Uncategorized

The Last Good Emperor

Americans imagine the terms of our Presidents to be eras, self contained stories of men, who through the force of their personalities, promises, policies, and the capital they can muster are able to ascend to the top of our brutal political system. We modern, Enlightened Westerners tend to like to see our history as a series of events defined by great men, or at least great causes. The grand narrative, the charge of forces of civilization against barbarism. So many of us, more than we who style ourselves intellectuals would ever like to admit, look up at great men and still see a King, an Emperor. Eras are reigns to us, or to many of us, and the intricately cultivated fiction we perpetuate ourselves through our media, our schools, our busy lives in an increasingly inhumane society, keeps this myth of the age maker, the peacekeeper, the war fighter, the exemplar through deed and, increasingly, through blood alive and well in our conception of our national selves.

President Barack Obama was a great man to many people, if not through the force of his deed than by the compelling nature of his story, his stolid demeanor, his charming family, and, perhaps more than anything else, his intellectualism. How we have defined genius overtime has varied so greatly, changed so radically from era to era and from person to person, that while it is true Obama created no great work of literature, no great treatise (though many well wrought essays and articles), no revolutionary theory, he is in fact a genius. Obama succeeded in political organization and political messaging in a way which will become the new, perhaps the final, standard against which all campaigns for the Presidency will be judged. On paper, or on the glowing screen, Obama is the perfect man to rule a country that exists only in the mind: a benevolent empire which through performative democratic symbols had elevated a man who truly matched the grandeur of the office of the US Presidency.

Many pundits, those overpriced soothsayers of republicanism, still believe Obama’s election was the culmination of a progressive left reaction to the carnage and cynicism of the Bush II years. America was ready for a progressive turn, for a New New Deal (the Shangri-La of Liberal establishment figures), for a second run at Camelot, this time without the bawdy undercurrent, and the bloody ending. I believe it is wrong to see the election of Obama as the voters and the establishment wanting to usher in an inchoate progressive Renaissance. In fact, I see Obama’s anointment (and it is so very royal, our Presidency, as though we were only able to take the monarchy out of the office, but not the monarchical aura off of the office holder) as an almost panicked embrace of Conservatism, a Rockwellian fantasy which, as opposed to rejecting the conjured up values of the “Golden Age of America”, embraces them, indeed expands their scope to include the newly “liberated” voices and dreams of the various groups that make up non-white America. This was not the rejection of the American Dream, the embrace of Obama & his Era, this was the desegregation, from the top down of course, of the American Dream.

This Conservatism, Obamaism if you will, is non-exclusionary, at least not in an conscious sense, is largely a petty bourgeois liberal capitalist phenomenon, is globalist and expansionist, and has a diligently maintained aura of reluctant neo-conservatism. It is not the contrived “3rd Way” nonsense of Clintonism and Blairism, the cynical pantomiming of progressive values while instituting the dismantling the shattered remains of the welfare state and replacing it with deregulated capitalist oligarchy backed up by brutal military force. Obamaism is an aspirational, self-consciously naive in the sense of what unregulated (or tokenly regulated) free market capitalism can achieve for the world. If a few more billionaires are created along the way, all the better! An illuminating incident with a self-styled plumber during the 2012 Presidential campaign throws Obama sincere belief in a compassionate free market, a belief in a benevolent empire, into stark relief

 

Right now, everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

 

The atavistic right wingers who controlled the Republican system and associated media jumped on this statement and tried to use it in a propagandic matter as a sort of Marxist statement, a line right out of Das Kapital. The entire conversation was about the tax code and its impact on non corporate and smaller businesses. Obama preached of tax incentives, and investment, and a fruitful public/private alliance. The whole “Obama’s Declaration of Marxist Intent” quote, in context

 

If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re going to be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, Right now, everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

 

This is a textbook defense of free market liberalism, of the neoliberal code of ethics. All the wheeling and dealing and regretful, benevolent imperialism is in pursuit of this idea: capitalism, if nudged just a little bit along, can be great for everyone. So what if there are still billionaires and a corporate oligarchy steering an imperialist ship of state, most people can potentially live a lower middle class two income lifestyle!  Obama is the ideal American Conservative: the kind capitalist, the reforming authoritarian, the sincere paterfamilias, the sober Enlightened Liberal. Obama’s flirtation with radicalism in his earlier years was formative, though he was never as actively radical as the far right paint him as and desperately need him to be. He was, nonetheless, plugged into the fading undercurrent of Left Radicalism/Terrorism/Praxis of 1960s-70’s nonetheless, being feted by the aging who’s who of Weather Underground and other radical and student activist groups. What Obama took from these encounters was less a mission than a mindset, a way of organizing and understanding politics, as well as a cache with a certain easily impressed segment of  bourgeois left liberals.

