Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Let's talk about something nice for a change. After all, here we are, broadcasting out of Chicagoland, the land of the City that Works, where the big shoulders are, and all that nice meat. Chicago is the home of Meat Club, a few friends of mine who, with me, back in the day, made a few successful forays into the wide world of meat consumption that is one of the tender pastimes of that jungle of cities. Nothing dystopian about that, eh? Or maybe I'm being ironic. After all, you can't spell meat without "meta."
We in Meat Club had some of the best carnitas available from the Michoacan transplants in Pilsen, and a variety of game meats from Casa Samuel in Little Village. The delicious carne en su jugo could not hide from us in its deep beef broth on the southwest side, long before it became trendy and was then forgotten again. On my own I'd been to all the known Jalisco-style birrierias for their sole product, goat, but we never quite made it to such an establishment as the Club. I'd call that "unfinished business."
Meat. Where there is meat, there is hope. Why do I say that? Why do I risk offending so many vegans, vegetarians, and simply sensible people who know meat is killing our planet, particularly industrial meat-raising? Well, I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to claim to purchase only sustainable, kosher, organic, or heritage meats. In fact I actively despise organic meats, and only eat kosher when it's appropriate to the cuisine. I look for bargains. I'm a man of the people, because I have to work for a living, and I can't be paying quadruple the price for a chicken thigh that doesn't taste any better than one from Frank Purdue.
That is, I'm not in favor of fashionable sustainability. It oppresses poor people. And by "poor people" I mean anyone who's one extra expense away from not being able to pay for their housing, and everyone even worse off from there.
I love that there are organic farmers, and I support them when I can, and even if you're growing boutique mushrooms, I say more power to you. But I don't have the means to support much of that monetarily. There are farmers' markets, and organic farms themselves, intended to supply poor people, the demographic who have the hardest time eating healthily let alone sustainably. There are some right here in Los Angeles selling organic produce grown by poor people in urban gardens. But I will not pay for anything at Whole Foods I can find somewhere else, and most of the time I avoid it like the plague that it is.
I get good cheap chicken at the Bangladeshi butcher. Chickens that were alive earlier that very day! And they're scrawny little things, but they taste better than whatever's in the meat cooler at Ralph's. And if it doesn't taste better, why should I buy it? For the intangible health benefits? Blow me.
I get goat meat there, too. Goats aren't factory farmed. Not enough people eat them, so they just run around like happy goats in a YouTube. Goat is a red meat that has as little fat as chicken. And you can spice them heavy and cook them long and slow.
I'll pay more for imported salamis and such because I don't eat much of it. And I shouldn't. I've seen too many people hurt by over-indulging in preserved meats. That's tangible. Don't do it.
The thing I feel worst about is pigs. They're intelligent, and they live miserable lives in factory farms. I can't afford to buy heritage pork, though I've been served some that's noticeably good. If pork is on sale it means there's a glut of it. I buy stuff on sale. Not just because I'm cheap, but because I need my money so I can do other time-consuming but non-remunerative activities. Get it?
It's easy to find sustainable fish. A little research each month tells me what's on the no-eat list, and what farmed fish is ruining the environment, and which nations are using slave labor to get their catch. Sardines are reliably cheap and sustainable, as are anchovies.
Somehow farmed salmon is okay these days. Not sure how that happened. I'm not buying it till I do more research. Last I checked, salmon farms were harming wild salmon. But a knowledgeable friend told me recently the farmed salmon have been let out of no-eat jail.
Rodents, as far as I'm concerned, are always on the menu. A rabbit? A guinea pig? A Belizian gibnut? You will not convince me to forgo the eating of these critters. Geese. Pigeons. Lizards. Ostriches. Bees. Don't try to take them out of my mouth unless you want to lose a finger.
I have nothing against hunting. I've never hunted as it wasn't part of my upbringing. I'm against sport-hunting as opposed to food hunting, and endangered animals are off the card, but I've killed a few things, and witnessed the killing of many. I hold up my ethnic heritage, with its roots in the Slavic regions, as a major justification for my eating of meat – it's in my blood! But killing is also part of it. I love death. I want death in my life. Things and people are being killed all over the world this very minute. I want to be a part of that, in my small way. I like that the animal died. I even like that plants are killed for my table. I'm a bloodthirsty omnivorous ape. I've eaten fresh blood from a duck killed by Laotians in my friend's garage. You would've too, if you'd given it a chance.
We've all loved creatures who've died. What a mystery, right? Eating that mystery is part of partaking in it. Death is the god of life's way of telling you she doesn't love you anymore. We have learned to deal with the loss of love and the loss of life. This is just another way into that confrontation with death, loss, and ourselves.
Oh, very profound, you might say sarcastically. Well, first of all, screw your sarcasm. It irks me. But you have a point. I admitted I use my ethic background to justify eating animals. And this is another justification. But neither justification is without merit. And right now it's up to me to decide how much merit it possesses.
Maybe one day we as a species will give up killing animals for food. Or maybe we'll give up killing anything at all and just eat what's made available by accidents of fortune. I won't stand in the way of this movement, should it gain critical momentum in my lifetime. But right now, it's anarchy. It's every mouth for herself. I feel lucky when I have food to eat. And I accept with gratitude the things both life and death put on my plate.
We have a long way to go before there's food justice in the world. That is, justice for the hungry, and justice for the food itself. Food justice, just like other justice, is very personal, even while it's currently embroiled in struggle. I respect everyone struggling for food justice, even if you mostly do it by eating tofurkey and Gardenburgers. Well, maybe I don't respect you if that's all you do. And you will have to impress me mightily before I have respect for you as a barbecuer. I don't ask for your agreement. I don't ask for your acquiescence. I don't ask for your forgiveness or forbearance.
I only ask that you don't bother me while I'm eating. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
When Alfonso Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men came out back in 2006, I hailed the return of the dystopian sci-fi movie. I loved those things back in the late 60s and 70s. Soylent Green, Rollerball, Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, A Clockwork Orange, A Boy and His Dog, from Kubrick to schlock, they were a seductive outlet for adolescent fears of pollution, governmental and corporate control, and nuclear war. So in Christmas of 2006, in the midst of the Bush/Cheney fiasco, I thought to myself, "Man, this is just what we need!"
Little did I know how hot the apocalyptic fantasy rush was going to be. I love lists, but even Rabelais would be daunted by the myriad. The Young Adult dystopian novels, movies and TV series alone multiply each season. Action, horror, comedies, psychological thrillers – every commercial genre has been colonized by camps of bleak futurologies.
I saw Logan, the final installment of the Hugh Jackman as Wolverine series, the other night. Didn't see any of the first however-many. The story is set in 2029. And this is not an anti-utopia per se. This is a Marvel Comics movie. Not that Marvel would be or has been incapable of weaving anti-utopian tales, and the X-men do exist in a world of allegorical ethnic cleansing, but even given that, there were a few almost unnoticeable but nonetheless remarkable passing notes on the way to telling the story. One, I don't even remember what it was – something about pollution, and the audience collectively, unconsciously, went, of course, it's the future, pollution got so bad it did that awful thing, whatever it was.
Okay, but this is twelve years in the future. The story takes place twelve years from now. My point is simply that it's all by-the-way now. You could set a story in next year, have most of the population dead of flesh-eating virus, and an audience would go, Yeah, that's plausible. Nuclear war has wiped out all humans except a handful of cannibal children by June? Could happen. John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor had to save a handful of humans from the Mayan-prophesied end of days? Five years ago? Well, we all had to go sometime.
