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MOMENT OF TRUTH

Posted by Alexander Jerri

Toward, But Not Directly Toward, A Thermodynamic/Information Theory of History

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

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.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

The Marriage of Schlock And Augustus

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

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?

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

The Disposable People

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

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.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day.

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 Lousy Fascists

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!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

Masculinity and Capitalism

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

I was raised in a shitty suburb of Detroit full of bullies or aspiring bullies. As a child my biggest worry was being noticed. I preferred anonymity. Being singled out in a crowd was a prelude to horrible things.

I say I preferred to remain anonymous. It never occurred to me to make friends. I didn't know what that was about. I had friends by default. Anyone who interacted with me without insulting or bullying was my friend. And even then I didn't always trust them. I just knew they had chosen to behave like a friend and that was their choice. Until they behaved otherwise, they were my friend. I didn't understand myself as an active being in the community. I was much more concerned with how the community was acting upon me.

A little later on people would recount their memories of our interactions. I then began, slowly, to understand that I had a presence among others. I was not invisible. I did and said things, which actions and statements were remembered by others. A relationship began to develop between my observing eye and this reported thing that was, I guessed, some aspect of me. I began to watch myself, just as I had been watching the world. I saw myself through the eyes of others. And the more I heard about my presence in the lives of others, the more I saw myself as the main character in a story being told.

I'm going to name the observer, "The Gaze" and the observed, "The Hero," just for the sake of simplicity. The Gaze evaluates what's going on, and the Hero is the main character in the drama the Gaze is watching. Somewhere in between those two was an empty space. My true identity began to be built in the empty space between these conflicting aspects of myself as both an invisible observer and an observed character. And I had no idea what was being built. And I had no desire to know.

I don't know if everyone's identity is constructed this way, or if I'm just one of the unlucky ones who found himself with an empty space where a self should be, letting it build itself without my cultivation or conscious awareness, like an autonomous, unseen detective building an image of a crime from pieces of evidence, discarding whatever judgments prove faulty, incorporating what seems reliable. But I do believe we all have shells made out of Gaze and Hero, and we all have a space within, where our self is built, however they begin and are put together.

When I began to hear about myself from others, how I had said or done one thing or another, whatever they reported I'd said or done, whether bad or good from their point of view, I distrusted any report that didn't jibe with my view of myself as a blameless Hero or flawless Gaze. I was working hard on this story, so I didn't want to abandon it just because a few details didn't fit. I built a story in which anything could be justified – or rather, in which nothing needed to be justified. I assigned no negative or positive morality, they were just actions. Nor could anyone else's memory be trusted more than my own.

Eventually, though, that story fell apart. It turned out to be nothing more than a shell narrative the Gaze and Hero were weaving together. So many discrepancies cropped up between my narrative and what was reported to me that I couldn't sustain the view of my Gaze as infallible. Nor could I sustain my view of my Hero as blameless. The shell lost its integrity, revealing that what I had believed my morality-free identity was full of pollutants. The older I got, the more polluted I became, until I understood on some level that underneath whatever Gaze/Hero shell I was building, at any given time, what I really was underneath it all was just a big glass pillar of incomprehensible, chaotic pollution with no narrative structure whatsoever.

Maybe it was the real story of who I was. Or maybe it was something utterly other and unthinkable. Regardless, I didn't want to examine and I sure wasn't going to allow anyone else to see it.

That was fine, though. I'd become so accustomed to leaving my inner self, whatever that was, out of life that I found it quite easy and in fact necessary to rebuild the shell over and over, to elide the existence of the pollution, and to conceal it. There were some gems among the pollution. Maybe I had made someone laugh or given them a thoughtful gift or impressed them in some way. That gem I would clean off and put into the story. The Gaze would see this gem that the Hero had bestowed on the world. The dirtiness of the pollution I would just ignore and forget. Surely I'm not worse than anyone else, I thought. Everyone's polluted, I told myself, and they don't seem to bother about it. Why should I?

Representing oneself in the best possible light is both masculine and capitalist. It's masculine because a Hero with flaws is an anti-hero, and that's not what a traditional man is. But even when acknowledging one's flaws, as eventually becomes necessary for most people, being a non-traditional man, an anti-hero is still being a Hero in some sense. Because regardless of his flaws, he's what matters most in the story. So even as your narration matures, as long as you are the Hero of your own story, nothing else matters as much as yourself.

