Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bringing a Tank to a Cockfight

Robert McNamara, The Fog of War:

Proportionality should be a guideline in war.

If war is merely the use of violence (usually by a party or group) in order to effect a desired political end, then what is law enforcement but domestic war? We don't need to debate long on this; a look at any SWAT team's garage will do. Or you can ask real life lawman Steven Seagal.

At the time, the use of several armored vehicles, dozens of law enforcement officers, and, of course, Steve Seagal riding in a tank to raid an unarmed chicken farm, level a surrounding wall, and smash out the windows of Llovera’s home was immediately derided as gross misuse of force and funds, all authorized by self-styled celebrity Sheriff Joe Arpaio in order to play up to the reality TV cameras—an argument that Llovera’s subsequent minor arrest for “suspicion of cockfighting” did little to quell. Llovera is now finally fighting back, filing the notice of claim as the first step toward a lawsuit that his lawyer says will seek $100,000 in damages and “a formal written apology” from Seagal to Llovera’s children for killing their puppy. Here’s hoping that Steven Seagal, puppy-killer, never meets Steven Seagal, guy from Out For Justice, because that dude would be pissed.

Tangible Examples

Freedom and authority are ideals, and they serve us well when we're having a certain kind of discussion. That said, we don't live in a world of ideals; we live in a world of practice, material, policy, and routine. So what do freedom and authority look like in this world?

One of the most pleasing analogies for the defender of authority is that of the orchestra. Of course, like all apparent hierarchy, this authority is often misunderstood by the layperson. The performers in the orchestra are each well-trained and well-versed in the material, and their abilities are greater than an unknowing observer might guess. That said, the orchestra conductor does play a vital role.

Does this defend authority, direction, and hierarchy?

If it does, then what are we consider when we see a group of musicians with no apparent leader? What when we perceive a different tradition of musical performance, one in which there is no program--this is thoroughgoing anarchism, not just absent a personal authority but a textual authority, as well! Improvisation in groups is a remarkable example of freedom, order in chaos, the kind of anarchism we might hope to achieve elsewhere.

You can see this heavily throughout the arts. Consider improvised theater, sometimes clumsy but often improved with practice, consider both the authorities of the director and of the text. When can these be checked by the talents of those who do the work, of those who build the set, design new blocking, those who perform, those who assert new interpretations. Consider those who develop new lines on stage, consider their multiple motivations--to ease another's lapse of memory, to play up material that works for the crowd. This is distribution of power! This is real politics, and you can learn from watching it and learn from taking part in it. What if an audience put on a show of its own?

And what if mental health patients, or those who have experienced trauma, or those who are sick from addiction or terminal disease--what if these people conducted their own therapy? This happens all the time. It should probably happen more often, but when you find it you realize that freedom doesn't have to wait until we topple all the top-down psychologizing, the asinine positing of meaning for and about others, or the imperial science of dictation and predetermination. With each display of improvisation, devolution of power, and individual ownership, there is a meaningful example of what I or you or we want to create.

If I talk about freedom, I believe I have a duty to find tangible examples of liberation, increased freedom, and seizure of power and generalize these examples.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Political Education

You want real fucking power? You want to feel something that Bonapartes and Kings and Mussolinis felt? You want to be Lenin, leaning conversationally from that hazily painted platform? You want to make men weep and women nod in agreement?

Then talk to people.

Can you find a group of people that wouldn't normally listen? Sure you can; the world's hostile. Go out and find them. Go, find them, and talk to them.

The more pathetic, the better. Don't go speak truth to power. Chomsky's right: the powerful know the truth! They just don't care. So go speak truth to powerless. See how you do.

Go to the parts of town where your friend of a friend buys weed. Go down to the bus station. Go down to the jail, or the detox center. Ask to speak at a local church.

Maybe you'll want to do your research first. Check it out for some time. See what the school board actually talks about. Maybe your dream isn't suited to their brains just yet. Maybe you'll realize that what you want to say, that your brilliant speech, your amazing insight into What Really Is... Just ain't interesting to a bunch of mosquito-bitten alcoholics meeting in an AC-less shack, joking about the rat who's running the walls. Maybe you'll listen first, if you're smart, and figure out how to bridge what you want to have heard and what they want to hear. I can't imagine a terrific talker who's not skilled in listening.

So go find that tough crowd. Go find that unforgiving audience. And try out your material. Maybe you'll learn that the material ain't the biggest deal. Maybe you'll learn that people really want a tone and a face that say "I'm not full of myself" and "I'm not trying to sell you the moon." Maybe you'll learn something about most people.

Maybe you'll be challenged, and you'll either fold or you'll roll with it. And they feel good; the former because it won't be as bad as you feared and the latter because you'll taste, if only momentarily, real human power. But you'd better remember the feeling. That's all power is when you're working from the bottom. The taste of recognition, the sight of nodding in a crowd, the feeling that you're not telling these people how to be but that you are reminding them of what they already are. We cannot afford any messiahs. Much less can we tolerate any more tin-eared, would-be saviors.

I may not be a messiah but I can teach a messiah all the same. Practice your material. Drown your babies. If your cure doesn't sell to the sick, then maybe you're not the healer you thought you were.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Real Jerks

For no reason other than masochism I decided to roll over to one of the big Islamophobe sites. I can read Daniel Pipes in respectable news outlets if I want to, but that's so easy for me to dismiss. The polished, the media-friendly... That shit is obviously spectacle. Talk radio and blogs (and I know there's really no equivalence to draw between the two in terms of popularity and access) are silly and rough, but they are marginally more popular, their absurdity harder for me to accept. And this blog always sticks in my mind because it's part of the history of some of my people, too. It's nice to remember that, for a thousand years, my ancestors were the Bad Guy. Luther called Turks the "people of the wrath of God," and that doesn't go away too easily. And with the Armenians and the Kurds, we even get on the anarcho/liberal/leftist Rolodex of Horrible People to Invoke When Discussing Atrocities*, doing double duty as an example of both The Evil of the State and The Necessity of Liberal Intervention to Defend Defenseless Minorities.

* This is the cultural historical equivalent to the LGBTQQIABBQWTFLOL incantation. The longer you can go on naming, say, genocides or massacres or persecuted peoples, and the harder to pronounce their names are, and the more obscure, the more points you collect. Try it, but I warn you: bringing up the Albigensian Crusade always gets you blank stares because the Cathars aren't well represented in the indie metal scene.

Anyway, all this post is for is to say that I have my disagreements with people. I get angry at people, really fucking mad. Sometimes it helps me, then, to look at senators and presidents who kill thousands with a shrug and a signature. It helps me to look at little fevered something-phobes writing under the name of mass murderers like Vlad Tepes, hungry to re-enact the age of real, live, not-merely-rhetorical Crusade and Jihad. Because while I run the risk of demonizing those people--and I don't want to, because they're human, too, trying to make sense of a crazy world--those people are fucking crazy, miles away from the crazy of the people I know and with whom I really can get along with some effort. There are millions of people in this world to whom I really can't build a meaningful connection. Our languages are too different. The games we're trying to play are too much at odds. There can be no conversion. There can be no effective translation.

So that's the good I'm going to try to take from raising my blood pressure. I represent and belong to no faiths. I am proud to come from many tribes and several nations. But by virtue of being a half breed, by virtue of seeing the split not between Muslim and Jew or Christian and unbeliever, by feeling some romantic appreciation for both church bells and the muezzin, I know I can never live in the world those people would make, in the world they have interpreted around them. I need to remind myself that the splits that occur in my life and on its minute social stage seem vast--and indeed may be to me--but that they are nothing compared to the rifts that divide us from the great tyrants of our world, and even from fellow subjects who nevertheless belong to and support philosophies under which we do not or cannot exist.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Meeting Needs

Your mouth is for expressing the extent of your reason. Except it's also a tool for eating. So its purpose is consumption and expression of reason. Just reason? Okay, well you can use it to attack and cow others, to mislead them and batter them with nothing but breath and sound, but let's say that's not its purpose. Let's say that the mouth is intended for eating and speaking truth.

And kissing. And breathing. Eating, reasonable expression, kissing, breathing.... Anything else?

Well no. You're not supposed to put in on that. That's supposed to be used in that part of hers. Oh, and taking a leak. All other uses are unauthorized, no matter how entertaining. You'll void the warranty.

I cannot remember when I stopped looking for purpose around me. Utility is a simple thing; it evokes adoption, improvisation, application of purpose rather than discovery. Means to me are things to be debated. What you use for something may be used differently by someone else.

There is one major caveat to this. My anarchy-leaning friends may jump in and say "But the state cannot be used to satisfy [purpose] when it is not in its nature blah blah blah!"

