Wednesday 24th of April 2024

a better place to be........

“Why is our collective mood so sour? We are awash with material wealth, and technology provides us with unprecedented powers. But this veneer of well-being masks a deeper crisis. …  Our institutions are crumbling, leaving us vulnerable and aimless. …  How have we come to this condition?”

These questions arrived in the mail Monday morn courtesy of R.R. Reno, who edits First Things, a high-end journal of religious and public affairs that concerns itself with the intersection of the two. One way or another, in one or another set of terms, I have wondered about these things for years. Can you be an American and a sentient being—which do not always go together—and not pose these questions, silently or among others? 

 

By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost

 

Lately I think about these matters daily. 

I have been living abroad for some time now—south of the border, to be as precise as I intend to get. Leaving the U.S. for however long it turns out to be was mostly a cost-of-living decision, as it is for many thousands of Americans yearly at this point. Mostly but not entirely: I also looked forward to escaping not only the sour mood and the discontent and the aimlessness Reno mentions, but also a certain air of unreality that has come to permeate American life. 

It is not so easy to describe this state, especially to those who are most thoroughly immersed in it or who simply don’t want to hear anything about it. It is in the way of what the philosophers tell us: There is no light without dark, no joy without sadness, and so on. If some pole of reality is so distant, so absent from daily life, a pervasive unreality becomes the reality. It is as if it is in the air we breathe and the water that flows from our faucets: So it seemed to me by the time I packed to depart from a New England village I love as I will never love any other, even if I can no longer afford it.

A little distance goes a long way when you exit the condition I describe. I find this whenever I travel abroad and have found it during this latest journey. The things that make headlines in major media—Here’s where to get the best corkscrew, who wore what at the Met Gala, and so on infinitely—suggest a nation detached, willfully, from the world as it is.

America’s political life—and I don’t want even to mention its foreign policies— proceeds in some kind of dream state. Readers of this publication know well enough that our mainstream press and broadcasters have wandered into Alice’s wonderland. Donna Brazile, the longtime Democratic Party hack, as corrupt as they come but taken seriously nonetheless, published a piece in The New York Times a few weeks back under the headline “The Excellence of Kamala Harris Is Hiding in Plain Sight.” This is not merely ridiculously unserious, the essence of our bullshit politics, if you will excuse the infelicity. It is a form of psychosis. 

I come to the word I find most useful. I was talking by telephone with a friend in Maine not long after my departure and having a hard time, per usual, explaining these thoughts and impressions. He interrupted. “The national psychosis,” he said. 

But precisely. If we define psychosis as a dysfunctional relationship with reality, our republic can fairly be said to suffer a collective case. I can think of no other nation on either side of any divide you want to name that suffers this affliction, at least not to the extent America does. 

“How have we come to this condition?” to borrow R.R. Reno’s good question. What is the origin of our collective speciousness, our state of self-deception, our shared inauthenticity—and at this point our desperate attachment to same?

A case can be made that America the specious goes back to the 17th century, the Jamestown Settlement (1607), the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock (1620), Winthrop’s arrival on the Arabella in 1630. These first trans–Atlantic settlers were as lost in the Bible as right-wing Israelis are today. They all set sail certain that the hand of divine Providence guided them and that they had reached some kind of Promised Land. We think of this as the root of America’s exceptionalist consciousness, and true enough. But a more clinical description is as pertinent, reminding us that America may never have been other than a nation founded on speciousness, which we can define, as Webster’s 11th edition does, as “having a false look of truth or genuineness, having a deceptive attraction or allure.”

O.K., but I am not a scholar of early American history and am more interested here in our shared unreality as it manifests today. Where did this come from?

I have long argued that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, shattered our national myths and so reshaped the American consciousness. It was then, as myth gave way to history, that the imperium, thrown onto its back foot, assumed the defensive crouch and began conducting itself with the vicious aggression of the wounded. It was then our media caved entirely to the needs of a national-security state suddenly desperate to preserve its global primacy. 

But I go back a little further now to explain “the national psychosis.” Some readers will remember the prominence in the 1960s and 1970s of Rollo May, the noted practitioner of “existential psychotherapy,” as he put it. Back then you had to read Love and Will to be any kind of hip. Ditto The Courage to Create. I have lately been reading one of his later books, Freedom and Destiny, and came upon the following passage the other night. May is examining the question of destiny, which he defines as those parts of ourselves and our circumstances we can act in accord with or against but cannot change:

We can collectively cover our eyes to the results of our actions, blind ourselves to the full import of our cruelty and our responsibility for that cruelty, as we did in the Vietnam war. But this requires a numbing of our sensitivity and will sooner or later take its toll in neurotic symptoms.

Taking May’s obvious cue, isn’t April 30, 1975, when that famous helicopter rose from the roof of the American Embassy, marking the rise (not fall) of Saigon, America’s decisive date of departure from reality? I think so, having lived through it and all the flinching and pretending that followed. 

