Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hasta Luego

Ok World, Troutsky is off to Venezuela for a three week investigation into the practical realities behind this Bolivarian Revolution. Plane leaves at six am. I will bring everybody red berets back to this troubled, non-revolutionary land. There may be a pause in posting (Eric sighs with relief) but even though my wife is not so sure, I will return. There is much work to do here and hopefully I will have some new tools in my kit. If you see some old gringo with a grey goatee on TV, leading a march in Caracas, welll......

Monday, February 13, 2006

Masters of the Universe

“No one knows who will live in this cage of the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the last stage of this cultural development,it might well be truly said ‘specialist without spirit, sensualists without heart.’ This nullity imagines it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.”
Max Weber

“The more I think about this neo-liberal ideology the more it explains. Intelligent design, Debords concept of the Spectacle, the neo-con phenomena, even Foucaults concept of creating “governable” subjects through “bio-power” find inter-connectivity under this umbrella doctrine. Let’s see if I can explain it.
As mentioned in a previous post, neo-liberalism is anything but liberal. Engles explains how “Oppression by force was replaced by corruption; (this could be ideals, or language) the sword, as the first social lever was replaced by gold”. Conservative judge Janice Brown explains a guiding tenet of neo-liberalism as “the right to express ones individuality and essential human dignity through the free use of property is just as important as the right to do so through free speech, the press, exercise of religion” This is the philosophical side of this powerful new religion and power is the key to understanding it. Gold and property are distributed by the markets “invisible hand”, itself an emergent, self organizing principle, an “Intelligent Design” where this same market provides ethical guides for behavior and where Truth can be located. Just as in the education discourse, this economic “design” is couched in technocratic-empirico- scientific terminology, a façade of rationality to explain its strict hierarchical, reactionary structure. The neoliberal religion reserves a privileged social status for the Entrepreneur, that icon of aggressive, competitive social- Darwinian excellence. This Ann Rayndian exemplar dismisses systems or processes (such as democracy) and finds the concept of nations and corporations interchangeable. Market acts are social acts. The Good and Just are determined by their profitability. Neo-liberals exist to liberate us from liberalism.

How is this expropriation accomplished? Debord aptly called these “religious” forms a modern state system of “molecular, integral, invisible control.” Tocqueville believed “Modern tyranny leaves the body free and attacks the soul” Adorno said, “the deceived masses are today captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are. Immovably they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them.” This is the hegemonic control of Gramsci, the biopower of Foucault which is “exercised over members of a population so that their sexuality and their individuality are constituted in certain ways that are connected with issues of national policy, including the machinery of production. In this way populations can be controlled and adjusted in accordance with economic processes.” Governability, in the case of neoliberalism a religious force, is obtained not by a totalizing, deterministic or oppressive form of power but by bio-power. This molecular aspect of socialization is not limited to the conservative project, liberals and socialists are just as interested in the project of the “new man”, and the difference lies in the oppositional definitions of justice and their relationship to truth. This is not to say the use of force is banned, only that it is kept in reserve.

Liberalism, as a philosophy, emphasized the “improvability of men.” Rousseau gave fair warning that “He who dares to undertake the establishment of a people (as in WE the People) should feel that he is, so to speak, in a position to change human nature.” Conservatives (neo-liberals, neo-conservatives included) see instead fixed grades of men. Theirs is a rejection of modernity and a return to notions of an “honorable elite” of noblesse oblige, and a ruling order ordained by the rules of authority and tradition. In this Hobbesian world, men will always be pitted against one another, the project is to establish order and any moral consideration is bypassed for expediency. Obfuscation, the corruption of language, the discarding of truth and the unequal treatment of men are all necessary if somewhat brutish means to an end. Even slaughter, as distasteful as it may seem, may be a needed form of control in the last resort. In this cynical world view, to paraphrase Fuerbach, the sign is more efficient than the thing signified, the copy more effective than the original, representation can take the place of reality, appearance is more helpful than essence,” the truth is considered profane and only illusion is sacred. And neo-liberal is liberal.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Devils Spawn

Im trying to picture this Young College Republicans Club that spawned such viral infections as Jack Abramof, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed , Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and others.

