When it was reported, probably falsely, that Mukesh Ambani’s skyscraper house was going to require 600 servants, there was some degree of shock mixed with outrage. It does sound rather excessive, and yet how many of the shocked and outraged are themselves servants in a skyscraper all day long?
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
On a more serious note, the increasingly frantic and increasingly frequent appearances by pro-vote, pro-participation, and even pro-Democratic commenters on this particular blog as The Most Important Elections in the History of Ever approach are telling. Although their shared and often repeated line is that blogging is a do-nothing exercise, they in fact perceive it as just the opposite: a political act. And more to the point, they see the jokes and arguments, criticisms and agreements between one writer and another through the lens of the political coalition. Two writers who largely agree are "allies" in this estimation; they are "on the same side." And since the political stakes are high, as they say on CNN, since a decisive moment in the national Choose-Your-Own-Adventure narrative is now upon us, these commenters desire a deliberate diminution of what they believe to be internecine squabbling in order to shore up the factional lines. It is one thing to criticize supposedly antiwar liberals when the Democratic party holds majorities and all, but now that the tea-party Putsch is underway, it is irresponsible not to bury the various hatchets and present a unified façade of . . . Well. At this point the argument becomes even weaker, doesn't it? Present a unified face to whom, and to what end?
The question of why one might criticize a person with whom he shares affinities only makes sense if you percieve yourselves to be engaged in a collective activity, in particular a collective political activity. Why would you criticize another writer who also criticizes America's wars? is the plaintive question. The obvious answer is: because I believe that other writer's (let's call him Len Blueballs)--that I believe Len Blueballs' critique to be incorrect. I do not imagine that we are engaged in some sort of meaningful antiwar action, although I suspect he does. In fact, it is this suspicion which informs the large part of my criticism. I myself do not "oppose" the occupation of foreign nations by the United States because I imagine that opposition will hasten the end to these occupations; nor do I imagine that if I add my oppositional voice to others, it will hasten that end. (I certainly don't believe that voting for a Democratic congresscreature will do it.) I don't write in order to participate in some political movement, less yet in order to foment some new one. I am not on anyone's side.
Regarding the question of voting, I do not vote for the same reason that I do not pray five times a day facing toward Mecca. I do not believe in representative democracy. I think it is a fiction. That is not to say that I don't believe Americans exist anymore than calling Allah imaginery means I do not believe that Muslims exist; I believe in voting booths just as much as I believe in mosques. It is not the existence of the ritualized act that I call unreal; it is the deity at the other end of the prayer line.
[The Liberal Class] failed to defend traditional liberal values during the long night of corporate assault in exchange for its position of privilege and comfort in the corporate state. The virulent right-wing backlash we now experience is an expression of the liberal class’ flagrant betrayal of the citizenry.Dear Chris,
Please replace "in exchange for" with "because of".
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
As you may have noticed, and as some of you have noted, we have been infested with our biennial cicada-cycle of chirping anonymice. Happens every election cycle. They object to this blurgh's, hum, je ne fais pas. Watchwords: utopian, purity. The arguments are fairly meager; you don't have to believe, but damnit, the High Holy Days only come around every so often. It would make your mother happy.
I guess it's a mark of either delusion or desperation, depending on who's up over whom in the cycle, that the thousand-odd, geographically dispersed regulars of this tiny corner of the internet should merit the attention of the sheepdog brigade. When I tell people in reallife that I don't vote, they either don't care, or they confess with the glee of a couple of secretaries sneaking off with an extra pair of cupcakes after a staff meeting that they don't either. If only because indolence is one of the most universal human traits, I find myself, in this regard, in the majority! It is an odd feeling, actually, and I sometimes wonder if I oughtn't start voting again just to maintain my status as an outsider.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Isn't there something vaguely, I don't know, North Korean in this notion that the children, who are the future, exist principally for the purpose of performing some sort of amazing feat of sychronized something, their performance collectively reflective of the virility, power, and purpose of the nation as a whole?
Owin' Pain turns a caustic eye on the Youniversity, and I am reminded of an episode from my own stewdunt daze. There was a time, mes grands, when your humble blurgher considered the professoriat as a career, although he would never have used such vulgar terminology to describe the calling. He imagined a tweedy and buccolic future teaching Delmore Schwartz and occasionally fondling an undergraduate or four. He figured it wouldn't be so hard to land a sinecure at some joint like his own alma mater, and after a brief interregnum of tawdry tenure-seeking, he would live the rest of a resplendent, academikal life as the Most Popular Gay Professor of Literature on Campus.
Midway through my junior year, I was accused of violating the school's honor code. Now I was at this point severly booze- and dope-addled and only hazily aware that the school even had such a prissy little document, so when I first learned of the, ahem, charges, I momentarily considered the possibility that I had, somehow, inadvertantly, violated some obscure codicil of the Farber College Charter, but soon the details emerged: I had cheated? On a group project? In a one-credit rocks-for-jocks geology class I was taking pass-fail to complete the gen ed requirements? Anyway, it turned out I had been accused by a fellow campus invert whose boyfriend I may or may not have fucked in the ass in a private study carrel in the library the semester prior, and it turned out that said fag was also the president of the honor code committee, a gang of hopped-up Pharisees who administered the honor codex like a campus-confined brigade of youth Sonderkommanden, doling out disciplinary sentences from community service up through suspensions and expulsions.
