Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Welcome to the Realm of Terror, Here's Your T-Shirt

Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote that when force is applied to the realm of knowledge, we are living in the realm of terror, and the social bond is broken.

I don't think anyone has ever written a more profound explaination of what is currently happening in North American society.

September 11, 2001: terrorists linked to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda crash two Boeing 747 passenger liners into the World Trade Center, a second (allegedly) into the Pentagon, and a fourth plane is crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

A few days later, an Anthrax scare sweeps the United States. Ever since, the mentality within the United States (and, by extension, Canada) has been that we are in a culture under siege. Paranoia is at an all-time high. That is partially what allowed for the passing of the Patriot Act in the United States, which is shockingly similar to Adolf Hitler's Enabling Act in Germany.

Now, the social bond is inexorably broken. It seems that people don't trust each other any more. In a society that has become so hopelessly dependent upon classifying the "other" as an enemy which we can fight against, from Arab terrorists allegedly vacationing in Iraq to that reclusive homosexual man down the street.

We live in a world in which we are taught that everyone walking down the street is a potential robber. We are so helplessly divided from each other that we wouldn't recognize the similarities between us and a complete stranger if we had to.

This is the single most insidious consequence of terrorism. The threat of terrorism (very real) has exposed us to the threat of ultra-"right" wing megalomaniacs who want to curtail our rights and freedoms for the sake of greater governmental control (very real). And because we are so divided from each other (also over divisions between the "left" and "right") that we don't recognize this.

There is a term reserved for tactics such as this: divide and conquer.

And, boy, are we ever divided.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I am a Crack-Pot, This is True

Reading the entries on my blog, it probably isn't hard to imagine me as some sort of red-neck, ultra-right-wing wacko who hates Marxism and the left wing with a passion.
Perhaps in some sense, this is true. I tend to have a little bit of red-neck in my nature, and I believe firmly in a policy of cautiousness toward the left wing.

For example, as much as I absolutely love the "Make Things Better" ideal of the NDP party, I don't agree that all of society's problems can be solved by merely throwing money at them. And personally, I tend to think over-taxation is bad, which maybe helps to define this particular attitude.

Yes, I'm a crackpot. I'm one of these idiots that believes that moderation can exist. In fact, I see it to be the only way to eliminate the polarization of our political ideologies. I can imagine some people reacting to this with: wait, polarization is a bad thing? This guy is off of his fucking rocker!!!

But let's look at what the polarization of political/social ideologies has provided us with: two obvious examples? Facism and soviet communism (which I differentiate from communism only to satisfy actual communists). Both of these were pretty bad things.

Of course, extremism probably shouldn't be eliminated altogether. Freedom and liberty were once considered to be radical ideas. Radical ideas obviously provide us with valuable ideas. The trick, I believe, is to build in-roads between radicals on both sides. This, I think, is one of the few solutions that will lead to any sense of sanity within our current political boundaries.

Wait. Me preaching about sanity is a lot like George Dubya Bush preaching about tolerance.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's become pretty obvious that I have to go convince girls to pour mustard on me.

False Consciousness is the New False Consciousness

Here I go on another rant against "Modern Marxism".

Karl Marx believed that the belief held by oppressed classes that they were not oppressed amounted to "false consciousness". He cited religion as a tool of imposing false consciousness, and he believed that the repeal of false consciousness was necessary in order to instigate the class revolution that he believed were both necessary and inevitable.

Many analysts point to George Dubya Bush’s recent presidential victory in the United States as being a result of false consciousness. In the case of the United States, according to these analysts, it is not only religion that is helping to impose this false consciousness, but it is also the ideal of American patriotism. That is so long as it is to be expected that an American patriot will trust the president and not question him, it is required that Americans largely turn a blind eye toward the effect that his policies have had not only on the international scene, but on the internal American scene, as well.

False consciousness, in this context, is the tool of an uber-imperialist nation, which is so enslaved to globalized corporate economics that it is forced to facilitate the expansion of this "invisible empire" – the American corporate empire.

