Saturday, July 25, 2020

Tic-Toc - Capitalism's Engine: Infinitely Post-Postponed Enjoyment

a time taken
to breathe
undetermined
re-evaluate the world
take stock of thoughts
and reassess them
allow the soul to rest
the heart to sleep
and the mind to be free
time has it own value
time is limitless
and it will be taken
to breathe

Matthew Holloway, "Sabbatical"
Slavoj Zizek, "The Simple Things that are Hard to Do"
Traditional Marxists distinguished between Communism proper and Socialism as its first lower stage (where money and the state still exists and workers are paid wages, etc.). In the Soviet Union there was a debate in the 1960s about where they were in this regard, and the solution was that, although they were not yet in full Communism, they were also no longer in the lower stage (Socialism). So, they introduced a further distinction between lower and higher stage of Socialism… Is not something similar going on with the Covid pandemic? Until about a month ago, our media were full of warnings about the second, much stronger, wave in the Fall and Winter. With new spikes everywhere and numbers of infections growing again, the word is that this is not yet the second wave but just a strengthening of the first wave, which continues.

This classificatory confusion just confirms that the situation with Covid is getting serious, with cases exploding all around the world again. The time has come to take seriously simple truths like the one recently announced by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself. Rather, it’s the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels. We cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world. The Covid-19 pandemic is a test of global solidarity and global leadership. The virus thrives on division, but is thwarted when we unite.” To take this truth seriously means that one should take into account not only international divisions but also class divisions within each country: “The coronavirus has merely lifted the lid off the pre-existing pandemic of poverty. Covid-19 arrived in a world where poverty, extreme inequality and disregard for human life are thriving, and in which legal and economic policies are designed to create and sustain wealth for the powerful, but not end poverty.” Conclusion: we cannot contain the viral pandemic without also attacking the pandemic of poverty.

How to do this is, in principle, easy: we have enough means to reorganize healthcare adequately and so forth. However, to quote the last line of Brecht’s “In Praise of Communism” from his play Mother: “Er ist das Einfache, das schwer zu machen ist. / It is the simple thing, that is so hard to do.” There are many obstacles that make it so hard to do and, above all, the global capitalist order. But I want to focus here on the ideological obstacle, ideological in the sense of half-conscious, even unconscious, stances, prejudices, and fantasies that regulate our lives also (and especially) in the times of crisis. In short, I suggest that what is needed is a psychoanalytic theory of ideology.
Kronos
In my work, I often referred to a series of Louis Buñuel’s films that are built around the same central motif of the – to use Buñuel’s own words – “non-explainable impossibility of the fulfilment of a simple desire.” In L’Age d’or the couple wants to consummate their love, but they are again and again prevented by some stupid accident; in The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz the hero wants to accomplish a simple murder, but all his attempts fail; in The Exterminating Angel, after a party, a group of rich people cannot cross the threshold and leave the house; in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie two couples want to dine together, but unexpected complications always prevent the accomplishment of this simple wish; and finally, in That Obscure Object of Desire, we have the paradox of a woman who, through a series of tricks, postpones again and again the final moment of reunion with her old lover… Are things not quite similar with our reaction to the Covid pandemic? We all somehow know what has to be done, but weird fate prevents us from doing it.

Now that Covid infections are rising and people worry again, and new restrictive measures are announced, these measures are accompanied by an explicit or, at least, implicit proviso: but there will be no return to full lockdown, public life will go on… This proviso echoes a spontaneous outcry from many people: “I cannot take it (full lockdown) again. I want my normal life back!” Why? Was the lockdown a standstill without dialectics (to turn around Benjamin’s famous motto “dialectics at a standstill”)? Our social life is not at a standstill when we have to obey rules of isolation and quarantine: in such moments of (what may appear to be) a standstill things are radically changing. The rejection of the lockdown is the rejection of change.

To ignore this means nothing less than a kind of collective psychosis. I hear in the outcries against lockdown an unexpected confirmation of Jacques Lacan’s claim that normality is a version of psychosis. To demand a return to normality today implies a psychotic foreclosure of the real of virus. We go on acting as if the infection doesn’t really take place. Look at Donald Trump’s latest speeches: although he knows about the true scope of the pandemic, he talks and acts as if he doesn’t know, ferociously attacking “Leftist Fascists” as the main threat to the US today. But Trump is much less of an exception here than we think. As we regularly read in the news: “In spite of new spikes of infection, the opening continues…” In an unsurpassable bit of irony, return to normality thus becomes the supreme psychotic gesture, the sign of collective madness.