Obama would become a community organizer, a functionary of a liberal system of welfare and reform which could co-exist with, even thrive under, free market capitalism. A focus on “education”, on a Booker T. Washington-esque moralistic view of black culture and progress, an obsession with reform through harmonizing & desegregating existing systems, along with an aspirational, measured optimism. Obamaism is the culmination of the gentrification of the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy and theology by the liberal establishment, a process which includes the mythologization of his life, the appropriation of his words and image, and his deification (and annexation) by the state through a holiday. Gone is the Christian Socialism, the Gandhian fusion of Ahimsa and Swarj, the focus on the poor, the critique of industrial age materialism. All that remains is a man carved in stone, who said beautiful things, with a dream that has now come true. And when your dream has come true, that means it’s time to stop dreaming, and “get real”.

There was hope Obama would be less prone to military adventurism, and this was true to a degree, with no new mass invasions of sovereign states. State violence, however, merely went more covert, more institutionalized. The transparent self interest behind the premature awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, that signifier of the European form of what we know of as Obamaism, personified by affectedly benevolent conservatives like France’s Macron and Germany’s Merkel, was helpful in facilitating cover for Obama’s increasingly effective neoconservative imperialism. The drone program inaugurated by the Bush II regime was fully absorbed into mammoth machinery of the defense establishment and system. The drone would be the tool the Obama Administration would use to enforce conditions suitable for capital and to maintain the frontiers of the Empire.

Targeted assassinations, mass electronic espionage, use of proxies and covert operatives against foreign nations, information warfare, digital warfare, dirty tricks, corporatized NGOs, the continuation of the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the support of violent right wing regimes, sabotaging or rigging elections, the Obama Administration used them all in great service to the capitalist system and the empire needed to maintain it all. And, it must be said, he was popular while doing these things. Much of the American proletariat is not yet fully class conscious, much less radicalized or allowed the time or resources to educate themselves in dissecting political propaganda, and the nationalism of the US state is deeply ingrained in our cultural and family rituals and in our civic morality.

It is enough, for most Americans, that Obama was a kind man, by all accounts a good father, attentive and loving husband, and a truly engaging and charismatic person. All the better, too, that he could write well, speak beautifully, and was clearly a true intellectual. That he turned out to be relatively scandal free in an institutional sense was the cherry on top. Post Nixonian corruption, Post Clintonian sleaziness, Post Bush II recklessness, what more could be desired from a leader, an era, from Obamaism? As long as the world is made safe for the American Dream, and especially if the man making that safe world made them feel good about themselves, most Americans will excuse, or ignore, any crime, any violation of (non-American) dignity, any perpetuation of privileged systems, any deal struck with the capitalist classes. I am not a nihilist when it comes to the potential of the American proletariat, not in the least, but I am a pessimist. It will take a truly revolutionary change in the way the proletariat is educated and understands itself, before anything better than Obamaism can be expected from the US system as it has currently constituted itself. It may well take the complete collapse or destruction of the US state before a space can be found where revolutionary action can be fruitfully directed to achieve real change.

Most Americans love their Presidents, many even deify them. America has been compared and contrasted to Rome far too many times in far too many fatuous & unhelpful ways. I am not going to extend the comparison here. We are not Rome, we will not End how Rome Ended. We are, however, an empire, a powerful one, though increasingly less so. Obama was a competent and ethical leader of that empire, a smart leader, a dignified leader. He was a good emperor, an American Aurelius one who believed like this ancient personage that a leader of the empire must “waste no more time arguing what a good man should be”; he should simply “Be one.” Like the Roman Philosopher Emperor, he was a thoughtful, brilliant despot. And he would also most likely be the last of his kind.