And as the viewer of your story, everything exists for you. In capitalism you are both product, to be advertized, and consumer, to be deceived, like being Hero and Gaze. The inner self is left out. It's a dirty, polluted, morally compromised thing that needn't be discussed let alone dealt with. If it has a gem in it, by all means, clean off that gem and display it on yourself. But otherwise steer clear of any mention of it.

This dynamic, in which all that matters are representation and perception, is why men are so afraid of being laughed at. They lose control of how they're perceived. Since there's nothing of value inside the shell of representation and perception, since it's so polluted and unfiltered that it cannot be profited from or even acknowledged, any flaw in the shell threatens to leave a person denuded of value. If the shell collapses, all that is left is the inside. And inside is the real, polluted, impure self, a thing too embarrassing and disgusting to allow out into the world.

The inner thing is afraid, it's lonely, it's trivial, it cries, it bleeds, it loses, it is weak, it has unfulfilled desires, it fails to rise to the top of its field, it's going to get old and die. It's chaotic, lacks narrative order, and one suspects it is therefore frighteningly meaningless.

All of these qualities are all right for women and other inferior beings, but a man is something simpler and better. A man is solid. His shell is solid, and even were his shell to be penetrated, well, with such a shell as he has, he must have an equally virtuous self inside, supporting it.

A man wins. And what he doesn't win through moral or ethical virtue he wins by being the most interesting character in the story.

Obviously there is something pathetically immature about the construct of masculinity in the USA. Infantile, even. And capitalism is merely masculinity writ large. Capitalism is all about the superficial, the unsubtle, the material. If you can't count it, you can't prove that you have more of it than others do, and therefore you can't prove quantitatively your moral superiority to them. When men become homeless we are confronted by the weakness of their shell and repulsed. In this way we demonstrate that we've internalized the shallowness of masculinity and the hateful status hierarchy of capitalism.

Under a global system with similar values as these, or with what we assume are similar values, when nations go broke they are emasculated. Their men become nationalistic fascists, valorizing the ability to do violence, turning brutal domination into a virtue. All out of fear of revealing what they themselves have no stomach to examine.

And this is where we are. Many of us look outside ourselves and see a world that cares nothing for the weak. How does it profit us, we wonder, to make that inner journey to ourselves, to build a real, moral, accountable, yet untamable, unrestrained, limitless self, when outside us is a world that refuses to do the same work? We fear we would just be weakening what projects strength if we failed to properly maintain our shell, while the capitalist world refuses to remove its cleats, stamping those with vulnerable shells into the turf.

Of course, capitalism shifts the blame for the misfortunes it causes onto other things, as does the male. The world, the horrible world, with its disasters, and human nature, that unpredictable, awful, cowardly, inherently violent thing, these are to blame, these are the reasons the capitalist and the male have to keep their armor strong. These are why only the capitalist can be entrusted with wealth and information and only the man can protect us from others. Everyone else is under threat of being crushed, and the crushed cannot lead. All they can become is either victims or criminal threats.

Evolution is not just the development of the individual, but an ecological development. The organism and the environment are involved with each other. We are the collective. Disarming the world can't just begin with individual actions of peace, we need an environment to be peaceful within. At some point the individual has to trust that it's safe to let down his guard, and the society has to trust the individual to be civil. But trust is not what we in the current United States understand as either manly or profitable.

Masculinity and capitalism right now seem to have won. They seem to have formed a monolithic framework to prevent either society or the individual from developing a viable core of self to exist without a defensive shell of false superiority.

Fortunately, though, there are always principles developing to bring beings other than masculine ones into importance, and to bring profitlessness into the realm of economy. There have been such principles for a long time, with waxing and waning influence, and because nothing maintains its hegemony forever, their influence increases even as the old regime flails more violently against change.

It's nowhere written that men and capital will always dominate the story. Other values and other characters are demanding focus, and altering the drama and what lies behind it in ways even too subtle to be termed "demanding." The shell is just a shell and can't be sustained. Examples of the miserable inadequacy of capitalism and masculinity reappear again and again, confronting us, despite our reluctance to see, or our self-indoctrinated inability to understand. But we can't be deceived, or deceive ourselves, forever. Eventually, the evidence contradicting the deception will destroy it.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 The Origin Of Conflict: Part 1, Probably

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

It's important at all times, but especially at such times as these, when tragedy and catastrophe dominate the news, to remember the origins of conflict. Obviously, our understanding of the origins of conflict depend on our point of view. What historical period are we in? Where do we live? What language do we speak? What economic class do we inhabit? What is our social position, and how likely is it to change? And how far back are we willing to go when we look for the origins of conflict?

