Friday, February 26, 2010

Along Those Same Lines

"I hear it at church, I hear it at the barber shop:'you guys need to stand up'. The federal intrusion is a John Doe issue..."

South Carolina State representative

I don't know if John Doe is related to Joe Sixpack but these politicians across the land will be trying to tap into "anger and resentment". Which is where the xenophobia will come in. Here in Montana we passed the Firearms Freedom Act which says guns made and kept in-state are exempt from national gun control laws. Other states are passing laws "freeing" their citizens of national health care laws (if and when passed). "Freedom" is back in vogue in churches and barbershops, sporting goods stores and diners.I feel freer already! We also have The Right To Keep and Bear Arms Week starting March 1 ( passed in the last legislative session) and a rally Wed. where locals are encouraged to "Come packing!" and to "bring appropriate signs and banners."

Kultur mentioned something I proposed a while back, that the People need to see Sarah in action before she and this "movement" will be de-mythologized. A lazy Wiki search of Boston Tea Party describes "a group of between 30-130 men, some thinly disguised as Mohawks.." Alexander: Revolutionary Politician Indian costumes? Were they too cowardly to openly rebel? Trying to get their red-skinned "brothers" in trouble?

Of course the new batch of politicians will disappoint just like the old batch but this will not dissuade true believers from marching lock step to the voting booth. I am inclined to start infiltrating the different local caucuses, Dems, Repubs, Tea Party, and push them to the fringes, urge the Repubs to the right, the Dems to the left and Party People to secession. Why not make this entertaining? Per Renegades suggestion, I don't know if "Labour Party" is overly burdened by the name and association with New Labour. Perhaps something a little less worker, a little more "social". This from a Wobbly, I know, but I just don't find people here relate to labour. Weird but true.I'm supposed to lead a discussion at the Labor Film Festival tonight so we'll see who shows up. I would love to be wrong.

What's up with this ( found in our local paper)? "In an effort to support local non-profits, the Missoulian is suggesting the last Friday of every month be declared Community Jeans Day.Participating businesses will encourage employees to pay $5 each to wear jeans on that Friday."
So businesses which fight taxation instead squeeze five dollars from the workers to support services government should be doing through taxes. So they can wear jeans made in China. Insult added to injury. The workers will have a "feel good moment" and the Non-Profit Complex will keep yuppies in lattes and micro-beers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Difference

To those who insist there is no difference between this and the past administration I would just point out how this administration apologizes when they murder innocent civilians ( collateral damage). Where that hateful Bush would just smirk these new folks seem genuinely sorry as they promise to try harder to prevent it.

Also, look at this incredible insistence on bi-partisanship. They have a bi-partisan commission on the economy and a bi-partisan working group on health-care (insurance?) reform and I'm sure there will soon be bi-partisan study groups on Afghanistan and climate change before long. These rhetorical efforts certainly demonstrate the inclusive nature of our democracy and the earth changing force of good old centrist common sense.

I ended up somehow at a site called News Busters which displayed an ad for T shirts which were not bi-partisan or Hopey Changey. A sixteen year old girl,a little pouty,some make-up, coy, sits by a pool in what looks like Palm Springs. Her clever Tshirt which you can buy says "I'd Rather Be Waterboarding". The meaner she gets the more she is desired.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fair and Balanced

In our local papers never-ending quest to present "objective journalism" they presented a point -counter point type "debate" on Sundays opinion page which I find instructive. Under the heading "Climate Change" we get Congress Should Seek Real Science by H.Sterling Burnett ( how classic is that?), a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis or ncpa. I myself am a senior fellow at the Institute for Masterbatory Expectorations or IME and so can vouch for my fellow senior fellow though for some reason? he gets picked up by McClatchy and I don't.

H Sterling says it all in his opener: "The Climate Gate scandal is a textbook case of professional malfeasance that should give Congress reason to pause before agreeing to a binding international agreement that would hamstring the world economy in order to prevent the climate from changing."

