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Haven’t I Seen This Before? Protest in the Postmodern age of Extreme Capitalism

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I have often written about the tendency of late-stage extreme capitalism to sell back to us our childhoods and our histories. Put another way, it is a crude commodification of the past; a commodification of our own histories themselves. It is interesting how even our protest movements have recently succumbed to this logic: rather than come up with new ideas, even what attempts to pass as “protest” just rehashes the past. History most certainly does repeat itself.

On 24 March 2018 at the March For Our Lives Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter gave a speech. Like her grandfather’s, hers started with “I Have a Dream”. Sadly, unlike her Grandfather’s speech, nine-year old Yolanda’s left much to be desired: “I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world, period.” Beside the blatant utopic fantasy-land that Ms. King describes (“a gun free world”), it is more troubling that the American people are all-too-willing to use the past in order to further a neo-fascistic agenda for the future. Never mind that this future has nothing to do with the inclusive vision laid out in the original “I have a dream” speech; instead, it is a cheap attempt to use a nine-year-old girl for propaganda purposes. In any other context, this would be considered child abuse. Apparently, however, in the context of depriving American citizens of their constitutional rights even child abuse is not only tolerated, but encouraged, by the mass media.

Sadly, the entire “gun control” debate has brought back many more troubling comparisons with the past (even if The Washington Post doesn’t like to admit it). The most prominent member of the Parkland High School cadre, David Hogg, was seen making a Nazi-esque salute following his speech on 24 March. Of course, this should not be surprising given that Mr. Hogg’s sister also encouraged the wearing of armbands to show support for the anti-gun protests; that this “look” resembled the Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany was not lost on many social media users.

 

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An…Odd Salute. Image Courtesy Of: https://theminorityreportblog.com/2018/03/25/david-hoggs-salute-after-speech-causes-major-reaction-on-twitter/

 

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Regardless of One’s Political Position, The Resemblance is Disturbingly Similar. Image Courtesy Of: https://downtrend.com/donn-marten/david-hogg-models-new-armband-but-it-seems-its-been-used-before/

 

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Image Courtesy Of: Unclesamsmisguidedchildren (Instagram)

 

In short—and as an Instagram post by user “Unclesamsmisguidedchildren” shows—history has a way of repeating itself. Regardless of whether or not the gun control activists have valid arguments, their presentation leaves much to be desired. In fact, much of it bears a little too much resemblance to a dark past that those of us who value our countries—and our lives—would prefer not returning to. Regardless of your personal political opinions, we should all stand up to the creeping rise of fascism. Given that late-stage extreme capitalist society is merely selling our collective pasts back to us, it shouldn’t be too hard to realize that history has a way of repeating itself. Always remember, as Hannah Arendt notes in Origins of Totalitarianism, both the Nazis and the Soviets hated their countries due to their global aspirations . . .

 

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A Friendly Reminder From a Marginal Sociologist, Writing in the Spirit of C. Wright Mills: It Is The Job Of The Sociologist To Point Out The Absurd. Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States#/media/File:Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
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Road Tripping 2018: The Road Offers Both Individual and Social Catharsis in the U.S.A.

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At the end of (yet another) American road trip I am left in an all too similar emotional state; it is remarkable that—as the years go by—I feel the same at 31 as I did when I was 20 following a cross-country road trip. Sure there is the physical fatigue; the body aching from sitting from hours on end, the eyes tired from watching out for every little pothole and every piece of debris, the stomach reeling from one too many fast food meals. Yet there is also a very real mental pleasure that comes from endurance driving; I would argue that it is a pleasure that far outweighs the negatives of physical fatigue.

“Motoring”, to to speak, as a mental pleasure is a subject I have written about in the past (Please see here and here. Rarely in the modern world do we have a chance to be completely alone with our thoughts, devoid of the influences of our “smart phones” or computers. How long these days will remain ours, with self-driving cars on the horizon, is of course up for debate but it is a subject worth thinking about. That the road trip is a pensive experience is undeniable. That it is also very “American” is also undeniable. Indeed, Jack Kerouac showed just how the two are intertwined; the road trip is not only an exercise in individual thought, it is also an exercise in collective thought as well. For me, in the early days of the new year, I saw just how cathartic it can be.