And while there is certainly something going on the world (especially as it pertains to the American invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq) that very much resembles imperialism and may in fact be so, once again, the practicality of outdated ideologies to the analysis of this phenomenon should be called into question.

In this case, that of false consciousness.

It is very difficult these days to pretend that one is not oppressed, or even that others are not oppressed. From very early ages now, we are taught that we are oppressed by one force or another. Through the educational standpoints on racism and sexism, which we encounter increasingly early in life, we learn that almost no matter who we are, we are all oppressed in one form or another. Racial minorities are taught that they are victims of racism. Women are taught that they are victims of sexism. Members of the "dominant group" are often even taught that they are besieged by the minorities, thus introducing at least the threat of oppression. As we proceed through high school and post-secondary institutions (should be so fortunate) we are taught that oppression of various factors is institutionalized. We are taught that racism and sexism are hidden values of our society, although we are also taught that mainstream society has begun to favor the plight of the oppressed at the expense of their would-be oppressors.

False consciousness is the new false consciousness. At least, that is to say, the belief in false consciousness has become the new false consciousness.

It should come as no small surprise that as believing oneself to be oppressed becomes the norm, efforts directed at showing oneself to be oppressed increase exponentially. Take, for example, the idea of political correctness. How many times have the terms used to address such categories of the population as African Americans changed?

Of course the term "Nigger" (and as a victim of my own sensibilities, I loathe using this word) is no longer acceptable. When this came to be, the term "Negro" was created to replace it. A forgotten number of permutations later, "African American" has become the current P.C. term. It is likewise with the "Differently Abled". "Retard’ was replaced by the arguably more sensitive "Handicapped", which was in turn replaced with "Disabled", "Challenged", and an also-forgotten number of flagstones along the way. Language itself is being bent to the ideal of false consciousness, which, perhaps in the examples I have provided, is not such a bad thing after all.

However, the ideal of false consciousness and political correctness have begun to hold our society hostage. Affirmative action programs, for example, provide for greater opportunities to those who are "oppressed" but (as much as the proponents of such programs may refuse to admit this) provide little in terms of actual equity and actual equality. In a sense, these attempts at curtailing oppression can also be perceived as a form of oppression, and actual subversions to the idea of meritocracy.

There is an implicit idea inherent in affirmative action policies that suggest should an African American, woman, or differently abled individual apply for a position that they fail to attain, it is at least partially because that individual is an African American, a woman, or differently abled – whichever the case may be. This is taken as a symptom of oppression, no matter what the qualifications of the individual may be. It may also be unavoidable to realize that, under affirmative action programs, the individual who attains the position they have applied for may have attained it partially because that individual is an African American, woman, or differently abled – again, whichever the case may be. It is entirely plausible that in this case the tables of oppression have merely been turned. Or, perhaps not.

Of course, such a thinly veiled assault on affirmative action policies and the ideals associated with them ignores the fact that oppression does indeed exist in our society. It would be incredibly naïve to believe so, and I am not personally prepared to even flirt with such naiveté.

What I am merely suggesting is that the belief in false consciousness, and along with it institutionalized belief in universal oppression, leads our society to search for oppression where no such oppression may actually exist. It is also entirely plausible that in the course of witch hunts for such oppression, new oppressions (perhaps even actual oppressions) shall be created. As far as the goal of eliminating oppression within our society, this is certainly counter-productive.

One may argue that efforts to eliminate racism and sexism through the education system have failed. One may point to the continued existence of such hateful organizations as the kkk (I refuse to afford this organization the dignity of capital letters), and the fact that women continue to earn less money than men as evidence of this.

But in order to do this, one must ignore the fact that racism was still institutionalized in the United States as recently as the 1960s and sexism institutionalized as recently as the 1930s. Anyone who believed that these two forces would be eradicated in less than one hundred years’ time is terribly foolish, delightfully idealistic, but terribly naïve.

Yet the institutionalized belief in oppression is equally as damaging as institutionalized oppression.

