Friday, December 30, 2011

Pardon My Glibness in Response to Glibness

Mr. Smith over at SMBIVA talks about the talk about Ron Paul.

What's more interesting, of course, is the shallow schematism of 'racist reactionary'. Guy's a racist reactionary. Stop thinking immediately. Next case.

He's exactly right.

Now here's the thing. I believe racism is real. I believe reaction is real. That's another discussion.

But, as the commenters are keen to get immediately, WAR is far more destroying of life, and far worse a weapon of ethnic, class, and ideological persecution than literally anything Paul or a Paulite could write in a frigging newsletter.

So Obama represents not merely potential, but fucking active destruction of human life, both in the use of our various "volunteers" and in the employment of Arabs and various other Middeleestern folks as human squibs. This much is obvious. I've been talking about this IRL for a few days, actually.

And if anyone's confused about personal vs. political virtue, we might want to talk about a vegetarian war hero I know who loves animals!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Itinerant Punk

I float around. I listen these days. Tired of talking, though I will about art here, an in-law's new husband there. I'm best heard late at night. Not smashed, but edgy and witty and cruel. My brother was down a few days, and we laughed some of the night and were silent for the rest, content to enjoy each other's company.

We talked about what a dick Mom's second husband turned out to be. I contemplated the roles people play in my life. They can be pretty fucking present until they're removed. I don't know if that's maturity or the fiction of association or it's healthy independence.

We watched the kids. Their joy is healthy in apparent resistance to the disease around them. The tense avoiders of wine, the pensive faces worrying about what's coming next. The man waiting to die, who thought he'd built up so fucking much, still unwilling to admit that he's as much of a mark to the system as all the ethnic and social inferiors for whom he feels disdain.

The tension of one last Christmas in this house, the tension of one last Christmas with this family, the tension of the first Christmas without him. One more without her and her. My mother, brother, and I were like little part-Turk refugees in a WASP nest, brows furrowed when we had a moment but otherwise charming and engaged and loving toward the kids.

I keep floating after the day. Brother and mother leave and I feel trapped again. See a doctor and he talks my ear off a little about Obama and the new computer system the office has to adopt.

A week earlier, it's Dad on the phone about God and how He loves me like I love my boys (my feeble attempt to offer my own spiritual approach, because I don't have the courage or the certainty to say "Dad, I'm an atheist"). I listened then too. I regard his mythology as a lie and a comfort perfectly suited to a man who needs that comfort at his core. Let him salve his pride in that way. I won't feed it, but I'll acknowledge it and respect him however he works with it. Fuck, I work with schizophrenics. An aging Kentucky man can be pardoned a sip of Jesus to replace old tastes, can he not?

Maybe I'll be as big a loudmouth as I once was. With safe folks, I get there. But in the wide world, I've learned to shut up. I carry myself like a priest, I'll say, because I don't know how to look like a rabbi. I look more aged in the eyes than I am. People occasionally still guess I'm younger. But I seem weary. I seem patient. I seem unsurprisable, because I really can't be surprised by the outsides anymore. I've heard it all, and found it all serviceable or useful for others. But almost no truth can I pick up myself. No delusion do I want to step into. I have yet to find a hallucination that's right for me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Paths We Take to Now

Humanity is a funny species. It is a species that is a matching set, not one piece out of place. Whole casts of thousands make up our bedtime and Sunday snooze stories. We need hundreds of parts and hundreds of "do the voices!" and hundreds of felt puppets to animate just a few stories that might form a worldview, might maintain a glimpse at some lessons that some people, a long time ago, wanted others to remember.

We depend on each other. Need us all to split up to set the table, cook this bit, cook that bit, say the magic words, light the candles, hold the baby's hands, watch the stove for the later bit. Part of this is evil division of labor, that trick that the king's evil sorcerers made up so that the poor savage little people would take up the smell of human bowels for the hope of indoor plumbing, work all day long in the dream of working not at all, and turn a more or less stable social arrangement for not letting kids die into some kind of identity or holy plan, since God has nothing better to do than to prevent the wastage of sperm. Control, control, control. You know that part.

And part of that is another, still-older bit of our human story. We depend on each other. When the white man brings his plagues, the illiterate will fetch water for the priest. When the war's bitten off both of Daddy's legs and Mummy's still not home, somebody small will have to cook up food and set the pot to boil. Mishaps happen. Helplessness happens. Most amusingly to any cruel gods that exist, this may sometimes happen worst to those who've evaded other tragedies. The body is meant to be ill because the body is meant to exist in context. No man is an island. No body is hermetically sealed. We breathe, we consume, by nature. No company is needed for many maladies, and yet for many illnesses there is no cure the one is capable of delivering to himself.

And yet aren't we interesting packages, we humans? When an entire family can be hunted down by rapacious murderers or the indifference of other killers still and leave but a single child? When we have forgotten more than we remember and yet can find a book or two that are older than any living state, ideas and expression which are literally older than the success of all kings?

I'm interested in how we got here, for a lot of personal reasons, but in another sense I don't much care how you get here at all. Some of us--I am certain about myself, for instance--got here only because of others. Our stock would have withered, our branch would have cracked, that family wouldn't have seen the wolves coming. And others might have been lucky, or strong, or both, for there are none so fit as to escape all culls. And we might disagree and say that we might have better come this way or that. And I'll admit that being ill enough to die without assistance is a pretty fucking humbling thing. To go through it routinely in my life is impossible for me to imagine. As things are, to have come to that point--and it doesn't take cancer or hepatitis so don't delude yourself--only so often as I have has put most heroic destiny nonsense far from my brain.

Death is still close to us, monkeys. Don't fucking forget it.

Now that we're all here, we should get started. What survivors, on paths lonely and crowded, what toilers in solitude and solidarity! We should be proud of ourselves. We're the ones who made it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Well At Least That's Over With (Kinda)

So friends online are getting fucking touched and shit, crying to the screens 'cause they're emotional. Remember that show you were really into, but you either got too busy or too frequently laid or too unable to afford cable to follow it, and then it languished for a few seasons and you read on AV Club that they'd overhauled the cast a couple of times, and you kinda joked about liking it once, but then they brought in the old lead, even though he'd really gone to pot too, but it kinda worked for an arc, or so you heard, and then you'd been told about the finale, and you just had to watch?

Neither do I, but here's a caveat. I know about the constant submersion we call life under power. I know that you can change the form of power and yet, like water, that power will shift and take new forms but keep the pressure up all the same. I know that great powers like to play with perception and spectacle. They like milestones, and they like distinctions on which they are on the "right side" and generalities when they are not. I know they like to claim victory, even over a mountain of bodies. Especially over a mountain of bodies. In short, I am a fool who should know better. God knows I often don't.

But if I got to mourn the coming of the Iraq occupation, then I get to spit a bitter "Took long enough" now. It is no relief, it is no pardon for the cities of dead we have left in our wake, no absolution for ethnic cleansing, no washing away of this sin. We're mass murderers, plain and simple, actors and authorizers.

But yes, I approve now, even if it is late, even if it leaves what it leaves, even if it is wrapped in Obamian platitudes and liberal rhetorical triangulation. If I have any complaints, it is about manner, not the fact that we are removing many of our armed representatives.

To our fellows who aren't shifted to other campaigns, welcome home. And, just so you know, I would even have cheered had you burned the flag en masse and come home as mutineers. Perhaps more loudly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

PT Barnum 109

Apparently they were two young men, freshly shaven, scrubbed, and smiling. Crewcuts and shiny boots. They had an American flag and an Army tent, and they had buckets.

Their buckets were heavy, but they urged on more. One of them was charming, walking up to the shopping crowds. It was Sunday and the mall was full of hungry workers and hungry shoppers, the latter packing the food court when they weren't thronging the stores. The young man urged them to give. "Come on folks: it's for the vets!"

My mother-in-law was there, entertaining the boys for the day. She gave them dollars to give the young men, who were friendly and personable. They talked to the kids. They were model spokesmen.

But my mother-in-law wondered exactly for whom they were speaking. As she told me later, they had no insignia.

"Name tags?" I later asked. None. "Anything noting branch of service?" None. No VFW, no VA, no US Army. Not so much as an anchor. I knew before she told me. I let her continue on.

She didn't say anything, or ask anything, because she didn't want to give the boys the wrong idea. She assured me at least three times of her commitment to the troops. She didn't need to. She's married to a veteran. Takes the boys to the war parades every year. Dresses in red, white, and blue often and on the right dates. This isn't posturing, as much as it'd be easy for a cynic to assume. She does feel it. I know that. There's not an ironic bone in her body. She doesn't lie, but often she does stay silent.

And she stayed silent still when they folded up their tent, took their crisp, ironed fatigues and their polished boots, rolled up the flag, and walked out with their several heavy buckets while the multitudes sat at chow.

I had to admire their boldness. Sunday, when management can't be bothered to approve or disapprove such talented panhandling. Lunch hour, when the marks are numerous. Even still, what if they met an actual vet? Were they prepared to list off real or false dates of service? Would they bolt? Either way, I had to hand it to them. A couple hundred bucks at Army Surplus and they must have made thousands.

I am sickened, yes, when I think of veterans who are homeless, psychotic, and uncared-for, but even were they representing an organization I would hate them for their marketing for mass murder with profit at the slender top. And I would hate the marks who know only of war efforts as sentimental acts of hindsight or holier-than-thou acts of nationalist display. Last Men dreaming of marching. It's easy to loathe them.