On I-95 in northern New Jersey I watched the New York skyline drift by to my left, the city which, at the dawn of the last century, would become a model for urban areas the world over is now slowly decaying with each American Dollar being spent abroad on foreign policy intrigues which offer little tangible benefit to the American citizen. Meanwhile, ahead, the smokestacks of American industry send plumes of smoke into the frigid northeast sky. How much longer these industries—the bed rock of American wealth—will remain “American” is an open question as the country continually outsources industrial jobs while (attempting) to transition to a service economy, complete with under-employed servers at restaurants and white collar workers with Master’s Degrees whose main responsibility could be as banal as forwarding e-mails for eight hours a day.

 

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“On I-95 in northern New Jersey I watched the New York skyline drift by to my left . . . ” . Image Courtesy Of The Author.

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“Meanwhile, ahead, the smokestacks of American industry send plumes of smoke into the frigid northeast sky . . . “. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Off I-95 in the American South I found that antique shops have become one of the main tourist attractions in rural areas which have been devastated by the attacks on American industry. As industry moves overseas, the production of raw materials has similarly collapsed. A little later, in South Carolina, I stop by the “tourist trap” that is South of the Border, a kitschy attraction built in 1950 on the North Carolina/South Carolina line to (perhaps) offer some respite to families from the monotony of endurance driving. Yet, according to State Media’s Washington Post, South of the border is “Un-Pc”, even “racist”; the author compares it to Donald Trump for its offensiveness, racism, consumerism, and garishness.

 

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“Off I-95 in the American South I found that antique shops have become one of the main tourist attractions in rural areas which have been devastated by the attacks on American industry . . .”. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Of course, the offense took by the Washington Post staff writer is part and parcel for mainstream media in the United States these days; it is much easier to hate than actually take the time to wonder. It is one-dimensional thought at its finest in the offended states of America.

Perhaps it was the weather; the snow on the ground—in front of a beach shop advertising Myrtle Beach—made an already absurd place even more absurd (as if such a thing were possible). Yet it is possible, because this is America. This is a country in which car culture—and the road tripping that goes with it—is embedded in us as Americans. This is a country that expanded westward (with all of its unfortunate violence), this is a country that was founded on the ethos of “the open road”. How much longer will tourist traps like South of the Border exist? Children no longer need to alleviate their boredom on the road with kitschy tourist attractions, they have their ipads and iphones and TV sets in the headrests of their parents’ Suburbans and Escalades. Yet, while this may be convenient (for parents), it denies children the chance to experience one of the magical things about road trips: Understanding their own country. In the past, kids might have played games in the car—like spotting license plates from different states. In the past, kids might have–**GASP**–gotten out of the car at a road side attraction in order to actually interact with someone living in a different part of the country. All of these actions, in the past, served to reinforce one very real thing that the social engineers in academia and the media have tried to deny over the years: It is that America does, indeed, have a culture.

 

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South Of The Border is an Absurd Place Made Even More Absurd By the Snow on the Ground in South Carolina. Perhaps the Ice Cream Shop Was the Only Shop Whose Image Was Enhanced by the Presence of Snow Below the Mason-Dixon Line. Images Courtesy of the Author.

 

Whether or not this culture is “good” is not up for debate here; I would be the last person to argue that rampant consumerism and extreme capitalism are good things for the human soul. And, like French Sociologist Michel Foucault, I would hesitate to argue that anything is inherently “good”; what is good for one person may not be from another person’s perspective. Rather, I argue that there is—and must be—one thing that ties us together as Americans, whether we live in Seattle, Washington or Bangor, Maine; San Diego, California or Minneapolis, Minnesota; Amarillo, Texas or Ocala, Florida. That one thing is, of course, our culture—and a respect for it.