Instead of trying to find oppression where it doesn’t actually exist, it is imperative to start focusing on eliminating oppression where it does exist. This, on the other hand, is an entire different challenge.

Feel up to it?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Stupid, Stupid Marxists

Karl Marx is dead. Has been since forever.

What he has left behind is something that he is not actually solely to be accredited for (Friedrich Engels seems to have been all but forgotten), but he is accredited for nonetheless – a sad legacy of words, many of which were never actually his, words that have been put into his mouth by those who seek to bend his ideas to their own ends.

That’s right, you NDP douchebags, I’m talking to you again.
Marxism. It’s a funny, funny word. It is absolutely hilarious how many "Marxists" really have little or no clue what Marx himself actually wrote. As George Orwell (one of the finest left wing writers to ever put pen to paper) himself once said, Marx would have never considered himself a Marxist.

But what is funniest about it is that many Marxists fail to recognize that Marx’s theories (in their most specific form) are actually little more than a relic of an age that doesn’t exist anymore. While it is true that in many parts of the world people are illiterate, over-worked and starving still, it is not that way here in North America. True, there is a battle here that must still be fought (and the ideas of Marx will be important weapons in this war), that war is not here in the way that many "Marxists" insist that it is.

Take, for example, the relative lack of illiteracy, and considerably higher standard of living in the west compared to Marx’s times. While islands of poverty and ignorance still exist within our society, they are just that: islands. Not islands in a sense that they are inaccessible to us, but islands in the sense that they are largely isolated cases.

Of course, this does not mean that this should not be fixed – in fact, it must be fixed. But the method of change is what requires some debate.
The hope for a Marxist revolution (which he tells us is inevitable, but has never happened here, and many of the changes Marx desired have happened without it) is nothing more than a childish desire. Many from the left wing would tell us that some sort of revolution is necessary for our society to become a better place, but they ignore one fact: the simple fact that our society has changed, and has become a better place without it.

Few of them seem to ask: "How can this be? Has Marx deceived us?" And, of course, no, he hasn’t. Marx’s theories were important theories. But they are theories for another place, and another time. Now, Marx’s ideas, on the other hand? They are for the right here and now.

Rhetoric aside, Marx’s ideas revolved around one thing: a better life for one and all. As Howard Zinn wrote in his play Marx in Soho: " No more talk about capitalism and socialism. Instead, let us talk about harnessing this planet’s incredible wealth in order to provide for everyone’s basic human needs. Some hours of work, more hours of leisure. Don’t ask who deserves it. Every human being deserves it." It’s one of the most profound paraphrasials of Marx’s ideas I have ever heard.

Let’s have a look at some of the countries around the world that have followed the route of communist revolution: how are things in Russia today? What do you think the average, ordinary Cuban is doing right now? Are things not so fucking peachy as some of these naïve buffoons would have us believe things would be in a communist system? How about China? Has Marx’s dream of equality and freedom materialized here? No?
Shut up. Don’t give me all this "but they aren’t communist countries" bullshit. The fact is that these countries followed the route of communist revolution, led by communist parties, made up of communists not so different from you, and have wound up as one great, big, smelly, sad shithole. Don’t tell me that isn’t "real communism". I told you to try to sell that bullshit elsewhere.

The simple fact of the matter, whether you like it or not, is that communism has failed. It has been proven to be one great big pipe dream that leads to the same place that it is supposed to originate from. Don’t deny it. Because you can indeed deny it, but that doesn’t mean this denial is at all credible.

Here is the problem with the idea of revolution: revolutions don’t spontaneously happen. They require leadership, and they require support. What generally happens in revolutions is that an alienated second-tier elite harnesses the power of the masses in order to supplant the first-tier elite. As such, they seize control of society, and are of course replaced in their previous role by a new second-tier elite. Vladimir Lenin and his band of Bolsheviks did just this in Russia, likewise with Castro in Cuba. China is no different, either.

