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I was reading a paper by a friend of mine, John Hartigan, a professor who teaches anthropology and sociology at the University of Texas in Austin. In it he shared this:
"In my classrooms, I ask students to look around at their peers and try to describe the range of skin tones present. It is quickly very apparent that 'black' and 'white' don't cut it—there is too much variation—and that really what we use race to do is classify people into a small set of categories."
His paper is about the value of genetic studies of Neanderthals, and how our attempts to distinguish between "us" and "them" are becoming more and more fruitless as we learn more about Neaderthals' very human behaviors. The illustrative anecdote about his classroom is a lead-in to a discussion about race being socially constructed. But implications in his paper evoke a world of errors we make in dividing groups in ways that flatter ourselves, whether we're aware of our biases or not.
My last Moment of Truth laid out the case for viewing supporters of Donald Dump as fitting Karl Popper's description of the intolerant, whom those in a tolerant society ought not tolerate. I ended with a tiny bit of irony, I like to think, saying, "Really rub their faces in your decency," or something like that. I think such irony was appropriate to a paradoxical premise like not tolerating the intolerant.
There is certainly behavior that is not to be tolerated, and some betrayals of rational discourse qualify as intolerable. Some Dump supporters seem to rely on bad-faith discourse as a way of propping up their bad-faith politics, and their continued devotion to a demagogue who evinces vile, corrupt, and self-serving behavior on a daily basis.
The Failing New York Times, which recently posted its most profitable quarter in years, hired a writer of color, Sarah Jeong, who, it was discovered, had tweeted a large volume of bile against white people over the years. One example was something about having no sympathy for the deaths of white people. Another said she enjoyed being cruel to elderly white men. She's no Hari Kondabolu. They were flat statements, not even couched in wit. Not couched in anything except the fact that she was of Korean descent. Which for some people wasn't enough couching.
Articles damning her and leftist intolerance were trotted out from the recent past or created spontaneously in response. The most salient arguments were that anti-white rhetoric on the left, especially in academia, where most of these writers' ire is directed, is not only rampant and doctrinaire in a quasi-religious sense, but also serves the elitist project of stigmatizing "out" groups, who haven't learned to internalize the left's cultish rules. And one of the main "out" groups is whites of a lower economic class. Basically, anti-whiteness is not really anti-whiteness, because "woke" whites (i.e. elite whites) can espouse it with logical consistency in "woke" culture. Left anti-whiteness is really anti- poor-whiteness. It's elitist, and serves to keep poor white people, as well as speech that would challenge left political pieties, out of the academy. Education is one of the gateways out of poverty. The left is supposed to want to end poverty. They're hypocrites.
There are a few things wrong with this calculation, and the worst is that it is a calculation, and not a true concern about upending the economic power structure that keeps poor people poor. Andrew Sullivan, one of the complaining writers, is hardly a socialist, or even that interested in redistributing wealth more equitably. The exercise is really just finger-pointing and assertions of hypocrisy meant to tar the left with the brush the left is supposed to be using to tar capitalism. The right who call the left hypocrites are the real hypocrites.
That doesn't mean the argument lacks validity. That doesn't mean certain left and left- academic scenes aren't de facto churches with dogmas of anti-whiteness and anti- maleness. I know firsthand that some are. But the academy is no more monolithic than humans are. I also know the reverse, people fighting against the white and European- centered bias in fields like Medieval Studies, where they're struggling coherently and earnestly against power in academic organizations that seem disingenuously clueless about their exclusion of people of diverse identities, as well as ideas that challenge the White European near-monopoly on the narrow definition of what their field can be about. Those legitimately challenging these white patriarchal bodies find themselves dismissed, tarred with the brush of political correctness.
Most who've matured out of the hazing, backbiting and virtue-signaling in any leftish political scene look on simplistic, arrogant political correctness today with generous pity. That generous pity is, admittedly, patronizing, but it's hard not to be generous to those whose hearts are, at least ostensibly, in the right place. Yet it's equally difficult not to be patronizing toward unreasonable, self-destructive people. It's that or take them down a peg, and let me tell you, no one but a smug billionaire is higher on their peg than a leftist who knows all the right things to think and say and is ready to tell you what they are at the slightest provocation. It may be hard to admit – it's certainly hard to discuss in any depth with the unreasonable – but the left, like any group of people, has its share of sycophants, egotists, manipulative jerks, conformists, mindless yes-people, self-righteous fools, and those who simply enjoy being mean for personal reasons. The left is just people. And many of us are wrong about many, many things. And we assume we're not wrong because we're on the side of good. You know, the way Evangelical Christians do.
There are those who will say that this is my white privilege talking, and I'm not one to doubt the many obvious and hidden benefits accruing to me by my being white, so I'll just repeat ideas I've heard many black socialists aver: class solidarity and critiquing the economic power structures that oppress us all is key to building an effective resistance and to creating change. Yes, they are power structures that assuredly favor whites, but not whites alone.
Socialists who ignore racism and other strains of systemic and quasi-systemic xenophobia do so at the risk of failing vast numbers of powerless people. It's a historical truth that's been assimilated into current leftist discourse, if not always leftist action, and the socialist commitment to seeking and empowering diversity needs to be continually maintained by all. But leftists who get distracted from the battle against the actually powerful, the massively destructive powerful, as opposed to the "coded" powerful or the "linguistically" powerful or the "micro-aggressively" powerful (who of course replicate the oppression of their oppressors – and make no mistake, poor white people are oppressed) – leftists who somehow don't believe the patriarchy can be replicated by non- white and non-cis-male oppressors risk failing, and thereby losing the solidarity of, vast numbers of powerless people, and not just white ones.
It's necessary for people of color and queerness of all kinds to talk about and act against the oppression they experience every day in white hetero-normative society. History shows that, otherwise, their oppression will be ignored by white hetero-normative leftists. But it's equally necessary that the left never allow our focus on the power that comes from control of material wealth to waiver. It's time for our species to outgrow the need for abusively unequal distribution of resources. We have to do it. We should have done it ages ago. It's killing vast numbers of people and animals and plants.
When the left shrinks the many categories of humans down to "us" and "them," we're also replicating our own oppression. Some of us are subverting it in this way. But if you're not careful, if your subversion is shallow, then you're at worst a problem to your comrades, at best a mere cartoon. Cartoons are great for agitation and propaganda, but most problems in the world require complex thoughts, strategy, and a soupçon of finesse.
The fact is, it's fun to be mean, blunt, and stupid. It's hilarious. It's one of the great comic tactics. Being mean to yourself and being mean to others. And, let's face it, white people are horrible. Even when they're nice, they're horrible, because behind their niceness, or around it or inside it, whether perceived or actually there, is a brutal, imperialist oppressor offering small pox blankets. Somewhere around or behind or inside me is an inbred, possum-eating, lynching, backwoods redneck of every civilized person's Deliverance nightmares. When I go to eat Chinese food in Monterey Park, I'm actually forcing the proprietors of Chengdu Taste to build the railroad from the Mississippi to the Pacific. And, hey, no one puts a gun to my head in the morning and says, "Be white today, or else." It's my choice.
It might be as hard for a white person to be a true ally as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. But people are capable of doing difficult things. And even Neaderthals were people. The differences between you and your enemy might not be as great or as many as you might like to think.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
The late champion of liberal democratic rationalism, Karl Popper, said, "[I]f we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them... we should claim the right to suppress [the intolerant] if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument[.]"
Two groups are at odds these days: the MAGAts, and everyone else. MAGAts can often be identified by their red baseball caps with the words "Make America Great Again" in white letters above the bill. The caps are worn to protest the loss of US manufacturing jobs to China, and are manufactured in China. Not true, according to Snopes. But believable. Truthy!
