Monday, November 5, 2018


The bourgeoisie is not the “middle class,” and it hasn’t been so since around the eighteenth century. Pet peeve, drives me nuts. This confusion was created during the Cold War, when propagandists wanted to spook American Suburbia that they themselves were the primary target of nasty communists. Once bourgeois was re-defined to mean the contemporary middle class, then quotes from leftists themselves, aimed at the actual bourgeoisie (the 1/10 of 1%), were automatically misinterpreted to prove the imminent danger those naughty left-wingers posed to Donnie and Marie and their little white weens.

The term refers to the business class, which was in the middle, between the aristocracy and the peasantry. If anyone in the US comes into contact with peasants and aristocrats, clue us in. This was all prior to the bourgeois revolutions in the United States and France. And those were revolutions on behalf of the business class against the hereditary aristocracy. A class struggle between a waning upper class and a waxing middle, framed as an Oedipal struggle of brothers against fathers.

The bourgeoisie is now the ruling class. You can say it, “The business class is the dominant class,” and it loses some of that leftist cachet (or threat, depending).

The business class is joined with the state, which is where we want to focus right now. What are the state’s responsibilities are vis-a-vis the business class, and how is the bourgeoisie responding to the Trump interregnum?

The chosen form of government by the American bourgeoisie was the constitutional republic, with certain ostensibly equal protections for all citizens. I say ostensibly, because this has never been the actual case.

The highest protection in the US republic is for property, and all other rights are subordinate to that one. So, when we guarantee that all persons have the right to free speech, we also ignore how property makes this so-called equality a form of extreme inequality. The press is free to those who own one.

Business class wins.

The flexibility built into capitalist constitutions is designed in support of the dominance of market relations between people; and the tension has always been between (a) allowing certain freedoms so that people will be able to competitively self-select their own exploitation, and (b) holding the fort when there are popular challenges to business class power . . . or sudden crises, even of the bourgeoisie’s own making. In 2007, those who were indebted were not bailed out. Wall Street was.

Business class wins again.

The business class and the state have always been partners, because the state ultimately serves as that class’s armed guard along the by-ways of commerce. In fact, there is a kind of revolving door between the business class and state offices. The ruling class holds power by virtue of monetary wealth. That power was gained through money-accumulation, and it is sustained through the sustainment of accumulation.

A capitalist state has seven key and yet unstated economic responsibilities to guarantee accumulation for the business class: (1) to ensure enough willing or unwilling workers for production at rates that allow for profit; (2) to ensure that banks can provide finance capital for loans; (3) to ensure the externalization of costs adequate to protect overall profits, including publicly-financed infrastructure and freedom to pollute; (4) to ensure markets sufficient to absorb production; (5) to ensure expansion sufficient to compensate for saturated or lost markets, whether by financial or military means, or by opening new arenas of commodification (“privatization”); (6) to ensure enough general stability for business to flourish without major interruptions, and (7) to ensure an adequate supply of resources.
Once these seven requirements are satisfied, then the coordinated activity between productive activities and financial activities can “grow” the economy. Failure to expand will eventually result in falling rates of profit as markets are saturated and-or “cheap nature” quits being cheap, and falling rates of profit will result in profit-based enterprises failing. (Mammon’s Ecology, 89, emphases added)
Falling rates of profit constitute crises for capitalists and therefore for the capitalist state. Rates of non-speculative profit in the US have fallen from 38 percent in 1946 to 17 percent now, and we are set for another downturn within the year. (Roberts, “US Rate of Profit in 2017”) Financialization (speculation) has developed the non-productive means for return on investment, but finance capital unleashed functions like an auto-immune disorder, creating bubble after bubble of fictional value that pops and demands a fresh bailout on the backs of the 99 percent.

Economic disruption can ramify into more general crises that at certain thresholds and in certain circumstances lead to that most dreaded of all conditions for the business class—instability. The very value of the dollars a rich person has can be erased by some forms of crisis, and with that, the rich person’s power, by certain forms of crisis. Everything is at stake for the bourgeoisie; so stability becomes a foundation issue.
Stability in a country like the United States—325 million souls spread over 380 million miles²—cannot be maintained through direct force, but has to be maintained through the “invisible power” of the consent of the governed. Gramsci called it hegemony, but this is just all of us doing what we do every day without being physically forced to, based on everything from the law down to Grandad’s care and medication. Normality is a vast aggregation of norms, and the structures that underlay those norms.

Most times, we aren’t acting out, and so there is a shifting boundary between exactly where Gramscian hegemony is exchanged for the employment of armed agents. That alignment is substantially determined by those whose agitation or desperation has turned them into a threat to stability. We see the flare-ups. Think Ferguson. Passive hegemony threatens to fail, so out come the body-armored goon squads like alien insects piloting killer-robots.

Because these fluctuations are inevitable and progressive, with each instance of crisis there is a temptation to by-pass any form of quasi-democratic or even past-bureaucratic solutions in favor of increasing executive power.

Presidential authority, executive power, has been systematically strengthened by every single President in our lifetimes. Barack Obama was among those who increased executive authority the most under the guise of the Bush-invented Global War on Terror and in response to the 2007–8 Wall Street meltdown. Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers, for example, than all the Presidents before him combined. And President Obama left that structural executive power in place.

It was like he improved on the Big Gun used on behalf of the bourgeoisie.

Then Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election and got the Big Gun for himself.

And now we have entered into a period where discontent has morphed into seething instability at the street level with all its harsh resentments. But there has been an anomaly, because the bourgeois-as-a-class was quite content with the Clintons, thank you very much, and where the fuck did this mouthy-ass lounge lizard come from?

This attitude is more a bourgeois zeitgeist than a conspiracy. The bourgeoisie is not a secret society. It is a collection of me-first competitors who would eat their children to win, so while they always have their collective eye trained on the dangerous potential of the hypnotized mass, they take time out to have machete duels with each other. What unites them is structural, because structures unite their interests, and the most self-conscious of this class have spokespersons you can see each day on national television. So some threw in their lot with Trump, but most are popping valium in advance of the next deranged tweet. Clinton Democrats are now allying with neoconservatives (Bush II’s ideological orientation) to oppose Trump. They were never that far apart anyway.

Trump—as a symptom of potential instability—has now created a crisis for the bourgeoisie that is more political and ideological than economic (though he is scurrying through the economy like a rampaging rodent, gnawing away at the seals, shitting in the insulation, stealing food, chewing up toilet paper, and making periodic appearances to scare the guests).

The business class is on the horns of a dilemma. They want to make lemonade out of this lemon, so they are pushing through as many changes as they can to goose the profit lines up a bit, but all the while calculating how far he can go without undermining the whole edifice or causing a civil war, whereupon they can ship him off to Mar-a-Lago to steal the female guests’ underwear and snort lines off of Steve Bannon’s ass.

The bourgeoisie wants the restoration of equilibrium; and even though this class itself has created most of their own problems, they will be happy to brand Trump as the goat and send him into the wilderness. He’s already pissed off much of his own security apparatus, from the CIA and FBI to the Department of Defense. Pretty heavy enemies.

