete these things from public space and your personal idiolect. Do it now. You're also being oppressed by fictional characters, mythological beings, sense impressions, logical entailments, Platonic Forms, and by the very concept of injustice, which should, along with the word 'injustice,' be ruthlessly suppressed. Anyway, of course, many actual numbers have been regarded as taboo or have been suppressed: that is, some numbers have been and are really offensive in the same sense as many words. So do to the number-line what you're trying to do to the language and delete delete delete!
To be fair, you also do want to ban, with regard to members of certain groups, particular hairstyles, hats, shoes, accents, musical styles, and so on (for example, because of 'cultural appropriation'). So it's not just words, but all kinds of signs and symbols and identities and expressions and arts. You want control of public space and people's self-presentations and expressions within that space. You demand control of my body in more or less every respect; you want to operate me like a marionette. You demand micro-control of my body to address possible micro-aggressions that could emerge from it. You want to rearrange my legs because i'm manspreading or whatever it may be. That's your cure for oppression, yes? That is the liberation you offer.
I have some news to break to you. We are not the stories we tell. This world is not a narrative. We did not construct this universe or ourselves or one another by weaving a tapestry of words. We do yap ceaselessly, but it usually amounts to next to nothing. We cannot make a new world by re-narrating or getting control of the signs; we can only make a collective delusion, and not even that, because the thing is too flimsy to delude. Words have power indeed in this account: the power to create worlds! a power not even Odin or Zeus could claim. Wait remind me how you reached this conclusion? because I never could quite figure that out even when I heard Richard Rorty do the schtick.
My view is that racism became unconscious when white people started thinking that racism was a matter of what words we use. We ditched all the bad words, and were innocent, and the structural racism of the country just went right on, or even intensified. You have got to learn from that, alright? Making people talk in some prescribed way just makes reality and representation, the real deal and the narrative, come apart completely. That is what you are demanding.
Remember when you were going to ban fake news? It was right-wing propaganda that was destroying our very concept of truth, blahblahblah. It took 30 seconds for 'fake news' to be appropriated by the right. Your enemy took your gun and pistol-whipped you with it. In general, all the mechanisms of social control, formal and informal, that you are instituting and want to institute can be reversed on you suddenly, and make you an enemy of the people, a traitor, etc. Your goals are different than your opponents'; your procedures the same. They will be visited upon you.
You might think that all this continues the beautiful legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr, of James Baldwin, of Malcolm X, of Ralph Ellison, of Zora Neale Hurston, of Richard Wright, of W.E.B. Dubois, of Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells. Now I have a challenge for you: show me where any of these people advocated speech repression as a way to address racism. This is new, y'all: a distortion, a falsification, a disaster in which the oppressed seek to become oppressors, imitate their oppressors. This is where these movements turned from the physical reality of oppression to the symbolic reality of symbolic oppression, which can be addressed only by oppression.
latest godling to get why-they-sucked is the astounding genius ludwig wittgenstein. true, true, i was subjected to the cult of ludwig in grad school (by people such as cora diamond and renford bambrough). he and they always put me in a hostile, teasing, and parodic mood, which went over extremely badly, as you might imagine.
i've said this before, but now i'm saying it again, drawn by teaching through james c. scott's beautiful book seeing like a state. standardized testing is an excellent example of what he's talking about; designed to provide a reliable child-product into college and the workforce. that's why bill and melinda gates are writing the national curriculum; they need to fill their cubicles, hence the kids their bubbles. it's like 'taylorism,' like german scientific forestry in the 18th century, like corbusier's nightmare design for paris.
they are indeed at war. i hope those kids don't think they're anarchists, for anarchists are on the side of free expression. ask fucking emma goldman, alright? headline: "Berkeley Students Demand Unfreedom, Mario Savio Writhes in his Grave"
[by request of @LFBookReview, repost of an entry from 2011]
alright let me have a crack at the welfare state. before i start, let me say that if you accuse me of being a libertarian, i feel i will survive, as long as you don't conflate my position with that of ayn rand. i want to put this in the context of an overall reading of squishy totalitarianism: the basic left position is that you have two forces: government and capital or corporate power, and that the former must be employed to counter-balance the latter. i don't think this has by and large worked out, though that's not to deny that there have been some moments and that the terrain is complex. i think the powers are always merging, in marxist dictatorships where they are explicitly one, and in capitalist democracies where corporate interests constantly drive foreign and economic policy. basically, i think that state-style solutions - up to and including a world-state - to global capitalism are extremely naive, that you'll end up confronting a single hegemonic power.