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Activism, Communism, Democracy, Politics, Uncategorized

A Note Concerning True Democracy

Democratic systems, such as they are today, exist either as an end of a long period of dialectical progression towards capitalism as an imposition by a “developed” capitalist system upon a “developing” (read: colonized) society, or by a decolonized society seeking to start on dialectical progression towards capitalism. the systems of capitalist democratic governance allow a vote only on the mechanisms
used to implement capitalist policy to further the expansion and flow of capital. There can be no democratic vote on the FACT of capitalism in itself. There can be no vote to undermine the system of capital.
The details of the real of everyday life under capitalism can change according to the whims of the voters i.e. more or less social permissiveness or more or less tokens of welfare to the exploited classes but the Real of capitalism, the objective schema of the expansion of the flow of capital by any and all means, can NEVER be voted upon. Democracy only ever extends to subjective effects, never objective systems themselves.
Liberals mistake the trappings of democracy for democracy. Voting for the means and severity of owns own exploitation and brutalization is not, cannot be, democratic, even if the forms appear so at a surface level. True democracy is the collective decision making processes of the workers and the people to satisfies their needs, and further their own interests, and prosperity. True democracy CANNOT EXIST without the precondition of communism, of the disruption of the flow of capital used to perpetuate imperialism. Democracy coexists with workers owning the means of production.
This does not mean that the level and exchange of material production will continue to increase and expand under communism. In fact, under true communist democracy, material progress, as measured by capitalist standards, may retract, may be retarded, for some time but this retardation will be overcome when the people and workers in a communist democracy reorder the priorities of material production, a reorganization that will be informed by sustainable, practical ecology, the needs and desires of various communities, and their aspirations. However, none of this can occur before DISRUPTION OF THE FLOW & EXPANSION OF CAPITAL & democratic systems maintaining the charade of popular control
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Democratic Party, Race, racism, Uncategorized

The Clinton’s “Peculiar Institution”

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

—Section 1 of the 13th Amendment to The Constitution of the United States

___

It is Hilarious how Clinton Liberals are now trying to be pro-slave wage prison labor at Southern plantation/gov buildings and sympathetic to racist stereotypes about IQ and emotional intelligence now that the racist segments of Hillary Clinton’s ’96 book are going viral. And by “hilarious” I mean morally repugnant.

I’m going to post an article that features Sec. Clinton’s own words on this. Warning, the way she talks about the human beings who served her is incredibly demeaning, Uncle Tom’s Cabin levelshit. Also remember, the 13th Amendment explicitly carves out an exception for PRISON SLAVE LABOR, which is what is being described here. I’ve seen liberals try to say “but inmates WANT to work” or “it’s good for inmates”. Remember, these are the exact same excuses slavery supporters used to justify chattel slavery. Also, I’ve seen liberals say “well, this IS legal”. So was chattel slavery.

Inmates used for labor are often unpaid or only paid a tiny, pitiful fraction of minimum wage, often as little as a few cents an hour. They often must work over 10hrs a day in unsafe, undignified, or unsanitary conditions while wearing humiliating prison garb and be overseen by armed guards with absolute authority over their bodies. The vast majority of unpaid or token-paid prison labor is done by black men.

Here are links to Clinton’s casually racist and cavalier attitude to the imprisoned black men who served her and an article putting it all in context. Note how Mrs. Clinton seems most concerned for her own safety and how this “peculiar institution” at the Arkansas Governor’s residence confirms or denies her personal prejudices about “criminals”. Also note how she acts as though she is helpless in the face of an entrenched institution, even though in reality she and her husband, then Governor Clinton, were in fact uniquely empowered to do something, anything, to mitigate or eliminate this injustice.

Ask yourself, Clinton true-believers, would you be defending these words or actions if they had instead come from, and described by, the pen of a Mike Huckabee or George Bush…or a Donald Trump? The passage bellow is taken verbatim from Mrs. Clinton’s 1996 book “It Takes a Village”. It is important to remember, however, that while the Clinton’s are a particularly hideous example of this moral evil, we’re ALL party to this crime. As Nathan J. Robinson says in the articled linked below:

This is not a mere pathology of the Clintons, but a pathology of the country we all inhabit. And it is not just a single noxious political family that is complicit. We all are. 

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/06/the-clintons-had-slaves

Solidarity, Comrades

“Workers of the World…Unite!”

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Film, Philosophy, Pop Culture, review, Satire, Uncategorized

A Lacanian Review of “Baywatch”

The Interplay between The Rock’s primal over-compensating Nietsczean character and the latent homosexual archtype played by Effron brings to mind the process by which Hegelian material dialectics brings form to the amorphous potential of power dynamics in a totalitarian state system; that the Rock, an apt pseudonym for such an immovable superego figure, continually subjects Effron to progressively more perverse forms of sexual torture mirrors the crippling, stultifyingly, repetative but nonetheless erotically charged Real of “bay watching” i.e. the omnipotent Object of the Sea and the subjective figures drowing in its unexplored depths, and the father-signifier Life-Guard striving to pull subjectivity from the great blue churning Other of Stalinist derrived material hermenutics.

