"...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

May 31, 2012

The past is as unmovable by mind as are the stars.

1. The stars are the past. They happened before. This is not figurative. It is literal. We are constrained by relativity. The night sky is the lingering lost, part of our present because the "past doesn't go anywhere." Perhaps a fool would argue that the stars mean nothing: they mean everything. We are seeded by their dying. But... Scrying the night sky and the stars for signs and wonders, for clues to the fate of the universe, is no more effective than shitting in one's pants and flushing the toilet anyway. The past is prologue, sure. Also, it is not. Interconnectivity is myth. It's a story told against the inexorability of death, a facile consolation. Things come apart. What happens in Boston may never matter to the child starving in Dhaka. The stars don't care. Events accumulate and the child is forgotten.

Photons do not decay, in the human lifetime. Photons do not decay, over the course of terrestrial ages. We decay. We are brief. Staggeringly meaningless, from the vantage of photons and stars. A single life can be suffered, until waking is work, and breathing too much a burden to bear. A photon feels nothing. And the past, these photons forming wave fronts against our eyes, still didn't go anywhere. Every molecule bound together to make a body is the past made present. We can study them, learn. Make predictions, record data. We do it with cells, we do it with the stars. Awareness and memory, nonetheless, are not morality. The past does not teach. It does not evolve. Progress is fiction, dialectic is deception. Photons do not arise from synthesis. Trees grow by bifurcation. As do crystals, and human memory. Things split, to grow. They do not encounter their opposites and unite. The past tells no stories, it has no narratives. Events expand, they layer upon the memory, and most things happens without a mind ever knowing it. There are seven billion human bodies. Not a one of them can tell you the complete history of a square meter of soil.

2. It is stupidity to read the past, to build up and fascinate with the meager, mean stories of this or that notion, trend, government, commodity or faith, to map what is not by what came before. Events happen, and it's equally stupid to pretend they do not. Learn them, or not. You'll still need to eat, shit, sleep. You will still die. That's how most of us live, and we are not the lesser creatures for it. The past is as immovable by mind as are the stars. It hasn't gone anywhere, and most of what was made within its fluctuating contours will outlast the lot of us. By millenia. Some still have a need to know, a compulsion to draw value and validity from the pursuit of the past, forward into its consequences for the dimly understood present. It is a compulsion, an obsession. It can be useful, or not. Knowing the that red giant will nova does not prevent its destruction. Studying historical trends will not obviate their development. History is an astrology. Fiddle with it, if it makes you happier. Mostly, it will not. The termites will chew the wood, the roaches will scatter, mold will weaken the beams, water will find the cracks in the concrete, winter will come, and the housing unit will one day fall in on itself. A child will grow up elsewhere. She will be different from what she might have been, but might have been never was.  The now, the current, is always passing and memory barely maps the hint of it. It is the arrogance of a self-obsessed stupidity - a mind as its own mirror, imposing a fragile order on a world which does not obey it - to assert the primacy of history, to shelve lives like books and demand from the future a conformity to a past which doesn't care because it never was as we imagine it and never went away, anyway. Events happened, but our stories barely tell their impact. We are encompassed by our ignorance. It's too soon, far too early, to tell ourselves that we know enough to fix, fashion and shape into permanence the best of all futures.

The outlines drawn by the mind, the old gods and constellations, depend upon the distance between the stars, not their proximity. Most of history is the told in the same way. It is outline, making sense of the impossibly dense and unknowable by fabricating snippets and cataclysms into fables. Coincidence occurs, and these stories overlap with patterns in the memory, accumulations from experience that suggest a rightness, but which only communicate the appearance of similarity.

3. The past is not right or wrong. Neither is the present. The future, on the other hand, is almost always peopled with moralities. We arrive to find it fleeing us. Disappointed, abandoned, injured by its inevitable faithlessness. Our achievements fade: memory and bad conscience conspire to form a despotism. Over and over again, we resolve to promise ourselves a better tomorrow. Perhaps it's uniquely human to treat disappointment as a goad, and the goad as a call to be better, to perfect, to be more good. It is from this belief in betterment, this urge to improve, that most human evil is done. It's never enough to discipline one's own memory, is it? The bombs fell on Belgrade and Baghdad because men thought that they could profit by it, that in profit they would improve. A mass obsession for an age of mass spectacle.

School, church, temple, masjid, courtrooms, cop dramas, prison cells, op-eds, fairy tales, movie scripts, television plots, sermons, advertising campaigns, expectations humble and grandiose - they all fix into place the fascination with improvement. It's not enough to learn and let go. It's never enough to wander. Meaning is added, belief is confirmed, narratives are introduced to too-young brains. Poisonous, pervasive, spreading like plagues and killing frosts, following the merchant princes, the politicians, the generals and royal scientists, the urge to improve the whole of the face of the earth until every life is fitted into its place, if only at first by name.

