Tag Archives: politics

April Fool’s Day 2014

24 Mar

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April 1st, 2014 is approaching. May I still hold onto the hope that our president will come forth and tell his people that his plan is all an April Fool’s joke?


The government scoops a portion of the worker’s wages out of his hands with the assurance that, in return, immaterial rewards like ‘safety,’ ‘liberty,’ and ‘right to property’ will be granted to him. To survive, The State made it impossible for man to live without his labor-wages. How does the state—a symbolic structure which doesn’t provide any temporal goods—survive? By taking a portion of the earnings of the workers and capitalizing on the temporal goods of others. Taxed for earning. How vulgarly simple the newest state solution is! How come nobody thought of it before? Tax people for labor? No. Tax people for merely existing!


It’s quite simple. Who suffers? Those who have the fortune of existing and are in the position of being Americans. If you are an American, and you exist, you must pay the premium or be charged for your very existence.


What is being offered for these premiums? ‘Medical insurance’—in other words, that to be in the company of men and women who may or may not be able to cure your disease, patch up your wound or locate the physical solution to your mistake will not cost as much as it could in the future. A metaphysical state of grace, guarding all against the threat of harm—protection from future occurrences.


What happens to one who does not or cannot pay for these future occurrences? One is charged for every moment one exists without coverage. If one doesn’t pay the charges? It goes to collections. It damages one’s ‘credit’—‘good credit’ being a fictive stamp of capitalistic approval born out of the needs of big businesses to guard themselves against the dangers of future occurrences. Damage to one’s ‘credit’ prevents one’s ability to maintain or own property—a capitalistic Mark of Cain. Who, then, is on trial? People who do not have money. How will they be punished? By being pushed into the financial hole of ‘debt.’ ‘Debt’ in a world operating on ‘credit’ is just as much a fiction as the latter, even if the weight and resulting anxiety of that debt are real. The real punishment? Anxiety. Stress. The crushing of one’s spirit.


We’ve been invited into a logical circle. The relationship between the causes of commodity and the effects of fetishism has caused us to assume, as individuals, a relationship with the government that presupposes the discourse of ‘debt’ and many inherited gestures and thoughts that have been doubling up and adding to our psychic baggage for thousands upon thousands of years, reaching into pre-history. We are only beginning, as a whole, to ask those questions that all of society was built on—the question put forth by the debtor. ‘To whom does my debt belong and why am I in his debt?’ Ancient man, who had no kings or rulers, began with this question when dealing with personal transactions that benefited him temporally.


Capital is so built on this relationship between debt and the debtor that we often forget the very vehicle by which this debt was stressed—guilt; a sense of anxiety by which one party could remind the other of the ‘value’ at stake in failing to fulfill a contract. Because those in power have, for countless millennia, enforced punitive measures on those who have failed to fulfill debts—whether that debt be that of one party steeling something for which others would be required to pay or that of one who has caused irreversible damage—guilt has grown many limbs and taken on a terrible life of its own in the cultural psyche. It has grown so large that it has become a punishment itself. Where men of power in pre-history merely carried through with their contracts until the blood of the weaker party soiled the ground, men of power today merely remind us that because they are powerful, they require our constant debt to keep them powerful—thus the illusion of our security—and when the mere sensation of debt is refused, we are then guilty of not paying reverence to the sovereignty of power itself.


Systems that capitalize on a lack or complete negation of money are, in the long run, merely punitive.

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Health, though a necessity (but never a right) belongs to the domain (that is to say, the limits) of science. Where the state has a hand in the domain of science, it has produced weapons strong enough to kill millions and strike fear into the rest. It has widened the divide between social classes by forcing workers to be agents of production for the well oiled state machine to continue running smoothly. We may deplore the crimes of the industrial age now. We may cast our eyes away from a history filled with millions of lives snuffed out by war like candle-flames before a fan, but we cannot afford to continue to believe—and if not to believe, then frivolously accept—this fiction perpetually peddled by our statesmen: that they own the scientists and have, therefore, traced the perimeters of the material world. I distrust any man who tells me that he owns the truth because he understands nature. Today’s ‘natural truth’ is tomorrow’s forced vaccination.


