Thursday, July 20, 2017

Art Break

Pablo Picasso, "Evocation (The Burial of Casagemas)" (1901)
The cause of Picasso’s stylistic transformation is well documented. The suicide of his close friend Casagemas in 1901 deeply affected him, and he began to move towards a more reflective account of human existence. Paintings such as Absinthe Drinker (1901) explore the relationship between innocence and experience, purity and corruption. These themes found their expression in his large-scale Evocation (The Burial of Casagemas – 1901). The secular altar piece dominates the second room and depicts Casagemas ascending to heaven on a white stallion, surrounded by naked prostitutes, playful children, mourners and a Madonna and child. It is testament to Picasso’s genius that this piece, which challenged the conventions of religious art in the twentieth century, was produced when the artist was only 19 years old. The painting suggests the ambition and radical vision that Picasso was to invest into his work. It was this challenging and restless youthful energy that Picasso never lost...

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Post-Modern Slide into Totalitarianism

Dominance merges with Communality...and then encroaches upon Reciprocity to prevent formation of any Social Distance or Alienation.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Light in Babylon

(Speak)
Of sand and secrets
Fountain

Which is revealed among the sands
The fall of my youth
The outgoing
Dancing in the wind
Colors
And voices
Born from the desert
Even if the sky is white
Will rise
I will not sit or rest
My lips would not dry

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ah, Life 2.0!

"The destructive character lives from the feeling, not that life is worth living, but that suicide is not worth the trouble."
--Walter Benjamin
---
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
that Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause. There's the respect
that makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
the Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's Contumely, [F: poor]
the pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay, [F: disprized]
the insolence of Office, and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his Quietus make
with a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear, [F: these Fardels]
to grunt and sweat under a weary life,
but that the dread of something after death,
the undiscovered country, from whose bourn
no traveller returns, puzzles the will,
and makes us rather bear those ills we have,
than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
and thus the native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o'er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment, [F: pith]
with this regard their Currents turn awry, [F: away]
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remember'd
--William Shakespeare, "Hamlet"

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

On We Go!

The Fear of SIlence

I have not heard silence
more than in music

the hollow of a bell
the harmony of a singer
the puncturing of a drum

excavates a sanctuary
inside my skull, there I capture
strains of music that belong
to a realm without sound
desert where silence performs for silence

when I no longer have thirst
I will be able to stay there
a symphony of deafness will congregate
I will hear nothing
but the absence of myself
- Author Unknown

Monday, July 10, 2017

On Slavoj Zizek's "Violence"

The philosopher Slavoj Zizek enjoys a good joke. Here's one of my favourites: two men, having had a drink or two, go to the theatre, where they become thoroughly bored with the play. One feels a pressing need to urinate, so he tells his friend to mind his seat while he goes to find a toilet. "I think I saw one down the corridor outside," says his friend. The man wanders down the corridor, but finds no WC. Wandering further, he walks through a door and sees a plant pot. After copiously urinating into it, he returns to his seat. His friend says, "What a pity! You missed the best part. Some fellow just came on the stage and pissed in that plant pot."

This gag perfectly describes the argument of Zizek's new book on violence. Drunkenly watching the boring spectacle of the world stage, we might feel an overwhelming need to follow the call of nature somewhere discreet. Yet, in our bladder-straining self-interest, we lose sight of the objective reality of the play and our implication in its action. We are oblivious to the fact that we are pissing on stage for the world to see.

So it is with violence. Our subjective outrage at the facts of violence – a suicide bombing, a terrorist attack, the assassination of a political figure – blinds us to the objective violence of the world, a violence where we are perpetrators and not just innocent bystanders. All we see are apparently inexplicable acts that disturb the supposed peace of everyday life. We consistently overlook the objective or what Zizek calls "systemic" violence, endemic to our socio-economic order.

The main ambition of this book is to bring together subjective violence with the objective violence that is its underside and precondition. "Systemic violence is thus something like the notorious 'dark matter' of physics," Zizek writes: invisible to naked eye. Zizek offers a rather cool and at times cruel analysis of the varieties of objective violence. He asks tolerant multicultural Western liberals to suspend our outraged responses to acts of violence and turn instead to the real substance of the global situation. In order to understand violence, we need some good old-fashioned dispassionate materialist critique.

At the heart of Zizek's book is an argument about ideology that has been a powerful, constant feature of his work since he burst onto the intellectual scene in the late 1980s. Far from existing in some post-ideological world at the end of history where all problems can be diagnosed with neo-liberal economics and self-serving assertions of human rights, ideology completely structures our lived reality. This ideology might be subjectively invisible, but it is objectively real. Each of us is onstage, pissing in that plant pot. The great ideological illusion of the present is that there is no time to reflect and we have to act now. Zizek asks us to step back from the false urgency of the present with its multiple injunctions to intervene like good humanitarians.

His diagnosis of this ideology is quite delightful, producing counter-intuitive analyses that overturn what passes for common sense. Zizek rages against the reduction of love to masturbatory self-interest, the multiple hypocrisies of the Israel/Palestine conflict and the supposed liberal philanthropy of Bill Gates and George Soros. There is a fascinating analysis of the scenes of torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which display, Zizek rightly contends, nothing more than the obscene underside of American culture.

But whither all this dialectical brio? Ay, there's the rub. Zizek concludes with an apology for what he calls, following Walter Benjamin, "divine violence". The latter is understood theoretically as "the heroic assumption of the solitude of the sovereign decision". Practically, Zizek illustrates this with the Jacobin violence of Robespierre in France in the 1790s and the invasion of the dispossessed, a decade or so ago, descending from the slum favelas in Rio de Janeiro to disturb the peace of bourgeois neighbourhoods. But, in a final twist, Zizek counsels us to do nothing in the face of the objective, systemic violence of the world. We should "just sit and wait" and have the courage to do nothing: "Sometimes, doing nothing is the most violent thing to do".

True enough, but what can this possibly mean? At the core of Zizek's relentless, indeed manic, production of books, articles and lectures is a fantasy, I think: what psychoanalysts would call an obsessional fantasy. On the one hand, the only authentic stance to take in dark times is to do nothing, to refuse all commitment, to be paralysed like Melville's Bartleby, the true hero of this book and others by Zizek. On the other hand, Zizek dreams of a divine violence, a cataclysmic, purifying violence of the sovereign ethical deed, something like that of Sophocles' Antigone.

But Shakespearean tragedy is a more illuminating guide here than its ancient Greek predecessor. For Zizek is a Slovenian Hamlet, utterly paralysed but dreaming of an avenging violent act for which, finally, he lacks the courage. In short, behind its shimmering inversions, Zizek's work leaves us in a fearful and fateful deadlock: the only thing to do is to do nothing. We should just sit and wait. As the great Dane says, "Readiness is all". But the truth is that Zizek is never ready. His work lingers in endless postponement and over-production. He ridicules others' attempts at thinking about commitment, resistance and action (we have crossed swords recently) while doing nothing himself. What sustains his work is a dream of divine violence, cruelty and force. I hope that one day his dreams come true.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Brighton Beach Blues

Because the people I love don't believe in heaven
we take the train to Brighton. Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street. The ocean

is always the ocean, so we take the Q. Seventh Avenue, Prospect Park.
It's hard to explain. The tide rises, and we drink all the beer we brought.