my view is that every action of the state rests on coercion. i take that to be entirely obvious. on the other hand, on the ground the state - or let's take the u.s. gov and state and local govs here - does accomplish many good things. so it might take a rapist off the streets. or it might help feed a family that would otherwise starve, or provide healthcare to a sick person who couldn't otherwise obtain it.
in the long run it is doing this in the context of extreme structural inequalities that it itself has a role in creating. there has never been a mode of social organization that achieves inequalities of power comparable to that which the state constitutes by definition: some people have a monopoly of force. in my opinion, this overall in the long run leads to structural inequalities of resources which the state then sometimes to some minimal extent ameliorates: partly in its own self-interest, to prevent its own destruction. (though it is also infested with actual idealists who basically are trying to help people.)
now along with asking whether we are prepared to watch people starve or die of untreated illnesses, we also have to ask ourselves who, in the long run, we are becoming and who, in the long run, we want to be. welfare programs are also ways that the state creates abject, permanently dependent populations, and their pervasion through the whole society puts us all at the mercy of the state. this can be really nightmarish: here you might think of the gigantic housing projects that arose in every major american city in the 1960s. they were intended to ameliorate homelessness and sub-standard housing; i do not doubt that the people who designed them and funded them meant well. they destroyed hundreds of real, vital communities, converted millions into complete dependence and put them under constant surveillance, and became nightmare pseudo-communities that the people embedded in them wanted to and actually did destroy.
a real welfare state requires total state surveillance: you've got to know who has what in order to know who gets what. you've got to know who's not in school, whose income is too high to qualify, and also who has to pay how much. malcolm x, for example, thought that the surveillance and abjection of his mother by the welfare authorities is what literally drove her mad, and destroyed his family. such an account is not atypical: one might look at sistah souljah's autobiography no disrespect, for example: they'd come to her housing project apartment and try to show that there was a man around, or ask her mom where she got that tv set.
i think if we actually wanted to move toward a better life, we would try to create a world of maximum self-reliance and maximum actual reliance on one another: not by coercion practiced on a scale of hundreds of millions, but on a local scale in which people know one another. moving the help we give to one another toward gigantism, and funding it coercively, means that we are not expressing any virtue by giving this help, because we do not give it freely, and that we are, in receiving it, wholly dependent on gigantic coercive bureaucracies for our very lives: we ought to and i think really do feel ashamed both ways round. and there has got to be a moment where we not only ask: what will happen to people if we take away their food stamps? but, what are we becoming?
and every step toward state dependence - its ever-growing pervasiveness - in the long run makes us all vulnerable to this power. it creates a power that is beyond accountability and beyond redress and beyond control. right now, even right here, it can kill millions if it wants, and many states have mutated into killing machines directed at their own populations; ours can too. we are its beneficiaries, its dependents, and always also its potential victims. but on a more everyday level here, being dependent on the government is being dependent on the whim of actual people who wield irresistible force. they can take away anyone's livelihood, anyone's healthcare, anyone's education at any time. our situation is desperate because our need is total and only satisfied from one source. our dependence is a total asymmetry of power, even if we want to eat and get healthcare.
so i think we should ask ourselves at every juncture where this power increases - even obamacare or whatever - not only who will do better because of this, but who we are becoming. there has to be a moment where on this slope the big question is asked, too.
if you're ron paul, you frame the question in terms of going broke: the welfare state is unsustainable because you end up with too few resources flowing in to give everybody everything you're promising: guaranteed pensions, healthcare, education, income: and you really do see economies collapsing under the weight (greece, e.g.) and then people completely shocked and outraged that the gov can't give them everything they need or demand: months off from work and retirement at 52, or whatever. honestly, i don't know if the situation is sustainable or not; at least i do think that it's not indefinitely expandable. but that's not how i would primarily frame the issue, and you can see that the right is taking the opportunity to achieve all sorts of purposes, including increasing inequalities of wealth. in the context of squishy totalitarianism, a constant emphasis on free markets and capitalist solutions is nothing like a liberating ideology, and we're constantly on the horns of a dilemma between state and corporate power, democrats and republicans. but this disguises their symbiosis.
what i ask instead is whether we want to be entirely dependent on a gigantic bureaucratic power that we cannot control, and what this is doing to our sense of ourselves and each other, and how it interrupts or destroys the possibilities of real community or collective action.