This trend is not recent enough to blame on the ascension to office of the Creamsicle Raccoon, although a rewatch of any dystopia is most certainly enhanced by it. Reality itself has been thus enhanced. A walk down a city street seems a prelude to Blade Runner. The scenery on a drive through the southwestern United States is a pregnant landscape ready to burst open and disgorge Mad Max: Fury Road's tribal skinheads screaming for blood and glory.
Everything is more. All things are over-fraught. The military is a false promise of economic security for those desperate enough to bargain their lives. The police crush dissent with military body armor and siege equipment, which suits the white supremacists who've made it a point to infiltrate their ranks during the past couple of decades just fine. A bank account is a necessity for a job and shelter, but they can tax you with random fees or simply collapse, burying your money, then re-emerge in another incarnation and demand it again. At any given moment there are a dozen competing versions of the official truth, tailored to entertain and aggravate the fears and prejudices of every demographic.
Layers of invisible owners extract rents from us, draining our communities of political and economic power, gambling with both our savings and our debts and extracting wealth from us every time they roll their dice. Pseudo-scientists dictate the limits of discussions about everything that matters to us, especially our money and the way we spend our time. The global economy is run according to mystical falsehoods meant to re-establish each morning the rights of those with power and wealth to more of it, and to control our bodies, what we put into them, what we do with them, and our minds, and to what uses we put them.
There's also an endlessly various spectacle, a massive arena in which some lucky ones compete to sell their identities for a chance at release from the global labor camp of meaningless toil. Air, water and farmland are being destroyed to an extent causing wars and mass migrations of refugees. And if the world were threatened with destruction should one more puff of carbon monoxide enter the atmosphere, there wouldn't be a damn thing we could do to save it.
We are telling ourselves a dire story these days. Not to say we're imagining everything. All the ills I've listed are true for some group of victims or another, and some of them are true for all of us. And there is no time that's too soon to fight against these immoral, inhuman oppressions. But all narratives are built around stakes. Vital narratives are built around threats to existence. It may be that, like our desire for extreme sour gummy worms, our constant dystopia is a symptom of our ever-increasing appetite for stimulation. Dystopia might be to advanced civilization what emotional drama is to bored high school romantics. It might be the bourgeois comfort of a segment of us shaping narration that lends already miserable circumstances a hue of hubris having pushed beyond the brink of inevitable disaster.
It's partly perversity on our part. It feels good to surrender to the worst possible outcome. Why worry over small details, such as whether we can help the homeless here or there, when, let's face it, we're all screwed?
The story of an irredeemable human project is something I adore. I recently felt completely justified in tweeting, "If water were brown instead of clear, capitalists would sneak in a pound of poop a day for each of us." What kind of way is that to talk about your fellow species members? No one really doubts the speculative truth of my hypothetical, but water isn't brown. Not yet, anyway. So why even bring it up?
Nevertheless, I came out to vote in the off-year election here in Los Angeles. But less than twelve percent of Angelinos joined me. What gives, if not thoughtless fatalism? What gives here, if not the moral license to do nothing? Who gives out these licenses? Is it me? Do I man a window at the DMV of constant dystopia? Me and my so-called Moment of Truth?
Well, excuse me. I have a god-awful work ethic and an all-around lousy attitude. Yet I made a point of learning a few things, finding out which of them weighed more to the good on a binary scale of yes or no, and got up and voted. I mean, Jesus Krauts, WTF? This is what we said we'd do, get involved locally and take back our politics from the ground up, and we can't even get our shit together to vote?
If this is all my fault, I'm sorry. But I have to believe this hopelessness stuff enough to actually create it, all you have to do is suspend your disbelief long enough to consume it. As many times as I've made caustic sardonic offhand comments since the election, I've been reminded by hopeful, constructive people, mainly women, or men I met through hopeful, motivated women, that it's all very esthetically entertaining but the real mission is still to do something, for goodness sakes.
Seems like most of Los Angeles needs to find better people to hang around with. And how has local political engagement been going in the rest of the country, and the rest of the Western World, for that matter? Pretty pathetically.
Let's go! Yeah, we're living in Brave New Clockwork Soylent Hungerball Metropolis 1984, no doubt about it. But damn, people, there's a resistance! Take it seriously! If we can't save the world from the fascists, at least we can get our licks in before the whole shithouse goes up in flames. At least we can win a few good years of public schooling for someone's kids. And, no matter what I or anyone else might tell you, nothing is inevitable. It just feels that way sometimes.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
We might all profit, in an intellectual, or non-profit, fashion, from boiling down the machinations of the Dump administration to one core aim: privatizing the public wealth of the United States, and as much of that of the rest of the world as possible, for the enrichment of himself and his allies, each of whom represents some segment or other of the currently entrenched global corporate system. That seems to be his only policy goal, if he has one (that and salving his constantly bruised ego at every opportunity, only of importance for its entertainment value). The fascist ideology he serves as mascot for was just his way of getting votes and continues as a way to placate his most enthusiastic supporters, although we might find it has more direct advantages to him in his goal of stealing public wealth.
No one should have any difficulty accepting this umbrella explanation of the projectile fertilizer squirting out of the White House. Betsy DeVos, the undereducated Education Secretary, is peddling school vouchers, which will allow public money to subsidize private schooling for rich kids. The vouchers, of course, will be useless to poor people, because they won't be enough to help them pay for private school entirely, but will be just enough to give the already rich a little discount at the expense of public education.
Putting public lands up for sale is on the Dump wish list. Public funds are paying for members of the Dump clan to live in New York City, and for him to host ostensibly diplomatic business meetings at his resort. Dismantling the EPA is at the top of the EPA's suicidal agenda right now, with the goal of undoing pollution and safety regulations on corporations so they can make just that much more money – public health, public water, land and air, and nature itself be damned. The military buildup Dump keeps barking about can only benefit defense contractors, and a few foreign conflicts are always good for private military companies in the Blackwater and Halliburton mold, as well as your traditional arms manufacturers. The war on sustainable energy is only good for the fossil fuel industry, an industry in need of euthanizing if there ever was one. Even the money for that crown jewel of idiocy, the border wall, will mostly fill the pockets of executives of contracting firms with a bare minimum paid to actual workers, assuming work actually gets done, just as our FEMA dollars did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Steve Bannon, the Lady Macbeth of the White House drama, whose stylish slovenliness has been most accurately described by internet fashion critics as "Coroner of Margaritaville," is on record as desiring the Leninist/Nordquistian destruction of the government. I'm sure he'll leave intact anything dealers in vast amounts of money need to keep their operations running smoothly. Not because he's careless, regardless what his appearance suggests, but because he's a hypocrite.
Dump is, like most politicians, a self-serving engine. What's cruel about him is his disrespect for the feelings of others. And that's not a small thing. He has no skill at diplomacy. In politics, diplomacy is how things get accomplished without bloodshed.
Modern democracy was created in order to seduce the violent rabble to buy into the system, so they wouldn't be rolling out guillotines and chopping off heads every few decades. Dump does not understand the usefulness of getting people to buy into anything that isn't financial or brutal. Lacking this skill might be his undoing. And maybe ours, considering the mood of the moment. This to me is what is most dangerous about him. The specific sundry policies themselves are of course cruel and dangerous, as are the abruptness and severity with which he implements them, but all that is just a symptom of his poor leadership skills. His motive is not to hurt people, but if hurting people is the inevitable result of his policies, he doesn't mind.