We might as well begin at the beginning. In the beginning, a spontaneous fluctuation out of nothing created the Big Bang. That may seem to be going a bit farther back than necessary, but maybe not. After all, if we're going to consider root causes, why not consider the root of all roots?

It's a little silly, I guess. Nonetheless, let's see what fruit the tree of silliness bears. We eat the fruit of worse trees every day. Silliness isn't the worst of human crimes.

Immediately after the Big Bang, there was a great deal of heat and expansion. It's possible the heat was so hot it couldn't even be called heat. I'm not even sure what I mean by that but, trust me, odds are there are at least three cosmologists who know what I'm talking about, even if I don't.

Leaving aside heat, then, there was expansion. Expansion, now there's a cause of conflict. And to think it all started with the Big Bang. It's a cosmic principle, expansion. In human terms it's gone by various names: Manifest Destiny, lebensraum, and the popular umbrella, imperialism.

Is it possible that the desire of some groups of humans to control ever larger areas of land can be traced all the way back to the beginning of the universe? No, it's not. See what kind of truth the tree of silliness can bear? We've already debunked a notion that, in the desire to acquire greater territory, humans are channeling a cosmic principle.

The question arises now: why is it even necessary to debunk a doctrine no one holds? I would answer, We've tried debunking doctrines people do hold, and that hasn't worked out at all. We can't even debunk easily disproven lies that the most transparently mendacious people tell. Studies have shown both that people are reluctant to accept new information running counter to their beliefs, and that even when they're open to contrary information, telling them exactly why and how a falsehood is untrue generally has the effect of somehow reinforcing the falsehood. Seems like it's our fate to hold wrong opinions.

Evidence suggests human beings are innately incapable of having their minds changed, and it takes utmost good faith, compassion, empathy and openness to counter the instinct to stick to our ideological guns. And, let's face it, the people whose beliefs are most destructive and therefore most in need of disabusal are not overflowing with good faith, compassion, empathy and openness.

Or to put it the way Yeats did, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." But I think my way is slightly more charitable to "the best."

In any case, I have an idea that this situation might be why we've seen the phrase "we are so fucked" (or its various paraphrases) come into vogue with such ubiquity.

But are we so screwed, fucked, reamed or fisted? Isn't it just abdication to another deterministic theory of human nature to think so? Are we anymore fucked by intellectual intransigence than we are by the expansion of the universe? Probably. I would say, definitely. Still, maybe it's not as bleak as all that.

Then again, I tend to look on the bright side only when things are about to go horribly wrong. So we probably are fucked, at least if we go by my theory of the faultiness of my intuition. Bear in mind, though, that I'm the one who set us on the course of going all the way back to the Big Bang to understand the roots of conflict. Although, come to think of it, that's just more evidence of my bad judgment.

Basically, if we've learned anything, it's not to trust my instincts.

I mean, if we really did things my way, most of human technological effort would be directed toward developing new flavors of gelato.

But would that really be such a bad thing? Would we really miss the internal combustion engine so much if we had flavors of gelato that took us to heights of unimaginable ecstasy? We would if we had to drive a horse and buggy forty miles to get it, I guess.

Once again we're faced with the untrustworthiness of my way of thinking, doing and being. I don't think I'm being unduly harsh on myself when I say, "Don't go by me."

However, I refuse to allow my unreliability as a historical and social philosopher, or whatever it is I'm pretending to be, to stop me from writing with the aim of improving the human condition. It would be typical of me to give up now that I've been proven to be so terrible at it, and if this essay has taught me anything, it's not to do what I usually do, and certainly not to take my own advice. So I'm going to second guess myself here, and persist. It goes against every intuition vibrating in my frame, but I will continue in the coming new year of 2017 to do what I've been such a miserable failure at for over a quarter of a century.

And perhaps in this way I'm no different from humanity at large. We've been trying since recorded history to go on in the face of our utter failure. In fact, failure is the least of our problems. It's our rare successes that trick us into believing there's some great potential in us to aspire to. We wouldn't even bother to fail if success weren't at least a bit plausible.

