Sunday, December 18, 2016

Convergence: How it Could Go Down

Someone (I'm too lazy to dig up citation) said "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is the end of capitalism". Lots of people I know express a rational fear that any major systemic rupture will simply unleash anarchy,a Hollywood-enhanced vision of rednecks with guns out raiding the Hobbesian-each-against-all dystopia in some mad frenzy. Trumps election has, if anything, magnified this sense of potential victim-hood and violent upheaval. Without going all Rebecca Solnit on y'all, I dispute this notion of the nation's "balance of forces", and believe that while certainly dangerous, these prepper/survivalist types have managed to blow our perception of them way out of proportion. Nor do I think the vast majority of Trump voters, despite their arsenals, are as dangerous as all that. Of course this is just a guess with nothing empirical to back it up.

But let's imagine another end of capitalism: It is Springtime in America, all the "Not My President" protests and marches and failed vote recounts and inquiries into Russian hacking and electoral college challenges have come and gone. Trump has sworn on the Bible to uphold the Capitalist Constitution and cherry blossoms begin blooming in DC (three weeks early). Soon a steady stream of executive orders ooze from the White House, each undoing the well-intentioned-if-a-bit-late regulatory protections Obama put in place and further inflaming progressives (while filling the coffers of non-profits).

As the right-wing base fist pumps each tweet about "excellent new jobs" and corporate boards get ready to increase dividends and CEO salaries, confrontations break out between "water protectors" and cops at coal mines, fracking fields and oil refineries around the country. Until the Big Storm hits. One hurricane hits Houston and works its way slowly up the Gulf Coast destroying everything in its path, making Katrina and Sandy look like summer showers. Another one simultaneously hits Miami and heads up the eastern seaboard, wreaking devastation clear to DC. Because the government has been hollowed out ( or stranded at Trumps's golf course in Florida) there is no emergency response and tens of thousands perish.

The catastrophe swells the ranks of the climate justice movement with newly radicalized working class and middle class dissidents and calls are put out to converge on both Washington and Wall Street to force the phased closure of all coal fired power plants, end all shale gas and oil drilling as well as the import of tar sands. As the stock market begins to react, demands are made for State spending on new energy infrastructure, for carbon sequestration through massive reforestation and organic agriculture projects- all managed through local cooperatives and paid for by ( here is where it gets tricky) a tax on wealth? Deficit spending? War bonds perhaps? Scrip? What happens to the monetary system depends on how the descent is managed....anyway....

Understanding that it will be necessary to jettison Market-based incentives and institute planning in order to save the remaining sliver of democracy, liberal pundits, celebrities and politicians, pushed by massive popular movements, use the crash of the Finance and Insurance industries to call for a total re-structuring of the economy. Rather than panic ensuing, communities turn toward local networks of barter and small markets to trade necessities.

The climate change denying conservatives who have not been tarred and feathered (or worse) slink into anonymity along with fossil fuel execs. The administration, faced with the decision between ordering all-out violent repression and saving some personal assets,(and their lives) chooses the latter. Cops and soldiers see the writing on the wall and grab some tar. A Constitutional convention is convened.

A system of councils and assemblies is established along with new institutions and political structures. Why not? Ain't like the reactionaries got anything once the illusion is shattered.Inspired by this unlikely rebellion, populations around the globe (seeing oceans rise on their own shores) depose their own elites and put them to work weeding.

Friday, December 9, 2016


I am actually something of an expert on lemonade but that is another story. This post is about taking the lemons of Trumpism and turning them into something thirst quenching and delicious. There is so much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth as each cabinet or advisory position gets announced, each General or uber-capitalist put in charge of some agency. That Trump and his team are masters of the new media landscape is indisputable, the Trump Show is ever present and ever lasting. The new narratives ( the fascist alt-righter, the crazy tweeter, the stealth Republican Establishment Insider, the Unpredictable One, etc..) are all amazing brands that have America on the edge of its seat, waiting breathlessly for the next installment. It is a brilliant production utilizing post-modern techniques while exploiting perfectly the shallowest concerns of the New Transactional Man, homo economicus. Hints of sex and violence and family pathology round out the irresistible Spectacle.

But I, along with Mr. Zizek, insist the opportunity, the "conditions of possibility" for radical change, have in fact never been brighter. Much brighter than they would have been had a Hillary or even a Bernie won. Clinton was death by attrition, doing just enough superficial reform to keep liberals happy, building sea walls instead of border walls. And Bernie would have led the left into a box canyon of denouncing "billionaires" while propping up GDP and consumption levels of "the middle class". But Trump will take us careening on a drunken midnight run through the pitch black night in a souped up speed boat. Hang on tight folks! Rocky shoals ahead!

At the moment "citizens" are still in shock so actions are lame, a march here, some banner waving there. No real strategic thinking yet. But the combined depravity of the Democrats and outlandish burlesque of Trumps "new administration" make the capitalist-democracy critique super accessible to anyone with even a slight left leaning. One need only point out how the one truly consistent, defining feature of all Trumps picks is rabid market fundamentalism,they are all ideologues for whom externalities simply don't/can't exist.

Except they do. Because physics doesn't care how much Milton Friedman you have read. The crisis of late capitalism is manifold but again I will insist that the most glaring contradiction is the one between capital and physics which manifests as climate change. This total market failure is also the most pressing and this is the Achilles Heel that could destroy liberal conservative ideology if "we" can seize the moment. It will not last and may not come again- so it is time to get crackin. Talk climate debt and carbon budget. Stop focusing on pipelines and look at investment and production. With reality upended, it's time to get Real.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Victory? Black Snake or Hydra

Looking for some novel way to become even less popular in your "progressive community"? Try being critical of the Standing Rock Sioux. On Sept. 13 I wrote:"I fear No DAPL is a step backwards (from Breakfree) to localized NIMBY actions with mixed messaging and no mention of systemic change. A movement that lurches from action camp to action camp, re-acting to each new fossil fuel proposal, is not building momentum."

I will be the first to admit I totally underestimated the ability of Standing Rock to draw crowds. The allure is a fascinating subject for another day. I will also admit there has been of late some messaging around systemic change, but it exists in direct tension with the main narratives around Water and Sovereignty. That said, taking the announcement by the Army Corp that they will consider re-routing the pipe as a victory affirms my earlier opinion. By not thinking strategically and playing by Regulatory State rules (EIS), the tribal leadership boxed themselves into a corner and all that time, money and effort will result in a moved pipe full of poisonous bitumen.These are things I can only say on this obscure unread blog because white sympathy, Trump trauma, etc. etc.