This, of course, is not the whole truth about the psychic impact of an epidemic. In an epoch of crisis, the big Other (the substantial symbolic order that regulates our interactions) is simultaneously disintegrating, displaying its inefficiency, and strengthening, bombarding us with exact orders on how to act, on what to do, or not to do. That is to say, psychotic foreclosure is not the only or even the predominant reaction to the epidemics. There is also the wide-spread obsessional stance[1]: many of us enjoy the protective rituals against the danger of infection. We compulsively wash our hands, don’t touch others or even ourselves, and clean all surfaces in our apartments. This is how obsessionals act: since the Thing-Enjoyment is prohibited, they perform a reflexive turn and start to enjoy the very measures that keep the Thing-Enjoyment at a proper distance.

Here, Jacqueline Rose made a critical point against me during a Birkbeck Summer School debate: “How do you square the release of obscenity, even psychosis, into public political space and your account of the progressive elements of the moment? Can ethics defeat obscenity? I fear that the whole of psychoanalysis suggests not.”

I think things are more complex. Perverse obscenity is not the moment when the unconscious erupts into the open without any ethical regulations to constrain it. Freud already wrote that, in perversion, the unconscious is most difficult to access, which is why it is almost impossible to psychoanalyze perverts. They have to be first hystericized; their assurances should be weakened by the rise of hysterical questions. I think that what we are witnessing now, when the pandemic just drags on, is precisely such a gradual hystericization of those who assumed a perverse or even a psychotic position. Trump and other new Right populists are breaking down, getting nervous, their reactions more and more inconsistent, self-contradictory, haunted by question marks. To return to Rose: I think that obscenity itself already relies on a certain ethics: it follows a certain stance, which cannot but be designated as ethical. Those who act obscenely want to shock people with their acts and, in this way, awaken them from their everyday illusions. The way to overcome this ethics of obscenity is to bring out its inconsistencies: those who act obscenely have their own taboos; they are never as radical as they think they are. There is no politician today more constrained by the repression of his unconscious than Trump, precisely when he pretends to act and speak with sincere openness, saying what comes to his mind.

Rose’s pessimism is justified, but at a slightly different level. Hegel didn’t just say that we learn nothing from history; he wrote that the only thing we can learn from history is that there is nothing to learn from it. Of course, we “learn from history” in the sense of reacting to past catastrophes, of including them into narratives of a possible better future. Say, after the First World War, people were utterly horrified and they formed the League of Nations to prevent future wars. But it was followed by the Second World War. I am here a Hegelian pessimist: every work of mourning, every symbolization of a catastrophe, misses something and thus opens a path towards a new catastrophe. And it doesn’t help if we know the danger that lies ahead. Just think about the myth of Oedipus: his parents knew what would happen, and the catastrophe happened because they tried to avoid it… Without the prophecy telling them what would happen, no catastrophe would have happened.
Aion
I just think that our acts are never self-transparent, in the sense that we never know what we are doing nor what the effects of what we are doing will be. Hegel was fully aware of this and what he called “reconciliation” is not a triumph of reason but the acceptance of the tragic dimension of our activity: we have to accept humbly the consequences of our acts even if we didn’t want this to happen. The Russian Communists didn’t want Stalinist terror, this was not part of their plans, but it did happen and they are in some way responsible for it. What if it will be the same with the corona-pandemic? What if some of the measures we are taking to fight it will give birth to new catastrophes?

This is how we should apply Hegel’s idealism to the reality of Covid. Here, also, we should bear in mind Lacan’s claim that there is no reality without a phantasmatic support. Fantasies provide the frame of what we experience as reality. The Covid pandemic as a fact of our social reality is, therefore, also a mixture of the real and fantasies: the whole frame of how we perceive it and react to it is sustained by different fantasies about the nature of the virus itself, about the causes of its social impact, etc. Already the fact that Covid almost brought the world to a standstill at a time when many more people were dying of pollution, hunger, and similar things, clearly indicates this phantasmatic dimension. We tend to forget that there are people – refugees, those caught in a civil war – for whom the Covid pandemic is a negligible minor trouble.

Does this mean that there is no hope? Etienne Balibar wrote against me, also during a Birkbeck Summer School debate: “The idea that just because the crisis is a ‘great’ crisis (which I would agree with), all the ‘struggles’ are potentially merging into a unique revolutionary movement (provided we cry ‘unite! unite!’ loud enough), strikes me as a little childish… there remain some obstacles! people must survive first…” But I think something like a new form of Communism will have to emerge precisely if we want to survive!

