Perfection and purity politics: a thought experiment

CONTENT WARNING: um, don’t go any further if you’re eating or if you’re easily grossed out.

Please take a moment to calm your senses and to clear your mind.

Now take yourself to your favorite place to enjoy a meal. You are not restricted by time or space, so this can be a place you currently frequent or a place that no longer exists for you. It can be your favorite Mongolian grill; maybe it’s that little cafe on the gift shop deck of the Eiffel Tower; or maybe you’re returning to that little two-seat coffee table by the window in your Nana’s kitchen, the one that looks out over her meticulously maintained English-style garden.

Now imagine that in this ethereal place, you’ve just been promised your favorite meal. It can be a single dish, or perhaps a combination of things. I won’t spoil your experience by telling you mine or by suggesting examples. Just let the colors, aromas, flavors, and textures of your favorite soul food come to life before you.

With a warm, loving smile the person serving you sets the plate down before you, and then they produce a little plastic squeeze bottle full of what appears to be a sickly, brownish paste.

“This is tepid, malarial diarrhea,” they say with a wink before topping your food with a pestilent curlicue that immediately forces a nauseating invisible cloud up into your nostrils.

Now, what do you do? Do you immediately and vehemently reject this aesthetic and medical excrescence? Or do you rationalize that you shouldn’t let a little blemish ruin a wonderful meal served in an ideal setting? Bon appetit?

In every USA election cycle, it seems, ostensibly decent and progressive-minded citizens are asked to choose between a lesser of several (in the primaries) or two (in the general elections) evils. Most of us accept without much reservation that our choice is binary, that we must take the Democrat because the Republican is unfailingly so much worse. The recent presidential election, which eventually boiled down to Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump in all fifty states, was the latest iteration of this phenomenon.

At the presidential level, at least, there were other options available to most voters. Dr. Jill Stein was on the ballot in 45 states, and eligible as a write-in in an additional 3 states. This represented 97% of the available electoral votes, or just under 90% if subtracting the write-in states. Stein’s platform included policies that would seem to be what progressive-minded liberals clamor for. So why did Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka barely exceed 1% of the popular vote without coming anywhere near earning an electoral vote?

The 2016 presidential election cycle is just one example of ostensibly progressive US voters clinging doggedly and fruitlessly to lesser-evilism, in spite of an available not-evil alternative. What interests me in this case, though, is not this dynamic on its own, but on the propensity of those same Democratic faithful (especially those with broad public platforms) to castigate leftist voters who work to create and then vote for better alternatives.

We are frequently accused of indulging in ‘purity’ politics, squandering our precious votes on fringe candidates who have no chance to win, thereby making it easier for right-wing popinjays to win office and pad their state and federal legislative majorities. We are accused of measuring Democratic candidates against unreasonable and unrealistic criteria that ignore the prevailing pressures of their respective offices.

I prefer to invert these accusations. What action or policy promoted and executed by your ‘lesser evil’ would be your personal Rubicon? In other words, what could they do to lose your support? Would targeted assassinations that exterminate innocent children do the trick? How about support for foreign reactionaries who– once installed in power or otherwise enabled– invariably resort to a laundry list of atrocities that will usually include mass murder? Could your candidate’s vocal and consistent support for Wall Street miscreants push you past the breaking point?

If you characterize such catastrophically atrocious policy behavior as mere political blemishes that must be accepted in service to some as-yet unrealized greater good, then your moral judgment is suspect. Further, it is difficult to deny that such moral capitulation often yields tangible, harmful results (e.g. the installation of open fascists to our nation’s highest offices) in the near term.

So the next time you get the urge to chide a Green or a socialist for their support for a ‘fringe’ candidate, consider your reaction to this alteration of a commonly wielded liberal electoral bromide:

Don’t let the dietarily fastidious be the enemy of the runny malarial shit.

It’s all the same (and it’s all horrible)

Here’s Trump:

WASHINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Sunday called the London attacks an “evil slaughter” and said the United States would do everything it could in its power to assist the United Kingdom to bring those responsible to justice.