Before the restaurants, before the boardwalk, crackheads slept in dunes
and girls turned tricks, or so we hear from a guy we met. He grew up here

and for a living now he installs in bars electric chandeliers. In these waves,
when he was young, his sister drowned, and because she's gone

he takes the Q to Brighton. Church Avenue, Beverly Road. We don't speak
the language spoken. At a loss to say what we mean, we take the Q

to get there. And because the sun dies in Brighton, we know the day
can end, and because the sky can't help but darken, we go home again

to Boerum Hill. Cortelyou Road, Avenue J. In these waves, one night,
one summer, I kissed someone. We walked through sands and bottle glass

so we could touch the ocean the way the water can't help but touch the land,
and in the end we couldn't help but touch, so we took the Q, that year,

to Brighton. I didn't believe in heaven. It's hard to explain. Take the train,
touch the sea, walk the sand. Kings Highway, Sheepshead Bay.

Along the shore lie those who know there is no heaven, and no answers
to our questions, and that ships leaving piers look like distant chandeliers.
- Sarah V. Schweig, "Brighton Beach"

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Resist the Hubris of Media Driving Elites!

Does Neil Young realize that he's not a regular Joe, that he's an elite fighting to preserve the "powers that be"?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

External Authority Begins Where Internal Enjoyment Ends...

After the secret agent Louis Bernard is shot, in the 1934 version of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, his English acquaintance Bob Lawrence hastens to pass Bernard’s message containing vital political intelligence to the British consul in St Moritz. (In the 1956 remake James Stewart will take over this role as Dr McKenna.) He accosts the gendarme in the local police station asking him in English if the British consul is ‘here’. The Italian-speaking gendarme however keeps translating this here as the German Herr, losing Lawrence precious time – precisely the time that it takes the international terrorists to kidnap the Lawrences’ child and thus secure the parents’ silence. This triggers off all that subsequently emerges as the story of the film. The episode captures succinctly an important aspect of Hitchcock’s cinema: if the here of his films indeed never fails to invoke law, norm and authority (Herrschaft?), this happens only at the expense of the norm not coinciding withwhat the film organises as its here. Therein lies also Hitchcock’s appeal to readings in the vein of Lacanian psychoanalysis, notably to Slavoj Zizek. In Zizek, Hitchcock’s cinema is a privileged point of access not merely to Lacan’s take onFreud and the project of psychoanalysis, but to the overall engagement of Lacanian psychoanalysis with philosophy. Incidentally, it is in the chapter in which he focuses on the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much that Zizek touches on this positionality. He comments that the Cartesian God (the Cartesian Herrschaft) is ‘the correlate of the cogito’, which in turn is ‘none other than Lacan’s “big Other”, the place of the supposed symbolic knowledge’, also the place of law. And then continues: ‘Cogito ergo sum is thus to be translated as: I think where enjoyment was evacuated’ (1992a: 127). Of course: if I think where enjoyment is evacuated, and the ego with its here is by definition contaminated with enjoyment, then the ego cannot but invoke the law, but always at the expense of the law not coinciding with what the ego organises as its here.

If the above scene from The Man Who Knew Too Much demonstrates the logic of Hitchcock’s appeal to Lacanian readings, it captures as aptly the figure Zizek cuts for critical theory. Zizek is not merely renowned internationally for his work on the junctures of philosophy and psychoanalysis, cast against political theory; he has also come to constitute what defines critical theory today. He therefore participates in what critical theory organises as authority, to the extent that critics are now referring to the ‘Zizekification’ of Lacan (see Zizek et al., 2010: 418). It is for this reason that Zizek organises a point of access to what constitutes the logic of the international today and to how the international is constructed for and in recent critical writing. In order to provide such access however he needs to remain exempt from any particular here, even though it is only from a here that this Herrschaft can be summoned. Further, his massive work has by now registered shifts of accent and perspective. Consequently, one cannot approach it synoptically, in a single take. This is true of most herrschaftlich figures in critical theory; Zizek points out that Lacan too registers similar shifts and departures (Zizek et al., 2010: 419). One therefore cannot engage with the Lacanian – or the Zizekian – view of fatherhood, symptom or the symbolic unless one relinquishes synoptic ambitions and an aspiration to panopticise the knowledge of psychoanalysis, which in turn displaces authority from man onto knowledge stripped of the vestiges of the auctorial. Once again the herrschaft-lich (the authoritative) emerges as that which is not here or else as that which cannot be figured (out) as here.

This of course reflects the propositions of the quoted Hitchcock scene, but in yet another way. As Zizek underlines, The Man Who Knew Too Much is, alongside Saboteur and North-by-Northwest, a remake. He argues though that there is no proper way to remake a Hitchcock film, because the narratives may be similar, but ‘the underlying libidinal economy is wholly different in each of the subsequent remakes, as if the sameness serves the purpose of marking the Difference’ (2004a:268).

Still, one could argue that, by remaking The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock assembles around these two films the position which effectively precludes that the knowledge of film be derived from any cinematic here, any one version, even though it is only from a here that knowledge and authority can be summoned. On the one hand, this means that Hitchcock’s cinema itself reflects the narrative predicament of Bob Lawrence, even that the story of The Man Who Knew Too Much is the specimen story of the Hitchcock cinema, the way the story of Oedipus, as Felman puts it, is the specimen story of psychoanalysis (Felman, 1983). On the other, insofar as Hitchcock’s cinema betrays the same Oedipal value for Zizek, The Man Who Knew Too Much emerges as the privileged point of access for analysing Zizek. After all, when calling for the detection of Lacanian sinthoms in Hitchcock – of formulae which fix ‘a certain core of enjoyment, like mannerisms in painting’ – Zizek claims that ‘[t]he first version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) is perhaps the film which most directly calls for such a reading’ (1992b: 126, 127).
- Tatjana Jukic, " The Man WHo Knew Too Much: Zizek and the Balkans"

Saturday, July 1, 2017

In Praise of "Deep State" Socialism

"The problem with Stalin's bureaucracy is that it wasn't bureaucratic enough!"

How to Organize a Left-Wing Coup...

Have and widely communicate a 5-Step coup plan to take advantage of the next crises, but justify your coup planning on the moral inadequacy of the existing government. Make sure that your followers believe that ANY opposition they might meet in resisting the 5-Step coup is evidence of nefarious intent by the existing government to establish an authoritarian dictatorship.

The parasitic Left impatiently await's it's next opportunity to usurp a crisis...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Essences

The dialectical approach is usually seen as trying to locate the phenomenon-to-be-analyzed in the totality to which it belongs, to bring the wealth of its links to light, and thus to break the spell of fetishizing abstraction: from a dialectical perspective, one should see not just the thing in front of one, but this thing as it is embedded in all the wealth of its concrete historical context. This, however, is the most dangerous trap to be avoided: for Hegel, the true problem is the opposite one, the fact that, when we observe a thing, we see too much of it, we fall under the spell of the wealth of empirical detail, which prevents us from clearly perceiving the notional determination that forms the core of the thing. The problem is thus not that of how to grasp the wealth of determinations, but, precisely, how to abstract from them, how to constrain our gaze and teach it to grasp only the notional determination. We should thus totally reject the pseudo-Hegelian commonplace according to which the Understanding deals with simplified abstractions, while Reason understands things in all their complexity, in the endless intricacy of their mutual relations which only makes them what they are.