In his statement Sioux spokesperson Dave Archambault said they took their "stand against the pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We are not opposed to energy independence...and economic development." They made a huge point of not being labeled protesters, as though they had transcended mere protest, as though ceremony and prayer were far superior to political action, and all their white allies went along, "listening" for ancient wisdom and hoping the "deeper connection" to Mother Nature might somehow rub off. Springsteen and Neil Young and all the other green celebs can parachute in for some connection and the vets can show up for protection but where are they when black lives need some of that juice?

This also morphed into a struggle over sovereignty and autonomy and disputed treaty obligations. Muddy territory on numerous levels. Did the white man conquer the aboriginal nations or did they reach a settlement? Do Natives want all the "un-ceded" land back, and will that happen through the courts? You can look up maps from the 1851 and 1864 treaties (Fort Laramie) and you can walk the Dakotas looking for "sacred sites" but mostly what you will find is shopping malls and fast food franchises, churches and liquor stores, Cabellas outlets and truckstops. And wind. Lots of wind.

Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network also took on a spokesperson role (through some process?) and he tried to straddle the divide between moderate tribal leadership and more radical elements, saying: "We cannot stop until this pipeline is completely and utterly defeated and our water AND CLIMATE are safe." Tom Goldtooth (unclear if this is same as Dallas?) is unafraid to mention capitalism and system change but Archambault said everybody could "return home". The giddy progressive media, desperate for SOME good news, used phrases like "overcome one of the most powerful political and economic forces in the world" and claimed the Standing Rock Sioux "got the justice they deserved." But Canadian PM Trudeau just OK'd the Kinder Morgan pipeline to the BC coast and expansion of the Enbridge Line 3 to US midwest. So the hydra just keeps growing new snakes. Shouldn't we be trying to cut off the head?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Just Listen

The standard, post-election "progressive" meme is that liberals need to listen to the working class, to really hear their grievances and not make assumptions about racism, sexism or xenophobia. I find this to be an especially subtle form of condescension. Liberals can feel righteous about accepting blame and redeem themselves by taking a little extra time out of their busy schedules to hear what the proles have been trying desperately to get across. And workers can't just be wrong; no, due to their innate "common sense" and "historical duty" they, like Native Americans, are intuitively wise and those grievances valid. The only problem is they lack the ability to articulate this wisdom. So we must listen harder. The racism, sexism, xenophobia etc.. is just a result of progressives not listening. I say bullshit.

As a laborer who has done plenty of listening, I have bad news. The "working class" is mostly clueless. It is not just a case of being ignored, nor even a disempowered inarticulation that is the problem. They just generally have no historical knowledge, mis-recognize their own interests and lie buried beneath tons of ideological rubble. So you can listen, sure, listen and scratch your head, and probe the bizarre logics (if you dare) but you will find cognitive dissonance, circular reasoning, contradiction and ignorance with every utterance. And let them be to blame. It is their fault. They can own it and not be patted on the head with sympathetic cooing. Guess what, there were no "weapons of mass destruction". Own your blunder.

The "working class" fucked up the labor movement and sold their souls for a few shiny trinkets and a seat at the Smart People's table. Oops. Now unionists are brandishing fancy new slogans that reflect all their innovative thinking, slogans like "Don't Mourn, Organize!" And the reason I put working class in scare quotes is because the categorical performativity of this word is hollowed out. As subjectivity or identity it is reduced to some income level or vague cultural cues that I defy anyone to list coherently. This is their fault as well. They succumbed and lost the class struggle and this is the new reality that is being ignored (or denied or disavowed or mis-recognized or...)Remember, the cops at Standing Rock or shooting unarmed black folk are "working class". Those pumping tar sands around the planet are "working class". Or possibly "middle class"? if they have some college and make a certain amount of money? And go to certain restaurants? Whatever.

So these are the folks Bernie Sanders and the Democrats and the labor unions want to bring back into the fold, the same folks a smarmy actor like Ronald Reagan lured away and a smooth Negro like Obama lured back and now a pathological comedian like Trump lured away again. "Come to our tent" say the smiling faces, "we have shinier trinkets, better jobs, bigger televisions, faster cars." Welcome back. We missed you.

Am I saying the left should not bother to try to organize folks who work for a living into a radical movement? No. I'm saying rather than making promises you can't keep ( New pickup in every garage!) try treating them like adults. Calling them out on the massive gaps in their arguments. They don't like history or science or math? Too bad. Dignify them by holding them to the same rigorous standard you hold any grown person and confront them straight on, as practice for the day we have real politics in a real democracy. You show people respect they might show you some.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Scaling Down

Every politician, no matter the ideology, promises jobs and economic growth to the disaffected voter. This is the very essence of what the pundits are calling "populism" but it's basically just tried and trued,vote-buying pandering, as old as capitalist "politics" itself. The disavowed reality, that is, at some level most people FEEL this to be true, is that those jobs are never coming back. For a variety of reasons. But this account from the blog of Paul Abair is compelling:

"As there are growing signs that we might be in a crisis of complexity caused by rising biophysical constraints and characterised by diminishing returns of investments in societal complexity, we are entering an era when circumstances will trump personalities and institutions. What we now need, hence, is not so much to find new political ‘leaders’ capable of designing and enacting grand plans to lead us further up the complexity pathway, but to ensure that we can make collective choices that are fit and appropriate for an age of scaling-down expectations. There is no sign that this could happen anytime soon, or even that it might be possible. It is therefore entirely reasonable to expect that our economic, technical, political and social systems might continue to become increasingly dysfunctional and drift towards breakup point. The journey to that point will probably continue to leave most of us puzzled, and will most likely be filled with the disturbing clamour of populist caudillos."

Jurgen Habermas also speaks to this 'crisis of complexity" in an interview with Eurozine:"Our societies (the West) must come to terms with this global decline together with the technology-induced explosive growth in the complexity of everyday life...' I have argued that complexity, as a feature of modernity,doesn't just leave us "puzzled". It is a major cause of deep existential anxiety, that an alienated "helplessness" is manifested as xenophobic nationalism combined with a malevolent shaedenfrued ( "I may be fucked, but at least I don't live in Yemen!") over-expressed as exceptionalism. But the current crisis of capitalist "democracy" calls even that into question; a strange lingering feeling that it is all kubuki theatre ( elaborately costumed performers use stylized movements to enact tragedies and comedies), that our reality is mediated as popular entertainment, that we all are acting in a Truman show within a Truman show. The Big Other is that bored.

This is something Thomas Mann wrote as he bore witness to Hitler's rise:(hat tip to Lichanos)
(We )"realize that despite all the psychoanalysis, all the progress we have made in learning how the human being’s mind works, there is still absolutely no limit to the extent the unconscious can go in effective projection of itself upon reality.