We're experiencing an increase in bigoted incivility and hate crimes, mainly against people of color but also against anyone who displays any characteristics of foreignness. And I ask myself, regarding the generalization of Dump's motive I began with, how does practical bigotry play into the hands of the privatizers?
It's no accident that Dump's xenophobic populism has found the most leverage when relying on economic threats to workers as its fulcrum. As I've implied in another recent Moment of Truth, pitting one labor market against another allows capitalists to create an artificial shortage of jobs in societies that can afford to support decent wages and benefits, while they prey on the poor in other countries by threatening starvation and brutal oppression. This is wonderful for all transnational industries. Freedom of movement and freedom to organize are threats to the freedom of capitalists to use any means necessary to make more money.
We have two freedoms at war: the freedom of the masses and communities to act on their own behalf for their own welfare, and the freedom of the capitalist to thwart their freedom and exploit them for profit. These two interests have been at war for quite a long time, and the capitalist, with his dominance over mass discourse, has been able to co-opt a great number of those he oppresses and enlist them into fighting for capitalist freedom.
One truly marvelous manifestation of Dump's singular inability to disguise the ugliness of his project might be the disaffection of some of those capitalism has succeeded in indoctrinating against their own interests. It's a truism, even in the capitalist media, that Dump surfed to power on waves of anger propagated by feelings of economic helplessness. Bernie had no problem channeling that anger in the direction of the corporations and financial institutions who are the traditional enemies of the people according the lore of The Great Depression. Dump might just lose some support as the true nature of his program comes into focus, poorly disguised as it is, and those angry people, at liberty to find another heroic narrative to follow, could be persuaded to join with an anti-übercapitalist populism, even if most of them don't become militant socialists per se.
In other words, Dump might succeed where the left has failed: unmasking the inhumanity of the overweaning owning class. Capitalism has had no better human disguise than its cheerleaders, the Clintons and Obama. Dump is what it looks like when capitalism's human face is torn away. It looks a lot like fascism with its attendant racist and misogynist violence. Coincidence?
The USA loves its tycoons. Stories like that of Rockefeller handing out dimes when he made his first million go hand-in-hand with the liberal insistence that immigrants are worthy of civil rights because they're good for the economy – look at what's-his-brown- face, who founded that multi-million-dollar computer thing!
But a capitalist stomping around with his human face ripped off, how long can even Americans bear it? Might they see it as an affront to their mental model of a virtuous owning class? Perhaps if they can't be convinced to fight privatization and übercapitalism by common-sense arguments, they might come around once it's clear that Dump's repellent display of nastiness threatens to taint their myths of meritocracy.
Hey, as we've seen since we elected a black president with the middle name of Hussein, anything is possible in the USA.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
I have awoken to a new reality. I unfriended an abusive Hillary zealot. I feel as though a great turd has been lifted from my shoulders.
The sun seems brighter and warmer today, or maybe it's just the global warming. Thanks to human activity, fossil fuel burning and farm animal flatulence, the Earth has decided to hurl herself into the Sun. Nevertheless, until I start to burn up, I'm determined to enjoy the benefits of the Supersun with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.
This is called "finding the silver lining." Of course, you've heard of the silver lining. But do you know where they get these silver linings? They're inside clouds. When I was a kid, I heard that every cloud had a silver lining. Every cloud. Growing up as a secular- humanist Jew on the outskirts of Detroit, I assumed this was something Christians came up with. Christianity, as far as I understood it, was about clouds. After you died you went up into the sky and lounged about on the fluffy clouds. I spent many an afternoon looking up at the fluffy clouds, imagining myself lounging on them. It seemed a pleasant but far- fetched promise.
In the waiting room of my pediatrician's office, Dr. Blum, a Jew, there was a perplexing amount of Christian literature. Highlights magazine always seemed Christian to me, with Goofus and Gallant and Aloysius the wolf. And then there were the more obviously Christian books of Bible stories, with illustrations of holy characters with their arms out to their sides, palms out, with crepuscular sunbeams streaming through the clouds behind them. I believe Dr. Blum's receptionist picked out this literature for the children in his waiting room to while away their anxious time before they had to get a shot.
Every cloud had a silver lining, I was told. And on some level I took it literally, and scoffed at it. "No they don't," I thought, with a skeptical sneer. Why would they? Why would they have any lining at all? What's with the lining? Lining in a cloud? Why?
I was 18 years old before I ever flew on an airplane. This is because, when I was growing up, we were poorly. On my first flight I made sure to pay attention as we passed through clouds, checking for silver linings. No silver linings. I didn't really expect them, but it was satisfying to have my childhood biases confirmed. Yep, Christianity, debunked again. Christians and their silly ideas about clouds.
But I fear I've trivialized the issue. The silver lining model is not peripheral to Christianity. It was what made Christianity popular in the first place. Yes, you're poor, diseased, they've taken everything from you, locked you up, tortured you, but the silver lining is, you'll get to go to Heaven when you die.
The story about God coming to Earth in the form of his own virgin-birthed son, that I get. But all the cloud stuff comes off as the most simpleminded marketing strategy.
Clouds, of course, in reality, are useful as well as fascinating. This stereotype of a cloud showing up to spoil your beautiful clear sky is derogatory and unflattering. Clouds, like immigrants, are something the USA can't do without. I'm sure we're all familiar with the newspaper photograph of an outraged, fist-shaking Abe Simpson under the headline "Old Man Yells At Cloud." Very amusing, but on the serious side, how different is Abe's cloud-bashing from Donald Trump's fascist immigrant-bashing? Only different in degree, I'd say.
Clouds bring rain and shade and make our planet look beautiful from space. Clouds don't need a silver lining. Clouds are their own silver lining.
What brought this saying to mind is a conversation I was having a few days ago with a currently unemployed friend. "At least you'll have time to work on your art," I said, "so, there's a silver lining."
I realized during that conversation that I've had to do this "look on the bright side" and "make lemonade from these lemons" narrative contortions many times since November 8 of last year. "Well, a Creamsicle Fascist Raccoon is in the White House, but at least people are now enraged at one common enemy." "The new Secretary of Education is a figurehead for the for-profit education lobby, but maybe it will finally rally the unprivileged majority to the cause of public education." "GOP control of Congress and the executive branch will allow them to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but at least people are realizing there are parts of the ACA they don't want to get rid of, and that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing, and the GOP legislature is looking like the unprepared worthless gasbags they are." A lot of silver linings there.
Current affairs are so demoralizing these days that it seems all we've got are silver linings. As if the victory of thuggish moronic hamfisted fascism has ripped open all the clouds, dumped all the down out of them, torn out all the linings and tossed them into the street. And we, the people, march off to our jobs or to the unemployment bureau or to the cardboard box or abandoned station wagon we live in, past these piles of rumpled silver linings, good for nothing, just filthy, not even real silver but more like a cheap TJ Maxx version of silver lamé, fraying and prickly, not even good for use as a blanket. I hate that stuff. It's worse than itchy wool. It should never be used as a lining. It should never touch the skin or any fabric you're wearing that you'd want to wear again. It's a decoration at best, and one that doesn't last long before it betrays its lack of quality.