If the past few weeks have demonstrated anything, it is that global capitalism cannot contain the Covid crisis. Why not? As Todd MacGowan pointed out,[2] capitalism is in its core sacrificial. Instead of immediately consuming the profit we should re-invest it, and full satisfaction is forever postponed. In the finale of Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni triumphantly sings: “Giacché spendo i miei danari, io mi voglio divertir. / Since I spend my money freely, I want to be amused.” It is difficult to imagine a more anti-capitalist motto. A capitalist doesn’t spend his money to be amused but to get more money. However, this sacrifice is not experienced as such. It is concealed: we sacrifice now for a later profit.

With the Covid pandemic, the sacrificial truth of capitalism came out. How so? We are openly asked to sacrifice (some of) our lives now to keep the economy going, by which I am referring to how some of Trump’s followers directly demanded that people over 60 should accept to die to keep the US capitalist way of life alive… Of course, workers in dangerous professions (miners, steelworkers, whale hunters) were risking their lives for centuries, not to mention the horrors of colonization where up to half of the indigenous population was wiped out. But now the risk is directly spelled out and not only for the poor. Can capitalism survive this shift? I think it cannot: it undermines the logic of an endlessly postponed enjoyment that enables it to function.

The obverse of the incessant capitalist drive to produce new and new objects are the growing piles of useless waste, piled mountains of used cars, computers, and so on, like the famous airplane “resting place” in the Mojave desert in California. In these ever-growing piles of dysfunctional ‘stuff’, which cannot but strike us with their useless, inert presence, one can, as it were, perceive the capitalist drive at rest. And did something like that not happen to all of us when, with the quarantine, our social life came to a standstill? We saw objects we used every day – stores, cafeterias, buses and trains and planes – just resting there, closed, deprived of their function. Was this not a kind of epoché imposed on us in our actual life? Such moments should make us think: is it really worth to return to the smooth functioning of the same system?

However, the true ordeal is not so much the lockdown and isolation. It begins now, when our societies start to move again. I already compared the effect of the Covid pandemic on the global capitalist order to the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique” from the final scene of Tarantino’s Kill Bill 2. The move consists of a combination of five strikes with one’s fingertips to five different pressure points on the target’s body: the target can go on living and talking if he doesn’t move, but after he stands up and takes five steps, his heart explodes… Is this not how the Covid pandemic affected global capitalism? Lockdown and isolation are relatively easy to sustain, as we are aware that it is a temporary measure like taking a break. Problems explode, nonetheless, when we have to invent a new form of life, since there is no return to the old. In other words, the really difficult time is coming now.
Kairos
In a yet unpublished essay “Present Tense 2020,” W.J.T. Mitchell reads the temporality of epidemics through the lenses of the Ancient Greek triad of Kronos, Aion, and Kairos. Kronos personifies the implacable linear time that leads inexorably toward the death of every living thing. Aion is the god of circular time, of the seasons and the cycle of the zodiac, and the serpent with the tail in its mouth, and the eternal return. Kairos has a double aspect of a threat and a promise: in Christian theology, it is the moment of fateful decision, the moment when “newness comes into the world,” as in the birth of Christ.

The pandemic is mostly read through the lenses of Kronos or Aion: as an event in the linear run of things, as a moment of a bad season, a low point, which will sooner or later turn around. What I am hoping is that the pandemic will follow the logic of Kairos: a catastrophe which will compel us to find a new beginning. For our liberals, the unexpected appearance of Trump was a moment of Kairos: something new shattered the foundations of our established order. I think Trump is just a symptom of what was already wrong in our societies, and we are still waiting for the new to emerge.

If we don’t invent a new mode of social life, it will not be just a little bit worse than before, but much worse. Again, my hypothesis is that the Covid pandemic announces a new epoch, in which we will have to rethink everything, including the basic meaning of being-human, and our actions should follow thinking. Maybe, today we should turn around Marx’s Thesis XI on Feuerbach: in the twentieth century, we tried to change the world too rapidly, and the time has come to interpret it in a new way.
Notes:

[1] I owe this point to Matthew Flisfeder, personal communication.

[2] Todd McGowan, personal communication.
Georgio Vasari and Christofano Gherardi, "The Mutilation of Ouranos by Saturn"
Then Jesus said unto them, "My time (kairos) is not yet come: but your time (kairos) is always ready."
(John 7:6)
“The kairos has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel!’”
Mark 1: 14-15
On the third day there was a wedding* in Cana* in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour (kairos) has not yet come.
John 2:1-4
I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."