A rule of approximation
It matters little if a conspiracy theory is true or not. If a man of power puts something into effect that even has the bad appearance of confirming the public’s ominous suspicions, it speaks badly of his discursive propriety. In a world where the masses rule, where the loudest truth is the truest and the most violent expression is the one that creates history, mere ‘bad appearances’ will cause nations to sink into the ground like the walls of Jericho. In other words, if we owe billions of dollars to a foreign country, it is in bad taste to charge everyone arbitrarily for insurance that we should, with good conscience, be able to pay for of our own volition. At least make it difficult for our suspicions!


Say what you will about the state’s propensity to glue words together, and not even with their proper compound word dash in between! Combining your last name with the word ‘care’ to denote a political entity is not only cute but also quite ingenuous. Everyone likes to be ‘cared for.’ Can we not continue this trend? Refer to war as ‘Bushwhacking.’ Refer to office sex as ‘Clinternizing.’ It is unfortunate, though, that words do not ennoble names when attached to them. It is the name that ennobles or cheapens the word.


What should I say to those who think that voting is duplicitous? That petitions are paltry? That protests are obnoxious and township rebellions are only invitations for tighter leashes? It is, perhaps, not for everyone to act. There are, of course, those who will not suffer from forced premiums. There are those who have much more to lose by way of ‘bad credit’ and ‘debt’ even if the disaffected no longer believe in those metaphysical, economic nouns. Perhaps it is not even for me to act. Could I justifiably call for others to willingly dive headlong into the anxiety of bad credit? Debt? Prison? Where does this state of discursive damnation, this ‘debt,’ not sink into with its talons? What fabric of life does it not now affect in some remote way? When things arrive at their worst, people will say, ‘If only we’d paid more attention earlier on!’ ‘If only we would have voted!’ Or even, ‘If only we would have met the state’s requirements!’ But suppose that a necessary change could not have come about through any other means. Suppose that an all out collapse in the modern value of ‘credit’ and ‘debt’ were to occur—for, realistically, it could only ever be a collapse in our concept of ‘value,’ as Marx was keen to show us. With more and more people having to exist and having to find some sort of vague contentment or mere will to go on, will our threshold for anxiety not be widened? Will we not be able to undergo more and more psychological hardship wrought by the metaphysics of this whole political bad faith? It will be at the expense of our comfort that we will finally have to appropriate and practice those gestures that we were warned we must start adopting long ago when all of this was merely a philosophical problem … Suddenly Heidegger’s ‘overcoming of metaphysics’ and ‘retrieval of being’ will have meaning beyond their use in dusty classrooms. Heinrich Heine will suddenly ring as true to us as he did to war-torn Europe in the twentieth century, an age he prophesied. Those ideas which for far too long only had strength as concepts in classrooms will suddenly reveal most of today’s mechanisms of control as mere concepts as well, thus revealing their weakness.

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It is imperative that the state perpetually reevaluate its ability to give, otherwise it is merely a tyranny, like most states in the world. If the state wants to continue to exist and enjoy the temporal support of its people, it must recognize itself as nothing more than a clever fiction—The state must develop the ability to laugh at itself.


But then, can we really choose to see it this way, if we wish? That the state is nothing but a brutish, bumbling warrior who takes what he wills by strength and has no mind for managing the world beyond his own comfort, but that with a little learning and wisdom he might better learn how to take care of his people? I’m sorry, but it’s all quite a bit more sinister than that. The prices will always rise when there is war being had on many fronts.


Our leaders are quick to pay praise and respect to those men and women who risk and sacrifice their lives for us in wars. They are not brave enough to talk of the sacrifice that the common man must put up with when portions of his wage and most of his livelihood fund those wars. It is no longer sacrifice but forced debt. Of course, the state is unwilling to release information on just how much of the common man’s money is used for funding wars, just as the state is unable to release information on just how much money is used on making your society ‘safer’ and rife with ‘better education.’