Another commonplace tells us that, when engaged in a struggle, we automatically adopt a partial or particular standpoint, while the universal standpoint has to be elevated above the melee of passionate commitments. Hegel's authentic position inverts both these commonplaces: it is the Understanding that insists on the endless complexity of a situation, always pointing out that things are more complicated then they appear ("on the other hand..."), while Reason is the power to simplify, to isolate the essential feature, the one which really matters in a complex situation. Furthermore, this isolation does not emerge out of a distanced"objective" analysis, but through our engaged ("partial") approach to reality. It was Heidegger who elaborated this feature apropos language when, in his reading of "essence or Wessen" as a verb ("essencing"), he provided a de-essentialized notion of essence. Traditionally, "essence" refers to a stable core that guarantees the identity of a thing. For Heidegger, "essence" is something that depends on the historical context, on the epochal disclosure of being that occurs in and through language, the "house of being." His expression "Wessen der Sprache" does not mean the "essence of language" but the "essencing," the making of essences that is the work of language.
language bringing things into their essence, language "moving us" so that things matter to us in a particular kind of way, so that paths are made within which we can move among entities, and so that entities can bear on each other as the entities they are... We share an ordinary language when the world is articulated in the same style for us, when we "listen to language," when we "let it say its saying to us."
For a medieval Christian, say, the "essence" of gold resides in its incorruptibility and sheen, which made it a "divine" metal. For us, it is either a flexible resource to be used for industrial purposes or a metal appropriate for aestheic purposes. For Catholics, similarly, the castrato voice was once the very voice of the angels prior to the Fall. For us today, it is a monstrosity. This change in our sensitivity is sustained by language, hinging on a shift in our symbolic universe. A fundamental violence inhabits this "essencing" ability of language: our world is given a partial twist, it loses its balanced innocence, one partial color gives the tone of the Whole.

Hegel's formulation is very precise here: the reduction to signifying "unary feature" contracts actual;ity to possibility, in the precise Platonic sense in which the notion (Idea) of a thing always has a deontological dimension to it, designating what the thing should become in order to be fully what it is. "Potentiality" is thus not simply the name for the essence of a thing as actualized in the multitude of empirical things of this genre (the idea of a chair as a potentiality actualized in empirical chairs). The multitude of the actual properties of a thing is not simply reduced to the inner core of this thing's "true reality"; what is important is that it accentuates (profiles) the thing's inner potential. When I call someone "my teacher," I thereby outline the horizon of what I expect from him; when I refer to a thing as "a chair," I profile the way I intend to use it. When I observe the world around me through the lenses of a language, I perceive its actuality through the lenses of the potentialities hidden, latently present, within it. In other words, potentiality appears "as such," becomes actual as potentiality, only through language: it is the appellation of a thing that brings to light ("posits") its potentials. In short, impartial observation gets caught up in the "bad infinity" of complex features, without being able to decide on the essentials, and the only way to arrive at true universality is by way of reasoning that is sustained by practical engagement.
- Slavoj Ziziek, "Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism"

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Quantum Knowing

This paradoxical status of the knowledge of the Other enables us to draw out another feature of the distinction between what Badiou calls (hedonist) "democratic" materialism and dialectical materialism. For standard materialism, things exist independently of our knowledge of them; for subjectivist idealism, esse=percipi, i.e., things exist only insofar as they are known or perceived by a mind, as perfectly formulated in the famous Berkeleyan limerick on "God in the Quad" (a courtyard on a campus):
There was a young man who said, "God
Must find it exceedingly odd
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there's no one about in the quad."

To which God replies:

Dear Sir: Your astonishment's odd;
I am always about in the quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Your faithfully God.
Note here the formal similarity with quantum physics, in which some kind of perception (or registration)_ is needed to bring about the collapse of the wave function, i.e., the emergence of reality. However, this similarity masks the fundamental difference: the agency which registers the collapse of the wave function is not in any sense "creating" the observed reality, it is registering an outcome that remains fully contingent. Furthermore, the whole point of quantum physics is that many things go on before registration: in this shadowy space, the "normal" laws of nature are continuously suspended. The theological implications of this gap between virtual proto-reality and the fully constituted form are of a special interest. Insofar as "God" is the agent who creates things by observing them, quantum indeterminancy compels us to posit a god who is omnipotent, but not omniscient: "If God collapses the wave functions of large things to reality by His observation, quantuum experiments indicate that He is not observing the small." The ontological cheating with virtual particles (an electron casn create a proton and thereby violate the principle of constant energy, on condition that it reabsorbs it before its environs "take note" of the discrepancy) is a way to cheat God Himself, the ultimate agency taking note of everything that goes on: God Himself does not control the quantum processes; therein resides the atheist lesson of quantum physics. Einstein was right with his famous claim "God doesn't cheat" - but what he forgot to add is that "God is unconscious" (God does not know), quantum physics is indeed materialist: there are micro-processes (quantum oscillations) which are not registered by the God-system.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism"

Monday, June 26, 2017

Slavoj Žižek, "About Peter Sloterdijk: The revolution takes place, only differently "

from the Zizek Times
Peter Sloterdijk is one of the most accurate diagnosticians of our time. In his work "Wrath and Time", he offers an alternative history of the West as a starting point from the distinction between Eros (desire, ie, the desire to possess, ie the possession of objects) and thymos (pride, thus giving-will) History of anger administration. The "Iliad", its founding text, begins in fact with the word "anger." Homer calls the goddess to stand by him when he sing the song of the anger of Achilles. Although the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon concerns a woman - Agamemnon robbed Achilles of his slave girl Briseis - it is not about the loss of an erotic object, but about injured pride. And that is Sloterdijk's point.

While anger can explode in ancient Greece, he experiences a profound change, a sublimation, a postponement in the Jewish-Christian tradition. No longer we, but God is keeping a record of our transgressions, and decides on the Day of Judgment. The Christian prohibition of revenge is the exact counterpart to the apocalyptic scene of the last days. The idea of ​​a Last Judgment, in which all the accumulated debts are paid off and a world out of joint is corrected, lives in secularized form in modern leftist projects.

Now the judge is no longer God but the people. Left political movements in fact act like anger banks. They collect collective anger investment and, in turn, promise the people long-term revenge interest, thus establishing a more just world. Because, after the revolutionary anger explosion, the ultimate payment never takes place, and inequality and hierarchy always reappear, there is always an urge for the second - true, total - revolution. It is only to satisfy the disappointed and to bring the liberation to an end: in 1792 after 1789, October after February 1917.

And the revolution?

This leads us to the great problem of Western Marxism today: the absence of a revolutionary subject. Who can take the role of the proletarians? In the Third World, students and intellectuals, the excluded are presented. In the meantime, the refugees are to revive the European left, free according to the motto: If there is no real proletariat at this stage, the revolution is just being transferred to imported substitute subjects. This way of thinking is cynical through and through. It bears witness to a leftist paternalism, quite apart from the fact that it gives new impetus to the violence against immigrants.

The problem is that there is simply never enough spontaneous anger capital - so the leaders have been borrowed from other anger banks by the nation and the culture. In Fascism, the national anger prevailed, Mao mobilized in China's communism the cultural anger of the exploited peasants. In our time there are two main types of anger left: the anger of the Islamic modernist losers against capitalism as a decadent system, and the wrath of the right-wing populists, which is aimed at immigrants. In addition to this, Latin American populists, consumerists and other representatives are less resentful of the resentment that refuses to recognize globalization. The only thing that is clear here is: the situation is confusing, all the different forms of anger do not come together.