MAGAts don't always wear hats. They can also be identified by their ideological and aspirational fealty to a sleazy real estate developer, who was born with a fake Rolex on his wrist and mentored by Senator Joe McCarthy's scummy lawyer, Roy Cohn – himself such a caricature of a slimy shyster that even the swarthiest Jews in the arms-for-blood-diamonds business are offended by having to share a cultural identity with him. This sleazy real estate developer, who goes by the name Donald Dump, sports a comb-over of bottle-blond fibers that renders his appearance a perfect metaphor for his moral character as well as his aesthetic taste. Donald Dump found Liberace's domestic decor understated.
MAGAts believe that immigrants and other foreigners, rather than the finance industry, overweening corporations, and self-aggrandizing mega-robber-barons, are to blame for workers' depressed wages, buying power, and standard of living in the United States, and they've finally elected someone as their Leader who will not only feed them this line of monkey gland sauce they find so delicious, but even take bold steps to put on scattered Lysenko-esque showcase versions of remedying what is actually not the problem.
In a global civilization slowly killing itself with fossil fuel emissions, industrial fertilizer and cattle farts, MAGAts believe the answer to all their problems is a bloated John Jacob Astor/Benito Mussolini hybrid reviving the coal industry, so that we may return the once great American sky to its once great condition as a gray- black death shroud over London during the industrial revolution, and thus complete the Dickensian metamorphosis of our ostensibly free society.
They believe making America great again means turning it economically and environmentally into 19th century London, with the gun laws of 19th century Deadwood. And they believe a man who is physical unable to utter an honest sentence, who bilks and abuses those who work for him, who pays women he has extramarital intercourse with to keep quiet about it, insults the appearance of others in the most juvenile way, and gets a giddy kick out of denying manmade climate change, the moral repugnance of neo-Nazis, the veracity of the first black president's birth certificate, and any other self-evident truth he senses his supporters would enjoy hearing him deny – this is the man MAGAts believe will return the United States to the mythical god-fearing, upright, chaste, polite society of their nostalgic Country Time Lemonade delusions, a place where white people will be able to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, in dignity. Everyone else, they believe, deserves poverty, prison or to be exiled and terrorized in a former colony of one the great European empires.
MAGAts believe that white people – white men, especially – are being uniquely shafted under an ethos that rewards gays and black people with special rights, like the rights to marry, attend decent schools, and vote. MAGAts are classically bigoted, in the Klan and National Socialist mode, against non-whites, non-Protestants, non- heterosexuals, and non-men. Finally, they are overjoyed by a political leader spouting overt disdain for the rights of human beings to due process, liberty, and the right of the press and the people to dissent, while his rhetoric emboldens the neo- fascist elements in our polarized culture.
So it's only natural that we should hate them, given the hate they have for us and the BS they back it up with. When one of them – take Alan Dershowitz, for example – bemoans being shunned by his former friends, or another of them fantasizes the injustices they would endure were they to drive through a so-called "liberal enclave" with a MAGA bumper sticker, they are met with anything but sympathy by decent society.
Why a MAGA bumper sticker, anyway? Why not something pleasant? Like a bumper sticker that reads, "I Love You, Sardines?" and then drive their car into the ocean and bring the fishes, who work so hard to feed us, a little warmth into their cold, salty lives? They should do something generous, if only from a publicity standpoint. Sure, it's a scary neighborhood, the sardine part of town, but if you spend a short eternity there you'll see sardines are just like you and me. Take the plunge.
Is it rude, is it uncivil, to shun, stigmatize, and hate the MAGAts? Aren't we just as bad as they are if we ostracize, berate, or clobber them? No. We will never be as bad as them. That's the point. They are worse than us. They believe untrue things, and are even jazzed about embracing and spreading ugly untruths that support their fascist beliefs. They want to continue believing that pursuing their version of America, the 19th Century London-Deadwood version, is going to be good for everyone, and if not for everyone, at least for those who play by their rules: admit that white people and men are the best people, Christianity is the best religion, and a blatant and not even very clever liar is the best President. These are beliefs we must extinguish from political acceptability. MAGAtism must be oppressed, discredited, mocked, and eradicated wherever it appears.
I know I'm preaching to the choir, but I also know that this choir has a tendency toward empathy. When it comes to MAGAts, their leaders, and their sloganeers on Fox News Channel and elsewhere, you must fight your tendency to forgive folly. You have to pause, take a deep, mindful breath, realize what these motherscooters are trying to achieve, and lash out irrationally and with unabashed fury. There is no reason to consider their point of view. There is no value to any of their sob stories. Anyone might have an almost identical sob story, yet somehow not have allowed it to turn them into a fascist idiot. There is no room for compassion. No time for it. No reason for it.
If there is a god, Donald Dump is her most botched creation. What was she going for? A duck? A pig? How did human DNA get in him? Was he conceived by a human mother and father? Or was it a mingling of fractured chromosomes suspended in a syrup of rat pus, cockroach urine, and rapist sputum, injected into the anus of a armadillo rotting alive from radiation poisoning? But that would mean he and Ann Coulter are siblings.
That's right, choir, don't be cowed into tolerance. Don't let yourselves be beguiled by the resemblance between MAGAts and Homo sapiens. Work on dehumanizing them in your mind's eye. Imagine having the opportunity to inflict suffering on a MAGAt, or a whole family of MAGAts. Offer no quarter. Demonstrate no compassion unless necessary. And I mean absolutely necessary. Like if you think you're being filmed.
Of all the things that are in short supply right now, kindness is the resource of which we are most in need. Don't waste it on MAGAts. Of course you will pity them. They are self-destructive fools. Of course you will be moved to tears by a MAGAt who has lost their home because a heartless multibillionaire couldn't be bothered to pay his fair share of taxes or his workers a decent wage. Your heartstrings will be tugged by the tale of a MAGAt who has had to file bankruptcy due to medical bills but still insists that a single-payer system will turn the USA into Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. And yes, most MAGAts have more respect for human dignity than Donald Dump has. It would difficult to be as horrible a person in any respect as Donald Dump.
If a MAGAt is drowning, should you throw it a rope? If a MAGAt is choking on a Tic- Tac, should you give it a charitable Heimlich? If a MAGAt child is about to eat a Tide pod, should you prevent it? Yes, yes, of course. We're not heartless, after all. We're not made of stone, or of MDF, that compressed fiberboard that MAGAt hearts are made of. Just remember, don't take your humanity too far. But if you have a chance to both rescue a MAGAt from certain tragedy and gloat about it, I say, really rub their faces in your decency.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Talking with some of the regulars at Lily's Coffee at the Laurel Canyon Country Store Monday morning, I was led to an epiphany of sorts. You know how I love my epiphanies. We were talking about how pet philosophies seem to wear out their usefulness after a while. Obviously this isn't something that troubles philosophers who spend their lives developing their thought shenanigans, but for those of us groping through the fever of our lives, merely splashing our faces with philosophies here and there, who don't have the time or desire to dive deep into the currents of thought, for us a thought-pool like Existentialism or Stoicism, used as a handy refresher of perspective skimmed off the surface of better thinkers' deeper explorations – well, we go through these like Wet Wipes. Because we're not plumbing the depths of ideas, we're busy working and sweating and eating spare ribs or barely eating anything and getting all sloppy, and we just want something to wipe off the day's accretion of schmutz.
Whenever I think I've got the tiger by the tail, and keep swinging that tiger around, knocking obstacles out of my way, day after day, I eventually find the tiger doesn't swing the way it used to. My grip on the tail loosens out of habit, or maybe lack of mindfulness, and the tiger itself becomes emaciated and moth-eaten. Eventually I'm holding nothing by the tail. The tail itself has dissolved. The obstacles don't comply, and they're different somehow. The landscape has changed. Finding a new tiger doesn't help, can't get the same grip, it's just no good swinging tigers anymore.