I've looked at clouds from both sides now. The more realistic, useful and often majestic portrait from meteorology, and the irrelevant caricature born of crude Christianity and represented by mawkish "inspirational" media. Oh, the metaphors I could weave right now, the storm clouds gathering on the horizon, the reaping of the whirlwind, the fog of war that threatens to enshroud our tenuous civilization, but I'm not going there. Clouds are real things, and we wield them much too frivolously in our rhetoric. Sorry to rain on your parade.
I made up with the Hillary zealot during the writing of this piece. Grudgingly. The burdensome turd that was lifted from my shoulders is once again my turd burden. I'll no doubt be irked by any number of bourgeois pseudo-progressive losers with no capacity for self-examination whatsoever. But I don't believe in weeding negative people out of my life. I think that's the coward's way. Not because I need them as an allies, but because I have completely unwarranted confidence in my resilient grace. Jerks can annoy me, thugs can hijack my quasi-democracy, fascists might swarm and dismantle everything I and my community have built. But they can't defeat my grace. The worst they can do is kill me. And then I'm dead, so my worries are over.
That's the ultimate silver lining. The sweet eternal leisure of Death.
Not that I'm some kind of warrior who's come to terms with life's brief absurdity, but I've given up expending useless energy fretting, panicking and grieving. I also look to those stronger and better organized than I and use my perception of their strength to prop up my complacency. This method is so much better than looking for silver linings, which are cheap now and cluttering up our thoroughfares like poisoned birds that have dropped from the sky. I'm not heroic, but I have learned how to admire good people in a way that works for me!
And what good is a good person if they don't provide an advantage to me? Otherwise they're just Mozart to my Solieri, and that's not any way to live. Instead of relying solely on the energy I get from my passionate hatred of the low-quality people running the world, I have discovered a way to enrich myself spiritually by admiring the fighting spirit of those who resist. It's something like harvesting renewable energy.
Let us renounce the silver lining model from now forward. We're in a fight, and the people on our side are the better people. That's not a silver lining, that's how the forces are arrayed. It's the nature of the war. We don't need to make lemonade or look on the bright side. We're the better people. End of story.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Ladies and Gentlemen and all points in between and beyond, I have distilled my discontent down to two rules:
1. The goal is equality of opportunity and equality under the law, inclusive society big and small (freedom from persecution on any basis), basic guaranteed standard of living (including infrastructure upkeep), universal health care, imprisonment as an admission of social failure to be limited to only exceptional cases, the choice to live a meaningful life rather than one dominated by drudgery, and equal access to quality education at every level. In short: respect for human rights and needs from any organization with which an individual comes into contact. These are within our abilities and resources as a species to provide. Without providing these, any system is extorting submission and misappropriating and misusing fees, rather than deserving of civil behavior and agreeable payment from the public. I'm not going to discuss or argue this anymore. If your goals are different, justify them to someone who cares.
2. Anything bad for Trump is good for the world.
I do not argue these points anymore. I don't explain them. I don't teach idiots, and only an idiot would disagree with these two convictions of mine. I would advise you all to do the same. Unless you're an idiot and disagree with me. Then I would advise you to eat a lump of poison. Or do like the KKK families do, murder your husband the Imperial Wizard and dump his body in the Missouri River.
The ability of stupid humanity to accept social conditions which any child can see are appallingly foolish is mind-numbing to me. It's really the dumbness of other people that's holding back the entire species.
Or is it? How do I get through my day, if I'm so enlightened that I can see through the veneer of respectability and discern the misbegotten nature of our society? I'll own it: I fool myself into thinking this garbage is okay. It's the only way to live a remotely pleasant life. Imagine living under the yoke of the Spanish Inquisition in 1493. Imagine how wildly you'd have to fool yourself into thinking it was fine to get up in the morning and go about your daily routine, while people were having their flesh punctured and ripped and their bones smashed until they admitted to abrogating some ludicrous superstitious rule. It's no different now. We are just as self-deceitful. We lie to ourselves just as blatantly. And we ignore the torment of others, torments as vile as those fashionable in the late 15th Century.
And most of us aren't even that bright. We hardly stand a chance against the onslaught of indoctrination blasting at us from the hypocrisy engines our ancestors have collectively constructed, as if to prevent the entire ghastly Machine of Machines from melting in the flames of its own evil fuel.
Not even the genius is immune. Einstein had to cultivate a dithering, absent-minded personality. It was the only thing preventing him from a moral epiphany that would have culminated in him giving away all his belongings and running naked through the streets cutting down people with a machete.
Have you ever heard of Bartolomé de las Casas, the Dominican priest who came from Spain to the Americas in 1502? He hung out with Christopher Columbus's son, Diego Columbus. He was a brilliant guy, las Casas. But even he went about his daily business in 16th Century Hispaniola, owning Indian slaves, watching Indians worked to death in the gold mines. Oh, he had his misgivings. But still he got up every day and performed his daily duties. He was even aware of a sermon given in 1511 by Friar Antón Montesino denouncing the system of Spanish enslavement of the Indians known as the encomiendo.
But it still took las Casas until 1514 to denounce the system himself. He wrote an Apologetic Summary History of the Indies, from which comes most of what we know about the atrocities visited on the Indians by the Spanish. And even after his great realization of the humanness of the American natives, he thought a great idea to replace the encomiendo it was to bring slaves over from Africa and work them to death instead of the Indians. This crappy brainstorm he didn't retract for at least another decade and a half! But then he felt real bad about it, to his credit. "I came to realize that black slavery was as unjust as Indian slavery," he wrote in his History of the Indies. Too little too late, of course, and that's how it always goes, isn't it?
So how can we be surprised that someone like Bill Clinton, smart as he might be, could usher in policies that were calculated to punish the poor and unfortunate for being poor and unfortunate? Five hundred years ago, Spanish Catholicism's best and brightest could barely find the brain and heart and courage to fight the injustice of his time, and all we had was some pampered Boomer bubba college sellout, pushing NAFTA.
Don't think Bill and Hillary didn't have an inkling of how they were screwing workers. They, as we do, recognize very well the perversions and inversions of justice our civilization is built on. They sat down in their trade agreement meetings and said at some point, consciously in their heads, "We'll screw the working and the poor right now, but it'll all come out okay in the end, because MLK said the arc of history bends towards justice. So that's covered." And they proceeded to blithely screw the people, screw them headfirst into the ground like fencepost diggers.
So now your factory can go across any border it feels like. But your factory worker can be legally murdered attempting the same.
In the current discussion about immigration and so-called illegal immigrants, the frame has moved so far away from anything resembling sense, it's no wonder no liberal can make a case that convinces a white lady working at Target in Lincoln, Nebraska.
National borders are artificial. I'm sure you don't need reminding. They don't exist in real life. We make them. It's our choice. And when I think of the rules I enumerated at the beginning of this piece, the convictions I refuse to argue, or discuss, or try to teach to the benighted proto-Nazis whose Nazism gestates in their heads like that alien thing that burst out of John Hurt's ribcage – I just want to scream. We should not even be discussing this. We are not slaves. We are not the property of the capitalists operating in our respective countries.
Why shouldn't a Mexican woman be able to come here and pick fruit if that's a job she wants to do? Why shouldn't any of us be able to travel freely from country to country, seeking the best jobs we can get? Or taking the jobs that serve our needs at the moment? Of course, the turds at the top will tell you such restrictions on freedom as work permits and migration quotas protect the nation's workers. What a load. What a stinking load. All it protects is the ability of the capitalist to play labor markets against each other. And our patriots here at home think they're doing themselves some good. They should be fighting for an end to borders, not a wall that reifies one.