For every singular Frida Kahlo there are thousands of failed painters. For every Malala Yousafzai there are thousands of women whose educations are aborted by violence. For every Hedy Lamar there are thousands of actors who don't invent frequency hopping. Maybe that's why the population is growing, to increase the odds of one of us achieving something inspirational so the rest of us can sustain the delusion that it's worth struggling on.

And maybe that's why there are so many billions of galaxies filled with so many billions of stars and planets. Maybe on one of those planets they're getting it right, and we'll find out about it someday. Or, here's a scary thought: maybe we're the ones getting right, and this is as right as it can get.

And with that I'll just wish you all the best, and I'll talk your ears off in the new year. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

 

Meet the New Normal, Same as the Old

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

As the fateful moment draws nigh when the man with an orange face and no tan from his brow ridge to his cheeks like a Creamsicle raccoon puts his hand on an ancient book and lies to its god about upholding a Constitution which is itself being eaten away from within the very structures it delineates, the slow-motion farcical death of democracy is playing itself out on the stage of the 24-hour news cycle.

Don't normalize this! Don't normalize this! It's too late, it's been normal for decades. I know, you're hollering about the fascism, the racism, the anti-Semitism of Semites both Jewish and Muslim, the misogyny, the xenophobia and LGBTQ+phobia. But as someone who's been on the receiving end of at least one of those pathologies, and as I've heard other of their targets report for decades, these threads make up the normal fiber of many a US patriot. It's not a surprise at all that a Creamsicle raccoon channeled them in order to serve himself up a heapin' helpin' of presidentially leveraged wealth an power. Leftists of every stripe, from the unrepentant Stalinist to the anarcho-feminist queer, have been predicting the rise of the Creamsicle Raccoon with ever more certainty since the days of Joe Hill.

Nothing could be more normal than sociopathic fascists using government as a festive bazaar for exchanging money and influence with each other. That's what government is: the currency exchange, complete with speculation, on the way to advancement into the Spectacle, but at this currency exchange they serve alcohol.

When was the last time a political figure was jailed for influence peddling? Or was censured for conflict of interest? Or forced to resign for giving a corporation in which they had a stake access to an open tap gushing public money, stealing from working people, the elderly, the unemployed, and school kids to stack up money and favors in the private sector and then wandering over to collect them through the public sector's revolving door? No, you have to send someone a picture of your dick to warrant removal from office. But if you bend a few hundred million people over and screw them, well, that's normal.

There's no one watching the henhouse. It's amazing there are any hens left. The only way we the people have secured the eggs we have has been by banding together and forcing the scum to loosen their miserly grip.

The thing that's new and slightly abnormal is we've got a Creamsicle Raccoon who's so uncouth as to flaunt his crimes before the public. Not that conflicts of interest weren't public knowledge before, it's just they weren't carried out in such a way as to offend the tender sensibilities of anyone powerful enough to matter. Maybe the bald egregiousness of the Creamsicle Raccoon's behavior will bring down the whole house of cards, after so many years of over-privileged scum having built it up, deal by deal, crime by crime, distraction by distraction. Maybe some combination of FDR and Elliot Ness will stroll into town and bring back law and order or some such mixed metaphorical crap.

Every legal flag we've been able to plant is being burned. The Voting Rights Act was one. Roe v Wade isn't even history yet and all but 5 states have laws allowing health care providers to deny abortions. Organized labor is barely a force at all. Poverty and dark skin are criminalized. They're burning all the flags staking out our territories and now they're talking about punishing us for burning flags.

We've relied on a system that rewards anti-social behavior and selfishness, manifesting as financially screwing over communities and even poisoning them, killing indigenous peoples, stealing money meant to educate, house, feed and heal – this is the system we've relied on to guarantee our rights. And the people who succeed under such a system are those whose virtuous impulses, which are ever less in evidence daily, are all that's preventing our complete technocratic enslavement, the utter loss of control over our living conditions and our bodies themselves.

So, what's in it for us? If there's no control over acquisitive, mendacious, Machiavellian impulses at the top – and in fact, if those impulses are encouraged – why should anyone resist any impulse? Why should anyone resist stealing from the cash register at whatever level of society? The big boys are doing it, why shouldn't we? Clearly, rules are for suckers. Voting is for suckers. Laws are for suckers.