On this particular road trip, I was taken by the fact that our car culture is very real; I was able to drive 1,200 miles (almost 2,000 kilometers) without having to use my horn once (as someone who has driven in many different countries, and undertaken many road trips in the United States, this is no small accomplishment). There is, for most people at least, an unspoken respect that driving on an Interstate highway produces: We are all going somewhere, individually (as Americans are conditioned to do) and let us try to interfere as little as possible with others who are doing the same thing (another thing Americans are conditioned to do). Perhaps this is a throwback to an earlier America, a time when one of the country’s major news outlets—like the aforementioned Washington Post—was not owned by a corporate leader like Jeff Bezos (of course, this fact alone should make people think twice if they think The Washington Post is an independent news outlet working in the best interests of the public: it is not).

As I drove on, the miles of rural America flying past me like the pages of a flipbook, I certainly had ample time to think. I thought about how America, in its vastness, can make a person feel small, powerless. Perhaps for some this is true; perhaps that is why we see so many Americans seek solace in identity politics. Yet for me, it is quite the opposite. In a smaller country, a citizen can be content with their role as citizen-receiver; the country is small, the people are more or less homogenous, the citizen can live their lives in (relative) assurance that the state has the ability to look out for them. In the United States, on the other hand, the country is big and it is far from homogenous. Yet this offers the individual a chance to be big as well. It is up to you, the citizen, to act on the purported values of your country. Every individual has a responsibility to treat their fellow citizens with respect, fairness, equality, and dignity. In a big country, every individual must—everyday—act on the purported values of their country by supporting small businesses in their community, opening the doors for fellow patrons and—yes—obeying the rules of the road. The state will not do this, despite how many times it may recount the virtues of “freedom” and “democracy”. It is up to the individual citizen to ensure that “freedom” and “democracy” are more than just words.

This is what true nationalism is. It is not blind patriotism, it is not accepting everything the state says with unquestioning loyalty, and it is not the chauvinistic idea that your country is somehow “better” than the rest. Rather it is an active attempt to, everyday, make life easier for one’s fellow citizens, for those with whom you share a living space, regardless of which particular identity they may have at any given moment. As John F. Kennedy once famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. It is these values which unite us as Americans; it is these values that are the ties that bind us and these values which are stronger than that which seeks to divide us. In other countries as well, there are certain values which unite citizens; although the era of globalism has tried to erode these it is up to individual citizens—regardless of their nationality—to embrace their country’s values and their country’s cultures so as to resist the impersonal forces of global capital which contend with the nation-state for the citizens’ loyalties.

 

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John F. Kennedy. Image Courtesy Of: http://chatafrik.com/special/memorable-speech/ask-not-what-your-country-can-do-for-you-by-john-f-kennedy#.WlRx0jOZPRg

 

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It is Up to All of Us, Regardless of Where we are From, to Explore Our Own Countries. It Is Also Our Responsibility to Assist Those Who Travel to Our Countries, Since International Travel Is Also Necessary For Gaining a Useful Perspective On the World. Image Courtesy Of: https://mxd.dk/mxd-viden/a-brief-overview-of-the-us-music-market/

Politics Meets Sports in Alexandria, Virginia: What It Says About the State of The United States

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On 14 June, 2017 American lawmakers were attacked in Alexandria, Virginia, while practicing for—of all things—a baseball game. In the incident, House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise of the Republican party was seriously wounded along with two police officers and an aide. It was disgusting evidence of how deeply divided the United States has become in recent months, and that it should come in preparation for a sporting event makes it even more upsetting.

