i think little peace rallies are breaking out all over baltimore today; my daughter and ex-wife participated in one around their neighborhood, fetching up at keswick and cold spring.
one thing about the news media now: they seem to treat social media as an unimpeachable source, while the police use it for 'intelligence'. so, any evidence that the crips, bloods, and black guerilla army joined together to 'take out police' yesterday? no, but someone posted something like that on facebook, and that extremely sensational claim, repeated everywhere all the time without much skepticism, is part of what freaked everybody out. i'd think perhaps it had something to do with the police non-response, or the fact that the police had just one major goal: keeping themselves safe. i've said this before: you don't know how easy it is to shut a city down or stop air traffic or alter all conditions with some half-assed post in this situation, which has basically arisen because of 'the war on terror': all threats must be taken seriously. you're giving incredible power to anyone with a facebook or twitter account. the police call reading facebook 'intelligence' and then whatever you say on facebook is their actionable intelligence. the media is so concerned with chasing and catching up to social media, and not being made obsolete by social media, that they try to be social media. they are so proud that they are reading social media that they take seriously or regard as credible anything that comes up there. if you're on social media, think about how good an approach that really is.
e.g. on the basis of social media chatter, they shut down the social security administration and other offices today. really, you could make the government inoperable just by sitting at home typing. i think it's fair to say that, as in v for vendetta, let's say, the government does fear the people. or it's just that fear is the dominant emotion in the sort of people who become government officials. in seeking to make themselves and others safe, they are liable to make themselves impossible.
at any rate, on behalf of the crips, bloods, and international order of oddfellows, i declare that today we will be planting a biological agent in governor larry hogan's butt.
10:15 but i'm just gonna drift off tonight praying for the city, where i've lived or worked on and off for decades, where my kids have been raised, and which i sort of love. when i moved there in 1981 from dc, i loved the personality, of which dc has none: the ethnic and blue-collar flavors, the deep funk of the place, like john waters and the world he depicts in his bent way. there's a lot of there there, little down 95 in our nation's capital. it's paradigmatic america, which itself is terribly disturbing tonight.
9:40 obama's detachment on these occasions has shown you who he is. martin walked so barack could hide.
9:30 i predict that the basic task of the national guard will be guarding the police stations and stuff, or maybe one guardsman accompanying each officer muttering self-esteem affirmations or pretending with them that they all have balls.
9:25 reporters have been infinitely more courageous than the police, and without the guns, armor, shields, tasers, gas, etc. this is what might really rock the country: if we suddenly see that the police are an illusion. they strut around in those uniforms, looking for a scrawny ass to kick in a big gang. but lunge at them suddenly and they piss themselves and start whimpering. they better hope that the black guerillas don't show up tonight in a hostile mood.
9:18 the police are going to blame rawlings-blake for holding them back. the gov blamed her for not asking for help much earlier. she is going to be toasted in this fire. i think they were eyeing her for the senate or the governor's office; her carer is over, and she has been pathetic. but no more pathetic than everyone else. no one is going to take any responsibility for anything, which is what government bureaucracies are for (that is, they are for shoving off responsibility). the police who were there know that they are actual cowards, though. they got their ass kicked, and they better be glad that there weren't actually outside agitators or competent insurrectionists, or there'd have suddenly been projectiles coming from behind the police lines too, and no space in the hospitals.
9:07 gov hogan says this is nowhere near as bad as '68. yes it is, and it could be much worse.
9:03 there's a big-ass fire now; looks like a burning block. but where is that, exactly?
8:55 when firefighters were trying to put out the cvs, they were doing it in front of the police line. people were stabbing their hoses. the firefighters' priority was putting out the fire. the police's priority is 'officer safety'. probably they're in an armored convoy right now, heading to atlantic city.
8:40 you know, they wonder why people destroy their own neighborhoods. first off, that's where they are, and that's where the police are abusing them. and second, people who are more less trapped in poverty, in a racial ghetto in a significantly segregated city (in that, bmore is like most american cities), are going to be intensely ambivalent about their neighborhood, which is both a source of pride and symptom of oppression. i want to say again that in many ways the criminal justice system just took over from jim crow as the basic nexus of racial control and destruction. try not to wonder why people are angry, or why criminality itself can be folded into resistance..
8:10 actually police have regained the mall.
8:05 one thing that's clear - and that's different than '68, which i remember (i was 10 years old, in dc) - is that the police are straight-up intimidated. as they keep saying, their first priority is officer safety. they're looting mondawmin mall with impunity right now. that's the mark of an insurrection; the rioters control whole regions. stephanie rawlings-blake and other officials have been in hiding until this moment, when they're finally going press conference. guts would put people like this at the scene.