First notice the clever and original climate GATE. By having this "scandal" refer back to the Watergate break-in they are giving it a deep contextual territorialization.I also like the term "hamstring", a rural metaphor us down-homey types can understand. The criminals would cruelly hobble our continuing prosperity for the insane goal of putting climate in a state of stasis. Criminal and Utopian! but the question is why would they do such a horrible thing?

"Global warming alarmism has become a gravy train for scientists, bureaucrats and corporations... Pachauri and ..Al Gore have become millionaires."

Of course,that explains it, those greedy bastards! Hand me my pitchfork! Thank God H. Sterling is here to warn us "Before trillions more of our dollars are wasted in a vain effort to control the weather 100 years from now.." Thank God McClatchy Newspapers are here to give us both sides of the debate in a fair and balanced manner!

So when did you stop beating your wife? And did you do a cost-benefit analysis? The thing about objectivity and 'presenting both sides" is that to do so one must first pre-determine the middle, the neutral, the reasonable starting point. This is done for us, without our input or approval, as a hegemonic device for control.Far beyond the merits (there are none) or blatant lies and distortions (of which there are plenty) of H Sterlings case, there is the power to set parameters. He is a prostitute for a "free market" think tank which is paid to reinforce a dominant ideology and protect profits at the expense of other peoples lives.He is an acomplice to murder. He should be put on trial instead of given a column.

We find Sterlings fellow criminals in a Rolling Stone cover article( Jan) titled Those Idiots! It lays out the corporate/ government collusion, lobbyists, blah blah and then names 17 especially pernicious individuals. While I would love to see individuals punished, it would do little to solve the real problem, which is structural, and which Rolling Stone duly avoids.The Kochs, Mellons, Scaifes, Coors, Murdochs etc of this world are just actors in a play designed long ago and they have plenty of understudies.In other words, the problem wasn't Mussolini, the problem was fascism.

Mike Davis, in his essay The Ark (NLR 61) lays out the challenge rather starkly. "..the most heroic efforts of our childrens generation will be unable to forestall a radical reshaping of ecologies, water resources and agricultural systems...worldwide adaptation to climate change ,which presupposes trillions of dollars of investment in the rural and urban infrastructures of poor and medium income countries, as well as the assisted migration of tens of millions of people from Africa and Asia, would necessarily command a revolution of almost mythic magnitude in the redistribution of income and power."

I wouldn't say he is very optimistic about the chances and there are certainly massive forces being arrayed against change.They are the ones portraying the fight as one of capitalism vs socialism. I say absolutely, positively correct.Bring it on.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two Cents Worth

Every blog has been instructed to write something about Sarah Palin so here is my obligatory expectoration.
It occurred to me that when the snarky super-star of the right delivered her dig: "How's that Hopey Changey thing workin out for ya?" she perfectly captured the dominant cynical weltschmartz of our time. While directed at frustrated independents and Democrats, she was probably blissfully unaware of how biting it must be to conservatives, libertarians, Tea Party folks or just about anybody unhappy with the status quo as well ( if and when they stop to think about it.) The civics text narrative is America as that great, hopeful experiment but what happens when poles show 100% dissatisfaction with everyone and everything but no one is doing anything about it? ( except poring another shot or re-loading the pipe)

It basically confirms what everyone senses: You are trapped! This is how it is going to be from here on out, corruption, malfeasance, ineptitude and a certain down-homey Deliverance-ish cruelty are "in" so get used to it. It is South Park Nation!

The problem for Republican candidates now is how to craft optimistic sounding slogans without using the words "hope" or "change" which have now been poisoned from both ends; the failure of Obama and the sarcasm of Palin. John Stewart dead pans or rolls his eyes but the message is the same: Good Thing I Have My Own TV Show because you'all are so screwed.Other comedians have plenty of material but it is increasingly mean and elicits that Don Rickles-kind of unease. Remember: Nice Guys Finish Last. There is a Sucker Born Every Minute. Don't Take Any Wooden Nickles. Dog Eat Dog.Each Against All.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Documenting Experience