“This bloodshed must end. This bloodshed will end,” Trump said in brief remarks after a gala event at Ford’s Theater in Washington.

Here’s Obama, a couple years ago:

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama on Friday condemned the Paris terror attacks, calling them an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians” and pledging the U.S. government’s assistance to France.

“This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share,” Obama said in a statement delivered in the White House Briefing Room.
Now here’s Chris Floyd, spelling out what should be obvious to both of them, and indeed to all of us, but that precious few will ever acknowledge even as our cities are smoldering and smothered under full military lockdown:
In this century alone, the US and UK have helped destroy two largely secular, multicultural regimes that had stood as bulwarks against the kind of Islamic extremism peddled by our allies, Saudi Arabia: Iraq and Libya. A third such country, Syria, has been the target of an ongoing regime change war in which the West and Saudis are openly backing al Qaeda allies and other extremists. This bipartisan policy of fostering extremism for geopolitical ends was also used in Afghanistan, where a thoroughly secular regime was overthrown by Islamic extremists armed, paid and organized by the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Liberalism in pictures, part II

I’ve posted this graphic before, and I want to bring it up as a reminder. Liberals who complain about Trump and talk of ‘resistance’ need first to take a rare honest look in a mirror.

I’ve seen no evidence that Barry Obama was in any way cruel to his family’s Portuguese Water Dogs while he was President of the USA. However, during his tenure, Obama was very cruel to many millions of Muslims and thousands of ethnic Russian Ukrainians.

Exponentially more human beings were tortured, murdered, and displaced by Obama than were dogs by Michael Vick. Yet Vick went to prison and had death wished upon him by unknown numbers of liberals. Obama, on the other hand, is still almost unanimously beloved and celebrated by liberals.

We may not have a government we like, but evidently we have the government we deserve.


If only Muslim children had furry ears and tails…

Liberalism in words

Here’s the Amazon summary for Charles W. Mills’s Black Rights/White Wrongs:

Liberalism is the political philosophy of equal persons – yet liberalism has refused equality to those it saw as sub-persons. Liberalism is the creed of fairness – yet liberalism has been complicit with European imperialism and African slavery. Liberalism is the classic ideology of Enlightenment and political transparency – yet liberalism has cast a dark veil over its actual racist past and present. In sum, liberalism’s promise of equal rights has historically been denied to blacks and other people of color.

In Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism, political philosopher Charles Mills challenges mainstream accounts that ignore this history and its current legacy in self-conceived liberal polities today. Mills argues that rather than bracket as an anomaly the role of racism in the development of liberal theory, we should see it as shaping that theory in fundamental ways. As feminists have urged us to see the dominant form of liberalism as a patriarchal liberalism, so too Mills suggests we should see it as a racialized liberalism. It is unsurprising, then, if contemporary liberalism has yet to deliver on the recognition of black rights and the correction of white wrongs.

I suggest you buy Mills’s book. It’s excellent. Read his The Racial Contract while you’re at it.

Now here’s a brief-ish quote from a blog post (which is, in turn, a transcription of a speech recently given at the University of Mainz in Germany) by cultural critic Dr. Morris Berman:

The same year that Nixon repealed Bretton Woods, 1971, a prominent Washington Democrat by the name of Fred Dutton published a manifesto called Changing Sources of Power. What he said in that document was that it was time for the Democratic Party to forget about the working class. This is not your voting base, he declared; the people you want to court are the white-collar workers, the college-educated, the hip technologically oriented, and so on. Forget about economic issues, he went on; it’s much more a question of lifestyle than anything else. This was the key ideology in the rise of the so-called New Democrats, who in effect repudiated their traditional base and indeed, the whole of Roosevelt’s New Deal, which had historically provided a safety net for that base.

Morris goes on to point out that Bill and Hillary Clinton were part of this “New Democrat” movement. I would argue that they, along with Barry Obama, are its avatars.