Sloterdijk now recommends overcoming resentment and renouncing a revolution, which never happens anyway. He is concerned to delegitimize the connection between intelligence and resentment in all its forms, including feminism and post-colonialism. In capitalism, he sees not only the problem, but also the solution - Sloterdijk pleads for a turn of capitalism against itself: Instead of accumulating still more wealth and consequently fearing the loss of the wealthy lifestyle, the inhabitants of the Western Crystal Palace As proud beings who rather give than take. This would be, so to speak, Sloterdijk's cultural revolution without a revolution. But is she really realistic - and more than a philosophical imagination?

Capitalism, according to Sloterdijk, is therefore capable of effecting a change from Eros to Thymos, from the perverse erotic logic of accumulation to public recognition and honor. If you think so, you must inevitably praise figures like Soros or Gates. In this optic, their charity is not merely a personal idiosyncracy; On the contrary, the new capitalists are supposed to work towards a new balance of welfare through their willingness to donate, without obeying the destructive logic of resentment and forced state redistribution. We must, therefore, learn to live in a meritocracy which respects civilized norms and personal rights, in a balance between elitism and egalitarianism.

But is Sloterdijk really a reason for his denunciation of any global emancipatory project as a case of envy and resentment? What if his urge to sense revenge and anger behind every form of solidarity is itself an expression of revenge and resentment? His envy dims the view that there is indeed a position of ethical universality that applies to all people. And which exerts its own fascination on more and more young people.

Corbyn shall judge

Jeremy Corbyn, this dry, impish British labor leader, represents precisely such an attitude - with success. From the establishment, he is regarded as an idiot, a jihadist, an anti-Semitic, in short, as an unseemable, but this does not touch him, he remains faithful to himself. Of course, Corbyn is a nuisance - and yes, with his position of global solidarity and justice, he will prevent Labor in the foreseeable future from winning the majority in Great Britain. But that is not the point. For Corbyn represents the actor of a radical social change for the boys beyond the British Isles. Corbyn is an eminent representative of those who are serious about an ethical turn in politics - and the vulgarization of political speech in public turn. Propriety and argument were once bourgeois virtues, but these were long ago betrayed by the populist bourgeoisie. Now it seems to be on the left, to demand exactly these virtues by the fact that they live the same way.

Corbyn, however desperate and naive he appears, speaks of the important problems that ordinary people deal with, from economic necessities to the threat of terrorists. He is politically incorrect, not self-righteous, not off-hand, no blender - and above all, he speaks without anger and resentment. His performances are worthy, he preserves a basic decree. It is precisely because he acts like a politician from another time, that he is well received by the boys. Would Sloterdijk be prepared to recognize, in the success of figures like Jeremy Corbyn, the expression of a new social force that is not just beyond capitalist logic, but also beyond anger and resentment? We older men should remain attentive. I wish Peter Sloterdijk all the best for his 70th birthday.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Does Capitalism Depend Upon Envy?

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; ...
- Thomas Jefferson, "U.S. Declaration of Independence" (rough draft)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Opening Iris...

Philip Hermogenes Calderon, "Broken Vows" (1857)
The title of this painting suggests that the woman has recently discovered that her lover, whose initials are carved in the fence, has been unfaithful. Further details, including the discarded necklace and dying flowers, indicate her unhappy situation. The ivy-covered wall may symbolise her previous belief that their love was everlasting. Disappointed love was a popular theme in Victorian painting, and viewers were expected to unravel the situation from the symbols and expressions of the characters.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

From Tragedy to Farce...

Nationalists Versus Communists

The brawls (Berkely) seem like a half-hearted, semi-play-acting reenactment of the street fights of Germany’s Spartacist uprising of 1919. The “Spartacists” were Marxist insurgents who sought to overthrow the new Weimar government, take power themselves, and expropriate the bourgeoisie. The government, which itself was made up of milder Marxists, relied on nationalist militias called Freikorps to crush the uprising. Then, as yesterday, nationalists trounced communists in the streets. Yet this did not yield a happy ending.

As Ludwig von Mises points out in Omnipotent Government, when the Freikorps first arose, they were modeled after the armed bands of communist revolutionaries that they would later suppress.
“The November Revolution brought a resurgence of a phenomenon that had long before disappeared from German history. Military adventurers formed armed bands or Freikorps and acted on their own behalf. The communist revolutionaries had inaugurated this method, but soon the nationalists adopted and perfected it. Dismissed officers of the old army called together demobilized soldiers and maladjusted boys and offered their protection to the peasants menaced by raids of starving townsfolk and to the population of the eastern frontiers suffering from Polish and Lithuanian guerrilla invasions. The landlords and the farmers provided them in return for their services with food and shelter.”
The Freikorps, like today’s budding right-wing street militias, arose in response to leftist aggression. That didn’t make them any less dangerous. Mises continued:
“When the condition which had made their interference appear useful changed these gangs began to blackmail and to extort money from landowners, businessmen, and other wealthy people. They became a public calamity. The government did not dare to dissolve them. Some of the bands had fought bravely against the communists. Others had successfully defended the eastern provinces against the Poles and Lithuanians. They boasted of these achievements, and the nationalist youth did not conceal their sympathy for them.”
The Road to Nuremberg

These Freikorps were then integrated into the army, and the problem of rival armed bands subsided for a while, although it did not disappear. As Mises wrote:
“War and civil war, and the revolutionary mentality of the Marxians and of the nationalists, had created such a spirit of brutality that the political parties gave their organizations a military character. Both the nationalist Right and the Marxian Left had their armed forces. These party troops were, of course, entirely different “from the free corps formed by nationalist hotspurs and by communist radicals. Their members were people who had their regular jobs and were busy from Monday to Saturday noon. On weekends they would don their uniforms and parade with brass bands, flags, and often with their firearms. They were proud of their membership in these associations but they were not eager to fight; they were not animated by a spirit of aggression. Their existence, their parades, their boasting, and the challenging speeches of their chiefs were a nuisance but not a serious menace to domestic peace.

After the failure of the revolutionary attempts of Kapp in March, 1920, that of Hitler and Ludendorff in November, 1923, and of various communist uprisings, of which the most important was the Holz riot in March, 1921, Germany was on the way back to normal conditions. The free corps and the communist gangs began slowly to disappear from the political stage. They still waged some guerrilla warfare with each other and against the police. But these fights degenerated more and more into gangsterism and rowdyism. Such riots and the plots of a few adventurers could not endanger the stability of the social order.”
But then, feeling threatened by the continued existence and activity of nationalist armed bands, the embattled socialist government created a new armed force consisting of loyal Marxists. As Mises explains, this caused many in the public to throw their support behind Adolf Hitler’s personal militia, the Nazi Storm Troopers.
“But these Storm Troopers were very different from the other armed party forces both of the Left and of the Right. Their members were not elderly men who had fought in the first World War and who now were eager to hold their jobs in order to support their families. The Nazi Storm Troopers were, as the free corps had been, jobless boys who made a living from their fighting. They were available at every hour of every day, not merely on weekends and holidays. It was doubtful whether the party forces—either of “the Left or the Right—would be ready to fight when seriously attacked. It was certain that they would never be ready to wage a campaign of aggression. But Hitler’s troops were pugnacious; they were professional brawlers. They would have fought for their Führer in a bloody civil war if the opponents of Nazism had not yielded without resistance in 1933.”
And the rest is History Channel programming. Once in power, the nationalist brawlers proved to be just as deadly foes to liberty as the communists they trounced in the streets and drove from power.
Source

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Birth of a Backlash...