Nobody has captured this interim more astutely than Chris Appy, the distinguished UMass historian, who got it down in American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity (Viking, 2015). It is a brilliant work of history and social psychology that traces precisely the way America transformed the Vietnam War from an act of U.S. imperial aggression into a conflict that left Americans the victims. 

Here is Appy in an interview I conducted with him in Amherst after the book came out: 

There was a kind of national mourning, but it was all about what came to be known as “an American tragedy.” This allowed us to stop thinking so much about what we actually did in and to Vietnam and to lick our own wounds and think about the ways that it had divided us—all those things people like Ronald Reagan said the war had hurt, if not destroyed: our natural pride, our international prestige and most of all our power.

There was a kind of reconstruction project, and much of it took place at the level of memory and public discourse about the past. It’s amazing how successful that project was. Of course, memory can’t be defeated or completely erased. There is a legacy of dissent that continues in these decades. There is certainly an incredible proliferation of literature, much of it expressing dissenting viewpoints, but at the broad level of collective or public memory, this epic event gets reduced to a tiny set of images. 

Most of them focused on the American combat soldier. Some small unit of Americans walking through very menacing and dangerous jungle environments and endangered, physically and psychologically. That’s a way of worrying about what the war did to us, particularly to our own soldiers. I still have students who grew up persuaded that maybe the most shameful thing about the war was the way we treated returning veterans. That’s a classic example of how we transformed [Vietnam] into an American tragedy.

 I well recall, on visits home from overseas assignments in the post–1975 years, marveling at the unfamiliar profusion of American flags all over the place, the hyper-patriotism—often ugly, as during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles—and altogether a turn among Americans toward some unbecoming posturing at the heart of which was an idea that America never loses even though it just did. These were the “Morning in America” years, some readers may recall.   

It was a great big collective flinch, a turning from reality toward unreality. And so we must see the post–Vietnam time as the root of those neurotic symptoms Rollo May warned us about, except that these have to do not with a patient paying $100 for a 50–minute hour on a couch but with an entire people, with us, with us now.

Last week I read that the Pentagon, now committed to rechristening military bases named after Confederate officers, changed Fort Benning to Fort Moore. Henry Benning was indeed a hell of a piece of work, a radical secessionist and a vigorous defender of slavery, on the battlefield and in the councils of government. Who is Moore, then?

Moore is Lt. Gen. Harold Moore and his wife, Julia. Fort Moore is the first Army base to honor a spouse in recognition of “the important role Army spouses and families play in the success of our military,” as the camp commander put it the other day. It sounds very 21st century, doesn’t it, very 2023, except that Harold Moore is honored for leading the U.S. Army in the battle of Ia Drang, in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Waged in 1965, Ia Drang was the Army’s first major attack on the Vietnamese, a decisive battle during which it tested assault helicopters while B–52s flew their first bombing sorties. Moore later valorized Ia Drang in We Were Soldiers Once … and Young, an example of just the sort of rubbish Chris Appy writes of in American Reckoning. We were noble, as Moore has it. We did the right thing and paid the price for doing the right thing.     

Henry “Old Rock” Benning, who fought for slavery at Antietam and so dishonored Black people, must go. In comes Harold “Hal” Moore, a soldier who front-ended the most shameful of America’s many 20th century aggressions, leaving behind three million brown people as casualties. 

See what I mean about April ’75 as the root of the national psychosis my friend in Maine named? See the straight line I propose to etch between our condition then and our condition now? 

Last week the Center for Policy and Research at Seton Hall University Law School published a 131–page paper that gives us “the most complete—and compelling—account to date of America’s torture program,” as the authors of “American Torturers: FBI and CIA Abuses at Dark Sites and Guantánamo” write in their introduction. This is the work of Mark Denbeaux, a Seton Hall law professor; Jess Ghannam, a professor of psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco, and a number of Denbeaux’s law students. Not to be missed, it features 40 graphic—to put it mildly—drawings by Abu Zubaydah that depict scenes of torture at the Guantánamo prison over the past two decades. That is how long Zubaydah has been held there, nearly how long the U.S. has known and acknowledged he is innocent, and we are still counting the duration of this atrocity, for Zubaydah remains at Guantánamo as we speak. 

Consider this report carefully, readers. We should ask ourselves what and who it is about. It is about the sadists at Guantánamo and their victims, obviously. Is it also about Ronald Reagan, who got Americans to think they were the victims of the Vietnamese? Is it also about Harold Moore and the Pentagon officials who just put his name on an Army base? Is it also about those perpetrating the post–Cold War wars and interventions in the Greater Middle East? Is it about, is it about, is it about…?