That the milleu of the picture is the ever-sunny, ever objectivity denuding beach-scape of Southern California, land of silicon bosoms and rictus grin visages sculpted from the raw pulp of human flesh at $30,000 a pop, throws the psych-sexual dialectic of the film into stark contrastm, especially when considered alongside the the obsessive cinematographic fondling and half-joking fetisization of Alexandra Daddario’s magnificent natural breasts. One cannot help but recall Lacan’s claim in his XXth Seminar:

“The subject is nothing other than what slides in a chain of signifiers, whether he knows which signifier he is the effect of or not. That effect- the subject – is the intermediary effect between what characterizes a signifier and another signifier, namely, the fact that each of them, each of them is an element. – “

I give the film as a whole 2 1/2 Stars.

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Democratic Party, Politics, Socialism, Uncategorized

The Sanders “Revolution” Is a Blind Alley

“The working class will acquire the sense of the new discipline, the freely assumed self-discipline of the Social Democracy, not as a result of the discipline imposed on it by the capitalist state, but by extirpating, to the last root, its old habits of obedience and servility.”–Rosa Luxemburg

Bernie Sanders’ reformist welfare state capitalism is not, in any way, shape, or form socialist, let alone Marxist. His way is just a prettier repackaging of neoliberalism for desperate Millennials emeeging from the warm nest of the post-WWII capitalist bubble into the cold reality of late-stage capitalism in crisis.

Sanders & his ilk seek to improve the material conditions of the middle, and to a much lesser extent, working classes WITHOUT addressing the system which creates and will continue to create the conditions seeking to be reformed.

Sanders’ kabuki theater “revolution” is a essentially a morphine drip for the petty bourgeois Millennials who are the first generation in the advnced post-industrial west to experiance the full savagry of late stage-capitalism in crisis. His policies would make the current generation more comfortable with their misery under the current system, and would have as a consequence the INTENSIFICATION AND PROLONGATION of the crisis and its’ attendent woes & brutalities. Only the overthrow of the capitalist system and its replacement with communism will ameliorate the condition of the working classes & disintegrate the class barriers that stratify society. Sanders is a new coat of paint on the walls of the same old reformist blind alley.

 

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Love, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized

An Open Letter To My Muslims Brothers & Sisters

Assalamu alaikum

The world tells me we are inherently different. I’m not a Muslim my self, but I’ve always been fascinated & inspired by Islamic contribution to human civilization. The history of & historical figures from the Islamic world have fascinated & inspired me for years, especially the era of the Islamic  Renaissance in North Africa, the Middle East & Spain. As a student of philosophy the works of Muslim thinkers & scholars have always grabbed my attention, particularly Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroes). I first encountered Ibn Rushed in a wonderful Philosophy class I took in college for my minor. My German born professor admired him & introduced us to the basics of his system of though. This passage from his book The Decisive Treatise stood out to me

The double meaning [of religion & philosophy] has been given to suit people’s diverse intelligence. The apparent contradictions are meant to stimulate the learned to deeper study.

What this has always seemed to mean for me, a non-believer of God, is that religion & philosophy often have the same goal: to understand the Universe, what takes place in it, our own place in it, and how to live with and understand one another. There is intrinsic difference between people of faith & people of freethinking philosophy, just slight variations in emphasis & ontology. We all live by moral standards, we all have family or communities, we all seek knowledge, we all seek to better ourselves & those we love & care for. The differences in how we come to understand ourselves & our world are not nearly as important as the fact we do all seek to know, to feel, to love, to explore. 

There are many paths to truth, to happiness, to wisdom. We do a great disservice to ourselves & our fellow human beings when we close off a path because it may not seem familiar at first. I have found that when one takes the time to take, as Frost wrote, “the path less travelled”, you see that what at first seems to your eyes and mind to be alien is in fact your own world made new again through difference; a tree is a tree is a tree again, and a wise thought is wisdom in any tongue or any culture. We translate our seeming differences by experiencing them, through a striving to see love in unknown places, and emerging from the path to a shared destination.