We are amazingly fortunate to have a great documentary film festival here in our corner of the Big Sky and Mrs.Trout and I just spent two whole days ( but for brief food and bathroom breaks) inside a dark theatre mesmerized by this form we both love. They are all good but if you get a chance look for "Intangible Asset 82 " about an Aussie jazz drummers quest to meet an incredible S.Korean shaman drummer and all he learns about music on the way. A couple other great feature length films were Prisoner of her Past, all about late onset PTSD as we described in the last post and which is a major theme of my first novel. A Holocaust survivor and her son attempt, not always successfully, to confront her traumatic past. Also great was Super Art Market about the pre-2008 boom in art prices and the whole gallery/auction "scene". The psuedo-intellectual gibberish, self important hacks and con men fleecing the Bubble Noveau Riche , and pure crap "art" is a hilarious condemnation of high end consumer culture. Also great was Never Enough, a film about compulsive hoarders (30 min) and lower end culture, 9500 Liberty about the immigration wars in Manassas Virginia and Girls on the Wall about experimental theatre in a girls detention center.

Like everything I dig and I am perplexed that more people don't. Here is a super rare opportunity for an orgy of eye candy, art and ideas mixed in an easy to absorb medium, and very few of my friends or colleagues take advantage of it. Then I listen to them complain about the lack of cultural opportunities they suffer living in a rural backwoods. I guess it has to be packaged into a format where they never have to leave their couch.

My wife is learning the difficult process of film editing and we are this close to getting a camera and Mac so we can start documenting these crazy times. It would be nice to think there were more people who wanted to see your work or that it might have an impact but I suppose the fewer illusions going in the better.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Power of Symbols

A few years ago I was explaining to an acquaintance the power of myth in shaping ideology, using as an example the myth that soldiers returning from Vietnam were spit on by protesters. To my great surprise,this man said that he, in fact, WAS spit on. I asked where and he told me "At the San Francisco airport".

Returning soldiers never landed at SF International( maybe he wasn't "just returning"?) and no such incident anywhere has ever been documented but I suspect this man "believed" his myth/story to be true. The right wing propaganda machine introduced this prototypical "happening" to demonstrate the hateful nature of peace movement protesters and the entire "counter-culture" and by association the Left.They were able to disseminate the lie effectively throughout the culture ( NY Times, major networks, movies, texts, all gobbled it up) until this traumatized man I spoke to internalized it into his own experience, helping him justify his behavior and subsequent ideology.

This is why the recent Citizens United ( love that title!) Supreme Court case is in my opinion a red herring. It doesn't matter if a Corporation spends a billion dollars on a political campaign. Just as it doesn't matter if lobbyists deliver box loads of cash to Senate offices. These are just diversions so we can argue about quid pro quo and corruption and special interests or free speech. We can know it is corrupt YET STILL believe it is legitimate. All of that trivia is made superfluous by the fact that on a much grander scale than the "spit incident", citizens have internalized the ideology that will bring us a "Green Economy", "Cap and Trade", oil wars or nuclear reactors. Where does the trauma spring from that facilitates this identification with ones oppressor?
I would argue , any number of places,on both the personal and societal levels.How many fiercely defend the free market as they are evicted from their home?

One of the worst traumas is being lied to by someone you trusted. Two generations are having to accept the fact that the racial lie they were told (white superiority) turned them into victims, both black and white , to be exploited by the ruling class. Then whites had to discover they weren't superior to Asians (gooks) by being defeated in a war. A whole generation was raised being told they were only minutes from annihilation by the Red Menace ( we practiced getting under our desks and digging bomb shelters) and that the U.S. was the guardian of World Freedom. People react to the discovery they have been lied to in different ways, the trauma is processed in different ways. Some cling to the old symbols ( Obama tried to express this and struck a nerve), some are able to move on.But there is a great deal of power invested in maintaining many of those old symbols as manipulative tools and they can't be argued or debated away easily.

This doesn't mean resistance is futile. I don't mean to describe an invincible, Matrix like system because we see push back every day,in lots of different ways. The trauma can be assuaged and the meme defeated. I just don't think the constitutional or campaign finance reform battles are the place to put much energy.Or ethics rules for "honorable" prostitutes.

