“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, February 16, 2002


Limited Inc is back, and campers, campers, settle down. I know, the overwhelming cards and letters sequence. The concern. The offers of sexual healing, food, socks. But who else out there is gonna give you such quality bitching? Such reports from the stark underground that your ancestors, your great grandfather, maybe, thought he'd left behind in the Old World? Our, our.... ressentiment, to use Max Scheler's term for the terminal condition, the termite ridden condition, of our seedy thoughts, such as they are..

Limited Inc, back in the dreamtime of the race, used to be enamored of Marx. Marxists have a way of knocking that out of you. We still like Mike Davis, the author of Ecology of Fear, and a recent book on the "Late Victorian Holocaust." Davis has focused on the combination of incipient free trade capitalism and bad, bad weather at the end of the 19th century. The death toll from these converging forces, from India to Egypt to Brazil, is pretty startling. Here's the first graf of a Guardian review of that scarifying, and mostly, of course, overlooked book:

"Recording the past can be a tricky business for historians. Prophesying the future is even more hazardous. In 1901, shortly before the death of Queen Victoria, the radical writer William Digby looked back to the 1876 Madras famine and confidently asserted: "When the part played by the British Empire in the 19th century is regarded by the historian 50 years hence, the unnecessary deaths of millions of Indians would be its principal and most notorious monument." Who now remembers the Madrasis?"

Hey, but, do we really care? Indeed, the only famines that register in the Western consciousness are those associated with the failure of Communism. Although Robert Conquest's book on Stalin's de-kulakization has become the standard condemnatory text, where's the companion text, the one about Churchill's engineering of the Bengal famine of 1943? We know that the very fact that one remembers such things is a mark of extremism -- the reasonable man has long ago absorbed the reasons of state that led the heroic Brits to fertilize the Bengal plains with the bones of starving Indians:

"One of the most extraordinary examples of such whitewashing of history is the sustained, continuing deletion of two centuries of massive, recurrent, man-made famine in British India from British and world history, and hence from general public perception. This massive, sustained lying by omission by two centuries of British academic historians occurred in a society having Parliamentary democracy, the means to readily disseminate information and a steadily expanding literate population. Furthermore, this process of lying by omission continues to this day in Britain and its English-speaking offshoots, such as Australia, countries having free speech, high literacy, democracy, prosperity and extensive media of all kinds.

To dramatise this perversion, imagine that the Jewish Holocaust was almost completely deleted from our history books and from general public perception, that there was virtually a total absence of any mention at all of this cataclysm in our newspapers and electronic media or in our schools and universities. Truth, reason, ethics and humanity aside, objective analysis suggests that such a situation would greatly increase the probability of recurrence of racial mass murder. Fortunately, in reality, virtually everyone is aware of this event and indeed in Germany today it is a criminal offence to deny the actuality of the Jewish Holocaust.

In contrast, during the Second World War, a man-made catastrophe occurred within the British Empire that killed almost as many people as died in the Jewish Holocaust, but which has been effectively deleted from history, it is a 'forgotten holocaust'. The man-made famine in British-ruled Bengal in 1943-1944 ultimately took the lives of about 4-million people, about 90% of the total British Empire casualties of that conflict, and was accompanied by a multitude of horrors, not the least being massive civilian and military sexual abuse of starving women and young girls that compares unfavourable with the comfort women abuses of the Japanese Army."

Marxism has now become a mode of memory for those who walked out of the dreamtime. We're a shaken, unreliable crew. Davis is an exemplary Marxman, an unearther of those family secrets bid good riddance by the End of History, which has found its axis of evil in the destruction of the World Trade Centrer, and recognizes no precedent, nor mitigating circumstance, nor any limit to the justice it can extract from the rest of the world. In an article on 9/11 in the New Left Review, Davis starts out with an amazingly prescient throwaway by H.G. Wells, written in his heyday before WW1:

"For many generations New York had taken no heed of war, save as a thing that happened far away, that affected prices and supplied the newspapers with exciting headlines and pictures. The New Yorkers felt that war in their own land was an impossible thing . . . They saw war as they saw history, through an iridescent mist, deodorized, scented indeed, with all its essential cruelties tactfully hidden away. They cheered the flag by habit and tradition, they despised other nations, and whenever there was an international difficulty they were intensely patriotic, that is to say, they were ardently against any native politician who did not say, threaten, and do harsh and uncompromising things to the antagonist people. [2]
When a foreign policy dominated by the Trusts and Monopolies entangles America in a general War of the Powers, New Yorkers, still oblivious to any real danger, rally to flags, confetti and an imperial Presidency.
And then suddenly, into a world peacefully busied for the most part upon armaments and the perfection of explosives, war came . . . The immediate effect on New York . . . was merely to intensify her normal vehemence. Great crowds assembled . . . to listen to and cheer patriotic speeches, and there was a veritable epidemic of little flags and buttons . . . strong men wept at the sight of the national banner . . . the trade in small arms was enormously stimulated . . . and it was dangerous not to wear a war button . . . One of the most striking facts historically about this war, and one that makes complete the separation between the methods of warfare and democracy, was the effectual secrecy of Washington . . . They did not bother to confide a single fact of their preparations to the public. They did not even condescend to talk to Congress. They burked and suppressed every inquiry. The war was fought by the President and the Secretary of State in an entirely autocratic manner."

Davis takes a tour of the images of the "black utopia" -- the utopia of a capitalism armed and triumphant. It is a phrase he steals from Ernst Bloch. As always, Davis is a coiner of phrases. I can't resist another long quote -- notice how this paragraph patiently rolls towards its reversal in the first sentence of the next paragraph. Davis is discussing "fear studies," which he, of all people, should know about. Watch how he manipulates one reversal with another. Like a man trying to piece together an approximate image of his face in a funhouse mirror, Davis works by patiently angling one half truth with another. At some indeterminate point, one hopes that the image of the real jumps out at one. If you are good, very good, this happens. It happens like this:

...Barry Glassner systematically debunked some of the more common goblins�young Black men, street drugs, terroristic political correctness, and so on�that deliberately spook the path toward public understanding of such social problems as unemployment, bad schools, racism and world hunger. He carefully showed how media-conjured scares were guilty �oblique expressions� of the post-liberal refusal to reform real conditions of inequality. Fear had become the chief ballast of the rightward shift since 1980. Americans, in his view, �were afraid of the wrong things�, and were being hoaxed by the latter-day equivalents of Orson Welles�s notorious �War of the Worlds� broadcast. �The Martians,� he underscored, � aren�t coming.� [8]

But, alas, they have come, brandishing box-cutters."

Sunday, February 10, 2002

We will be down for a couple of days. Computer went on the blink. Limited Inc has taken to drink. And we feel like pitching this whole thing over the brink. Etc. But don't worry -- our experiment of going without any visible means of support is just getting more interesting, campers.