***

A beautiful building stands near my apartment in Bolingbrook, Illinois, a Masjib & community center. It represents to me the wonderful diversity of this country & its people, people who make our community stronger & more enlightened. I smile when I think of the young Muslim families I see at the library or at the store; how proud they seem, how kind & friendly they are. On a more personal note, when I was in college it was hard for me to make friends (I am autistic and social skills are not my forte) and many of my peers ignored me or did not take the time to try to understand my life or point of view. That is until I met a group of Muslims students, some of whom I worked with at the College library. They were warm, open, non-judgemental, invited me to sit with them at lunch, introduced me to new people & ideas. We enjoyed the time we spent together, and even though we saw the world differently sometimes, we never let these differences get in the way of caring for one another as human beings. Their friendship during this hard time in my life is not something I will ever forget.

***

Today many of our non-Muslim leaders in government, medias & culture are telling us to fear Muslims, to hate them, to shun them. They tell us Islam is an “evil” religion, one that has no intellectual tradition worth studying, no love for women or those outside of Islam. I know these are calumnies, blood libels told to benefit those with power & who want power, whose imperial aims thrive when Muslims and non-Muslims fight & terrorize one another. I know that the West has blood on its hands and has done much to earn the distrust of some in the Muslim World. I know that fanatics on both sides need this hatred & use it to wield power over people who just want to live safe, happy lives. I know that those who hate, who want us to hate, believe that there are two worlds at war. I know the truth. I know there is one world, one humanity. I know refugees are seeking what I seek: a home, love, education, enrichment, happiness, community. I know most Muslims know this too. We are not different, we have no reason to fear one another. We must love one another. I support Muslims, I support refugees, I support immigrants. I support my brothers & sisters. I reject Trump & his fascist ideology, his fascist programs. I stand with you, and I know many more stand with you too. We are not different, you and I. We are the same people making our way, sometimes on different paths, sometimes on the same path, all heading to the same destination.

yours in friendship,

Noah Mann-Engel

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Activism, Immigration, Refugees, Uncategorized

Do What You Can For Refugees

Here is a list (from Think Progress) of some protests going on throughout the country against the fascist Trump’s illegal & immoral executive order banning refugees & migrants from the nations of Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and Somalia, all nations the US has bombed, invaded, or sanctioned. Do what you can: if marching or protesting is not your thing, write or create art, or call your congressperson, spread information through your social media or blog, volunteer to help refugees, or donate to a reputable charity helping refugees, like the UN Refugee agency  (https://donate.unhcr.org/us-en/redirect/). Do what you can.

Atlanta, Georgia

January 29, 4–6 p.m.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport
https://www.facebook.com/events/370576413312630/?active_tab=about

Bloomington, Indiana

January 29, 4–5 p.m.
Court House Lawn
https://www.facebook.com/events/141181763054369/

Boston, Massachusetts

January 29, 1–3 p.m.
Copley Square
https://www.facebook.com/events/1808560036070492/

Canton, New York

January 29, 12 p.m. — 1:30 p.m.
Park St. and Main St.
https://www.facebook.com/events/1877987165813906/

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

January 29, 12 p.m. — 2 p.m.
Peace and Justice Plaza
https://www.facebook.com/events/1830257140581355/

Chicago, Illinois

January 28, happening now
O’Hare International Airport

Denver, Colorado

January 28, 5–7 p.m.
Denver International Airport
https://www.facebook.com/events/1416101161753999/

Detroit, Michigan

January 29, 3 p.m.
Hamtramck City Hall
https://www.facebook.com/events/1754583231524900/

January 29, 4–6 p.m.
DTW- Macnamara Termial- Intl Arrivals
https://www.facebook.com/events/959584757476881/

Houston, Texas

January 28, 7 p.m.
IAH Terminal E
https://www.facebook.com/events/771992316298993/

January 29, 1–4 p.m.
Discovery Green
https://www.facebook.com/events/386770058353091/#

Louisville, Kentucky

January 29, 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office
https://www.facebook.com/events/175651122918583/

Minneapolis, Minnesota

January 28, happening now
Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport
https://www.facebook.com/events/1626807780957019/

January 31, 4:30–6 p.m.
Minneapolis Federal Building
https://www.facebook.com/events/294911630924576/

Newark, New Jersey

January 28, happening now
Newark Liberty International Airport

January 28, 5–8 p.m.
LAX, Tom Bradley International Terminal
https://www.facebook.com/events/1655523898074718/

January 29, 1–4 p.m.
LAX, Tom Bradley International Terminal
https://www.facebook.com/events/1876148372629363/

Nashville, Tennessee

January 29, 3–4:30 p.m.
Sen. Bob Corker’s office
https://www.facebook.com/events/1782511105404931/

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