When there is a war, all premiums and raises in price are immediately suspect.


Though Marx diagnosed the problem with capitalism, his solution was all too similar to the coming mandate of April 1st. Marx’s solution was little less than cutting out the cumbersome business of currency, and by doing so, he made human utility the currency. So his solution could be seen as an extreme opposite to the mandate of April 1st. Where his solution made humans into money, April 1st, merely supposes that it will make humans into commodities by which the state might make money.


My examples may be of the crudest sort, and perhaps they may say very little about the mechanics of the whole political dynamic involved in the conversation, but is this not what the subject has reduced us to? The marginalization of various classes of people, various types of people, all in favor of a set of dead ideals? That something could be for the sake of social welfare and rob precisely the people who need it most? What we are dealing with is not ‘social healthcare’ as it has often been referred to, but a mere capitalistic imitation of it. It is no kind of radical democracy, as it would greatly like to fashion itself, but a means of widening the gap between rich and poor.


But who then is rich and who is poor? Is the poor man the one asking for food on the corner of the street or is it last year’s millionaire who’s electricity is about to be shut off? Perhaps there will come a time when it is not the gap between the rich and the poor that is widened, but the gap between the anxious and the vigorous. Debt may crush the spirit the same as food deficiency. In America, there is not yet a famine, and this is the final summit of the problem. Where there is no famine, there is no true annihilating, violent poverty. The poverty of America is a poverty of desperation, not a poverty of death. Desperation may earn one food, but so may cunning and persistence (not exclusive from desperation but not married to it). You mustn’t be afraid when you are cast into the margins and the abysses of society. Most of the weapons formed against you simply do battle with your mind.

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Trimming the Ritual Fat

19 Jan


A State of the Union Address is like a public execution. The longer it goes on, the less is said.


I had a dream that I sat listening to a senator as he tried to explain to me just how the United States Constitution, the President and the media were all three persons in one yet, at once, three distinct persons. He told me never to fear when the President left after a State of the Union Address, for the media would come as a teacher and would remind us of all things that the President had said.


True freedom would be to do away with this convention called ‘borders.’ But then, I’m afraid, the casualty would be justice. Alas, we leave our borders up in faith that we’ll find this phantom, justice, somewhere among us.


Taxed for existing. Fined for dying. I trust that a statesman will one day come who will find a way to tax those who do not exist, as well.


The State often demands monetary payment for an ideological reward. One fee grants you ‘safer streets.’ One premium grants you ‘better education.’ One bill grants you ‘better national security.’ If only they could stick to the one tangible thing they offer in exchange for money—a nice coffin. But then, even this, I don’t really get a chance to see either.


I had a dream that everyone traded guns for knives. Battles grew fewer and fewer and so did the number of men who fought them. Soon, strict rules were set on how and when the opponent should be killed, so as not to ruin or corrupt the meat when he died.


It is quite appropriate today that the electoral voting system would grant us leaders who act as symbols of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ rather than their agents. After all, the Electoral College is merely a symbol as well.


A ‘symbol of hope’ or an ‘agent of hope,’—So long as ‘hope’ is the common denominator, the people don’t care which of the two they wind up with.


They tell me with terrible wonder in their eyes how there live people in North Korea who think that their Eternal President created the world. I say, so what? The west believes it is still creating the world with no end in sight.


Bloated vocabulary is a refuge to tautology.


How vulgar our common, over-used sentiments are once they finally pass over the lips of our statesmen and spread throughout the whole public discourse as though it was some new mandate to start using them. Just imagine what a disaster it’ll be when they get a hold of the word ‘love!’ But then, democracy rescues them from having to be so frank.


