Saturday, August 17, 2013

The latest word

As Andrei Codrescu wrote in his prescient book The Disappearance of the Outside:

The notion of community has been stripped of its direction. No longer does community - any community - stand outside the State, in direct challenge to it. All communities have been reoriented through a neat trick of generalization to become the State, an electronic Superstate that is a combination of traditional nationalism and electronic globalism. When community was a means of resistance, it was constituted to point from the inside out: it proceeded from a center of internal concerns to make progressively wider contacts with the outside world. The community redesigned by the State points inward: it is a producer of silence. (sic, 197)

In the era of the Web, we might now add, yes, but it is a voluble silence.

Inseparable from this social damage is a very personal damage. The Web is the largest, most sophisticated diversion machine in human history. As entertainments always have, the Web diverts us from thinking about how empty we are. As Pascal wrote, "The only thing that consoles us for our miseries is diversion, and yet this is the greatest of our miseries" (6). We fill ourselves with the Web's chatter and the Web's busyness, but when our laptops and smart phones are taken from us we are thrown immediately back into our ancient human anxiety about being nothing. If we can't text, and tweet, and email, we discover ourselves to be ontologically empty, just as we've always been. And so, in a panic, back to that cold digital embrace we return.

William Carlos Williams, just one more time: "It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there" (emphasis added, "Asphodel" 161-162).

We are creatures of lack, manqué, as Sartre put it grimly. The Web reassures us about the hole at the center of us by providing its endless chatter. The leveling effect of Amazon makes even the best intended artist or thinker a mere "content provider" for that hole whether she likes it or not. Even this essay succumbs to that implacable dynamic, God help me.

Linkage - via wood s lot.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ten years of blogging

Ten years. That is a long damned time.

A few observations:

1. When I began this blog, my main motivation was just to add one more voice to what I guessed was a chorus of people who were fed up with the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, with George W. Bush and the neocons in general, and the increasingly draconian Homeland Insecurity state that had been imposed starting just two years previously. Oh, and of course there was the frustration with Faux News - I'd been subjected to way too much of that just weeks prior to starting the blog. Bush is now a distant memory, Faux News is increasingly becoming a punchline to jokes, and that is all well and good. However, there is the matter of US meddling in other nations' affairs (and always the threat of more military adventurism), and Homeland Insecurity is worse than ever before contra the hopes harbored initially by liberals/progressives that a president representing their party would change all that.

2. The term "lefty bloggers" was always a bit of a misnomer. Not that actual leftist bloggers did not exist. On the contrary, there are quite a number of leftists (Marxists and other anticapitalists of various flavors) who have run consistently well-written blogs, and undoubtedly will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Rather, the term was rather over-used to include bloggers who were largely pro-capitalist and generally okay with US imperialism as long is it was their own party members in charge.

3. I suspect that back in 2003, a lot of us were looking for anyone who at least seemed remotely skeptical about the War on Terra, and of Bush (or any of another of then-contemporary right-wing leaders). It did not take long to realize that all we had in common was a common enemy. That is hardly the basis of long-term solidarity. I have no qualms expressing my derision towards, say, 9/11 truthers (many of whom were essentially unhinged wingnuts), for example, or towards those who were against the sort of wholesale spying on citizens that occurred during the Bush years, but who now seem to be okay with it. Consistency does not have to be an absolute, but you have got to stand for something - otherwise you will fall for anything.

4. I have no use for single-issue bloggers, activists, advocates, or politicians. They tend to have no use for me either. No great loss, really. Too many fall victim to the first available con-artist who comes along. A lot of anti-war bloggers seemed to get caught up in the nonsense Ron Paul was spewing, simply because he made a few relatively antiwar votes and seemed to say a few of the right things regarding getting the US the hell out of Afghanistan and Iraq. The guiding principle of this blog during its decade can be summed up thusly: everything is connected to everything else. Being anti-war is great, but if your positions are ones that would lead to greater organizational and structural violence against your fellow human beings based on race/ethnicity, gender, impoverished socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc., you can count me out. I would argue that the positions taken by Ron and Rand Paul and their followers would do more harm to real live human beings than any wars currently being conducted at the behest of the Pentagon. The kindest thing I could say is that the Pauls and their followers were very occasional useful idiots who long ago lost their usefulness.

5. If someone had told me a decade ago that there would be a resurgence in interest in socialism and communism, I would have been, to put it politely, extremely skeptical. And yet, here we are today with a reawakening socialist movement globally in the aftermath of the economic meltdown of a few years ago. I accepted long ago that a socialist future was not an inevitability, but something that would have to be struggled for and defended for the long haul. As the old saying goes, the struggle continues. It'll be a while before a socialist movement reasserts itself on the scale it once did in the previous century, but there is a legitimate hope that its foundations are being laid as we speak.

I am sure I could say more. I'll probably never blog again with the frequency with which I once did back in the early days. Hopefully, something posted here on this obscure blog made a difference to someone. Maybe the opportunity to make a difference - even if on a very small scale - will continue to exist for a bit longer. Rather than say goodbye, an old friend of mine would often end an evening by just saying "hang in there." It was his catch phrase, I think. Said it to everyone. It's got a ring to it, don't you think? So, on that note, hang in there.