6:50 actually al jazeera america probably has the best coverage on national networks. they have people who know the city, for one thing.
6:35 elijah cummings sort of looks like john lewis. but he has nothing: no truth, no inspiration, no connection, no idea.
5:50 i believe if i were obama, i'd go to baltimore.
5:45 cnn should stop putting lawyers and law-enforcement people on to the condemn the rioters etc. yeah, i've got that. 'these are not demonstrators; they're criminals". quite the sort of people who only have one sentence, and all of whom have the same sentence. i'd think of cnn's job as showing and telling what is actually happening. or here's their other sentence: 'hard to believe this is happening just 40 miles from the nation's capital!' yeah, stunning. you probably think it can't happen in dc, you doinks.
5:30 they're showing plenty of looting with no police presence. the earlier injuries of police have obviously intimidated them, even with all the armor and teargas etc. so first, let that be a lesson to you about who the police actually are. but of course there might be a big counter-attack later. not sure how well that will go, really. i do love the 'outside agitator' theme; really the mindlessness of the strategic communications hasn't changed since 1965.
5:15 npr is frigging pathetic; no reports from the ground; they're doing movie reviews or whatever. this with their headquarters in dc. a goodly portion of their staff lives in baltimore. really if they can't cover this live, they should fold.
4:12 looks like the intifada out there.
4:00 hard to tell what's gonna happen, but a word to the balt police: a lot of people in balt are armed, and you severed somebody's spine. you might want to think carefully as you roll in the armored vehicles and start firing up the teargas.
3:40 baltimore is rocking in insurrection; watching rock-throwing battles near mondawmin on cnn; they've got no local reporters at all; athena jones has no idea where she is. they've been throwing big rocks at cops, and the cops are now taking the approach of chucking them back, which is never a good sign. could go this way or that, but could go extremely wrong.
what is the goal of human life? and are we making progress toward that goal? looking squarely at human history, and asking not about a theoretical goal i just made up, but about the real goals that real people really have, i propose the following account: the goal of human life is to be subordinated, and the story of history is the story of bottoms chasing tops. on any other account, the shape of human history is incomprehensible; on this one, everything falls neatly into place. human beings need food, clothing, shelter, and someone to tell them what to think and do and to beat them senseless if they don't. as hegel insisted, the key to history is 'the master-slave dialectic'.
that gives rise to the social contract, under which, as rousseau so cogently puts it, we are free to be forced. as many have remarked, fifty shades of grey is an excellent parable of political history, a kind of more's utopia for an enlightened age like ours. indeed, in fifty shades of grey, history itself reaches its culmination in perfect self-consciousness.
as with any philosophy of history, whether vico's or herder's, hegel's, marx's, or colingwood's, the true test is how well it can help us half-assedly periodize the past and tendentiously pretend to predict the future. this one works great like that. primitive humans had to invent someone to whom to subordinate themselves. this was the asinine period. then came the rise of 'civilization' where people were all sexed up about emperors and pharaohs and caesars and stuff. this was the age of groveling, when they thought of their tops as babygods. as hegel said when he got a gander at napoleon, whom he called 'history all up in that ass': 'do me'. but we in secular modernity know that the point is just to find any old assad or clinton in the storm. in the amazing terminal stage of advancement for which we groan, we will be able to acquiesce effortlessly to the entirely arbitrary will of anybody at all: we have reached the end of history, the rapine epoch. that will be followed by a well-deserved extinction, and so good night.
history, hence, is a structure of antinomies, and we must ask: who will subordinate the subordinators? that is the real issue that evolution has been driving at, the reason we are conscious. thus, the professional dominatrix working over statesmen in london or dc is key to understanding the necessary dialectical unfolding of history itself. pimps are very conceptually important too, if for no other reason than to subordinate the dominatrices. (i use 'pimp' not in its contemporary acceptation as a general term of praise, but in its old-fashioned sense to mean a trafficker in human flesh. and yet my philosophy of history proves with apodeictic certainty that the current use of the term is entailed by the inevitable unfolding of the human spirit itself in time.)
the ideal of total human subordination is of course shared by the left and the right, and provides the only possible basis for the final synthesis of the will of the absolute in time and simultaneously the only possible culmination of the material structure itself of nature itself, or whatever. total human subordination is the only way to aufhebung our alienation and shit, erase our individual differences, and become as one in a sort of human gazpacho. we begin to realize that the point isn't who you are subordinated to or why, but the sheer fact of subordination itself, which is a turn-on and resolves all the contradictions we've struggled through for all these millennia.