They are sitting around Jacks dorm room, about 1970, getting pumped up for the John Birch Society meeting. Our Day Will Come, sung by Doris Day, is on the phonograph.
Scooter: What do you guys want to do till Duke gets here?
Jack: How about a little seven card stud? Texas hold-em? We’ll play high low split!
Grover: Hell with that. You cleaned my clock last week. Lets watch Birth of a Nation again.
Ralph: Im tired of that. Isnt there a Ronald Reagan movie on?
Ken Lay: Hey Bennet , Delay, why don’t you guys run get us some freedom fries, you fly Ill buy.
Tom: Kiss off Kenny. Call em up, I bet they got some Mexican or slope to deliver. We’ll tip him.
Jack: I got a tip for him. Go back to your village before we kick your ass!
Rove: Tone it down Jack, someday we may need the spic vote. Besides , he might have a sister he’d rent.
All: Ha,Ha Ha ,Ha HAHA!

Now Im trying to figure out who should play Abramof in the made for TV movie. And what they did at the Princeton homophobic club that Alito doesn’t want to talk about? So many questions.
Like ,why would you trust Dick Cheney, the poster boy for dangerous incompetence, with a gun?

Supposed to be Confused

“To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment…would result in the demolition of society.”
Karl Polanyi

The enormous degree of confusion surrounding the term “neo-liberal” is due at least partially to the fact that accepted definitions have been abandoned, expanded and in some cases purposefully subverted making rational discourse an exercise in linguistic gymnastics. The best initial step is to distinguish between the philosophical meaning of liberalism as derived from the historical period known as the Enlightenment and the liberalism of economic theory, which share certain characteristics but certainly not all. It is then necessary to separate this classic definition of philosophical liberalism from its modern usage and then to differentiate classic economic liberalism from its bastard progeny, neo-liberalism.

Informed by such thinkers as Locke, Kant, and Jefferson as well as the slogans of the French Revolution, classic political and philosophical liberalism embraced the concepts of individual liberty (including freedom of speech, assembly, publication) and constitutional law based on the “natural rights of man.” In opposition to Monarchy and the divine right of Kings legitimized by the Church, liberalism advanced freely elected governments and representative assemblies, rule of law and a distrust of dictators or absolute rule. Liberals felt State and society should be informed by values of reason, public debate, education, science and the improvability of the human condition. Liberalism also contained the idea that democratic values had Universal Applicability.

Classical liberal economics then springs from the work primarily of Adam Smith who saw the mercantilist imperial structure of the Monarchy as enriching privileged elites and sought to impose equality through free markets and free trade deriving from these expanded freedoms of the new citizen in the new state. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters, claiming “the invisible hand” of the market, unfettered by restrictions, barriers or guidance would be the most efficient way to allocate resources and distribute goods and labor.

Neo-liberalism is a recent modern economic philosophy which retains the word free as used by the classic economic liberals and applies it disingenuously to a system controlled by powerful agents of global finance and production backed by powerful international development lending institutions and enforced by powerful state actors. The term “liberal” is simply a propagandistic tool to draw attention away from what in reality is a system lacking democratic processes or accountability. The theoretical underpinnings of this ploy are derived from the work of Fredrick von Hayeck and his disciple Milton Friedman and its profound effects have spread beyond the field of economics into politics and philosophy. Invigorated by a deep conservatism it rests on a platform of a Hobbesian view of nature, the War of All against All where individual agents are pitted against each other in a battle for survival. The modern form of neo-liberal economics is in fact a return to mercantilism serving international monopoly capitalism. It has cannibalized the structures established by the post World War II Bretton –Woods Agreements such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which were ostensibly set up to stabilize the world economy, rationalize its currencies, work towards re-construction and development by opening markets, resources and labor to US capital. Expropriating the “freedom” rhetoric of classic economic liberalism (free-trade, free-markets etc), the neo-liberal in fact uses State power and these US controlled international financial institutions to forcibly pry open markets and facilitate capital penetration by demands on debtor nations (markets). These imposed “structural adjustments”, known commonly under the rubric of The Washington Consensus, include: production for export, removal of import controls, privatization of public services and energy resources, financial deregulation, and dismantling labor unions. They are opposed to state –led development policies of social democracies such as economic nationalism (other than US) import substituting industrialization (other thanUS), subsidies (other than US) tarrifs (other than US) and protection (other than US). The motto then is: Whats good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.