We see this truth illustrated by the state of Europe today; the reduction to the primitive to which she has consciously and deliberately submitted herself. Indeed, the conscious and willing surrender, the treachery to the spirit and to the upper levels at which it had arrived, are themselves the severest possible indictment of the prevailing primitivism. For this primitivism is shameless. It is a wanton self-glorification, in the face of the developed civilization of our age. It is shameless as a philosophy, however much condoned as a reaction against arid intellectualism. It is, in the Old Testament phrase, a folly and an abomination. Even the artist, despite his position as ironic partisan of life, must turn away in disgust from the spectacle of such an utter collapse and betrayal."

The paradox is that in order to defeat the forces of civilizational collapse and primitivism, humanity will need to think and act to scale, to a global scale in fact. And yet to survive beyond the crisis, we will have to understand entropy and limits and learn to live lower on the "complexity pathway".

Friday, November 11, 2016

So there you have it: Our New Leader

Twenty thousand articles on "what just happened" later... let's get down to the bone, crack it open, suck a little marrow. OK. The crisis has only intensified. So naturally, folks create some new hashtags and rush out to re- ACT. Why waste time with a lot of abstract theorizing! It is enough to be in OPPOSITION (again). But jumping into the streets saying Trump is not your president is not a plan. It is more ideological rubble piled onto the smoldering heap. It clearly demonstrates your weakness and total lack of consideration. What does it even mean, "not my president"?

If you just have to DO something, why not tar and feather Bill Clinton? Or flash mob Chuck Schumer's house? If you are hunting deer, what you want to do to be successful is "pattern" your quarry. Figure out its habits and reliable movements. Well, progressive activists have been 'patterned', believe me, as Trump would say. Soon they will build an encampment and fight for campaign finance reform. Hashtag stop big money.

So what is to be done? How about if you just pose this question to everyone you meet? Do you want capitalism or do you want democracy? Ask every pundit out there currently screaming about their democracy: oh, you mean the capitalist democracy? Isn't that the mangled mess to which you so sincerely refer? Time to pick up on one and let the other one ride (JS).

Is this then the revolution? One meme? OK, if you need that fair share of abuse (JR) go ahead and chain yourself to something or whatever, I'm sure some cop would love to use his pepper spray right about now, but my point is: your sign needs to posit the contradiction. The sign needs to say: you have been bullshitted for too long, the Demos, as Wendy Brown explains it, has been undone. You've come undone. Next we explain how the Market has failed, the energy market and its externalities but the labor market as well, how the cost of social reproduction, of caring, has been ignored, like the cost to Nature. So there is that. Explanations, arguing, convincing, proposing.

And then of course, the vision thing. Oh, and if there are any lingering doubts as to whether I have my finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist, this is what I wrote in Sept.:

Hearing a lot about "the angry white male" recently, mostly with a condescending tone. These are Trump supporters and Fox News listeners and Rush's Ditto Heads and by the Jesus, they have plenty to be angry about. How would you feel if you lost your your wife! And now she expects orgasms and her very own President! This is Ralph Cramden and Archie Bunker and Homer Simpson clinging desperately to the last vestiges of traditional masculinity and if that means identifying with some Alpha-wise-guy-billionaire from New York, so be it.

Breadwinner is a big deal.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Our Proud Tradition

Everywhere folks want to harken back to a once proud tradition of some sort. Trumpeters want to bring back the "great" America they vaguely remember. Tea Party folks were heavily invested in patriotic symbols from a righteous past. Many who identify as the new "alt-right" consider globalization a modern, anti-tradition trend, ironically allying themselves with Battle For Seattle lefties, while white power nationalists have organized around the Traditional Workers Party. Obviously a placeholder for Ozzie and Harriet 1950's purity. (Dating myself. Look it up)

This conservative desire to return, to face backwards, is not limited to those who consider themselves conservatives. The recent fascination with indigenous resistance is at least in part fueled by the primordial imaginary, a yearning for a simpler(Matriarchal) relationship to Nature and Being. The theme runs through New Age mysticism and the old socialist hope for the industrial working class. I loved seeing Jesse Jackson astride a white horse at Standing Rock, wearing a cowboy hat and boots. A strange Lone Ranger amidst the Tontos.

I have written a great deal about this nostalgia for what never was as a reaction to modernity, to the incessant Promethean drive and capitalism's relentless push to revolutionize our daily lives. Goethe expressed it as well as anyone and we who clearly see the need for radical change due to the climate crisis should try to understand this sentiment. It is a deep mourning for innocence lost (however mythological in actuality) and the trauma presents in both the conscious protest and unconscious slip of the tongue.

The Old Man, never at a loss for words, perhaps put it best: "the tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living." Not that some things aren't worth keeping. Just knowing how to sort....

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


The climate movement has now focused its energies around this NO DAPL campaign, calling for nationwide gatherings in solidarity with the folks in Standing Rock. For us here in Missoula that means standing on a bridge together holding signs. Folks driving by can then "honk" in solidarity or give puzzled looks or perhaps flip us off.

I have long argued that this movement needs to be escalating in terms of critique and resistance in order to become a system challenging force, to become revolutionary beyond the Bernie sense. A movement that lurches from action camp to action camp, reacting to each new fossil fuel proposal, is not building momentum. It is becoming a cliche, like Burning Man. And it unwittingly reproduces the social relations and division of labor that keep capitalism humming along. The leaders (in this case Native Americans), the dangerous bulldozer confronting activists, the sign wavers, the academic intellectuals and theorists, the progressive "indie media" etc.

I thought the Break Free action last spring was a step in the right direction, with a concerted effort to replicate tactics and critique and messaging world-wide. Though the key tactical component of mass civil disobedience failed to materialize, at least it was an escalation and well coordinated. I fear NO DAPL is a step backwards towards localized NIMBY actions with mixed messaging and no mention of systemic change. Instead we get liberal pablum like this watered down "manifesto" from Oil Change International:

"Like the cod fishery in Newfoundland, what’s needed for the fossil fuel industry is a managed decline and just transition for those currently dependent on the industry. Instead of politicians giving stump speeches about bringing back jobs they can’t possibly deliver on, they should be offering plans to diversify the economy, fund training programs, and provide support to communities currently dependent on dead-end industries".