This is basic "false consciousness" 101, on symbols, trauma and mis-recognition, and there is a much deeper layer to confront.

Another Approach

Here are some questions pertaining to the last post which are part of the ZNet Re-imagining Society project. The crew is suggesting joining the 5th International proposed by Hugo Chavez. ( Beak, get on the groundfloor and we'll make you Commissar of Immigration) To that end this questionaire explores attitudes toward economy, culture and politics and naturally runs into the question of diversity. For instance:

32a. A new culture I would most favor would seek institutions that explicitly recognize that rights and values exist regardless of cultural identity, so that all people deserve self management, equity, solidarity, and liberty. A good society will protect all people’s right to affiliate freely and value diversity, yet its core values will be universal.
1. I agree strongly
2. I agree
3. I am marginally concerned either way...
4. I disagree
5. I disagree strongly

32b. A new culture I would most favor would seek institutions that recognize that that there are no universal rights or values and leave any well defined cultural community to determine its own priorities in all things.
1. I agree strongly
2. I agree
3. I am marginally concerned either way...
4. I disagree
5. I disagree strongly

33. A new culture I would most favor would seek institutions which guarantee free entry and exit for representative of all cultural communities in society. It would likewise advocate that institutions that do have free entry and exit can be under the complete discretion of their members, so long as they don't conflict with society's laws.

So far,of 181 respondents, 98% agree with 32a, 78% disagree with 32b and 78% agree with 33. Being a picky theory geek I have problems with how some of these questions are framed but think it is instructive. By focusing on the difficulties of building unity within diversity we learn from the past and are forced to think through concrete problems. Can we build "A new society within the shell of the old" if the old actively and subversively works to thwart all such construction? If we are corrupted through our internalized ideology?

How much unity (agreement) will have to exist before a Revolutionary Organization is formed? To what degree will each disagreement be worked on,reconciled, to achieve unity? How will this process take place? Which specific things can I live with ( though I may have issues) in order to further consensus and which will I insist be revised?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Diversity

Where does Liberalisms fealty to diversity simply become a tool for Third Way-social democrat attempts to blunt the systems excesses? Where does the whole search for Unifying Values become another authoritarian exercise in creating "social stability"? These questions have popped up in the local discussion over forming a Social Center vs Community Center and have caused a lot of tension. I think the tension is necessary and productive but right now it is also difficult and in need of reflection.

A lot of us reflexively and uncritically accept the notion of diversity as it might apply to an emancipatory project, linking it to other universal ideals such as pluralism, tolerance and multiculturalism. At first glance it seems to flow naturally from an "equal rights" discourse and encourages the respect that true democracy would require. But does it demand respect for the racist point of view? Must we respect a diversity of economic classes or a diversity of positions in a paternalistic, authoritarian hierarchy?

Part of the confusion arises from the context of our present moment and it's dominant form of "common sense" (what I call the ambient atmosphere,hegemony) Here, power relations are so unequal that to grant the "capitalist point of view" equal space is in actuality to guarantee its hegemonic dominance. In Rawls' Theory of Justice, the prescriptive remedy to structural inequity is to warrant only those inequalities which are of the greatest benefit to the least advantaged. Can the same prescription apply to the diversity of opinion? Pretending equality while espousing diversity can only lead to the "Flat Earth" fluidification of all positions, an anti-politics.if you will, which I think is just surrender disguised as liberalism. Only under the condition of equality can diversity have meaning much less effect. It is contingent and conditioned on this layering.

As for my reference to "true democracy", I also think it is necessary to understand that democracy, like psychoanalysis, is only fully possible in a society that would no longer need it. We want to try to construct our own hegemony based on different social relations but all the while realizing the antagonisms and tensions can never be fully "sutured", closed, resolved for ever.

We should have our own club (social center), they can have theirs, and everybody can meet at the Community Center or Public Library for debate.Keeping in mind "public" and "community" are also enclosed in the current hegemonic structure and are far from neutral. Zizek tells us to risk a Leap of Faith, faith in a lost cause, "Causes that,from within the space of skeptical wisdom, cannot but appear as crazy." The paralyzing fear of "totalitarian" fidelity to an emancipatory project is fear of losing ones cherished, particular identity.