Is it about us, we who are not very good at facing ourselves and accepting our responsibilities, we who consequently get through our days as if on clouds of unreality, of speciousness, of endless, numbing distractions?

I mentioned Rollo May’s Freedom and Destiny and quoted a passage having to do with destiny. We should also think about what May meant by “freedom” and why he put these two terms side by side in the title of his 1981 book. 

It is our destiny, we who are now alive, to live in a declining imperium responsible for many crimes and inhumane acts, the waging of many wars, and the propagation of many fabrications and lies intended to shield us from all these realities. We cannot change this inheritance. All that I mentioned just above cannot be undone. It all happened, and we cannot unhappen any of it.

Our freedom lies in how each of us chooses to respond to this destiny–and, not least, our determination or otherwise to shape our destiny anew. It is entirely up to us, each of us, to look squarely at our circumstances or go numb. We assume an individual responsibility as we make these choices, just as the postwar existentialists argued, and declining to make such choices, or refusing even to recognize we have them, is to make our choice—the wrong one. May calls this “the freedom of doing,” or “existential freedom.”

I am especially taken with what May has to say about the importance of rebellion, and in the circumstances I describe it should be evident why. “Is the possibility of rebellion necessary and inevitable for human freedom?” May asks. “I answer yes. … I mean the capacity for rebellion as the preservation of human dignity and spirit.”

Human dignity and spirit: I count these among the great casualties of America’s turn into speciousness since April 1975. We can blame Reagan et al. all we like for this state of affairs, but we have also been participants in our collective abdications. 

Reagan went on and on about freedom, a perversely defined freedom, to the point one wanted to shout, “Enough already!” That has nothing to do with what Rollo May had to say to us. Reagan’s “freedom” is part of the unreality he helped foist upon us. May’s is the freedom each of us has to act with or against our circumstances, our destiny. It is the freedom to rebel against the state of speciousness that has overtaken us since that fateful spring 48 years ago, to advance ourselves beyond the sour aimlessness R.R. Reno finds among us. 

What is there to make this advance impossible? I can think of nothing, or nothing outside of ourselves.

 

READ MORE:

 

 

FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW................

flogged....

Michael Crawford

Michael Crawford sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker in 1981. Since then, he has sold over six hundred cartoons, illustrations, and paintings to the magazine. Crawford’s work has appeared in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. A dedicated baseball fan, he has played first base for The New Yorker’ssoftball team since the nineteen-eighties. Off the diamond, he co-edited, and wrote the introduction for, “The New Yorker Book of Baseball Cartoons,” with cartoon editor Robert Mankoff. Crawford’s talents expand beyond cartooning—he is a full-time painter, and also recently worked on a video project for Issey Miyake, examining the designer’s relationship with Irving Penn. He is currently working on a “not-exactly-for-kids” picture book and animated film about the Skunk Mafia of Central Park, who are fighting for control of the city’s beloved oasis and all the animals in it. Crawford lives with fellow New Yorker cartoonist Carolita Johnson opposite the Cloisters, in upper Manhattan.

 

--------------------------

 

THE CARTOON ABOVE ILLUSTRATES ONE OF OUR (USA) PROBLEMS. THE CARTOON DID NOT MAKE IT INTO THE NEW YORKER, YET IT IS ONE OF THE MOST EXPLICIT ILLUSTRATION OF THE ROT OF AMERICAN POLITICS....

 

SEE ALSO:

indulgent introspection....

 

 

ONE SHOULD REMEMBER:

beating democracy into the bastards...

For decades, archaeologists thought democratic republics such as classical Athens and medieval Venice were a purely European phenomenon. Conventional wisdom held that in premodern, non-Western societies, despots simply extracted labor and wealth from their subjects. But archaeologists have identified several societies in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica that upend that model. They argue that societies such as Tlaxcallan in the central Mexican highlands and Tres Zapotes along the Mexican gulf coast were organized collectively, meaning that rulers shared power and commoners had a say in the government that presided over their lives. These societies were not necessarily full democracies in which citizens cast votes, but they were radically different from the autocratic, inherited rule found—or assumed—in most ancient societies. Archaeologists now say that these collective societies left telltale traces in their material culture and urban planning, such as repetitive architecture, an emphasis on public space over palaces, reliance on local production over exotic trade goods, and a narrowing of wealth gaps between elites and commoners.

 

 

 

 

FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW................

Orwell's balls......

 

Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier THE END...