But I wasn't sure what to think of my mother-in-law, who was not fool enough to be completely persuaded, even as she handed them their money. No--Had my children and my nephew hand them her money.

I hope they actually were vets. And I hope they blew it all on painkillers and alcohol. I hope they got to forget the sickness they fed in service, the sickness they allowed, and celebrated their chance to prosper, to play others when they had once been played.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fear of an Ad Hoc

People love arrangements. The more convoluted, the more unjust. The closer to alone, the closer to just.

I was talking about a bigamous co-worker yesterday. I said I didn't believe in monogamy but that polygamy, as I'd known it, had never worked for most of the would-be practitioners I've known.

Now I know this is the Internet, and I know that here we are all Libertarian Lensmen aesthete virtuous gun-owner ninja poly autodidact physics majors, but let's be fair now. The more people, the more bullshit. Most people can't handle commitment, but triangulating your rocks off onto another person in a supposedly stable system doesn't fit much either.

People don't do systems. Kinda like I'm not applying myself to make a real decent post today. People just do what they want to do or feel they've got to, and they systematize after the fact so that other people understand. "We're just like straight people, only not!" People like shorthand, people don't like to learn about each other but they sure as hell like to talk about them.

So we make up notions to justify our grabbing what we want and pawing at what we like. But the fact is that even we heart-diseased, depressed, pudgy apes outlive most of our notional systems, and that's fucking sad.

When I fall in philosophy, it will be forever. Which explains why I can't believe in much anymore.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Open Table

I do not believe in political progress.

There is no morality in politics, not in tyranny obviously and, less obvious to many, not even in the attempt to have the self rule the self. Representative democracy is a human impossibility. Naming half the prisoners "guard" and setting them to their task is certainly better than most attempts at rule in human history, but it does not make it good. It does not avoid, in the long run and in the short, the abuses of power one can expect from any other system.

We are cultural. We are also positional. And position breeds dynamics that sow the seeds of the next cultural shifts.

If there is no political progress, we bring things back to a human level. We stop seeing complexity and projection of force, the hallmarks of a Western-style technical viewpoint, useful only in mechanics and operators, not in creators or artists. If there is no political progress, we are free to contemplate tribes or clans (or perhaps see that they continue to exist in more or less altered forms) as valid options for our social arrangement. We can even imagine no social arrangement at all, though we continue to be born into a state of property and if you can solve that, then good fucking luck, philosopher king.

We can imagine that family does NOT flow into tribe, into clan, into great tribe, does NOT flow into nation, that a group of believers does NOT flow into churches, into cathedrals, does NOT flow in great coreligious polity. We are free to say that NO, this does NOT necessarily become that. Life is messy. Human civilization may evolve and devolve freely just as life may become better and worse for humanity because the universe, really and truly, does NOT care about us, and "humanity" cares not one whit for you and me as individual humans.

So I may not have proven but have firmly argued my beliefs on human progress, politically speaking. So what?

Well, I find myself wondering if monarchy should rise again. In one way this is a silly question. Of course monarchy is alive because patronage and authority are alive. Try though others may to impose "meritocracy" in order to depersonalize authority, spread its power to other holders, and render the power invested more secure against the threat of nepotism, once people gain by merit or otherwise, they want to shed it to those they choose. Some cultures are more adoptive--Roman, Japanese, old Hawaiian--and others are more blood-magic, but nobody is pure here. The important thing is that power is bequeathed and inherited. Who doesn't like that? Only peons, and they pass on their misery all the same.

But I mean real monarchy. I mean like a king and shit with a crown. And it's less absurd, I think, than it may sound.

What about the Japanese restorations? Time and again, over thousands of years, the emperor would feud with the nobility or soldiery, most recently in the form of the tent-government of the Tokugawa shoguns. This test involved weaponry and technology and cultural shifts, but it was not merely won in these technical, quantitative ways. There was a subjective test of influence, allegiance, faith, and fear. Why does it make more sense for an emperor to rise in the 1860s when he was hopelessly antique in the 1600s? In the West, we have some idea of monarchs slowly easing away. Elsewhere they were abolished; when my grandfather was still in his mother's belly they sent the last Sultan away. But why could a sleeping monarchy not rise? Why could a new one not emerge in the technological milieu of the day? Sure, Japan has its cultural tradition, more touted than real but still real in a sense. And so do we. People still believed this shit very recently. Where kings combine with the powers of priesthood, they believed it very fiercely. Many of us still believe in kings today, but mostly in the past. That's believing in kings in the present and future, brothers and sisters, but we just don't admit it.

What else can we believe in? What's harder than fuck to believe in? Equality. Every man a king, every woman a queen, all of us princes and priests before any or along with all others. Might seem ridiculous, and we can't change everything at once. But it's not about going forward or back. There is no thing. Just now, just here, and we can all stop pretending and start playing other roles should only we wish it.

I hope I post before another week's past.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

History Starts at Home

Good God. From Spengler to Niall Ferguson, white men have been predicting the fall of their race almost as well as they have predicted that the children of half-dead old racists need ideas on what to get their dads for Christmas.

Were I IOZ, I might go for the bull's eye and explode the entire fucking illusion. What West? Who--or rather what--is dying? I see babies being born, I see buildings still standing, except when the Western market wisely calls for their maintenance funding to be cut. And what history? People know the history that makes enough sense for them. They know myths and just-so stories and they know NFL campaigns year-to-year. If that's not Zinn, it's Zinnian. It's the people's history, all they care to recall.

Of course, I flip through these books at the store and I've come to be able to predict the plot. Did Rome--I mean real Rome--tell itself it was Carthage all the fucking time? In any case, we're like late Rome, and the 1950s were like the Marian Republic, only we're like Carthage, too, weak inside and out! What a twist! (Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, only white, head of a faculty department, and even clumsier.)

What weirds me out is--my brain pulling Nietzsche's statement from the air... "Where races are mixed, there is the source of great cultures..." --and elsewhere, his discussion of the identity conflicts this engenders, writing this a century before most social reformers caught up!

Anyway, I read about "the West" falling and I don't know if that's something to mourn or fear. Perhaps there is nothing more Occidental than clinging to my Eastern roots.

But if white men are, as many of them have done for the last, oh, forever, seeking literary and philosophical Viagra to boost their tired, vigorless lives, then I can't help but be comforted by history. What is white in my family is predominantly barbaric, and guess what? Germans and Berbers and island Celts survived the fall of Rome. Civilization got traded around and retained in many places. And though I look at the politics of my Oriental homelands with revulsion and embarrassment, fuck it. I'm part of a millennia-old civilization there too. If the West falls, the West will be reborn, I'm sure of it. And the fact is that civilization, with all its evil and also its libraries and roads and shit, has been grown world-fucking-wide, and only an autist or celebrated public intellectual could be confused by that.

Fuck, the rest of the world could tell the West was on its knees as of World War Two. Some of us just got so wrapped up in the victory and the triumphal retelling that we forgot to observe that entire "civilized" nations went fucking bone-gnawing insane (though they'd been crazy all along, had one cared to notice). How is that not as telling about the Western soul as storming Omaha Beach and heroically raping Korean women?

And as far as whether we're going to miss our history, like I said--the would-be rememberers have a right to their ignorance, should they choose it. And I've met enough poor people to know that they will know or they will not. And when they know, they're usually pretty wrong, too. But the telling is the thing. And whether you're a southern black matriarch telling your children about things you remember*, or reading to them out of some fucking awful book by someone you read about in National Review, or if you're just looking on Wikipedia with the kids for information about where their ancestors and the ancestors of their friends came from, then you're doing some work at least. My kids get told about Ireland and Scotland and Denmark and how Mommy's peoples came over and how Daddy's came over and who the hell the Turks are and the Germans and why the Vikings in The Secret of Kells aren't like the real Vikings, but close enough for your poor little dark age Irish ancestors, and so on and so on.

* Which is the alternate name for History, of course.

It doesn't feel like saving a civilization, because it isn't. It's making one up day after day, which is what civilization is. You don't see slime molds bitching about how cells were so much stronger a couple of weeks ago, and that is because they are inferior and haven't really developed the ability to watch their lives tick away while bitching about subsequent generations' failure to know what they have failed, multiple times, to teach.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Just found out that a big, no--fucking huge--monied interest may be suing a person dear to me.

We're talking many, many figures.

I don't like to overgeneralize. It's the rush to intellectuality. It's a defense mechanism. It's a way for me to avoid pain and real feeling. But I can't help it. Won't get too personal here. I'll stay theoretical, because there's a place for that too.

This is where I depart from the money minarchists, the Randians, the right libertarians, all that shit. Because they say that they just want the state to defend against invaders or determine what's fair deception (like advertisement) and what's fraud, or they want a night watchman state to go after the thieves and the thugs.

Well, that's all principle-talk for the same old practice: powerful people are going to use civil means to protect their interests. When I talk to a right libertarian, he wants the state shrunk so it serves his purposes and nothing more. If he calls himself a liberator or a radical, he's fucking wrong and I want to sock him in his goddamn mouth.

I'm fucking scared right now. All the understanding in the world won't give you any solace when a stronger person holds you to the floor and puts a knee on your throat.