Contradictions abound. Social conservatives like Hayeck, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher considered themselves economic liberals. Franklin Roosevelt, adopting Keynesian welfare policies and state economic intervention called himself a liberal to avoid the label of socialist yet the socialist labor movement was dedicated to Enlightenment ideals. In the US, liberal economics is usually referred to as “economic conservatism” or “free trade ideology.” Mid twentieth century political liberalism began to define itself in opposition to totalitarianism while economic neo-liberals are seen as forcing a totalitarian acceptance of capitalism. The anti-democratic, corporatist dictator Augusto Pinochet was the poster boy for Chicago School neo-liberal economic development yet Chicago school theorists believed restricting economic freedom restricts civil and political freedoms. They never went to Chile I guess. They saw socialism, fascism, communism and Nazism as authoritarian, totalitarian equals.

Lurking underneath neo-liberal economic theory is a radical philosophical movement with a decidedly illiberal approach to social development but I will leave that for later.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Poster Child for Neo-Liberalism

My source is The History of Latin America by Williamson but I have read many other accounts which confirm this view: "General Pinochets advisors were young technocrats who adhered to liberal economic theories then enjoying a revival. Many had been trained at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman...According to these "Chicago Boys" as the Chilean neo-liberals were derisively called, persistent state intervention in the economy had produced distortions...

There were economic gains starting in 1985, twelve years after the coup. "Opponents of the regime,on the other hand ,pointed to the apalling human costs of these economic successes...nearly half the population lived below the poverty line..the top five percent (of the population) recieved over eighty percent of the national income..per capita growth declined...Under Pinochet the neo-liberal Chicago Boys had tried to create a dynamic, free market economy at great, some might say intolerable , human cost." It was argued last night that Pinochet had somehow "moderated" this strict ideological approach but I have not found evidence to confirm it.

There is an incredible amount of confusion over this terminology. I am working on a translation.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Counter Point

I will admit to a little trepidation about the tone of that last post. Deciding When to act is strategically important.Organizing is important. I would not wish to be the one to cast a deciding vote on whether to start building barricades because I do not have that wisdom but it may be time to start campaigning. All times in history probably seem urgent and pregnant to the participants but I wished to expand on Machiavellis point: "The ban on imagining a new republic is lifted as long as one does not shy away from thinking through the hard measures that accompany the undertaking." We have done a lot of thinking.

So the freedom of expression wars are enjoined! All tasteless commentators break out thy pens! It just wouldnt be modern times if we didn't push everything to the limit.(or beyond) Liberalism or Death!

"America is, in a way, the inability to think of gold metaphorically." John Fowles

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Nothing To Lose

As a variety of analyses filters back to the anti-capitalist movement at large concerning events at the 2006 World Social Forum a familiar refrain is heard: What is to be done? A division has been forming for the last couple of years between those who see the WSF as an educational, or intellectual process for developing insights and strategies and gaining new knowledge and those who wish to see it evolve into a more political form. They want to see a plan, they say enough words, we need action.It is pointed out by many that the organization that meets in Davos for the World Economic Forum is anything but nebulous,is not stymied by internal debate over form, is in fact an institutional structure which shows no hesitation in asserting political power.