His disciples said, "Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God."

Jesus answered them, "Do you believe now? Behold, the hour (kairos) is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."

When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour (kairos) has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.
John 16:28-33 and John 17:1-2

...More... On Capitalism's "Biga"

btw - Isn't Communism's engine the same... as the ultimately unattainable jouissancical goal of Socialism? How about "Social Security"?

On the 'Nature' of Left/ Right Populism

Slavoj Zizek, "Populism remains a version of the politics of fear"
Populism is ultimately always sustained by the frustrated exasperation of ordinary people, by the cry „I don’t know what is going on, but I’ve just had enough of it! It cannot go on! It must stop!“

Such impatient outbursts betray a refusal to understand or engage with the complexity of the situation, and give rise to the conviction that there must be somebody responsible for the mess – which is why some agent lurking behind the scenes is invariably required.

Therein, in this refusal-to-know, resides the properly fetishistic dimension of populism.

That is to say, although at a purely formal level fetishism involves a gesture of transference (onto the object-fetish), it functions as an exact inversion of the standard formula of transference (with the „subject supposed to know“): what fetishism gives body to is precisely my disavowal of knowledge, my refusal to subjectively assume what I know.

That is why, to put it in Nietzschean terms which are here highly appropriate, the ultimate difference between a truly radical emancipatory politics and a populist politics is that the former is active, it imposes and enforces its vision, while populism is fundamentally re-active, the result of a reaction to a disturbing intruder.

In other words, populism remains a version of the politics of fear: it mobilizes the crowd by stoking up fear of the corrupt external agent.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Boundary Physics

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Unanswered Question

The Unanswered Question is a musical work by American composer Charles Ives. Originally paired with Central Park in the Dark as Two Contemplations in 1908. The Unanswered Question was revived by Ives in 1930--1935. As with many of Ives' works, it was largely unknown until much later in his life, and was not performed until 1946.

Against a background of slow, quiet strings representing "The Silence of the Druids", a solo trumpet poses "The Perennial Question of Existence", to which a woodwind quartet of "Fighting Answerers" tries vainly to provide an answer, growing more frustrated and dissonant until they give up. The three groups of instruments perform in independent tempos and are placed separately on the stage—the strings offstage.
---
The Sphinx is drowsy,
The wings are furled;
Her ear is heavy,
She broods on the world.
"Who'll tell me my secret,
The ages have kept?--
I awaited the seer,
While they slumbered and slept;--

"The fate of the man-child;
The meaning of man;
Known fruit of the unknown;
Daedalian plan;
Out of sleeping a waking,
Out of waking a sleep;
Life death overtaking;
Deep underneath deep?

"Erect as a sunbeam,
Upspringeth the palm;
The elephant browses,
Undaunted and calm;
In beautiful motion
The thrush plies his wings;
Kind leaves of his covert,
Your silence he sings.

"The waves, unashamed,
In difference sweet,
Play glad with the breezes,
Old playfellows meet;
The journeying atoms,
Primordial wholes,
Firmly draw, firmly drive,
By their animate poles.

"Sea, earth, air, sound, silence,
Plant, quadruped, bird,
By one music enchanted,
One deity stirred,--
Each the other adorning,
Accompany still;
Night veileth the morning,
The vapor the hill.

"The babe by its mother
Lies bathed in joy;
Glide its hours uncounted,--
The sun is its toy;
Shines the peace of all being,
Without cloud, in its eyes;
And the sum of the world
In soft miniature lies.

"But man crouches and blushes,
Absconds and conceals;
He creepeth and peepeth,
He palters and steals;
Infirm, melancholy,
Jealous glancing around,
An oaf, an accomplice,
He poisons the ground.

"Outspoke the great mother,
Beholding his fear;--
At the sound of her accents
Cold shuddered the sphere:--
'Who has drugged my boy's cup?
Who has mixed my boy's bread?
Who, with sadness and madness,
Has turned the man-child's head?'"

I heard a poet answer,
Aloud and cheerfully,
"Say on, sweet Sphinx! thy dirges
Are pleasant songs to me.
Deep love lieth under
These pictures of time;
They fad in the light of
Their meaning sublime.

"The fiend that man harries
Is love of the Best;
Yawns the pit of the Dragon,
Lit by rays from the Blest.
The Lethe of nature
Can't trace him again,
Whose soul sees the perfect,
Which his eyes seek in vain.