Named in a fucking article. This is big. He was like a little brother, hell--like a son at times. And I can't do a goddamned thing. I can't do a goddamned thing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Matter of Scale

I see the Turkish and Arab closing in on Syria as a multilateral war effort, nothing more. Its purposes are not about saving the Syrian people (which people, exactly, we are not told) so much as fulfilling the desires of the state cliques involved.

It can be said, fairly, that this is also a coalition supported or enjoyed, at least, by the US clique. Some might think it a proxy action, though I might note that the Turks are in the doghouse, their hostility no longer pointed exclusively at those we consider disposable and hated.

In any case, to make this brief: I know that multipolarity will not end sorrow or tyranny or injustice. It may, however, bring it closer to our reach. Foederati appear at empire's close.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

And as far as the elephant...

Other people are remarking about the police crackdown on the Occupy bunch.

I wish I had something to say.

I wish I had something to say about violence here, violence abroad. God, if I wanted to say something about Iraq right now, I don't really think I could. It'd be a scream. I can barely type about that shit.

Maybe when it comes to this kind of thing, which really saddens me, even as it is no surprise, I can summon nothing new to say.

We work for a nation that has no borders, which claims all of us as our subjects and none of us as citizens. You can be sitting in a hut somewhere, minding your own business, and the powers will fucking destroy you if it pleases them, let alone if it serves them. And so yeah, some people making noise and trying to communicate in a handful of parks and squares around the country are getting treated like strikers and suffragists and God knows how many others. They should acknowledge their privilege; they could be treated like Injuns and Others and A-rabs. But the truncheon isn't falling on me, so that kind of perspective is meaningless. The fact is that it's not humanitarianism that makes live fire slightly less likely; it's PR.

You work for murderers. So do I. Thugs and murderers and cheats and liars. If you live by proving your worth to others, they live on making us prove our worth. It's exactly as fucked up as that. It's exactly as fair as that.

That's all I have to say. Everything else is noise.

Square One

An anon very helpfully told me where I've gone wrong.

If you (and the bloggers on your blog roll) ever attempted to read any political philosophy before "fixing" it, you would save a whole lot of time spent reinventing the wheel.

I got a little bit of a chuckle out of this, because I've heard that I've read too much, taken too much of a theoretical approach, and come off as too bookish and not nearly as practical, experiential, and worldly as I should be. It's interesting, how we appear to others.

The fact is that I've read quite a bit of political philosophy. Printed out Marx from the middle school library, actually, and went from there. I have a lot of the liberal reading list, I know more about Rand than I care to, and I'm fairly adequate in historical and international movements, too. So why don't I hash that out here? Why do I reinvent the wheel?

Why, for the same reason I don't build my understanding of metaphysics using the Bible or Koran or the Vedas. Political philosophy is not only about received wisdom, and in fact, sometimes received wisdom is nothing of the sort. Political philosophy, like spiritual understanding, can be something developed on one's own.

Even if I agree with political philosophy that has already been written, I must know why I agree. I must do my own work, my own proofs, and come to my own results. I can do this, and have done this, while reading manifestos and essays. I'm rather good at working alongside a thinker as I read. But there is only so far this can go. Sometimes I need my own place of repose, my own meandering gibberish where I figure out where I stand.

This is why this weblog exists. I can quibble about "the greats" if I like, but I don't. It's tiresome and priestly and boring. So here, I talk about what I think. And I respond to what other people think. All are equal, all are welcome, all speak for themselves. I don't need to pass along the "for the Constitution tells me so" shit or go back through my undergraduate reading list unless there is something particularly pertinent or pithy.

And, to be nasty, I look at capitalism and I see the Congo. I look at Marxism and I see despots. I look at liberal democracy and I see raped Vietnamese women. I look at conservatism and I see lebensraum and Manifest Destiny. I look at anarchism and I see futility. I look at libertarianism and I see privilege confused for principle. I see the world's ideologies, like its faiths, and I see ugliness, ruin, waste, and error. I pick from their corpses and I go back to work.

I am tired of looking for the right book, Anon, just like I'm tired of waiting for a banner under which to march or a god for whom to preach. I am tired of inferior intermediaries and disappointing entertainments. In my fiction, in my beliefs, in my philosophy, and in so many other places in my life, I reclaim my right to build my own. If Mr. Rawls has had the same idea as me, that is lovely. Maybe I'll pick him up again sometime. In the meantime, I am not defeated because I share my path with a million others. In basics, it is pleasant to have company.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thinking While I Come

Beer can taste sweet to me, and no sweeter than when it is dark. Earthy black beer is marvelous.

The rich green scent of cannabis filling a pipe; that used to drive me wild, too. Is there anything as fine?

The crackle of a cigarette. The snapping of elastic. The clack of clasps on the side of a beloved DVD. In chemical and visual and auditory and physical anticipation, appreciation, reflection upon gaining my fix, there is bliss. There is oblivion. There is forgetting. There is poison.

I have been accused of being no fun, mostly by idiots. I love, love, love going too far. I have indulged perhaps not as much as some, but enough for me, and more than enough. I can talk for hours about fantasy and grow intoxicated until I am either staring into the distance or clinging to a toilet or sleeping where I fall. I am not bragging, for there are millions of sots more impressive than me. I am merely explaining what I am and saying that I have a good capacity for abandon.

But I can look into bottle and bowl and see waste as surely as enlightenment, see regret as surely as laughter. I can look at what I love, if it's fleshy or emotional or medicinal or recreational, and I can take it apart, doubt it. I've sometimes doubted too much. But I've been willing to test it all.

Some men can't do this. Too many, in my experience. I've met too many men who can't see the sexual leering in their sports or their fiction, who can't see the diseased hypocrisy in their drink halls and drug commercials, who can't see a quid pro quo in the Pentagon advertisement that is your average action film, who will not see racism if there is no noose, who will not see injury if there is entertainment.

Fucking idiots. Pain in society is always enjoyed by someone. Even Hitler sought to make his teachings palatable. If you are unable to test the delights around you, you are no connoisseur, no enlightened indulgent, no refined palate, no ironic observer.

You're one more pig at the trough. Whatever they pour is whatever you'll guzzle.

I don't care what a woman or man likes. I'll respect you if you eat slop and drink Steel Reserve. So long as you fucking think about what you put into you. So long as you don't delude yourself that it can't be poison if you like its taste.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Least of My Brothers

Consistency does not always harass me in my political thought. I do not need to be Kantian any longer, either borrowing my ethics from others or, God forbid, positing that my behaviors should be taken as precedent. Moral nihilism is freeing, in this sense. Things can simply be. I do not need to say that I am justified. I do not need to pretend that I am right.

But I do like to unleash the demon of consistency on the should-ers, the fucks who have--in the form of priests and scribes and kings and lawyers and fathers and matriarchs and orangutan doctors--said that certain things should be and certain things should not.

Political should-ers are particularly annoying to me. I have a simple rule for them. I think that they should design worlds in which they inhabit the weakest roles and lowest positions. That, simply and elegantly, fixes all of political philosophy.

Hammurabi would have to consider which senses he would like to abandon.
Moses might ask if war prisoners' genitals should be taken for trophies.
Mohammad might settle for being first husband of his wealthy wife.
Marx would have to listen to other people (this might constitute a living hell for him).

And most amusingly, I imagine an adolescent Thomas Jefferson struggling to deal with the advances of his 41-year-old owner. How romantic.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


You know, keeping an ever vigilant eye on hypocrisy is not altogether a bad thing. You can look around at so many in our world and find it. It sometimes pays to call it out. There is a lot of life-styler rebellion in our world, from Fight Club playing on Blu-Ray to tax-evading Bono selling phones along with world-peace or African starvation or something, to the R/C killers and private jets of Nobel laureates and senators' sons. It's not rebellion, and we do well to remember it.

An earnest attempt to search for hypocrisy, however, will eventually expand to cover our own, and from there we can either resign ourselves to living in sin and accept our powerlessness, or we can renounce our old ways and change, or we can take a look at what our involvement with mass culture means and, I don't know, maybe be a little more humble and a little less rigid.

For a very long time I did the flight-to-class thing. I grew up among rural whites. I was mistrusted by rural whites. I passed, but I talked about my race-mixture and my immigrant ancestry. I was very clever and brought pride to our community, in newspaper articles and elementary school academic competitions, but I challenged my teachers to the point of animal rage and for those I felt were beneath me, I was contemptuous and vain. I despised the truck-fetishists and the honkeys. I loved growing up on a farm but I thought the neighbors were amusing imbeciles. I told my mother of what our babysitters had told us, the faux-sociology and political ignorance and superstitions and the inane just-so stories that people use to impose structure on a chaotic world. And she was kinder than me, but she couldn't tell me that what I heard was true, and I was affirmed. I was smarter than them, and one day I'd find a place where I belonged.

I came close. Through divorce and moves and mistakes and what-not, I found myself coming close to public intellectual status. My picture was in the paper again, no longer a smiling, slightly Asiatic youngster playing catch with a globe along with his grade-school teacher. Now my face showed a slight smirk and I stared straight at the camera. It was a headshot I was happy to see but once in print. The article it accompanied was on the escalation--I refused to use the word "surge." I got done with my long-delayed bachelor's degree, I talked to a mentor, and pondered graduate school. But the degrees recommended to me sounded boring. I was growing depressed, I was economically dependent on my wife, and toilet-training was coming up. I saw who was getting kept on for internships and fellowships and paid positions and I was filled with loathing, for myself and for others.