How Deplorable!
from Wikipedia
The Gamergate controversy concerns issues of sexism and progressivism in video game culture, stemming from a harassment campaign conducted primarily through the use of the hashtag #GamerGate. Gamergate is used as a blanket term for the controversy, the harassment campaign and actions of those participating in it, and the loosely organized movement that emerged around the hashtag.

Beginning in August 2014, supporters of the Gamergate movement targeted several women in the video game industry, including game developers Zoë Quinn and Brianna Wu, as well as feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian. After Eron Gjoni, Quinn's former boyfriend, wrote a disparaging blog post about her, #gamergate hashtag users falsely accused Quinn of an unethical relationship with journalist Nathan Grayson. Harassment campaigns against Quinn and others included doxing, threats of rape, and death threats. Gamergate supporters claimed unethical collusion between the press and feminists, progressives, and social critics. These concerns have been dismissed by commentators as trivial, conspiracy theories, groundless, or unrelated to actual issues of ethics.

Gamergate supporters typically organized on online platforms which allow anonymous or pseudonymous communication; these platforms include 4chan, Internet Relay Chat, Twitter and Reddit. Gamergate has no official leaders, spokespeople, or manifesto. Statements claiming to represent Gamergate have been inconsistent and contradictory, making it difficult for commentators to identify goals and motives. As a result, Gamergate has often been defined by the harassment its supporters committed. Gamergate supporters have frequently responded to this by denying that the harassment took place or by falsely claiming that it was manufactured by the victims.

The controversy has been described as a manifestation of a culture war over cultural diversification, artistic recognition, and social criticism in video games, and over the social identity of gamers. Many supporters of Gamergate oppose what they view as the increasing influence of feminism on video game culture; as a result, Gamergate is often viewed as a right-wing backlash against progressivism.

Industry responses to Gamergate have been predominantly negative. Gamergate has led figures both inside and outside the industry to focus on better methods of tackling online harassment
.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Message from the Sh*t Lord to All Sh*t Posters...

from Catholic On-line
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -- Pope Francis has made a statement, criticizing the media for its obsession with fake news and smut, all intended to generate clicks, and ad revenues. The problem with the obsession is that the public is starved of the truth and accurate information.

Pope Francis criticized the media for having "the disease of coprophilia: constantly looking to communicate scandal, communicate ugly things, even if they are true... And since people have a tendency towards coprophagy, it can be very damaging,"

Coprophilia is the love of feces, usually to the point of consumption.

If the term is revolting, it's intentional. The practice is revolting.

By removing a portion of the truth, the media is able to misdirect the public and inflame scandal. Lies can be destroyed as the media peddles divorce, adultery and infidelity, and every other kind of smut.

How many publications sell because they publish pictures of women's mostly nude bodies? Even teenage girls are vulnerable to this kind of exploitation. Many celebrities cannot enjoy a day at the beach without becoming the object of a photographer's lust. At the same time, mature individuals become objects of revulsion as the media hypes their weight, or their illnesses, or some other aspect of their life. All while ignoring the person's better character, and worse, ignoring the real news of the day.

With limited time for people to consume headlines, every story about Kanye West is less space for reporting on government scandals that deprive taxpayers of billions of dollars. There's less room for reporting facts and providing the public with the information they require to make smart decisions.

So much money is wasted by our government that if it were saved, it could end both homelessness ($20 billion, and hunger ($30 billion) overnight. The most conservative estimate of government waste is about $125 billion per year.

Public anger is often wasted on celebrity scandals and political slander. The real issues are lost.

Pope Francis criticized media 'calumny', which is to tell a lie about another person.

He said this of people's pasts, and it's very important because many people have made mistakes: "every person has the right to a good name, but perhaps in their previous life, or in their past life, or 10 years ago, had a problem with the law or in his family life...so, bringing this into the spotlight is grave, it damages, it cancels a person."

He spoke about the habit of bringing out what people did in their past to damage them, even after they have repented and paid their debt.

"Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia and thus encouraging coprophagia," he said. "Which is a sin that taints all men and women, that is, the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects."

Of course, the media alone is not to blame. While Pope Francis focused on the media, we too share culpability. Our choice to read smut over real news is a major reason why media outlets continue to degrade and publish garbage instead of real news. We have an obligation to consume media intelligently, and to insist upon accurate news, not smut. Otherwise, we become consumers of our own excrement.
The Internet was designed for sh*t posting!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Afterimages

Władysław Strzemiński , "Pejzaz Lodzki (Paysage of Lodz)" (1931-2)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Falling

I hear a storm is coming in tonight
and they say it's going to be the worst
so pack your bags and try to leave
or hold on to what is dear and make amends

The sun will finally turn away
as if she's given up her hopes for us
after all the chances that we've thrown
for the diamonds that we long to own

Now all the rain is gonna sober up our drunken minds
and the winds are gonna bring us closer though all too late
and the fire's gonna take away everything that has brought us here
When we fall

I hope that time is on our side,
that the prophets have been wrong from the start,
that war's an oddity,
and that you and I are here to stay

But nations rise and fall all the time
it seems to be the conqueror's fate
still we believe we are the ones
who will outlive all the others who have not.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Timshel 2

1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. #Cain: that is, Gotten, or, Acquired

2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. #Abel: Heb. Hebel#a keeper: Heb. a feeder

3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. #in process…: Heb. at the end of days

4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: #flock: Heb. sheep, or, goats

5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

6 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?

7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. #be accepted: or, have the excellency #unto…: or, subject unto thee

8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.#blood: Heb. bloods

11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.#My…: or, Mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven

14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

16 And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
Genesis, Chapter 4
---
“Do you remember when you read us the sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and we argued about them?”

“I do indeed. And that’s a long time ago.”

“Ten years nearly,” said Lee. “Well, the story bit deeply into me and I went into it word for word. The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have—and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James version says this—it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.”

Samuel nodded. “And his children didn’t do it entirely,” he said.

Lee sipped his coffee. “Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made.”

Samuel put his palms down on the table and leaned forward and the old young light came into his eyes. “Lee,” he said, “don’t tell me you studied Hebrew!”

Lee said, “I’m going to tell you. And it’s a fairly long story. Will you have a touch of ng-ka-py?”

“You mean the drink that tastes of good rotten apples?”

“Yes. I can talk better with it.”

“Maybe I can listen better,” said Samuel.

While Lee went to the kitchen Samuel asked, “Adam, did you know about this?”

“No,” said Adam. “He didn’t tell me. Maybe I wasn’t listening.”

Lee came back with his stone bottle and three little porcelain cups so thin and delicate that the light shone through them. “Dlinkee Chinee fashion,” he said and poured the almost black liquor. “There’s a lot of wormwood in this. It’s quite a drink,” he said. “Has about the same effect as absinthe if you drink enough of it.”

Samuel sipped the drink. “I want to know why you were so interested,” he said.

“Well, it seemed to me that the man who could conceive this great story would know exactly what he wanted to say and there would be no confusion in his statement.”

“You say ‘the man.’ Do you then not think this is a divine book written by the inky finger of God?”

“I think the mind that could think this story was a curiously divine mind. We have had a few such minds in China too.”

“I just wanted to know,” said Samuel. “You’re not a Presbyterian after all.”

“I told you I was getting more Chinese. Well, to go on, I went to San Francisco to the headquarters of our family association. Do you know about them? Our great families have centers where any member can get help or give it. The Lee family is very large. It takes care of its own.”