Trying so desperately to save capitalism from itself, they offer nothing but endless dreck.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

All Things For All People

Montana's Governor Steve Bullock has put together a document titled Montana Energy Future. Designed primarily to ensure his re-election this fall, it promises all things to everybody, all win, no lose. When it says: "valuing our traditions" it means maintaining fossil fuel energy development with its historical boom/bust cycle. We have actually come to embrace it as something sacred, like chicken fried steak or Bud light. His main idea is to follow the bullshit blueprint of his predecessor (also a Democrat) and push "clean coal" in the form of carbon capture and sequestration. While waiting for this technology to become real, he has joined the lawsuit against the Federal Clean Power Plan.

Bullock assures us clean coal is on the horizon because he toured a facility in Saskatchewan that separates the sulfur and CO2 from coal plant emissions and sells both byproducts to pay for the expensive retrofit. This is how it works on paper. In reality it has been a series of delays and breakdowns and lawsuits over design and cost over-runs. Which I might be fine with because remember, I don't believe "cost" is real when it comes to climate chaos. The problem, the real problem, is this: they sell the CO2 to fracking companies so they can extract more oil, a process known as "enhanced oil recovery". More oil means more combustion which means more greenhouse gas. So that's a no go.

But say you didn't need the money, say you just wanted to capture the CO2 and then sequester it deep within the bowels of the earth. Are we sure this is safe? No unintended consequences? Because we have already committed to lots of expense( price of electricity, diverted investment) and lots of risk just to have this base-load energy and these jobs that go with it. What if 20 million tons of CO2 escaped at once? That would be a major fuck-o-dear.

Geography Lessons

Americans learn about geography through the daily bombing news. You get a big wall map of THe World and plot the location of each day's bombing or attack. So let's see...where is Dhaka? Or Ankara? Of course by now we all know where Baghdad is. Who can find San Bernadino? Here's Orlando, way down here!

Monday, June 27, 2016

What's Goin on? Latest Update

So...where to begin? First, after all these months I have finally figured out who Trump is; the reincarnation of Rodney Dangerfield! Right? At his golf course in Scotland, it's a scene right out of Caddy Shack. And who wouldn't want Rodney for President? And now we have the soon-to-be Prime Minister of Greatest Britain Boris Johnson, a brash New Yorker with crazy blonde hair and absurd politics, so that if they were to do a routine together it would be INCREDIBLE. And then there is the whole Brexit shock; talk about your "ideological rubble"! There is so much incoherent or banal analysis on both the left and right that I am about to concede to those who want to proclaim a "post-ideological age", not in the sense of techno-managerial but in the sense of Caddy Shack. Marx speculated on the conditions which might bring about "...the common ruin of the contending classes..". Mao celebrated destabilization: "Everything under Heaven is chaos, the situation is excellent." I have my doubts about the excellence of the current situation because climate chaos can't seem to compete in the realm of Spectacular Chaos. The hope to resurrect social democratic parties in the form of Bernie or Podemos in Spain or Labour in UK or Syriza in Greece has fizzled because these efforts avoid the difficult question. Basically; what kind of work are all these people supposed to do? (Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America)

But the crisis of capitalist democracy is now in high gear. climate migration, technology, nationalism/populism, stagnation, terrorism, market volatility; "the center cannot hold". Some try to narrow it down to "neoliberalism", others to "industrial civilization", others just blame "greed" or "evil". If I were some autocrat running a small country I would be nervous right now- this is when the Empire likes to send its Christian Soldiers out to snuff some Noriega or Saddam Husein, or Grenada. Nothing inspires and unites like a good ass kicking.

There are numerous attempts to stitch together a left opposition but nothing seems to stick. The People's Summit I mentioned in my last post drew 3000 but they all that came out of it was a manifesto to focus on ten different things. So 3000 divided by 10. Should work out great.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Post Election

A tremendous amount of digital ink has already been spilled by progressive commentators on how to maintain the Bernie momentum. It is a time-worn dilemma; elections mean losers and defeat often leads to disillusionment and cynicism. Especially in the American system of Kabuki Democracy.
But lots of these progressives (and some socialists) believe that the Bernie "political revolution" is different, that it has a capacity to fold into movement building IF ONLY the energy gets directed somewhere before it dissipates. The other dilemma is the theoretical split between "the streets" and "the voting booth". If Obama proved one thing, it's that getting your man in office can send a lot of people home, satisfied with their "victory" and assured their man will follow through on his campaign promises. You know, "representation". on the other hand, masses of chanting activists can demand all day long but if they can't back their demands with a viable threat to the existing order, they are just pounding sand.

A quick survey just today finds articles by Kate Aranoff, Robert Borosage,Sarah van Gelder and Dan La Botz on strategy going forward. A theme which emerges is one similar to that of Michael Albert and his "Shared Program"; that of finding a synthesis. Van Gelder puts it like this; to "come together on a strategic focus...set ambitious,disruptive, transformational goals". To this end Albert got a bunch of left luminaries to sign a document and others are putting together a People's Summit (June 17-19 in Chicago) and Gar Alperowitz is building a Next Systems Project. Each hopes to take the myriad issues linked to justice and equality around which the left now mobilizes- a partial list includes "fight for 15, mass incarceration, voting rights, tax on Wall Street speculation, climate justice,Medicare for All..." and come up with a way for each to support the other. Some see this struggle taking place over the Democratic platform, some look to the ongoing Social Forum process. Almost everyone traces a trajectory from Occupy Wall Street through Sanders to the current moment. But always and forever we see the list of social ills and the NGOs dedicated to them but almost never do we see anybody try to actually prioritize it.

The list I quoted from above comes off the People's Summit website and through its ordering it suggests, if only implicitly, a certain prioritization. And what I immediately notice is that climate justice comes in at number 5. What I want to do here is make the argument that climate justice should explicitly be made number 1. Here is why.

First, the science tells us if we don't address climate change immediately it will simply be too late (see the last post for data). And by too late I mean not just the obvious devastation from weather, but also that the effects will exacerbate all the other issues on the list to the point where social justice activists will be confronting a self-feeding crisis that makes the 2008 global economic meltdown seem like a game of frisbee. So there is the temporal element, the ticking clock, as it were. Then there is the fact that the climate movement is already a powerful, militant force of resistance whose critique is becoming more radical by the day, thanks to its intellectual contributors and theoretical foundation. By that I mean it potentially challenges the essence of capitalist ideology; more precisely, the imperative of unlimited growth (and accumulation. It also fatally punctures market logic. Thirdly, the notion of climate justice allows us to move beyond mere carbon reduction to global re-distribution and structural change. It allows us to re-imagine democracy and to think about power relations, both political and economic. By placing our conception of Nature in question, it upends many destructive mythologies, constructions and conceptions upon which capitalism is built.