The state’s responsibility is to create stability, not disrupt it; and the ability of the state to do just that reckons on Gramscian hegemony, not direct force. The state does not have the capacity to contain or control a hypothetical mass uprising, or a general breakdown of order. And Gramscian hegemony depends utterly on the confidence of the people in the institutions of governance . . . which the mouthy-ass lounge lizard is undermining at every turn.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Schrodinger's Popes

Some years ago, I became familiar with companion planting—putting different plants together in a garden or guild that produce benefits like mineral accumulation, attraction of pollinators, attraction of beneficial insect predators, repulsion of pests or larger animals, and so forth. One of the most common recommendations, even though it has a tendency to become aggressive in its own propagation, is tansy. Tansy has clusters of yellow flowers that will attract bees but repel squash bugs, mice, and Japanese beetles; and tansy draws potassium up into the topsoil and shares with neighbors. Tansy was also used, way back in the day, as an abortifacient.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Life and Science

The out-of-control proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction is perhaps the worst of contemporary science’s tragic fruits, but there are others. The misuse and abuse of science to justify destroying the Earth’s habitability has also become a source of widespread anxiety.
These and other perils have a common root: the corruption of Big Science by Big Money. More precisely, they are the consequence of a profit-driven economic system that hamstrings humanity’s ability to make rational economic decisions.
Science is presumed to be a reliable source of knowledge based on objective fact rather than subjective bias. By definition, that requires research to be conducted impartially by scientists with no conflicts of interest that could affect their judgment. But a science harnessed to the maximization of private profits cannot avoid material conflicts of interest that are anathema to objectivity.
– Cliff Conner
“Historical capitalism is not only a social formation but an ontological one.”
– Jason W. Moore

Saturday, October 20, 2018

To African Americans and Latin@s in Uniform

If you are in the military, you are now effectively serving as muscle for a white supremacist government that is days away from trying to consolidate white supremacy in the US for the long term.

You salute a flag that was designed for a slaveholding nation, you stand for an anthem that has explicitly racist lyrics, you allow yourselves to be the servants of a crackpot cult leader named Donald Trump. Meanwhile, your government is deporting your friends and relatives, scrubbing them from voting rolls, and imprisoning them at astronomical rates for a bunch of bullshit.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Honduras, just so you know

Honduras. In 2009, the Obama Administration supported a coup d'etat in Honduras, which was papered over by the administration and a servile media as "a constitutional crisis." Even Wikipedia calls it that. President Zelaya was kidnapped from his own home, with his family, at gunpoint, in his underwear, and spirited to Costa Rica via the US Sotocano Air Base in Comayagua. Zelaya was popular for his reforms that aimed to assist the poor and give them greater political agency. This was anathema to the Honduran ruling class, a collection of thuggish families from around the world, and to the US neoliberal estsblishment, as well as John McCain's favorite sponsor, AT&T, for years now eying Hoduran telecommunications for a juicy privatization.

Hillary Clinton, then the Secretary of State, hired the fascistic gusano John Negroponte as her Deputy for this hit job. Negroponte already had an impressive body count as a violent Cold Warrior in Latin America, including a stint under Reagan as Ambassador to Honduras. Google or Duck-Duck it: "negroponte" "death squads," and you'll get almost 39,000 hits. He loved them, and they loved him, and anybody who wasn't careful could find herself at dawn laid out on some central plaza with her head chopped off.

Behind ther scenes, the Honduran ruling class unleashed a wave of terror to consolidate their post-coup grip on power. Mostly, it went unseen to the rest of the world, because for a time, Honduras became the most dangerous country in the world to be a journalist. Not Afghanistan. Not Colombia. Not Yemen. Honduras.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

DSA, Democrats, and Sectarian Fabulism

Nothing but the avalanche!

The Democratic Party of the United States has around 44.7 million members. The Green Party has 248,000, or one half of one percent of the membership of the Democratic Party. The Working Families Party has about 53,000. In 2016, 137.5 million Americans voted in the General Election.

One of the Green Party candidates in my state is running this year with 9-11 conspiracy-mongering (calling it a “false flag” operation) right in his campaign literature. And some on the left continue to embosom this sectarian, self-marginalizing party as The Alternative to the Democrats.

In a recent article by Carl Boggs in Counterpunch called “The Democrats and ‘Socialism’,” he says the following: 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Pocahontas: Blood quantum rant

Elizabeth Warren has apparently had her DNA tested to “prove” she has “Indian blood.” Which has naught to do with being representative of any actual First Nations people, culture, or experience.

Awhile back, my maternal first cousin had one of those DNA tests done, and it showed we had markers not just for First Nations, but more specifically people now called Salt River Pima Maricopa, neighbors of the Apaches. Arizona Indians.

This was a surprise, because our Great Grandma, Minervia Isom, had become Cherokee-maybe-Choctaw in the family’s informal oral history. She’d married my Great Grandpa, a white man, in Mississippi . . . and it probably wasn’t talked about a great deal. Which may be how Grandma Minervia got switched from being one of those Mexico Indians into being one of those Black Belt Indians. There were Cherokee and Choctaw down that way . . . but as the story goes, Minervia was a res-jumper who had been in Oklahoma before she stole a team of horses and ran off to Mississippi and her future family.

I’d not known it until after Cousin Anne decided it was time to get nekkid with the family DNA, but Arizona Indians were shipped off to Oklahoma, too. So, there you have it. I’m sure the real story is different. I might be 1/8 Salt River Pima Maricopa.

But I’m not saddling up to attend powwows or appropriate my Great Gran by sitting with other white dudes in mythopoetic sweat lodges because I have a “blood quantum” of 1/8 or whatever that is—Minervia may not have been “full blood.”

First Nations are a history and a people constituted by a specific experience, an experience in relation to other peoples, and to power. DNA has jackshit to do with that if the bearer of that DNA—mwa mem—has lived his entire life as an Anglophone white guy.

I know the “real story” of the sly Elizabeth Warren—whose devotion to her First Nations “heritage” hasn’t compelled her to stand up for Palestinians, whose treatment is so similar to that we meted out to effect our Westward expansion. The "real story" making the rounds is the Bad Orange President (the real story every damn day, Lord have mercy!) derided her claim to “Indian blood” (I wonder if Great-Gran had A-negative like me) by calling her Pocahontas and challenging her to take a DNA test. Cool, she did it, there was something, Agent Orange owes $1 million, but the asshole never pays his debts and lies about it. So . . . back to DNA.

I find DNA testing to be exceptionally creepy in many respects, so it triggered me to rant about the thing concealed in our great and justified desire to be rid of Trump, which is how DNA can get conflated with some kind of “authenticity.” Lived experience. Full stop.

Rant over.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

How the left lost the women

I was a Communist for a couple of years, a member of the very conservative leftist CPUSA. We parted ways over gender, mainly. When I cited bell hooks to Jarvis Tyner, he dismissively called her an “ultra-feminist.” When two of the guys came down to Raleigh from New York, I heard them speculate derisively about which of the women didn’t shave their legs. When I wrote an article that emphasized the dynamics of gender I’d seen in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, I was called onto the carpet to demand repentance for putting “the woman question” before the “primary contradiction,” which is of course economic class. One of the more astute fellow travelers at the time, Gerald Horne, who was teaching at UNC then, was more internationalist in perspective, and he claimed at a meeting once that “US imperialism is the primary contradiction in the world.”