Being a brat and a spoiled one, and also legitimately objecting to the crazy idea that my own accuser would preside over my hearing, I moved swiftly to circumvent the whole procès. I wasn't some fin-aid, scholarship loser they could push around. Mommy and Daddy paid good money for me to be there! Thus did I find myself in the office of the President of the College, who frustrated me for about fifteen minutes with several lines of bullshit about student governance, self-determination, life lessons, truth, justice, the pursuit of knowledge, learning, ethical conduct, and cet'ra, until at last I summoned up a phrase I'd dreamed up while jacking off in the shower that very morning, one that has subsequently served me splendidly and often in my, ahem, career: "What is it," I inquired, drawing my scrawny chest up to its fullest, beaked position, "about the fundamentally transactional nature of our relationship that you don't understand?"
Silence! Being less keen on the face and body language of adults then than I later became, I though the look of stumped constipation on her face meant that I was in big trouble, mister. And then . . . she murmered something about looking into it, thanked me for my time, and I never again heard a thing about the honor code.
Now, I mention this distant episode only as anecdotal evidence of this basic truth: the vague professorial line about the intrinsic value of higher education is pure pretention. Universities aren't in dager of becoming degree factories any more than I am in danger of becoming Homo sapiens; one doesn't become that which one already is. The relationship between student and educator is transactional. You pay money and receive a credential in return, from which you derive future privileges. The university model isn't really all that different from the parking validation. The various hoary stories about how thinks wunts wur, in which the idyllic old academy was a sepia-toned Alexandria, one half Plato and the other half a manic Robin Williams yawping from atop a prep-school desk, are invariably fake. Anyone who reads Mary McCarthy knows that today's "Humanities" profs are identical to their grousing generational predecessors. Meanwhile do you imagine that when that old Nazi Bootlegger, Prescott Bush, was getting pissed on and buttfucked by his fellow Skulls and Boners, Yale was any more or less a for-pay enforcer of class standards?
Monday, October 25, 2010
Most opponents of hate crimes laws are also law-and-order types. This leads to an amusing paradox. If, as hate crimes opponents claim, it is impossible to determine intent, intention, motivation, state of mind, emotional state, etc., and if, therefore, it is impossible to use such indeterminable factors in order to assess the magnitude and seriousness of the crime and subsequently the order and severity of the punishment, then logically the scope of the criticism applies not narrowly to "hate crimes," but broadly, to criminal law in general. It is to argue in a very real sense that crime does not exist; that an accidental death is identical to a premeditated murder; that stealing from a store is the same as borrowing from a friend; that the adjudication of guilt and innocence as practiced and conceived in the modern West is impracticable. Now that is an argument I can get behind.
We need, a world view that extends the solidarity of social democracy to the whole of humanity. [sic]A boot . . . made to the specifications of the under-minister for European cobbling . . . and sold with proper labels indicating its point of origin . . . remaining within the pedestrian footpath so as to avoid vehicular traffic . . . forever!
It would be easy enough to jape at the idea that "social democracy" is a form of solidarity, so I won't. I would prefer to point out that the vision herein outlined, the future of "progressivism", is totalitarian, literally so, a program whose proposed end is a single, worldwide, political monoculture.
[I]t seems very hard to sell politically.Yuhthink? I suspect that Quiggin used to laugh at the crackpot Hegelian diuretic of Francis Funkyama and the gang that proposed the End of the Cold War as the Beginning of a kind of Messianic political age, and yet here they are, recapitulating an argument whose own original adherents fled as their theses billowed into a cloud of dust in Lower Manhattan. It turns out that Western "cosmopolitan" pronouncements to the contrary, the "whole of humanity" is full of poor, démodé losers not yet convinced that "tribalism . . . belong[s] to the past."
There is, I admit, a certain charmingly eggheaded naïveté on display here in the idea that the fairly limited success of a few nominally rightist political factions in the Angloamerosphere represents some kind of shocking political turn, and that the counter to it is to articulate an alternate vision of, in effect, a confederated world goverment, an EU of EUs. How narrow is the mind that sees in a several-decade, post-War, ad hoc, Eurocentric political consensus a model for the future of the species? "Social democracy" was--and remains--a particular response to a particular set of circumstances in a particular set of countries. The notion that it represents a prescriptive solution for the entire species, from the boulevards of Paris to the New Zealand highlands and back again, is woefully impoverished. It hardly qualifies as an ideology; it is dull, technocratic, and managerial in outlook. It lacks the full-throated verve of prophecy, and it consigns the entire future history of humanity to a tepid if-then statement.