And I will say to you that the State, or the Government, or Military/Economic/Political Power, is not a thing. It is a dynamic made into a thing. A culture that is more arrogant even than "a People." It is not a tool. It is a social arrangement, a collection of mutually reinforcing individuals, codes, and organizations. We may break it down into constituent pieces, to which I will apply my notion of inessentialism. A man, the ability to deal out violence, the doctrines that one or many may believe in, and so on--these things may be used differently by other individuals or groups. I never say that I know the whole of another human being, even as I know how I must relate to them. I try to never say that I know the endpoint of this idea or that culture, because the story of each may well be taken up and rewritten to suit the purpose of another narrator.

Back to the point. Means are significant and important, but they are changeable, for what is your means to a certain point will be another's path elsewhere. So where, at this moment, do I fix my gaze?

On ends, which are often enough if not usually the satisfaction of needs. For the purpose of this statement, needs can be considered interchangeable with desires. I do not care to get into the debate over which appetites are essential and which are acquired or socialized, at least not right now.

The architects and reformers of the modern state know these needs well, for even the most tyrannical states seek ways to institutionalize these needs. This is not simply about sustenance, shelter, and security. Who can doubt that, in their terrible way, even the totalitarians offered, and made a point of offering, senses of belonging, identity, and purpose? Our stereotype of barbaric and civilized states, serving basal and vaunted needs respectively, is foolish and wrong. Even the most tyrannical society can be sophisticated, and perhaps needs to be sophisticated in its appeals if it wants to survive for long. Consider the despotisms of the old religions; they expanded their appeals to serve so many needs that their psychological resonance long outlived the states among which they emerged and they long existed as ghosts while, in terms of material politics, they were utterly dead.

And so the social reformer also considers needs, for all around her she sees perversion and channeling of urges to serve the needs of the ruler and merely leave the ruled momentarily soothed. Sex is co-opted by commerce. Violence finds furtive expression in war fever, professional sports, and pornography of one sort or another.

And if I might wade into the ongoing KFO/JC feud, I must say I quibble with Mr. Crow's wording. It is true that fascists obsessed over the softness of modern life, but to assert that man has gone soft in some ways is not in itself fascistic. It is objectively true that in the empire, men and women have taken to internalizing their ambitions and urges, if they can so afford. We overeat, we drink too much, we use drink and other substances to give us excuses to say what we otherwise fear voicing, we play violent video games to get our heart rates up. We exercise in air conditioned rooms if we exercise at all.

And yet to say that humanity is going soft is not the same as to say that hardship is ennobling and that pain brings strength, as fascists argued. One can see an ape in captivity, masturbating compulsively, eating to excess, riddled with self-inflicted bites, and wonder if the fat, balding creature would not do better in the wild without necessarily desiring all the hardship that comes from a free life. (And of course, many an anarchist would argue that all pain and suffering comes from the zoological garden and simply cannot exist in the wild, but we will forgive them their hasty enthusiasm.)

And so we have an order that has insinuated itself between us and what we want. Where does that leave us? If we are moral nihilists (and I happen to be, in the sense that I believe there is no morality but what we create), that means that we must find some way to differentiate the means of satisfaction currently indulged by millions and the way we would prefer they feed their needs. Because this isn't a trap that one, or a handful, can escape. It is a prison of human bodies and the only way I suspect we may break out is to liberate the walls themselves.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about what Karl recently said. It wasn't written to me, or so I assume, but it's the type of thing I heard. A girl I liked for the wrong reasons told me that, or rather lectured me on it, as we walked the streets of Budapest alone, two Americans looking for a bar that felt comfortable. (That's a sentence with elements so overwrought that I hope you'll recognize it to be true.)

It stung then and it shut me up for a decent while. I've found myself fluctuating between silence and near-word-salad levels of verbosity. I don't say I'm eloquent, just as I don't say I'm strong. I'm capable of both poetry and strength, but I never guarantee them.

Anyway, the reason I write now is to express that I find my view narrowing. It unsettles me for one reason and one reason only--for it is comfortable. I leave before dawn, get home a little before dusk. Tend to my children. Put them to sleep. Cultivate intoxication. Sleep early. Get back to it. And I'm lucky. Very, very lucky. It's good work, shit I believe in. I like my co-workers. My bosses are the right mix of hands-off and "let me actually show you the shit I'm going to expect." It's the type of job I leave behind very easily. I come home and I feel clean, except for the actual, real, material filth. I ditch my clothes, wash my forearms, dress again, and I feel newborn. I sleep like a baby.

I'm waiting for the dissonance. I'm waiting for the maladaptation and the righteous indignation both, since my relationship with the world is both symptom of my virtue and my deep sickness. But it's not hitting me yet. Maybe the movement to a night shift will change that. I took on the job because I knew I'd work with people who were suffering.

But in the meantime, I feel so little. My mind has quieted. I feel drugged, and maybe I am, drugged on the return to lower-middle class, drugged on the promise of standing on my own for a little bit... Maybe I know why Hillary Clintons exist, because there is a deep part of me that wants to rush the technocracy. I watched my children, I depended on my spouse, I was devalued by the women and men who interacted with me. Mothers could not see me as providing some essentially feminine something to my children. Fathers could not see me as anything other than kept or lazy or submissive or scamming or faggy or something. Fuck them all, I want to say. Fuck every single one of you. I'll use the way I look and the court language I speak fluently and denied for so many years and I'll nestle up deeply to the side of the beast and I'll out-earn you all if I have the chance!

And yet I know how pathetic it is, for those of us who escaped or are descended from those who escaped from the working class. I've got it on both sides in a few countries. I'm made of emigres and exiles. And the thing is that I can't run too far into this mess because the power others had to make me feel pain isn't real power. It isn't war power. It isn't industrial power. It's the soft, brutal, social power, sure. But fuck. I'll actually let myself feel pity for some people rather than hate.

I don't know how much of this makes sense. What motivated my writing is reading so much brilliant prose regarding Libya and our state's continued abuses here and everywhere else. I've been in a bubble for a few weeks. All I've got to deconstruct is myself. I'm back inside the machine, and what people don't realize, what so many who "bought in" and tried to change things from the inside fail to understand, is that you're essentially blind. It is confusing and a little scary and the rope that is offered is a social one backed by economic power. You make friends or you don't. You accept new norms or you don't. You get indoctrinated, socialized, educated, whatever you want to call it 'cause it's all the same. Somehow I forgot what this was like.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If I were a Libyan rebel...

There is a moment in Steven Soderbergh's biopic of Guevara, at the beginning of the end for the Batista regime, where the communist guerrilla negotiates with an army officer regarding the latter's surrender. Guevara warns him of the possibility of American invasion and argues that, should this happen, the officer would be guilty of far worse than oppression. He would be guilty of treason.

There is perhaps no greater symbol of oppression, authority, humiliation, and impotence than that of a country invaded by another. It is superior to and replicative of the act of rape. It is a thousand times worse than murder, more traumatic than anything an individual can face.

And yet we care because of the individuals, and in truth there is no consciousness but the personal consciousness. Nations feel nothing. Borders exist nowhere but where men may talk and women walk.

The group, the people, the nation, the society, the congregation... They are all fictional, are they not?

And yet by inviting a foreign aggressor or welcoming them or working with them, is there not some potent rage that wells up in us? Who can deny the scorn and disgust that rises up when one considers the bloody-handed expatriates who have hunted abroad for wealthy and powerful patrons who might help them settle old scores, all under the name of "liberation"? Is there any being so loathsome as a comfortable exile with a DC address and an Italian wife? Far better for a man to be a tyrant than to be a tyrant's rationale, for one is a body and the other an organ to perform a task and be otherwise forgotten.

And yet I think of Prussians and Poles who aided us. But they were weak and their enemies strong. Likewise the Wild Geese. Likewise the Anatolian Greeks who parried between Persia and their so-called ethnoi. But did they not deal between great powers, playing one against the other?

Is this a noble thing or is it ugly?

What kind of man are we to consider Einstein when we consider that his genius aided the new military dictator of the United States against a reprehensible regime that was nightmarish and brutal and horrible and yet--as many argued then and were accurate in arguing--was not responsible for the sins of the world at present, and in fact had much suffered from the rulers of the world, though it probably threatened a greater terror than any before?

What kind of man, what kind of woman, welcomes Napoleons and Robert Clives and Stalins and Trumans and Bushes and Obamas to their lands, sees them put to torch, ensures that they will reign over countries in chains to greater lords than could have ever been locally produced?

And which of us, were we up against the wall, were we tired of seeing our nearest persecutors kill and maim and abduct and torture those dear to us, would refuse at any cost the aid of a foreign power who shared our hatred for the powers that happened to be?