The power of Davos is essentially the power derived from unity of purpose and agreement on the form of mediation between the forces of production, finance, and the State globally. It is asserted through every good and service it produces and enforced in the last resort by an overwhelming police and military apparatus. The power of the anti-capitalist forces assembled in Caracas, on the other hand, is only the consensus of the workers, without whom the forces of production cannot produce. Without the organized force of labor,intellectuals and academics can debate and theorize till hell freezes over.In my opinion that power lies latent and unutilized due to both an unwillingness to accept responsibility for such an awesome power and a justified fear of the potential negative consequences of such concentrated power beyond control.As Machiavelli said: "For the greatness of the thing partly terrifies men, so that they fail in the first beginning." No structure of control or process for organization can be agreed upon. Some are untested, theoretical, and so lack support. Some are all to familiar and have a poor track record. The crowd over in Switzerland have no such theoretical, ethical or existential qualms. They are revolutionaries.

These attitudes (unwillingness,fear) create inertia and are expressed in different ways: "It is important to have the trade unions on our side, but not in the leadership role they used to have", "There is a new political culture and new issues." According to surveys, Forum participants are a highly educated elite and prefer being activists in popular movements and NGOs rather than institutional political parties. They participate in movements such as environmentalism or feminism that are percieved as being unrelated to particular social classes ( I would argue otherwise) and they prefer non-hierarchical structure and eschew the "old practices" of power politics. This is the point where dissatisfaction itself becomes a commodity, it is the enervation of collective resistance. The limits of these movements is that they are not political in the sense of the universal singular( challenge to the economy!); they do not relate to the social totality.It becomes Spectacular rebelliousness.In my opinion politics without the organizational form of the party is politics without politics. As the Jacobins said to the Girondine: " You want revolution without revolution".

Every gain of the working class, the unemployed and underemployed, the exploited and marginalized has been realized through organized mass struggle. At some point in the near future, every activist is going to have to decide whether he/she is on the bus ,or off the bus. Lend a hand or get out of the way. This call to action is precipitated by the very real fact of daily suffering, by the very real fact of the insane destruction wrought by imperialist war and the very real possibility that war could anyday be nuclear. With the global climate experiencing critical, irreversable change, with millions of humans starving or brutalized by poverty and disease, the theorists and intellectuals will have to realize it is time to settle on a less-than perfect arrangement, a less than pure process. The members in Davos have learned to settle, to accept,to move forward with their project in the realization that politics is messy. Life is messy. A movement of International Workers could rise from this moment and coalesce the disparite factions of the movement for global justice. Or it could fail miserably.Whatever. Praxis is its own truth.How many World Social Forums will elites fly to, how many millions will they spend not organizing?.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Can't Take A Joke

All I did was yell "FIRE" in a crowded theatre. Jeez. In our great and grand liberal democracy you need to have a sense of humor about pornography,blasphemy, heresey, hate speech, painting a few swaztikas on the Jews houses, whatever. Actually, you do, you just always hope people will have more sense, taste, cool, tact. It is your right to express yourself,to say to the world "I am an ignorant, tasteless, moron, damn it!"
And you have the right to walk down the street in Compton at 2am but I wouldn't recommend it. Radical fringe or not, that kind of anger should be a message, in more ways than one. Did al Qaeda fly airplanes into Danish buildings?

Of course rioting Muslims is not about a few cartoons or a couple flushed Korans. It's about a long list of percieved and real injustice, conditions, dignity, power, history, that sort of thing. And a faith that is not just a Sunday sort of affair.

How can Iran make our occupation of Iraq more miserable? How entertained is North Korea? How nervous is Israel? How much will gas go up, interest rates, the foreign debt? How big can the US military get? Lordy!