human history can be seen as the triumphant march toward the realization of this goal; hegel thought so, for example, and he called the goal 'freedom', by which he meant a subordination so thorough that you could count ultimately on your own death by erotic asphyxiation. in that sense, human history really has been a triumphant march toward freedom. 10,000 years ago, most people wouldn't even have understood the concept of government. imagine how sexually frustrated they were! now any person anywhere is under surveillance and can be killed at any moment by a drone strike ordered up on a whim by people of the caliber of distinguished professor michael hayden. it is the orgasm at the end of history, baby.
i keep thinking the analytic/continental split in philosophy just has to be over, but it just never seems to be. i do think the division is primarily not about ideas or philosophy, or about what is true, etc, or even about what truth is. it's primarily about institutional rivalries and the question of who gets what positions or who dominates what department. and then, i think it's a prose-style division, and among other things consists of rival jargons, each of which is impenetrable to people who know the other, and each of which irritates people who use the other in an extreme way. i have been caught in the absurd partisan political wars, for example at vanderbilt, where - honestly - i should have spent my career, and i think would have if the continental/analytic pissing match hadn't drenched me in urine. (well, that is simplistic. i also got pc-policed in a big way, which might not be surprising to readers of this blog: i'm always begging for it. you out there, julie klein? it's hard to know exactly why you didn't get the job, i suppose. maybe i sort of sucked or something, but i was teaching well and publishing articles in the journal of philosophy, etc.)
i have to say that i'm one of the few people i know who does both seriously, or does more than wave at a little slice on the other side. that was one great thing about rorty: he didn't do quine or heidegger as the quineans or heideggerians would have liked, but he did do both with everything he had and brought them together in the same articles and classrooms. he actually knew and was in serious interchange with both davidson and gadamer, e.g. oh plus he did american pragmatism: he didn't care what trad you came out of, what he cared about was whether he could use your ideas (i do hope to have other agendas, but maybe i don't). in entanglements i am completely indifferent to the distinction, and mix and match in the same paragraphs and discussions. this is not something i'm straining to do.
i do not think there is any difference of substance, though there are differences of methodology which could have substantive implications. even here, though, people on each side of have a crazily narrow view of the methods employed on the other; one symptom of the fact that they just do not read each other, like msnbc viewers can't even look at fox. like, the methods of carnap, austin, and timothy williamson: these are not the same method. or for that matter foucault and derrida, right? i propose that i could take any philosophical position and express it in either vocabulary.
continentals think that analytics are foundationalist, reductionist, scientistic, etc. they're not aware that the destroyers as well as the advocates of positions like that have been analytic philosophers. analysts think continentals are relativist, obscurantist charlatans. but calling foucault or heidegger a relativist is just ridiculous, whereas there are plenty of relativistic moments in analytic philosophy. i do think there are obscurantists in continental philosophy, but also many non-obscurantists groping for an adequate vocabulary. and the difficulty of the expression didn't make you not read frege or wittgenstein, did it?
but try getting either talking about the other and all they do is sneer, or sort of pretend not to sneer. i have tried to make the case many times to each for the other; no one listens; they just go back to their catch-phrases and derisive snickers. that is no damn way to be a philosopher, and i think people are more concerned with their little clique than with doing the best philosophy they can, or reading it.
perhaps someone has done a good sociology of the split? seems like the locus would be, say, moore/russell around 1900; their teachers were, by and large, hegelians like mctaggart and green, and they ripped that idealism to shreds (which it did deserve). they and their people quickly conquered oxbridge. after that we have two different lines of discourse and two professional paths, dominated irritatingly by analytics in the english-speaking world. (the analytics said the continentals were't doing philosophy at all, or even saying anything meaningful, and they tried to literally eliminate them from he academy. that will justifiably piss people off.) but maybe it is a distant echo of the empiricist/rationalist split? man russell or ayer did sound a lot like hume, and if you compared hume's prose style to spinoza's or kant's, you could understand a lot about the divergence. but then again you couldn't call saul kripke or david lewis an empiricist, or deleuze or baudrillard a rationalist. it'd be worth figuring out a long narrative though. maybe that would help wind this thing down.