Why are we putting up with this crap? We are not this stupid. But we willingly stupefy ourselves because we believe we need to in order to survive. And maybe we do. What good does it do to wake up one day to the knowledge you're a slave in a global prison camp instead of a free person in a free country, as you had assumed when you went to sleep the night before? What doth it profit a man to understand his situation?
We live in barbaric times. We haven't come such a long way in five hundred years. It's all right to admit it. It puts things in perspective. We are so far from justice, we can't even see it. We don't even have the right kind of eyes to interpret its shape. So there's no point shooting for utopia all at one go, is there? The goals are still the same, but our immediate actions are less demanding. Let's give ourselves a break even as we wrap our brains around how dire the situation is. We're battling a many- headed hydra. Let's just make things a little more humane, shall we, still keeping in mind the vastness of the task, without feeling daunted? This is not an argument for incrementalism, certainly not Clintonian incrementalism – our steps can be as ambitious as we choose – but just a reminder to pace ourselves, cut ourselves some slack, good old-fashioned slack, and not allow ourselves to be beaten by the enormity of the wrong we seek to right. We must all grasp that we're fighting to achieve a world we can't even understand yet. We're fighting against barbarians, no more nor less civilized than we are, but definitely on the wrong side.
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There's a framework for thinking about evolution in terms of thermodynamics, and I'm here to misunderstand it for you. Complex thermodynamically open systems, such as living organisms, but not only living organisms, but in this case, yes, living organisms, tend to want to redistribute the energy going into them by discharging it in the most entropic way possible. So, if you eat a lot of fuel, such as a pizza, you're going to be able to stomp around, breaking stuff and kicking up dust. On top of that, you'll be able to make machines that will take in energy and smash stuff and give off heat, destroying more organization than if you hadn't made the machine, and creating greater entropy than otherwise.
I'll be honest: I don’t think that's a very good illustration of the theory. Oh! That's because I forgot to say that the organization isn't just thermal energy, it's information. Information wants to be free, somebody said. I have the vague recollection it was a lawyer. But what information wants is beside the point. Energetic input helps cajole information to organize itself into complex systems. That's why there's something instead of nothing. Maybe. And information forms complex systems to more efficiently transform energetic input into entropy.
Without a shadow of a doubt, I am doing great violence to this theory. But maybe that's my purpose: to redistribute my breakfast into nonsensical misinterpretations of popular science articles in Quanta magazine, thereby turning organized chemical energy, as well as well-organized information in plain English, into froth and ado and evenly-distributed confusion.
This is why it is almost one hundred percent certain that the listenership of the This Is Hell radio program is going to continue to grow: broadcasting the information to more listeners distributes it over a greater area, therefore more evenly, in the cosmic scheme of things. Nature wants This Is Hell to have more listeners. It's only natural. And the listeners, absorbing this information, will mess up the world around them, creating entropy more efficiently.
I've slept through most of the past century's philosophical trends, so I don't know if people are still as pumped about dialectical materialism as they were back when I was a boy in the late 19th Century. I assume there have been some changes. I always felt Marx added that stuff in order to position communism within the history of philosophy. It didn't seem like a great idea. The history of philosophy doesn't seem like a great idea. Philosophy itself seems like a pretty iffy idea to begin with.
If dialectical materialism hasn't by now been trashed by ecological descriptions of historical forces, or by game theory, which totally explodes everything, then allow me to segue into my early musings on a thermodynamic information theory of the state and the masses, which should put the last nail in. Into everything. Let's illustrate it like this: sometimes the state is an organism, and the masses are a bath the organism lives inside of. And sometimes the state is the bath, and the masses are the organism. They switch places, and it's not always clear which party is an organism and which is its environment.
For example, right now, the current administration, representing the state, is like an ill-formed octopus, trying to reach its tentacles into things, and the masses are all over it like a salty ocean battering it with currents and rising temperatures. The octopus attempts to adapt, in order to accomplish its tentacle intentions, but because it's not a very well-crafted animal, it's having a hell of a time, flailing in frustration. It's not able to absorb the energy the ocean is bombarding it with, in order to turn that bombardment energy into entropy, yet internally it can't help struggling to assimilate that energy. How fast could a giraffe adapt to a tornado? Not too fast. It would pretty much be splintered down to a pile of knees in seconds. This octopus administration is doing everything a failing organism does, which means it's mostly consuming its own insides right now.
I told you I didn't understand this stuff too well. Now you see what I mean.
You need to look at it like this: imagine chemicals are a collection of billiard balls. And under certain circumstances the balls combine to give you RNA. Once you get RNA, you're on the way to all kinds of exciting stuff. RNA reacts to energy by duplicating itself. At least I think it does. I'm pretty sure you'd be hard-pressed to find an Earthlike planet, you know, a Goldilocks-zone planet, anywhere in the universe with just a single RNA molecule floating around on it. Not gonna happen. You can put your money on that.
You need to look at it like a card game. You need to think of the auto-industry. Think about a forest fire. No, no, think about a recipe in relation to its ingredients, its instructions, and your hungry family. Or a topiary display.
The thing about the billiard balls is, each kind of ball has different properties. This is information. I think.
Back to the forest fire. Or the topiary. Think about the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate in the context of baseball history. That's what I do, sometimes, just to stop thinking about ice cream.
I had these bananas. It was a dollar for a whole lot of them, because they'd been cut off from their bunches. For some reason I had the idea that I'd make bananas Foster with them. When I got them home I realized I was missing a few ingredients. I needed black rum, brown sugar, and ice cream.
I got those ingredients, and then the Trump travel ban for people from certain mostly Muslim countries came, so I ate the ice cream.
That's what I'm talking about. When life gives you lemons, make avgolemono. You'll need eggs, chicken broth, and rice, too. Adapt. That's what we're doing. We're very good at reorganizing in response to totalitarian energy. I was very impressed with all you young people showing up so quickly at the airports to demand the release of the victims of the travel ban.
It's almost like you were all an octopus, and the state was an ocean, battering you with fascist currents and erratic temperature changes, but the information in you was so flexible that it could reorganize to send your tentacles into the spaces where they were most needed. It was an evolutionarily analogical thing of beauty. Wasn't it? It really was.
You really made some good avgolemono out of those lemons. Not like the batch I just made. I forgot to let the rice cook before adding the lemons and eggs, so the eggs curdled while the rice was cooking. I take this as evidence that I myself may not survive this administration. But I have a lot of optimism regarding the rest of you.
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Imagine you are an ape, living in a vineyard with your small tribe. The grapes growing there are ripe and sweet. Humans have not been seen in these parts for several months. The weather is warm. Are you not delighted?
This is just one of the mental exercises you can employ to rejuvenate and salve your spirit after catching a glimpse of the Thing currently occupying the office of President of the United States.
It happens. You've done your best not to think about it, but it's impossible to avoid an inadvertent reminder now and then that one of schlock-capitalism's most grotesque abominations is right now operating inside the Oval Office – inside one of the most august theatrical settings in our governmental drama – scribbling his shitty signature on morally deformed executive orders like he runs the joint.