Constant recitation, repeated phrases, mimetically solidified beliefs transferred through intonations of voice and gestures of the hand, interpretation of the words of dignitaries and foundational texts, manias of crowd-emotion and group-think at public rallies sparked by a few words cushioned in all the unquestioned sentiments of The Party—Does this not all belong to the ministry of The State?


That there are only two forces at play in the country, that there is always a little conservativism in the heart of the liberal and always a little liberalism in the heart of a conservative, that the powers oscillate in a never ending cycle and that either a Democrat or a Republican will always be in charge, even though these two categories rest so adjacent to one another that the lines sometimes blur—this is the one Manichean heresy that America will allow into her good faith in mammon.


The state asks us to carry through ritualistically with the husk of an ideal, all while knowing that it is a husk. The illusion is in their promise that the husk will always be far more costly to clean up.


Men who love their nation perfectly well are often accused of being ‘unpatriotic.’ I suppose this is only a few syllables shy of what they really are. ‘Trimmers of ritual fat.’

Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty

4 May

Achieving Our Country

What is it, exactly, that makes Richard Rorty a fairly easy read? I would equate it, not only to the conciseness of his prose, but to his uncanny ability to draw up perfectly lucid dichotomies. ‘Dichotomy’ has become something of a bad word in contemporary philosophy. The word is often associated with a sense of anti-gradation, usually into an idea which has become ‘over-determined’ and thus, worth ‘deconstructing.’

Rorty draws dichotomies, not to essentialize some thought-system, but to communicate to his reader. In his work, he expresses a sort of counter-distrust to people who too readily preach a message synonymous with saying that no good philosophy can be available to the masses. It is by this means of communication that Rorty, so often accused throughout his career of taking flippant attitudes toward ‘truth,’ actually turns out to take a quite political stance with his philosophy, and that serves this context to say, a moral stance as well.

It is by the same flippancy he was often accused of that Rorty was able to quickly raise the visions of Dewey and Whitman to the level of high praise reserved for Marx and Hegel in their respective circles. In Rorty’s mind, the sins of America should not wipe out our hope that she can still be better and that there is some way to put into action the dream for her that the founding fathers had.

I must say, Rorty’s writing has proved to be quite refreshing. In a time when the Anglo-analytical word-magicians have gained academic currency, placing their priorities in the world of grammar, it is nice to see a very serious form of ‘flippancy’ rendered with such passion, imagination and—the magic word again—hope. So what if at times Rorty’s writing appears to be a philosophy a la carte? So what if he pulls the best out and lets the worst drop away?

In his famous work, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Rorty allows room for those who seek only their own salvation with no hope for the outside world in the form of ‘the ironist’, while also giving room to the separate but not incompatible project of ‘social hope.’ The flippancy for which he has often been accused can best be fit into the impulse from which his idea of personal autonomy in the mind of the ironist arose.

In Achieving Our Country, Rorty lays down some more localized ideas concerning his own country. When looked at closely, Rorty’s theory of the ironist paired with social hope is ultimately a democratic theory. It allows room for the individual while acting to diminish the highest amount of unnecessary suffering.

While it certainly helps to be somewhat familiar with the terms of dichotomy that Rorty plays with here, he is good at summary. Even if one doesn’t particularly trust his summaries as exhaustive, the various pairings are rendered in such a way that the curious reader can easily spring through Rorty’s interpretation and still gain some idea about the writers he references.

Imaginative, cross-textual relationships rule Rorty’s ideas. The most romantic ideas are not dismissed for not being Foucauldian enough. Nobody in Rorty’s book is too unfashionable to draw from. He puts just as much importance on the poets as he does the great thinkers, because Rorty is one of the few to realize that some politics need a sense of vision that philosophy, in its many fashionable permutations, is not always equipped to give it.

Chomsky – Foucault Debate On Human Nature — A Review

9 Feb

http://www.amazon.com/Chomsky-Foucault-Debate-Human-Nature/dp/1595581340

Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault are described in this book by Fons Elders as ‘tunnellers through a mountain working at opposite sides of the same mountain with different tools, without even knowing if they are working in each other’s direction.’ Human Nature: Justice vs. Power is the title of the debate, which originally aired on Dutch television in 1971.