The Greatest Spectacle

The Superbowl has become Americas Consumption Fest, second only to Thanksgiving. The competition for Snarkiest Commercial is now a secular sacred event, our collective return to Mecca each year. I was bummed at the homophobic reaction to ads for Brokeback Mountain (though I should realize a testosterone crazed crowd is not a fair sample) and the blatantly racist remarks still prevelant when a less-than-eloquent black man, making a hundred times the average salary of the liberal-bourgeoise-redneck crowd assembled, said something 'ethnic" on TV. The latent angry-white-man spills out at the wierdest moments. Enough Kulturcritique.

In Edwin Williamson's History of Latin America he states: "The USA was concerned to consolidate it's spheres of influence and spread it's liberal democratic values abroad." In the next sentence, with no hint of irony:"US armaments, military training and economic aid for Latin America was exchanged for raw materials and geopolitical loyalty." Fair exchange? Liberal -democratic values? "Communist parties were banned or excluded from power." That would be the dictator model of democracy. Each time they mention "democratic credentials" read Washington Consensus, capital penetration, neoliberalism. Read Chicago School of Orthodox Straussian Economics. In that world "free-market" means State directed financial and technical assistance, militarization and CIA directed elections.Young proteges from this school such as Moises Naim from MIT and Miguel Rodriguez from Yale served as Development Directors in the failed Venezuelan Government of Perez. Their embrace of neoliberal "shock therapy" was the cause of the "Caracazo" riots of 89 and terrific bloodshed.

I wish I were intelligent enough to read and fully understand economists like Osvaldo Sunkel or Jose Antonio Ocampo but I can grasp the underlying meaning in their calls for "widening and deepening" democratic development in Latin America as well altering "the primary distribution of income through structural reforms." One such reform should be educating citizens in basic economics.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Rising Tide

How intriguing that Rumsfeld, Negroponte and Co. would choose the present moment to lay all their cards on the table. After a State of the Union with not one word about Latin America (or North Korea, for that matter) but a little language about "lessinging our dependence on foreign oil", they get busted with a spy in the Venezuelan embassy and decide to revive the Cold War.

Their arrogant and beligerant language follows a few rhetorical shots over the bow by Chavez, Morales, Bellafonte and of course Fidel, but what is the real game? Showdown between neoliberal capitalism and socialism? At a time when the Empire is mired in an increasingly unpopular war of aggresion, in a nuclear standoff with Iran, facing chaos in Israel/Palestine and trying to soothe rampaging Muslims over a cartoon, it seems absurd to pick another fight in another hemisphere. I forgot bin Laden, he is still in the mix.

But we can always hope. It will be the perfect opportunity to educate our citizens about a little US history.The 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe doctrine gave the USA the right to act as an 'international police power' wherever"chronic wrong-doing,or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society'" required intervention "by some civilized society." This was used to justify the military conquest of half of Mexico's territory, the invasion and occupation of Cuba and Puerto Rico for US sugar interests, of Nicaragua on behalf of the United Fruit company, of Panama for a canal ,etc, etc...This "big stick" approach led us to overthrow governments hostile to US interests and install puppet dictators likely to be friendly to US investors. We can talk about Arbenz in Guatemala, Batista in Cuba, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Somoza in Nicaragua, Pinochet in Chile. We welcome this opportunity.We can talk about the New American Century and globlal capitalism and finance and trade. Perfect.

I am headed for Venezuela in ten days. If I have to make a choice to defend the Bolivarian Revolution from reactionary, imperialist forces I know which side I will be fighting on. I can only hope they draw such a clear line in the sand,because I know on which side millions and millions of working class people and oppressed indigenous people, and unemployed and underemployed and working poor people world- wide will stand in such a struggle. Rumsfeld may unleash a tide he cannot control.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Brush him Off

For a guy who has been relegated to "the dustbin of history" his ideas still get alot of press. "Openly defying Marx's dictum in the famous eleventh thesis on Fuerbach: the task, Moore (Harvard history professor Benjamin Moore, died Oct at age 92) told us, was "to understand the world."