one thing i'd say about our cultural moment: people hate to argue, or even disagree. they don't want to argue about politics, or art, or anything else, and the sheer fact that you disagree with someone threatens their self-esteem. now people do still want to insult and berate people but only in the company of other people who agree with themselves. no one wants to have an actual exchange. i am going to be uncomfortable in a world like that, and really it's not a world conducive to philosophy, for example. i do think it's a chickenshit moment: people are scared that they're going to be harmed by a well-turned phrase; if you live in fear of words and ideas, i think you need more grit. i grew up among extremely combative and definite adults, arguing all the time about everything. most of the time, this was good: straight up fun for all concerned, even when they were turning red in the face and exploding with insults. if disagreement is prohibited, we'll merge toward completely unjustified consensus within groups and a total incomprehension and ignorance between them that is the last straw of polarization. people are making themselves stupid cowards on principle. also people are credulous to the point of emptiness within their own little spheres of fake consensus, merely subordinated, and by their own choice. you might think that arguing pulls people apart, while agreement pulls them together. but in politics, this approach is liable to leave us in two camps, bristling with hostility toward one another and totally disabled in communicating with one another. arguing is what keeps a democracy unified.
i do think philosophy is pretty essentially agonistic. many would deny that, or seek to overcome it, or connect it to the male-dominatedness of the profession, etc. but usually people who have thought that a consensus must emerge merely fantasized that everyone would eventually agree with themselves. (i don't know why people would think that women can't argue or are always agreeable or something.) but anyway: plato vs. the sophists and aristotle v plato, right? all those hellenistic schools against one another. empiricists against rationalists, and each against each other. an important source of kierkegaard's philosophy is his loathing of all things hegel. nietzsche against everyone. quine against carnap or austin v ayer. or even: confucius vs. lao tzu and mo tzu, etc. people want the issues to be resolved; i'm especially interested in those i think never will be, which are wide-open contexts for debate. seriously, i just wrote a big old 'system of philosophy' a la schopenhauer or something. do i think that it will set things, or anything, to rest? i hope not, even if i do think (right now, provisionally) that my positions are right. i know my fantasy of owning the future with my philosophy is just that. i'd like to be read, but i'm as happy to read with hostility as with agreement, though i'm happy about that too if i ever get any. but without my extreme rejection of plato, kant, hegel, rorty, etc, the thing wouldn't exist at all.
here's a sheet of short record reviews from melody maker, the london music weekly, "83-'84.
and this is a piece from record magazine (a music-only thing published by rolling stone). it got cut down severely and mangled in editing, as i recall, and then it evidently got mangled more when i cut it out and taped it to a sheet of paper. but, on the other hand, i interviewed run of run-dmc, russell simmons, and a very young rick rubin (i got him on the phone at his dorm at nyu, if i'm remembering rightly). this must have been before run-dmc's "walk this way".
thought i might put up a few old op-eds, and then maybe i'll try to do some of the rock criticism too. this is from the philly inquirer, i'm going to say '96: let us together with confidence place our future on the broad shoulders of headless human clones
perhaps you think i exaggerate when i call kant a monster of ego. i'm working on an essay on philosophy and ego (nietzsche: 'why i am a destiny'), and i'm gathering quotes. here's one from k:
This path—the only one now remaining—has been entered upon by me; and I flatter myself that I have, in this way, discovered the cause of—and consequently the mode of removing—all the errors which have hitherto set reason at variance with itself, in the sphere of non-empirical thought. I have not returned an evasive answer to the questions of reason, by alleging the inability and limitation of the faculties of the mind; I have, on the contrary, examined them completely in the light of principles, and, after having discovered the cause of the doubts and contradictions into which reason fell, have solved them to its perfect satisfaction.
--Critique of Pure Reason
no academic discipline can possibly have produced the egomaniacs that we have. if you met someone who was talking like that, you'd be all, damn son. it's more like rappers or boxers: they all fall. i am the greatest of all time!
one thing i would tack on to the anti-kant rant is this: usually in the hist of ideas you'd connect enlightenment philosophy to enlightenment science, as though philosophy drove the rise of modern science or perhaps emerged from it. at any rate they are supposed to be two sides of same development. it's not that there's nothing to be said for this, but i think the extreme tensions are more conspicuous. i think most of the philosophers of the era are fighting a rearguard action against the material world described in science and on behalf of the human spirit as the source of knowledge or, for heaven's sake, reality. one central piece of this tension is the representational theory of mind or the 'idea idea': the notion that we are only immediately acquainted with the contents of our own consciousness. that never helped anyone do any science, and establishing that you are not dreaming, for example, is not a scientific project: it's entirely irrelevant, say, to whether planetary orbits are elliptical or whatever. (same with any sort of logical positivist reduction of objects to sense contents, etc.)