I have no malice toward the Libyan rebels, whoever the hell they are, whatever the hell they are going to do. They have invited rocket attacks on their own people. They have profited from and courted the indulgence of powers that will likely ever exceed the grasp of Gaddafi. And yet... The sin is that of our rulers, and ours for our own indulgence of same, more than that of any pirate or crook or criminal that we have empowered abroad for the sake of freedom and liberty and stuff.

Were I a Libyan rebel, I'd hope to know I was part of an international con. And I'd hope I'd remember how America continued to support the Kurds, the Afghans, and the Bosniaks. For me, I don't have much to say about the wrongness or righteousness of what goes on in Libya. My opinions of American interest, here and elsewhere, are much clearer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meaningful Conflations

Charles Davis deconstructs pro-Democratic intellectual Juan Cole and his center-left condemnation of anarchism.

First, on the material. Cole says:

Likewise, the anarcho-syndicalist tradition makes workers unions more saintly and disinterested than they typically actually are, though since they are looking out for the interests of the majority (workers), they typically have more equitable positions than the narrower business elites idolized by Libertarians.

Thanks for telling me about those anarcho-syndicalists, Professor Cole. Which ones are they again?

The difference is that for anarcho-syndicalists like Chomsky, the good guys of history are the workers and ordinary folk, whereas for Libertarians, it is entrepreneurs. Both theories depend on a naive reading of social interest.

Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States:

Racism was practical for the AFL. The exclusion of women and foreigners was also practical. These were mostly unskilled workers, and the AFL, confined mostly to skilled workers, was based on the philosophy of "business unionism" (in fact, the chief official of each AFL union was called the "business agent"), trying to match the monopoly of production by the employer with a monopoly of workers by the union. In this way it won better conditions for some workers, and left most workers out....

In this early part of the twentieth century, labeled by generations of white scholars as "the Progressive period," lynchings were reported every week; it was the low point for Negroes, North and South, "the nadir," as Rayford Logan, a black historian, put it. In 1910 there were 10 million Negroes in the United States, and 9 million of them were in the South....
There were Negroes in the Socialist party, but the Socialist party did not go much out of its way to act on the race question. As Ray Ginger writes of Debs: "When race prejudice was thrust at Debs, he always publicly repudiated it. He always insisted on absolute equality. But he failed to accept the view that special measures were sometimes needed to achieve this equality."...
A race riot in Springfield, Illinois, prompted the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1910. Whites dominated the leadership of the new organization; Du Bois was the only black officer....

Fundamental conditions did not change, however, for the vast majority of tenant farmers, factory workers, slum dwellers, miners, farm laborers, working men and women, black and white. Robert Wiebe sees in the Progressive movement an attempt by the system to adjust to changing conditions in order to achieve more stability. "Through rules with impersonal sanctions, it sought continuity and predictability in a world of endless change. It assigned far greater power to government . .. and it encouraged the centralization of authority." Harold Faulkner concluded that this new emphasis on strong government was for the benefit of "the most powerful economic groups."

So an intellectual who supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq calls that "naive." Look, whatever you can say about Zinn, you can't say that the above displays that much idiot faith in ostensibly left-wing organizations of the United States. It certainly displays less faith in the system than say, supporting the invasion and occupation of a foreign country during a period of nationalist zeal and imperial rage.

What catches me is Cole's acknowledgment of anarcho-syndicalism's greater equitability while ruling them out as basically naive--a position he never stakes out as well as he manages his attack on right-libertarians. He declares it and then casts an easy generalization--"oh, ah, Chomsky worships labor!"

Also, and when Ron Paul upstages you on your own website, you need to hang it up. Cole never so much as acknowledges that what Paul is speaking is basically sane observation of foreign policy function. The most he says? Paul's ideas will not be imposed. Let's do the math!

Ron Paul’s “peace through trade” approach to geopolitics and skepticism of overbearing imperialism does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming the foreign policy of the United States. He represents small-town entrepreneurs who see the wars and their expense as a burden and a block to trade opportunities. They are a significant segment of the Republican Party, but I’d put them at 15% at most.

Which is to say nothing but back it up all the same.

Balance and Shit

Sometimes I cannot simultaneously hold different thoughts in my little skull.

I want to be able to feel for people who deserve better and deserve more, and I'm pretty good at seeing power differentials without seeing people as weak and pitiful and frail. You can have less power than I do and not necessarily be weak. Power comparison does not split us into strong and weak as if these things are mutually exclusive and opposing.

Less easy for me is to see others as powerful and to not resent them when they choose to poison themselves with bitterness, destructive personal narratives, and outright refusal to choose their fate. Everyone I encounter has less power than they probably ought but every single one of them has power.

And while I do make exceptions for the psychotic and neurologically damaged, most of us have more power than we'd like to admit, and most of us seem to enjoy grumbling and resignation to even launching a single, direct, earnest expression of fury, dissatisfaction, and outrage. I know far, far, far too many people who, at the end of the world, may likely shrug out of habit, mumble a "it's fine," and schlub their way into oblivion as they slouched their way through life.

And then when I see a bona fide lunatic straining against the constraints of madness and social force, I see what strength exists in the so-called failures, a strength that seems trained out of far more comfortable men and women.

So that's my pitfall. Where I see weakness, I can still see humanity, but where I see power abandoned or ignored or denied, I spit and feel rage well up in me, and that's when I want to lash out.

But what I see as most relevant isn't the whole of us, and the fact is that we all have different cages. What holds you back might not hold me, and I don't need to hate you for it.

It's pretty damn hard to keep myself from it. Old training.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Molon Labe

Viktor Bout was the kind of man--before his arrest and extradition, at least--whom capitalism is supposed to liberate. He was an inventive special forces operative, linguistically brilliant, who made the best of a bad situation: governmental collapse. He liberated billions of dollars worth of material and funneled it into private hands, employing nothing but his own ingenuity and the laws of supply and demand. What others wanted, he offered, but not for free. What had once been fastened under a statist thumb, he delivered to thousands of desperate hands. If only he had been on the Right Side of History, he'd be a hero.

I could brood over the hypocrisy of American prosecution, given two main points: they have armed opposing sides before, mostly notably in Iran-Iraq; and they have also traded with Bout previously, in supporting the occupation of Iraq. I could discuss the clearly mercenary legacy of capitalization of the former Soviet Union of which Bout is only a small part. Oh, and there's also the fact that the United States is the world's biggest arms dealer, which is actually another point of hypocrisy and a clear example of our rulers' doctrine of exclusive right to violence. As far as what I could talk about, I could go on for a while.

What I do want to consider here is what place a man like Viktor Bout might have in a lawless world. It is very well to see the state's hand in this. Until his capture, he benefited from state protection and his very development as an alleged arms dealer owes almost everything to the politics of the great powers, in the implosion of the Soviet Union through post-colonial civil war to the perpetual discord stoked by America's Middle East policy.

That said, I reject the utopianism of anarcho-pacifism. States engage in war because they operate on human psychology. There is much they have introduced in the course of advancing war and warping it to shift the purpose of domestic stability while destabilizing potential or imagined rivals abroad. And that said, there is nothing to suggest that war will cease when the state does. In fact, given the disconnect of popular sentiment from the borders and boundaries designed by estranged state actors, I should say that I see no possibility of peaceful revolution worldwide. Any anti-authoritarianism established will see threats from within and without. Nationalist movements will perhaps flare up even more brightly given how deep the impulse goes and how persuasive it is in a world where all internationalism has been wedded to the injustice imposed by the great powers. International stability is part of the structure. Accepting the sovereignty of all states--and imposing by force their protection, albeit with notable exceptions--serves the forces that drew up those states!

And so I argue that war will continue. This may not be avoidable. This does not invalidate the support of human liberation. And yet it has interesting implications if we consider a man like Viktor Bout.

He benefited from state stockpiles, this is true. And yet I wonder if arms stockpiles will ever cease while there are factories and regions that excel in their manufacture. I wonder if men with such access to these stockpiles will always deal with any army with capital or barter to offer.

Is this wrong?

What does anarchism have to say to independent arms merchants who deal with all comers? Is this not a form of peaceable conduct and trade? The establishment of a free market quickly silences the response that he benefited from a state-imposed black market, as it would make it only easier for forces to arm themselves and brutalize others accordingly.

Is there a way to avoid this? Is mutual armament and, frequently, mutual extermination simply part of the price of our would-be freedom?

We see the response of states to Viktor Bout and it reeks of hypocrisy. What would any of us say to him, were he to continue his work in a world very unlike our own, but still driven by the same human violence and ambition?

Modern Dreams

If you've actually read about it, it's pretty clear that Atlantis was wholly fictional to the ancients. It has only been believed in, as a real lost land, by the denizens of the industrial and post-industrial ages.