As with mental constructs, so with systems and objects in the material world. After many a strike, the subtle rotation of the wrist no longer gets the bowling ball into the pocket. Musical styles begin to wear on the nerves. The car wears out and croaks a dusty death. To a hammer everything looks like nail, but everything isn't a nail. It never was. That way of seeing only stood the hammer in good stead temporarily. Approaches and equipment need to be refreshed and renewed.
Amish Tripathi is an Indian author of adventure fiction, known best for his first series of books, the Shiva Trilogy. He asserts that the initial novel, The Immortals of Meluha, began as a treatise on the nature of evil. How did the immortals of Meluha become immortal? Easy! They drank the somras, the elixir of immortality.
The somras was discovered in an earlier age, but the Meluhans figured out how to manufacture it. In manufacturing it, though, they polluted the rivers and created an underclass of monsters with whom they refused to share either their somras or the bounty being immortal brought. They also took all the good land and diverted the polluted rivers into the underclass areas. It's all this big-ass allegory, although for Amish Tripathi it's also a truth based on his Shaiva bhakti beliefs.
A cosmic principle emerges from the history of the somras. Anything, no matter how good at the beginning, becomes evil eventually. By their nature, people keep doing what once worked, over and over, even after it stops working. Like democracy in the United States. It's not something you can tweak and fix. Eventually the thing is so broken and has accumulated so much evil that it must simply be destroyed, and a new system or ambrosia or source of wisdom or energy be found.
In the Hindu stories of the sourcing of the Amrita, the immortality elixir, the Asuras, or demons, are tricked out of receiving the Amrita. So even in the original history, the somras or equivalent thereof was derived in an unjust way.
Let's say capitalism is our somras today, and the system has accumulated so much negativity as to be all but useless, except to the minority of humans amassing immense wealth. This is a simplistic analogy, but as always with these epiphanies, bear with me. Capitalism was born out of colonialism and mercantilism, and some of its early negative features were wars of conquest and slavery. Negative features which have continued to this day, it turns out. Conceived in injustice, and accumulating injustice.
But what if it was the very injustice that was the system? It certainly seems that civilization was created on the backs of slaves and workers, built on their corpses.
Historically and prehistorically, some small, arrogant class of people has always managed to figure out how to profit absurdly at the expense of everyone else. It began long before Homer sang, before Gilgamesh sought Enkidu, before the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, before the Polynesians set sail to discover their islands.
A subgroup of any larger civic entity will select a special person to declare their loyalty to, defend that person's or family's designation of specialness, and enforce it on others. And maybe there was at one time something excellent about the special person. Genghis Khan was an excellent horseman, apart from his prodigious horniness, charisma, and enthusiasm for violence. Or perhaps there were better horsemen. What he excelled at most was raising armies.
Each generation felt they had found the best measure of merit according to which they would hoist one or another person to a throne. Kings deserved the throne because God had chosen them. Popes, the same. Caliphs and Emperors had valor or skill in war. In the mercantile age the cleverest, most risk-taking, and luckiest traders and investors accumulated their merit in the form of coin.
But I think we can see from the current leadership all over the world that merit has little or nothing to do with where in the social hierarchy one finds oneself. The top people today suck at being people, much less leaders. God, they're worthless. All they do is suck up wealth and hoard it in their unconscionable oodles and scads.
From where did the notion come of rewarding meritorious people with material goods, anyway? Aren't honors enough? Isn't the adoration of the public enough? Do you really require more and better food, housing, education and medical care than someone unlovable and disinclined to swordsmanship or software design? Perhaps there was a shortage of the necessities of life at one time, but now there's not, and if there were, we're ingenious enough to fix it. I understand rewarding people with awards and affection, but cheese? Carrots? Linen? Plaster? Floorboards? How many floorboards does a nurse merit, and how many does a brain surgeon merit?
And how much education does the child of a shipping magnate merit, versus the child of a garbage collector?
I suppose, at one time, material incentives spurred on inventors and rewarded the clever, along with the undeserving but lucky. Today, though, I'm pretty sure that everyone who has a roof over their head is luckier, not better, than someone who doesn't. I don't see them meriting the roof more than the roofless, and in any case it is entirely within our power to house everyone, if people like, say, an Arizona Senator would give up 6 or 7 of his houses.
But I don't imagine for a second that we'll pry the property of those with too much from their fists. Not even their cold, dead fists. What I imagine is that we have exhausted this moronic system of often arbitrary rewards and it's really just running on fumes. Albeit a whole lot of fumes. Those who would never think to deny the hungry their right to eat, or the workers their rights to organize for better conditions, are on the verge of losing all patience with those for whom it seems so important to withhold help to the unlucky. It's just tiresome. Stop making the situation worse, that's where we'd like to start, at least. But even the middle and lower classes massacring the upper would be just a tweak to the age-old evil system of grotesque accumulation at the cost of lethal poverty. The evils of the old system always seem to be replicated in the new one.
The advent of the corporation, the sole purpose of which is to accumulate wealth, and grow to a size so inconceivable that human beings can no longer correct its destructive behavior, seems to have brought civilization to this intolerable condition, where an army of people and machines under the banner of Exxon or Cargill or Chase Bank takes commands from their abstract beast which only desires to eat and grow, regardless of the damage it does. The transnational corporation is the idea of the king of old, grown pathologically huge and mindlessly voracious.
Eventually we're just not going to do that anymore, I guess. Not take commands from the obese demons. Maybe a new reflex will be born in us from the ashes of the world we're destroying. A reflex that causes us, when we see a subgroup of us lifting some sparkly young Turk just a little higher than is reasonably justified, to put a stop to that somehow. I know, it's hard to stop a bunch of slavish jerks when they get started, especially when the chump-king they've created makes of them an aristocracy, which of course requires a police force to protect them. But if it really is possible for this system, grown so evil, to die, however violently, it will require a different set of reflexes, at the very least, to initiate something truly different in its aftermath.
Or maybe it will always be this way. Mediocre systems, created through injustice, will seem to be benefiting most people, or be advertised that way, then little by little the people they don't benefit will become more visible, the system will reveal itself to be ever more insupportable, top-heavy with wealth concentrated in a worthless class of bloated leeches who marry themselves to obese abstract shark demons and ravenous robots, that top-heaviness will swell to a hideous and comical size and explode in flames from its own gaseous inflation, and come crashing down on top of the hapless mortals below, burying us.
Then again, maybe there's always been pretty much the same level of misery ever since the world began. I'm not wedded to the system-outliving-its-usefulness idea. Maybe that idea itself has outlived its usefulness. I'm flexible. It's reality, after all. There aren't really rules. Just circumstances that change, and lives that struggle and dance and taper off to a quiet end.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
First of all, allow me to apologize: I apologize. Thank you for allowing my apology.
Now, imagine a driveway up the spine of a hill. The top of the hill is a plateau, surrounded in every direction by an abrupt drop-off, so the only way up or down the hill is the driveway. Otherwise, it's a cliff on all sides.
There's a gate at the bottom of the driveway with a combination lock. When you leave the plateau area, you lock the gate. When you want to enter, you first have to unlock the gate, open it, and drive your car up to the top of the plateau. You can leave the gate unlocked until you leave.
Imagine that, when you leave, you have to back all the way down the 45-degree, narrow incline, and it's a pain in the ass because the space between the gate posts is just a little wider than your car.
After you back through the gate, you get out of the car and close and lock the gate. Then you drive off to wherever you want to go. Hamburger Mary's. The library.