“I have heard of them,” said Samuel.

“You mean Chinee hatchet man fightee Tong war over slave girl?”

“I guess so.”

“It’s a little different from that, really,” said Lee. “I went there because in our family there are a number of ancient reverend gentlemen who are great scholars. They are thinkers in exactness. A man may spend many years pondering a sentence of the scholar you call Confucius. I thought there might be experts in meaning who could advise me.

“They are fine old men. They smoke their two pipes of opium in the afternoon and it rests and sharpens them, and they sit through the night and their minds are wonderful. I guess no other people have been able to use opium well.”

Lee dampened his tongue in the black brew. “I respectfully submitted my problem to one of these sages, read him the story, and told him what I understood from it. The next night four of them met and called me in. We discussed the story all night long.”

Lee laughed. “I guess it’s funny,” he said. “I know I wouldn’t dare tell it to many people. Can you imagine four old gentlemen, the youngest is over ninety now, taking on the study of Hebrew? They engaged a learned rabbi. They took to the study as though they were children. Exercise books, grammar, vocabulary, simple sentences. You should see Hebrew written in Chinese ink with a brush! The right to left didn’t bother them as much as it would you, since we write up to down. Oh, they were perfectionists! They went to the root of the matter.”

“And you?” said Samuel.

“I went along with them, marveling at the beauty of their proud clean brains. I began to love my race, and for the first time I wanted to be Chinese. Every two weeks I went to a meeting with them, and in my room here I covered pages with writing. I bought every known Hebrew dictionary. But the old gentlemen were always ahead of me. It wasn’t long before they were ahead of our rabbi; he brought a colleague in. Mr. Hamilton, you should have sat through some of those nights of argument and discussion. The questions, the inspection, oh, the lovely thinking—the beautiful thinking.

“After two years we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too—‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Do thou.’ And this was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ ‘Thou mayest rule over sin.’ The old gentlemen smiled and nodded and felt the years were well spent. It brought them out of their Chinese shells too, and right now they are studying Greek.”

Samuel said, “It’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?”

Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”

“Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?”

“Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.

Adam said, “Do you believe that, Lee?”

“Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?”

Adam said, “Do you mean these Chinese men believe the Old Testament?”

Lee said, “These old men believe a true story, and they know a true story when they hear it. They are critics of truth. They know that these sixteen verses are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race. They do not believe a man writes fifteen and three-quarter verses of truth and tells a lie with one verb. Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this—this is a ladder to climb to the stars.” Lee’s eyes shone. “You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness.”

Adam said, “I don’t see how you could cook and raise the boys and take care of me and still do all this.”

“Neither do I,” said Lee. “But I take my two pipes in the afternoon, no more and no less, like the elders. And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed— because ‘Thou mayest.’”
- John Steinbeck, "East of Eden"

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Meaning of "Sentient" Life...

Nietzsche, "Will to Power: 482" (1886-1887)
We set up a word at the point at which our ignorance begins, at which we can see no further, e.g., the word "I," the word "do," the word "suffer":--these are perhaps the horizon of our knowledge, but not "truths."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

ANTIFA Goes Full Terrorist

from Wikipedia:
Rojava (/ˌroʊʒəˈvɑː/ ROH-zhə-VAH; Kurdish: [roʒɑˈvɑ] "the West") is a de facto autonomous region originating in and consisting of three self-governing cantons in northern Syria,[6] namely Afrin Canton, Jazira Canton and Kobanî Canton, as well as adjacent areas of northern Syria like Shahba region.[7] The region gained its de facto autonomy as part of the ongoing Rojava conflict and the wider Syrian Civil War, establishing and gradually expanding a secular polity[8][9] based on the democratic confederalism principles of democratic socialism, gender equality, and sustainability.[3][10][6][11]

Also known as Syrian Kurdistan[12] or Western Kurdistan (Kurdish: ‎Rojavayê Kurdistanê),[13] Rojava is regarded by Kurdish nationalists as one of the four parts of Greater Kurdistan, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), and northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan).[14] However, Rojava is polyethnic and home to sizable ethnic Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and Turkmen populations, with smaller communities of ethnic Armenians, Circassians and Chechens.[15][16] This diversity is mirrored in its constitution, society and politics.[17]

On 17 March 2016, its de facto administration self-declared the establishment of a federal system of government as the Democratic Federation of Rojava – Northern Syria
(Kurdish: ‎Federaliya Demokratîk a Rojava - Bakurê Sûriyê; Arabic: الفدرالية الديمقراطية لروج آفا - شمال سوريا‎, translit. al-Fidirāliyya al-Dīmuqrāṭiyya li-Rūjāvā - Šamāl Suriyā‎; Syriac: ܦܕܪܐܠܝܘܬ݂ܐ ܕܝܡܩܪܐܛܝܬܐ ܠܓܙܪܬܐ ܒܓܪܒܝܐ ܕܣܘܪܝܐ‎, translit. ‎Federaloyotho Demoqraṭoyto l'Gozarto b'Garbyo d'Suriya; sometimes abbreviated as NSR).[18][19][20][21] While entertaining some foreign relations, the NSR is not officially recognized as autonomous by the government of Syria[22][23] or any international state or organization. The protagonists of the NSR consider its constitution a model for a federalized Syria as a whole.[24] The updated December 2016 constitution of the polity uses the name Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Kurdish: ‎Federaliya Demokratîk a Bakûrê Sûriyê; Arabic: ‎الفدرالية الديمقراطية لشمال سوريا‎, translit. al-Fidirāliyya al-Dīmuqrāṭiyya li-Šamāl Suriyā‎; Syriac: ܦܕܪܐܠܝܘܬ݂ܐ ܕܝܡܩܪܐܛܝܬܐ ܕܓܪܒܝ ܣܘܪܝܐ‎, translit. Federaloyotho Demoqraṭoyto d'Garbay Suriya).[25][26][27][28]

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lynchean Moods

I said unto myself, if I were dead,
What would befall these children? What would be
Their fate, who now are looking up to me
For help and furtherance? Their lives, I said,
Would be a volume wherein I have read
But the first chapters, and no longer see
To read the rest of their dear history,
So full of beauty and so full of dread.
Be comforted; the world is very old,
And generations pass, as they have passed,
A troop of shadows moving with the sun;
Thousands of times has the old tale been told;
The world belongs to those who come the last,
They will find hope and strength as we have done.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, May 22, 2017

Turkey Blames the US?

from the Washington Post
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s foreign ministry on Monday lodged a formal protest with the U.S. ambassador to Ankara over what it said were “lapses of security” during a violent confrontation between protesters and Turkish bodyguards during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington earlier this month.

The summoning of the ambassador, John Bass, sharply escalated a diplomatic rift between Turkey and the United States after the brawl, which prompted outrage in the United States, as well as calls for the prosecution of the Turkish guards and even the expulsion of the Turkey’s ambassador in D.C.

American and Turkish officials have provided directly contrasting versions of how the violence unfolded. Local police officials said the Turkish guards savagely attacked a peaceful protest outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence as Erdogan was visiting. The melee, which was recorded by video journalists, showed what appeared to be Turkish security guards kicking and choking protesters as the D.C. police struggled to contain the unrest. The footage also showed that Erdogan was watching, from a distance, as the fighting raged.

Turkish diplomats have criticized the local police for failing to quell an “unpermitted” and “provocative” demonstration.