but now we might think about berkeleyan or kantian or hegelian or schopenhauerian idealism in relation to darwinian evolution. if you take darwin seriously in any way whatever, then the 'forms of sensibility' have just got to be responses to the actual physical environment. creatures who constructed space, time, and causation and imposed them on the world, if there is a world - creatures who lived entirely in the forms of their subjective or collective sensibility - would be extinct. our senses, our experience, if natural selection is anything like true, are adaptations to a real physical environment. right? i think it was obvious that the thing was false before darwin, but kant's philosophy - to say nothing of hegel's - is entirely incompatible with any sort of scientific naturalism. that doesn't entail that it's false. but it does entail that you can rationally believe at most one of them.
it is difficult for me adequately to express my loathing for immanuel kant, whom i think had a disastrous effect on the style and substance of philosophy. i'm teaching through the prolegomena right now. here are the sorts of claims i regard as being as close to the opposite of everything i believe as anything can be. also i regard them as...insane and as a devastating reflections on the personality of those who believed them: "The highest legislation of nature must lie in ourselves." "The understanding does not derive its laws from, but rather prescribes them to nature." we must defend our basic concepts "not by deriving them from experience, but rather by deriving experience from them." etc.really, kant thinks we make the universe. i wonder whether chipmunks think they make the universe.
seriously, say you ran into a dude on the corner who was asserting that he made the universe by imposing space and time on it from the resources of his own sensibility. it wouldn't surprise you, but you might hope that there's a bed in a treatment facility, or some sort of medication. don't even get me started on the ethics, or his basic picture of what a person is, currently in revival in the work of christine korsgaard or susan wolf, for example. i don't know what they're writing about, but it is definitely not human beings.
after kant, people associated profundity with extreme murk and elaborate jargon, and it got even worse in schelling and hegel, etc. kant is a monster of ego, and he is a monster of species-ego: he thinks we make the world and he has figured it out. all that gets worse too. even now, every kant-influenced thinker starts with a contrast between humans and animals that is just: why are we so much amazingly better? i think we are still struggling to emerge from these toils, believe it or not. i'd describe phenomenology and pragmatism, for example, as ways of trying to emerge from the kantian disaster, while still being way too trapped in its presumptions.
in iraq, the us is aligned with iran; it's all about arming up shia militias, which one could be forgiven for thinking was the purpose of the invasion, since that was its tangible and predictable and intentional result. on the other hand, in yemen, we're aligned with the saudis. i daresay the saudi strategy on the ground in yemen is to arm up al qaeda in the arabian peninsula and give them air support. that is, we are supporting both the iranian mullahs and al qaeda here and there while opposing them elsewhere as we mechanically condemn them both. (then there's assad v isis; we support each against the other. israel and egypt both need ever-more extreme weapons. we support and hate every side in libya, etc.) so i'd say this to the state department or the pentagon: if you can't come up with a strategy that isn't just arming your declared enemies ("the terrorists"), you should quit. obviously there's no way to win if you're on all sides at once, or if you strongly support everything you condemn, and so on. we're a very yappy nation, but not the thinkiest. if you described our strategy as trying to make sure that the whole region is consumed by the maximum possible total war as soon as possible, that would at least make our decisions 'rational'.
Guy Clark has been called the American Dylan Thomas, which probably resulted in an eye roll and head shake. He's in his 70s now, in poor health and a number of people are working on a KickStarter campaign to get a documentary and new book out. I posted this at the Defeatists earlier, and wanted to give Crispin and all a treat with some more of Mr. Clark's brilliance. Lot of music there.
This is a performance he did not so long ago for the PBS show, Jammin at Hippie Jacks. If you think that I posted this one so I could get more of Guy's stuff posted, you're right.
i'm trying to find a good occasion to produce the following public apology. i am sorry for what i said, which was false and which paraded my stupidity and viciousness for all to see. i am going to try, hard, to do better. but i am not at all sorry if anyone, or indeed everyone, was offended.
apropos of the below, people actually do want to make the left-right spectrum neurological and genetic. they really do want to make left and right 19th century-style races, literally. and as in 19th century races, people are supposed have different racial/biological natures and destinies, different roles in history. then like the caucasoid race in relation to the negroid and mongoloid races, according to british gentlemen in 1880, the progressive race can assume its destined domination. otherwise we go backwards in history, or even in evolution.
if whether or not you support obamacare is genetic, then we could breed out the right-wingers, or maybe medicate them. so certain are people on either side of the rightness of their own positions, so soaked in empty dogma are they, that neither side would hesitate to fix the other surgically or through starvation-and-reinforcement in order to...whatever, save the earth from warming or keep you from choosing abortion or save the very essence of american freedom, or whatever. this degree of certainty is a feature of beliefs that are taken for social rather than for epistemic reasons; it is entirely out of proportion to any evidence or argument. to have even a normal degree of certainty, or the possibility of backing up should new evidence emerge, would be a betrayal of your people. even to listen to the reasons other people have for believing things would be a betrayal. in this sense left and right are like religious faiths or perhaps i meant to say cults.