At my brother's graduation from law school, I met a lot of ethnic white overachievers. Mostly community and alumni, there to see little scions initiated into the inherited wealth and prestige of their social class. I talked about anarchism and revolutionary socialism with a teacher from... Not Connecticut? New Hampshire? No--Vermont? One of those little places from the Northeast. I might as well be talking about Arab tribes. In any case, she was self-confident and friendly enough, but there was something cold in her demeanor, something very established. It might have been paranoia--self-contempt has always sharpened that trait of mine--but I thought, for a moment, that maybe I came off as a bumpkin.

In counseling school, I mixed alright with the upper-middle-class. A friend of mine, another working class white with too much Celt and German in him for some people, noted the way I spoke in class. He's always gotten on me for my court language. Keeps me honest, to some extent. An interesting counterpoint to my brother by birth, who eschews emotional language as imprecise and would have me speak more economically, more concretely, more lawyer-friendly. But after running from the commoners to some elusive and illusory ivory tower clique, and after discovering that the tower cliques are full of assholes and boring solipsistic Last Men and Women, I find myself refusing to totally run from the establishment's ways. No slave morality and rejection of others' ways for me. Now I mix well with the hourlies. "Y'all," consciously avoided throughout my entire youth, has entered my speech. Still, I hold myself stiffly, a petty Prussian, a bey walking the unit. It sets me apart as unusual, but not special, because I do the dirty work along with everyone else. I grab sodas and do favors. And I still talk the professional talk with the professionals, like I talk mild jargon with the nurses. I feel like a polyglot. Anybody who doesn't know me might think that I'm fake. And I heavily resemble myself during periods when I was really and truly a sham.

I'm not sure how I moved to this subject, but that's how the essay moved. I guess all I can take from my odd little wandering is that I am filled with artifacts. As a being I show many of my pretensions and quirks. Few of them make sense except in a context I alone know completely. So when I look at others, I can see some rank hypocrisy--such as when we justify our actions that, in others, we take for fatal faults. But I can also see a man wearing a necktie and not assume that he is a socially-controlled slave to outdated fashion. A man can speak like he's college educated and I don't have to assume he's shallowly learned. A child can listen to Justin Bieber without losing some basic humanity in my eyes (though I admit, this has taken me a while).

I know that there are some things that a revolutionary will not be, and cannot be, in my definition of the role. But what I'm looking for--and, as I am not as wise as IOZ, I am still looking for a Big Historical Something--I'm not sure, and I don't feel too safe ruling too many people out. I've yet to meet someone without the appearance of hypocrisy or who, were conditions right, would not be my bitter enemy. My best friends have started out, often enough, on the other side of but a momentary truce.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Freedom From

Whether you're leaving Egypt or holding off Persians or going Galt, we students of "the West" have plenty of stories of freedom-as-distance. Secession, removal, abandonment, these can bring freedom from certain forces.

It also leaves me wondering where things go next. The followers of Moses, the helots, the blonds with a tennis-player's physique--there were indeed free from Pharaoh and Xerxes and moochers, but what does that truly mean?

Is the ultimate freedom solitude? Or is there a freedom to be found with others?

If there's any freedom that matters, I think, there's got to be a way to be free with company.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nature and Nurture

Ponder a dog fight, or a bear baiting, or a football game, or a cockfight.

Sure, the participants could very well do exactly the same in nature. Dogs in a world without rings, in a world without Michael Vicks and baying hicks and betting and breeding and dying for sport, will very well fight to the death. I'm not one of those dumb fucks who thinks that lawlessness and wilds will result in some Jehovah's Witness pamphlet, hazily drawn lion sitting next to Hallmark-ready lamb.

But maybe they'll do something else, too. At least, I think, they'll have the option.

See, bears and hounds without torture and enforced starvation may very well leave each other alone. They could even exist amicably. Sure, nature ain't a Disney flick, but strange bedfellows are hardly exclusively human. But in the coercion of the ring, they have only so many options. The incentives are rigged, the outcomes fixed. They don't even have the comfort of the prisoner's dilemma. I imagine that, were dogs capable of going on strike, they'd be drowned, as all strikers are drowned when their owners wield ultimate power.

Anyway, ponder the difference between simulation and reality. How much difference in options can be found between the two? Where has humanity improved upon nature? Surely, there are examples. And surely, there are examples in which we have codified the worst, and the forced nature of our entertainments--particularly where we lust for the dangerous and unpredictable--is where I find my deepest loathing for my species. We are a race that has managed to fuck up even rough sex and violence.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Power and Power

In a very important sense, the power rests with me.

I type up your symptoms and behaviors and appearance and I form a narrative that suits the purpose of more powerful people than both you or me. In the end, in a very important sense, I hold power as most servants of the system do. I can call you this or that. I can diagnose, using the latest social attempt to define you as you think and operate and conduct yourself and interact with the world.

I have the weaknesses of all of power's servants. Greater power, close or far above me, can decide to take away the power of definition I wield at any time. I can be replaced if I don't do what they want. But I also find that in the sheer size of this structure that I have discretionary power. I can disagree with former diagnosticians. I can make new recommendations. They can be ignored. If I phrase them right, they can effect change. I don't fool myself. There are so many agents of power that I can be very, very easily disregarded, overruled, and a master narrative applied. Your history can return to earlier tellings. It can be as much out of my hands as it is out of yours.

But I can use my time with you to ask you to tell me your story. And others can ignore it and retell it and make you, in a very important, structural sense, into a different person in their eyes.

But in your own, and in mine, you can start to tell your story anew. And that is a very important sense as well.

I don't fool myself that I give you power. I say the whole time that it's your story. And it is. But you're right if you say that I still hold the keys that can unlock shackles, and that I hold keys that let me go at the end of the night. You have no such keys, and the leftist in me continues to loathe this distinction. What is it that I say to my colleagues? "There're the crazies on this side of the door and the crazies on that side." "There're the crazies that leave at the end of the night and the crazies that don't." I bring this up and the students and the interns might balk at my use of the word "crazy," as a noun and as an adjective. I use it to reduce all the fancy talk. I use it to include myself. See, I'm functional enough, or good enough at lying--same thing, basically--to not be categorized as "ill." But I'm crazy, alright. I'm fucking nuts.

But I do my best to remind you, whether you're crying, or whether you're being held down, shot up, and restrained, that you're your own author. I wonder all the time if I'm deluding myself. Sometimes I am. And sometimes a woman who stared at the floor when she met me starts to look me in the eyes. I like that. I didn't do that. I didn't "empower" in the sense that I can't give you what you already had. But I can remind you of what I see, and what others might see someday, and what you've forgotten, what all that "natural law" and "God-given rights" crap tries to say but fails by positing some overlord who gives us what we're supposed to have.

The fact is that you're born with it all. Dignity, strength, power. The fact is that you're made to forget it, made to believe that it can come with a pill or a bottle or a grant of money or access or title from a lord or a boss or an owner. You're made to believe that what you've got you've got to get from somebody else. Fuck that. You're born with it. Fuck the toil, fuck the earning. You deserve safety and respect and acknowledgment of what nobody can give you, what you should have had the moment you drew breath: not a safe and placid and pleasured life of a Last Man, but a life without abuse and violation and invasion and ownership and definition by others and expectations you've got to meet because we say so.

I don't give you that, but I play a role sometimes, the role of a man who respects you as someone who's sitting where, but for chance and brain chemistry and socialization and luck, I could very well sit. And where I could well sit one day, depending on how things go. And sometimes you play a long. And you act like a human when, if we treat you like an animal, you may well act like one, desperate and dangerous and damn impressive to those who ride out the fear and see you striving like people ought to strive when they're oppressed.

And in the end, I hold a very important sense of power, and no amount of pretty intention will cover that up. But you hold a very important sense of power, and I hope a more important sense of power, because in the end that's all I've really got, too: the ability to define yourself, to tell your story, to play along in a part written by none but you and those you claim as collaborators and muses and teachers. I didn't give you that, but I tried to act as if you remembered, and sometimes you do. And sometimes it's not enough and I remember that I'm serving your dominators, and while we always strive to find the way that our mastery serves your well-being, I know that mastery is incapable of doing so. It can prevent the most severe acts of self-destruction, and maybe we can protect you while you're clawing your eyes out and banging your head against the wall. The parent in me comes out when you do that, and it is the only time I have felt comfort with force. But I know that parental mastery is my measure for all force: it must end.

Maybe I've stunted you. Maybe I've held you back. Maybe you belong under the tires of a car or in a pool full of blood. Maybe we're not doing any good. This haunts me, but I do my best when another you comes in and I speak to you without taser or gun or physical prowess. I try my best to treat you like a human being, and that's all I can do at the moment. It's far above the way you're often treated, but I know it's not enough. Some time, I want to know what is.

Inspired, of course, by Jack Crow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

There When We Need Them

The men standing outside Home Depot seem to not be suffering too greatly. They clump under sparse shade trees. Some smoke. Some talk. Some cast slight looks toward passing cars.

They remind me of prostitutes. There is something simultaneously frail about them--for their sorely desired services are officially forbidden--and stronger, too, than I am--for hazard and chaos toughen when they do not destroy.