It's a jolt to the system to see him there, that weird-ass bullshit piece of shit, with his shitty suit and shitty hair and his puckered ruined horrible face, warped by decades of being wrapped over a tiny, hard little pea-gravel crumb of a soul. Watching him meeting with GOP Senators, as little respect as I have for that bunch, is nevertheless jarring, like walking in on a grumpy cat in a dunce cap using your hotel room toilet.
One of the foundational principles of our government, it always seemed to me, was that the President was to be considered a human being, a citizen among citizens, not a special human being, but a normal human being, not a nobleman, not an aristocrat, not a monarch invested with Divine Right. That he was nevertheless accorded a colonial slave-built mansion with its own bowling alley and other luxuries came off, at least to me, as counter to the egalitarian spirit of the social mission of the USA.
Having so self-indoctrinated, I'd believed myself immune to feelings of undue respect for the office per se. Respect for the man occupying the office could be earned through respectable behavior, but there was nothing particularly sacred about the seal, the desk, the office, the house. Those were only worthy of respect as the accoutrements of a respect-worthy man inhabiting them.
Richard Nixon brought disgrace to his office, but even so, he never seemed unworthy of actually sitting at the desk. It was just a desk. He wore a suit and tie, like any other desk-sitting person. He was a bad president, a mass-murderer, a paranoid, drunken, opportunistic, unscrupulous, vindictive, foul-mouthed, spiteful bigot, but in relation to the props, sets and costumes of the President, he merely leant his personal dishonor to them, merely mishandled them.
Seeing this current lump of filth swamping about in that environment, though, is another story altogether. There are some people who, by their inherent nature, are a visual insult to certain environments. A fur-clad, hairy-shouldered Visigoth gnawing a leg of mutton is perfectly in harmony at a malodorous pre-medieval banquet in whatever kind of rude celebration hall their revels were held. But he would look damn odd doing his mutton-gnawing at a late-night comedy show in a dingy bar. His belches, growls and slurping, bits of mutton splashing into the air, would disturb the few dissolute souls gathered. They might even wonder if the Visigoth weren't part of the performance, or even doing a separate performance altogether, competing with the heavy-set thirty-something brunette on stage engaged in droning on about her recent failures in a twelve-step program and her girlfriend's many comical suicide attempts.
You might have little sympathy for the standup comic. You might hate the bartender on sight. You might have little respect for the bar. You might have no respect at all for the clientele. But the intrusion of an anachronistic barbarian flinging saliva and gristle about the place would nevertheless, to your surprise, seem to have robbed the tavern of a dignity you were previously unaware it possessed.
There were once two United States of America: the schlocky freakshow going by the Orwellian name of "reality television," and the more dignified world of real humans trying to live their lives. Whether a house cleaner or an emergency room technician or a schoolteacher or, yes, even a President of the United States, all were part of this latter world. Even the blowhard fascist pundit might encounter real-world troubles, such as having to be hospitalized for opiate addiction, and achieve a bit of that real- world dignity most of us in everyday life inhabit all the time.
There are actual things of the Earth, and we touch them. We eat apples. We hammer nails. We feed babies. We grow crops. We deliver mail. We help people having difficulties as best we can.
But the abomination machinery, the factories of schlock capitalism, turn people into sickening, debased competitors for garbage crowns and rubbish scepters. Anyone who thrives in such an environment is a joke, a sick joke, unworthy of God's own sunshine, because their behavior demonstrates that they don't value sunshine except as a cosmetic to give their skin a deeper tone. Those who win the most in that realm are those who least deserve our sympathy, our empathy, or our trust. They sell their dignity daily to surround themselves with trophies plated with valueless metal and sparkly nodules.
Now, the leader of the world of schlock capitalism has also become the leader of one of the most prestigious aspects of real life. The two worlds have become one. And they don't go together like peanut butter and chocolate. They go together like a hummingbird and a butthole. Like a blade of grass and a shattered skull. Like homemade bread and vampires feasting on each other's viscera.
Maybe it was time for this, to put aside the pretense that these were two separate worlds. In arrogating himself to the Presidency, Trump reveals both his own unworthiness of public courtesy, let alone respect, as well as the depths to which our ship of state has sunk. The masks are off of both worlds. We made our democracy into a home for a garbage king, and lo and behold a garbage king has come to sit on the throne we've fashioned for him. And this contest winner, winner of the garbage king contest, has made of our democracy a shit palace, a fit court for such a throne.
He's only been in office for a week, but he's already put his cheap, obnoxious stink on everything. It's everywhere. Everything stinks. Because of him. But wasn't it inevitable that this type of individual would eventually weasel our society's most prestigious award for himself? And wipe his clammy palm juice all over it, and ruin it forever?
There was a thing once called the "Post-Watergate Morality." Watergate was one of the many times our nation lost its innocence. Somehow our cherry keeps growing back, and perfidious individuals come along and pop it again. Somehow, we were shocked that our President could stoop to the tactics of a petty bully, even though we ourselves had elected Richard Nixon. No wonder Forrest Gump and Gomer Pyle are so totemic to us as representatives of our national character. There will, no doubt, be a Post-Trump Morality, or a Post-Trump Society. Yet more scales have fallen from our eyes. Who knew we had so many eye scales?
We are seeing a new, uglier aspect of the truth, which is why it's so difficult to look at. It's like the first time you see the innards of a person. I knew a kid who was terrified because he had a skeleton inside him. Skeletons were scary! Skeletons were monsters! But he got used to it.
In truth, this is where we've lived all along. We've always treated at least some of our people the way Trump treats people, and we even treated great masses of white people that way during the Depression. We've always had the potential and the power to treat a portion of our citizens or denizens as less than human, and until we root out that potential, until we institute checks on those powers as cleverly as the Founding Fathers contrived to balance the branches of state, we're going to keep waking up having lost our virginity to national nightmares of our own making.
We have not made the reins of leadership unattractive to people of lousy character. We need to do that. We need institutions that discourage greed, dishonesty, shameless self-promotion, domination, brutality, excessive ownership, control over human beings, shows of force, weaseling out of responsibility, circumventing laws, disrespect for those who need help, disrespect for anyone or anything that can't defend itself from conquest. Instead we reward all those things. That's our system. It's pretty evident now that all of those negative qualities are incentives in our culture because they are inherent to capitalism, which allows patriarchal white Christian supremacy to use those negative incentives to maintain power.
Imagine you are a wood sprite, living in a fragrant forest of lilacs and day lilies, eating puffballs and morels, riding tiny deer, playing naked Twister with the other little sprites, who are all just as adorable as you are, singing from the Wood Sprite Songbook until the wee hours, under the moonlight, pleasantly drunk on daffodil nectar. Are you not delighted?
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After the superwealthy have taken control of everything, what is going to happen to all the excess people? I mean, assuming the superwealthy continue on their current course of commandeering all the resources and phasing out human labor, what's going to happen to all the people they don't need? If those people begin to grow food for themselves, should they find somewhere to do so, won't the superwealthy eventually find out and take the arable land for their own profit? If they hunt and fish and gather, won't their land be taken away and turned into hunting, fishing, and gathering resorts for the superwealthy? And the pre-existing communities: if they aren't picturesque enough to bring in tourism dollars, and they can't farm and they can't get jobs and they can't hunt, fish or gather, how will they live?
I've heard estimates to the effect that 40% of the people on Earth at the moment are unnecessary to the people who matter: they're unemployable, they're in the way, and their misery isn't even necessary as a warning to the existing workforce not to ask for too much. 40% of humanity could be shed just like that. It's a wonder someone or some corporation or cabal of corporations hasn't taken care of this by now.
