Parting Political Shot

This site had a simple goal, to open a space for my political ranting, a sideline for me, hence the occasional nature of these pieces. They have become increasing occasional as time’s gone by and, the darkness of (the) age conspiring, my thoughts have erred off into diverse directions. So I am hoping to re-jig this page to allow for more variety,  more … alterity.

Alteritas, the late Latin original lying behind the contemporary buzzword, was as my domain name indicates its inspiration. To alteritas it shall return.

But do let me mention here in one parting political shot my conviction that capitalism is not sustainable, at least as far as humans are concerned. Socialism was only a theory when capitalism was already a behavior and then afterwards an ideology which spawned theory itself. But in a world where capitalism will soon leave humans behind as productive agents of profit and therefore as subjects of interest, the idea and the ideals of socialism remain relevant, if we want to keep humans around.

Enough said on that point.


Signals through Noise

In the whirl of events in which we are all immersed these days, thanks to media, social or not, I’ve been trying to sort signals out from noise. I have boiled this commotion down to four talking points to help muster my own thoughts. I offer them here without further ado.

  • Until the financial crisis in 2008, the US was the superpower. That phase is over. This turn of events will be traumatic for the US and dangerous to us all. See hegemony.
  • Within the US, a majority of the diminishing white majority has declared demographic war on the rest of the population, which can no longer be categorized in terms of black or white. See majority minority. This conflict is accelerating the decline of US power, soft but perhaps even hard.
  • Capitalism, increasingly based on fictitious capital, has rushed forward from the 2008 financial crisis into a new bubble of imaginary values. When, sooner or later, this bubble bursts there will be unimaginable chaos, trumping the issues of US decline and its internal civil war.
  • Once the weapons existed, nuclear war, intentional or accidental, become possible. There are reasons to believe that it is now probable. Carbon-driven climate change pales against the threat atomic weapons pose to the planet. See GCR.

Sad New Year’s Greeting

In guise of New Year’s greetings an old friend sent the following link to a piece in Truthdig by Neil Gabler:  Here is what I replied to him (revised for publication here).

Thanks for sharing this piece, and of course best wishes for 2018.

Yes, there is a lot of truth in what Gabler says, not just about the racial, gender and generational dimensions of the right wing ascendency, but the religious or quasi-religious social psychology behind it.

Yet I find him overly optimistic about the future of progressive politics in the US. To some extent, Gabler himself is contaminated by the American religiosity he describes. There may well be such a thing as “good” ethically-oriented religion, but I see religion as being generally on the wrong side of the proverbial long arc of which many progressives have spoken, sometimes with but a wing and a prayer. Religion has never been about compassion and ethics; on the rare occasions it moved beyond the primal reaction to fear and the subsequent tribalistic belief in being in some way a chosen people, religious ethics were at best a mitigating overlay, a cover. Marx had it right: religion is the opium of the people. Roughly 40% of the US people are addicted to it, and the rest still fall under its sway.

So I shall not be acting as if I believe that compassionate ethics will serve as a base for the mass movement required to reverse the capitalist order of things, or even the much more modest goal of social democratic movements to improve the lives of those who have only marginal, non-liquid capital, often the paltry pensions and home “equity” acquired via mortgages, those who are paid wages, those who pay rent and are not paid it.  Plus those not paid at all.

Indeed, this crisis may be marking the return of hard-line socialist, indeed communist alternatives to capitalism, or at least renewed consideration of them. Unfortunately, Americans, with their base-line religiosity and jerk-knee belief in (their own) human good have been ideologically innoculated against coherent materialist visions which would drive such a serious “class” struggle.

In other words, we are returning to the nineteenth century political logic in which Marxism and other socialist ideologies were understood by a minority as the sole way to resist capitalism. That will further exacerbate the conflict, especially since the plutocrats are already in power and will ruthlessly try to quash any prospects of change.

All this is say: I don’t like our chances, in 2018 or beyond.

La pente savonneuse de l’identité

« Nous pensons qu’il faut à tout prix mettre un terme à ce processus de réduction qui est à l’origine de toutes les folies : réduction de la civilisation à la culture, de la culture à la religion, de la religion à la politique, et de la politique à l’action violente »

— Samir Franjieh, homme politique libanais

Imaginary Playmates

One reason I’m not as opposed to social media as some is that I recognize within Twitter, Instagram and such the venerable humanist tradition of keeping diaries and journals, of exchanging correspondence.

(On this point see the opening chapter of Peter Sloterdijk’s Regeln für den Menschenpark.)

Before, to be sure, diaries were kept private, even secret, often under lock and key. Yet rare the diarist who did not have an inside reader, an interlocutor akin to a child’s imaginary playmate who could eavesdrop on these reflective acts of autobiographical self-constitution.

Now anyone can.