that's how committed people are to this completely incoherent bulljive: they really do regard it as a baseline of human existence - so of course it's in the brain - even though the left-right spectrum emerged only in the 19th century. this shows you for one thing the quality of this neurofad and its dangerousness: really it's as good as race theory joined to evolution and phrenology circa 1880. if you listen to people on the left, they keep suggesting that people on the right are at an earlier stage of evolution, like neanderthals or trogoladytes, etc. nature has imprinted on our dna a wretched series of contradictions, as though the people who think 2+2=17 and those who think it's 71 have different neurotransmitters or different cerebral swellings. or it's as though you found that people who like season 2 of scandal have a different forehead slope than those who prefer season 3. jeb bush and hillary clinton don't have different positions on anything, but their brains are different or they wouldn't belong to different political parties.
indeed, from my point of view, the positions amount to the same thing: enthusiasm for the very same hierarchy, slightly differently described (the left loving political hierarchy, the right economic, and these coinciding almost perfectly on the ground). i'd breed that out, if i could.
understand that where you are on the political spectrum correlates with gender, sexual orientation, race, region, income level, age, and so on. so you'd have to make all those things neurologically connected somehow. just spitballing now, but a basically social explanation is actually going to work easily in a million obvious ways, whereas this is just an complete non-starter. it's worth saying, though, that neither the neurological nor the social explanation is relevant to the truth of the positions, so if either works overall, no one believes any of these things because they have reasons to think they're true. well, that much is obvious anyway.
don't let this be you. and it's true: i think we are as divided by political affiliation as by race, for example. it's getting to the point where intermarriages are inconceivable, and where everyone wants residential segregation. now one thing about race: there really is no principled way to make racial distinctions. but even race isn't as bad as the left-right spectrum in this regard, which is the merest bullshit. but these things aren't political positions; they're social affiliations, as the milbank piece indicates. no one cares at all whether they're making any sense; all that counts is whom they agree with. you could try to think instead, but that is really not the strong point of our species. in the long run, i kind of hope y'all slaughter each other in an ideological bloodbath so we can start over with some actual ideas or start to respond in some way to reality.
but just to dispense with the hyperbole and insults for a second, i do think that in the long run a civil war or a partition is possible. the two sides definitely do not regard themselves as belonging to the same nation. they are incomprehensible to one another and unwilling to spend a second listening to one another. out where i live, people fly don't tread on me flags and are arming up. it's obvious to everyone out here that the idea of america has been betrayed by socialists, and that the government is coming to take all your stuff and tell you what to do all day. then again when i go to work, the faculty doesn't think of ted cruz or the audience of fox news or my neighbors as full-fledged thinking human beings who are their equals. that's how strongly each side would like to be screened from the other, and how severely they are segregating themselves from one another; they are in close physical proximity, but they live in different irrealities.
also neither side wants to be challenged by the other, or, for example, by me; i feel that's because deep inside they each know their positions are totally indefensible. the members of each group in their segregated social and media space just nod along with each other like bobbleheads and pat each other and thus themselves on the back all day for their sagacity and goodness. i hope this enhances their self-esteem, which is intrinsically valuable or the point of human life or whatever, but which is completely unjustified in both cases.
you know that visceral feeling that comes over you when you think about ted cruz or tea partiers someone says 'fox news'? it's physical, isn't it? a feeling of real repugnance that goes with an elevated heart rate and little fight-or-flight reaction. these are the wrong sort of people: for one reason or another their experiences and opinions don't count. they're ignorant, uneducated, manipulated; they speak with the wrong accent, etc. well, that is the phenomenology of bigotry. you do not think of those people as being the same sort of thing as yourself, or their opinions or their very lives as counting in the same way. i assure that the feeling is mutual. now you know what it was like being lester maddox.
in response to the nytimes piece, people - both in the comments and in my email - assume that i'm promoting a return to objective truth, or that i'm all about science, etc: like i'm just reviving exploded enlightenment stuff or just wanting to go back. they can be forgiven for that, because it is really hard to envision alternatives. but this is not where i want to go at all. here is a slice of entanglements: a system of philosophy which gives a sketch of the approach.