The Turkish foreign ministry’s statement on Monday went even further, criticizing “the inability of U.S. authorities to take sufficient precautions at every stage of the official program.” And it demanded that the United States conduct a “full investigation of this diplomatic incident and provide the necessary explanation.”

The spiraling argument appeared to undermine what by all accounts had been a friendly meeting between Erdogan and President Trump before the violence at the protest. In a joint press appearance at the White House, the two leaders were full of mutual praise and spoke of hopes for a closer and more productive relationship.

But the rift has also laid bare policy disagreements, particularly over the war in Syria, that have stirred tensions in the relationship between the two allies. Turkey has been angered by the Trump Administration’s decision to arm a Kurdish force to fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria as a military partner with the U.S. Turkey says the group is an arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey and the U.S.

Kurdish activists were among the protesters in D.C. on May 16 outside the ambassador’s residence, according to footage of the violence. Some held signs in support of Selahattin Demirtas, the co-leader of a pro-Kurdish political party who is currently in prison and facing prosecution in Turkey. Others held the flag of the YPG, the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish force.

It is not clear from the footage exactly what set off the melee, but Turkish security guards, as well as men in suits who were standing among a pro-Erdogan contingent can be seen attacking the protesters, including repeatedly kicking a man who lay prone on the ground. Another video shows that Erdogan himself watched the protest, after emerging from his car in the ambassador’s driveway.

Turkey’s semiofficial state Anadolu news agency on Saturday released its own, edited video version of the protest that it said showed the genesis of the attack: a water bottle, thrown by a protester.

Friday, May 19, 2017

America's Political System...

Maybe I listen more than you think
I can tell that somebody sold you
We said we've never let anyone in
We said we'd only die of lonely secrets

The system only dreams in total darkness
Why are you hiding from me?
We're in a different kind of thing now
All night you're talking to God

I thought that this would all work out after a while
Now you're saying that I'm asking for too much attention
Loss of no other faith is light enough for this place
We said we'd only die of lonely secrets

The system only dreams in total darkness
Why are you hiding from me?
We're in a different kind of thing now
All night you're talking to God

I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way

The system only dreams in total darkness
Why are you hiding from me?
We're in a different kind of thing now
All night you're talking to God

I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way

I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The New Universalism...?

Slavoj Zizek, "Only a New Universalism Can Save Us from the New World Order"
Slavoj Zizek is International Director at the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities, University of London, and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His most recent book is Disparities.

The lesson of the recent referendum in Turkey is a very sad one.

After Recep Tayyip Erdogan's dubious victory, Western liberal media were full of critical analyses: the century of the Kemalist endeavour to secularize Turkey is over; the Turkish voters were offered not so much a democratic choice as a referendum to limit democracy and voluntarily endorse an authoritarian regime.

However, more important and less noticed was the subtle ambiguity of many Western reactions - an ambiguity which recalls the ambiguity of Trump's politics towards Israel: even while he stated that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, many of his supporters are openly anti-Semitic.

But is this really an inconsistent stance?

A cartoon published back in July 2008 in the Viennese daily Die Presse depicted two stocky Nazi-looking Austrians sit at a table, and one of them holding a newspaper and commenting to his friend: "Here you can see again how a totally justified anti-Semitism is being misused for a cheap critique of Israel!"

This caricature thereby inverts the standard argument against the critics of the policies of the State of Israel. But when today's Christian fundamentalist supporters of Israeli politics reject Leftist critiques of Israeli policies, is their implicit line of argumentation not uncannily close to its reasoning?

Remember Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-immigrant mass murderer: he was anti-Semitic, but pro-Israel, since he saw in the State of Israel the first line of defence against the Muslim expansion; he even wanted to see the Jerusalem Temple rebuilt, but he wrote in his "Manifesto":
"There is no Jewish problem in Western Europe (with the exception of the UK and France) as we only have 1 million in Western Europe, whereas 800,000 out of these 1 million live in France and the UK. The US on the other hand, with more than 6 million Jews (600% more than Europe) actually has a considerable Jewish problem."
His figures thus realize the ultimate paradox of the Zionist anti-Semite - and we find the traces of this strange stance more often than one would expect. Reinhard Heydrich himself, the mastermind of the Holocaust, wrote in 1935:
"We must separate the Jews into two categories, the Zionists and the partisans of assimilation. The Zionists profess a strictly racial concept and, through emigration to Palestine, they help to build their own Jewish State ... our good wishes and our official goodwill go with them."
As Frank Ruda has pointed out, today we are getting a new version of this Zionist anti-Semitism: Islamophobic respect for Islam. The same politicians who warn of the danger of the Islamisation of the Christian West - from Trump to Putin - respectfully congratulated Erdogan for his victory. The authoritarian reign of Islam is fine for Turkey, it would seem, but not for us.

We can thus easily imagine a new version of the cartoon from Die Presse, with two stocky Nazi-looking Austrians sitting at a table, one of them holding a newspaper and commenting: "Here you can see again how a totally justified Islamophobia is being misused for a cheap critique of Turkey!"

(Samuel) Huntington's Disease

How are we to understand this weird logic? It is a reaction, a false cure, to the great social disease of our time: Huntington's. Typically, the first symptoms of Huntington's disease are jerky, random and uncontrollable movements called chorea. Chorea may initially manifest as general restlessness, small unintentional or uncompleted motions, lack of coordination.

Does an explosion of brutal populism not look quite similar? It begins with what appear to be random acts of excessive violence against immigrants, outbursts which lack coordination and merely express a general unease and restlessness apropos of "foreign intruders," but then it gradually grows into a well-coordinated and ideologically grounded movement: what the other Huntington (that is, Samuel) called "the clash of civilizations." This lucky coincidence is telling: what is usually referred to under this term is effectively the Huntington's disease of today's global capitalism.

According to Samuel Huntington, after the end of the Cold War, the "iron curtain of ideology" had been replaced by the "velvet curtain of culture." Huntington's dark vision of the "clash of civilizations" may appear to be the very opposite of Francis Fukuyama's bright prospect of the "End of History" in the guise of a world-wide liberal democracy. What could be more different from Fukuyama's pseudo-Hegelian idea that the final formula of the best possible social order was found in capitalist liberal democracy, than a "clash of civilizations" as the fundamental political struggle in the twenty-first century? How, then, do the two fit together?

From today's experience, the answer is clear: the "clash of civilizations" is politics at "the end of history." The ethnic-religious conflicts are the form of struggle which fits global capitalism: in our age of post-politics, when politics proper is progressively replaced by expert social administration, the only remaining legitimate source of conflicts are cultural (ethnic, religious) tensions. Today's rise of "irrational" violence is thus to be conceived as strictly correlative to the depoliticization of our societies - that is, to the disappearance of the political dimension proper, its translation into different levels of "administration" of social affairs.

"America First!"

If we accept this thesis concerning the "clash of civilizations," the only alternative to it remains the peaceful coexistence of civilizations (or of "ways of life" - a more popular term today): so forced marriages, misogynistic violence and homophobia are fine, just as long as they are confined to another country which is otherwise fully included in the world market.

The New World Order (NWO) that is emerging is thus no longer the Fukuyamaist NWO of global liberal democracy, but a NWO of the peaceful coexistence of different politico-theological ways of life - coexistence, of course, against the background of the smooth functioning of global capitalism. The obscenity of this process is that it can present itself as progress in the anti-colonial struggle: the liberal West will no longer be allowed to impose its standards on others; all ways of life will be treated as equal.