Ferrets, Electioneers, DA’s, Scavengers, Grubstakers, Maroons, Barristers, Civilians, Attachés

 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
-Matthew 10:16

“Asymmetric struggle presupposes an epistemic break.”
-Jake the Snake

So now all three branches of the US Federal Government are in the hands of reactionaries, who have backstopped themselves for around thirty years in the high court.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Dear Baby Boomer White Guys,

I am one of you. I was born in 1951. And because it gives me unearned cred with your bitter, indoctrinated asses, I am a veteran—retired from the Army in fact—which is relevant only because I went through the same indoctrination you did, which has trained us like organ monkeys to genuflect before all things military. If you are one of those weird outliers for whom the shoe fails to fit here, move along or share with one of your dumbass acquaintances or relatives.

I empathize. I get it. You look at the span of your cramped little lives, and you see Death holding the carriage door open for you not far enough up the road. And things didn’t turn out the way you’d fantasized. I know those fantasies, too. I was raised on the same TV Westerns during the same Cold War, when white people didn’t have to think much about anyone but white people, because we were the universally acknowledged norm. Every planet revolved around the White Male Sun. The fantasy was that we would somehow prevail in heroism (against what, it doesn’t matter, it’s the prevailing that is probative of our masculinity), then have an adoring woman who fucks obediently, keeps the house  spotless, and watches our adorable children who also worship us.

The measure of our general disappointment is the distance of those fantasies from our actual reality—remembering our pills, dealing with wives embittered themselves by years of our stupidity, posturing, control-freakery, and neglect, children who have absorbed just enough of our self-centered meanness to keep us at arm’s length for the rest of our lives, soaking up stupidity from the television, and sharing our bitter disappointment with other old white guys via a scapegoat mechanism that identifies the disruptors of our dreams as dark people . . . and women. You are so disappointed with the distance between fantasy and reality that you can’t even see what a pathetic, dependent, overfed, and pampered existence you really have, and there is nothing that pisses you off more than someone pointing that out . . . that you are privileged, entitled assholes. And, of course, the proper male reaction to that is to dig in deeper, to cherish your own stupidity, and to flaunt that stupidity like petulant four-year-olds.

Not surprising really, because we are the first fruits of the post-WWII consumer bacchanalia. We did stamped out jobs, lived in stamped out houses, and bought stamped out age-appropriate toys, as the most infantilized generation in history. We called it Progress, and we built an idol for it that was a big ivory phallus, and we gazed at it adoringly.

We never matured in the way that was once thought about, when Mine-More-Now wasn’t an ethos, but an indication of immaturity. The captains of the business class are our leaders, and we are their obedient kiddies drinking the Kool-aid. And wow, did you all drink down great draughts of it with that shit stained, combed over, carnival barking jackass, Donald Trump. In your fit of collective pique, and in your terminal refusal to grow your asses up, you demonstrated to the world and posterity that you still don’t understand, or accept, the fundamental fact that actions have consequences. And you don’t give a damn that others will bear the brunt of it.

If you give a child a bulldozer, the child will run over things. But that’s what you wanted to do anyway, because this is a tantrum. You look old, like I look old, but your mentality accords with someone not far out of diapers . . . and may I remind you all, we’ll be back in diapers soon enough.

Vulnerability is part of our existence as humans, and the basis of morality. And every human being is vulnerable at some point. It’s how we respond to vulnerability that determines our characters.

But in that psycho-bubble of probative masculinity, vulnerability is Bad. Toughness is Good. And so every shred of morality must be driven out to protect a pure masculine essence the light of which we chase like bewildered cats pursuing the red dot from a pointer. This is how you’ve fallen into the trap of cruelty and its celebration.

So now, in ten years when you are shitting into your Depends and talking to dead Aunt Jenny between lucid intervals, you will take your turn at human vulnerability, and it will be too late. Your Medicare gone, your Social Security gone, you’ll go through the inevitable devolution that awaits any of us who hang around long enough and watch your family go broke trying to keep up with the demands of the same predatory institutions that have run your lives since birth.

Hey, at least we showed those black people, those immigrants, those women a thing or two. Mess with White Men, mess with our entitled masculinity, and we’ll tear everything down.

At the center of the center of your creepy little universe is your hatred of women, because that is what you’ve spent your whole lives trying not to be. Compassion is for pussies. And from that, we can now unfold a whole architecture of vandalizing stupidity—a world that is burning around the cries of billions—a damaged, impoverished future for those we will leave behind soon enough. But you don’t care about them either.

Which more morally attuned people, then, will be by your beds as your bodily systems crash, showing you the empathy you withheld from others? Will you still be entitled? It’s coming.

Here is the good news. Grace is a door held open indefinitely. In Greek, the word repent means turn around. You can still turn around. It is never too late for contrition. One way or another, I’ll see you in that carriage.

Your friend,


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Semiosphere of backyard birding

We have surrounded the house—thankfully surrounded by mature sugar maple, elm, mulberry, fir, birch, and Norway spruce trees—with bird houses and bird feeders; the latter of which, as any bird feeder knows, is also seconded to the squirrels, lots of fox squirrels and a few red squirrels. I spent the money last year to get one big feeder equipped with a squirrel baffle, which works very well, but we came to a kind of truce, the squirrels and us, in that they feed around a few obstacles and occasionally suffer the harassment of passing dogs and we buy extra (sunflower) oil seed, the only thing we use in the feeders, except suet—which keeps the four different kinds of woodpecker (downy, hairy, red-breasted, and flicker) happy. Chipmunks, like the doves who are too fat to perch on the feeders, feed on what falls to the ground. We get seasonal birds—always looking for that passing rose-breasted grosbeak, always associating the arrival of juncos that summer in the Upper Peninsula with the arrival of frost and snow.


This year I joined the Democratic Party.

It was easy. I gave up ten dollars and filled out a little form. I did so for a reason. In Michigan, there are two Democratic Primaries. One is the regular primary, the other is the State Endorsement Convention, where those who show up with Democratic Party ID in hand can vote. The latter        is far less Democratic, but it is also how the MDP selects its nominees for Secretary of State, Attorney General, and the State Supreme Court. So it’s an event that required getting as many people as possible to Detroit (this year) to cast a ballot. In this case, Our Revolution, the loose formation of activists coat-tailing the Sanders challenge in 2016, who recruited me for this as well, had also joined the party across the state, and were intent on nominating Dana Nessel, a social democratic outlier and former defense attorney. That was easy, too. Here in my little county, OR essentially joined, outnumbered, and took over the local Democratic Party. And it worked. The Democratic nominee for Michigan Attorney General is Ms. Nessel, who beat out Pat Miles, the Democratic establishment candidate. Now labor, environmentalists, African Americans, immigrants, and women in general have a candidate who, if elected, will actually represent their interests for four to eight years.

The perennial crabs of the uberleft, philosophical idealists posing as historical materialists, have turned categorical opposition to any “cooperation” with Democrats or the Democratic Party into a kind of purity code. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these particular folks are men, and a goodly number of them are—like me—on or approaching the geriatric end of the age spectrum. As Mary Douglas and Paul Rozin have shown, pollution in purity-pollution codes is dose insensitive . . . meaning even the tiniest contact results in wholesale contamination. Everything, then, that constitutes pollution must elicit a disgust reaction as a kind of prophylaxis against that contamination—stay away!—because a single scratch can turn into gangrene. (People who haven’t studied disgust psychology, an actual and valuable thing, are missing out.) Democrats! Ick!