"Profounder, profounder,
Man's spirit must dive;
To his aye-rolling orbit
No goal will arrive;
The heavens that now draw him
With sweetness untold,
Once found,--for new heavens
He spurneth the old.

"Pride ruined the angels,
Their shame them restores;
And the joy that is sweetest
Lurks in stings of remorse.
Have I a lover
Who is noble and free?--
I would he were nobler
Than to love me.

"Eterne alternation
Now follows, now flied;
And under pain, pleasure,--
Under pleasure, pain lies.
Love works at the centre,
Heart-heaving alway;
Forth speed the strong pulses
To the borders of day.

"Dull Sphinx, Jove keep thy five wits!
Thy sight is growing blear;
Rue, myrrh, and cummin for the Sphinx--
Her muddy eyes to clear!"--
The old Sphinx bit her thick lip,--
Said, "Who taught thee me to name?
I am thy spirit, yoke-fellow,
Of thine eye I am eyebeam.

"Thou art the unanswered question;
Couldst see they proper eye,
Alway it asketh, asketh;
And each answer is a lie.
So take thy quest through nature,
It through thousand natures ply;
Ask on, thou clothed eternity;
Time is the false reply."

Uprose the merry Sphinx,
And crouched no more in stone;
She melted into purple cloud,
She silvered in the moon;
She spired into a yellow flame;
She flowered in blossoms red;
She flowed into a foaming wave;
She stood Monadnoc's head.

Through a thousand voices
Spoke the universal dame:
"Who telleth one of my meanings,
Is master of all I am."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Sphinx"

Db Multiculturalism: The Bridge to a Global Future through Historical Deconstruction/ Simplification/ Beautification - Context and Poetic Deletion?

Cultural Modification thru Historical Obscuration/ Increased Ambiguity and Appeals to Local/ Regional Subgroup Identification for a New & more 'Harmonic'/'Global' Cultural Authenticity
Juliet is the Sun. Hegelian Thesis:Antithesis:Synthesis inspired from the 'musical' and Bernsteinian 'deconstructing logic' analysis post below.
from "The Unanswered Question", Leonard Bernstein @ Harvard (1973)
Constructing Equality example:

Logical - Juliet is beautiful and radiant, and the sun - a star - is also beautiful and radiant, so Juliet is like the sun in terms of their beauty and radiance. (logical)

A logical Reduction through deletion -

Juliet is radiant like the sun.

An illogical Reduction through poetic deletion and harmonization -x2

Juliet is the sun.

Things tend to become more beautiful when you remove what is not necessary for their beauty even if it not logical.

---

Tipping the 'Goodly' scales toward Beauty - Decreasing truth to increase beauty. Creating Global Db/G/F Subcultures

Plato, "Philebus" And now we are at the vestibule of the good, in which there are three chief elements— truth, symmetry, and beauty. De-Uglification: Just another 'Noble Lie'?

Db Cultures - Ipanema Beach in Our "Authentic" (F Key) American Hegemonic Age


Friday, July 17, 2020

Soul's Warning

SOCRATES: Your love of discourse, Phaedrus, is superhuman, simply marvellous, and I do not believe that there is any one of your contemporaries who has either made or in one way or another has compelled others to make an equal number of speeches. I would except Simmias the Theban, but all the rest are far behind you. And now I do verily believe that you have been the cause of another.

PHAEDRUS: That is good news. But what do you mean?

SOCRATES: I mean to say that as I was about to cross the stream the usual sign was given to me,—that sign which always forbids, but never bids, me to do anything which I am going to do; and I thought that I heard a voice saying in my ear that I had been guilty of impiety, and that I must not go away until I had made an atonement. Now I am a diviner, though not a very good one, but I have enough religion for my own use, as you might say of a bad writer—his writing is good enough for him; and I am beginning to see that I was in error. O my friend, how prophetic is the human soul! At the time I had a sort of misgiving, and, like Ibycus, 'I was troubled; I feared that I might be buying honour from men at the price of sinning against the gods.' Now I recognize my error.

PHAEDRUS: What error?

SOCRATES: That was a dreadful speech which you brought with you, and you made me utter one as bad.

PHAEDRUS: How so?

SOCRATES: It was foolish, I say,—to a certain extent, impious; can anything be more dreadful?

PHAEDRUS: Nothing, if the speech was really such as you describe.

SOCRATES: Well, and is not Eros the son of Aphrodite, and a god?