And just as revolutions require leadership, so do societies. In fact, merely as a consequence of people gathering together in communities, leadership emerges. So much for the anarchist idea that the problem of leaders abusing a communist system is eliminated by eliminating leaders. That’s like eliminating the engine of a car because it produces smelly fumes and imagining that the car will still run. Good luck with that, young bucky.

Of course, it would be folly to suggest that capitalist leaders haven’t abused their positions for personal gain. History is full of this, too. But ever since democracy forced the marriage between contemporary politics and humanist ideals, there have been very few cases of democratic governments marching opposition before firing squads and killing them.

On the other hand, history reminds us that Adolph Hitler was appointed – not elected, appointed – within a democratic system. And of course these things can always happen. This is the peril we must eternally be wary of. But at least it isn’t as much of a certainty within democracies as it is with communist systems.

And of course, we are often reminded that occasionally democracy doesn’t seem to work: second helping of George Dubya Bush, anyone? Again, we are required to be wary of this. Democracy only works so long as all of its citizens participate. Should this participation be lacking, especially amongst rational minds making educated choices, then the capacity shall exist for tyrants to come to power. When this happens, it is not only those who voted for said tyrant who are to blame, but also those who, for whatever reasons, refused to participate in the democratic process.
Of course democracy isn’t perfect. But at least it works, at least in many of the ways a political system is required to. Sure, we could overthrow democracy and attempt to retreat into the forests in order to live in what some of the world’s hippies believe would be a world built on peace, love and happiness, but since this isn’t all that likely, perhaps working with democracy would be a more constructive approach. Certainly the problems with democracy can be fixed. Perhaps we would be better to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

To me, it’s a lot more prudent than abandoning democracy to institute a system whose proponents can’t seem to explain how it would work or why, but still blindly insist that it would.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Why I Refuse to Join the Left Wing OR Fuck Off, NDP Dickheads

Alas, it's another election season in the province of Alberta. In Edmonton, we've been inundated with them recently. We've had our mayoral election, which ultimately resulted in the extinction of Bill Smith, the perrenial political dinosaur, and of course there was the exercise in democratic futility that was the American Presidential Election (Locutus would be proud).

Just as with the American election, I'm noticing a trend amongst left-wing political forces in the province: that is, they have a platform of exactly one point: Ralph Klein is an asshole.

Ralph Klein is apparently the devil. Fuck me, I thought my first grade teacher was. But apparently, I was wrong. Ralph Klein has taken Alberta's incredible amount of revenue and put down payment on all seven rings of hell, and is currently building himself a pretty nice beach house on the lake of fire.

What I'm bascially referring to here is the lack of will amongst the left-wing to contest the actual issues regarding Ralph Klein and the PCs chokehold on governance for the past 12 years. While there are many weak points and black marks on Ralph Klein's record that can be looked at, there is very little attention being given to these matters. What seems to be sucking up all of the attention is Ralph Klein himself. Ralph the man. It seems that the supporters of the NDP and Green Party in particular (although I would exempt the Liberal party from this) want to contest this election on the question of whether or not Ralph Klein is an asshole.

That makes for some pretty weak politics.

Why is so relatively little attention being paid to Klein flirting with the ideas of de-regulation, and so much being paid to his less admirable personality traits?

The answer is rather simple: a belief has emerged that Ralph Klein is the lord and master of right-wing politics in the province of Alberta, and that right wing politics must be destroyed and supplanted entirely by left wing politics. There is even a poem in Songs of the Street Vol. 5 that tells us this. The right wing is evil, the left-wing is good, and evil must be destroyed. Period.

But what is necessary here is a time-out to remember what the right wing and left wing actually represent, not what we would be made to believe they do by those who are allowing their passions to get the better of them. We are told that right wing politics is all about money, and all about personal gain. Which is, as the left wing expects us to believe, why King Ralph is noticably friendly to corporations (those evil, evil corporations) and the interests of the wealthy.