These folks stood on the sidelines and threw polemical stones at those (mostly young) people who managed to nominate Dana Nessel; and I’m quite sure they were proclaiming the superiority of their standpoint throughout the country where similar insurgencies broke through. I have been guilty of this approach often enough myself to know, this is born of decades of frustration and despair, hardening serial disappointments into a defensive and impermeable scar.

It is also born of uncorrected errors, because the left (until recently, with the infusion of youth energy) has been hamstrung by the failure to adapt its various political schemae to emerging realities. I myself scoffed at the Sanders campaign when I saw it meeting with twenty people on someone’s lawn; but within three months, Sanders was pulling in standing room only crowds. I was depending on my past experience; but in the meantime, something that had not been visible—some shift in the public mood—had occurred, “out of sight” for those of us whose windows on the world were otherwise restricted, that found its expression during the elections, where breakaway candidates in both parties suddenly came to the fore—in the case of Republicans, seizing the nomination for POTUS.

Sanders, as many Democratic establishment folks will remind us, wasn’t even a Democrat. And now I am a member of the Democratic Party—me, a pacifist Christian socialist and an anti-imperialist. I’ll be working a table this Friday during a small town street party to promote Proposition 2, to reverse Michigan’s Republican gerrymandering that has essentially absorbed and neutralized the African American vote in places all over the state.

What is an American political party?

We can look up the answer on Wikipedia or something, but how should we see it from the left? Here is where I want to challenge uberleft thinking, not only as a former uberlefter but as a former career soldier.

The Democratic Party is not a “vehicle” or a “building” or a “person” possessed of its own agency. As a former “operations” guy in the Army, someone who collected intelligence, analyzed intelligence, and wrote operations orders, I see this cumbersome old institution—which is both structure that resists change and membership that invariably changes—as terrain. And terrain is a key component of tactical planning. (Those who are interested in the distinctions between tactics and strategy go here.)

Terrain can be simultaneously what we want to gain and hold and what we need to occupy to conduct further operations. In analyzing terrain, we used an acronym OCOKA (now changed to OACOK): observation and fields of fire, avenues of approach, cover and concealment, obstacles, and key terrain. Terrain analysis is essential, because terrain is something upon which operations are waged.

My contention is that the Democratic Party must be seen as one of several terrains upon which political struggle is unfolding. We are not within the Democratic Party, but upon it. Taking that analogy a step further, when you make gains on one piece of terrain, you don’t abandon the battle after the first skirmish, and cede that terrain back. This is giving me flashbacks, but the old basic tactical intelligence formats I memorized to construct operations orders in the army keep popping up in front of me.

Acronym METT-T: Mission, Enemy, Terrain and Weather, Troops Available, and Time.

The “enemy” is not a party, it is a class that is spread across both parties, but which is now making a play through one party to consolidate a mailed fist and depending on the other party to catch the ratchet if that fails then establish the new more neoconservative (Clintonite) normal. When you see the DP as one of several protean institutional webworks of relations that we can analogize as terrain, as part of the landscape upon which we fight. That landscape, or fortress, or whatever analogy you like, has been shaped by the ruling class, but it is not the ruling class.
Terrain is incorporated into the larger intelligence summary: Mission, Actually Existing Capacity, stuff like that. And Time. Strategy tries to reduce time to space. Tactical agility makes an ally of both. (Again, see Strategy and Tactics.)

Enemy Situation (another intel category) includes Strength, Composition, Disposition (matched to terrain), Capabilities and Limitations, and Probable Course of (opposition) Action.
You can begin to get hold of that tactical mindset, and it becomes apparent that regarding the terrain itself as the enemy is a form of self-delusion that underwrites failure after failure.

I have to go take mushrooms or something now to get all this Army crap out of my head again.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Rocket Fuel—2018, US Referendum on Patriarchy

“Sex is the rocket fuel of the political psyche.”

Lordy, I’ve heard it all. The silly call-out culture of postmodernity that can say in a cyberblink all the sins left unaddressed by this or that . . . guilty of it myself at times, I expect . . . “Taking this action will not address questions (a), (b), or (c).” On the question of elections, this can get even sillier with an array of guilt by association arguments and scarecrows to ritually denounce and tear up.

There are some things that elections are, and there are some things elections are not. That is true ontologically, but it is also true personally, and the last time I checked, the actual act of voting in an election—while certainly a strange and highly complex public ritual—is accomplished by actual persons. The claim or implication that participation (for those persons) is (include declarative statement here . . . like, “an endorsement of an evil process,” e.g.) is false on its face, unless someone can convince me that the perennial curmudgeons who market this stuff have learned to read minds.

Ever so often, however, history conspires to make a thing—like an election—drift into a unique position where it ramifies through whole societies. It is still all the things elections are and aren’t, but it suddenly connects in such a way that it pivots history a bit, throws it onto a different azimuth. I think 2018 is that way, just as 2016 was in a different way.

One of those interactive phenomena are social movements, and even in naming this, we open up some controversies about what social movements are and aren’t. Not here. The re-ignition of sex as the subject of feminist grievance and analysis defines 2018 in much the same way that the re-ignition of a nascent political left marked the 2016 bifurcation. In many ways, this is far deeper, because sex is the rocket fuel of the political psyche. We observe Donald’s agitated, defensive displays of hypermasculinity again and again, only occasionally noting how driven they are by gender norms that associate women with weakness and taint and men with hard-heartedness and violence.

Donald Trump was arguably elected by perceived threats to (white) masculinity. If someone takes the time, I bet s/he could prove that. Seems pretty glaringly obvious from here. White male victimhood is the central narrative, the opening scene of which is male victimization; the concluding fantasy scene is the teleological restoration of order through the restoration of the national masculinity. It was the heartbeat of the campaign. People don’t get that because they keep listening to what these people say—which is a dim and distorted reflection of the terror-stunned insecurity that writhes in them like gutworms of the soul. Sexual identity expressed as masculinity is deeper in many men than their dimmest memory, more sacred than any spiritual practice or confession of faith.

These flashes of authoritarian white male rage that have saturated the media in the past few days have seriously triggered a lot of women I know, most of whom have had one or more brush with Man-the Sexual Predator. And that is where I’m looking right now: at the reactions of women.

Believe me, this is more than about Republicans, even if at this conjuncture—this trick of history—defeating Republicans has become more than defeating Republicans and coincidentally—for the next few weeks—the most important thing in the world we can do together.

The Democratic establishment—housing more than its share of Man-the Sexual Predator—is milking it now for the same elections, as is to be expected. Fly’s gonna fly. Wolf’s gonna wolf. Tree’s gonna tree. I was more active in the antiwar movement (younger, for one thing), and I remember the oceans of Democrats, led by their civil society entrepreneurial class, joining us in demanding an end to Bush’s war. We needed them, but when Obama was sworn in, the war continued, and we became radioactive to them. Be warned.

But an election is not about “I vote Dem, therefore I endorse the institution (and all that is in it).” An election is an event with consequences over which we do still exercise an element of control . . . though we are approaching a period where failure to use that limited power might result in losing it all. Moreover, an election has the power to mobilize and aggrandize social movements, just as it did in 2016 with the Sanders challenge.