Trump has managed to normalize being awful to the point where the firing of the Acting Attorney General for being morally, ethically, professionally and legally correct seems exactly what we expect him to do. I'm not going to write about that. We all will for a long time. Instead, I'm going to write about a recurring theme here, a continuing disagreement between Crispin who has yet to send us all courtesy or review copies of his new book that sells for $90, and me about Bob Dylan. Crispin hates him; I think he changed my life forever that evening. Granted,those views are not mutually exclusive.
i was quite a bit angrier by sunday (splicetoday). i've been quite inspired by the protests. it may take a bit to catch my politics, if you're fresh caught, i realize. it is coherent, though? or at least as coherent as most, anyway.
Right, I'm in the Wall Street Journal today. The schtick will be familiar to readers of this blog, or really my opinion stuff since I started: will you people please talk like human beings? It's the reason I had to struggle to prove the existence of Al Gore, and tragically failed. Now, I want to say that I wrote that before the immigration order, and I would have difficulty writing right now with quite that airy tone. I'll show that in splicetoday any minute.
From The Guardian Books Newsletter, January 26, 2017--Poem of the Week
I would like to feed this child who is dying with slow food, So that time might stand still for him, so that a grandfather Clock might not fall apart in his arms. All of the laziness of air
In our warm temperate climate, all the anxious hands Of young barristers at this morning’s Farmers’ Market, All of this complete snobbery of the gut, might bear down
Upon one dying child. Here is my Euro, child. Here is The olive oil and the stuffed artichoke. Here is the conscience And the conscience money. They stole my land too,
They took my small cottage apart, stone by stone. They surveyed all of us and we nearly died. I am sending, child, Very fast Irish food from my evicted great grandmother. --Thomas McCarthy, 2016
Reading this and seeing mental visions of pictures and faces and memorials, I also saw similarities to Alepo and Syria, and Israel and Palestine -- coffin ships, starving refugees seeking something probably inescapable, and a heritage of a horrid night and day...Pandemonium is the capital of Hell, and when the evil doers sit there and plot against heaven with fallen angels and demons, they'll be singing along with venture capitalists, factory farmers, religious bigots and imperialists throughout history. No one's heritage is clean...we should be better.
So, not being a folk singer, I wrote this article.... We may be the cops of the world but we're really not very good at it. As with so much since the death of Truman, we may mean well but our efforts to make the world a better place end up in an orgy of negative masturbation, doing things that neither feel good nor accomplish anything meaningful.
@dammitspanky has been tweeting about my ancient line in nihilism (i was the presidential candidate of the nihilist party in 2004; we won). i was thinking some of these were lost forever (even though it was latimes and philly inquirer), but i found the one that will wilkinson liked (latimes 2004) in an ancient email. looking back on it, i can't believe these newspapers took these! speaks well for john timpane and ann brenoff, among others.
latimes from 2004:
Platform of the Nihilist Organization
Many proud but concerned Americans have asked me, "Senator Sartwell, what is the Nihilist position on the challenges that confront our cursed, bloated nation?"
The first thing to keep in mind is that everything I say, even this very sentence, is false. Nihilism faces the issues of today and of tomorrow with a bold, positive vision.
As shown by the popularity of Stephen King and John Ashcroft, people enjoy being terrified. What a beautiful time to be alive, momentarily.
We propose a war of each against all, which is amply justified by the best intelligence. If there is a threat, it may well be presented by human beings like you and me, or possibly like you and I. We remain confident that a return to the Hobbesian state of nature will find broad bipartisan support in the Senate.
We believe that children are our future. This idea fills us with the most profound despair.
(4) Tax Policy
Read my lips. Deficit spending is a metaphor for all existence: a pure, perfect nothingness that encompasses all of us, ingesting us into its maw of Absolute Negation Without Antithesis. Let us commit ourselves to it utterly, tumble over its lip, and fall forever, forever . . . We shall erode into the screaming wind of utter absence.