Like all myths, it has been believed only by those who found a use in it. So the cynical unbeliever must ask himself: what need of a fabled lost world would fulfill something in modern man but offer almost nothing to his pre-industrial counterpart?

I despise glorification of the past or present, but there is illness that may not have simply gone undescribed in past ages, but perhaps had not yet found our world so ripe for infection. And one must only look to the diseases of our body to realize something even more frightening--

The mind has always been more fertile a home to disease, more so even than our feeble bodies.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Milestone to Me

Brain not working.

I want to thank all of you who've patronized and supported me. I know I'm only a few weeks back into this thing, but let me express--at the risk of sounding needy--that I am grateful for every argument, every challenging question, every voice of thanks for doing merely what I need to do right now.

It seems rather silly, but I just wanted to say that I broke 200 hits in a single day, and I know that I wouldn't have made it without all the welcome I've received from you incoherent philosophers. That said, you really need to stop refreshing 150 times a day, Karl. It's a sickness.

More to come. Life's busy, but I'm working on something else for the week. It's not IOZ, but what is?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Options that Matter

IOZ talks about the real electoral fraud.

...Ron Paul is a patsy, or a reliable stooge--the Denny Kuciny of the Republican Right, a convenient sheepdog to herd the slouches and stragglers back into the sheepfold.... They reinforce the loyalty of the more ideological fringes of the parties while also ensuring that many marginal types hear some hint of hope, honor, decency . . . reform within the system. Well Ron Paul might not win, some libertarian somewhere is telling himself, but if he can at least run a campaign . . . You fool; you rube!

If you want to know anything about the diversity of the modern American governmental campaign, you can tell a lot by the fact that you have a bajillion candidates in the primaries and... two, consistently, for the general election.

I know that the system is like totally fucked for ever and ever and it'll never really give us anything, but if I wanted to improve it ever so slightly, I'd introduce the same chaos of the primaries to the general election campaign. Top four candidates at least. Fuck, if the SWP is on my ballot, why aren't they on CNN? Let's make this interesting! Get every fucking crazy in the world out there! I don't want to wait once every millennium for a Ross Perot! I want the floor show in between episodes of mass murder, national theft, and gross corruption to be as entertaining as possible.

But in seriousness, Ralph Nader got three quarters of a million votes in 2008. Bob Barr, running for the "Libertarian" party, got a half million. Those people matter (pardon the melodrama), and odds are they cared a hell of a lot more than most of the people who followed one of the main camps out of a sense of obligation. In all honesty, can anyone say that things would be damaged if we just invited two more white dudes (usually) to the presidential debates? What the fuck is wrong with us that nobody seems to be bothered by this? The two-party system is enshrined by our shitty constitution de facto, but it's never specifically mentioned. Um, right?

Fragment: Hybrid Vigor

If none of us are absolutely free and likewise we are not absolutely without freedom, perhaps we must use those parts of us that are free to liberate the remainder.

Is this possible? Does liberation exist? Is freedom as hokey as all of its self-proclaimed defenders?

Is there any part of our lives in which freedom is unadulterated and unconditional? Is freedom as mythical as any other ideal? If so, then what is it precisely that I want so badly? What is it, precisely, that any of us bitches about?

The Self Amidst Others: Exchanges

In an exchange society (and I really can't conceive of one that would not be, for even in a world of immense abundance, I believe that we will still desire others unless we become solipsistic and consider each other as mere phenomena) we may often consider our value in terms of what we can get.

"You're not worth that; don't put up with that." There is certain treatment we deserve; the reward is our continued presence or our care or our love or our respect or so on. You get the idea. There is a sense of reciprocity at times here. The Golden Rule; we give as we expect to get. And this sounds lovely, and is often very decent in experience as well.

It falters when we do not get what we want. Others are not pleased by getting what we want to get. And why should they necessarily be? Tastes differ. Perhaps we please others and they do not feel any obligation at all to please us in return--this is a sore spot for many "nice" men and women. They give and they give and they give and when, they wonder, will they get? Whose responsibility is it to fix this situation?

If we do not get what we want, what are we willing to do in order to get it? Here it seems that moral philosophy is quite useless. I wonder if I must earn my happiness, particularly if that feeds others who are more powerful than me or whose interests may not be my own. Is it my duty, should the means to my happiness by onerous or wrong, to alter those things that I want? Is this always possible? What urges are true or false? Plenty will tell you what others should and should not want, but I wonder how they know.

Whether you look at statists or anti-statists, I always hear bitching about "senses of entitlement." It seems that we're all just a bunch of insistent assholes demanding that the world give us what we want. Well, what exactly can we expect from others? A distant neutrality? Nonharm? Respect? Autonomy? The chance to earn our autonomy or any of those other things we need or desire? If the world demands labors in order to prove ourselves or earn those things we need or desire, what is the machine we serve in order to get what we seek? Who designs the prices? Who sets the cost for indulging a dream?

In short, to ask a question that only the most terrible hooligan seems to ask: What is our birthright? What does the world owe us?

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Is Slavery?

If anarchism is a negative philosophy--and it is, at least in part--it needs to consider what it opposes and seeks to destroy.

What is the opposite to freedom but slavery?

Slavery has existed in many capacities throughout human history. What is given one name and codified as an institution has had many different expectations and regulation regimes, and though she may run the risk of sounding insensitive to split hairs about such Dire Matters, it is a wise historian who distinguishes Roman or Muslim slavery from that practiced in the American colonies and United States, or that seen in the Soviet gulag.

If we sidestep the historical hair splitting, however, we can see that slavery--at least so far as this writer is able to see--is not experienced as a discrete institution but of one piece with lived experience. It is the sum of the choices made by the individual and the social concerns that are part of all existence.

A slave contends with social forces that define him and threaten him with consequences of both his choices and random chance. A slave makes choices to the extent that she can and acts according to both external pressures and internal drives, urges, and desires.

A slave makes a choice to follow based on the same reason that we possess, although with different social training and different consequences.

On a very important level, there is a similarity between any free man we can imagine and the least free, as well. Anarchism, if it is of any use at all, must appeal and offer something to each.

The Self Amidst Others: Introduction

Karl has some interesting thoughts on social need.

As a definite introvert, I am often puzzled by the extraversion impulse of most of my fellow humans.

Being among large groups of people is not energizing to me. It feels oppressive....

To me, this friend's perspective screams "insecurity!" He is afraid of being alone. He is afraid that if his chosen preferences aren't validated by throngs of others doing the same thing, being in the same place -- then the preferences aren't worth holding.

A few thoughts. First off, in my experience of psychology, we're bedeviled by impulses pushing us toward both dependence and isolation. Enmeshment, estrangement. This should be emphasized; Karl's right in seeing a lot of dependence in people. Here's the other thing, though: we don't tend to see the downside of estrangement. It's other people's problem. It's self-correcting, see? People who can't deal with other people don't deal with them for very long. They withdraw and withdraw and use proxies such as work or the computer to let them avoid the direct connection that they both crave and loathe.

Another little nitpick, and this is something I can't stand, and I call myself an extravert. People think they have to call themselves "extraverted." This is what I hate about popular psychology filtering through into lay terminology. Here's the big secret: introverts like people too! Introverts can be social! Introverts can be confident! And while most introverts like to think that we extraverts are the aggressive, bullying, loudmouth, centers of attention that we often are, here's another axe I have to grind: introverts can be real motherfuckers if you piss them off, but they will often work in ways so institutional that you can't directly confront them. But that's a little issue I have and which I'll probably address in the future.

Here's my take. I both love and despise crushes of people. In Istanbul my mother was experiencing claustrophobia as we pressed through a mass of people in a tunnel/bazaar passing under a highway. I didn't particularly like it but I delighted in moving through it, in cutting a course around families and clumps of Western tourists. My mother hated it and we didn't go back through a similar situation. Some of us need space; some of us carry that space in our heads. I am a nervous human being and I sometimes find my calm when I'm surrounded by chaos and throng and thousands of bodies. It's a strength and a weakness, depending on my surrounding, I suppose.

Another example. I hated working at a theme park. I was impatient with the flow of people with no discernible goal, their sense of urgent insistence only equaled by their tendency to clog walkways with the mass of their bodies. Their numbers didn't bother me, but their viscosity. When I am in parts of New York I feel like I'm in heaven. It's so dense with people and yet I do not feel them. Even in a crowded subway car people know their place. I have a feeling some of us would feel like they were in the Soviet Union when they saw that; I feel like it's something that you might see in anarchy. No coercion is needed to yield one's seat to the elderly, or scoot back to allow a stroller to pass. Though the Western world is deeply violent, and our industrial order is predicated on iniquity and death, one does not feel that it is essential to the courtesy that is possible among great numbers of people with goals and plans... I have seen great numbers of people interdependent and yet not nearly so desperate for each other as one might think.