Elections are tactical. I know plenty of people who knew how utterly awful Hillary Clinton was, based on her fundamentally neoconservative world view, and who voted for her nonetheless, because they were afraid of Trump. They’ve been vindicated, but there we are. Now we have Trump . . . and Kavanaugh . . . and the double whammy of the powerful consciousness-raising and solidarity-building #metoo and #whyididntreport suddenly energizing women and women’s allies to use that energy as a test, perhaps a display, of the newfound power of that movement, in a tangible, even quantifiable, way.

What is at stake is not just a chance to rebuke the power of Trump by demolishing his party in the elections, it is—as these old white men have been pretty clear—patriarchy that is under threat when the subject becomes sexual harassment, sexual humiliation, sexual domination, sexual assault, and rape.

If women continue to mobilize and deliver a decisive blow to the Republican Party, they can turn 2018 into a referendum on patriarchy. That kind of power cannot be ignored, and it will not only slash at the psychic foundations of the Right, it will serve as a reminder to all others . . . get your houses in order. You could be next.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Three-steps to 'gender' fascism (gender being a verb)

<<Fascism is a revolutionary species of political modernism originating in the early twentieth century whose mission is to combat the allegedly degenerative forces of contemporary history (decadence) by bringing about an alternative modernity and temporality (a ‘new order’ and a ‘new era’) based on the rebirth, or palingenesis, of the nation. Fascists conceive the nation as an organism shaped by historic, cultural, and in some cases, ethnic and hereditary factors, a mythic construct incompatible with liberal, conservative, and communist theories of society. The health of this organism they see undermined as much by the principles of institutional and cultural pluralism, individualism, and globalized consumerism promoted by liberalism as by the global regime of social justice and human equality identified by socialism in theory as the ultimate goal of history, or by the conservative defence of ‘tradition’.>>
Roger Griffin
Gendered psychoanalytically
<<The crucial element of fascism is its explicit sexual language, what Theweleit calls “the conscious coding” or the “over-explicitness of the fascist language of symbol.” This fascist symbolization creates a particular kind of psychic economy which places sexuality in the service of destruction. Despite its sexually charged politics, fascism is an anti-eros, “the core of all fascist propaganda is a battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure.” … He shows that in this world of war the repudiation of one’s own body, of femininity, becomes a psychic compulsion which associates masculinity with hardness, destruction, and self-denial.>>
Jessica Benjamin and Anson Rabinbach
Gendered by political masculinity
<<In gender terms, fascism was the naked reassertion of male supremacy in societies that had been moving toward equality for women. To accomplish this, fascism promoted new images of hegemonic masculinity, glorifying irrationality (“the triumph of the will”, thinking with “the blood”) and the unrestrained violence of the frontline soldier.>>
R.W. Connell

Election Reflection on “Interference”

Outrage is a commodity, one that gets hotter with the increasing polarization of metropolitan politics in our faltering neoliberal epoch. Somewhere between those poles lies MSNBC as a neoliberal bastion now cobbling together the neocons of the Weekly Standard (their arch enemies when they supported Republican Bush II) with the neoliberals of the Democratic Party establishment. I want to rename them MSNeoBC; and I find myself watching them several times a day now, like a soap opera junkie, in a psychic state somewhere between weird fascination and slapstick mirth. I am convinced they are issued cocaine before each broadcast to maintain the machinegun pace of their chatter. “Russia,” they say, “Russia, Russia, Russia.”

Robert Mueller plods through witness after witness, Russian “electoral interference” as the ostensible goal of that investigation, we see every day more clearly that the Russian government has taken a page from the US playbook on electoral interference. Will it stick? Who knows? It’s like a clown show, but the clowns are all drunk. What will get Agent Orange in the end? Maybe something as pedestrian as money laundering or (It’s a trap!) obstruction of justice. If the blue tsunami fails to emerge in the midterms, all bets are off, and the vandalism continues. If the wave materializes, Donnie is in very deep shit.

Few American voters know anything about the ways the US fixes foreign elections, because we are so insecure, overworked, busy, and distracted by a semiosphere bubbling in bullshit that we are left at the end of the day with only the hope of sleep and the attention span of a grass fly. And as Chomsky pointed out recently, the settler state of Israel interferes in US elections so effectively that very justifiable anti-Zionism is almost a third rail. The emerging social democratic left in the US has a problem with this that it needs to solve, but that’s only an intermediate point here.

In a recent New Yorker article, Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money, breathlessly acclaimed on MSNeoBC, that the issue is essentially settled—whether or not “the Russians” exercised enough influence on the 2016 General Election to swing it into Trump’s column. Settled because Communications Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson said so. Jamieson’s hagiography in Mayer’s article, subtly entitled “How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump,” takes many paragraphs in a blatant appeal to authority. Jamieson proves, says Mayer, that Russia’s meddling (no one denies there was some element of this, but as a veteran of US foreign policy in Latin America, what surprised me was how surprised anyone else was) was decisive in a close election where the tactical accumulation of states trumped (irresistible pun) the popular vote.

And again, duh. But more than duh, because this inferential case cobbled together using indirect data is architecturally unstable, built as it is on the sand of complex cause-and-effect. I can dip out a bucket of water from the mouth of a river, and there are certainly upstream origins for each molecule of that water, but I challenge anyone to figure them out. Everything that contributed—seen and unseen—to the outcome of the 2016 election was decisive in the larger scheme of things. The preoccupation with this one thing—Russian interference—is an ideological and tactical choice already aimed at one thing: taking down Donald Trump. I approve of that goal wholeheartedly, but selective “honesty” now for tactical advantage will likely come back to bite us in the ass later.

So we’ll see this thing through, the blue tsunami (let it be so, God!) seems our last best hope for the time being of at least slowing the bleeding, so yeah . . . get everyone you know to the polls. And bring on that outrage.

But what about the left? What’s next?

If the Mueller investigation yields results (let’s hope it’s half as decisive as MSNeoBC think it will be for the election), then we are left with a teaching opportunity about US electoral interference abroad, as well as dealing with AIPAC, BDS, and the intentionally convoluted issue of Zionism, and agents of the Israeli government with full time jobs trying to sway US elections, that still holds sway within a sector of the emergent social democratic left. There is work to do to persuade more and more people. Make that hay while the sun shines.

That’s all I have to say for now. I’m going to watch the “Bobby and Donnie Show” on MSNBC.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Sex is natural sex is fun . . .

. . . goes the old song. Bringing me back to a pet peeve in popular culture, even on the left . . . the aphorism that “rape is about power, not sex.” The Ford-Kavanaugh sham hearing tells us something a good deal more difficult. Rape is sexual, and sex is always inflected with power. I know it’s passé to truck out a fossil-phrase like “patriarchy,” but it does stand for a form of systematic power that is still with us, as we saw in bold relief on September 27th.