We are the only party which dares to oppose both life and choice. Life is an infestation, choice an illusion.
(6) Gun Control
Arm the unborn.
(7) Church and State
God presents the biggest threat to the homeland. Remember the Flood. Remember what happened to Egypt or Sodom and Gomorrah. Omnipotence is the ultimate WMD. We propose a pre-emptive strike on heaven, and to try God for everything that has ever happened.
(8) Gay Marriage
We support gay marriage. But interracial gay marriage is unnatural.
A great nihilist heroine, Nancy Reagan, once said "Just Say No." No.
(10) Bush and Kerry
We miss Al Gore. But whoever is elected, nihilists will win this election. We commend Bush's lies and the emptiness of his inner life. Kerry stands tall and proud, expressing his deep commitment to Nothing At All.
(11) Mutual Simultaneous Annihilation
Let's say that Bush and Kerry started eating one another, beginning at the toes and moving toward the head, finishing up by devouring one another's mouths. What, we ask a deeply divided nation, would be the result? We are the only party facing this crisis squarely.
Nothing works. It really does. My fellow Americans, my fellow flies swarming closer and closer to the great swatter, let us rush upon oblivion together.
then there was this one (philly inquirer, 2000)
Why Not Nihilism?
By Crispin Sartwell
I devoted five hours of my vacation to watching Monday evening's proceedings at the Democratic National Convention. And as I listened to the unassailable tautologies and flourishes of extreme redundancy, I asked myself a serious question: Who could these "people" be running against?
Then it hit me, like a Concorde hitting a hotel. They could be running against me. And right there and then I founded a new political movement, indeed a bold heroic frontier of human possibility: The American Nihilist Party.
The Nihilists are convening here at the Outer Banks this week without even benefit of C-SPAN coverage. We (or at any rate I) have come together in our great diversity to celebrate our blessed nation. And since there are no cameras, I present you with a verbatim transcript of my keynote address.
"As I have crossed this great land, visiting average Americans just like you, or just like Mabel Smith of Missoula Montana, a sexual entrepreneur whose insufferable children are slightly under-served by several government agencies, many people have asked me, Senator Sartwell, what does the American Nihilist Party stand for?
"First and foremost, we believe that a single child must be left behind. And we have a candidate: tousle-haired little Billy Cartwright of Cleveland, Ohio.
"We believe, quite frankly, in putting partisanship before progress.
"We unequivocally, courageously reject the idea of moving forward into a 21st century bright with promise. We're opposed to the new economy, to fresh, new ideas and technologies that will transform the lives of all Americans. Nor do we enjoin America to turn back to traditions and values and God, all of which and whom we also oppose. What are we, chumps?
"We reject hard work and initiative. And uniquely among today's major political parties, we oppose government that works for working families.
"We are unalterably opposed to a woman's right to choose anything at all. And lest Republicans find comfort in that, we sneer also at the rights of the unborn, those nasty little ingrates. Indeed, we abominate life in all its repulsive forms.
"We reject equal pay for equal work and, if elected, will attack such evil nonsense with all the strength and love and truth at our disposal.
"With regard to education, we reject standards, accountability, and excellence for all children, rich and poor, black and white, male and female. In fact, we reject education altogether. Learning hurts. And hurting people is just plain wrong.
"We despise the family, that blight on the social landscape. Think about your own family for a minute, think about its pathologies, its sheer vicious intolerable blankness.
"We set ourselves resolutely against any government that keeps its commitments and if elected we pledge our sacred honor that we will somehow squander the surplus. The future must not be secured for our children, and many more children must remain or become uninsured.
"We nihilists find the notions of clean air and water laughable, along with sensible gun laws. And we sneer with unfeigned contempt at enforcing the laws that are already on the books. We favor putting guns - big, loaded guns - in the hands of children and criminals. In fact, we intend to arm the unborn.
"In a Nihilist administration, we will put people last. People are stupid and annoying. But we will fight for the rights of clock radios, kitchen utensils, and concrete abutments.
"And finally, fellow Nihilists, fellow Americans, let me be clear. We are unalterably opposed on moral, religious, political, and even purely conceptual grounds to Fleetwood Mac in all its pernicious, pathological permutations. For God's sake stop thinking about tomorrow.