I have not given up on dense civilization, and in truth, even those who long for comfortable seclusion and space had better hope for the survival of mass civilization as well. After all, if it does not work, where do you think all those urban millions will go? There is a far worse thing than concentrations of people, and that is a world covered in the semi-urban sprawl that, to me, offers neither the benefits of concentration or space.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rights of the Individual: All or Nothing

It was recently said that anarchism might enshrine "one value above all: the autonomy of the individual."

Now, historical anarchism is a wide field. It's not a meaningless category; some things remain present, and I would say that at least one thing that is pivotal to the anarchist or the anti-authoritarian or whatever is just as the Abonilox said--the autonomy, power, sovereignty, right, or something, of the individual. Individuality is part of it, individualism is part of it.

So what rights do we have as individuals? Is there a rational basis for them?

Power, as has been said by the Nietzscheans and a myriad of ugly little rightists who think themselves supermen but who are no less correct on this point, is never to be equalized. From our musculature to our genetics to our fortune to our emotional resolve and so on, inequality seems set as part of life. For my part, I do not think this necessarily invalidates a program of political liberty and civic equality, but it does pose a challenge. Aside from right, it seems likely that power will become unequal and will be abused. Relative strength is not just a system; it is a relational dynamic.

But in Nietzsche rather than the Social Darwinists we find, amidst his perhaps unfortunate attacks on Darwin's science itself, the notion that "survival of the fittest" is plainly not true. We can point out any number of creatures who are fit but unfortunate. Komodo dragons are resilient and incredibly intelligent for reptiles; they just happen to live in some of the most volcanic islands in the world. Individuals who settled near Pompeii might sympathize. What determines fitness? Evolution is a complicated game in which many, many species are lost to valiant attempts and only a few, in times of great die-off, survive, as much due to chance as any nobility or superiority.

So it is with society, which ennobles by whim. The offspring who inherit the windfall of the mighty are not often strong enough to hold onto it, much less to have earned it in the first place. A warlike time places the most ruthless at the top; Zimbabweans may take note of Mugabe who was probably the only type of man who could have undone the rule of fascist Rhodesia. But Stalins and Saddams have great failings to match their adaptive strengths.

So it is with all strength and--intellectuals take note--all intelligence, where some gifts are useful at some times and useless at others.

So where does that leave us? It seems plain to me that there is no way to rationalize the power of some over the power of others. We all have the same right unless there is no right at all. And for me, those are the two rational starting positions, and neither is falsifiable. Either you assume equality of right because there is no grounds for advocating superiority, or you assume the amorality of all actions, as there are no grounds to articulate a moral dimension at all--save, of course, what we posit.

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.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Petty Addendum

And with all that said, we'd better always be careful about who we're discussing under what labels. Some more spectacle:

Tea Party Avoids Divisive Social Issues
Published: March 12, 2010

For decades, faith and family have been at the center of the conservative movement. But as the Tea Party infuses conservatism with new energy, its leaders deliberately avoid discussion of issues like gay marriage or abortion.

God, life and family get little if any mention in statements or manifestos. The motto of the Tea Party Patriots, a large coalition of groups, is “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.” The Independence Caucus questionnaire, which many Tea Party groups use to evaluate candidates, poses 80 questions, most on the proper role of government, tax policy and the federal budgeting process, and virtually none on social issues....

Anyway, back to the airy-fairy philosophizing tomorrow.

Petty Day-to-Day

This is probably my last word on the KFO/JC dispute, and a clarification of some of the issues that came up during ergo's helpful questioning of my stance yesterday.

1. Many differences between powerful forces are mere spectacle, meant to differentiate what are generally similar and either complimentary products or substitutes. LBJ and Wilson as "peacemakers," for example. Bush campaigning against other Republicans as "compassionate."

2. There are nevertheless distinctions to be made within camps and between them. I can and will compare and contrast religious, martial, and financial camps within the Republican Party. Is some of this played up, as mentioned in Point One? Yes. Does this make it unreal? Not necessarily.

3. The "we're/they're not holding Office X" line is a canard and plays into the spectacular nature of democracy in general. The change-overs in 1980, 1992, 2000, and 2008 were all opportunities to ditch baggage, not just for the elected but especially for the departed! It's like a karmic rinse, and our cultural amnesia helps this.

4. Criticism of one side is not always playing into the hands of the other side, and this stems, at least in part, from the game of the duopoly. The narrative goes that things are zero-sum, that what is bad for one is good for the other. Tar the other guy with the brush just stuck to me and I succeed. Right? Fucking wrong. An example:

Republicans have used Clinton's support of the Iraq War to justify their own handling of it. "I don't know why you're bitching; you were all in support of it in 2003." Likewise, a Republican partisan could mention Clinton's deregulation of the banks in order to deflect criticism of Bush's tax-cuts and war spending. (They don't, of course, because that would fly in the face of both their narrative "libewals hate business" and the liberals narrative "we protect the little guy.")

That a partisan can take a hostile truth about an enemy and use it to their advantage does not make it any less a truth.

I have repeatedly cited Clinton's deregulation as a contributor to the "Bush" recession. That may appear to play into the Republican effort. I could be accused of serving Republican goals. But you'd be wrong and I'd tell you so. I can bash whoever the fuck I want, whenever the fuck I want to, and I'll be fucking right.

5. Criticism of one faction should stand alongside a comprehensive understanding of how other contemporaries act. Saying things like "Obama owns the economy" or "Bush started us down a path of" blah blah blah horrible horrible is obviously simplifying and being a fucking hack.

That said, might I say something with complete respect?

Karl? If you ask me, it seems like your Point One, probably unwittingly, grants Mr. Crow's point. If there is anti-imperialism in Buchanan's statements, and these were present in the nascent Tea Party, that's laudable. But is it unfair to mention that that anti-imperialism either existed alongside or sprang from nativism, from Buchanan's profound distrust of nonwhites coming to this country and shifting its culture, as his Irish bug ancestors themselves did?

And likewise, is there not a bit of hypocrisy in the laissez-faire chanting lashed to nativist opposition to illegal immigration and immigration of poor laborers who, ahem, drive wages down in keeping with laissez-faire economic self-interest on the part of the people who have funded the paleocons and the right-libertarians at the Cato Institute, tracing a line perhaps all the way back to the radical anti-populism and conspiracism of the John Birch Society and other Christianist nativists of the right-wing?

And is this inconsistent with an attempt to reveal the "humanitarians" and "internationalists" of liberal circles to likewise be frauds, imperialists, and puppets of the ruling class?

On the Dawn of Yet More New Democratic Failure

Of course, he's gone and re-posted this himself, but I also must pass on Jack Crow's recommendations for some policies that would have been worth more than the Wisconsin recalls (which is to say worth something):

At the point of work:

1. Wage hikes.

2. Vacation time extensions.

3. Increased health care coverage.

4. Shorter working days.

5. Shorter working weeks.

6. Anything which forces a company to reduce contributions to its profit statement.

Outside of the work place:

1. Larger strike pay funds.

2. Comprehensive child care facilities.

3. Independent and semi-independent food supplies, so that striking workers and their families can eat without fear of starvation.

4. The construction of low rent or no-rent union residences, so that striking workers do not have to calculate the hit to their paychecks as a first step to eviction.

5. A better outreach to women and minorities, by ending "outreach" efforts and agitating for exactly what they want: equal pay.

6. A coherent message which can be simplified to this: It Should Be Easy For Everyone. This conservatarian/bootstrapper ethic which dominates our culture and society has got to be fucking attacked, and mercilessly. Hard work and poverty don't improve character. They break lives.

So basically, people who say they want to help the working class need to stop sending money from the working class to other people who say they want to help the working class. If you want to help people, you fucking help them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Balance and Equivalence

I disdain the media's take on objectivity. Routinely I see, whether in serious or "humorous" news programs, the hurried attempt to find an equivalent episode following the criticism of one party or another. "Corporations and unions," "private and public," "both supporters and critics of the war," "employees and management..." Is there fault to be found in all of these places? Certainly there is.

Is it always the same? Is it always identical? Sometimes it may be or certainly appears to me. I find most of the party machinery of the United States to be analogous and have found their partisans to speak similarly. They play the same game, that's pretty evident. But I also see times when fault stands on its own, when criticism can be voiced without immediately faulting the other, which I feel maintains the duopoly as effectively as clearly one-sided propaganda.

See, I'm frustrated by what I've encountered among a lot of third-partiers and self-described independents when I criticize one side. Hungry to point out hypocrisy--and to be fair, there's plenty of it around--you can barely get in a heavy critique before someone steps in to remind that other people suck too.

