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.