“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

Friday, April 14, 2017

climate as property

It is often said that Marx was for abolishing private property. This is a misreading of Marx, or a sort of misreading. Marx predicted that capitalism would abolish private property.

The paralysis before climate change has something to do with Marx's notion. It is the reason that it isn't surprising that the U.S., which has appropriated the atmosphere for depositing a hugely disproportionate amount of waste, is not eager to make up for it. One of the keys to understanding pollution in capitalism is that capitalism is not, despite the first grade propaganda, based on private property. It is based, rather, on larger property owners seizing the private property of smaller owners. It is all about social costs, and renting your body for zero cents and zero dollars to lodge their corporate chemicals in. This is where Marx's theory intervenes: he had a shrewd idea that the progress of capitalism was the inverse of what the proponents of capitalism claimed, as it progressively abolished private property by concentrating it in fewer and fewer hands. At the end of this process, Marx thought, the bargaining power of the working class would have to be expressed politically, in a revolution that would establish a new order founded on that capitalist accomplishment. I'm less sanguine than Marx that the last chapter will be written that way. But one way to start the discussion of climate change is to ask about your property rights to the cimate. Have they been respected?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bellarchy, or the State we live in

Unfortunately, political philosophers rarely seem to understand war as an institution. Rather, it is looked upon as an accident, at best a derivative of other state interests. The state, after all, in classical theory, is the opposite of war – the essential curb on it. Thus it seems dialectically out of the question that war might become part of the state, colonize the state’s DNA, as it were, determine its political form (a possibility materialized in the way a state taxes and distributes money, in the way a governing elite gets its hands on the state, in the very culture of belligerence that the busy little state spreads among a population).It is as if, among possible state forms, one is missing. Democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, anarchy – all of them are there except for… bellarchy. 

Bellarchy, in premodern times, impressed itself on the core of the state in terms of conquest, plunder, and glory, and these things have featured from the Assyrians to the colonizing West – but the idea of modernization is that we have left this in the past, These things are  seem alien to the state in any of its modern guises.
But I say nay, look around you.
In modern times, it was Hitler who codified the arms race and perpetual readiness for war into the state’s answer to the numerous problems posed by the treadmill of production. After World War II, this was Hitler’s legacy to the two great superpowers, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. So, for instance, the U.S. was able, in the Cold war, to do what it had been unable to do for almost one hundred years – develop the South, using the military to distribute aid to that underdeveloped part of the country, just as it also did to the West. And that structure has had cultural effects we have seen to this day. A constituency for war has been created such that war unleashes, without any questioning, the massive resources of the state. 

If Thomas Paine, whose instinct about war was sound, never quite foresaw this system, he certainly knew of and derided the connection between war and monarchy – or, if you will, the executive branch. Here he is still very much the prophet – meaning that his words are still not taken seriously. Only when prophecy is safely defunct is the prophet honored. Thomas Paine, like MLK, remains a prophet.


Monday, April 10, 2017

War: serial hit and run nation

Thoughts on warwarwarwar
Heidegger’s critique of the subject was aimed at getting metaphysics out of the magic circle of the subject; for this purpose he used the term Dasein. In 1945, according to Eileen Welsome’s Plutonium Files, the medical staff at a Rochester hospital went Heidegger one better. The staff began injecting unwitting patients with plutonium in an experiment conducted in tandem with other doctors across the country, organized by the Department of War – and eventually absorbed by the Atomic Energy Commission. The staff referred to the patients as HP – Human Product.
We are all HP now, processed through 70 years of DEFCON [defense condition] culture. One of the truths of the post 9/11 period that LI holds to be self evident is that after 9/11, everything was the same – except more so. The three trillion dollars of extra spending on the military did, of course, done everything except capture the 4 or 5 thousand people who attacked on 9/11 – for they now serve the vital function of being the threat on tap. And the cascade caused by the vile invasion of Iraq goes on and on, don’t stop till the war makes you drop. The DOA of Libya lies behind us, like some old cadaver in the memory of a serial hit and run driver. We are licking our moral chops about Syria, although there isn’t a person in the entire talking head parade, from the ludicrous Ayroult, Hollande’s minister, to the “Obama advisors” who are coming out saying that negotiating was a mistake, who really give a shit about Syria. They do give a shit about feeling good, and editorializing. But as for the 2 million HP in refugee camps, or the six years of civil war in which the US and its allies have armed groups in the full knowledge that they were turning into little copycats of the Saudi mindset – well, we will just forget about that.
I think the US is best defined as a conjunction of plutarchy and bellarchy. A war and finance state. We have one, overriding question for our fellow American HP, which is this: how did the war state create plug and play HP? The culture of acquiescence? Why do we love our presidents to have blood in their mouths? And how is it that after all that has been happening for 16 years, we still don’t realize that War is a commitment – there are no micro World War 2s. Libya failed, and Iraq failed, precisely because the plutocrats want to keep American HP generally safe and endebted, so there’s no draft, there is no immense commitment of every resource to war – not to speak of rationing and price controls. Heavens!
In a story published in the WAPO about the Hanson Plutonium Plant in Richland, Washington in I think it was 2004, I found a passage that seems so richly symbolic that I saved it in my blog. It seemed to reach out to me:
“Richland sprouted Atomic Bowling Lanes, an Atomic Body Shop, Atomic TV Repair, even an "Atomic Man." He was Harold McCloskey, a technician who survived a 1976 accident at Hanford that sprayed his face with the largest human dose of radiation ever recorded. He became the most thoroughly studied nuclear victim in America. Baggies of his feces and urine (labeled "Caution Radioactive") were stored for years in laboratory refrigerators and freezers across the Hanford site. After the accident, McCloskey was almost blind and his face could set off Geiger counters 50 feet away. But he was pro-Hanford until the end (he died of a heart attack in 1987). "Just forget about me being anti-nuclear, because I'm not," he said a decade after the accident. "We need nuclear energy."
Football players from Richland High wore a mushroom cloud on their helmets and called themselves the Bombers. The symbol of the atom was carved atop stone columns at the entrance to the cemetery. When liberated from federal ownership and allowed self-government in 1958, Richland's residents staged a simulated atomic explosion in a vacant lot on the edge of town. And when the Cold War began to wind down, announcement of the closure of N reactor, one of Hanford's largest, brought mournful Tri-Citians into the streets by the thousands. They held candles and sang "Kumbaya."”
Kumbaya! The HP beast slouches towards the perfect anthem, the favorite song of my Vacation Bible School days back there in Clarkston, Georgia. Someone’s dying Lord – and it is us HP, mourning the amazing structures of the Cold War, the architecture, the fallout, the atom soldiers, the preparedness, the dictionary of acronyms and phrases, the way we turned, turned, turned.
Thomas Paine wrote, in the Rights of Man:
“As war is the system of Government on the old construction, the animosity which Nations reciprocally entertain, is nothing more than what the policy of their Governments excites to keep up the spirit of the system. Each Government accuses the other of perfidy, intrigue, and ambition, as a means of heating the imagination of their respective Nations, and incensing them to hostilities. Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of Government.”