"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Mar 29, 2011

If These Be Rebels, or...Here There Be Dragons

The idea that you can compromise with those who would rule you - who govern how you work and how you feed yourself -  and not end up compromised - this idea is more pernicious than the belief that history has a motive and a determined outcome.

For although historical determinism* has neutered radicalism, and often reduced its adherents to astrologers of economic night skies, the acceptance of it does not negate the fundamentally necessary rejection of the order of the world which consumes you so that others might live. A person may wrongly believe that history is teleology, and still at the minimum live as if this history, as if this current arrangement of persons and events, ought not persist.


If you do not reject the domination of your life, however impersonal and routinized it might seem, however out of reach the levers of control, you can only in the end suffer it bitterly, or resign yourself to a crippled awareness of your impotence. Pretending that there are no social spaces free of the dominant mode of life is not only moral self-betrayal, it is the recognition that you are not and should not be the sort or kind of person to undertake the risk of rebellion.

Worrying your escape, you will never rebel.

You do not change the world by telling yourself or others that you cannot escape its effects. Everything is always contingent, anyway. There's never going to be an escape. You don't even look for it. You don't worry it. You don't waste time - yours or others - trying to redeem the coupon for it. There is no standing outside of experience. That is mysticism. A fool's errand. Always embedded in your own events, and in the wake of them, you can and must realize that there is no other, no else, no option which is not yet closed to you.

This is it. To change it, you must say, "No!"

If you stop at the contingencies which bind you, you will live a life which betrays itself, which gives lifeblood to those who rule. You betray the lives of all who depend upon you. You betray the voiceless.

And, if you encounter those so-called allies who say they share your goals, but refuse to say that "no" in a clear and public voice, they will have no loyalty when it counts. You can count on it. They'll be looking for clean social spaces, toleration, cafe mocha and the latent "revolutionary" symbolism in a film produced to make someone richer.

If they cannot say "no" to this latest, predictable example of an obvious human evil, they cannot be trusted. They are the latter day farce of tragic mystical and scholastic Papistry, scrutinizing the firmament of power for signs and wonders, looking for reconciliation when they ought to be planning how to take down the gates of heaven itself. They will not be there when it matters. They'll be buying their escapes, cooing in soothing voices of passive aggression.

And if, having watched or learned of all that passed in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Vietnam, in Chile, in Honduras, in Guatemala they can still identify with American military power, you have all you need to know about who and what they are. If they can ignore how Qadaffi got his guns, his oil concessions and his reconciliation with London, Paris and Washington, if they can use the royal we to laud the "humanitarian" murder of innocents, you know their quality.

Especially if they're nuanced, thoughtful and nice about it.

* - though never as deleterious as cultural studies Zizekism or academia itself...


Anonymous said...

I must say: I agree.

Especially if they're nuanced, thoughtful and nice about it.

Especially then.

Cüneyt said...

I can't believe my parents are getting divorced.

Anonymous said...

jack, thanks again for a great post. btw, i came across your site via jrb. still flabbergasted about that libya thing. as much as i want to believe "our" bombs are filled w/love...

(cuneyt, thanks for the laugh.)

Jack Crow said...


I'm sorry to hear that. :)


Thank you.

Anonymous @ 6:46pm,

Appreciate it.

davidly said...

Thank you, Jack. In addition to recent events in this relative microcosm we inhabit, I am reminded of a dear friend who, in her toils as a secretary for an a-hole financial services manager, "took solace" in the idea that "her purpose in life" was to make life easier for him by serving him effectively. I took it upon myself to help her see it differently, with partial success: Now she just sees it as her lot in life;-(

To emphasize what CFO emphasized:
I find agitating beyond description the kind of cool strategic military analysis by those who want to sound thoughtful and nuanced, and consider themselves plugged in to the humanitarian cause.

Jack Crow said...


My wife is struggling with this right now. She's an efficient office manager, and competent as hell. The doctors she assists are good people. The nurses, medical assistants and other office workers are friends. The patients are eminently worth helping.

The organization is a pile of shite.

To be expected, when affiliated with a prestige college, I guess.

So, they perform many small rebellions throughout the day. It's heartbreaking and admirable.

And I could almost seethe at the "plugged in" analysis. Good description.

Al Schumann said...

if they can use the royal we to laud the "humanitarian" murder of innocents, you know their quality

With a catch in the throat and a tear just beginning at the corner of the eye. The sentimentalism of the pleas for cruise missile love has a palpable quality, like dogshit.

Jack Crow said...

And truth, Al. Dogshit might be preferable. Not might. Is. It doesn't pretend to be what it's not. Neither does the dog.

Randal Graves said...

I'd love to be rebelling, but I've got a morning of minesweeper lined up at work. Sorry.

Jack Crow said...

Sabotage by gaming. Recommends itself.

senecal said...

the beginning of your post is more interesting than the end. Beyond those who condone intervention are many more who oppose it, but won't do anything about the fundamental order that's responsible for it.

And condemning them isn't easy, since anyone who embarks on supporting a family has already made the basic compromise. We live in groups, a matriocha (Russian doll) of groups, and live by their rules all the way up.

Jack Crow said...

The beginning is preface, Sen.

I'm not condemning people caught in their compromises.

I'm taking to task, in my own minor and mostly ineffectual way, those who pretend they're above it, in order to coo concern at the wee ones still trapped.

Especially when they smugly assert their detachment at the same time as they're claiming to struggle against it.

Jack Crow said...

Let me try this from a different angle, Sen:

I've done far more harm than benefit, for most of my life. I may not feel that way in my fictional heart of hearts, but any clear eyed survey of my life results in a sober conclusion: I've made the world worse.

And I was considerably more dangerous as a boss with a conscience, trying to do good from a position of authority, than I ever was as a mercenary operator. Of all the stages of my pitiful past, I was least dangerous as a harried criminal.

Before I developed a conscience, before the weight of my choices formed an impact on my awareness, before my complicit participation in the degradation of others - I was less of a threat.

Only after I had gained some minor awareness of the awful I had done, and tried to use my authority to rectify it (a vain series of acts, you should know) did I begin to do real and lasting harm.

Because I encouraged hope and rebellion while having no way to protect or nurture it.

I was - like cultural studies professors and MIT linguists - protected from the consequences by the authority I could afford to deride and undermine, because it was safely my own.

Those people I "helped" were not. And they paid. I have debts I can never repay.

That's what the fuck happens when you try to use the system - or any other weapon - to do good. You hurt people, because they will never have your immunities, or be as compromised as you are.

They will never have the resources. And they will always be subject to the whims of power, including your own.

This is why people must liberate themselves.

senecal said...

I see your point. If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

Then your beloved partner answers with a smile: a foolish martyrdom never helped anyone.

Jack Crow said...


That's really not my point.

Anonymous said...

That's what the fuck happens when you try to use the system - or any other weapon - to do good. You hurt people, because they will never have your immunities, or be as compromised as you are.


And that's precisely why such Public Figures ought to find themselves nagged-at by their conscience, to quit their position of Within the System, and to announce to their hangers-on, worshipers, etc., exactly why they're doing it.

Back to that followers thing once again.

juan said...

"I've done far more harm than benefit, for most of my life. I may not feel that way in my fictional heart of hearts, but any clear eyed survey of my life results in a sober conclusion: I've made the world worse."
[Jack Crow; 3/30/11]

Well Jack, that is a wonderful statement and one which made me reconsider.



Jack Crow said...

Thanks, juan.