 

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The Gunman Shot From the Larger Circle (Top), While Mr. Scalise Was Wounded at 2nd Base (Small Red circle). Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/14/us/virginia-shooting-congress-scalise.html

 

The suspect, who was killed in the incident, is a left-wing (I will say nut job) from Illinois, James Hodgkinson. What were some of Mr. Hodgkinson’s activities listed by the BBC, other than living in a van? Campaigning for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders in the November 2016 election, assaulting his foster daughter, and punching his foster daughter’s (female) friend in the face. Clearly, the man was not exactly an upstanding citizen; he was characterized by his daughter’s friend as “crazy” and his former lawyer as “a very irascible, angry little man”. So why have some politicians in the United States not condemned this attack as they should? Why would some outlets—like Rolling Stone —report that this tragic event has been turned into a debate on gun control?

Perhaps it is because many individuals in the American political system—particularly on the left—are blinded by ideology. It may be that some misguided politicians are implicitly sympathizing with Mr. Hodgkinson’s “resist” rhetoric of “resisting” President Donald Trump. Many on the American left believe in the universality of “resisting”, whatever it may mean. Concerning universalities, philosopher/sociologist Herbert Marcuse wrote in 1964 about:

 

…[A] very forcible reality—that of the separate and independent power of the whole over the individuals. And this whole is not merely a perceived Gestalt (as in psychology), nor a metaphysical absolute (as in Hegel), nor a totalitarian state (as in poor political science)—it is the established state of affairs which determines the life of the individuals.

                        Marcuse, 1964: 207

 

In the United States currently, the “established state of affairs” is one where the
“left” (the Democratic party) is for gun control and the “right” (the Republican party) support the right to bear arms. According to this rhetoric, the “left” is morally superior while the “right” is morally reprehensible. This means that many politicians on the “left” are unable to break away from the universality—the ideological position, in this case—that defines them. They may implicitly even believe that “resistance” is right in the context of “the established state of affairs”; that unarmed civilians (although they are lawmakers, they are still civilians like you and I) were targeted in a heinous attack seems to not matter when it can be turned into political gains. Such is the cynicism endemic in American politics today.

For the “left”, resistance can only be resistance against Donald Trump and his policies. This is, of course, absurd. In the following passage, Marcuse shows the nature of why such universalities—and definitions of abstract concepts like “resistance”—are problematic:

 

Talking of a beautiful girl, a beautiful landscape, a beautiful picture, I certainly have very different things in mind. What is common to all of them—“beauty”—is neither a mysterious entity, nor a mysterious word. On the contrary, nothing is perhaps more directly and clearly experienced than the appearance of “beauty” in various beautiful objects. The boy friend and the philosopher, the artist and the mortician may “define” it in very different ways, but they all define the same specific state or condition—some quality or qualities which make the beautiful contrast with other objects. In this vagueness and directness, beauty is experienced in the beautiful—that is, it is seen, heard, smelled, touched, felt, comprehended. It is experienced almost as a shock, perhaps due to the contrast-character of beauty, which breaks the circle of everyday experience and opens (for a short moment) another reality . . .

Marcuse, 1964: 210 (emphasis in original)

 

By loosely substituting the word “resistance” for “beauty” in the preceding passage, we can better understand the current state of affairs. “Resistance” is a noun, just like “beauty”. It can be interpreted by individuals by its definition (as provided by uncle Google): “the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument”. This, of course, does not mean that the concept of what constitutes “resistance” need be the same for those on opposite ends of the political spectrum. What is important to realize is that the American “left” does not have a monopoly on defining the concept of “resistance” any more than any group in society should have a monopoly on defining what constitutes “beauty”. Once we understand this, we can begin to see why it is simply wrong to interpret the unprecedented events of 14 June—an assault on elected officials by a political opponent—as anything related to “resistance” or even partisan issues like “gun control”. It was an attempted murder, there need not be as much division over this event as there has been.