I am sure that the men are viewed with scorn or disgust. I fight back pity--I fucking hate pity--and go about my errand elsewhere. I save my revulsion for johns, and maybe that's low of me, too. Whatever gets you through the night. I probably shouldn't judge. But we live in a country of johns who hate those who feed their fixes--for cheap labor, or purchased sex.

I wonder if all of us aren't standing on street corners of our own.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fit for a King

Over at The Angry Arab News Service, there's a link to Gaddafi footage. Go get it if you like. As'ad AbuKhalil writes:

I was thinking: if he was a Gulf potentate being tortured to death, I could have seen Arab liberals and Western governments decrying the brutality of the protesters and calling for humane treatment of long-standing American friends. But these are NATO rebels and we have to pretend that they are, like the Mujahideen of Afghanistan, peaceful freedom fighters.

Very well put, and completely true. I'm not expecting revolutionary upheaval to be a tea party, and maybe I'm naive to be sickened by any celebratory brutality, but I don't see this as a triumph of liberty. Not when I know what horror we continue to fund. Gaddafi happens to have been a bastard whose elimination became convenient for us. Bigger bastards remain, bigger torturers remain, and greater tyranny and arbitrary dealing of death remain, all propped up by those of us too callow, lazy, and uncaring to do anything to stop it.

America's Legality

From the BBC:

The event, presented by the Temple American Inn of Court in conjunction with Gray's Inn, London, pitted British barristers against American lawyers to determine whether or not the American colonists had legal grounds to declare secession.

For American lawyers, the answer is simple: "The English had used their own Declaration of Rights to depose James II and these acts were deemed completely lawful and justified," they say in their summary.

To the British, however, secession isn't the legal or proper tool by which to settle internal disputes. "What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union? Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right," they argue in their brief.

A vote at the end of the debate reaffirmed the legality of Jefferson and company's insurrection, and the American experiment survived to see another day.

All law has to be backed by force. With sufficient force, it becomes true in fact. Without force, it is a joke. With enough force but no will to enforce it--such as in the case of the Soviet Constitution (or, many would say, the American)--it is the darkest sort of humor.

So, honestly, the fact is that the American secession is legal by fiat, just as the UK's criticism of secession is only based on the hypothetical ability to stop it. Law, I think, follows force. It certainly doesn't precede it. Incidentally, your brother's graduation from law school is a really bad time to start harping on post-hoc legal rationalization from Henry VIII to Barack Obama. Just sayin'.

But where America frustrates me is in its inconsistency (the UK's hypocrisies might upset me more were I to live there, or were it at the height of its power). We support secession when we are seceding, but killed hundreds of thousands to prevent Americans seceding from other Americans. We refuse to be subject to the same market fluctuations and price undercutting as everyone else, but cudgel smaller countries into the "global market." We are against imperial expansion yet squat on our formerly-Mexican lebensraum all the same. Our revolutionaries were thugs from the very beginning. They cleansed the Ohio River valley in order to distract from their unwillingness to revise or cancel debts. Washington was the first American leader to raise troops to fire on their own people. The revolution was powered by the people and the men with the statues led the counterrevolution. Even Jefferson expanded the power of the centralized state which, from opposition, he rightly sought to limit.

Have a great fucking weekend. Tear down some idols.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rights of the Individual: Right Action

Previously I found myself at a fork in my thoughts on human rights.

So it's either a Nietzschean, Stirnerian free-for-all, the war of all against all, or we'd better start working on that Heaven on Earth. Somehow I imagine that each would lead to a little of the other, whatever path we take.

I continue to believe that the war of all against all is probably a good part of how the world can and does work. Additionally, I believe that it is a philosophically earnest way to see things. Shit happens, and either there is no right at all, or all that is is as it should be. You do what you can when you can, and I will too, and if I get mine or you get yours, the winner is the fitter, or the luckier, or the more meritorious, or simply the one who wins. I can say nothing to defeat reductionist materialism, or fatalism, or whatever philosophical label one may apply.

But... Say there are rights. Say that, as I argued before, there is no way to argue stratification because there is no standard of merit that we can apply to all time and situations. Then, roughly, we have equal rights. I don't have the right to initiate violence on you and you don't have the right to do the same to me. We agree on violence because it's obvious.

Some of us split off when I say that there is no right to trickery, or that deceit is wrong. After all, those of us say, we do not make anyone believe a thing. We simply allow others to be ignorant or foolish or wrong. Caveat emptor. And some of us in turn stick to an anti-deceit stance, but neither can necessarily prove the other wrong unless we enter a psychometaphysical argument about the nature of human will, choice, and responsibility, and even then I won't bet on its ending.

And we can go on down the chain through influence, which some people do not believe in, and intelligence and propaganda and advertising, which only work on weak-willed or stupid people and never, ever, on us free-thinking superior types.

So we can have all those debates on where aggression ends and begins. In some of these interactions, competition is present, fairly or unfairly. The thief contends with the possessor, the target with her attacker, the business rivals with their fellow dealers.

What about competition free of context? What morality is there to be found in pure competition? Certainly, we can find almost no pure situations in nature, but what can this ideal situation tell us about our respective worldviews?

What if two individuals find themselves desirous of the same resource? What if this resource is finite, like a lover's time or an unrenewing mineral deposit?

What is just then? Is it a fair feud? Does the winner become the aggressor and the loser the victim? Are they equals until the contest is over and then become dominant and defeated? Are they obligated to share?

All of these options and many, many others are things that I am interested in deciding for myself and others. Perhaps they are all simultaneously true, in that way that siblings can be confidants, rivals, traitors, conspirators, and mentors all at once. Perhaps we are both threats and allies. Perhaps what anarchism says is that whatever their choices are, they ought to be free to make them. But then, I wonder, may we simply end up on the other path of the free-for-all? Would that be a failure of our liberation, or a necessary risk?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

At Least It's Different

I heard the following on NPR today, which is generally shitty, but still one of the more useful ones. It's Kim Bostrum, an "Occupy Wall Street" protestor in Missoula, Montana.

On "quiet consensus" leadership:

Pretty much all decisions are made according to that model, and I think people are really finding that it's amazing to feel like when you say something, it matters, as painful as it can be at times.

On their reasons:

As many people as you ask here, you're gonna find different reasons. I think the reason everybody's here is because we’re angry. The reason I’m angry because I feel like a wealthy minority is controlling our so-called democracy. They control our food, our water, they’re outsourcing our jobs, and this wealthy minority is kinda taking over the country and we kinda want to take it back.

On Bostrum's conflicts of interest:

Well, I'm on my lunch hour, so I'm not representing my employer right now.

On being pawns to party politics:

We're fighting it tooth and nail. We don't want to be co-opted. This is not a move to support Obama or the Democrats. I don't want anything to do with re-electing Democrats in general but Obama specifically. I don't feel like he's represented the change that I had hoped for.

On Mitt Romney:

He means nothing to me. He can come join us, but I think that he's one of the one percent.

On one thing that could make a change:

Well, there's, um.... I hate that we're being set up as kind of capitalism and democracy or something else, which, you know, people like to term it communism, socialism, we're all being, you know, called all those names that people consider bad without really considering what they mean, and there are other things that haven't been created yet. We're smarter than that. We don't need to settle into this system or that system. We can create a new system, I think, and one that I'm interested in is the idea of nested councils, where people are assigned to a representative group, similar to a jury duty. You don't get to go out and campaign for it. You're assigned to it. And when it's your time to go and serve, you have to go and serve. It gives the community real true say in something that really affects them.

Any errors in transcription are mine. Listen to the whole thing here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Politics of the Personal

Apparently "the personal is political" is some catchphrase among some feminists. This is where my ignorance of the undergraduate college polit-pop scene shines through. It was a black goth ex-boyfriend of my now-wife who first mentioned the phrase. Can't remember the context. Only remember my skepticism.

My personal shit had been about power, sure, but politics, in my young(er) life, was something higher and systematic and structural. Personal seemed like a god-damned mess. I still know what he meant, and I know what is generally meant by the phrase. Politics, which is to say "shit that involves power," is of course present in our personal lives. But try to systematize it without being a dickless doctrinaire son of a bitch. Try to come up with a personal philosophy. It is simple to draw straight lines through war and peace and money and property--at least for me. And yet when I deal with a single life I cannot help but leave philosophy behind and enter some flailing, miserable, confused, nihilist state of mind.


She looks at me, eyes brimming, and calls me a son of a bitch. Some word that I remember as "gutless," but she uses something else. We share the same vocabulary, but we have different preferences in anger. She tells me that she would never do this to her worst enemy so she can only imagine how much I hate her.

I sleep that night at a friend's house. We stay up late and smoke cigarettes and talk about relationships. Things have been bad for him and his spouse. They've come close to calling it quits, he tells me. He has some idea of how hard things have been for her and me. He knows us well, knows the stress of working for their employer. Has an observant mind. He's smart and I like him. He makes a terrific advocate for sticking with it.

The next morning I have cried a half dozen times. I barely sleep. I linger and then return. I talk with her. We figure out some kind of peace. When do I have the right to leave? I suppose I have the right whenever. Or, as I've said before, maybe rights don't exist except as assertions. So do I want to? Part of me does and part of me doesn't. Neither part is rational.

In a couple days, I have chest pains. Feels like a panic attack. I'm gasping like Guevara. I try to calm myself, try to breathe deeply, fighting against the impulse to pant. It doesn't work. A big wave crests and I'm crying out.