In my personal experience, you can roll with that and play with it, reminding the partisan of the bastardy of those on his side, too. And an honest person must be prepared to look at the big picture and try to identify what is generalizable about an argument that takes on only one faction in the vast system. That said, I don't need to adopt some cable news outlet's idea of "fairness." "They're all a bunch of bastards" is objectively true, and ought to be understood at least on some level. My critique doesn't satisfy me, however, if it only stops there.

Not to go all leftwing on you, but I like some of what Debord said when comparing and contrasting the spectacles present in both pro-capitalist and Soviet blocs. He didn't need to equate them in order to tar them both, and that's where I hope to stand. Nuance and distinction can be found anywhere in order to obscure crimes and pardon the unforgivable, but the doctrine of equivalence brings about its errors as well.

Innocent Ideas

Let's be honest. Nobody likes thought police, or at least nobody I want to have anything to deal with. The business of searching other people's minds for sickness, danger, and evil is the business of coercion. We all have violent impulses. We all have treacherous feelings. We all have some inherent instincts and urges that can be hard to understand even in our own contexts, much less if we are expected or forced to justify them to some other asshole.

That said, I resent the impulse to say that ideas don't kill people, that "real communism" doesn't explain Stalin or "true fascism" doesn't lead to the extermination of other ethnic groups (I actually heard that once, if you'd believe it) or, as a family member told me (naturally, after support became unpopular), "I thought Bush was a conservative," or now the endless line of liberals who say that Obama isn't a "true liberal," that he's "betrayed" not the people or basic decency, but liberalism itself.

As I have said numerous times, victory has many fathers while failure is an orphan. Nobody wants to claim the violence and terror that follows from many a thought, and I will say this and I mean it that I will deny everyone and anyone the defense of "but I didn't mean that!

This is not political maneuver. This is not smearing of my opponents with the brush of horror and death. I do this to my own "side," whatever it happens to be at a given moment. I am aware of the crimes of putative anarchists even as I am sympathetic to the cause of their Victorian iteration. I have taken this up when discussing "revolutionary violence" with the respectable Jack Crow. I do the downside, and I'm comfortable with that.

So if you're a liberal who says that you have some black politician on hand to defend your prosecution of the drug war to "keep communities safe" and jail millions of economically and ethnically downtrodden, then you're not simply an asshole. Your ideas are wrong. Ideas alone are not enough to try you and punish you, but they are not pure, Platonic ideals that exist on some ethereal fucking plane. They are real.

And likewise for the millions of people in this world who, whether they follow first and swallow the belief system later or whether they, in classical, probably mythically rationalist pattern, think first and act in accordance. Your ideas fucking matter. They lead you to maintain or adopt stances, tell narratives about others, tell stories about yourself and your behavior. They flow through your words and your acts and your relationships. They lend context to the whole of this bloody world affair. And even as I defend the right of any and all to any manner of stupid, cruel, and murderous thought, to any belief in superiority, any will to dominate, any desire to punish and break and humiliate and ruin and own, any articulation of reason and justice behind this imposition of power or that artifice of rule and command... Don't say they're innocent. Maybe all intellectuals have done since the time of scribes is drink the piss of the mighty and call it wine, but I wouldn't call philosophy impotent. Even today's ideology of hostility toward ideology is itself an idea of great power.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Power Checking Power

BBC News - Turkey issues arrest warrants for seven top officers

A Turkish court has ordered the arrests of seven generals and admirals accused of trying to undermine the government....

Dozens of other senior officers are in detention over a separate investigation into an alleged plot to provoke a coup.

Four top military commanders, including the Chief of the General Staff Gen Isik Kosaner, resigned 10 days ago in protest at the jailing of officers as part of the investigation into "Operation Sledgehammer".

The conspiracy is alleged to have been drawn up in 2003 at the Istanbul base of the First Army, shortly after the governing Justice and Development (AK) Party - which has Islamist roots - came to power....

In the past, the army has regarded itself as the guardian of the secular Turkish state. It has overthrown or forced the resignation of four governments since 1960 - the last time in 1997.

I started writing about Turkish history, about the deep state and the CIA training of rightwing death squads, stay-behind paramilitaries, and domestic spy networks. I started writing about what I saw in Turkey a little while ago, as investigations of military and police corruption were under way. In my original post, I rehashed a lot of things I wrote when I was getting my often-delayed undergraduate degree, going to school by night and watching my son by day. It was then that I said that honest-to-goodness, not-merely-rhetorical-or-bombastic fascism was present in Turkey, present in uniformed and irregular bands of assassins and thugs supporting an industrial, nationalist, statist ideology and program. It is why Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was jailed, harassed, and murdered. And it is what appears to be on trial, bit by bit.

But that's not a post. That's a fucking book, and it will be written by Turkish citizens, though with great difficulty and, I fear, at a terrible cost.

Instead I will go to the generalities, not for avoidance, but to glean from obscure Turkish politics some truth for myself and maybe some meaning for you, my few but increasing readers.

First, it is important to think about what a military coup means. It is violent, it is coercive, it is unpopular in the sense that it is not motivated by the people but by an organization with its own goals and interests (as opposed to whether or not people support it or obey it), all of this is true, but it is also, almost always, extrajudicial. Coups are illegal. They counter the state, move from within it to above it and then replace it. The latter we usually emphasize but the interesting thing that this illustrates, for me, is the illusory nature of power. I define "State" very loosely. Whether it is the Soviet or the Russian or the American or the French, whether it is the British East India Company or the Raj or the British Empire, it is the State. If some other force were to become greater, then it would become the State as well.

Some argue against this, saying that the State is a matter of essence rather than position, that a State that is truly democratic or truly communistic would be no State, that businesses could never be states because they are not coercive or something, blah blah blah...

And some tacitly accept the contention of powers to further enrich and justify their side. In the United States we see corporations and political groups each claiming to serve liberation from each other or from other putative forces. In England and Great Britain (and most of Europe in general), the nobles contended with the crown, and these nobles inspired most of the oligarchs who succeeded in American secession from Britain.

In the Turkish context from the 1300s the conflict has taken place between military forces and the central ruler, whether he was Sultan or President or, now, Prime Minister. Mehmed created the Janissary corps to counter the Turkish aristocracy, Janissaries deposed sultans to increase their power, and in the 1800s the so-called "Fortunate Incident" saw the Ottoman Sultan side with those long-denied aristocratic military forces to hunt down, disband, and in some cases exterminate the venerable and ruthless Janissary bands. A modern, national, and Western-style military was formed. Students of Japanese history may read this as an anticipation of what would befall the samurai.

In any case, this has continued, with that new, Western-style military claiming itself, in the person of Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk), as the savior of the nation in opposition to the Ottoman state. They continued to claim the right until very recently, and now it appears that this is coming to an end.

It is hard not to cheer. The military committed many, many crimes, against Turkish leftists, against Islamists, ethnic minorities, journalists, to name but a few, and it is not mere rhetoric to discuss a profound conspiracy the likes of which one would expect in a novel. And yet justice is not merely about who deserves what but about how it is imposed and by whom. Justice and Development, or the AKP, has done a lot for the conservative, religious bourgeoisie of Turkey, and with it has come the usual costs of "competitiveness" and "efficiency." Monopolies, themselves a statist relic, have been challenged and threatened with closure, their employees no longer useful enough to deserve security in the new, confident, and increasingly capitalist Turkey. And religious conservatism seems the same all over; Erdogan has brought with him a creeping religiosity, not that of the mullahs but more familiar to Americans living post-Christian-Coalition. On the Kurds, Erdogan has been mixed. There have been legal reforms, but challenging of Kurdish parties, shooting and jailing of protesters. On the subject of protests in general, Erdogan has displayed a hypocrisy common to rulers the world over, speaking positively of protests that challenge other states while beating into submission those who challenge his own. That his government has shifted in regards to the Palestinian question is probably more pragmatic than idealistic. In any case, I think I've made my point.

Those of us who find ourselves in the puzzle of challenging power against power often take refuge in the myth of big protectors. The world over, I believe it is clear that big powers have their own interests, and we should be cautious. It is good to see thugs, murderers, and tyrants put on trial, but when they are judged and executed in turn by thugs, murderers, and tyrants, what victory have we really been delivered?

No victory can be delivered. It is only experienced by those who have won it themselves.

Monday, August 8, 2011


He (or she) who claims the title of "anarchist" has a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that all the revolutionaries of history offer their experience to her (or him). The curse is that all those who have overthrown are, in their turn, to be rejected for their failure to avoid the blight of new oppression.

We have any number of tutors, but no prophets. This is no great lack. All men are wrong in some way, and yet it is the greatest fool who refuses to learn from his fellow foolish.