Each person is able to take action from within the limits of his or her circumstances. What happens when society gives us the choice either to act as suckers or as criminals? Only the slavishly patriotic will choose the sucker's path.

It would be nice to reject either choice and simply be free. So many of our limits are social constructs, and if there's one thing dissidents of patriarchal white Christian capitalism have honed, it's our belief that almost everything that seems natural is in fact a synthetic lie meant to oppress us, to the advantage of the powerful. So, while opting out of the criminal/sucker existential dichotomy may not be easy, it's most certainly within the scope of our thought and language.

Some people are growing organic food on small farms. My hat is off to them. That to me is a fundamental way of opting out of the criminal/sucker duality. Some are teaching critical thinking to children in public schools despite the pressure to do otherwise, pressure applied ultimately by increasing privatization of everything once held in common by communities. Some are health care workers serving communities where evidence of the virtue of the rulers is nowhere to be seen. If nothing else, these activities sustain a level of opposition to capitalism, albeit mitigated by the way in which they help to some degree to maintain it by merely participating in it.

Some make art, entertainment, journalism and other ostensible "products" regardless of their lack of popularity or viability in the marketplace. Here we're getting closer to my ideal method of combating systemic exploitation. Producing things the system has no use for is an active form of anti-productivity.

I prefer the passive approach. My flag is the hammock. I wrap myself in it. If they want to burn my flag, they'll have to burn me with it. Nothing is less useful to capitalism than sleep. Granted, sleep restores the worker's ability to work. Which is why, to be truly subversive, one must nap to excess. Nap till it hurts. Nap till it hurts the economy. More than that, one must stare into space. Wander aimlessly. Take up space in the pool without doing laps. And nap some more.

Some are talking about a general strike on the day the Creamsicle Raccoon is inaugurated. A number of marches are planned for that day; all protests these days qualify as aimless wandering, and are thus part of the general strike and are generally striking a blow for anti-productivity. Starve the beast, at least for a day.

Be an impediment. Be a traffic hazard. Loiter in a doorway. I don't have a big tent, I have a big hammock. Join me. Dr. King had a dream. I'm gonna have a bunch of them.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

 


Posted by Alexander Jerri

Planet of the Pig

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

The great British socialist standup comic, Stewart Lee, does a bit where he talks about the "iconic final scene" of the original Planet of the Apes movie, "one of the truly iconic scenes in cinema. Apparently, on their world, the apes have made an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty. And it's never explained why ... and Charlton Heston is angry, he goes, 'Dammit, why have you done this, you dirty apes, why? It's a society of apes, why would you make a statue of a human?' And the apes go, 'We don't know, we've just done it.' It's one of the most iconic scenes in cinema and it's completely meaningless and stupid."

He then goes on to explain that the author of the original novel the movie was based on, Pierre Boulle, was a socialist, thus the novel was clearly meant as satire, and he then helpfully defines satire this way: "If any ever asks you what satire is, and you want to appear clever, just say, 'Satire is where it's the same as it is now, except there's animals in it.'"

I haven't read the book, Durov's Pig: Clowns, Politics and Theatre, by Joel Schecter, in over twenty-five years, but it came to mind late this week. I'm not sure I ever owned a copy. I've had the chance to refer to a very difficult-to-navigate PDF copy I downloaded yesterday afternoon. In it, Schecter quotes US playwright George S. Kaufman's definition of satire: "Satire is what closes on Saturday night."

I now quote Schecter's description of Vladimir Durov's performance with his pig in Berlin in 1907:

"Durov placed a German officer's cap, or 'helm' as he called it, in the circus ring, and his trained pig ran to retrieve it. Using ventriloquism, Durov made the pig appear to be saying 'Ich will helm,' meaning 'I want the helmet.' But the phrase could also be translated 'I am Wilhelm,' thereby equating Germany’s Emperor, Wilhelm II, with a trained pig. 'The audience understood the pun at once and applauded it. The German police understood it too,' according to Russian critic Emanuel Dvinsky’s account of the event. Durov was arrested. The pig escaped without prosecution."

Schecter goes on to discuss politically satirical clowning in far greater depth than I can synopsize here. But he seems to conclude that theatrical satire as it was understood at this prewar moment, and between and during the wars as well, was not something that could happen in a place as genteel as the theater. It happened in beer halls, circus rings, and the public streets. It was low comedy, the point of which was to bring the powerful down to the level of the public, or even to the level of a pig, where they could be judged by those they presumed to rule.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was a vain man, and easily offended by mockery – remind you of anyone? – and developed a habit of imprisoning people who pricked his delicate ego.