4. The past tells no stories. We tell them. We have the capacity to tell them differently. There aren't many freedoms, really - but this is one of them. I don't know if it's enough to begin with a rejection of improvement, with the morality that demands a singular futurity. Maybe not, and that's okay with me.

Epilogue. I'm also okay with the guillotine, the noose and their use as an answer to the inflicters of widespread suffering, so grano salis, if you need it. Violence does not cure, and most acts of vengeance make things worse for somebody unintended as its recipient. There is no perfection, and we already have to live with with our contingency, conditionality, limitation and mortality. I do know, in moments of some provisional clarity, that compassion is one of the more finely made lenses through which to watch, as long as it tempered by the ability and capacity to resist, to strike and to elude those who would harm.  Moral pacifism, like national militarism, Christianity, or evangelical veganism, is an attempt improve others for one's own benefit, to collect them up and constrain them by belief. It's an urge to cure, and a reasonable person has a thousand reasons to mistrust it on that account alone. It does not follow that retribution makes anything better, either. Retribution does not improve. But, it can remove. And that is a tool which should not be discarded lightly.

May 20, 2012

Musings, after ocean's edge...

Went to Hampton Beach with the family today. People watched with the wife. Some (probably commonplace) observations:

1. Beach wear for women differs fundamentally from that for men; it is even opposed. Male beach clothing emphasizes by what it does not cover, signaling the male as natural. Female beach wear draws attention to what is covered, forming the female figure as that which can only be revealed by hiding it. The conventions of dress carry a heavy load: the female is created by artifice, the man by revelation. This is what, I think, feminists mean by patriarchy. It's no wonder that, pervasive as this underlying etymology of self is, societies continuously reproduce the idea of woman as a vessel of sin. Since correct womanhood is fabricated and manufactured, within these cultures, any woman who cannot abide by the norms (and this is nearly all of them) must not only be lacking, compared to men, but morally and spiritual deficient. She is, according to the rules of behavior, formed wrong; it is her native state: consequently, she must be governed and corrected, lest she produce more sin, and perhaps even more egregiously, sinful children.

2. Small children do not understand states, as ways of relating, until they are taught to internalize rules and rule structures. The state is not simply or automatically native to human existence. It is a replicator. A small child will play with what's at hand: stones, waves, dogs running and frolicking. She will dig holes or kick sand or give chase. A child is a war machine before he is acculturated to the community in force.  Small children play games by revision. They adapt to environment, even in conflict. Rules are not vital because play is immediate. It may have outcomes, but it does not have objectives. It is only when the child is taught to play within the field, to build walls for the sand castle, and to respect the property and victories of other players (especially adults) that the child begins to understand the self as a state of existence, as a pattern which must be repeated in order to be experienced. This is, I believe, the fundamental vector by which the state is replicated: the self gains an interior which is governed by repetition. It becomes a kind of disorder.

3. Marxists will never let the state wither away, because they are statists. Like Christians, they can only conceive of the conclusion of the revolution (an attainment of heaven) as achievement of a fixed end which must then immediately be shielded from the consequences of an absence of fixity inherent in material existence. Despite rhetoric and theory to the contrary, every Marxist attempt to produce communism has resulted in a state in which every subject must subsume itself or be rendered into enemies. The Marxist answer to the problems presented by entropy, contingency, friction, uneven distribution and conflict is spiritual. It is, in contravention of every claim to historical materialism, the distribution of obedience by way of force, according to rules which would be supernatural in the hands of an imam, rabbi, cleric, monk or priest. The Marxist, as a rule, demands a set of behaviors, hoping to reconstitute society according to a plan which must result in a single possible future, or else be betrayed. It is not surprising that Marxists, taken generally, lack the vitality and adaptive capacities of their capitalist opponents and masters. Capitalist relations form a sense of self which assesses its relations to others and its environments according to costs and labor, reshaping the sand kicking child into a buyer-seller through the disciplining rules and enforcements of family, education and workplace discipline. This means that the capitalist formed self is an operating platform which allows for an interior. The self so shaped must have a fixed fictional center, or it cannot trade its labor, expect reward or calculate costs. It needs this imaginary independent agent which can manage the limits imposed by matter without believing itself subject to them. To relate to others as commodities, a portion of self must be secure enough to resist economization and subsumption. It must shield the single personality* as a compartment which can not only buy and sell, but see others as consumable units of labor without collapsing inward under the weight of its own contradictions. Unlike the child who has not yet calibrated its memory to reproduce the relations of the state, first in the family and later in school, the capitalized self demands a protected inner life. In response, and by way of development in the standing pools of oblivion and despair in which it evolved, the Marxist and Leninist conception of self attempts to abolish this interiority by making it utterly subject to the revolution and the state it subsequently produces. The Marxist body has no imagined interior because it demands the creation and recreation of the state in all interactions, totalizing the self as the subject of each and all. Despite Marxist theory to the contrary, the interiorized capitalist self, with its private memories and trade-able experiences and labor, will not arrive at the Marxist self by way of some spiritual synthesis.This capitalist self, the Marxist rightly understands, is an abomination: it no longer remembers how to run into the waves without producing first a reason to do so, with objectives defined, and benefit to be taken. Sadly, the general Marxist solution is even more monstrous: it is a self which has the state as both its interior and its exterior, replicating obligation into every interaction, until the human world is only chains.