The title is taken from the stance that both men arrived at (or continued to entertain) into in the late stages of their careers. To reduce it to its simplest explanation—a job that the title of the book has already prepared us for—, Chomsky tends to think that some sense of justice is responsible for human nature while Foucault tends to think that programs of power play more into human behavior. One might be tempted to pin the whole occasion down to a manifestation of an ongoing war between foundationalism and hermeneutics, Chomsky being a likely tie to the former and Foucault a likely tie to the latter.

However, nothing between these two thinkers is ever quite that simple. As Chomsky continues on insisting that certain attributes of human language and creativity stem from fundamental biological properties, we start to gather that this insistence has more to do with a scientific need to push forward with a theory in order to see if it stands or falls in some provided context. This also gives Chomsky a chance to remain optimistic about the nature of man by postulating that some notion of justice or, at least, a notion of ‘better justice’ is what drives human nature—which is probably a means of remaining optimistic about the future of man.

This also gives him the opportunity to remain fairly constant through both subjects—creativity and politics. On the subject of creativity, Foucault seems to disagree with him very little or only in small ways, while remaining suspicious of the inherent logical movement of Chomsky’s assumptions. They split on Descartes and the mind, and the nuance of this split is representative of the paradigmic relationship that these two thinkers have with the subject matter.

The subject of politics is where Foucault is at his most rigorous. When asked why he is interested in politics, the most basic answer he can provide is that it would be far stranger for someone not to be interested in politics, at which point it would be justifiable to ask, ‘Well, damit, why the hell not?’ A self proclaimed ‘Nietzschean,’ Foucault’s specialty is in the genealogies and pedigrees of certain ideas and assumptions. Through socio-linguistic turns, through the intellectual extracts of different sets of phenomena and the inter-subjective dialogue possible between them through different texts, Foucault made a career out of constantly trying to step outside of the historical contexts in which we’re thrown and creating brand new narratives in such a way that they would read as though they were things hidden since the beginning of man.

The most fundamental disagreement happens late into the debate, in the political section, in which Foucault postulates, not without hesitation as though trying to avoid an impolite subject, that the notion of ‘justice’ was created and then perpetuated by the oppressed class as a justification for a certain kind of economic and political power. Chomsky defends justice as being sought as a network of basic human needs like love, decency, kindness and sympathy, whereas Foucault’s view of justice, Chomsky claims, is very specific to only certain political situations and doesn’t take into account instances like two countries going to war—One is left to choose one side, which reduces the objective to a level of basic human needs and the mutual striving of the citizens to achieve it for one another as well as themselves.

Often, Foucault, eager to escape essentialist trappings, always comes back to the subject of power as a means to clarify certain issues, though he does seem to rest there much the way Nietzsche did. However Foucault does deserve credit for defining Power along more complex lines than the Nietzschean idea of power as ‘the sensation of having overcome,’ or the force by which every set of phenomena can be reduced—‘will to power.’ Foucault takes it further by saying that power is not simply a way of measuring the ways in which the strong constrain the weak but that it can also be manifested through one culture’s influence of educational tools and medical practices. This turns Foucault around from what some have been tempted to call a pessimistic reading in favor of a liberal project that coincides with that of Chomsky’s—to work on a more livable world for all.

The debate only takes up about a third of the book. It’s followed up by another great interview with Chomsky alone, in which he discusses American policy, Vietnam, McCarthyism, the crimes of the FBI and the climate of counter culture and how various revolutions developed. There’s one long and one short essay by Foucault and in them, he sets out on a mission to map, with vague hope, a better political future while on the other hand deconstructing basic terms and ideas like ‘justice,’ ‘man of justice,’ ‘shepherd,’ and ‘lawgiver.’

Though no real conclusion is reached between them (as one might expect), it is an interesting look at a very important project for humanity, even if the means to get there are a bit hazy.