Who is the Durov's pig of today? Clearly, Alec Baldwin has been chosen to play the part of the pig. But then who is Durov? Lorne Michaels? No, we can't really consider Michaels the ventriloquist who voices the pig – he just doesn't have the chops. Vladimir Durov was a brilliant clown and animal trainer. We might have to go all the way back to the beginning of Second City, and among all those present I'd nominate the late Del Close as the legacy trainer of all those animals.

Stephen Colbert, before he took over from David Letterman, was a Durov's pig, but he was also his own ventriloquist – he and his writers – bringing low, in his way, the rightwing pundits he mimicked.

But despite the best efforts of Vladimir Durov and his fellow satirists of the time, such as writer Frank Wedekind, and transgressive artists like Picasso, Europe was eventually plunged into World War I. Then, despite the best efforts of the German Expressionists and the Dadaists and the satirists of their time, Europe was plunged into World War II.

So we have no reason to believe the Alec Baldwins, or even the Samantha Bees and John Olivers and their ilk, will have any more luck in preventing World War III than their predecessors did preventing the first two.

It's all well and good to bring the mighty low in order to pass judgment on them. But if the people don't then rise up and execute a sentence upon the real pigs, the whole effort is Pyrrhic. Or at best Sisyphean. Not to say that revolution itself, violent or velvet, is not itself a Sisyphean endeavor. But at least you get the appearance of progress.

Feeling despondent, I flipped ahead in Schecter's book to Chapter 7, entitled "The Clown Who Says No." It begins with a quotation from Bertolt Brecht: "I have no backbone for being exterminated. There is only one way to fight authority . . . outlive it."

Brecht did indeed outlive one singular authority, and though he wasn't a Jew he was subversive and "deranged" enough, by Nazi standards, to have to flee Germany. So I don't take his advice lightly.

A majority of the chapter is taken up with discussing a character called, originally, "Svejk." Svejk is a classic ne'er-do-well who somehow accidentally does well. Svejk was the invention of anarchist writer Jaroslav Hasek, who also founded a tongue-in- cheek political party called The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law. Between the world wars, director Erwin Piscator adapted Hasek's novel The Good Soldier Svejk for the stage as a picaresque play. Brecht later took up the character himself in his play, "Schwejk in World War II."

In discussing the plot and comic devices of Brecht's play, Shecter says this:

"The Little Man's cowardice, feigned idiocy and exploitation of 'what minute opportunities are left' lead to comic departures from the Great Man's plan. The plan requires total order, total submission and self-sacrifice... Remnants of individuality and an instinct for survival disrupt the plan."

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of me or the drivel I espouse as my "philosophy" will recognize me in Schecter's description of the Little Man. Anyone who's had an hourly job in a large organization, it needn't be an army, will recognize some of her co-workers if not herself.

Totalitarianism is a lost cause. It doesn't work because nothing "total" ever works on humans. Democracy attempts to adjust to dissent. Capitalism attempts to co-opt dissent. But I promise you, anti-productivity can defeat them all. I'll be discussing this further in the future.

The time will soon come when each of us will be called upon to do a turn as Svejk, to sabotage the machine by following its orders to the letter but not the spirit, or by heeling too closely to the spirit, or simply to gum up the works with the flesh of our inconvenient existence.

We now have a pig dressed up as Kaiser Wilhelm ready to inhabit the White House. We're already great at laughing at and judging pigs, so we've got that covered. We're seeing at Standing Rock, and wherever else marginalized citizens protest the excesses of the oligarchy and its policing organizations, what kind of violence their resistance provokes from the rulers.

I know I'm ahead of my time in advocating anti-productivity, strategic lethargy, and uncivil skepticism of civilization. But history is rapidly catching up to me. See you when you all get here! I'll be the one in the hammock. Wake me up when the bacon is ready.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Posted by Alexander Jerri

SHOT: the election considered as a failed hangover cure

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Alcohol is, among other things, a remedy for some of the symptoms of injustice. When abused properly, alcohol produces a hangover, which can seem more painful than injustice, though injustice is more chronic and intractable. Maybe that's why there are more remedies for hangovers than there are for injustice.