4. The anarchist, as a type, presents any number of problems, not the least of which is a studied refusal to believe that men will do their worst, despite crafting a worldview which rejects the concentration of power, and hierarchy, because men are always doing their worst. All the same, the anarchist can offer an alternative to the capitalist and Marxist states, and the selves they reproduce over and over again. The anarchist is kinetic, potential. The anarchist cannot produce a program of action, a plan for the future, or a schema for correct human behavior; instead, the anarchist can play a way towards a number of possible futures, by acting as a corrosive. The anarchist can simply refuse to obey. This takes the anarchist closer to the nihilist than is comfortable for most workers in light and doers of good (be they liberal, conservative, Marxist or libertarian**). The anarchist can remind those trapped in the memory-shaped selves of our society that the state dissolves at contact with with the waves at ocean's edge. That it can be dismembered by remembering to forget it.

* - we should say, single personality disorder...

** - the libertarian is silliest of all; he thinks the ruling factions who manage the appearance of states will remain contained within those advertised limits, will obey their own marketing campaigns and propaganda, so long as men do good and speak honestly one to the other...

May 11, 2012

No Escape

This one is by request, if somewhat revised. So, for d. mantis:

It does no good to underestimate the widespread human capacity to burrow deeper into hierarchies and their controlling systems, in the name of escaping them.

Our libertarian fellow travelers are especially fond of asserting, as a characteristic of that entire American school of thought, that governments are awful. In this they are largely correct, since governments exist to serve the needs of those who can afford to constitute them, run them, maintain them and benefit by their operation. Unfortunately, this libertarian willingness to generalize about the organization of governments as thinly disguised protection rackets does not extend to the necessary and inevitable concentration of power, wealth and bad faith in those successor organizations which would follow the collapse of the state-as-Leviathan. Intent as they are upon dismantling and escaping one obvious despotism, libertarians at the same time rather studiously ignore the more direct consequences of the weakening of the welfare functions of the states we have now; chief among those ramifications is the accelerated transfer of wealth, armed staffers, expertise and training functions to corporations, transnational exchange regimes and market affiliations, a one way flow which would result in the eventual reconstitution of states and state-like hierarchies from within corporate associations.

Then there are the liberals.

The entire liberal discourse - the "progressive" expansion of rights - which followed from the so-called Enlightenment and is only very recently in any danger of collapsing into its own singularity of self-contradiction, depends upon a belief in an absurdly unrealistic core conviction: namely, that those who inhabit the higher reaches of hierarchies can be persuaded to relinquish their advantages. It is only by accident, or that curious admixture of happenstance and callow opportunism, that the democratic-seeming states' histories have coincided with the increase in the number of permissions (usually, called "rights") allowed to the educated and professional castes and classes, which factions cling most religiously to this ridiculous notion of permissive rights. That coincidence has had a profound effect upon their beliefs about the power of "the masses," the value of the allegedly isonomic individual to those with power, and the degree to which lower level chattering and nattering filters upward to those who rule. But, because we live in the last decades of universal education - the one true victory of the middling castes - their "rights" dogma has become the universal doctrine foisted upon the multitude, shaping their discourse, if not their everyday conduct. That the lowest orders of our current society live as if rights are unreal is a testament not to the failure of universal education, but to the brutalizing and liberating agoge that is daily contact with the sharp end of police powers and the clerk's faceless bureaucratism.

The ruling class and its factions don't hear the middlers, and don't care about their problems, in equal measures. They have nonetheless fashioned a clever political apparatus, whereby they pretend to listen to their support classes by taking their money and distracting them with elections. It is a banal and unremarkable observation, but: the middle classes are obsessed with it.

By comparison, our earthly lords and masters can be expected to be "persuaded" with violence, but only in so much as it gets their attention by threatening their wealth and property.

Since violence against one's better armed betters is always a dodgy prospect, at best, and generally a ticket to press gangs, prison houses and cemetery plots, as a norm - it should probably surprise no one that the compensatory middler response, the reemergence of the repressed, if you will, is the aforementioned belief that rights matter, and that yammering at the people with guns and money gets their attention.