Does it have to be a choice between these poles, stubborn attachment to our identity or a rootless universal cosmopolitanism? stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

You Want What?

Todays mail brought requests for cash from CARE, Earthjustice, Trout Unlimited, Partners in Conscience, ACLU, Oxfam and Pier 1 Imports.This is One days worth! You know what folks? It's time each of you "justice" groups asked yourself an important question. Why should workers be asked to fix the mess caused by capital?

CARE and Oxfam might ask itself where all this poverty comes from. Earth and Trout might ask who is trashing the ecosystem and why. ACLU could ask why we need protection from a State that is supposed to be "for the people and by the people". Pier 1's is the only straightforward request in the bunch. They want profit. Understood. The rest are self-reproducing organisms that thrive on the injustice they decry. They would bleed me dry while refusing to even listen to my structural critique. In a fair, egalitarian, pluralist system there would be no use for these NGOs with their heart wrenching pictures of starving brown/black babies.

Speaking of black babies,the press could have saved everybody a lot of trouble if they had just told folks the Baptists trying to "save" Haitian children by spiriting them away are from IDAHO. They are from Idaho and should be released unless we are prepared to start locking up all ignorant people.You would have to build a fence around the entire state.

Here is what I was looking for Che Bob. In our local want ads under 814 Transportation, Travel: Men and Women Wanted For Arduous Journey.Low price, high drama. Mexico. Central America possible. Over land, safe return anticipated. Vehicle rebuilt 71 VW bus. Starting Jan-Feb.2010 406 837-0525 Oh to be young again. I anticipate picking up the phone and hearing Neal Cassidy on the other end going off on how they hope to climb Machu Pichu and sacrifice a virgin or perhaps some guinea pigs or you know, whatever is handy.

The piece on mis-recognition, commodity metaphysics, "religion of everyday life" ,is coming Lichanos, just hold on. I had to make a big flow chart yesterday showing all the branches of Libertarianism for yet another study group which never really got discussed because everyone needed to talk about their personal histories and politics and whatever else came to mind for several hours. Maybe next week.It's a great chart and though "wing-nuts" might indeed be wing nuts, ( certainly in some cases) I'm holding to the position that some of these locals are principled ( if confused) libertarians and should be addressed as such. Many are property loving conservatives but some might go the other way if they were to hear an argument or two.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Decision-Makers

From a newspaper article titled: 'Davos forum ends with humility, uncertainty'. Plenty of material right there for old Trout to unpack but let's dive straight into the meat of the matter: Deutche Banks chief executive told the panel that the worst of the economic crisis had been managed "quite successfully" but decision-makers now had a tough choice: "should we take more risk, be a creative force for growth or should we focus on security?"

Jeez, I sure hope the DecisionMakers make the right choice! What if they fuck up? What if they bullox the whole thing, say, aren't "creative" enough! I'll have to start eating my pets. I guess that's where the "humility" comes in.

There was "widespread agreement that a fragile recovery was under way but no consensus on what's going to spur job growth and prevent another global economic meltdown." That must be the "uncertainty".Deutche Bank, which led the way on exploitive sub-prime loans to American black/brown families can be counted on in the "creative" department and hopefully they are consulting with Bill Gates,Ron Paul and Joe the Plumber.

The article about violence in Mexico on the next page says "Police in the community of Lazaro Cardenas said that just after midnight Saturday, about 20 heavily armed capitalists riding in trucks with tinted windows attacked a police station with grenades and assault rifles.." More than 2,250 people were killed in Ciudad Jaurez last year. Supply and demand plus a little "creativity" and you have one terribly free market down there that the Davos crowd is no doubt studying.

I have been exploring "Biblical capitalism" for a story I have been writing and found a few gems: "When Christianity adheres to the judicial specifics of the bible, it produces free market capitalism. Tons of evidence shows capitalism actually reduces income inequalities.Unemployment compensation encourages sloth and failure and, as I'm sure we all have intuited, economic success indicates God's anointing. I guarantee the cartels worldwide agree.