PHAEDRUS: So men say.

SOCRATES: But that was not acknowledged by Lysias in his speech, nor by you in that other speech which you by a charm drew from my lips. For if love be, as he surely is, a divinity, he cannot be evil. Yet this was the error of both the speeches. There was also a simplicity about them which was refreshing; having no truth or honesty in them, nevertheless they pretended to be something, hoping to succeed in deceiving the manikins of earth and gain celebrity among them. Wherefore I must have a purgation. And I bethink me of an ancient purgation of mythological error which was devised, not by Homer, for he never had the wit to discover why he was blind, but by Stesichorus, who was a philosopher and knew the reason why; and therefore, when he lost his eyes, for that was the penalty which was inflicted upon him for reviling the lovely Helen, he at once purged himself. And the purgation was a recantation, which began thus,—
'False is that word of mine—the truth is that thou didst not embark in ships, nor ever go to the walls of Troy;'
and when he had completed his poem, which is called 'the recantation,' immediately his sight returned to him. Now I will be wiser than either Stesichorus or Homer, in that I am going to make my recantation for reviling love before I suffer; and this I will attempt, not as before, veiled and ashamed, but with forehead bold and bare.

PHAEDRUS: Nothing could be more agreeable to me than to hear you say so.
Plato, "Phaedrus"

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
-Wordsworth

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

COVID19 Scaremongers Cockblock Nation...

...but where are all the bodies being hidden?
Issues & Insights
The media and many politicians inside the Democratic Party continue to shriek over the recent jump in the number of recorded coronavirus cases, seeking to keep the economy closed at all costs — and we mean that literally. Don’t fall for the argument. The data show that, in fact, our pandemic nightmare might well be coming to an end.

OK, you say, Issues & Insights, how can you say such a thing with so little to back it up?

Well, firstly, it’s not actually us saying this. It’s the Centers for Disease Control, which reported that the death rate has fallen so far it’s now roughly equal to the threshold for even qualifying as an epidemic, which isn’t as severe as a pandemic.

“Based on death certificate data, the percentage of (total U.S.) deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza or COVID-19 (PIC) decreased from 9% during week 25 to 5.9% during week 26,” the CDC noted, adding that this was the 10th-straight week of declining deaths.

While the “percentage is currently at the epidemic threshold,” additional data in coming weeks could change that, says the CDC.

As a piece on the informative Just The News web site explains, “That threshold for (deaths per week for) pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 fluctuates slightly depending on the time of year, ranging from around 7% at the height of flu season to around 5% during less virulent months.”

So the decline to 5.9% is truly great news, if the trend holds. We’ve reported this decline in COVID-19’s raw death rate before, by the way. The current CDC data compare favorably to the 5.7% average rate for the final 13 weeks of 2019.

And yet, here are some of the headlines we’ve read in just the past couple days in the Big Media:

“As Trump gaslights America about coronavirus, Republicans face a critical choice ” — CNN

“Despite Rising Coronavirus Cases, Trump’s Focus Appears To Be Elsewhere” — NPR

“The Economy Is Not Going Back to Normal” — Slate

“Coronavirus: FDA chief refuses to back Trump’s vaccine prediction” — BBC

“U.S. is still ‘knee-deep’ in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Fauci says” — CNN

“How America Lost the War on Covid-19” — New York Times

You get the idea? Not a hint of optimism, just relentless pessimism about COVID-19, politicized to the Nth degree to make Donald Trump look like a fool or sociopath.

And this is just a handful of examples which underscore that the media, with few exceptions steeped in hatred of all things Trump, have never been more negligent in performing their basic duty to inform their readers about COVID-19. And they’ve never been more politicized or biased.

We hope Americans remember this as the Trump-hating press continues its suicidal shift toward the far left of the political spectrum. To any serious consumer of fact-based news, our Big Media sadly have lost all credibility.

As far as coronavirus is concerned, it’s true that total cases continue to rise. But that’s a function of vastly increased testing, not of surging actual cases, as we’ve noted before.

It’s likely that the only real increase in cases in recent weeks has come from the largely unprotected masses of youngish people taking part in the George Floyd demonstrations, which began in late May and continued through June and into July.

This can be seen in the fact that new cases lean more heavily now toward the young, rather than the old, a strong sign that the youth-dominated demonstrations boosted infections. Not surprisingly, the media now blame Trump for this.