The First Rebellion

The mother struggles with her child. She's stressed out. He's fussy, maybe tired. She mutters, grumbles, or shouts that she doesn't understand what he needs. He makes no sense, she says. She's frustrated because she can't fix it. He's frustrated, which frustrates her more. She holds him tighter and he thrashes, throwing his sweaty little head back against her arms. Maybe he hits her. Maybe his little fast-growing nails, so difficult to clip, rake her. Maybe it's just the thrashing that hurts as she strains to keep him held against her. She may be little more than a child herself, or she may just be a child on the inside. She feels useless. Feels futile. Feels offense at herself, offense at her child, not yet a toddler, really, so recently a baby, a baby who could be held so easily, a baby whose strength might have been surprising, but within her ability to check. And her strength was not merely physical; he was easier to understand then, easier to anticipate, his needs predictable. She's learned him before. Why isn't this working?

Maybe she puts him down, not a little sharply, her voice rising in tone, her gestures perhaps too rough. She feels rejected and so she rejects him. She takes his fit as an insult, the feeling of impotence just salt to the minor wound. And when he seeks comfort from her seconds later, she feels vindicated and scornful and a bit angrier again. Why does he cry now? Didn't he get what he wanted? Some mothers would punish, withhold affection, walk away, ignore the frustrating little creature. But she doesn't. She picks him up and holds him, maybe softly, maybe more tightly because in time, he thrashes again, exhausting him, exhausting her.

In my life, I've seen this several times. I don't say there are answers; in parenting, there are some situations that don't get solved. From experience--a lot of empathy is required to really satisfy a child, rather than shut them up--I assume, and theory and education seem to validate, that what one sees in the child is what it is: conflicting impulses for connection and independence. It is a conflict that continues, for many of us, through our entire lives.

Most of us follow the process of raising children by observing the effects on the children, and this does matter. Childhood isn't all-important, but it is pretty damn influential. Less discussed is what this means for the caregiver.

Do we allow others to connect with us? What does this mean? Can they walk away? Can they be independent? If they show such desires, do we push them away roughly, reject them as we have felt rejected? Do we turn cold, or stay cold, when others crawl to us, when others express their needs? Do we scorn them, turn independence into a punishment? What relationship does any of this have to the way we live our lives?

Are we allowed independence, or do we find ourselves held tight by others? Do we seek out those who will restrain, reject, or ignore us? Are we allowed to connect with others? It is a fine thing to feel no need to connect and grow intertwined with others--and very different from feeling forbidden to ask for what we want.

Like I said, there may not be answers for any of those questions. But like the desperate parent, we find ourselves involved with others fighting for control, fighting for independence. We may not have The Answers, but in the ways we live and the actions we take, we respond all the same.


Start your morning with IOZ!

Man, it's too bad that Mark Duggan wasn't Iranian; all the same assholes who are like, "Oh, the rioting, Oh, the looting, Oh, the humanity!" would be making room for another green ribbon between their LiveStrong bracelet and Kabala string.

He truly is a national treasure.

Backstory at the Beeb.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


This... is full of shit.

She's faced political as well as physical challenges. Nyad is determined to swim from Cuba -- a communist country that doesn't allow Americans to visit -- to Florida. Getting permission from both sides took several months. At several points along the way, bureaucratic snags threatened to tank the whole operation.

Emphasis mine.

Hmm. I could fume over this, but I prefer to fight media with media.

CBS, do my dirty work.

The United States was the eighth-biggest source of travelers despite Washington's decades-old ban on American tourism to the island. About 63,000 Americans visited last year, compared with 52,000 in 2009.

Cuba!! How long will their embargo be allowed to stand?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Civilization and Its Contents

It is not my interest to defend the state, or civilization, or society, or however you choose to label or reify what is, and what suppresses, rules, or claims authorship. We may describe it, theorize as to the whys behind its whats and hows, and so on, but it needs no defense. After all, what is the State? The word is simple. It is what stands; it is what is.

But let us deconstruct what the State is, because it is also an arrangement, a mass of living beings who, were they to do something else, would form another state of being. The entire world could change in a day were we ourselves to change first. It is a fascinating thing and a source of hope to realize that we are not dealing with History or God or Truth or Destiny but people. Not even The People. We are dealing with people, who are frustrating and difficult and stupid and cruel but also kind and giving and curious and strong.

I do not defend the State by citing what it gives. I know that what it offers it takes away. But how should I consider those who do defend the state? How should I consider those who accept the power around them?

In looking at these people--our impulse may be to say "those people"--how easily we may lapse into bestial imagery. Hogs at the trough. Sucklings at the teat. Cowards. Parasites. Fools! Oh, how fools and dupes and imbeciles dance through anarchist and libertarian literature! People, we lament, are stupid. Too stupid, by far, to liberate themselves as we claim to have done. Or too lazy. Or too fearful. Or too complacent. Or too-- or too-- or not enough-- or not this, or not that...

And yet you need only work or live among people in great number to see what is borne by them, like a gang of mules. They may grumble or they may not, but they pay, as by far the billions pay... And you can tell in their faces that while most people are at least a little lazy, at least a little pathetic, at least a little pitiful, at least a little culpable for what has befallen them, there is something more as well. And sometimes you can screw up really badly by expecting a fool to remain foolish.

I don't defend a system that batters millions, that colludes and interlocks with others to keep billions battered and suppressed. But I do give benefit of doubt to those who hold up its pillars, at least for now. It is of grave importance that I understand why they do what they do.

Because they do not owe me any faith in the liberation I may theorize. They do not owe me even the opportunity to hear from them what better system they might devise on their own. I don't have the right to say they are wrong and I am right. I can say I disagree. I can say I think there's something better, some tactic they haven't yet employed, or haven't employed in a long while, that will better get them where they want to be.

Because I feel the State is a liquor. It is a drug, it is a vice. But the thing about vices is that they do something very powerful for their indulgents. And you can beat up that drunk, you can ridicule her, you can blame him all you want, and you'll be right to. The truth is that there is something very blameworthy in the choices made by people all around us, and by us as well. But until you acknowledge that the solution has failed, that it was an attempt that has failed to provide what it promised and that it must be set aside in favor of something better--

Until you look for and recognize the wisdom of fools and the courage of cowards, you will find no change.

Two Great Tastes

I have long thought that a true laissez-faire society would need to be socialist. After all, without coercion forcing so many of us to one activity or another, we would know which activities actually mattered. Can you imagine farming and sewage disposal swelling with workers once sheer need actually dictated a rise in wages?* If nobody needed to work, work would need to be something fit for human beings.

Very simple, I suppose, but that's the level at which I'm starting.

*And yes, it smacks of ignorance to talk of wages at all...

Thursday, August 4, 2011


My eye is infected. I don't know why it's just my right eye that's affected. When this happened weeks ago, I was told it was a development of allergies, that I should take allergy medicine daily. I'm prescribed a bottle of drops. They don't work. I'm prescribed an ointment. I'm to apply it on the inside of my eyelid. Six times a day. I do it because I'm tired of this shit. I do it because my own body's regulatory regime doesn't seem to care about conjunctivitis. I envy my son, stupidly, for his body's response to an ear infection.

I'd kill for a fever right now to cook this shit off. But it's not coming, so I buy the ointment, which costs a dollar and a half. I'm thankful for that, but resent the whole process. Resent my dependence on this, resent the itching, resent the fucking hazy vision. But I do it because I don't know what else to do. In the distance, I idly imagine my eye rotting out of my head.

I think about what Karl said. I think about modern America's fears: of death, of aging, of illness, of incapacitation, of maiming, of crippled hands and feet, of missing eyes and teeth. I know the disease that in turn springs from such hopeless fear, the real impotence that results from a life lived in denial of the inevitability of its end.

I think about human experimentation and drug trials. I think about Jack Crow and biological warfare tested in our own backyards. I think about millions of aching backs, millions lost to office obesity, millions of drug addicts legal and otherwise. I know about what society promises in terms of health and pleasure. I know how it delivers--no, fosters--plague, dysfunction, and pain.

And I think about the technocratic paradise that IOZ well eviscerates. I remember arguments with liberal friends who insist that all technology trickles down. I know that many of us have become accustomed to pleasures whose payment we are becoming less and less able to afford. I know that things are going to change, and that will bring disappointment as surely as opportunity. Many of us still live in a world that is fast being revealed to be false--and what is not false is flimsy.

And I remember Orwell's statement, in discussing Mein Kampf, that Hitler succeeds on the failure of Western capitalism--and most forms of socialism--to acknowledge that man does not merely desire idleness and pleasure--or, at least, not all the time. There is part of us that desires and should at least accept some hardship, some travail, some labor as essential to life, as inescapable and yet not necessarily evil or wrong. Some hardship is ennobling, and a life out of the cage would bring some amount of just that kind of hardship.

And yet...