That this particular left-wing nut-job targeted a sporting event should come as no surprise either in this climate of political division. Sports is typically used—on the surface at least—to bring people together. Stadiums, on any given day, often host people from diverse political, racial, religious, sexual, and socio-economic backgrounds; in this sense sports can transcend differences. Indeed, the Republican-Democrat congressional baseball game has been played since 1962, and the first game was in 1909. As the BBC notes,

 

Baseball – and, in particular, the annual congressional baseball game for which the Republicans were practising – has long been a refuge for many in the nation’s capital. The contest is one of the last vestiges of old Washington, where politicians on both sides of the ideological divide can put aside their partisan differences and socialise together.

 

Attacking events that symbolize unity (like sporting events or concerts) has long been a trademark of terrorist groups: remember the Kurdish terrorist attacks on a Turkish stadium in December 2016 and the ISIS/ISIL attacks in Paris (2015) and Manchester (2017). Just because the perpetrator is an American “progressive” and Bernie Sanders supporter does not mean that this shooting was not an act of terrorism. In fact—amazingly—a counterterrorism analyst at the left-leaning American channel MSNBC even encouraged a terrorist attack against one of Donald Trump’s properties in Turkey, a country I know very well. MSNBC employee Malcolm Nance Tweeted a picture of Donald Trump’s Trump Towers in Istanbul with the text “This is my nominee for first ISIS suicide bombing of a Trump property”.

 

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The Fact That Mr. Nance Has a Job In Journalism Is Unforgivable. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/04/19/msnbc-counterterrorism-analyst-nominates-trump-towers-in-istanbul-for-an-isis-suicide-bombing/

 

Beyond being a disgusting provocation for violence in one of my countries, Turkey, Mr. Nance’s Tweet is a perfect example of the kind of vitriolic hatred that is rife in American “progressive” politics; they seem to believe that their desire to “resist” Donald Trump absolves them of all guilt and that it is impossible for them to say such absurd things. This is the problem with universalities. No political position has a monopoly on morality; morality and ideology are very separate things. To confuse the two only leads to more problems and more divisions within society. The United States is going down a dark road—some commentators have already begun talking about civil war as a possibility—and one way to turn back from this dark road is to stop believing in universalities. That would also necessitate less reliance on ideology, a position I have not seen those on the American “left” ready to embrace.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States#/media/File:Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

Fascism in the United States? Both Football Fans—and Journalists—Seem to be Looking in the Wrong Places

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Antifa Fans at a Colorado Rapids Match. Image Courtesy Of: https://sports.yahoo.com/news/trump-presidency-created-quiet-anti-fascist-movement-americas-soccer-stadiums-225443656.html

 

A few weeks ago a friend alerted me to an interesting article written by journalist Leander Schaerlaeckens. The article, from Yahoo Sports, is titled “How Trump presidency created quiet anti-fascist movement in America’s soccer stadiums”. While Mr. Schaerlaeckens correctly recognizes that “[s]occer stadiums have historically been hotbeds of political sentiment”, he fails to question why this movement has risen. Mr. Schaerlaeckens takes the easy route by regurgitating media tropes:

quietly but surely, “antifa” – as the anti-fascist movement is broadly referred to – is on the rise in American soccer stadiums. This is a direct reaction to the current political climate in which the far right has made very visible inroads since the election of President Donald Trump.

 

Without bothering to engage the issue critically—like a journalist should—the author goes on to quote a supporter of the New York Cosmos’ (a second division team in the United States football pyramid) Antifa fan group “Metro Antifa”, who says that:

 

The election of Donald Trump has made many people feel scared, like they do not belong in our country. We want to show all Metro supporters that we do not care what your ancestry is, what your skin color is, what your sexual orientation is. If you support the same club we do, you are more than welcome to stand with us without fear of exclusion.

 

While this particular fan’s intentions are certainly laudable, I am left wondering what would happen if a fan entered their group not with a different ancestry, skin color, or sexual orientation, but with a different political opinion. Something tells me that they would not be welcomed in “Metro Antifa”. The political “left” in the United States has become more and more intolerant of dissenting views—despite their own “tolerance”—and it makes me wonder how real these self proclaimed “Antifa” groups truly are. It makes me wonder if modern society has—as Herbert Marcuse argued in his One Dimensional Man—already become totalitarian (and fascistic)?