Finally, let us turn to the tirelessly astute Nina Illingworth, who deserves your attention and your money:

Liberalism (and by extension, the Democratic Party) has an increasingly obvious hypocrisy problem and voters are clearly starting to notice. Liberals in the US no longer believe in, or stand for anything and those looking to combat the debilitating wave of voter apathy that continues to hamstring the Democratic Party would be wise to start taking this problem very seriously. Say what you will about the “extreme” left and even the noxious, reactionary right in America but neither group lacks the courage of their convictions; even if those convictions are openly repugnant in the case of the latter.

Yes, this is mainstream liberalism. It is worthy of derision, condemnation, and destruction. To the Democratic Party, in particular, I wish nothing but an ignominious and hasty demise. Or, to steal from the late Ashley Morris, ‘Fuck you, you fucking fucks.’

I will close by reminding you all, once again, that this country was built on a pseudo-ethical foundation of wanton bloodlust, insatiable avarice, and brutal patriarchal white supremacy. The blood of millions of innocents still cries out from the tired, ravaged soil (and from the depths of the seas into which countless thousands were thrown). That innocent blood must be answered, and since repentance and restoration are not forthcoming, the atonement must be paid in kind with more blood.

The North American Killing Fields await their bourgeois liberal sacrifice.


Liberalism in pictures

Directly below is a screen capture of Hillary Clinton being interviewed for national television news in October 2011. She is boasting about having just murdered another country’s president while her plans to destroy his country were coming to fruition. Since the destruction of Libya’s sovereign government, a country that until recently could boast of the highest standard of living and arguably the lowest levels of patriarchal oppression in the region was reduced to a shitty quilt of squabbling, U.S./NATO-sponsored fiefdoms run by gangs of heavily armed, misogynistic, religious assholes.


Now look at Hillary Clinton a few months later, giving a speech at an unfathomably cynical liberal shindig, and let the sign on the lectern make you laugh from rage.


Trump’s USA

I’m sitting with my Mom in a Red Lobster in a south suburb of Chicago  (delayed Mother’s Day lunch), and we’re a couple of booths away from a stereotypical middle-aged white male Boomer Trump supporter who’s waxing political with his wife

Christ on a fucking crutch, these people are ignorant. The man was just going on about the supposed existential threat of Korea, and how Obama was too weak to stand up to our foreign threats.


He and the Mrs. also went on a bit about how they’re glad a character like Trump has a chance to shake things up.


We are doomed, people.


This morning I was commuting to work on the Brown Line, and I had Olivia A. Cole’s The Rooster’s Garden to keep me company. I won’t give away anything of the plot (because you really need to read the book, after you’ve read Panther in the Hive), but I was given pause by Cole’s unflinching, chilling awareness of los hombres armados and their ubiquity along the borders of class and race.
That pause was filled by contemporary reports of excessive police violence against citizens; it let in the brutal, mercenary historical roots of organized law enforcement in the USA; it was joined by prodigious US support for death squads in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and the propping up of reactionary, even openly fascist regimes throughout the world. (If you are unaware of any of the things to which I refer immediately above, I suggest you get to searching. I’m not in the mood for hunting down links to things I accept as mundane.)

The USA has been a grand attempt to build a liberal, nominally democratic nation-state from exploitative and oppressive tools and materials. It follows that any stability in such a state could only be achieved and maintained by ensuring that certain classes have access to the blessings of liberty while others remained marked for oppression and exploitation. The genius of the evolving system has been its ability to revise as needed its mechanisms and protocols of reward and punishment in order to manage the inherent volatility.

The USA has reached a point where the volatility can no longer be successfully managed. We’ve approached such moments in the past, most notably and recently the sweeping civil unrest of the 1960s. The state responded then with civil rights legislation (which I prefer to characterize as ‘civic privilege reassignment’), COINTELPRO, and escalation of an otherwise fruitless conflict in Southeast Asia. The brightest, hottest flames of discontent were ruthlessly extinguished; and the unwashed, restless, fearful masses were placated with liberal half-measures that gave many individuals in the oppressed classes conditional access to the spoils of our global network of oppression and exploitation.

But the omnicidal greed that surges within the brain stem of this republic could neither be contained nor be calmed. It has continued to swell, because that’s what it does. The levees of the liberal half-measures are crumbling, and the raging discontent is spilling over.