The hangover is a medical condition affecting the brain, mostly, but what affects the brain affects the entire body. The model where every part of the body corresponds to a part of the brain is called "Penfield's homunculus." It is. Look it up. Not coincidentally, Penfield's is also a brand of wine. Look that up. I believe people recognized at some point that when you drank too much Penfield's wine your brain turned into a Penfield's homunculus. I think that is the science of the thing.

There is also a Penfield's homunculus of the butt. The butt and the brain are analogous to each other. For example, they both comprise a pair of lobes. And like the brain, every part of the body has a corresponding region of the buttocks. This is the Gluteus maximal version of reflexology. Basically, the brain is like a peeled buttocks protected inside your skull instead of your pants. And because of the homunculus, it's basically a peeled YOU inside your cranium.

Now, when you drink too much alcohol, you get dehydrated. The lubricating fluids around the brain dry up. So in the morning, your brain scrapes against the inside of you skull, which is very rough. And it chafes. And the brain, being a peeled buttocks, is very tender. Very tender.

So what's a better hangover cure, coffee or more alcohol? Well, coffee is a diuretic, so it will dehydrate you more. And alcohol also dehydrates you. So neither is as good for you as a big greasy breakfast, in my opinion.

But a lot of America disagrees. We part ways on this. The George W Bush administration was like a miserable drunken Neo-conservative night of tearing up the town. We woke up at the end of spring, 2008, all our three trillion dollar surplus gone, we didn't remember how or where we spent it, we'd done things we don't remember to make all our friends hate us, and the global economy which we'd been driving was wrapped around a telephone pole.

So America said to itself, How do we cure this Bush hangover? Let's try coffee first. And Americans like their coffee like they like their presidents: black, thin but not transparent, Kenyan, not too belligerent, not bitter, strong notes of vanilla, with a not-too-secret drone assassination program.

I've been waking up to a cup of Obama every day for the past 8 years, and whatever else I can say, he certainly made me feel like we were a civilized nation. There are a couple of cafes here in LA that will serve you a little glass of sparkling water with your shot of espresso. That's civilized. No, it's not going to cure your hangover, but it's a start, and you feel a little less like a discarded filthy rag. It's a story you tell yourself: I'm a human being. I sip espresso. My president has grace and class.

But a lot of America weren't interested in a civilized espresso with a little sparkle. They threw it back in the barrista's face. Eight years later, like many a drunk whose hangover cure didn't work fast or strong enough by their impatient estimation, they decided to throw something harder at it: a shot.

What is a shot? A shot of espresso was too coastally elitist, too much like what they'd already denounced. A shot of B-12? Too scientific. Who believes in science anymore, all that evolution and climate change crap? A shot in the brain? Just a little too suicidal. "We're not there yet," they said, "Let's just take a little hair of the dog."

Hair of the dog that bit you. Back in the day, if a werewolf bit you, it was believed that eating a few werewolf hairs would prevent you from turning into one.

So maybe drinking a bit of the alcohol that did the damage would somehow fix the damage. Like fighting fire with fire. Which, incidentally, is not a good way to fight most fires.

But somehow, in their impatience to get a quick, strong cure for the hangover, a lot of the country went overboard. Instead of hair of the dog, they swallowed the whole dog. Maybe, in their impatience, they were trying to combine the hair of the dog remedy with the greasy breakfast remedy by eating a huge greasy old hound with a golden retriever comb-over.

I don't know. I just don't know. But the secret's out now. We're in large part an alcoholic nation. Cuz that's what the hair of the dog cure really is: an alcoholic's excuse to start drinking again right at the start of the very next day. That's all it is.

Fact is, hangover cures don't work. They're just stories we tell ourselves to make us feel like we can cure the incurable.

Whatever Gloria Steinem or Cornell West or Tom Hanks may say by way of recrimination or encouragement is just so much CO2. We're all gonna take a shot of whatever we need to keep moving, to defend others and ourselves. Myself, I've been eating like a wet/dry-vacuum, with no thought to the consequences. Cuz the consequences of not doing so are without doubt going to be worse. Whatever your cure for this new doubled-down hangover, do it. Whatever you need to tell yourself to feel like you're free, like you still have some power to make things better, tell it. Cuz if you're going out to fight fascists, you need all the help you can get, even if it's just from your attitude.

Remember, the brain and the butt are connected. Fortify your brain, and your butt will follow.

It's worth a shot!

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!