But what if you were backing down, stopped the car and got out and locked the gate before you had backed through it? You would have locked yourself in, at least until you unlocked it and let yourself out.
For some reason it struck me as ... striking... that if you do something before a certain spatial/temporal line is crossed, it can cause some inconvenience. If you try to light the burner before turning on the gas, it will not light. If you try to do brushwork before dipping your brush in paint, you will not apply pigment, but only hear a mild scratching noise at most.
Physicists and stoners have long wondered about the arrow of time. What is it about our limited perception that makes us experience time as moving only forward? I would like to ask: what about the arrow of space?
Events have a spatial sequence, not just a temporal sequence, and our rootedness in space, our experience of space as keeping locations separate from each other, is intimately tied to our experiencing time as keeping moments separate from each other. Time and space are metaphors for each other in that sense.
Time has an end for humans. It's when we croak. Space has the same end. When you're out of time, you're out of space. There was no time in your life when you skipped over a few inches of space. Your lifelong trail through space is as continuous as your trail through time, and at the end of life, you run out.
If you could experience time out of sequence, you would also be experiencing space out of sequence. But you can do neither. You can be missing some time from your life, if, say, you black out. But the spacetime before the blackout will be earlier than the time after the blackout, and the time and space in between can be reconstructed if you exert the effort. Like they did in the movie, "The Hangover."
Okay, what about teleportation, which seems a bit more feasible than time travel, which currently doesn't seem feasible at all. Let me address this technological speculation: first, if an object could be turned into a signal at point A and then back into the object at point B, it would still have covered the distance and taken the time, just in the form and at the speed of a signal. If somehow teleportation were achieved through quantum entanglement, and the object could appear instantly at any point B, well, I regret to inform you I am barely competent to engage in the discussion we're already in the midst of, so I can't really say, but my feeling is, we would probably solve the time-out-of-sequence problem at the same time as the space-out- of-sequence problem. There's a reason for this, but I would have to Google it, and I'm not inclined to do so. I'm sure it has something to do with particles not always being when and where you'd expect them to be, that Heisenberg thing, I'm guessing.
The real lesson here, assuming there is one, is that you can cause yourself a lot of trouble by doing things in the wrong order. You could lock someone in a bank vault by mistake, and have to wait till the end of the three-day weekend till the vault- opening person showed up. In a world where space could be traveled out of sequence, the poor sole in the vault could just blink themselves outside. But then, what good would a vault be if people could just blink in and out of it?
The idea of the bank vault relies on our sequential limitations. If you could get the money out before they closed the vault, you could rob the place blind. The vault principle assumes that time and space must be experienced in sequence, from now to later, from near to far.
But when you think about how quickly technology is progressing, it's a pretty flimsy idea, the bank vault. All it would take to defeat it was a small change in the nature of a person to adhere to sequential reality.
There's always the mind. You can remember the past, and you can remember faraway places. And you can imagine things. Some say that imagination is the mind remembering the future. You can also imagine a future place. In fact, there's really no way to imagine a future time without simultaneously imagining a future place. How would that work otherwise? Would you just imagine a future date? Like a number on a calendar? Well, that calendar has to exist somewhere. A date is really just the name of a date. An actual date is attached to a place, duration, actions, feelings, temperature, threats, pleasures... y'know: stuff.
As it stands, the slightest error in keeping your actions in order, temporally and spatially, can have dire consequences. Don't shut the vault before you leave! Shut it after you're outside of it. You could be the person who's going to come up with the cure for the boogie-woogie flu! If you starve to death in the vault, humanity might just perish from wantin' to holler when the joint's too small.
Anyway, just a friendly reminder that time's arrow is also space's arrow. They're the same arrow. You can't get from Monday to Wednesday without going through Tuesday, just like you can't get from The Village to Central Park without going through Midtown, unless you're crazy or a good swimmer or have a lot of time on your hands. And when it comes down to it, who has surplus time? No human, that's for sure. And you've just burned a few minutes of yours listening to this drivel. For that, I apologize. I probably should have apologized in the first place. I think I'll go back in time and do that.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
There were several momentous legal cases heard this week, one about gerrymandering, one about public unions, one about keeping Muslims out of the country, and it was clear they were going to require careful consideration and intense analysis by the nation's most vital legal minds. Instead they were heard by the Supreme Court.
I'm appalled by SCROTUS, the Supreme Court Republicans of the United States. They're awful. And there are officially going to be five of them now. They're rotten, those SCROTUS.
I'm here to complain about Mitch McConnell stealing the Supreme Court seat from Obama. I'm here to say what everyone is already thinking and saying. But I'm here to say it on This Is Hell. I'll tell you what I think about Mitch McConnell. Now, if a Democrat had done a version of what Mitch did, and thwarted a Republican jerk from appointing a rightwing ideologue to the court, I would've said, Good job, comrade! Except, in Mitch's version, Obama wasn't a particularly left-leaning president, and Merrick Garland, whom Obama put forward as a sop to the GOP, anyway, was no left ideologue. But apparently being reasonable, compromising, polite and black are not things the GOP will allow to go unpunished. How many times did Obama learn that? Or, rather, experience it, because he never seemed to learn anything.
No Democratic leader would refuse a president his constitutional right to nominate a justice for a newly-empty seat, and, not since FDR at least, would any Democrat ever commit such a blatant violation of Constitutional and Congressional norms regarding the court. Certainly these days Dems wouldn't dare poke the GOP hornets' nest. They're keeping their powder dry. They got so much dry powder they don't know what to do with it all. And they're keeping it dry until the end of the world, which they think will be sooner if they keep their powder dry enough. Keep the powder dry to hasten the end times.
The GOP on the other hand is willing to burn their powder at the drop of a hat. They'll do anything to get what they want. The Dems are ready and willing to do nothing to get what they want, despite having done nothing, and yet not having got what they want. All the Dems have is a surplus of dry powder, over which they've erected a bulletproof dome to make sure it never ignites. Dry powder for dry powder's sake. There might not really even be any powder there. I've never seen any evidence of it. Maybe powder is like mental acuity: if you don't use it, you lose it.
Now waffling Agony Kennedy is retiring. Say goodbye to Constitutionally protected abortions. Thanks, Obama. Say goodbye to what's left of the voting rights act, organized labor protections, and Muslims getting visas. Oh, wait, that already happened this week. All right, well, say goodbye to freedom of the press – I mean, we weren't using it much anyway. It was just sitting outside, chained to a fence post, getting rusty in the rain, and someone even stole the seat and the front wheel. But have no fear, at least our powder's dry!
You know what you can do with that powder? Put about a foot's depth of it in a bucket, mix it with some water, put your feet in, let it harden, and throw yourself off a pier. It's the same result as keeping your powder dry, only quicker. And your surviving kin can reuse the bucket!
At least we won't have to hear Dems bellyaching about everyone having to vote for one of their Wall Street candidates for President out of fear of the court turning solid conservative. What's the point now? The court is a mess. You got Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Gorsuch, and ... I'm guessing... Stephen Miller. Maybe David Duke. Thomas, who just sits there waiting for the conversation to be over, Alito, who's like Scalia without the personality, Roberts, who's like a cop, and the next SCROT will be a race theorist, I'm sure.
Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan are the last remnants of reason on the court, and Ginsberg is in a race with Clarence Thomas to see who can live longer with their pre-existing condition, old age on the one hand and spiritual morbidity on the other. Kagan and Sotomayor will live forever, or at least until the rightwing patriots start assassinating anyone with an opinion that doesn't line up with the new pledge of allegiance, which says you agree to the superiority of Christianity, the dollar, and the white race.