While we’re at it, we’d like to remind you that these are the same “peaceful demonstrators” who have trashed cities across the country for weeks. Just last weekend two people were killed at protests, which “progressive” Democrats supported and defended. Particularly tragic was the death of Secoreia Turner, an 8-year-old African American girl shot by anti-police demonstrators in Atlanta.

Yet, even while encouraging riots and violent demonstrations, irresponsible Democratic politicians have ordered average Americans to remain locked down in their homes and forced many businesses to stay closed, doing massive damage to the U.S. economy.

Why do this? COVID-19 is another tool for the left to gain social, economic and political control.

“It was never about the virus but instead the election,” Brian C. Joondeph, a medical doctor practicing in Denver, recently wrote at the American Thinker. “The so-called surge in cases is more fake news pushed by media cheerleaders eager to destroy the U.S. economy and culture if it makes Trump a one-term president.”

As we noted, the really major development is the continued decline in deaths. The virus’ spread is still “an epidemic to be sure, but an entirely manageable one,” as the PowerLine blog described it this week. We agree.

In the next few weeks, we’ll see whether the outbreak is truly finished. In the meantime, the political fear stampede over “soaring new coronarvirus cases” has to end. And when it does, we hope Americans call the left to account for its attempt to use a pandemic to destroy our republic.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Left is an Interpassive Bag Full of PC Laughter

Slavoj Zizek, "Politically correct white people who practise self-contempt are contributing NOTHING in the fight to end racism"
Smashing up monuments and disowning the past isn’t the way to address racism and show respect to black people. Feeling guilty patronizes the victims and achieves little.

It was widely reported in the media how on June 21, German authorities were shocked by a rampage of an “unprecedented scale” in the centre of Stuttgart: between 400 and 500 partygoers ran riot overnight, smashing shop windows, plundering stores and attacking police.

The police – who needed four and a half hours to quell the violence – ruled out any political motives for the “civil war-like scenes,” describing the perpetrators as people from the “party scene or events scene.” There were, of course, no bars or clubs for them to visit, because of social distancing – hence they were out on the streets.

Such civil disobedience has not been limited to Germany. On June 25, thousands packed out England’s beaches, ignoring social distancing. In Bournemouth, on the south coast, it was reported: “The area was overrun with cars and sunbathers, leading to gridlock. Rubbish crews also suffered abuse and intimidation as they tried to remove mountains of waste from the seafront, and there were a number of incidents involving excessive alcohol and fighting.”

One can blame these violent outbreaks on the immobility imposed by social distancing and quarantine, and it is reasonable to expect that we’ll see similar incidents across the world. You could argue that the recent wave of anti-racist protests follows a similar logic, too: people are relieved to deal with something they believe in to take their focus away from coronavirus.

We are, of course, dealing with very different types of violence here. On the beach, people simply wanted to enjoy their usual summer vacation, and reacted angrily against those who wanted to prevent it.

In Stuttgart, the enjoyment was generated by looting and destruction – by violence itself. But what we saw there was a violent carnival at its worst, an explosion of blind rage (although, as expected, some leftists tried to interpret it as a protest against consumerism and police control). The (largely non-violent) anti-racist protests simply ignored the orders of the authorities in pursuit of a noble cause.

Of course, these types of violence predominate in developed Western societies – we’re ignoring here the more extreme violence which is already happening and will for sure explode in countries like Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia. “This summer will usher in some of the worst catastrophes the world has ever seen if the pandemic is allowed to spread rapidly across countries already convulsed by growing violence, deepening poverty and the spectre of famine,” reported the Guardian earlier this week.

There is a key feature shared by the three types of violence in spite of their differences: none of them expresses a consistent socio-political program. The anti-racist protests might appear to, but they fail in so much as they are dominated by the politically correct passion to erase traces of racism and sexism – a passion which gets all too close to its opposite, neo-conservative thought-control.

The law approved on June 16 by Romanian lawmakers prohibits all educational institutions from “propagating theories and opinion on gender identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex.” Even Vlad Alexandrescu, a centre-right senator and university professor, noted that with this law, “Romania is aligning itself with positions promoted by Hungary and Poland and becoming a regime introducing thought policing.”

Directly prohibiting gender theory is, of course, part of the program of the populist new right, but now it has been given a new push by the pandemic. A typical new right populist reaction to the pandemic is that its outbreak is ultimately the result of our global society, where multicultural mixtures predominate. So the way to fight it is to make our societies more nationalist, rooted in a particular culture with firm, traditional values.