I feel we must acknowledge what states and authority and society do provide, not because we seek to defend all of the above but because we should think about what, in their hypothetical absence, many will still seek. Humanity has paid a high cost for civilization, usually unwillingly. And yet many would return to its greatest crimes, if only to obtain some of its benefits.

Can we fault the individual who would choose health in slavery over disease in freedom? It is a false choice, surely, for civilization impoverishes billions so that millions may enjoy marginal corrections, and yet this is the choice that people will face unless we can address their fears. People in anarchy will still desire antibiotics. People in anarchy will desire lenses ground so they can see, corrective surgery so they shall not limp, cancer treatments, braces.... And if the list of demands becomes ridiculous when we extend it to iPhones and Precious Moments figurines, the fact is that people have a right to demand them. Maybe liberty will make us less desirous of folly. Anarchists should choose well how they respond to the folly remains, and to the more deserving desires as well.

Archaeology even shows us that the first generations of city-dwellers dwindled in size. Hunter-gatherers were fitter and taller, if shorter-lived. We may wonder who was happier; there is no way to know. In any case, it is only with the rise of industry that humans began to get larger (in both positive and negative meanings of the word). One can marvel at the height of Japanese men and women today, compared only to their grandparents.

If there is much that is sick and perverse about civilization, and there is much about which to be discontent, we must still think about what anarchism will provide, and what will be sacrificed. Any model that relies on a precipitous drop in population is going to be a failure with those of us who do not want to be one of the billions judged to be excessive. Any model that tells us to shrug and accept death that has recently become avoidable will be dismissed for similar reasons. I'm not saying we don't have to prepare for changes, even painful changes--especially if we live above certain income brackets where our comfort is necessarily predicated on the suffering of others. At the same time, we should acknowledge why so many of us stay in our cages if we ever want to lure ourselves into an outside about which we are ignorant and fearful.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Truth

Thus Spake IOZ:

The problem is in fact not that people need jobs but that people need money, and hobbling them to a desk or factory floor is the only moral and legitimate means of funneling currency into their empty jugs. We need to have fuller employment so that more people are getting paid so that the consumer economy expands ad inf. and repeat as necessary. There are, if you consider it even briefly, a half million or so unexamined assumptions underlying all of this.

I'm a recovering meritocrat, and one thing I need to get over is worship of those with talent. I found comfort in writing while IOZ was gone, and clarity like this is the reason why. I have always admired those who can clearly say what may sound simple and yet evades so many of us.

We live in a sham, and millions know this instinctively while only a few can say it, let alone say it well.

What Feels like Freedom

As I said yesterday, tokens of privilege granted by superior powers can often feel like freedom. Having a "better" job, having money, having prestige and title. Having a certain range of action with relative impunity compared to those who, were they to do same, would not be tolerated. All these might be said to be more like freedom than other positions and levels of privilege. We can debate whether or not they are freedom itself, based on whether freedom is an absolute for us or if we see it as a range or spectrum.

All that is to say that feeling free can be illusory, and we should simply be careful here. Freedom is used to sell everything from handguns to cigarettes to alcoholism, and while I believe in freedom to partake of weaponry and intoxicants alike, I would not say that either necessarily guarantee freedom.

So I don't say I'm free in an absolute sense. I acknowledge my privilege, acknowledge that it is unearned, acknowledge that it is granted by society and the state. I try to distinguish that from my real, individual powers, because I want to accept but combat the former while building on the latter. After all, personal power is the wellspring from which all good things must flow.

I try not to beat myself up for not raising my own livestock or, at present, growing my own produce. I know and admit that by buying food at a supermarket or even most farmer's markets, I am participating in a large enterprise maintained by iniquity and coercion. (My mind flashes back to seeds dipped in pink fertilizer bought from a country store for the farm we kept when I was a child. Even then, I marveled at the depth of the artificial around me.) And yet, at this point in my development, I try to take what power I can. I do as much of the work as I can to feed my family. I season, I cook, I mix, I stew, I take bad cuts of meat and find a way to make them as good as they can be. I may not have cut out the machines of the plantation--not yet, anyway--but I can try not to endorse wage slavery at any number of eateries.

This doesn't make me better. I know I'm still at a trough, and I know I'm still living in the middle class even as I'm acutely aware of how steadily we're losing money while I wait for new employment to clear some bureaucratic hurdles. I don't really have it rough, and I understand others who may not have the time to work on food as I do presently, just as I understand the urban paupers who cannot take to the field as Karl so admirably has.

But I will say that anyone can take back some amount of power in their lives. I've seen it when people have nothing but themselves and they want to crawl back to the abuse or the bottle or whatever hellhole of pain and punishment that beckons--tyranny always waits, should you be willing to pay its price--and they take the basic power of self-authorship, of telling their own story. That's real power. And it's available to everyone. Of how many things can you say that?

And maybe, as I said yesterday, you find that you go from depending on a power millions of miles away to depending on your neighbors. Maybe you figure, as I did, that you were sick of other people's stories and wanted to tell your own, so you wrote on your own, and that was good, but you also met with friends and told stories together, made stories that were maybe more awkwardly plotted than the precision pieces produced by the well-paid and the audience-tested but that were all the more enriching because they came from your own hearts and experiences and soul.

There is always something more that we can do.* It's not a cudgel to use to beat ourselves or others. It's something that brings me both humility and cheer.

*Of course, this does not apply to all things. And as I have dealt with personal illness and illness of my younger child this past weekend and week to date, it has hardened me to believe that personal authority can't be all of the answer, but it is a damn good bit of it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dependence and Expectation

When I determine those things on which I rely, I can make a number of choices. I can choose to refuse these dependencies and go without. I can choose to produce what I need. I can find these things in others. I can use a number of tactics to get these things, or to cope with their absence.

Sometimes we deal with others as equals. Sometimes there are those subordinate to us, and this subordination can come in many forms. Most of us in the world are subordinate in terms of office, rank, and position. All of us are subordinate in some way naturally, but natural hierarchy is mixed, incomplete... Without a social structure that raises up some traits over others, it's hard to say which traits and which combinations are truly "fitter" than any others, and in any case, the history of slave rebellions would tell us that even with a social structure there are few safe bets.

So what about when we find ourselves subordinate to others? We may tell ourselves that we can interact with these forces in a rational manner. Indeed, in the American context, it is a national myth that man is strong and independent. Ask yourself what the respectable, powerful man looks like. Perhaps you'll say "the boss," the CEO, the proprietor, and that is a common ideal, but what is more frequently accepted is the man who works, who is paid. Having a job defines the worthy and the strong in our society. It shows that one has "made it," that one can "stand on their own two feet."

It is very interesting, the conflation that has taken place here, and the avoidance of part of that status. You see, work can indeed be noble. Labor, effort, striving, these can all be quite good. And yet it is not work and accomplishment that define the man with a job. It is his employment, that he has been chosen by those who are more powerful than he is for purposes he may make his own, claim as his own, see as one and the same as his ultimate goals and yet--how can they ever be? What equality in mission is there to be between warlord and soldier?

I'm reminded of Orwell. "The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside." And perhaps it is wrong. Perhaps we do exist as soul and body. I've just seen too much linked between them to think them truly independent. The body cannot go through motions unaccepted by the mind without a great cost.

Even if we take the notion that one can join forces with those stronger and remain separate and sovereign, there remains one more dimension to dependence, and one which we might well think of when we consume, when we toil, when we live by the products and the dictates and the customs of others rather than our own. It is the dependence on things remaining as they are, the dependence on the word of those with whom we contract. This can be mundane or it can be very great. We can be sold happiness or entertainment in a film or an art product or a food and regularly, I would almost say ubiquitously, we can find ourselves cheated. We can work for decades in accordance to what we are told is expected of us and find the goals change not as a result of our actions but choices made many miles and tax brackets away. We can say we know what marriage is and discover that it is invented anew every day with every choice. We can discover that others do not behave as they say they will. We can discover that things may have seemed one way, may have been one way, but they are really another, or fast becoming another. We may find that the future we hoped for will never come, that it is fast vanishing even in our memory, and soon it is no longer even a blueprint or a mocking dream but a featureless feeling of bitterness, denial, and loss.

All can and will change, and we don't know how it all will. We strive for control and it is easy to mock others' desire for control while receding into nihilism, itself a false defense against loss and despair. The fact is that only the Buddhists and the discordant have it right, and all the rest of us, who strive and demand and hope for something or something else to be, who put forth effort to control our little piece... Maybe the answer is getting a little stronger. Maybe the answer is depending on ourselves a little more. And maybe the answer still isn't total independence, but changing who we rely on and changing what we believe and changing what we expect of others. I don't see an end to dependence, but maybe we do better when we rely on those who can rely on us.