May 2, 2012


I wanted to punch the young dude in the face the first time I saw him. It wasn't rational; I didn't have mystical hunches or anything, but I felt a demiurge towards violence. I saw his creepy, vaguely Tartar blue eyes, and I had to choke down a strong, pleasing compulsion to punch him in the peepers until he bled from his ears.*

Lots of motherfuckers could use a punch to the face bones; it's not like I think I'm the one who has sanction to deliver the fist shaped gift.

My wife, upon meeting him several weeks later, told me that she was pretty sure there was something wrong with him. "Dead eyes," she said. "Dead motherfucker inside."

I told the weary boss man, a friend of more than two decades. He chuckled a bit, but I could read the perturbations in his brow. Shut up, shut up, shut up broadcast in forehead wrinkles.

"There's something about him," I said.

"Nah. I think he's a good kid."

"Nope. I'm telling you, he's all bunched up wrong inside."

"Leave it alone, Jack."

"Okay, man, but..."

...Wandered in to work, end of last week, trying to figure out how I managed to get an extra shift on the next few weeks.

Mr. Creepy was off the schedule. Staff talking in euphemisms. I didn't want to know. I don't need clutter in my brain space. I get results on Friday, maybe a death sentence. I don't need to care about why a fish-eyed leerer isn't coming to work anymore. Whole shift passed, and I manage to elude the whispered gossiping.

"Matter of public record," a co-workers tells me, today. I don't normally have to work Thursdays. Was trying to get ahead of the deliveries, figure out what I needed to do different. Mr. Heebiejeebies comes up, 'cause I'm covering a shift for someone covering his shifts.

"I don't want to hear scuttlebutt," I said. "Don't care. Don't want to know." But I can feel it's something. Something which validates the original need to break his face into puzzle pieces of former facial features.

"Matter of public record."

Fuck me. I know I'm going to google-fu his name, the minute I'm told.

I get through my day. Youngest to karate we can't afford. Oldest harangued into playing his instruments. Me, finishing laundry.

All the chores done, kids to bed, wife off her feat and trying to sleep - I sit down to type his name into little window with the magnifying glass, top right on the screen.

Rape. Of a minor younger than thirteen. Forcible rape. Assault and battery. On a child. Rapes which go on for four years. According to the court documents, it takes her a decade to work up the courage to report him. It takes another six years for the case to wind its way through the courts, until a decision is reached which allows him to be prosecuted. Six more months before he has to go home to face his accuser.

Fifteen years. Fifteen years that girl had to wait to seek the pale shadows of justice and make her peace with the leavings left to her.

I'm an anarchist. I don't think in terms of cops and judges and lawyers and calibrated punishment. I prefer the unmediated. The immediate. I reject the sham of justice, the same way I dismiss the damaging fictions of gods and money and the State. Believing them makes material, but that doesn't mean they're concrete.

Fifteen fucking years.

Fuck that. That shit is cruelty made flesh.

Maybe I'm too facile about violence, but fucking aye, I can't help but believe that giving her the space and the acceptance for whatever retribution suits her needs is so much better than sacrificing more than half of her life in the pursuit of a fiction of justice. She ends up the sacrifice, that way. That's the way of justice. To sacrifice the victims again and again, as a justification for the power accrued to those who arrogate for themselves official punishment.

She has had to endure, while he wanders free.

He got fifteen years of respite and reward. She got what?

I know some of what she's had to face. The way it weighs down on the medulla itself. How thoughts and emotions are reshaped around the seed of violation. Living with the death of trust. With the intimate knowledge that nothing is restored. Love transmuted into vigilance. Vigilance always sharing a border with violence. Playful touches faked, because it's all so much labor.

It took her a decade to accuse.

That can't be held against her.

But his fifteen years of unearned life can be held against him. They ought to be. Maybe not with prisons and worm eaten words about justice.

I'm thinking the guillotine. Or a noose. Or being repeatedly run over by a forklift.

Maybe, instead: a sacred place. Made holy by its profanity. A place where victims can bring their violators. Where they can, like Maenads, tear Pentheus limb from limb over and over again. A single Pentheus. A thousand thousands of them.

A whole new religion, even. 

Spreading like spilled wine and wilding fires.

* - in the interests of disclosure, he is belligerently Jewish. You know the type. Militantly Hebrew. With anti-drug paraphernalia on his personal items of clothing. A straight edger Zionist. But that doesn't usually fill me with the need to launch an uppercut. I write about the justifications for violence, but I'm fairly shy, retiring and measured out in the meat life of public existence. Angry Jewishness doesn't offend. It embarrasses, like a bad joke told poorly and with no sense of timing. Comedic schadenfreude might follow, but not violence.