In this era of "inter-sectionalism" and local autonomy I realize it goes against the grain to call for actual unification, for prioritization or consolidation. I've noticed that those who do call for "focus" never actually select. It is of course unclear what such a selection process could ever look like but for now a robust, frank discussion and debate would be refreshing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


So the world needs to get to zero emissions within 20 or so years to have a 65% chance at staying under a 2 degrees celsius rise in temp. Right now the world emits 36 billion tons annually, down just a bit from last year, thanks to China's decreasing coal use. To stay under one and a half degrees, we will have blown through our budget in just five years. This is all based on modelling which is itself continually changing. It is expressed in chances or percentages of such and such scenario, hence the wide margins. But basically we can express the chance of going from 36 billion to near zero as near zero. It is hard to even imagine the scale of such an undertaking. The most massive and massively profitable (and powerful) industry on earth would have to be dismantled next month. This includes state-owned. Production of renewables (while avoiding nuclear?) would have to make up for some if not most of that energy to avoid economic meltdown. A new grid would have to be developed, new systems of transport and new food systems that didn't produce emissions as well. Rather than contemplate such an ambitious agenda most world governments are instead tasking some internal agency to develop ways to cope with climate change, to adapt and mitigate. So imagine you are some technocrat functionary in a cubicle and your boss comes to you saying (s)he wants you to write a plan for climate change adaptation. You get some staff and some software, you plug in some numbers and think about ways you can protect infrastructure, plan for fires, etc..all ridiculous bullshit that just postpones the inevitable but hey, this is capitalism. In this self-reinforcing way the illusion is maintained that there is no crisis even as the crisis gets worse (after all, who would have a geek drawing up useless contingency plans if it was a REAL crisis!) The other way to mask the crisis is to show great concern over ancillary, marginal issues like coal dust or oil spills or crime in fossil fuel boomtowns etc. (climate change can't be an existential crisis if they are worried about meth) In other words, the climate movement needs zero distractions and 100% focus on the real issue.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Whether We Like It or Not

An article in the NY Times titled Blistered Earth: How Capitalism is Destroying the Planet.... just kidding, it's actually titled :Exxon Mobile Backs Fuel Cell Effort- and it is quite telling. It explains how Exxon Mobile, under investigation for its morally bankrupt business model, now has a keen interest in Carbon Capture and Sequestration aka "Clean Coal". A big promoter of this imaginary technology ( besides the coal companies and Montana politicians) is Emily Carter ,director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton. Which is basically an astro-turf front group for Exxon with a veneer of elite academic legitimacy. Emily insists: "We are going to be burning fossil fuels for the vast majority of our electricity for some time to come WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT." In other words, it is out of our control, Market Forces will dictate. This is echoed by the CEO of the fuel cell corporation who says: "When you can make it affordable with private capital, everyone wins." So what are these magical forces that decide when something is "affordable"? Well part of the force is real force, as in, the threat of violence. Then there is the force of ideological hegemony, cultural dominance and influence. Then there is that subtle coercion of dependency; depending on a paycheck, depending on a line of credit, depending on infra-structure so that "everyone wins". But of course not everyone wins and this is the other threat hanging over everyone's head. On a side note, old Pat Buchanan was interviewed on NPR this morning and basked in the glory of his redemption. All those years as the kooky outsider, the insurgent, and now he could tell the Republican establishment to kiss his white ass (and he handed the interviewer her white ass as well) All he had to say was : "Look, it's democracy in action! Trump speaks a language all these people understand!" The language of obscene jouissance.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Just Transition Blues

With the Break Free protesters confronting the fossil fuel industry, the workers with those relatively good production jobs are being asked a familiar old labor question: which side are you on? We are told by the rosy Blue/Green Alliance optimists that "jobs versus the environment" is not a real question, that with a little managerial planning, we can painlessly move workers from dirty energy jobs into clean energy ones. Some even present this as the promise of economic stimulus and growth. But the average refinery worker has a right to be skeptical. They know all too well how capitalism works and how it treats workers. But the question here is: why exactly is it up to to the climate change movement to find jobs for these folks? We aren't threatening their jobs, the science is. We are just the messengers,those forced to deliver the bad news because their politician friends and union bosses are too cowardly. And personally, I would have more sympathy if these same workers hadn't been sticking their heads in the sand for the last decade, pretending the problem away. Or worse, actively distorting the issue so that we lost valuable time when a easy "transition" might have been more possible. Now we are out of time. Oops. The US government will relocate people living on a Louisiana island that is being inundated by salt water to the tune of 1 billion dollars of tax money. The fossil fuel industry profits from destroying their home, the Ted Cruz taxpayers buy them new ones. So this subsidizing scam is why that fossil fuel worker keeps his good job but this only happens in rich countries. Millions of less fortunate people (and workers) around the globe will suffer so the American worker can have his "just transition". But this relocation is just the tip of the melting iceberg. Coastal cities are all planning trillions of dollars worth of dikes and canals and pumps because that's how capitalism works. Pumps will be a growth industry and economists will say GDP is rising with the inexorable tide.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Down on Main Street: Democratic Dilemmas and the Politics of Nostalgia

Though it has gone mostly unreported, lots of people have gathered in D.C. for "Democracy Spring" with lots of civil disobedience (a good thing) and protest over "corrupt campaign finance/governance". This is described as an outgrowth of the Occupy movement which apparently alerted the populous to "inequality". The problem with this narrative is even if you take all the money out of elections and start to re-distribute wealth, the original distribution of power (owning the means of production) stays the same. And what that power concedes it can always take back. I will never write for Yes! magazine because I'm always writing about NO! but David Korten wrote a piece saying capitalism vs socialism is a false dichotomy and we should be FOR democracy. The difference is that under capitalism private capitalists own the means of production and "under socialism, government owns these assets in the name of, but not necessarily in the interest of, the people". He starts with a description of his idyllic upbringing where his dad owned a business on a local mainstreet in smalltown America circa 1950-60. This embodied "Adam Smith's vision of local markets governed by a shared moral code and populated by local farmers, artisans and merchants who own their land and tools..." This nostalgic pastoral is notable for what it excludes (thanks Derrida) in the realm of power and antagonism: there are no farm laborers, no resource issues with said farming, all production and manufacturing magically done by honest craftsmen in small shops, and bartering done on a trusting, “fair and square” handshake manner. No exploitation or subterfuge, no externalities or inequity. You remember those days, right? Of course; because they happened on television and the movies! Not historical reality but the cultural production of reality. David Korten’s “the people” is the same as Democracy Spring’s “the people”, they are everyone BUT evil Corporations, all united in a “moral code” and working hard for the betterment of all. They hope to turn back the clock to those idyllic, Jeffersonian , pre-Citizens United days of small entrepreneurial capitalism. It ignores the account of Pickety wherein the gains of capital always outstrips the gains of the economy. It turns a purposefully blind-eye to patriarchy and nationalism and race and the other inevitable antagonisms. This romanticizing of “the local” is found in many of the “new” movements, especially the climate movement, but is problematic on many levels. First, the local can be totally reactionary, it can be the local warlord or mob or precinct captain. Second, it avoids the hard work of theorizing at meta-levels, where lots of change also has to occur.