It really is a worry, this fascist regime. There's already a plague of violence being perpetrated by cops and unstable white post-pubescent fledgling misogynist fascists. Be prepared for it to get worse. You hear? Be prepared for the violence to get worse. You know, these are violent, easily-misled people. There's always a huge percentage of violent, stupid, thoughtless, confused people in any nation. And eventually, thanks to whatever system that nation has for installing crooked imbeciles to rule its acreage, a prize-winning dancing swine of exceptional greed, mendacity, and shameless grandstanding inevitably gets his tiny hands on the tiller, willing to incite with lies and vicious rhetoric the cruel and cowardly of the land to take to the streets and punish the innocent.
And it's coming. It's started. Black people will tell you it's been going on forever, but that's just because for them it has. So they're biased.
But as already-here as it is, more and worse is coming.
For some of you this will mean getting into fighting shape. Or maintaining and sharpening your battle skills. For people like me, it means being prepared to cry and bleed and run and hide, sharpen my first aid skills, my bedside manner, and refresh my memory of recipes for preparing dumpster food and road kill.
I'm not saying we won't win. I'm saying I will be injured, and our new socialist candidate for Congress with undoubtedly be shot at by at least one 20-something white man. Remember all the people they assassinated in the 50s, 60s and early 70s? Guns fever.
It hurts to know that so many of our fellow citizens are willing to scapegoat helpless people. It hurts to watch our children, our journalists and friends murdered in cold blood. It hurts to get beaten, so I've heard. It hurts to have your child or your mother taken from you by belligerent authorities who are accountable to no one.
Because, when it comes down to it, who would hold them to account? The president's a vicious, vain idiot, useless for anything. Our legislature is made up of crooks who buy and sell influence, certainly worthless as a safeguard against tyranny, which they have shown they're all too willing to welcome. And now the final domino of the judicial branch has fallen.
Dump is a man who never met a deadly sin he could resist. And now Agony Kennedy is retiring, allowing Dump to seat another pervert on the bench. Let's see if the worthless, impotent Democrats, who are as complicit in this fiasco as anyone, can muster a show of resistance. It'll be half-hearted, though. It's beginning to seem a lot like Republicans are just the party that happens to be thuggish enough to carry out the crimes the Dems are fine with but too genteel to commit. For all the lack of energy they devote to stopping the GOP, they are rewarded a thousand-fold in lack of results. Which seems to suit them just fine. Let the GOP be the enforcement arm of the Democratic party. Dry powder is their brand.
The worst is yet to come. Crappy days are here again. Vulgarity is just around the corner.
It suddenly occurs to me that I may be overreacting. Dump hasn't even nominated anyone for Kennedy's seat yet. It may turn out to be another Souter, someone for whom the principles of law are more important than the ideology of the creature who nominated him. Or it could even be some great Mahatma, whose grace and gentle example of compassion will move the SCROTUS to change, to free their minds and attain enlightenment.
Yet have you read the three female justices' blistering dissenting opinions on the current decisions? Especially Kagan's on the Muslim ban? Have you read Justice Kagan's blistering dissenting opinion on it? I have not. I heard it was blistering, and I didn't want to get a blister.
But can even a Mahatma or a Thurgood Marshall succeed in expanding the stunted souls of the SCROTUS where these three mighty women have failed to make even a dent in their stolid skulls?
There's a lot of wishful thinking there. I like wishful thinking almost as much as I enjoy positing the worst. It keeps the mind nimble and the heart from sinking. Try it. But don't get too optimistic, unless you're a fan of crushing disappointment. I'm going to get back in shape for crying and bleeding. I'm already bleeding money, so that's a start.
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The Jews, my people. Such a stiff-necked people. You want to own the Holocaust, I get it. You don't want to share the word "concentration camp." Yeah, that makes sense. Those little children at the southern border aren't being forced to do labor, so we can't call them labor camps. They're not being exterminated or worked to death, so we can't call them extermination camps or death camps. We can call them "internment camps," because it's like they're in prison. But not concentration camps? Because that's our word? Even though they're being concentrated into a camp? That's not enough for you? You think they invented the concentration camp just for Jews in Europe in the 30s and 40s? I won't go into the historical error you're making, there's a Slate article for that.
What I'm going to beat you up about is, just don't be so morally superior. Don't hold your suffering over others. We're on the verge of losing the special victim status associated with the Shoah, and holding onto "concentration camp" doesn't really help. All over Europe and here in the US, new rightwing nationalist groups are firmly establishing themselves. It's not just anti-Semitism they're peddling, either, it's anti-foreigner, whatever they decide a foreigner is. And I want them to know that, if they're concentrating people in camps, or if they're beating people up, or making anti-foreigner laws aimed at "strengthening the borders," whatever they want to call it, it does resemble the rise of fascism in Europe in the 20s and 30s of last century. This is what it looked like.
They want to say, "Look, this is a special problem, these Latins or Muslims, or whatever, so a little nativist suspicion and anti-immigrant rhetoric here or there is okay, it's not a sign we're on the slippery slope toward Hitler, Franco, Vichy or Mussolini. Let's at least rehabilitate love of country! Our country for us! America first. Is that so bad? At least we're not keeping people in concentration camps." Bee ess. It's the same old fascism they're constructing, and if you aren't behind calling them out for their attempts to put a white Christian dictatorship in place of our nominal democracy, take your silly asses home. Don't worry, they'll come for you later. Want to wait till you're packed into a cattle car to Wyoming to call them what they are? More fool you.
And my black friends, is it really so important, as we're heading down the street to beat up the KKK, to stop the conversation and talk about the white privilege of those marching beside you? I believe it's necessary to remind everyone of the very special racist dependency the US has, and capitalism has had, since the beginning, on the owning of, domination over, freedom to murder, and dehumanization of black people. We must know this, it's important knowledge. We have to know all the details of capitalism's crimes if we're going to tear it apart and build a new thing that doesn't commit the same ones. But right now we're swinging baseball bats, can we just be one force as we wade into the ocean of creeps?
And everyone, do not forget the singular structure of the Holocaust. It was the systematic dismantling of citizenship and status as human. Very instructive. Instructive how definitions transform the humanity of people. Yes, from the beginning, when black people were brought as slaves to labor in the Americas, back in the 16th Century, they were defined as less than human. And they're still defined that way in the USA today. But how does such a thing start? Watch how quickly an otherwise stable society of citizens can choose one characteristic and define as subhuman any group bearing it. Watch the lead-up to the Nuremberg Laws. And Jews, look at the Black Codes. Wonder how a cop gets away with an obvious murder right there before your eyes on video?
Remember. And listen. Remember. And listen. We're all targets of the fascists. We teachers, we queers, we advocates of the poor, we whistleblowers, we women, we white Christians who resist. Shonda Rimes is many things: a producer, a performer, and contingently a first-class citizen, when she's in the right room. What would it take for her economic privileges to be stripped entirely from her, when white male privilege officially becomes the only privilege? Will it be Whitelandia? Will it be Atwood's Gilead? Shonda knows the signs of current racism. But will she see the signs of a coming Kristallnacht? I assume she will. She's astute and aware. Let's all be that aware.
So can we not, with the hypotheticals? I know, that was just a hypothetical, but just bear with me. "If he'd been white, he'd be alive today." Probably. But does that change anyone's mind? All a fascist has to say is, "Not my cousin, the sleeveless tweaker." Or just make up some lie. Or another hypothetical just as imaginary, if not as persuasive to someone who already agrees with you.