Same thesis,same conclusion, different tack.This time Slavoj Zizeck: "One is therefore tempted to turn Marx's eleventh thesis: the first task today is precisely not to succumb to the temptation to act, to directly intervene and change things...but to question the hegemonic ideological coordinates.

Similar logics with a similar point of departure (The Old German) but Moore the consumate liberal-democrat while Zizeck asks us to question even that project.

For the record, number XI is "the philosophers have only interpreted the world,in various ways; the point however is to change it."

I just saw that Venezuela booted a US military attache for suspected spying, so US retaliated and sent a junior ambassador home. This is getting interesting. I leave for Caracas on the fifteenth.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Apology Up Front

This post is not super-coherant.Sorry, we finally had to put my editor to sleep. First,of course Muslims are pissed. Remember when Korans were desecrated in prison?They don't do Maplethorpe,ok? they don't think that shit is funny.
Let's instead get upset about Cuban terrorists Bosch and Posada living free and unrepentent in Miami (see post of 1/28 A Fouler Apposition for my opinion on Miami) thanks to the efforts of the CIA,Congresswoman Lleana Ros-Lehtinen,CongressmenLincoln andMario Diaz-Balart, Gov. Jeb Bush and that great fighter of terror brother George. Don't get me started about Rep.Connie Mack.
While we got George in the crosshairs (figuratively,NSA listeners) ,It seems he told a group in Memphis not to worry their pretty little heads about all those complicated problems in the world. "Thats what you pay us for"he reassured them.
Now Im old as dirt but I remember when people were innocent until proven guilty, that is, they didn't spy on you or lock you up until they could show probable cause. A vague suspicion didn't cut it. (you lawyers, back me up here). Bush claimed in the SOTU that if he could have spied on the two known terror suspects they could have "connected the dots and prevented 9/11". If he had told any judge in the universe he wanted to spy they would have given him a warrant.Under FISA he could have spied for 72 hours WITHOUT a warrant. If he suspected they were terrorists and he had been warned they would strike why in the HELL didn't they watch them, grab them?
Collateral damage: I remember also when it was better to let a hundred guilty people go free than to lock up one innocent man.Something to do with Justice.Righties are over there trying to parse the word "accidental" when it comes to dead civilians in targeted missle attacks. It is one thing to argue it is a "lower order" of terrorism when a few unintended kids get whacked. But The Israeli Security Forces intentionally murder non-combatants. Do you need me to source that? Just ask.
The more I think about it ,the more I like the idea of human/animal hybrids.

Not Your Fathers SDS

The contrast is illuminating. Two articles back to back in the Feb 13 Nation provide a clear explanation for how NOT to and how TO build a viable political movement. The first is about the “progressive” student organizing on college campuses, which manages to go on for four full pages without ever mentioning capitalism. Welcome to the new left, which in fact, is not a left at all. The article never touches on class or even economics. This says it all, “the rhetoric was moderate, it was billed as non-partisan and the people running it weren’t the crazy activists” Gagorama,how about “ the student conference of Campus Progress featured keynote speaker Bill Clinton..promoting a centrist agenda.” Pleeease. ‘the new student politics should not be defined by revolutionary idealism but by pragmatism.” “Anytime CAP is associated with anything far left, it’s going to hurt us.” Watch out for Scary Ideas, Ideas are Dangerous! Students Can’t Handle Big Ideas! “Notably missing from the list of YP4 (Young people For) efforts, not to mention those sponsored by Campus Progress, is anti-war activism.” Pathetic “fine, upstanding ,clean shaven young white men standing up for this new brand of progressivism.” It has come to this.