if you'll excuse me, i'm going to rant about academia for a moment. in my opinion it is unconcerned with things like scholarly excellence, or for that matter truth. what gets rewarded is, first, conventionality; your best career move is to try to be more like everyone else than anyone else. and then there's kind of a partisan series of tests: people don't care how good anyone's work is; what they care about is what party you belong to - in my discipline, analytic or continental or american - and then what tendency within continental, for example. of course, the professoriate is politically unanimous, and any tiny deviation is grounds for exile. from grad school to tenure, people write out of career fear: any interesting claim or sharp formulation could be fatal. you're better off carefully refining someone else's ideas or going for real obscurity; signs of originality or even definiteness or clarity endanger your kids' health insurance. under these conditions, i would say that being the citigroup professor of fellatio at stanford or whatever shouldn't lend any credibility to anyone. am i parading my own ego and resentments here? oh, quite possibly. on the other hand i really do know the terrain.
the guy who landed a gyrocopter at the capitol flew out of here: gettysburg pa. coulda used my place if he wanted, though he didn't. what i love about the constant cases along these lines is that though these security/surveillance pigboys always try to portray security around, e.g., dc, as implacable and unavoidable and hyper-competent, they actually run incredibly big slow stupid bureaucracies that are always vulnerable to a thousand pinpricks, or just any sort of bold decision. if you can improvise, you can outthink these folks, for they have all the imagination of cinder blocks. that's why they're in law enforcement: all they want is for someone to tell them what to think, say, do. it's a total intellectual disability.
i bet i have said this before, but my favorite contemporary writer on art, by a good long way, is dave hickey. such a bold and wild and and combative and hilarious writer, and also so sharp and right on many matters. (he doesn't have to be right about everything according to me to be my favorite writer.) i'm teaching his invisible dragon again in my beauty course, though i love some of the essays in air guitar even more.
If I said, "Beauty," they said "The corruption of the market," and I would say, "The corruption of the market?!" After thirty years of frenetic empowerment, during which the venues for contemporary art in the United States evolved from a tiny network of private galleries in New York into this vast, transcontinental sprawl of publicly funded, postmodern iceboxes? During which the ranks of "art professionals" swelled from a handful of dilettantes on the East Side of Manhattan into this massive civil service of Ph.Ds and MFAs administering a monolithic system of interlocking patronage (which, in its constituents, resembles nothing so much as that of France in the early nineteenth century)? During which powerful corporate, governmental, cultural, and academic constituencies vied ruthlessly for power and tax-free dollars, each with its own self-perpetuating agenda and none with any vested interest in the subversive potential of visual pleasure? Under these cultural conditions, artists across this nation are obsessing about the market? Fretting about a handful of picture merchants nibbling canapes in Business Class? Blaming them for any work of art that does not incorporate raw plywood?...
During my informal canvass, I untangled the "reasoning" behind this presumption. Art dealers, I found, "only care about how it looks," while the art professionals employed in our institutions "really care about what it means." Easy enough to say. Yet even if this were true (and I think it is), I can't imagine any but the most demented naif giddlily abandoning an autocrat who monitors appearances for a bureaucrat who monitors your soul.
the really very rollicking aeon magazine is launching a sub-site at ideas.aeon.co. i quite like the free flow of texts on various provocative or odd or classic questions. i'm up there right now with a brief version of my sex-and-gender-as-aesthetic-expressions thing, in response to the question 'how flexible is gender?'
i like the idea, now repeated like a nursery rhyme by pundits, that hillary 'has to articulate why she wants to be president'. that is, she has to make up some shit, or simulate some commitments. everyone understands what this means, but no one says it: her actual reasons amount to personal grandiosity (she's not alone in that motivation, of course); now she has to work out how to pretend to have other reasons = whatever excruciatingly empty commonplaces focus-group well this week. everyone obviously understands this completely. now you are not going to vote for someone like that, are you? that would be mere capitulation to a meaningless person or a monster of self-aggrandizement. that's pretty close to the essence of contempo american politics.
or the other little media chant is 'she has to show that she's authentic'. what they mean by this is that she has to simulate honesty or conviction. this is what we want, i guess, and the pundits need to think about this: their whole approach entails this: there is no difference between expressing yourself authentically and convincing people that you are, even if you are a person who couldn't even understand a concept like authenticity. so, if that's who you want telling you what to do, knock yourself out. you could roofy yourself if you want, though the difference before and after will be difficult to detect.