Even the left has been captured by the naturalistic fallacy on sex, first because the left is still dominated by men who are all for sexual liberation as long as it increases male access to female bodies, or it plugs into the post-critical narratives of hedonism disguised as intellection. I went to a big DSA meeting some time back, where women were well represented in the front of the room, but the men still outnumbered the women in the rest of the room, and of fifteen people who spoke up during the meeting, twelve were males.
I’m not lumping DSA (with whom I affiliate) in with the white-male gerontocracy that is the Republican fraction of the Senate Judiciary Committee; but note how patriarchy (or andrarchy, as I’ll explain further down) is still the elephant in the room, with the Lindsey Graham assholes planted on one side of male power as its defenders and the postmodern, “post-feminist” erasure of women as a class of political subjects on the other. Women, as women, can never catch a break, never say no, never stand their ground.
First of all, sex is anything but natural. We don’t even get around to it, barring sexual exploitation during childhood, until we’ve had a decade and a half, more or less, of intense gender socialization combined with each person trying to find her or his accommodation to the actually-existing gender order as it is expressed in particular lives.
“Natural” evokes something quasi-sacred, like the picture of a bucolic farm on the side of packaged, manufactured food that assures potential buyers the product is “all natural.” Gamma rays are natural. Everything that “obeys” physical laws is natural. Even our species-nature as an animal that requires a highly plastic, closely-nurtured enculturation to survive is . . . natural. But not in the way that divides nature and nurture, merely two interpretive frameworks imposed on the same phenomena.
Sex has not been the same thing to different people in different times. Even if the procreative act responsible for each of us who are reading this now involves (natural) sexual dimorphism all the way down to the gametes, a uniquely modern understanding of procreation that didn’t exist for most people in most times. Sex didn’t bear the same meanings in different times and places, and likewise, sex has never borne the same consequences for men and women. Ever. Which is why I find it curious how so many people on the left have been so quick to adopt an approach of puerile rebellion against the white patriarchy/andrachy—a kind of in-yo-face hedonistic celebration of “sex” that finds the critique of, say, Andrea Dworkin, “feminist, not the fun kind,” terribly inconvenient to this fundamentally libertarian account.
“A commitment to sexual equality with men,” she noted, “is a commitment to becoming the rich instead of the poor, the rapist instead of the raped, the murderer instead of the murdered.”
Sex has always been transmogrified by the power of biological men over biological women (and the demonization of sexual minorities), which in many ways is a more fundamental, persistent, and intractable form of power than class. (Sit back down and rest your nerves, as Mom used to say. Class is important, and sex and class are inextricable. Thank you, Captain Obvious.)
But Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Ford both went to the same elite prep school, and guess what? The creepy frat-boy sexual aggression there is extremely similar to the same kind of aggression among the less privileged. What makes class and sex different is not that class trumps gender (a system dividing power based on compulsory heterosexuality). What makes class and sex different is that sex involves both biologically-sourced desire and the complexity of males and females being in otherwise intimate relations. The class-boss does not live in the same home as the class-worker. The class-worker does not experience physical attraction (even desire is learned) for the class-boss. The strength and limitation of radical feminism—to which I owe a great intellectual debt—is how it has taken the Marxian account of class and applied to gender.
At least, they historicize it.

What was all that above about “andrarchy”? Heterosex for women was once associated with the likelihood of maternal death, e.g. Not for men. Widely available birth control helped with that. But something funny happened on the way to the Sexual Revolution of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, beginning with the bourgeois revolutions of the eighteenth century. First, white Atlantic patriarchy was overthrown by andrarchy. Patriarchy was rule of the fathers, which figuratively applied even to kings. In a kind of Oedipal twist, the republican revolutions (United States, Haiti, France) explicitly called itself a band of brothers (fraternité) rebelling against their political fathers. Women, of course, were still defined into nature (the ultimate object of masculine conquest), but their status changed. From being the ward of a father, then husband who becomes a father (patriarch), women became hypothetically available to all sibling-men, the solution for which (from the men’s point of view) was protective ownership. Men wouldn’t fight over women if each respected the proprietary rights of other men. And so women were tossed out of the frying pan of patriarchy into the fire of andrarchy, the rule of fathers transformed into the rule of men, where their best accommodation was often to submit to one man in exchange for protection from all other men (the sexual protection racket). Some women, beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, began demanding “equality” with men, and as time marched on, women began to filter into fields of endeavor previously closed to them. This was particularly pronounced in professional arenas (medicine, law, etc.) and with the introduction of every more sophisticated business machines (computers) that women could operate as easily as men. White gender—the prevailing white sex hierarchies and norms—transitioned from the “separate spheres” framework of the nineteenth century to a system in the metropolitan states where the public distinctions between masculine and feminine work were being erased, whereupon male power over women within compulsory heterosexuality became increasingly sexualized—that is, focusing the domination of women by men more and more within sexuality itself. Associated with the generally felt need for revenge among many men for their loss of power elsewhere, men came to eroticize women’s humiliation and degradation. Male prerogative was increasingly focused on sex itself. If women were going to become honorary men, the thought goes, then we needn’t afford them the formal “respect” of yesteryear. This was one major factor in the development of modern (now postmodern?) rape culture.
The libertarian account of sex, differentiating sex from power in order to exonerate all “consensual” sex as just harmless fun reminds me of what one fella I knew writing during the disastrous Duke Lacrosse episode who described strip shows as “playing with the erotic.” Zero account of objectification. Zero account of gendered power. Zero account of how dangerous and humiliating this “job” might be, or the forces that pressure a woman to take off her clothes to be ogled by drunken men. And yet now, in this historical moment that includes Bill Clinton and Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore and Bill Cosby and Brett Kavanaugh, women are resurrecting that insight from the past—the personal is the political. Politics is about power; and for many women, their worst experiences of power have been intensely personal: pressure for sex, unwanted sex to maintain bad but inescapable relationships, coerced sex, sexual harassment, sexual humiliation, sexual assault, and rape. #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport are a watershed in American politics; and one that will be met (even sometimes on the left, when it is less tactically convenient) with baleful, writhing backlash like the outburst from Lindsey Graham and the whining outrage of Brett Kavanaugh.

Gender is a keystone of power. These nascent movements, growing up around women simply comparing experiences, are threatening that power by giving the lie to the notion that sex and rape are not the same thing. Even “consent” cannot take on a fulsome meaning so long as there is a power gradient between men and women. Sex is not always rape; but rape is always about sex. I heard a Democrat man once say to his workmates, “I want to hate-fuck Sarah Palin.” I would now invite readers with the emotional endurance or the detachment required, to look at the comments sections on articles about women and sex and review this highly sexualized ways in which men—protected by the anonymity of the web—attack women.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Threat of Suburbia

In 2016, Donald Trump received 62,980,160 votes in the General Election. We often hear that Trump voters correspond to education levels, but that is on true in that aggregate. Forty-two percent of Trump voters, that is 26,451, 667 in the United States in 2016 . . . which is 13 percent of registered US voters, when voter turnout was 61 percent (200 million are registered). If we claim that lack of education is what leads to reaction, then these numbers are hardly convincing. One might discount a million college graduates voting for Trump as anomalous, but twenty-six-and-half million is something much bigger than a mere anomaly. People often forget, based in part on the influence of a media commentariat that is constantly spinning some “working class” theory about Trump and the Trump cult, that the majority of Trump’s votes, raw votes, came out of the suburbs.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Calling All Lawyers—Toward a New Constituent Assembly

Climate change and peak-everything have moved the clock up on capitalism, outrunning those more abstract contradictions of old. Mark Jones, attending well to these heretofore secondary environmental matters, called the final stage of imperialism “exterminism.” For good reason. People are going to get killed or left to die in great numbers, along with every other form of life. It has already begun. We are living in a dangerous pre-interregnum in which the existing powers are too entrenched to remove and increasingly too ineffectual to govern. We begin to sense that something long and hard and ugly may be coming that will last for generations after things fall apart, and we feel the pull of the tempo task—Eisenstein’s film convention when the direness of an emergency calls for a suspension of all the civilized rules for its resolution.