Flip the page and you have a great article by Jeff Faux called The Party of Davos where he lays it out in economic terms, class terms, is not afraid to use scary words like exploitation or oppression. Not words the “resume pushing College Dems” like to think about. “Davos is .. the most visible symbol of the virtual political network that governs the global market…and is writing the constitution of a single global economy.” Could the delicate, pragmatic ears of students understand this expression of injustice? “In the absence of global democracy,the forces that act as counterweights to the power of the investor class in national economies- labor, civil society, and progressive political parties- are to weak and unorganized to create a global social contract…the constitution of the world economy protects just one class of global citizen-the corporate class.” The same Bill Clinton did all he could to protect this new order and gave us NAFTA.

Think of all the right- wing hype that the campuses are overrun with pinkos. I wish.

Mud, Blood, Beer

Harpers editor Roger Hodge is a bit defensive about the “rough treatment” Cormac McCarthy has received in three recent reviews for his latest novel, No Country For Old Men. He sees malice, shallowness and haste in these efforts, even a trace of “bourgeoise consciousness” but having read the novel recently I agree that it was not Mc Carthy’s best effort and for me his theme is getting tired and redundant as well. It also turns out Hodge may be having trouble with objectivity due to a close, personal identification with the setting. He claims the Southwestern landscape so well depicted in the book includes the very piece of land he was raised on. I can also then assume he was raised on the myths which have become the moral crucible upon which Mc Carthy judges all and which cloud the judgment of so many in this fought over region.
Hodge tells us “The American West ,for McCarthy, is a place where the truth of history declares itself with unambiguous and ferocious candor.”One senses Hodges profound agreement with this questionable thesis all through the piece.
The John Wayne Morality play works well through The Crossing and Blood Meridian and into All the Pretty Horses but eventually it is Louis L’Amour pulp westerns with good writing.In purposeful constructs such as Bonanza and Marshall Dillon, the politics are unavoidable and in my opinion seriously, even dangerously flawed. We all identified with Clint Eastwood and the hard, honorable, uncompromising ‘Rugged Hero’ as we grew up and grasped for meaning, and I am more guilty than most of fetishizing The West ( I moved to Montana and stayed thirty years) but I have tried to move beyond the narrow ethos of blood and work and “common sense” that rejects nuance,play or ambiguity with a contemptuous sneer. His is a patriarchal universe, individualistic and conservative in the strictest ,narrowest, hardest and most repressive sense of the word and he seems perpetually mired in it.This is not to deny the pervasive aura of violence and cruelty out here but to insist on a competing, parallel meme of shared struggle and generosity even amongst us “moderns”.The Conservatism glorified by Mc Carthy drives the current cultural"perception" war of toughness,and realism against sissy liberal pacifists..As much as I enjoyed the early work, the repetitive hyperbole has grown tired and there is to much out there needing to be read.I have a long one at clearheadwaters.blogspot.com on the power of myth called Pride in Tobacco.

A terrific piece in the same ( Feb) issue is written by the great,great grandson of Charles Darwin. It describes with great hilarity the recent “intelligent design” trials in Dover, Pennsylvania. Must read.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Strange Coincidence and other Clap Trap

I counted every single clap last night during SOTU speech.(I was bored) Claps for the dead soldiers wife and parent, claps for Coreta Scott King, claps for ultimatums to Iran and Palestine, claps for secret spying, and hybrid cars, those against human/animal hybrids (I may be changing my own position), claps for war and claps for peace and I counted 36.7 billion. Which just happens to be the exact amount of dollars in profit Exxon-Mobile made this year! Maybe I shouldn't read to much into it but...

I didn't clap much and it got me to wondering what distinguishes clappers from non-clappers? I read Mien Kampf and The History of the Russian Revolution and clapped for the proletariat and not for the Nazis. I read Atlas Shrugged and The Monkey Wrench Gang and ended up clapping for Abbey and not Ann. I read about the history of the Turks and Armenians and ended up clapping for Robert Fisks' account ,which mentions the genocide and not Bernard Lewis', which fails to. When Bush said "our Union is sound" I did not clap. Everyone else there did.