Two recent examples—from personal experience—tell me that American society has exhibited signs of fascism long before Donald Trump; in fact, it is a form of fascism that comes from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. While sitting among fellow students at my university one asked what our summer plans were. Knowing that this particular student was one of the best in our department—a hard-working and intelligent individual—I spoke honestly: I was going home to take care of my mother and father who have not been well recently. When she asked me what I could specifically do since I am not a medical doctor, I told her that I would be assisting my mother and father with day to day activities while also taking care of my brother. That is when I made the fatal mistake of adding that “obviously, my father wants to see me before his surgery”. At this the girl exploded, telling me “Obviously? My father would not want to see me even if he was dying”. At this I paused…it was a deathly silence and I simply said “this is not a competition”. At that she added “Well don’t say obviously”. I was shocked. I was being silenced—censured, if you will, for using the word “obviously”. That a father should want to see his son before a serious surgery seemed fairly “obvious” to me. Yet, to this girl, it was “offensive”. That her family was less than stellar is not my problem. That her upbringing was less than stellar—and that it did not give her basic manners—is also not my problem. In fact, judging by her response, I have little sympathy for her going forward. Such callous responses—in the name of “tolerance”—are fascistic in nature and must be resisted. While this is just a personal anecdote, this process has also worked itself out in national politics in the United States.

A statue of Jefferson Davis—the president of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War—was removed from the city of New Orleans on 11 May 2017 at 5 am. It is a statue I myself have seen (and photographed) during a visit to New Orleans, and its removal reminded me of similar social engineering projects in fascistic societies.

 

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Jefferson Davis in New Orleans…When it it existed. Image Courtesy of the Author.

 

It reminded me of the occasional removal of Ataturk statues from Turkish cities (to make way for 15 July “democracy” monuments (!) ) by the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party. It is an attempt to erase history, a tactic that the fascistic rulers of Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union wrote the book on. Yet this is not Turkey, this is not Nazi Germany, this is not the USSR; it is the United States of America.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu justified the removal of the statue by saying:

These monuments have stood not as historic or educational markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in celebration of it. I believe we must remember all of our history, but we need not revere it. To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in some of our most prominent public places is not only an inaccurate reflection of our past, it is an affront to our present, and a bad prescription for our future. We should not be afraid to confront and reconcile our past.

 

With all due respect to Mr. Landrieu I have to ask a simple question: How does removing a statue work to “confront and reconcile our past”? Erasing history—by forcibly removing it—does not confront the past, it merely pushes it under the rug. These are the same tactics that the USSR engaged in; it is fascistic in nature and must be resisted. All such events do is exacerbate the divisions within American society—adhering to the fascistic doctrine of “divide and conquer”. Some of the protestors came with banners that read “America was never great”, trying to exacerbate the divide between Whites and Blacks. Unfortunately, what these so called “antifa” don’t realize is that they are feeding, and not healing, the division. By dividing Blacks and Whites further they are playing in to a true fascistic system that can take total control in the name of “globalism”.

 

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Images Courtesy Of: https://www.bestofneworleans.com/thelatest/archives/2017/05/11/jefferson-davis-comes-down-second-of-four-confederate-era-monuments-removed-in-new-orleans

 

It is my hope that these two examples of the rampant fascism that exists in American society—a type of fascism which has nothing to do with Donald Trump—will open the eyes of the football fans that Mr. Schaerlaeckens wrote about. Those fans (as well as the author) might want to get out a little more. While the United States is not perfect, it is certainly not (yet) fascist. There are far worse places in the world, and the sooner football fans in America realize that they are feeding—and not fighting—division the more effective they will become in fighting for their cause. Fighting “fascism” and being “antifa” is not a child’s game in order to further ones’ own sense of moral superiority; fascism is real—it just takes more than regurgitating media tropes to understand where it comes from.
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Image Courtesy of Instagram