Every day, the Lenin question comes to the fore: What is to be done? And with each day, the answer becomes: A hell of a lot more than what needed doing yesterday. Over, under, around, and through every order of existence and practice there is self-organization. The mind of a person is self-organized, each aspect relating particularly with each other aspect, and that mind is likewise self-organized with other minds, other bodies, other things and happenstances, knitted together in a kaleidoscope of semiospheres, social structures, buildings and roads and power lines, institutions, enterprises, layers of management and governance, and so it goes. Even in that realm where practice theorists dwell—between personhood and culture, combining them—there is self-organization. Different practices and combinations are tried until entire systems become cyclic and comparatively stable, each individual practice demonstrating agency, but agency constrained, and within those constraints is self-organization . . . which remains until it doesn’t, but until it doesn’t it resists change by wrapping the status quo in layer upon layer of self-organized protection. Resistance need not be crushed. More easily, resistance is swallowed.

Some of us are pretty sure that whatever people do as this “exterminist” phase in global governance plays out, it will require tremendous change precisely because self-organized systems are full of micro-articulations that relate to and ramify through many more micro-articulations. No “system” can be corrected superficially, or the deeper secular stability of self-organization will simply swallow it. We can’t even talk about these things, because the conversation leads us down a very hard path.

Let’s pretend, then, that in a few years, one of the least bad scenarios plays out, and that is one where a re-energized and environmentally literate left gains sufficient political power to actually effect policy changes. If I didn’t think this was at least possible, I wouldn’t bother writing this down in the first place. My optimism about that, of course, is tempered by my conviction that this re-energized left will inherit a massive, broken system for which no one can honestly promise the perennial “better future” of 1950s US white capitalist boosterism, as well as an absurd claim made by every political campaign on record. There is no better future. That is disappearing at the same rate as non-extinct species, ocean-side real estate, and fresh water aquifers. I hope we heed that caution and not make silly promises like this, because political enterprises can get pretty tangled up by failing to deliver. The choice is between nose dive and controlled crash landing, and about that I hope we remain honest. Progress is a blood-drenched cannibalistic myth.

Pretending as we are that we have been democratically seated to deliberate on and develop policy, we confront in every potential policy its likely effects, the likely responses it will draw, and a whole host of unintended consequences. At a national level, this process is even more fraught, even if every single elected official is on board for the common good (f’real), because the greater the scope of any policy or practice, the more unforeseen exceptions that disrupt the reason for the rule (lack of granularity), the more layers of management and administration (which tend to become the tail that wags the dog), and the more unintended (and potentially problematic) consequences, from whence come unintended responses, and so forth. We are going to talk about the Constitution in a bit, because that’s where this post is headed, but for the time being, just consider all the unintended consequences of our current Constitution, because every consistent failure of compassionate humanity in the history of the US is failure unfolding beneath the overarching legal edifice of the US Constitution. The potential for unintended consequences at these grand scales demands that we observe some version of the precautionary principle: “an expression of a need by decision-makers to anticipate harm before it occurs. Within this element lies an implicit reversal of the onus of proof: under the precautionary principle it is the responsibility of an activity-proponent to establish that the proposed activity will not (or is very unlikely to) result in significant harm.”

When we talk about emergency transformation, then, and contextualize that in a self-organized system that is riding its mass and inertia into the abyss, then any restructuring in one aspect will have to anticipate how that restructuring will interact with every other aspect. What happens when you decide to abandon one transportation grid and begin development of an alternative? How do we most effectively organize a public work force that attends to the most critical needs in redesign of the built environment and rehabilitation of biomes? What happens to Los Angeles as the water dries up? How do you redesign a food system? This stuff doesn’t happen using existing models with simple redistribution.

Key among those legal challenges that will accompany redesign challenges—let’s be clear, leaving capitalism will require dramatic redesign of pretty much everything—will be the definition of property. And property—along with every other legal question—takes us to the Constitution. Which in turn brings us to the main point: We’ll need a new Constitution. The old one won’t work, because the Divine Judge at the center of American law is a seventeenth century white male bourgeois notion of property.

Backing up a little here, big stuff that will have to change to have a prayer of mitigating the misery of billions for a century and salvaging enough of the biosphere to eventually recalibrate its climate systems . . . includes watershed restoration and management, the development of regional and local sustainable food systems, topsoil replenishment, reforestation, nationalization of all critical enterprises as public utilities (beginning with banks), the transformation of the Department of Defense into a Department of National Service overseeing a national public works jobs program (aimed at biospheric remediation), free public health care, free public reskilling training, and a power-down strategy that moves toward dramatic energy conservation as well as conservation-as-principle (old fashioned supply economy . . . thrift) being incorporated into the new constitutional ethos. (For reasons outlined in Mammon’s Ecology, I think we also need a multicentric money economy, but I’ll point readers to that little book for the details.) Any reader who’s stayed with this so far is already thinking about other things that have to change so the people you see every day around you can go through what you might imagine without ever being terrified or further immiserated in the process. When you redesign a transportation grid, without its raison d’etre being business, what does it look like? If you had fifty really smart people on many of these issues and how they relate to one another, within a few days you might begin to be able to map out what a new constitution might require to escape the errors of the past and minimize the new errors in the future.

That’s where you might need some lawyers whose job it is to listen to the fifty smart people and begin to design a legal constitutional edifice that most closely approximates the combined wisdom of your fifty smart people and some smart lawyers. Put together fifty more of these groups of fifty smart people and some smart lawyers, and you have the beginnings of a New Constituent Assembly. By smart people, I don’t mean academics and experts. I mean practitioners of many kinds. Small farmers, designers, doctors, builders, craftspeople, parents, students, people who have practical insight about how things are done where they live and about how people might best begin to change the way things are done. Local, local, local, local.

I know what I’d want to see, based on one conviction—if you disagree with this conviction, then you can throw out everything else I say.

Conviction: For socialism to succeed, it must be the basis upon which several dramatic changes are made in policy and practice to be as proactive as possible in dealing with the emerging reality of a simultaneous climate and economic crisis. For reasons governed by unshakable physical laws, the regime of global capitalism cannot be sustained, but for those same reasons capitalist practices that rely on high flows of energy and materials across long distances cannot be sustained. Redistribution does not solve this problem, when people are utterly dependent on those flows. Practical economies quite simply must be re-localized as far as is possible in any given period. If you want to summarize the practical problem, think of production and consumption. No matter what kind. Re-localization is the process of systematically moving every form of production as spatially close as possible to those who consume it. Move production and consumption closer together in space.

We need this restated by a bright legal mind into a constitutional principle that guides all other decisions, not as a Kantian imperative (can we get this guy out of the law, please), but as a telos that assumes there are (there are, demonstrably) a host of social, economic, cultural, and ecological benefits that accrue from re-localization alone. Relocalizing is not The Silver Bullet to slay the monster; but it makes a pretty handy compass.