She drives me to the ER. Almost to the hospital, a terrific calm settles over me, a ruthless, heartless side. I decide with grim determination that life's too short. If this is indeed psychological, then it's a sign that all is not well. Some people get right with their lord. I need to get right with me. I flash back to Peter Krause in Six Feet Under. Am I close to my own personal narm? I certainly feel melodramatic, reckless, and clumsy enough.

I feel guilt from being so selfish while my wife is driving me to the fucking ER, but pain has rendered my mind more intense. When I walk into the emergency room, I am ready to take control, playing every bit the part of a man having an emergency but clearly not letting his chest pain get the best of him. It is interesting, what gives me a sense of power. I'm odd.

When I am presented with the bill, I waltz back into Easy Politics. I am polite to the woman who tells me, and profoundly angry with the insurance company. My wife and I commiserate. I am happy that I have Dead Loved One Money in the bank, but I feel offended at spending it on something like chest pain rule-outs. We head home, nothing resolved but the diagnosis. Not pleurisy or a panic attack, but costochondritis, they think. Acute inflammation. It can be intensified by emotional stress, you know. I don't know what stresses me more, and I don't know what's healthier in the long run. The pain that comes from crossing the threshold, or the pain that comes from staying. She drives me home, and I am still contemplating a life where I have ended the only adult relationship I have ever had.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tar Me with that Brush

Charles Davis takes on the notion of Somalia as an anarchist/libert paradise:

I think it's worth pointing out that this critique is no different than a conservative or right-wing libertarian responding to a criticism of modern state capitalism by snorting, "oh yeah, and how did the Soviet Union turn out, ya Marxist?" It's intellectually dishonest. It's lame. It's -- perhaps most damningly -- just plain unoriginal, returning "About 210,000 results" on Google. And it's a damn weak attempt to hang around the necks of those who would dare imagine a world where people are free to organize and live in communities not subject to the coercive interference of an outside, centralized power, a failed state -- Somalia -- that has been torn apart by decades of Western state intervention...

Back in July I summed up thoughts about Somalia that I've posted in a dozen places previously. Somalia ain't anarchy; the phrase I used was "enforced chaos." It's Caesar in Gaul, it's France in Italy, it's America in Latin America or damn near anywhere else. Pick your precedent.

But... And this is where I'm crass and kneejerkily contrarian. Anarcho-friendlies may well ask themselves how they avert the gangs-and-thugs-and-Mad-Max scenario. It is plain as day that Somalia has suffered from foreign intervention. It is plain as day that it is not an anarchist paradise. It is not plain, however, that anarchy must turn its eyes away from Somalia, as we have nothing to do with that.

Nobody wants to be associated with failure, or atrocity, or bad things. Everybody wants to say that they would never support something that would lead to something bad. Rightists have nothing to do with Hitler. Liberals have nothing to do with Vietnam. Socialists have dodged the Soviet Union how many times, and yet the fact remains that a great many institutional socialists supported Stalin up until it was no longer popular. The fact is that libertarians must face the Chicago School's advice to men like Pinochet. Ayn Rand nuts should figure out where they stand on HUAC. And if that means that anarchists must learn from Somalia, so be it.

Because if you ever fucking impose "a world where people are free to organize and live in communities not subject to the coercive interference of an outside, centralized power," then you must articulate how you avoid local despotism (or acknowledge its possibility and dismiss it as acceptable) or articulate how big, bad, angry neighbors aren't going to come in and fuck your shit up. It's that simple.

Somalia had anarchy. It experienced devolution, secession, and popular institutions take the place of a centralized entity. And yes, it swiftly passed to enforced chaos. Nevertheless, it remains highly relevant for anyone who wants to see the leviathan fall.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why They Win

You want to know why the distant undo you, break you down, tear us apart, get us at each other's throats?

Because it's always easier to hit when you where to strike.

And you always know the weaknesses of those close to you better than you know those of others.

I've always talked about hanging kings before thieves and criticized society at its widest point, but--

I'm crawling up the leviathan's ass.

I've always talked about banding together, about relying more on local uses rather than distant, impersonal thems, but--

I think I gave her a good reason to strike me today.

And I think it's far easier to destroy a marriage than a social hierarchy.

And maybe I'm just becoming one more petty little man defining himself by pushing others away. I say I want freedom, I want to move in new directions, I want to stand on my own... But I'm a dog like any other, biting at those closest to me, chewing not on the bones of my real enemies but of wasted and vanished friends.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

To Do

I am racked by the question of what I owe others.

Maybe I can tie this together cleverly. Maybe I'll just do what I've done and forcefully extrude some awkward, ill-begotten thought from my skull.

I think that a lot of us have merit backwards. Merit is popularly defined as what you deserve to get, but that's secondary. What you offer is the primary issue, right?

I see the tail-end of a Thomas Friedman interview on "The Daily Show." He's talking some liberally-well-meaning rot about making sure people have something to offer. "Everybody's good at something." Well, that's sweet-sounding. But it's got the same order as I've always heard.

Give so you can get. Offer so you can take. If you want something, what are you willing to do for it?

Well, what if I say that in order to give, I've got to get, first? Maybe we should get so we can give. It's been as likely as anything in my life. When I have a lot, I'm quite magnanimous. When desperate, I can have a real sweet side. Especially when ill, I'm kind to nurses and polite strangers. But I also don't really have much to give, let alone produce in some way Friedman and other technocrats would recognize. For example, a keystone of economy is putting up with bullshit, and when I'm hungry, tired, sick, and poor, I'm no good at that. I give what I get when I'm low.

Little parts of my brain fume. Were I religious, then I would have been given some system of ethics. What to give, what to expect. But I'm a heathen and I'm selfish and I'm desirous of connection with others and I have to decide for myself what I'm willing to give up, what I'm willing to insist upon.

What do I owe others? What do I deserve? If the answer was nothing, my life would be simple. If my answer were that I deserved nothing and others everything, or the other way around, life would be painful but again, simple. But I do not deal with nihilism very well in a personal sense. I can believe in cosmic nothingness, believe that there is no God, no universal purpose, and so on, but in terms of petty personality I lack the courage (or the purists' zeal) to say that there is no morality but what I dictate, that I can do whatever the fuck I want. I melt and wobble like one more bourgeois moral performer and talk about family and responsibility and adjustment and time. Things take time.

It has become very hard to talk about freedom and responsibility and big choices in a social sense. It is hard because I have brought these issues directly to my life. And honestly, I can do little to comment about the wars and the mass murder and the killer sky robots and the economy when I am trying to figure out what I need, how I want to be free. How much I am willing to live at others' expense, make choices that can and will hurt them. Hurt me.

With all respect to Karl, the fact is that if I go all real and talk about concrete things, there's only so much blogging to do. Because the more real I get, the more I want to walk away from this shit and actually live. But life benefits from at least a little abstraction. The abstract, the arcane, the symbolic, the artistic, provides a place where we can see our thoughts in new context.

It is a momentary and vital act of intellectual or emotional independence. Call it a secession, call it a trial separation. It is vital.

So I am living and that drags me away. But living is muddled and improvised and intellectually strangling and confused and jury-rigged and pragmatic and corrupting. Sometimes I need some kind of reminder of my strategy. It is easy to grow distracted by an endless parade of tactics.

Owe and ought. Debeo. Same word. What I owe. What I ought to do. At the risk of sounding like the esteemed Crow (whose linguistic adherence is not my continental philosophical cup of tea), old Latin studies come back to me. What do I owe? What ought I do? What is to be done? Christ, the hardest part of living like you're free isn't the acceptance of responsibility. It's figuring out what freedom is for. And maybe owing and ought-tos are an attempt to answer that question. And now I'm rolling myself up into my thought. The arcane drags me away. Time to get back to life, before it drives me crazy again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Lieu of a "Real Post"

If you're looking for a book about power in basic form, I imagine you could do far, far worse than King Rat, by James Clavell.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Of course, nobody likes to say they hate when they mean it.

When I fall in hate, I will make sure it's worth it.

Call me a lifestylist or a pampered pig, but I really do believe that some wars against others must wait until the wars in ourselves have been won.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saturn and Sparta

Necessity is not the mother of invention. I mean, it might be the ovary, but necessity is a bitch who throws out a lot of spontaneous abortions. Seriously; think of how many eggs in an ovary will actually matter and that gives you a good idea of how often necessity bears live young.

But necessity can certainly produce strength, or provoke it. It's part of our human myth. Need, hardship, going without, living without, avoiding ease, going to the desert, living off the land, growing out one's beard. Going to the mattresses. Earning your keep. Your first post has got to be the worst. They always try to make you wipe out on the first day. These are what come to mind. This is Sparta. It's Apollo, too. And Marcus Aurelius. And Buddha, in his way. Part of the family is a cold rejection, and the other branch seeks to abstain even from avoidance. But it's linked, you see. It's related. All of this is the ascetic urge.

And we are told, by Jedi and priests, libertarians and authoritarians alike, that it brings power, self-reliance, and so on. I remain skeptical when asceticism is imposed (though some believe so firmly in a moral law of BYO that they believe that withdrawal of aid can never be an assault, and there's an argument to be had there), but in any case, this is what I hear, and I hear it from popular and elite sources alike. It's a deep root.