Last week we talked about how pride and heroism were hallmarks of the ongoing Black Captivity. Black people are both victims of oppression and heroes that triumph over it, and it would be absurd to ask them to relinquish either aspect. On the other hand, the Jews of the Holocaust, though there were many heroes among them and much brilliant and brave resistance by them, are hanging onto their special victimhood, and not without reason. It's crucial that we not lose sight of the unique break with a certain type of functional peaceful civilization that the rise of the Nazis became. It's like when someone goes from being a functional alcoholic to a full-on raging drunk. Or some white community goes from being everyday racist to wiping out an entire black city in Oklahoma. It's an important change to recognize!
No, nationalism is not okay. Walls are not necessary, unless you seek to abuse people on the other side of them without the repercussions being felt within your borders.
We need to learn from all oppression and all resistance to it, and we can't afford to divide our ranks when Dump decides it's an emergency and we must forego elections for now, at least until this or that issue is resolved.
From the moment the founders allowed slavery to exist in the new nation, the Constitution was infected with a fatal flaw. Black people are still suffering from it. Jews, is it as important to you to hold onto the word "concentration camp" as it was for the colonies to hold onto slavery? Are you willing to scuttle the possible triumph over tyranny so you can continue to profit... from what? What doth it profit a Jew to maintain a monopoly on concentration camps?
From the moment the founders failed to guarantee economic equality to all, the Constitution was infected with a fatal flaw. The poor are still suffering from it. Is it really necessary, person of color with a place to live and a salaried profession, to tell a white working-class woman that she's privileged? What doth it profit you?
And while I'm at it, hey, dude, is it really necessary to assert "not all white people" or "not all men," when people who are not white or men are trying to address, or even just point out injustice? Just ask yourselves, all of you, is it necessary, or is it petty? I know sometimes others seem petty, but just think how much less petty you are by not engaging them at that level.
But if you're really just a petty person deep down, think of this: by keeping silent, you're actually being patronizing, because you know that bringing up your petty thing will be too much for them to ignore, and lead both of you into a fruitless battle of pettiness. See how superior you are, saving them from that? It's all in how you look at it, ya petty prick.
We need everyone. If you could get all the victims of barely restrained capitalism to march with all the victims of white privilege and all the victims of queer-phobic discrimination and violence, and all the people against gender discrimination, and all the men and women who would rather do something worthwhile than merely contribute to the girth of a stockholder's portfolio, and all the people who oppose war, you would have a confrontation to end all confrontations. There would be no stopping us.
We have to start calling out the needless use of victim identity to make useless points. Oh, sure, it's easy for me to say, I'm white. Well, then I guess the conversation is over, because I can't not be white. At least not till the cracker army notices I'm a Jew.
We need the heroism and pride inherent in the resistors of the Black Captivity and other ongoing systemic oppression, and the stigmatizing indignation of the righteous victim of the unique historic moment, to sound the alarm when the Cross starts to bend its arms into a swastika.
From the moment Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, our government declared it official policy that treason was permissible for those of a certain status. From the moment the Supreme Court made its decision in Bush v Gore, we saw the last pretense fall away that the Constitution was a functioning safeguard of the people's voice in choosing who occupied the top executive office in the land. From the moment Mitch McConnell refused to even hold a hearing for a nominee for SCOTUS brought forward by the first black president of the United States, we saw the racist far right tear the dry paper mask of the rule of law from the already fleshless face of democracy.
Whoever was supposed to look out that such things not happen, the Democrats, the press, or us, allowed them to happen. Now the slope is so slippery we can't get a grip. We'll need to salt it, carve stairs in it, or just burn it down, to even get back to where we started, which isn't where we want to be anyway. So let's agree to disagree on all but this: things have been wrong and getting more wrong at least since the rightwing assassinated the threats to their power back in the 60s. We're going to make a whole new, better, more inclusive, equal, and kind society. And we're not going to let petty differences divide us. No, not all the differences mentioned above are petty. But almost any difference, no matter how serious, can be wielded in a petty way by a small-minded person. Don't be that person!
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Last week I talked about the artifacts by which we remember both the Shoah and the Captivity of black people in the west. This week I'm going to talk about their comparative aesthetics. The Shoah is mainly urban, industrial, scientific, Norse, Protestant, art deco, sado-masochistic/black leather, red, black and white. The slavery chapter of the Captivity is mainly represented in earth-tones, with hints of blue, and the dripping green of kudzu, rural, agrarian, folk, Southern Baptist, sun- dappled, outsider and itinerant artsy, colonial, linen, and bondage sadist.
The biblical character Moses figures in the liberation theology of both, though ironically more so in the Captivity than in the Shoah. The Shoah's iconography of liberation tends more toward the Maccabean than the Mosaic. Although there are both armies and solitary figures of liberation associated with both mass atrocities, in the Shoah the main figures of resistance, the partisans and the Allies, are armies, akin to the Maccabees if anything biblical, and the downfall of the bureaucratic/industrial enemy is a military one; while Harriet Tubman, guiding her people to freedom through the Underground Railroad as the Moses figure of the Captivity, looms large; liberation depends on the courage and perseverance of individual heroes in the face of interpersonal if pandemic human hatred, hatred that was enacted anew every time an individual crime against dark-skinned humans was committed.
While the portrait of Nazism is painted against a background of policies and laws under which a dormant, innate anti-Semitism was enabled to emerge, giving a great multitude of Europeans permission to commit the crimes they'd always wanted to commit, the institution of slavery was considered the economic end, the means to which was the manipulation of hatred that turned people against their better natures, although this diagram of hatred has since transformed to one more closely resembling the Nazi license model as the Captivity has moved from its slavery phase into its Black Codes, Jim Crow and current carceral/more obviously genocidal phases. Does society make us racists? Or does it merely allow us to act out our inborn hatred of the Other? The answer isn't limited to those choices, especially now that we no longer diagram human nature as reducible to a solid or binary thing but as a spectrum, and a fluid one at that.
Considering the question of why the Shoah has so much cachet and attractiveness in the media imagination versus the Captivity, you could point to the urban and industrial setting of the main chapters of the atrocity against the Jews, the relatively brief and discrete amount of time the Shoah is popularly considered to have begun and ended, the whiteness of the victims, and the fashionableness of the perpetrators.
The SS were stylish in an art-deco fashion. The art deco eagles and lightning bolts and skulls gave their entire project the air of putting a modern spin on an age-old psychopathy. Nazism seems a perversion of style, a perversion of art, of industry, medicine, science, and government. Perversion is hot.
Slavers, on the other hand, had abominable style. Colonel Sanders is not a trend- setter. His outfit was not designed by intellectuals with an eye toward cool and sleek. And the hick or hillbilly style of the overseer and the sweaty, night-raping master is hardly the stuff of sex clubs, the dominatrix, or anti-authoritarian bikers or Finnish homoerotic illustration – it has not transferred to TV and movie coolness, sexiness, and leisure pleasures, however perverse. The most fashionable things to come out of slavery are Frederick Douglass's look and the Henleys worn by runaway male slaves in the TV show "Underground." The entire wardrobe design for "Underground" was excellent, but especially those Henleys, and it's a shame the show ran for only two seasons, as it might have infused slavery with a little more style.
Another missed opportunity was the ill-fated but brilliantly, and perversely, titled "Birth of a Nation" of 2016, which was buried by the tone-deaf response of director Nate Parker to accusations of rape. That the rape itself was the true tragedy would go without saying, but one has to say it, because it's gone without saying for so long no one even misses its mention anymore. In discussions of entertainment and the aesthetic questions of persecution, actual crimes are often concealed and lost in the folds and textures of the spectacle.