Other thoughts on a New Constitution developed by a New Constituent Assembly (would that we had a water group, a food sovereignty group, an energy group, a home economy group, etc etc etc etc…..).

Something else suggested in Mammon’s Ecology comes to mind—watersheds. Constitutions draw lines, but those lines once drawn—think US states, counties, municipalities—create their own reality. For ecologic concerns to be integrated into a new Constitution, it seems somehow essential that those older lines be allowed to languish and new lines be drawn for local governance along the boundaries of watersheds. In my state, iirc, we have 83 counties, and 63 major watersheds. Somehow, over time, through a series of policies, portions of responsibility and jurisdiction between the old and the new would have to be transferred, but the end result would be an actual integrated geographic feature that has the most direct impact on its residents. All politics comes down to water in the end. There’s a reason for that. Water is life.

Inviting others to think about it, a bluesky exercise.

What are the problems we might see eight years from now? What would we want to see if the left won? There’s a better chance they will succeed after they win if there’s already some thought put into it.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The idea of Africa

“Africa is a big country.

-George W. Bush

The term, the idea of “Africa” creates more confusion than clarity. Africa is a continent, one that covers 11.73 million square miles. North America, by contrast—and this includes Greenland, Canada, the United States, and Latin America to the border between Panama and Colombia—covers 9.54 million square miles. In the present day, there are fifty-four sovereign nation-states and ten non-sovereign territories on the continent, and almost 2,000 languages and dialects that represent at least that many past cultures. Geographers divide Africa into eight major regions—Sahel, Sahara, Savannah, Swahili Coast, Ethiopian Highlands, Rain Forest, Great Lakes, and Southern Africa.
Generalizing about “Africa” now, then, is comparable to generalizing about all of Eurasia. Generalizing about Africa’s history is even more problematic. Because there was a sort of continuity of record-keeping in the Judeo-Christian West, not least because of conquests, we have more access to “Western” history than we so to “African” history, except beginning with the violent Mediterranean and Western colonization of large portions of Africa—which presents a whole new set of problems, those histories themselves written from the limited points of view of a few conquerors.
This set of problems impinges with special force on any speculation about the many different forms of organization of kinship, gender regimes, and political structures that preceded colonization. Speculations about how “African” customs were imported into and modified by the institution of commodified slavery in North and South America, then, are highly tentative. Patricia Hill Collins rightly generalizes about pre-colonial Africa engaging in widespread subsistence agriculture, a fairly safe conclusion for many peoples living throughout Africa, for the same reason that we can speculate beyond the various European “histories” of kings and generals, that tend to ignore the overwhelming majority of peoples (also with many subcultures, languages, and dialects) throughout Europe and West Asia as being subsistence economies, too. Subsistence was the only means of survival that was available to the majority. Even early proto-states and states were unable to administer most territories in any detail. And they exercised political authority in ways that were more or less compatible with the plethora of prevailing customs. So what Collins says also applies to most “Europeans” prior to nation-state formation, capitalist development, and its attendant industrialization/urbanization.
The history of “Africa’s” lack of “history” pivots on the trans-Atlantic slave trade inaugurated in the sixteenth century. Any study now of the importation and modification of “African” customs into slave populations has to pass through these catastrophes. And North American slavery differed in several key respects from slavery elsewhere. For example, by the time of manumission in the United States, no slaves had been born in Africa, and few if any knew their own genealogies. By contrast, when the Haitian Revolution began, in which former slaves successfully gained independence, around seventy percent of Haitians had been born in the African continent. During my own numerous travels to Haiti, it was no uncommon for a Haitian to know that he or she was, e.g., Kongo, Fulani, Yoruba, etc.
US slavery accounted for only around six percent of the total slaves born in the African continent, because after the trans-Atlantic importation of slaves was prohibited in 1804—a direct response to the Haitian Revolution that succeeded that year, provoking terror among US slave holders—US slave owners “bred” slaves. Over the next six decades of selling, re-selling, and general suppression, US slaves were effectively cut off from their own histories in any significant detail.
What we can know is that more than half of all US slaves’ ancestors originated in the Western continental area generally now known as Senegal, Cameroon, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Angola, Gabon, and Congo. The rest came variously from the zones that include modern Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Eastern Nigeria. These same areas, prior to the trans-Atlantic slave trade were kingdoms and empires including the Wolof (who were the first to cooperate with the Portuguese in the trans-Atlantic slave trade), Songhai, Ghana, Kangaba, Mali, Akan, Yoruba, Benin, Hausa, Kongo, Lundy, Musumba, Fulani, Nri/Igbo, and Luba. While there were, just as in Medieval and pre-Medieval Europe, many conquests and cultural interchanges that defy clear lines of demarcation between many of these earlier social entities, there were also distinct, and now largely unknowable, distinctions between them with regard to kinship, gender regimes, and political structures.
The first thing in history that gave any coherence to the notion of “Africans” was the diaspora created by colonization and slavery, which began to homogenize slaves through the horrific experiences of that practice and institution, a homogenization that corresponded, in the United States after its independence, to the systematic erasure of the cultures and histories of the enslaved.
There were certainly matrilineal (not matriarchal) groups, as Collins also notes, and there are many East and Central African cultures that are matrilineal to this day (our reason for making educated guesses about pre-“history”). The same kind of educated guess applies to marriage forms (in some areas) that include monogamy, polygamy, levirate/sororate, (rarely) polyandry, and even in a few instances woman-woman marriage.
I'm working on a book about gender relations and race, ergo this preoccupation with kinship and gender, that will concentrate first on Western social evolution of family, gender, and marriage in light of the public-private distinction, because the history of the Roman and post-Reformation churches is largely Western,[1] and the hegemonic global Western-designed economy we have now grew directly out of Christendom.
As is evidenced by the contradictions between Black and White experience, even those who were not of “the West” (white capitalist Atlantic state patriarchies) have been pulled into the orbit of the West by conquest, military and economic. On the other hand, we cannot incorporate the invention of race and Black experiences without incorporating speculations about this general pre-“history” of people’s who were swept up in the slave trade. The invention of Whiteness as normative is, in too many ways—note the example of Haiti, absolutely dependent on the corresponding invention of Blackness as definitive of what White (or in liberal evasions, normative) is not. And while we can but speculate based on what evidence there is about the unrecorded past,[2] we have ample evidence from historical records with regard to the actual adaptations and accommodations that have been made, with regard to family, gender, marriage, and law, by African Americans during and after slavery, up to the present conjuncture.
The purpose of this particular constellation of subjects in the book draft, from an interdisciplinary standpoint, is twofold: to begin unpacking the public-private dichotomy with attention to how the idea has differed in our racialized society, and to denaturalize the subjects of family, gender, marriage, and even law as seen through the public-private lens(es?). Gender, as custom and structure dividing power, remains the core issue for the book, and it cannot be separated out from kinship, marriage, law, and, in the case of the capitalist metropoles, especially the United States, race.

[1] With the spread of neoliberalism through globalization, what was once Western ideas and culture are growing in influence around the world, especially through consumerism. Urban Chinese, for example, are experiencing an explosion of childhood obesity and diabetes rates with the increasing popularity of McDonalds and other junk-food outlets.
[2] All pasts are selectively recorded, at any rate.