if you are not an anarchist, your are in favor of this: thousands of police killings done with impunity. killing with impunity is the very essence of state power, or a good definition of 'government'. say you cannot picture human life as possible without police. well, what you are thinking is that human life is impossible without arming some people heavily against others and authorizing them to commit what would be crimes for others or, looking at it another way, giving some people rights that others do not enjoy, including the right to control those others' bodies or damage them: that is what a policeman is. you think it's the rule of law but by your own account it is the rule of crime: these people can kidnap you and hold you for cash, for example, or tase you, or just beat the shit out of you or kill you. if you think that a total asymmetry of power like that is necessary, then just accept all its inevitable results. one thing you should absolutely expect, one thing you are practically endorsing: this asymmetry will mirror all the others: if you are a statist, you practically endorse beating those on the bottom of whatever hierarchies there are: economic, racial, etc. also, power of the sort you are enthusing about or regarding as a baseline necessity of human life is, given what human beings are, always abused. and also, given what human beings are, it is resented, and will be violently resented. admit it: this is what you want. so stop whining about it or hop off this state jive.
amazingly, michael slager, who shot walter scott eight times in the back as he was fleeing, was listening to this beautiful song about human connections across various barriers as he pulled scott over.
one lesson that all sorts of people are drawing is: when the police tell you what to do, do it. black men such as mark morial and don lemon are saying that on cnn as i write. i understand why they say that, and they are trying to keep people alive. but on their own account, they are endorsing sheer capitulation to a regime they themselves regard as a regime of racist violence. lemon said: 'never run from the police. running from the police never works out.' depends on how fast and clever you are, son, and i'm telling you from my own ancient experiences that sometimes it works out just fine.
The news of the guilty verdict in the Boston Marathon Bombing has elicited something like a shoulder shrug from a lot of people, including me. I wasn't paying attention, but then neither was the media. I was more than a little surprised then to read Masha Gessen's column this morning at the Times about what the unanswered questions that remain and the rather pathetic job the responsible organizations have done explaining the thing.
That bothers me. In my journeys amongst the Conspiracy Theorist Collective, I have learned one thing about the Conspiracy Paranoid Mindset. Things that set them off down the rabbit hole occur when something doesn't make sense to them and to a lot of people. Their lack of reason comes from asking reasonable questions and getting silly answers or none at all. "We're the government, trust us" pretty much should have stopped working in 1775 but it found a new life in 1803 . Since Vietnam and the Kennedy assassination, it's continued to fester...and outliers are now getting to be mainstream.
Missha Gessen is well worth your time and effort. Spend it and see what questions now bother you.
i'm headed to cali this weekend to do some events for the dickinson advancement office. i'll be talking about the film 'happy', which is about positive psychology (about which i am certainly skeptical). it's the item that's sort of supposed to draw the college together; the director is coming to campus etc. i will say that in my view the thing is profoundly wretched: superficial, boring, depressing, with completely incompetent or just non-existent intellectual underpinnings. amazingly, it is a series both of cliches and contradictions. one good indication of the intellectual level of this material: dan gilbert, the harvard prof who instructs you on your happiness in the film, now uses the same canned little raps to shill for prudential insurance. also, i really think that the existence of dan gilbert raises the question of what harvard university is for.
seriously, you'd think these psychheads just discovered happiness yesterday, and though they are good at data entry, they are terrible at defining terms, leaving their research without any actual subject-matter. (on the other hand, philosophy - with which no one in the film shows any acquaintance - has been grappling with the question for 2500 years.) the research is based on reports of 'subjective satisfaction', while every single characterization of happy people (in the film, e.g.) makes happiness a matter of external relations: families, communities, objects, and so on. of course the film just goes neuro in the most useless hackneyed way, shifting to cartoon neurons: happiness is dopamine bursts, which is completely incompatible with anything anyone says about what actually makes people happy, and which also makes these guys' account of happiness identical to their account of the effects of cocaine. well, that's partly because they have absolutely no notion of what they're looking for, which makes it ridiculous when they claim to have found it. as per usual in social and in other sciences, it's the initial set of terms and concepts that does all the work. but scientists are unbelievably bad at figuring out how to elucidate these words and concepts. if you fuck that up, everything you build on top of it will collapse if someone raises an eyebrow.
Crusader AXE has a new piece on the Iranian deal up over at Veterans Today and while I think it's fairly reasonable, I was initially gratified to find the comments were all written not in drool or feces. Well, it went down hill, fairly quickly...Eric Holder, the Rothschilds and the Kardashians are all tied up in the minds of some of my readers. If General Jack D. Ripper hadn't gone to his reward in Dr.Strangelove, I'm sure our precious body fluids would also have been an issue...however, some decent music and a nice sort of overview for those who feel the only response to Iran-Nuclear-Tea Pary-Republican speculation and explanation is Jack Daniels mixed with absinthe and delivered intravenously...