This is not to say that fetishizing the beautiful bodies of black men and women hasn't been inherent in the Captivity, from the actual advertisement, appraisal and sale of those bodies in historical reality to their titillating appearances in schlocky exploitation movies. And, although there is a thread of discourse that attaches the most dehumanizing racism to white objectification of black bodies, the overall aesthetic appreciation of those bodies as athletes, dancers, models, and simply examples of human beauty, is viewed today as virtuous, as black voices have become and continue to be more integrated into the mainstream of critical discussion and the popular arts. This is opposed to the popular view that the sexualizing of Nazi imagery and derivative bondage fashion is a perverse, impure indulgence, and of course there is nothing beautiful about the victims of Nazism, Spielberg's male-gaze- heavy pornographic disrobing of Jewish women in the Auschwitz shower scene in "Schindler's List" notwithstanding. The Nazi attracted to the genetically filthy Jewish woman can hardly survive in our culture, although it does have an analogue in Jungle Fever, and other fevers, the racist attraction of white men and women to the "exotic" and "savage."
The singular fact is, the Captivity narrative says that black people are proud of who they are, are strong and beautiful, which pride and beauty fed the hatred of the inferior white oppressor, who envied black excellence, fetishized it, longed to dominate it, either own it or destroy it. Black people are the heroes of their oppression narrative, too strong and beautiful to be allowed freedom by the white world. No wonder black nerds love "The Incredibles."
Jews actually fear this type of narrative spin, as much as they also desire to add it to the Shoah story. The idea that Jews had greatness and therefore Hitler found it necessary to crush it borders on blaming the victim, or worse yet, playing into the age-old and still-current trope that Jews are sinister geniuses who have actually always engineered all the misery the goyim experience, and, well, maybe they should be exterminated. Maybe they even brought it on themselves purposely to cash in on victimhood!
The poetics of black strength, beauty, talent, and genius in the face of oppression may be what holds the Captivity story, as a story, back in comparison to the Shoah. The Shoah is about victims surviving, by chance, not merit, the industrial, stylish, sexually psychotic machine of extermination and genetic purification. The Captivity is the story of brilliant beautiful people achieving psychological and physical liberation through their power and will, and only partly by chance, if at all.
What makes this a weakness is not merely the way it's perceived by the racist story- consuming public, or the continued albeit dwindling dominance of the entertainment industry by Jews, though we cannot by any means discount these forces. It's also our current preference for stories that reflect the futility of fighting against fate and God and a heartless, unfair world. Stories of coming to terms with futility are very fashionable. They're considered a challenge to dogmatic religion, to the doctrine of temporal retribution, to social Darwinism, and therefore more mature than stories of triumph. Listen to Terry Gross's recent discussion on Fresh Air of Paul Schrader's new movie, with the now old and venerable Schrader and the appropriately aged Ethan Hawke.
Ironically, with everything else going against it, the story of Captivity suffers from the shallowest of narrative concerns: happy endings are for babies. But since the Captivity still continues, its captives have little choice but to confront it with hope. How else are black people to survive their ongoing persecution if they don't see themselves as heroes in the story? It's all very well for Jews to sing of their age-old victimization and being surrounded by enemies when they can always point to Freud, Einstein, and any number of celebrated intellectuals, the invention of Hollywood, making the desert bloom in an entire colonial nation they founded as recently as 70 years ago. If black people were to peddle that same notion today, while nations on their original home continent still suffer the repercussions of colonialism, and manipulations of post-colonialism, would be to tempt defeat, just as they're on the cusp of either gaining ground or losing it, a balance that we might wonder if the dominant economic powers would like to preserve.
The Shoah gains in comparison by having the clear defeat of its villain so many years in the past. With that under their belt, Jews can wallow in ambiguity and self-pity all they want. They know they've outlasted the biggest threat they'll ever face, despite their constant worry that it can happen anywhere. Yes, it can, but it's unlikely to happen to the Jews, or only to the Jews, or at least that's the popular understanding, these former victims of the world's greatest evil who now seem to have so much going for them.
Black oppression is global, institutional and ongoing, and in a very real sense it's especially harsh in the USA. Jewish oppression is regional, sporadic, and globally disorganized, more an acute mental and social infection than an entire economic system. Those differences feed different appetites in the dominant culture. Jewish oppression is perverted, stylish, powered by scientific and industrial tools and intellectual structures. Black oppression centers around misdirected virility, passion, jealous desire, powered by whips, sails, paddle wheels, quaint colonialism and plows. Jewish oppression is existentially ambiguous, which is narratively fashionable. Black oppression is heroic, which is considered not complex enough to be fashionable, especially as humanity faces extinction due to its own ingenuity. Even superhero movies were trying to downplay or complicate heroism for a while. Strangely, we're attracted to stories in which we're bound to lose, just when we need the opposite.
These aesthetic aspects are all insidiously backed up by racist and anti-Semitic tropes, some buried deep in the cultural collective dream and some more obvious but ignored or twisted or turned into memes or running gags on sketch comedy shows. But they're shallow concerns. Whose victimization is more sexy or sacred is a shallow question, but it does hint at persistent problems of privilege. The Jews have had a 3000 year head start, and although the Captivity began long before the Shoah, the Jews, partly due to whiteness, established an advantage in the business of imagery in the West that keeps them ahead of competing narratives of oppression. But the challenge represented by the oppression of black people is coming into a renaissance, black creators are establishing themselves more visibly and with more artistic freedom to play with genres, metaphors, and satire, as the Civil Rights movement and white resistance to it are struggling through their most recent iteration. If nothing else, there's going to be more great art. If anything, the Jewish cultural contribution is languishing, a ghost of its former post-war dominance. Tony Kushner is more a playwright than a Jewish playwright or even a gay playwright, While Donald Glover is a multifaceted black genius. The marvelous brilliance of James Baldwin is being revisited. Meanwhile, Phillip Roth is dead.
In part three, next week, we'll look at the re-emergence and future of anti-Jewish and anti-black movements: the nationalists and white supremacists, and how enemies of fascism might cut them down at the root.
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Several times I've heard and read complaints that the Jewish Holocaust is treated with more sanctity and inviolability in the media than slavery, by which I and apparently everyone else mean the capture, captivity and transport of black Africans from the African continent to the Americas, especially the United States, and their forced labor and unconscionable persecution here. Recently a friend of mine posted bitterly on the ol' FB about Kanye's record being the hottest one in the country right now despite his airing of the moronic and offensive opinion that slavery was the choice of the enslaved. This friend opined that, had Yeezy said the Holocaust was a choice, there would've been hell to pay. And he's probably correct. I say probably because it's a hypothetical situation, not because there's much doubt in my mind.
I won't go into the very valid reasons he came up with for this disparity. I'm more interested in how the Holocaust is perceived in the cultural imagination compared to perceptions of the Captivity, which is how I will refer to slavery per se, but also the repercussive subsequent persecution of black people in the USA. Though distinct historically, I think the various stages of the persecution deserve to be linked, and I think so because of things I've read and heard from black intellectuals and personalities and persons I respect, and because of evidence supplied by the behavior of white people around me, which seems to be worsening thanks to behavior and rhetoric of the current inhabitant of the White House.
I can already tell this will be at least a two-part discussion, so I'll confine this week's part of it to examining the amount and type of documentation of the Holocaust, or Shoah, and that of the Captivity.
From its first discovery by Allied soldiers at the end of WWII, the horror of the extermination of Jews and peoples of other qualities unacceptable to the Nazi culture revealed itself like a hidden shame. The Nazis did their best to keep their industrial mass murders a secret, fearing that even their own people, trained though they were to hate deviance from Aryan perfection, would balk at such massive horror.
And yet, being a supremely self-admiring bureaucracy, it was nevertheless considered essential to document the progress of the cleansing of the Reich. The Nazis destroyed all the evidence they could as the Allied victory became inevitable, but they'd done too thorough a job keeping track of their project.