Let’s leave aside the obvious counter-argument that fundamentalist countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are being ravaged, and focus on the procedure of “thought policing,” whose ultimate expression was the infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books), a collection of publications deemed heretical or contrary to morality by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, so that Catholics were forbidden from reading them without permission.

This list was operative (and regularly updated) from early modernity until 1966, and everybody who counted in European culture was included at some point. As my friend Mladen Dolar noted some years ago, if you imagine European culture without all the books and authors who were at some point on the list, what remains is pure wasteland…

The reason I mention this is that I think the recent urge to cleanse our culture of all traces of racism and sexism courts the danger of falling into the same trap as the Catholic Church’s index. What remains if we discard all authors in whom we find some traces of racism and anti-feminism? Quite literally all the great philosophers and writers disappear.

Let’s take Descartes, who at one point was on the Catholic index, but is also regarded today by many as the philosophical originator of Western hegemony, which is eminently racist and sexist.

We should not forget that the grounding experience of Descartes’ position of universal doubt is precisely a ‘multicultural’ experience of how one’s own tradition is no better than what appears to us as the ‘eccentric’ traditions of others. As he wrote in his ‘Discourse on Method’, he recognized in the course of his travels that traditions and customs that “are very contrary to ours are yet not necessarily barbarians or savages, but may be possessed of reason in as great or even a greater degree than ourselves.”

This is why, for a Cartesian philosopher, ethnic roots and national identity are simply not a category of truth. This is also why Descartes was immediately popular among women: as one of his early readers put it, cogito – the subject of pure thinking – has no sex.

Today’s claims that sexual identities are socially constructed and not biologically determined are only possible against the background of Cartesian tradition; there is no modern feminism and anti-racism without Descartes’ thought.

So, in spite of his occasional lapses into racism and sexism, Descartes deserves to be celebrated, and we should apply the same criterion to all great names from our philosophical past: from Plato and Epicurus to Kant and Hegel, Marx and Kierkegaard… Modern feminism and anti-racism emerged out of this long emancipatory tradition, and it would be sheer madness to leave this noble tradition to obscene populists and conservatives.

And the same goes for many disputed political figures. Yes, Thomas Jefferson had slaves and opposed the Haiti revolution – but he laid the politico-ideological foundations for later black liberation. And yes, in invading the Americas, Western Europe did cause maybe the greatest genocide in world history. But European thought laid the politico-ideological foundation for us today to see the full scope of this horror.

And it’s not just about Europe: yes, while the young Gandhi fought in South Africa for equal rights for Indians, he ignored the predicament of the blacks. But he nonetheless successfully led the biggest anti-colonial movement.

So while we should be ruthlessly critical about our past (and especially the past which continues in our present), we should not succumb to self-contempt – respect for others based on self-contempt is always, and by definition, false.

The paradox is that in our societies, the white people who participate in anti-racist protests are mostly the upper-middle class white people who hypocritically enjoy their guilt. Perhaps these protesters should learn the lesson of Frantz Fanon, who certainly cannot be accused of not being radical enough:
“Every time a man has contributed to the victory of the dignity of the spirit, every time a man has said no to an attempt to subjugate his fellows, I have felt solidarity with his act. In no way does my basic vocation have to be drawn from the past of peoples of color. /…/ My black skin is not a repository for specific values. /…/ I as a man of color do not have the right to hope that in the white man there will be a crystallization of guilt toward the past of my race. I as a man of color do not have the right to seek ways of stamping down the pride of my former master. I have neither the right nor the duty to demand reparations for my subjugated ancestors. There is no black mission; there is no white burden. /.../ Am I going to ask today’s white men to answer for the slave traders of the seventeenth century? Am I going to try by every means available to cause guilt to burgeon in their souls? /…/ I am not a slave to slavery that dehumanized my ancestors."
The opposite of guilt (of the white men) is not tolerance for their continued politically correct racism, most famously demonstrated in the notorious Amy Cooper video that was filmed in New York’s Central Park.
In a conversation with academic Russell Sbriglia, he pointed out to me that “the strangest, most jarring part of the video is that she specifically says – both to the black man himself before she calls 911 and to the police dispatcher once she’s on the phone with them – that ‘an African American man’ is threatening her life. It’s almost as if, having mastered the proper, politically correct jargon (‘African American,’ not ‘black’), what she’s doing couldn’t possibly be racist.”

Instead of perversely enjoying our guilt (and thereby patronizing the true victims), we need active solidarity: guilt and victimhood immobilize us. Only all of us together, treating ourselves and each other as responsible adults, can beat racism and sexism.