Monday, April 4, 2016


When the Break Free PNW Coalition asked for volunteers for the Communications Working Group I jumped on board. Experience has taught that it is within such innocently named bodies where "messaging" is developed; the analysis and narrative and eventually conceptual language which will guide action. In other words, "there is a necessary relationship between conceptual apparatuses and political institutions." that's right, ideological power. I don't know whether the others in The Group would articulate it but I suspect they intuit it. So when the original draft of the Core Messaging Document came online I got my licks in early. I inserted language around Markets and market failure as essential roots to understanding the current crisis. Those who read the blog know to what I refer. And the language hung in there for quite some time. It survived a few edits and iterations, but as it came time to finalize the doc, my language around Markets turned into "the economic system" and "the fossil fuel economy". I'm pretty sure The Message had to pass muster with representatives of organized labor, and I suspect my seditious focus was found problematic. After all, "economic system" is the ultimate empty signifier, it explains nothing while pretending to explain everything. It can be used by anyone and everyone to mean whatever they want. "Market failure", on the other hand, is a little too specific. I didn't bother to argue or press my point. This Coalition is broad based and I knew that going in; there will be folks who read Naomi Klein's book as a call for revolution and some who saw a call for cheaper solar energy. So it goes. The labor folks are in bind and we can be sympathetic. But to deny much of it is their own doing is to condescend, to say they have no agency. They can claim to be "shocked" that their "fossil fuel economy" is bad for the planet, and claim special dispensation (a Just Transition)but I have been in enough of these Blue -Green Dialogues to know these guys are good at seeing trees and missing the forest. Though capitalism has tyrannical power over their consumptive lives, most cannot speak the word. tey'll blame hippies and commies and say "just let the market sort things out."

Monday, March 28, 2016

Battle Lines Being Drawn

The title of this post comes from the Stephen Stills song,For what It's Worth, whose next line is "nobody's right if everybody's wrong", reflecting his naive hippie mentality. There is in fact always a friend/ adversary dichotomy in play (see Carl Schmidt)and the task is to understand the positions. Our political moment also brings to mind a Dylan line: "There's something goin on but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?" Then there is Marvin Gaye asking the same question. So what is happening here? As I understand it, there is a widening split, not just here in the US, but everywhere the legitimacy of the neoliberal order is being called into question. The poles are strengthening and "the center cannot hold", which is fine by me. The "non-ideological" Center is where the incoherent linking of Trump and Sanders comes from, where the unwavering defense of "democratic capitalism" comes from, where American "global leadership" comes from. I would propose that the very real, profound difference between Trump and Sanders is symbolic of this globally widening gulf and the millions of pages of ink being spilled on The Phenomenon mostly miss the most salient point. We start with the post-modern global "culture of disavowal", as Naomi Klein put it, "of knowing and not knowing." This abstraction is a difficult frame to accept. We want rational, logical, synthesis. But the very irrational/rational fact of "democratic capitalism" sets the tone for everything that follows, it's impossibility is the "condition of possibility" for Trump's wall, for troops returning to Iraq, for investment in fossil fuels and the resurrected( it IS Easter) appeal of "socialism". Now let's look at Trump/ Sanders and keep in mind the political chasms opening up in Europe and Latin America. Trump is a combo of Jesse Ventura, Berlosconi, and Father Coughlin (or Pat Robertson/ Buchanan) In Brussels an organized regiment of skinheads broke up a memorial for the victims of bomb attacks. In Germany last Sunday the xenophobic Right made large electoral gains having recruited many unionized workers (their Party is anti-union!) In Latin America the capitalist judiciary and Investment/Finance nexus is on the offensive and the welfare state dismantled in favor of raw competitive resource extraction and wealth accumulation. Everywhere the ghost of "liberal capitalist democracy" is caught in this purgatory, dancing on the grave of once solid institutions with the terrorists and soccer hoodlums and celebrity politicians.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Good News and Bad News

So which do you want first? Ok Arch coal, which has already filed for bankruptcy, has suspended its permit application for the Otter Creek coal tract in SE Montana. Apparently the whole insane enterprise of digging up the over-burden, building a railroad spur along the Tongue River, then shipping the filthy coal by rail car 1000 miles to load onto mega barges and float to China lost its "economic viability". Shocker. Downturn in China's GDP growth and perhaps growing awareness of climate costs put the kybosh to the whole deal. But was that the good news or the bad? Though Arch is publicly whining about the "regulatory environment", this is just ideological blather, it was The Sacred Market which killed this project. And while activists are congratulating themselves (and yes, they helped) the fact is the victory is less sweet because climate activists did not in the end expose the true rot and corruption and insane logic which is the Economic System itself. Arch is still digging up coal. Under chapter 11 they will shed debt, cut pensions and benefits of workers, and continue their rampage across the western landscape. For awhile. Our Democrat governor, running for re-election, was set to approve the project. Most labor unions supported it ( a "transition to the clean economy")and most average citizens, but in the end it was the tyrannical God they all worship that stopped it, only reinforcing his power and authority. Investors, shareholders and traders listened to His wisdom, not the puny protesters sitting on the tracks, dancing on the tables or occupying the rotunda. Meanwhile, the same God is instructing investors and developers to keep building in Miami Beach even though sea level will rise six feet, (the most conservative estimate) by the end of the century. Because all those bloated, white retirees need a sunny place to spend their Golden years. So until we can drive home the point that it is the profit system and its mad logic that is slowly drowning us, we will run our asses ragged stopping insane projects. Its not a project here or a project there, its the Whole Project of Private Property.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What's Going On?