Films of camps, of piles of corpses being bulldozed, photos documenting the entire effort from humiliation of Jews by their neighbors, children held at gunpoint, windows smashed, buildings burned, prisoners packed into cattle cars, prisoners laboring, starving, digging their own mass graves. There are documents recording the shipping, delousing, gassing and incineration of people, the reports of Nazi doctors, and the Stroop Report detailing in words and photos the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto. And there are the writings of the survivors, and the aforementioned documentation by the liberators of the camps.
That's what we have of the Shoah. Of the Captivity there's even more evidence. The slavers weren't ashamed of what they were doing, it was commerce, although they kept documentation of certain of their activities, such as raping, to a minimum. There are ships' manifests, diagrams of human cargo arrangements, advertisements for the sale of black people detailing their marketable features, for the return of runaway slaves, artifacts like shackles and chains, etchings and prints. Slaves were supposed to be kept illiterate by law, but despite the law, writings of slaves and former slaves document the kidnapping from their home, the appraisal and sale of adults and children for labor and breeding, the separation of families, the cruelty of overseers and owners, the destruction of culture, torture and mutilation, systematic dehumanization. If there are surviving films documenting this slavery stage of the Captivity, I'm not aware of it. It was too early in history for that.
After slavery, though, there's even more evidence. Ku Klux Klan members seemed keen to keep their identities hidden under hoods, but the pride of the many white people who hunted down black people, innocent or not of violating the written and unwritten rules of apartheid society, and tortured them to death, is evident in the photos on postcards and holiday cards they sent to their friends and family members, where they stand around the mutilated, burnt, and/or hanged corpses of their victims, flashing big, victorious smiles, as if they've won some athletic competition, or caught a big fish.
There's ample documentation of violence and ghettoizing from the beginning of the Great Migration north through today. There's photo-documentation and written accounts of white people, civilian and official, committing mass attacks on black communities, even destroying entire towns. There are videos of police killing black people under circumstances no white person would find coming to a lethal conclusion, albeit such records are often released by law enforcement only under public pressure. Much of this violence is documented by fellow black citizens. And there is a long record of the incarceration of black people far out of proportion to their demographic representation in the United States population as a whole. Most of us are familiar with evidence of the Captivity over at least the past sixty or seventy years, even if the non-black portion of the citizenry fails to keep it foremost in its consciousness.
All of this is by way of saying, it certainly isn't a disparity in the amount of historical evidence that might account for the supremacy of the Shoah in the popular mythos of persecution. We have plenty of evidence of both. But why do Yad Vashem and the other Holocaust Museums have such officially recognized gravitas and narrative cachet, while museums devoted to the mass crime of slavery are few and little known, and even the Smithsonian's National African American Museum of History and Culture only opened in this century?
Possible answers are hinted at in the discussion above, but certainly don't lie in the quantity of documentation. In describing the documentation itself, we're already touching on the quality of the record and the pictures it paints. Next week I'll talk about the differing aesthetics of the two mass atrocities. That's where the real fun starts.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Who among us has not said, "I hate this city" or "I hate this town" when an idiosyncratic characteristic of the place gets on our nerves? When the smell of urine in the subway station in Manhattan offends our nostrils, or the anti-Semitism at a bakery in Paris ruins our mood, or a West Hollywood transsexual prostitute's callous ridicule wilts our ardor?
And who among us has not said, "I hate this country" when a Trump supporter threatens to call ICE on a customer at TGIFriday's for ordering a margarita with excellent pronunciation, or in India when some martinet at the airport delays you in a bureaucratic hazing ritual for overstaying your visa by three hours, or in Australia after tripping over a homeless kangaroo in the gutter?
And who among us, when witnessing the cruelty of nature or humanity, disease or war or volcano or medical malpractice, had not said, "I hate this world" or "life's a bitch?"
Our love is like a ship on the ocean, and we're sailing with a cargo full of love and devotion. But the ocean is an ocean of lies. They call the United States a nation of laws, but it's an ocean of lies. The fish are tainted with it. We've spread it to the rest of the world, to an extent, but nowhere is the falseness more highly concentrated than here.
It begins in our education system, which has little to do with schools and everything to do with media. If education consists of all the information we pass on to each other, then we spend the most money by far educating each other about crap we want to sell each other. Financial services alone spent $17 billion last year educating us about how to make our money magically turn into more money. Think of all the blood and treasure that went into selling burgers and lotions and herbal nonsense and cars with autopilot that crash into the police for you.
"Wake up to what matters: Alicia Silverstone, With a New TV Show, Proves She’s Not Clueless." That was on the front page of the New York Times online last night. News that's fit to print? That's what matters? Alicia Silverstone? This will grow your hair back, make you slender, make all three, count them, three kinds of women pursue you down the beach. Everything is a sales pitch. And we're used to it. We know it's all lies, but we accept that everyone will lie to us. We acknowledge the farce.
The ads are bad enough, and there's the soft, elegant state and capitalist propaganda of the so-called responsible media, but there are talk radio stations and entire networks of rightwing garbage that are no better than the exhortations to buy or sell gold that punctuate their hour-long festivals of prevarication.
How can being lied to every second of every day not have an effect on how we deal with each other? Here, in the USA, the wild west of capitalism, you'd think that nothing is ever given out of kindness, only out of self-interest, the self-interest of the faceless organism whose stated purpose is to take as much of your money and give as little as possible in exchange.
It trickles down from the Mount Horeb of profit motive, swells into a mighty river of bootstraps, entrepreneurship, and rugged individualism, and spills out into the sea, where we are navigating between icebergs of disastrous Ponzi schemes and reverse mortgage ripoffs, all while the very water on which we float is lies.
Our love is like a ship on the ocean. But should our ship founder, we'll drown in lies, or be devoured by beasts that thrive in the medium of lies. They call them sharks. It's a testament to human psychological resilience that so many of us find trusting relationships with each other, surrounded as we are unto every horizon by lies, lies, lies.
We find friendships, self-esteem, creativity, poetry, we fight for justice, we question authority, all the while bombarded with false promises and con jobs. It really is a miracle. When you find someone who really cares more about their integrity as a person than about how much they can squeeze out of their fellow people, that is someone you treasure. And if you don't, you're drowning. How do you even live?
There are those who come at it from another angle, and ask, how do you live if you're not always looking to gain the most while surrendering the least?
Maybe these forces are opposed in each of us. Extreme altruism can leave you without the necessities of existence. Too little altruism and you're nothing but a selfish monster. If I am not for myself, who am I? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?
In a world 78% covered by an ocean of lies, though, Donald Dump is the perfect King Neptune. He arose from the ocean, and rules it appropriately, loudly exaggerating his abilities, making claims on which he can't deliver. No wonder his supporters continue their support. They're even more used to being lied to than the rest of us. Of course Budweiser isn't the King of Beers, the claim is meaningless. Of course Dump isn't going to make Mexico pay for an impossible wall, the claim was meaningless when it was made. These are the people who drink the commercials along with the Hannity and Dobbs. They drink seawater. And everyone knows that drinking seawater makes you mad.
Surrounded by mad, shrieking idiots drunk on the ocean, it's hard to remember the importance of the cargo we're carrying, hidden below decks. Sometimes we forget that the most important things are exactly the things moronic inspirational memes, despite their intensions, drain of real meaning. Hang in there baby, Friday's almost here. We have to cross this ocean, survive the lunatic wrath of Neptune, and deliver our cargo of love and devotion to the other shore. Not all of us will make it. Not all of the beauty in the world will survive unexploited or unmutilated. The world itself might end, or our ability to live on it. But what choice do we have?
I hate this world.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!