But if Apollo reigns, is he not joined by Dionysus? There is also the indulgent urge, and we are told that if this does not bring power then it proves it. A man can handle his shit, hold his liquor. Get what you want, hold it in your hands, be ambitious, get the most toys, grab the most women. Buy, buy, buy. Have an appetite. Don't eat like a bird (I always loved that for how inaccurate it is), don't eat "rabbit food," gulp down the meat of miserable animals who lived as sadly as you. Get a car that you can't park; get a house you can't afford. Invade a country you can't hold down. More, more, more. It takes money to make money. You get what you pay for.

And the fact is that surpluses have formed much of what we think of as material culture. If the pyramids were the product of want, then it was artificial want manipulated by a ruling elite in order to coerce talent to act as it wished. Looking at the system as a whole, it was not want that made those structures that have inspired billions. It was surplus. It is surplus which rules as much as want, surplus that provides the fuel, the cushion, for contemplation and for aspirations that are arcane and damn near crazy when you compare them to the world of want.

And to this day, the people from the land of plenty regard the people from the land of want as lunatics, and vice versa. They are both mad, and they are both reacting to their madness with cleverness and ingenious adaptation. People do that a fucking lot, let me tell you.

So I know it's a stupid dichotomy, and I know that living as an Apollinian or a Dionysian is destructive and pathological. I know that there is some power to be found in either situation. Still, when I live my life, do I go for indulgence or discipline? Do I deny myself what brings pleasure because going without makes me strong, or do I act as a libertine, accepting the consequences? What is power for the individual? Harmony with others? Coordination? Abandonment? Where the fuck does freedom lie when it comes to indulgence and abstinence? Is the addict but one image of freedom, or is she the inversion of it? Dare we believe LBJ's words that drug abuse is "slavery"? Is rampant lust the expression of our freedom, or of bourgeois society's hypersexualization of life or some bullshit?

Or perhaps this is all one more modern headgame. Maybe we are simply Puritans playing Spartans and alcoholics telling ourselves we're transcendental. Maybe there's no difference between the two. Functionally, the indulgence of a few is paid for by the want of many. And yet, in our little heads, we utopians have often bounced between eudaimonia and Macedonian rags (or German, or Scottish, and so on a billion times), humble but free.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When History Disagrees

Via the BBC.

Palestinian leaders are presenting their bid for upgraded UN status as a desperate move prompted by Israeli intransigence. In asserting this they are counting on the amnesia of the international community....

The main obstacle to an agreement, then, is not territory or settlements but the Palestinian insistence on the "right" to demographically destroy the Jewish state. Absurdly, the Palestinian leadership is demanding that Palestinians immigrate not only to a Palestinian state but also to a neighbouring state, Israel.

That demand, of course, would lead to the internal collapse of the Jewish state - which is precisely the goal....

Israel's dilemma is unique. It is, on the one hand, the only democracy that is also an occupier - a situation forced on the Jewish state by the Arab world's attempts to destroy it in 1967, but which has taken on an increasingly permanent nature....

Emphasis mine. Hmm... "Forced" on Israel by the Arab world, huh?

Thus we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question. Hence those who hold that an agreement with the natives is an essential condition for Zionism can now say “no” and depart from Zionism. Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would only be hypocrisy....

I am optimistic that [the Arabs] will indeed be granted satisfactory assurances and that both peoples, like good neighbors, can then live in peace. But the only path to such an agreement is the iron wall, that is to say the strengthening in Palestine of a government without any kind of Arab influence, that is to say one against which the Arabs will fight. In other words, for us the only path to an agreement in the future is an absolute refusal of any attempts at an agreement now.
--Ze'ev Jabotinsky, The Iron Wall, 1923

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pressure Points: Addendum

Alas, it's not a retraction or a clarification of that over-written piece of bloat, but rather One More Fucking Thing.

You see function even in hypocrisy, whether individual or systemic, so long as you are willing to see that lies serve functions. It is a fool or a moralist or a naif who assumes that our words are supposed to mirror or provide meaningful anticipations of other behavior. That might be your or my expectation, but nothing in the world dictates that our words have to be true. Words are inherently misleading, however well they may sometimes be used, for they are abstractions. Don't get me wrong; I think striving toward honesty has its benefits, and words have enough magic in them that they can wreak serious havoc when they are used enough and at odds with our other actions. That said, a perpetual expectation that they are to be lashed to action is going to leave you raw and angry.

So if the words and the actions are at odds, identify the function of each. This can help you find sympathy for your fellow liar and also, more importantly, understand him and his importance with slightly greater accuracy. Looking at an institution, you can dismiss the easy moralism of "they lie!" and move to how they lie and why.

Here we move into psychology, which is dangerous because the science still hasn't arrived. Neurology of trauma doesn't help us understand why some people respond to trauma in one way and others, in others. The psychology here is, as IOZ has said so completely and damningly in the past, at best absent and at worst pseudoscience and fraud. But, to stay to psychology in the lay sense of Figuring Out What the Fuck Is Going On In Others' Heads, I think we should give some thought to how others make their decisions. Perhaps there are levers, too many to count and, obviously, concealed to us, within others. Perhaps a major part of motivation, manipulation, and leadership is to understand what forces exist within individuals. Will the anarchist need to have something of the Marine recruiter and the beer commercial in her? I am not sure I like the idea, but I can't think of much alternative.

Pressure Points, Joints, Fulcra

Many in the world today are technicians only in the most pedestrian sense. We master the motions and see in the motions the whole of understanding. We are behaviorists, perhaps great predictors but terrible psychologists, terrible poets. Are we not also terrible mechanics? We know the title, the rank, the job description, the story of purpose, the story of who listens to whom. I know and was taught many supposed Whys. How many among us know the Hows?

It is helpful to develop an understanding of political physics. It is not enough to say what an arm, or a man, does. We must know how the elbow bends. We must know the forearm's range of motion. We must know where its muscular power is concentrated and when it is broken. Knowing desires and wishes are important. It is very important to know that others seek to dominate or injure us. Much more important is to know along which paths this can occur.

One can observe the same principles in social organization. We are told what sub-groups or individual members are supposed to do, and we are often told what we need to do to get by. This is not enough. Let me put this more simply: we are always told who holds a superior office, but we must often judge for ourselves where decisions rest, and who controls which social levers.

Who makes decisions?
If there is a stated purpose, what forces correct error?
What forces encourage compliance?
What happens if things go "wrong"? If the consequences are voluntary or petty, then perhaps there is a disconnect between the stated purpose of the machine and its actual function.

Functionalism cannot be combined with a passive acceptance. "It is what it is" cannot satisfy us if we believe in empowering ourselves and, as appropriate, changing our environment. We must say "It is as it has been made" when we speak of human habit, fixture, and culture. This is part of another ramble, that of linguistic shift; "being" seems stronger than "doing," and yet it is in action that all States of operation are maintained. What can be made stands a better chance of being abandoned, of being remade!

Nor can we afford to be mired in the hypocri-phobia of the would-be reformer, the disgruntled libertarian, and the failed idealist. "Oh my goodness," we scream! "Things are not as described!" A group that lies to itself is not stronger for it, and while I am not so naive as to believe that all bureaucracies, offices, and business units will be reformed simply by having their inconsistencies exposed--even the most dysfunctional systems tend toward equilibrium, which tells you something about the value of balance--I do believe that observing inconsistency tells you more about a system than seeing it act in perfect accordance with its "guiding principles" or "mission statement" or shit.

Are we not always a little more familiar with a person when we discover them committing what they officially consider sinful? I am well educated when I discover that a Muslim is a tippler, or that a Baptist is addicted to Internet pornography, or when I see that the director shares smoke breaks with and hangs on the every word of a co-worker who, according to the organizational leadership flowchart, should be a peer. You cannot learn everything, and sometimes cannot learn anything, by talking about how things are supposed to work. We must develop a sense of how they truly function, and that requires direct observation and experience.

When this awareness is cultivated, it gives you a greater sense of social power just as, when you understand the function of the leg's joints, you know how to more greatly control its motion. The other person may be stronger, but control the thigh just above the knee, pressing it against a flat surface, and you're less likely to get kicked (obviously, the notion of total control is ridiculous). In such a situation, one may think "I get hit with the foot" and grab the ankle. It's a weak position, grabbing the end of a lever. One must go to the fulcrum. In this sense, the political mind is radical in the oldest sense, in that it goes to the root of things.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Obama: Expert!

You can't be Kennedy without some well-chosen words for Latin America, specifically Cuber:

Recent changes in Cuba have not been "aggressive enough" to open its economy or reform its political system, US President Barack Obama has said.

Mr Obama, speaking to Spanish-language correspondents in Washington, said Cuba remained a "throwback" to the 1960s....

President Obama said the Cuban authorities had indicated they wanted to make changes to allow businesses to operate more freely.

But, he said, there was no evidence that they had been sufficiently aggressive in doing this.

"And they certainly have not been aggressive enough when it comes to liberating political prisoners and giving people the opportunity to speak their minds", Mr Obama said.

Provide your own punchline. Yes, Mr. Obama, they should be more aggressive about liberating political prisoners in Cuba. Yes, they should be working on their economy and political reform...

Look, I certainly prefer living in America because of the status I hold here, but you know, when I look at Cuban unemployment, hunger, and abuse, I can't help but feel that it's small stuff compared to us. What person in their right mind would listen to President fucking Obama about successful reform? The guy makes Jimmy Carter 1980 look like Jimmy Carter 2010.