Channeling Marvin Gaye, Presidential contender The Donald captured the zeitgeist perfectly when he said he would ban all Muslims until "somebody figured out WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON." In this sense we are deeply embedded in The Age of Fear and Confusion. And sinking back into global recession is not going to help matters. Pollsters understand that fear is the primary motivator for the Republican electorate; fear of terrorism, fear of criminals, fear of losing their crap jobs, fear of gays and God and their own children. And science, telling them The American Dream is destroying their health and the planet. Fear of getting old with no pension. So they are killing themselves (white, American males between the ages of 45 and 54)in record numbers. But of course it's not just conservatives that live in a constant state of fear; liberals fear the Bundy militia and the Mormons and the rappers. Fear and anxiety because nobody seems able to explain; what the hell is going on? Why can't America win any wars, vanquish its enemies? Why does my computer freeze up or give away my identity? Why are the cops and politicians all corrupt? Why are those Muslims and school kids just shooting random people? Why doesn't my wife do what I tell her? Some fear the Establishment, some The machine, some the Industrial-military complex, nefarious anonymous networks. Viruses. poisoned water. fluoride. wolves. vampires. Vladimir Putin. Who can we call on to figure it all out, who is the "somebody" in The Donald's prayer? The priest or guru or Bill Cosby who all turn out to be serial rapists? My parents who are filled with painkillers and glued to Fox News? The billionaire politicians who say they have my best interests at heart? Can I trust Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey? How about NPR, neoliberal public radio wouldn't lie, would they? My school teacher or favorite blogger? What is to be done? First off, unlace those tight ass shoes and dance for a few minutes, and actually, you could do worse than that Marvin Gaye song. Then you better clear your calendar, find somebody you can talk to and start peeling back the layers of the onion, one by one. Modernity, progress, enlightenment, fantasy, language, consciousness, the whole catastrophe.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Failure of Capitalist Democracy

Of course being inundated with election "politics" American-style makes one prone to the apocalyptic to begin with, but I believe a case can be made that the system, institutions and ideology of capitalist democracy are at a real crisis point. And while one can find plenty of commentary on the deplorable state of human rights or violent conflict in failing states, austerity and neoliberalism,or the impending crisis of climate chaos, there is little in the way of attempted linkage between these narratives, that is, between late capitalism and late democracy. There is a reason critical theory looks at political economy as an amalgamated subject; they are symbiotic and wholly intertwined. A crisis in one sphere reflects a crisis in the other. Yet this type of analysis remains the exception rather than the rule. We read articles on the growing authoritarianism of governments and rise of xenophobic nationalism in populations of eastern Europe, but rarely do we see attempts to link this crisis of liberal democracy with the rise of neoliberal economics. Three of the so-called Visegrad Four, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, are in the grip of reactionary, border-line fascist Parties while many of the more "enlightened" western nations of the EU also face threats from the far right; Le Pen in France, UKIP in Great Britian, the NDP in Germany, racist skin heads and disaffected proles reacting to increased migration and Islamophobia. But what else is happening as the workforce is "modernized" and the crisis of debt becomes permanent? What generation will stand idly by as its prospects are diminished, as it does worse than its parents generation? And then we have all the ink spilled on the Middle East; witness the failed Arab Spring, the 60 million displaced by war or repression, the ultra-conservative Petro States ruthlessly driving out competitors in a price war over a fossil fuel causing ecocide, etc... Not a pretty picture. Turkey in sectarian war with Kurds and the left, Israel mocking the concept of a two-state solution, the rise of ISIS, the failures of Empire building in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and Yemen, the list is actually quite insane when you start to compile it. Democracy can only be spoken of ironically in this context, always with scare quotes. Elections and voting, sure, even women candidates in Saudi Arabia,but it is both farce and tragedy, with limits on speech and a powerful surveillance state always keeping tabs. Economically, however, they are totally integrated into the neoliberal global order, signing trade deals and shipping goods and borrowing from World Banks and international development funds. Even with all this back-sliding toward the totalitarian abyss (we didn't mention Russia), the strange configuration of Communist Party Capitalism in China and the bizzaro rise of right-wing populism (even among union members) a la Trump in the US, the most troubling contradiction and failure of Capitalist Democracy has to be climate change and the inability of markets or government to confront the issue. While every one of those candidates speaks of "free markets" as a sacred emblem, as something Jesus Christ himself proclaimed, at the same time they both denounce democracy and praise it, the true ideological operation par excellance. Faith in the private sector is combined with faith in the "common sense" of the Exceptional American People ( White/ Christian and rural) This faith is profoundly anti-intellectual and wholly dogmatic, relying on a few select (fundamental) texts read literally and interpreted by the prophets of popular culture. liberals shake their heads at such "irrational" behavior and urge centrism. Anarchists Occupy Wall Street or remote wildlife refuges, positive The People will rise up to throw off their fetters and surprised when they are left lonely.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tech Genius to the Rescue

Over dinner last night my friends and neighbors presented an opinion about climate change which I believe to be ubiquitous: They think that when things start to get bad, the tech gurus like Gates and Zuckerberg will step in to save the day. "They won't allow the world to be destroyed" my liberal neighbor stated and she implied they would be incentivized by a mix of self-interest and altruism. In this dominant belief system, (also expressed by my father a while ago), a technical solution exists just beyond the horizon. It is being developed quietly by the technical-industrial complex (academia, entrepreneurial start-ups, global markets, etc) that has been producing magic since Guttenberg and only requires our continual investment in "infrastructure" and the ideology. It could be a new way to produce energy or store it or use it or remove and sequester CO2. We won't know till it arrives! The beauty of this belief system is it requires so little from the average person. Leave it to the rich and powerful and super-smart ones, after all, they have the most to lose. And all that talent.(And adulation to gain). All of us on the outside need only continue participating in the daily rituals, voting and working (or not, my neighbors and dad are retired) and paying taxes and sorting through all the information on NPR and PBS. Filtering it for the nuggets that enhance our faith. This also means rejecting "doom and gloom" negativity and those reports from the periphery where things are already "getting bad", it means living in a state of disavowal, where we hold a mental critique of political economy but act as if that critique does not exist. Kneel down and pray AS IF you believed, and your faith will be restored. Or hang your prayer flags and let the breeze do your praying for you. Anyway, Bill and Mark and the rest of you celebrity tech genius types, I hope you are listening. Cause when shit hits the fan it might be you they blame for everything, you they hunt down.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Low Oil Volatility