They're probably waiting to see how large the percentage can grow. It's entirely possible that the superwealthy could whittle the number of people necessary to keep them ecstatically comfortable down to, say, a few thousand per person who matters, or PWM. And better to massacre all of the expendables in one big lump than to do it piecemeal. Better from a PR standpoint. Then again, maybe they're actually doing it piecemeal as we speak.
But if so, they're doing it very slowly and in an extremely disorganized way. It's worth examining why they haven't taken more definitive, prompt action to eliminate the expendables.
It probably wouldn't be much fun to be a PWM without the ability to go to, say, a town on the Amalfi Coast, where people are living as you assume they've lived for a long time, for dinner on a pleasant piazza overlooking the Mediterranean where you are served a bowl of the most divine soup, and the jasmine petals fall from the trees into your soup, and you are meant to eat them, they compliment the soup deliciously. And you wander the narrow streets with your trophy spouse, passing picturesque proletarians plying their picturesque trades: the shoesmith, smithing shoes; the beanwright, polishing his beans in an ancient hand-cranked hopper; and of course the mill-monger, monging her mill-grist in her millbarrow along streets old and narrow.
You may not be a romantic type of PWM. In fact, you might not be a P at all, in the biological sense. You might be a corporation, in which case your only goal is to create a product at the least expense, sell it at the highest price, and amass assets to be reflected in your value to financial institutions. You don't have dreams or nostalgia. So pretty proletarians plying their picturesque trades don't affect you.
What corporations need is customers, people who buy things, or pay for services. And if you can't pay for things corporations peddle, you're probably in some famine or war somewhere. In which case, you might belong to an organization that can afford to pay for weapons. Or else you're just someone trying to survive. In which case, you might be the target of an arms customer, inspiring him to purchase more accurate weapons.
It's beginning to seem as though even the least productive human contains some few drops of value to even the most inhuman of collective human organisms. Yet I'm sure I heard something about valueless people and their unworthiness in the eyes of capitalism. I suppose the question is, worthy of what? And what if capitalism isn't aware of their value? What if capitalism is a self-destructive carnivore, lacking the wisdom to alter its behavior in order to sustain the environment it requires to survive?
Returning to the picturesque, for the moment, let's consider an additional facet of those tradespeople who populate the town where our PWMs ate their jasmine-laced soup. Those tradespeople don't merely exist as set dressing. The shoesmith smiths his shoes for people in the town with feet. There's life going on in the town. It isn't Westworld, in which the population exists solely for the senses of the visitor.
Even the civilian struggling to survive in a Yemeni city, fleeing bullets and explosions, is not only valuable to the bullet-seller. He may be a mother or father, with nurturing value to his offspring, or a sister or friend, with the intangible but very real value of a loved one.
If every one of us has value simply by virtue of being human – and I would argue we do – why this constant struggle to be treated as such? Is such a dimwitted thought experiment as I've meandered through here really necessary? Is it not simply true on its face? Are we so clever at deceiving ourselves that we can mentally contrive to consider blatant, destructive selfishness a virtue more easily than we can see its folly? What is really going on here?
Logic probably shakes out eventually, even out of a bag of poison. There's nothing good or nice or even, ultimately, self-preserving or self-persistent in the way our resources are being managed by the self-appointed owners. If we could somehow communicate to each new generation the ridiculous lengths to which people have gone to squeeze more than they could ever possibly require out of people whose resultant misery is in no way necessary, maybe they'd pause for a moment, put the brakes on the ever-rolling threshers gobbling up what goodness is left in the world, and, if only out of sheer exhaustion, take a god damn break.
Those who remember history are completely exhausted. Sure, some of them grow delusional, believing they can conquer the world, but most are exhausted, and with more and more history to remember every year, our exhaustion just grows and weighs heavier upon us. What goal other than simply living, if even that, could be worth the burden of dragging oneself to the calculator to figure out how many we need to starve today in order to tick our stock price up a point?
I am literally confounded by a grape. I know a lot of striving went into that grape. Generations of farmers had to cultivate and hybridize. I don't need to see the Taj Mahal to make my life complete, and I certainly don't need to design anything remotely like it. It's a tomb. I could ponder a grape forever. I could even set out to be the most complete describer of a single grape there ever was, and generate mountains of material, I could even design a Taj Mahal of the grape, with its DNA embellishing the vaults instead of Qu'ranic verses.
I believe our job is not to demonstrate to evil maniacs how evil they are, but to exhaust them with our exemplary pointless endeavors, neither constructive nor destructive, until evil maniacs can no longer figure out what their goal is. We're doing a terrible job, I'll admit it. And people are dying while we're waiting for the logic to shake out of the bag of poison. But there's really no other way to go about it.
Built into the desires of the PWMs and the corporations is a need for something from other people. You can't get attention, commerce, romance, admiration, patronization, consumption, from anyone other than people. You can't people-watch without people to watch. Granted, if anyone can be satisfied with a world of compliant robots it's the sociopaths who have clawed their way to the controlling positions. And maybe we need to do something to remove them from those positions. The good news is, eventually they die. Not soon enough, but they do. In the meantime, we must exhaust them, and not let ourselves be exhausted by them.
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Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Art critic and premature environmentalist John Ruskin said, "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey." Today, fascism is rising all over the world, and, as with everything these days but pharmaceuticals, the US response is to offer the product a little cheaper and a little worse. Where fascism is concerned, "made in the USA" is the new "made in China."
After WWI, so many great European artists – poets, painters, filmmakers, playwrights – were disgusted to their deepest core by the pointless death and destruction that had taken place. They gave voice to multitudes who felt the same. But some pricks weren't satisfied. Germany was impoverished by bad treaty terms, no doubt, and the victors in Europe weren't treating the losers too well, but these unrepentant pricks would have felt the same way regardless. The poverty and embarrassment of nations was just an opportunity to them.
Today we call these pricks fascists, whether they adopted the name and the shirt or not. Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini were fascists. Stalin was an opportunist of similar stripe, and though for chronological, geographical and picayune decorative reasons we don't call him a fascist, he was a fascist, as were Mao and Jiang Qing and Chiang- kai Shek and Hirohito. And they had some fascist game. They were good at their jobs. Stalin alone murdered the equivalent of the entire population of greater Los Angeles and then some.
WWII was made by fascists. Even in the aftermath of a war most people judged an abhorrent, meaningless paroxysm of carnage, fascists wanted another war and got it. They didn't just talk the talk.
It took a pile of 40 million more corpses to feed the beast birthed by fascism, and so awful was it that even the leftover fascists and newly-aspiring fascists couldn't buck the anti-fascist, anti-war, anti-hatred trend that followed in its wake for a good thirty-five years. No, it took a lot of doing, a lot of lying, and a lot of killing before labor union victories and democratic socialism and investment in the public welfare could be turned into the perceived profanities they're treated as today, particularly in the United States.
It was pretty rough going for fascists for a while here in the USA. Corporations were far enough on the PR back foot, thanks to the crash of 1929 and the reported carnage of two world wars, that popular prosperity could be advocated for and achieved at levels unimaginable at any other time, particularly in a nation where the concept of liberty was synonymous with the freedom to exploit resources and human beings.