Of course, and it's not just because he's an empty suit, shades of Obama are always to be found when discussing clumsy attempts at reform. Were I him, I wouldn't rush to have my name associated with the subject.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Real Oppression

We live in a world which seems about as violent as it ever has been, and it may well be that. (I don't know; I just got here.) We may be tempted to talk about how people are today more comfortable than they were, and that may be true for many but is false for many, too. Rape, murder, intimidation, disease, brittle bones, crumbling teeth... It seems to me that the myth of progress is pretty thorough. Wherever I've ever been, I could find the limits of modern bourgeois comfort if I wanted. And most of us, no matter how comfortable, can find those limits too, beyond which the old ways survive.

But though we often reveal our bourgeois arrogance when we speak of How Easy Folks Have It, the truth is that in some ways, we have become accustomed to subtler forms of abuse. And now I conclude my long-winded disclaimer and get to my main thought.

Across time, culture, and social evolution, we find ourselves dancing around this continuum of subtle infliction of power on one side and, on the other, coarser and more overt displays of power. Depending on your historical epoch, deceit was perfectly acceptable; to lie was no abuse when Odysseus first spoke, though to his Christian readers, it was his violence that was heroic, while his treachery had long since become a mortal sin. The Ottomans considered beatings routine. They weren't reserved for punishment; they were part of questioning. I have little doubt that the Turks, like their Christian fellows in the medieval world, found themselves superior by far to the Romans with their pagan bloodsport, wanton sexuality, and all that late-night-telly type stuff. But the fact is that Romans too saw themselves as a, oh, what's the going phrase here? "A nation of laws, not men." The Romans might yield to personal fiat in time, but they were profoundly legalistic. This set the terms, of course, for the imposition of power.

Where am I going with this? Well, I see anarchism and market libertarianism and all that shit as merely occupying different points along the same continuum. It's all part of the same headgame, you see. Humans don't want to admit their abuse and so they find ways to differentiate their abuses from those of others.

I did so in accordance with the law!
I hold Identity or Status X!
I didn't cripple him!
I didn't kill him!
At least he'll live!
I did as much as she did to me!
I didn't profit from it!
I didn't lose control!
I paid the bloodgold!
I only took what was mine by right!
He started it!
I had no choice!

And alongside every cop-out, excuse, and distraction, there is still the imposition of power and the normalization of what falls below the standards we set. Because here's what's consistent from the Age of Violence to the Age of Law to the Age of Negotiation or Democracy or Market or Merit or What-the-Fuck-Ever...

Where a society has legitimized certain kinds of contests where there are winners and losers, that society has almost always blamed the loser for his or her lack of power. If we dueled with pistols (or did so more often), we might fault a poor shot. As it is, many Internet Tough Guys love to blame the victims of violent crime for not being Batman. Accordingly, those who fail to spot a scam may be either Victims of Injustice if we might ourselves fall for it, or variously they are Fools if we feel we would be smart enough to avoid their fate. In each case, there are coarser forms of exploitation on which we can all agree--armed theft, for example. But where things get subtler, fewer and fewer are willing to call it abuse, and more say that the responsibility falls on the abused.

I don't know where the line falls, or if there's any line at all. To see violence everywhere solves nothing, but I certainly feel that there is abuse and power that exists beyond physical displays. To say, as the Randians say, that we should eschew fraud and violence, is an interesting starting point, but they are too comfortable with accepting market coercion. Maybe any revolutionary anarchist will, necessarily, favor the coercion of the engines she hopes to turn in her desired direction.

I don't know. My words are failing me. This is my best attempt to force out something worth another person's time. The rest of my head is fit only for tequila, weeping, and LiveJournal.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I felt two ways about our recent festival of mourning, and between those feelings I was left in a mood of dread and resignation.

On one hand, I see the opportunity for millions of people to seize the day, to return it to the only way things ever matter to us, which is in our own personal understanding of it. I did not need to be a New Yorker to have my own experience. I did not need to have friends or family in the air. It was a shock and a challenge to me. It mattered to me. It mattered to a lot of us. So talking about this can, I grant, be good.

As for the other, I felt a sense of loathing at the social obligation, at all the exhorting to "REMEMBER" and so on. I do remember. And I will, as humans do, find my memory changed in the remembrance. And I will recontextualize, and twist, as we all do, as none do more so than the remembrists. For a couple of weeks, I felt the dread build in me, the hostile preparation to be assailed by images and media spectacle, the forced remembrance--in truth, the co-optation of millions of individual recollections by a tired, sentimental, meaningless master narrative.

I was 18 when it happened, which may render my experience more or less meaningful, depending on the observer. I had a lot of conversations. Tried to be social. Tried to be intellectual about it. Posted little signs urging patience and decency. Offended some people. Talked about it.

But what the fuck to say about it now? For me, the towers are obscured by the bodies, thirty times as many if you take an estimate which even its generators think is low-ball. A quarter of a million? Half a million? After ten years, is it even possible to smell Ground Zero over the gruesome hills we have made in Iraq? Can I hear the planes strike the towers over the buzzing of horseflies and the weeping of children?

Does it still matter to me? Sure it matters. I can care about things at the same time. I've wept over shit that happened before I was born. I'm allowed. So I remember 9/11. But I feel this powerful sense of emptiness, this hole where I used to have a lot to say. Other pains are stinging me. Other horrors shake me. I've grown. I've lived. And living manages to warp your perspective in ways both helpful and sick.

I didn't hear too much about unity this year, for which I'm thankful. If you felt united, then maybe you were. But unity exists for moments and episodes, for nations as surely as for individuals.

If America is a crumbling family, 9/11 has long been our holiday celebration, and it is our fervent desire for unity that only emphasizes the distance between us. 360 or so days of separateness, resentments, and disaffection cannot be erased with one great forced display of cohesion, and one wonders how much of the sappiness is fake and how much is due to intoxication or senility.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Quiet day. To those still reading:

Working on fiction and paid work. Lots going on in the brain.

I want to talk about sources of power; that'll be next.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Limit of My Power

I feel my throat swelling. It's getting painful to talk. I would gladly trade this for the fever of a few nights ago; at least a sweaty night of chills and broiling brains gives me a sense of inner comfort. I can deal with discomfort if I feel like my body's fighting back. Right now I feel I'm losing. I hate not being able to deal with this shit on my own.

It's an interesting realization of a grim thought that I had last night, a thought that accompanied a pain that defied all behind-the-counter painkillers. I thought that I should cut my tongue out for all its use to me, if I can't find a way to persuade a mild, curious adolescent to find some other path than to take money in exchange for training and being placed in a position to murder other human beings.

I can't even say it straight. As I rolled under the sheets, wishing I'd opted for nice green noxious NyQuil-D, I wished I could call him a victim, wished I could take his agency away so I didn't have to call him what he's willing to become: a mercenary. Are those the choices? Victim or villain? For me, right now anyway, there's no other way to see it. I refuse to play the polite game of the liberal working classes and imagine some war in which the whole structure would be justified. The need is not there. The danger is not there. And a man who murders human beings for coin is not made more sympathetic for lack of options... At least whores only poison themselves.

What power do I have here? I know the myth of control is foolish and destructive. I know I don't make others' minds up for them. I know the limit of my power... Then why act at all? And why do I seem to only have power when it doesn't matter to me? Are the Christians and Buddhists somehow actually right about something? Is this some nihilist universe in which the most empty acts are the only ones that succeed? Why is it that I can help some people see what's inside them and now I can say nothing that matters, point out no conflict worth settling? Have I ever really changed anyone's mind? Are the mechanics just hidden from my eye and it's been arrogance all along that gave me credit?

Maybe he hungers for war. I sure as hell do. I just never fooled myself that the war for which I wait was the one I'd be fighting if I took their money and their kit and their orders.

But if I'm so smart, why can't I use the man's pacifism to challenge his desire to belong, his desire to get away from the hassle of family.... If I'm so smart, why can't I do a goddamned thing? Not the right type of relationship? A little bit too old to be sympathetic? I'm smart enough not to push, smart enough to be an older friend but never an authority, never a Because I Said So, but I'm not smart enough, or something enough, to do anything more than watch.

Going down to work with his aunt for a few weeks, I believe he said. Coming back up and going back to the fucking Marine recruiter. He knows they lie. He knows it's a one-sided contract. He says he doesn't even agree with the course of these occupations, laid down when he was a boy. But none of it matters. I think he's trying to impress some girl. I think he wants a family not of his birth. I think he's made up his mind. And that's stronger than anything anyone else can provide. His parents say they accept it. I think they've reached the point where they acknowledge the limit of their power. So why am I bothered by this?

The personal side of it troubles me more, but there's nothing to do but mourn it. The personal side of it's mine to worry about. But isn't this a philosophical issue, too?--and it reinforces the personal sense of impotence, shame, and futility, which is all the better--doesn't it mean that there's no fucking point to any of this, to all the soapboxing and deliberation and scribbling and pondering and debating and "proving" and considering and theorizing, if I can't persuade even one kind-hearted young man who doesn't support the wars to turn down their money and refuse to kill those who have no conflict with him or his loved ones? If I cannot speak to the willing and sympathetic about the greatest human rights issue of our age, then what good am I?