I spend quite a bit of time reading the capitalist press such as the Economist and the Wall Street Journal and what is fascinating is the way the ideological can be given a little lipstick and called rationality. Currently we see crazed market swings (though trending downwards)with empirical contingencies such as slowing global growth, an oil glut and power plays by Saudi Arabia. A whole generation of pundits trained in neoclassical economics has built an industry around "man splaining" these intricate mechanisms to the average rube, disguising the fact that what they do is part of a broad political project of transferring power. They are assisted in this project by a movement within academia, especially those teaching economics. Students go in thinking they are receiving some pure form of objective knowledge, because they have been conditioned towards this naive belief. But as Finlyson, Lyson, Pleasant et.alli(2005) explain quite clearly: "[C]ontrary to claims of value neutrality, neoclassical economics functions as a master social narrative, or a technology of power, that concentrates power by transferring socioeconomic decision making from multiple sites to the centralized nodes of global economic and political institutions. This transfer occurs through the domination of the discursive space. The ‘invisible hand’ is power" It is this sense that the Tea Party and the Libertarians and the "true conservatives" join forces with liberals as astro-turf place-holders for Capital, whether old money or new, mega-corporate or "mainstreet" small business. The ideology and the power is what unites them and to have an army of blue collar knuckleheads and Iowa farmer Evangelicals and latte loving techno-geeks do the grunt work for them is simply glaze on their creme brulee.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

No Cigar

Using direct action, a group of climate activists stopped an oil train in Washington in Sept. and got arrested. They hoped to use the "necessity" defense in their trial, asserting their illegal action was the only way to stop a greater harm from occurring. The judge, who has discretion, decided not to allow the defense then changed his mind, causing quite a kerfluffel. Unfortunately, two days into the trial he declared the defense had failed to prove the necessity of the actions and the protesters were found guilty of misdemeanor trespassing. The judge and jury sympathized with the cause of saving the planet but the Law is Real. The classic example of necessity is an inmate finding it necessary to escape a burning jail cell. Any judge allowing the necessity defense is in effect saying we are inmates with no legal effective legal channels and the planet is on fire. He would be admitting the system of government is corrupt and/or totally useless, that Constitutional democracy and jurisprudence channeling power to the people and creating legal recourse is a sham. And what judge is going to admit that? There is a temporal question of "immanence" as well, that the wheels of justice turn quick enough to prevent the harm ( the burning) in time. Ah yes, Time. This week oil prices continued their plunge, dragging stock markets along with it. Coal giant Arch declared bankruptcy and sluffed off billions in debt. Capitalism being what is, there will be a barbaric, bloody frenzy of mergers and acquisitions as the big swallow the small. Obama threw a little fuel on the fire by putting a moratorium on coal leasing on public lands. Expect more Bundy occupations. Meanwhile I have been reaching out to various climate groups urging we strike big while the iron is hot, proposing a unified action of mass civil disobedience this summer; "filling the jails". All the big groups are proposing escalation, but unity goes against a certain anarchist strain which is prevalent in the movement and so far no one has gotten back to me to even argue it.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Price Signals

Big economic news today (besides insane China stock market and "good" Jobs Report) is that US auto makers had a record year,propped up by sales of trucks and SUV's. High fives all around! The expert on NPR explained it as the result of "price signals". With gas prices so low consumers want bigger vehicles and those pesky CAFE miles per gallon, well, they have been dropping. The Expert kept his commentary value neutral, giving the impression the signals sent by The Invisible Hand are inviolable, and by inference, rational. But as I have written about ad nauseum, these signals are actually distorted and create perverse incentives, like spewing more poison into the atmosphere and contributing to ecocide. Oh yeah, that. They are distorted because parties affected by the exchange (money for gas) have no say, are invisible or "external", and so that information is not included as a"cost" by the consumer. But not to worry, or Our High Tech Billionaire Saviors are lining up at the trough. From an article by Michael Klare : Joining Gates and Bezos in this venture are a host of super-rich investors, including Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, the Chinese internet giant; Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chairman of Facebook; George Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management; and Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of India’s giant Tata Sons conglomerate. While seeking to speed the progress of green technology, these investors also see a huge potential for future profits in this field and, as the venture claims, “will certainly be motivated partly by the possibility of making big returns over the long-term, but also by the criticality of an energy transition.” Do good AND do well! I feel better already.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Imaginary and Symbolic Cowboys

My comrade has brought Tragedy, Farce and Lacan into the discussion so let's unpack the Bundys a bit further. On the surface we have the basic Bitterroot Freeman Patriot whose ideological foundations go clear back to the timber wars and "multiple use" and printing their own "script" etc. Being a Bitterrooter I am something of an expert and have even included one of these characters in my novel (for all you publishers looking for the next best seller!)It is basically the politics of resentment with a fierce spiritual dimension (LOVE their country and Constitution, would DIE for it, etc) It is really quite beautiful aesthetically, in a Quentin Tarantino sort of way. Islam and the New World Order and Waco and it just goes on and on. But I want to go a little deeper, get into a little murkier water as it were, and propose that on the mythological level these patriots are a reaction to modernity and at the subconscious level they play a role similar to Donald Trump as a reaction to feminism and the deeper anxiety/disavowal/repression/ transference of emasculation/castration. These psychological categories are a little hard to incorporate into our political project but unless they are acknowledged that project will remain...frustrated. Trump is just the largest incarnation but notice how all the conservative candidates for President are putting a greater stress on toughness, hardness, endurance, etc. you get the picture, Chuck Norris could win the primary in an instant. For the guys with guns and white hats and deep nostalgia for that which never was, "local control" is both hating socialism and hating all the new genders (which feminism opened up) which demolish the strict order they found refuge in. Exposing the lack, their true powerlessness in the face of the Big Other. Locally their are no "Queers", no commies, no vegetarians and the good old Missionary position. Because everything is moving too fast. Enough pop psycho babble for one day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Feel Their Pain

The occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge by a right-wing militia invokes feelings of sympathy. These misguided revolutionaries ( their analysis,critique and theory are junk) run into some very familiar problems as they try to effect change of the status quo. Much like left-wing "occupiers", they can gather sympathizers willing to voice a little generalized dissent against the perceived power structure (Big Government), but when attempt to employ a tactic that is proportional to the threat, they suddenly find themselves isolated. In other words, even with the right-wing there is a huge disconnect between the fear people express and the actions they are willing to take to address it. They march and chant about losing their precious freedom and liberty and property rights (the basis for the sacred free market capitalism they worship) but when the masses don't rally around their revolution, they drift back to their regular jobs and routines and comfortable lives, leaving it to the few real radicals to take a stand and face the heat. Like the Left, they have a critique of the State and its un-democratic nature. For them it is "jack-booted thugs" enforcing a dangerous drift towards socialism. For the Left, the "thugs" are seen to enforce the state/ Capital power alignment. For the Right, the Constitution holds the guarantees to a well-ordered Republic and they have a deep, spiritual nostalgia for that which never was.(their History is junk as well). The Left says little about the Constitution, but generally wants to transcend the regime of limited "rights" and focus on the much more ambitious, emancipatory and enlarged concept of justice. Rather than grabbing their guns and survival gear, I wonder what might happen if they organized mass civil disobedience?