 

Yet I believe there is some hope that when Socialism is a living issue, a thing that large numbers of Englishmen genuinely care about, the class-difficulty may solve itself more rapidly than now seems thinkable. In the next few years we shall either get that effective Socialist party that we need, or we shall not get it. If we do not get it, then Fascism is coming; probably a slimy Anglicized form of Fascism, with cultured policemen instead of Nazi gorillas and the lion and the unicorn instead of the swastika. But if we do get it there will be a struggle, conceivably a physical one, for our plutocracy will not sit quiet under a genuinely revolutionary government. And when the widely separate classes who, necessarily, would form any real Socialist party have fought side by side, they may feel differently about one another. And then perhaps this misery of class-prejudice will fade away, and we of the sinking middle class—the private schoolmaster, the half-starved free-lance journalist, the colonel’s spinster daughter with £75 a year, the jobless Cambridge graduate, the ship’s officer without a ship, the clerks, the civil servants, the commercial travellers, and the thrice-bankrupt drapers in the country towns–may sink without further struggles into the working class where we belong, and probably when we get there it will not be so dreadful as we feared, for, after all, we have nothing to lose but our aitches. 

THE END.

 

https://files.libcom.org/files/wiganpier.pdf

 

------------------------------

 

 Sun 20 Feb 2011 11.04 AEDT

 

Seventy-five years ago [87 NOW] this weekend, Old Etonian Eric Blair – "a tall feller with a pair of flannel bags, a fawn jacket and a mac"[NOT A COMPUTER, A COAT — THIS FOR THE KIDDLES], as one northerner described him – was pacing along the Leeds and Liverpool canal searching for Wigan Pier.

"Terribly cold," he recorded in his diary. "Frightful landscape of slagheaps and belching chimneys. A few rats running through the snow, very tame, presumably weak with hunger." The mill girls, scurrying to work in their clogs down the cobbled streets, sounded to him "like an army hurrying into battle".

 

Weeks earlier, Blair had set out from London armed with a small advance from his publisher, Victor Gollancz, to investigate the "distressed areas" of northern England. It was Gollancz who, to save the former colonial officer's family from embarrassment, gave Blair the pseudonym George Orwell when he published Down and Out in Paris and London and had come up with the idea for what would become The Road to Wigan Pier, a classic literary journey that critics called beautiful and disturbing. The New Statesman and Nation's review said of Orwell: "The honest Tory must face what he tells and implies, and the honest Socialist must face him, too."

 

READ MORE:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/feb/20/orwell-wigan-pier-75-years

 

------------------------

 

05/24/2023  

George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier is a book for which I kept hearing recommendations. I was told that it contained biting criticisms of socialism and was a valuable source of antiauthoritarian thought.

What I found, instead, was a snobbish text that ineffectually denounces snobbery, an erudite-sounding text that lacks any philosophical or economic depth, and a persistent veil of ignorance over and presumption in favor of state intervention for any of the problems described, as well as the shortsighted implication that the solution is simply more of the same.

The book was first published in 1937, which is long after the Soviets abandoned war communism in 1921, after the end of the New Economic Policy in 1928, and even after the state-engineered Ukraine famine from 1930–33. Ludwig von Mises wrote his first devastating critique of central planning, Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth, in 1920, and Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis was published in English in 1936.

One might be tempted to forgive Orwell for his ignorance, if not for the vague, shortsighted, and infantile defenses of socialism he provides in the book. “The choice is not, as yet, between a human and an inhuman world,” he simpers. “It is simply between Socialism and Fascism, which at its very best is Socialism with the virtues left out.”

....

Read this book but do so with healthy skepticism and a firm theoretical and historical grounding in economics. Without these, Orwell’s intelligent-sounding and emotionally gripping words might pull you down a dangerous, authoritarian path.

 

 

https://mises.org/wire/review-orwells-road-wigan-pier

 

ONE COULD BE TEMPTED TO TELL THE MISES INSTITUTE SCHOLAR, , TO GO AND FUCK HIMSELF... BUT WE ARE POLITE. ORWELL, AKA ERIC BLAIR, GOT THE SOCIALISM AND FASCISM SPOT ON. THE POINT IS THAT OUR CAPITALIST SOCIETY IS (OR HAS BECOME) A DISHONEST FASCIST STRUCTURE WITH MORE SURVEILLANCE OF PEOPLE, WITH MORE DECEIT AND MORE CONTROLS OF PEOPLE, NO SO MUCH JACKBOOTS, BUT INSIDIOUS MANIPULATIONS WHICH HAVE DECIMATED THE MIDDLE-CLASS.

ONE OF THE YOKE WHICH KEEPS PEOPLE (AND PRESIDENTS) ON THE NARROW LINE IS DEBT.  

ONE OF THE METHOD TO MAKE US ACCEPT SHIT (PROPAGANDA) IS THE MEDIA WHICH ARE IN BED WITH THE GOVERNMENTS.

THE MISES INSTITUTE IS PART OF THIS GLOBALISTAN ORGANISATION, WHICH HAS MANY HEADS — FROM THE BILDERBERG CLUB TO THE WEF AND THE MISES.  

IT'S TIME TO READ ORWELL'S WORKS ONCE MORE....

 

READ FROM TOP.

 

AND FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW..............