It is little wonder, then, that Robert Mugabe exhibited such sympathy for Trump's slogan "America first!": "America first!" for you, "Zimbabwe first!" for me, "India first!" or "North Korea first!" for them. This is already how the British Empire, the first global capitalist empire, functioned: each ethnic-religious community was allowed to pursue its own way of life (for instance, honour killings or the burning of widows by Hindus in India were permitted). While these local "customs" were either criticized as barbaric or praised for their premodern wisdom, they were tolerated because what mattered was that they remained economically part of the Empire.

There is thus something deeply hypocritical about those liberals who criticize the slogan "America first!" - as if this is not more or less what every country is doing, as if America did not play a global role precisely because it suited its own interests. The underlying message of "America first!" is nonetheless a sad one: the American century is over; American exceptionalism is no more; America has resigned itself to being just one among the nations. The supreme irony is that the Leftists, who for a long time criticized the U.S. pretension to be the global policeman, may begin to long for the good old days when, hypocrisy notwithstanding, the United States imposed democratic standards onto the world.

There are already signs that this is happening. In the reactions to Trump's retaliatory missile strike on a Syrian army military base (as a punishment for the use of chemical weapons), the contradictions between those who oppose (and support) Trump exploded: the strike was applauded of some "human rights" liberals and rejected by some Republican conservative isolationists. In short, the paradox is that Trump is at his most dangerous when he acts most like Hillary Clinton.

We can see what "America first!" means in action from the following Reuters news report: "A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters' faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters." Yes, Putin's regime should be relentlessly criticized - but, in this case, has not the United States regularly done the same thing? Did a U.S. team not help Boris Yeltsin win a key election in Russia? And what about the United States' active support for the Maidan uprising in Ukraine?

This is "America first!" in practice: when they are doing it, it's a dangerous plot; when we are doing it, it's supporting democracy.

In this NWO, universality will more and more be reduced to tolerance - tolerance for different "ways of life." Following the formula of Zionist anti-Semitism, there will be no contradiction between imposing in our own countries the strictest "politically correct" pro-feminist rules and simultaneously rejecting any critique of the dark side of Islam as neocolonialist arrogance.

Between Private Capital and State Power

In this New World Order, there will be less and less place for figures like Julian Assange, who, in spite of all his problematic gestures, remains today's most powerful symbol of what Kant called "the public use of reason" - a space for public knowledge and debate outside of state control. No wonder that, against the expectations that Trump will show more leniency towards Assange, the new U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recently stated that the arrest of the Wikileaks founder was now a "priority."

It is well-known what lies ahead: Wikileaks will be proclaimed a terrorist organization, and rather than genuine advocates of public space like Assange, public figures which exemplify the privatization of our commons will predominate. The figure of Elon Musk is emblematic here: he belongs to the same series with Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, all "socially conscious" billionaires. They stand for global capital at its most seductive and "progressive" - which is to say, at its most dangerous.

Musk likes to warn about the threats that new technologies pose to human dignity and freedom - which, of course, doesn't prevent him from investing in a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, a company which is focussed on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interface with computing devices: "Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence."

Every technological innovation is always first presented like this, emphasizing its health or humanitarian benefits, which function to blind us to the more ominous implications and consequences: can we even imagine what new forms of control this so-called "neural lace" contains? This is why it is absolutely imperative to keep it out of the control of private capital and state power - that is, to render it totally accessible to public debate. Assange was right in his strangely ignored book on Google: to understand how our lives are regulated today, and how this regulation is experienced as our freedom, we have to focus on the shadowy collusion between private corporations which control our commons and secret state agencies.

Today's global capitalism can no longer afford a positive vision of emancipated humanity, even as an ideological dream. Fukuyamaist liberal-democratic universalism failed because of its own immanent limitations and inconsistencies, and populism is the symptom of this failure - its Huntington's disease. But the solution is not populist nationalism, Rightist or Leftist. The only solution is a new universalism - it is demanded by the problems humanity is confronting today, from ecological threats to refugee crises.

Protecting the New Commons

In his book What Happened in the Twentieth Century?, Peter Sloterdijk provides his own outline of what is to be done in twenty-first century, best encapsulated in the title of the first two essays in the book, "The Anthropocene" and "From the Domestication of Man to the Civilizing of Cultures."

"Anthropocene" designates a new epoch in the life of our planet in which we, humans, cannot any longer rely on the Earth as a reservoir ready to absorb the consequences of our productive activity: we cannot any longer afford to ignore the side effects (the collateral damage) of our productivity, which cannot any longer be reduced to the background of the figure of humanity. We have to accept that we live on a "Spaceship Earth," and are thus accountable for its conditions. Earth is no longer the impenetrable background/horizon of our productive activity, it emerges as an(other) finite object which we can inadvertently destroy or transform it to make it unliveable.

This means that, at the very moment when we become powerful enough to affect the most basic conditions of our life, we have to accept that we are just another animal species on a small planet. A new way to relate to our environs is necessary once we realize this: no longer a heroic worker expressing his/her creative potentials and drawing from the inexhaustible resources from his/her environs, but a much more modest agent collaborating with his/her environs, permanently negotiating a tolerable level of safety and stability.

So in order to establish this new mode of relating to our environs, a radical politico-economic change is necessary, what Sloterdijk calls "the domestication of the wild animal Culture."

Until now, each culture disciplined or educated its own members and guaranteed civic peace among them in the guise of state power, but the relationship between different cultures and states was permanently under the shadow of potential war, with each state of peace nothing more than a temporary armistice. As Hegel conceptualized it, the entire ethic of a state culminates in the highest act of heroism - namely, the readiness to sacrifice one's life for one's nation-state, which means that the wild barbarian relations between states serve as the foundation of the ethical life within a state. Today, is North Korea with it ruthless pursuit of nuclear weapons and rockets advanced enough to reach distant targets not the ultimate example of this logic of unconditional nation-state sovereignty?

However, the moment we fully accept the fact that we live on a Spaceship Earth, the task that urgently imposes itself is that of civilizing civilizations themselves, of imposing universal solidarity and cooperation among all human communities, a task rendered all the more difficult by the ongoing rise of sectarian religious and ethnic "heroic" violence and readiness to sacrifice oneself (and the world) for one's specific Cause.

The measures Sloterdijk proposes as necessary for the survival of humanity - the overcoming of capitalist expansionism, achieving broad international solidarity capable to forming an executive power ready to violate state sovereignty, and so on - are they not all measures destined to protect our natural and cultural commons? If they do not point towards some kind of reinvented Communism, if they do not imply a Communist horizon, then the term "Communism" has no meaning at all.

This is why the idea of the European Union is worth fighting for, despite of the misery of its actual existence: in today's global capitalist world, it offers the only model of a trans-national organization with the authority to limit national sovereignty and the capacity to guarantee a minimum of ecological and social welfare standards. Something that directly descends from the best traditions of European Enlightenment survives in it. Our - Europeans - duty is not to humiliate ourselves as the ultimate culprits of colonialist exploitation but to fight for this part of our legacy as vital for the survival of humanity.

Europe is more and more alone in the New World Order, dismissed as an old, exhausted, irrelevant, contingent, reduced to playing a secondary role in today's bit geo-political conflicts. As Bruno Latour recently put it: "L'Europe est seule, oui, mais seule l'Europe peut nous sauver." Europe is alone, yes, but Europe alone can save us.