The state has responded by beefing up and more heavily militarizing its domestic goon squads, even as it (along with its allies) contracts out much of its foreign aggression to ‘terrorist’ golems like al Qaeda and ISIS.  This is a recipe for violent self-immolation. I find noble and admirable the attempts of BLM and the like to take to the streets and nonviolently face down this rising steroidal juggernaut. The young people at the core of the movement seem to understand the nature of the beast they are facing; I wonder if they comprehend how desperately single-minded the beast has become, and how it will try to tear apart and devour everything within its reach even as it suffers its death throes.

If the above prognosis seems overly dramatic to you, then you probably haven’t been paying sufficient attention to current events, and I claim cause to both envy and fear your lethal privilege.

Those of us who understand the fundamental nature of the state’s violence toward us cannot look away. I, for one, see the potential for a diversification of the peril as the liberal state continues its collapse (a collapse which will most likely pass through a ‘white dwarf’ phase of fascist contraction). Many of those who now shake their heads and feel pity (at best) for the long-favored targets of the state’s lethal violence will soon wail in horror as that distilling terror turns on them. By then, it will be too late.

As the prophets Cole and Butler and Atwood and many others have illustrated through their visionary fiction, violent exploitation will be all that remains after the last self-congratulatory fictions of the liberal state have blown away.

Fascism ❤️ civility 

I feel uneasy reading all the liberal and ‘moderate’ consternation over the continuing potency of political tourists Donald Trump and Ben Carson. I want to ask every critic of Trump’s gleeful xenophobia and Carson’s pathologically clueless reactionism if their sensibilities transcend partisan constraints.

Were the presumptive Democratic faithful as offended by Hillary Clinton’s blithe bloodlust as they are about Carson’s apparent vapidity on foreign policy? Does Trump’s bellicose call for ‘bringing back waterboarding’ bother them more than Obama’s matter-of-fact refusal to prosecute the Bush administration’s torture artists and architects? (Never mind that Obama has apparently eschewed widespread kidnapping and torture in favor of a clumsy, high-tech assassination program that kills far more innocents per targeted ‘terrorist.’)

My patience with this atmosphere of moral inconsistency is running thin today, so I’ll make my point as briefly as I can. Trump and Carson (along with the rest of the crowded GOP presidential field) offer more extreme expressions of fascism, but liberals evidently find it gauche to address their own complicity in feathering the vile nest in which the darkly clownish GOP frontrunners aim to lay their rotten eggs.

Successful fascist movements have relied heavily on bullying, demagoguery, and other expressions of organized aggression, but they might all have died in their nurseries if not for the polite acquiescence and occasional collaboration of the liberal bourgeoisie. Today’s liberals are far more effective at squelching and sidelining principled leftist opposition to fascism than they are at opposing fascism itself. Though I’ll likely be voting Green next November, I won’t pretend to be outraged at the very real prospect of a satirically fascistic GOP victor. It would be better than this country deserves.

Frivolous thoughts in transit

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, which means I spent my formative years breathing existential terror of an imminent, divinely authored apocalypse. Now, as I witness the continuing global decline of the social and ecological worlds, I wonder at my perception.

Am I predisposed to apocalyptic pessimism due to my upbringing, or am I more willing to accept the harsh reality because of that cognitive and psychological conditioning?

I’m currently on my way to having a few drinks, so I doubt I’ll care much beyond the next few minutes.

A brief note on consistency

Circa April 2014, I don’t recall any police unions issuing public statements decrying the dangerous actions perpetrated in Nevada by supporters of a thieving, conditionally anti-government rancher. Dozens of armed supporters of the lawbreaking Bundy aimed their weapons at law enforcement officials and threatened to kill.

Where was the massive outcry for aggressive crackdown against these would-be cop killers? Where were the sports coaches wearing ‘BLM’ baseball caps to press conferences? Where were the very public and provocative expressions of solidarity with BLM rangers from rank and file members of other law enforcement agencies?

We all know the answers to these questions, don’t we?