But a variety of forces contributed to the ebb of anti-fascist leanings in our representative democracy. We were much more successful outside our own borders, with our interventions in the Middle East, then in Korea, in Latin America and Indochina. Our first real steps backwards domestically were McCarthyism and its culmination in the ascent of Richard Milhouse Nixon to the presidency.
Yes, Nixon was a fascist, but an exceptionally weak one. He was a fascist with a limited enough following and within a ruling system with enough mutually antagonistic checks on power to prevent him from achieving his project of permanent dictatorial rule.
As a fascist, Nixon was not good for fascism in the short term. The nation reacted badly to Nixon. While fascist supporters became more numerous, antifascist sentiment was re-energized sufficiently at least to maintain its position. It took collusion between fascist-led oil producing nations and fascists in our own secret police industry to bring outright fascism to the dominance it enjoys in domestic US politics today. The moronically parochial populace who identified as conservatives or Republicans had no idea they were being played by these fascists.
Thatcher and Reagan, the twin pillars of the new Western fascism, came to power at roughly the same time, but I'd like to focus on the US and our special ignorance.
We're dolts. I don't believe W. Bush is aware even today that he was a fascist tool. There is no doubt, however, that Dick Cheney was, and remains, a self-aware and enthusiastic fascist, even if he would never call himself one. He knows what he is. There are few figures it would be safe to say this about, but there can be no doubt whatsoever that Dick Cheney would have felt perfectly at home in the Third Reich.
Thought experiments notwithstanding, however useful and accurate they may be in diagnosing and categorizing our homegrown fascists, our fascist leaders come in a variety of guises that keep us from recognizing them as such – and as such they keep fascism watered down from a PR standpoint. Yes, our new president elect, Donald Dump, would himself have been quite snug in the Nazi regime, but hypotheses of this sort, again, useful and informative and truth-bearing though they may be, distract us from a full appreciation of the particulars of our nation's special, stupid, effed-up, uniquely self-defeating fascism.
The fact is, despite our geographical and chronological distance from the horrors of the two World Wars, the US public doesn't seem to have much of a taste for war. There is a much greater taste, though, for repression, and there's a nice juicy fear among white people, feeling their numbers dwindle by comparison with the percentage of the population that is non-white. Coupled with their taking home a decreasing share of the wealth they help create, such fear is a recipe for violent xenophobia and reactionary feeling against humanist sentiment and the public welfare its philosophical tenets suggest. Solid fascism should be the natural response.
And yet, as much as so many of us love our fascism, we've never produced strongmen-types of the European variety, modeling avant-garde military fashion and leather accoutrements and doofusy arm gestures and stark, jagged flag designs. We have carnival barkers instead, or greedy inventors who electrocute elephants, or oil men with boater hats giving away dimes, or minor actors unable to tell their former roles in Westerns from reality, or cigar-chomping populists who differ from gangsters only in where their offices are located and the opiates they push. And of course there's this ridiculous disaster we have now, this self-important entitled aged frat-boy real estate salesman. He's the Goldschlager of fascists, not that fascists are ever anything but tacky, and not that a truly sophisticated fascist would be any better.
We are simply forced to grow a very special fascism and a very special fascist here in the USA. There's freedom woven into our every political statement, even into our fascism, like a talisman. The word has actual meaning, and the fascist must employ it, and each time he does it must mean something akin to what even the benighted masses understand it to mean. Neither Stalin nor Hitler came to power on the promise of freedom, except perhaps from the yoke of the Jew or the connivings of the enemies of the revolution. Trump trumpets a return to greatness, but if that greatness starts to resemble a police state too obviously, there'll be hell to pay even from the most confirmed Klansman.
It's a fine line the US federal fascist has to walk, and Dump doesn't seem like he can walk a straight line even on a good day, let alone a fine one. Yet he did get elected, you have to give him that. He said what the anti-anti-fascists wanted to hear, and it was a deceptively complex message. Considering how little Dump seems to care about preparation, he's either the luckiest asshole in the world or he's an evil genius. He's looking more lucky than smart at this point.
Is he an integral part of the regression we see in the rest of world, the sliding away from anti-fascism? The Golden Dawn, the Northern League, Marine Le Pen, Putin, the rebuilding of the Japanese military? Certainly he's part of the trend away from public welfare and unions and equitable distribution of wealth. But most likely he is more symptom than contributor. He didn't transform his modus operandi to suit the times, rather the times were right for his natural inclinations. Of course, one of the reasons for capitalism's stability is that it seems a reflection of nature.
In Jean Renoir's "The Grande Illusion," we see WWI through the picaresque eyes of men of good will pitted against one another by a situation that benefits none of them. This was the humanist dream of pre-WWII Europe in the 1930s: that the aristocracy had outlived their usefulness, and that mutual affection among the rank- and-file of humanity, regardless of their ethnic or nationalist differences, would prevent another world war. That was the true grand illusion, it turned out.
Supposedly, the aristocracy that lost its place in the world after WWI had as its analogue in WWII populist nationalism: fascism. But fascism lingered after the war, and, as I've said, is now on the upswing, by all indications. Even so, there's also less and less tolerance for the excessive hoarding of wealth by the 1%, or the 2%, or the 10%, classes we only came up with a simple name for in the past eight years. It's not entirely clear we need the capitalist to propel technological innovation anymore, if we ever did. And one wonders if, after the colossal disasters already in the offing under fascist rule, assuming we survive, and I’m not betting on it, maybe the pendulum will swing so far as to render the capitalist himself an anachronism in the popular imagination.
More likely, though, the disaster won't be widespread or catastrophic enough to bring the pendulum back farther than a brief resurgence in public spending or something. And this is an instance where Donald Dump disappoints me. He's not ideologically organized enough to lead the fascists to do anything significantly worse to us than we're already suffering. The bluster is there, but I just don't see the ability.
I'm not one of those who hopes for public suffering in order to spur public backlash, although I suppose what I just said might indicate I am. But I’m not. I don't. I'm aware that human lives are at stake. I want these cowards to fear public pressure enough to do what's right simply out of the impulse for self-preservation. Already, with their clumsy attempts to even discuss repealing the Affordable Care Act, it's clear they're intimidated by the prospect of a negative public response. The idea that public response matters at all, and that the reality of losing medical coverage might outweigh the baffling BS of fascist rhetoric, is heartening. Voting might not work right now. But people getting pissed off seems to be a threat to the lilly-livered fascists in Congress.
And that is what dissatisfies me most about Dump. I'm not convinced he can perceive the dissatisfaction of others as a threat. To him it's just an insult and a challenge to be more of a prick. Inside himself he's a perpetual fascist motion machine, but it's fascism purely for the sake of his self-image.
We're in the waning days of political anti-fascism, for now. Nobody knows if these things go in cycles or not. Anti-fascist art and thought are as powerful as ever, though. Economic justice seems to be the agreed-upon remedy for humanity's ills, and possibly the ills the planet suffers because of humanity, and this consensus even holds among those who espouse idiocies like capitalist libertarianism. The opposing forces of elitist fascism and sustainable egalitarianism are strong and obvious and arrayed for contention.
If we're not in a cycle or on a pendulum, then maybe we're on the brink of a momentous conflict. The only thing clear is that nothing is clear, yet the choices between privatized fragmentation and public unity, equality and unfairness, combustion and renewal, truth and lies, seem to get more obvious every day. The hope, as ever, is that these conflicts play themselves out without destroying too much of what makes life worth living . Considering the crop of second-rate fascists we're producing here in the States, we might just have a chance.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!