We would also be made to believe that left wing politcs are all about human rights and equality -- in other words (at least those of the left wing) all that is good and true in the world. This explains why the NDP believe that it is wise to tax citizens into debt in order to fund social welfare programs that will ultimately drive any state into debt as well. Everyone wins!!!

Fuck all that.

Because it isn't true. Strictly speaking, what left wing politics are ultimately about is change. Why have human rights and equality become so closely associated with the left wing? Because these have been the great battle of the past three hundred years. And these things required change. Take the civil rights movement in the United States. Civil rights in the United States. Especially in the southern states, this required tremendous amounts of change. This is where the right wing comes in.

The right wing represents maintaining the status quo. It isn't about oppression, it's about an idea: things are alright as is. Which, of course, is rarely the case. This is why the status quo becomes so associated with some of the redneck ideals that the province of Alberta is known for. People don't tend to like change. In fact, they fear it. Everyone knows this, we have known it since forever.

Was segregation and inequality in the United States right? Hell, no. As with feminism world wide, the civil rights movement (world wide) accomplished things that were necessary for the world to become a better place. God bless them. But here comes the rub:

If the current reality of the world is equality (which it isn't, but let us assume that it is), we still have the problem of the Neo-Nazis and the KKK. If human rights and equality are the norm and the world is a wonderful place in which everyone is sooooo happy, then the Neo-Nazis and the KKK have just become proponents of left wing politics. After all, change is the domain of the left wing.

Clearly, moral and ideological divisions of the left wing from the right wing are nearly impossible. Believing that the left wing is all about equality and social welfare is putting the cart in front of the horse. For the industrialized world to go from being an oppressive capitalist monopoly on freedom to being a completely egalitarian state, something must be done. If we consider this to be a horse, well, somebody has to pull that fucker. What pulls the cart? Change is the horse that pulls the cart. A similar idea applies to the right wing. If maintaining the status quo is what we wish, then something has to pull that cart back the other way. After all, as Newton's laws of physics tell us, while an object at rest stays at rest, once somebody gets it moving, it's going to stay moving until somebody stops that bitch. So what to do? We attach a horse to the other side of the cart, and pull the other motherfucking way.

Thus we have the problem with "us vs. them" partisan politics. At the end of the day, little (if anything) gets done. Dividing ourselves along lines of the left and right ends of the political spectrum is counter-productive. We may make progress from time to time, but how do we know if it is in the right direction?

In Alberta, we will be debt-free in 2005. That's a pretty big accomplishment. How has this happenend? Ralph Klein's PC government tightened its belt for a few years, and cut spending to social programs. Now, as long as our politicans are able to maintain a balanced budget, we should have a surplus for a long, long time. The world is now literally our Oyster.

So, what do we do? Do we give the tories the boot? "Thanks for paying the debt. No good deed goes unpunished." Do we turn over the Alberta legislature to a Liberal party that has proven themselves to be just as corrupt and morally unaccountable as any "evil conservative fascist regime"? Do we roll the dice on the NDP, knowing that the use of Saskatchewan as a testing ground for their theories on government has been such an unmitigated failure?

Hopefully, the answer will be none of these.

I'd like to quote Fritz Lang, the director of Metropolis (the 1927 silent film version, not that bad ass Tezuka version): "the mediator between head and hands must be the heart". What I mean by this is, the hands and head cannot really get along without each other. The hands will toil in vain without the head to guide it, and without hands, the head's designs will go for naught.

The left wing and right wing need each other. Each are indispensible. To quote so many Arby's commercials, "change is good". But while we're caught up in the ideal of revolutionary change, let us learn the lessons of the 1917 Russian Revolution: while we're changing things, let's not fuck them up worse than they were in the first fucking place.

The change the left wing so desires must be tempered by the pragmatics of the right wing.

So I have a message for all the ultra-left wing douchebags who would rather demonize Ralph Klein than talk real politics: the province of Alberta is much better off with a Conservative majority government with a strong NDP/Liberal/Green Party opposition. Furthermore, this is a much more realistic goal than complete left wing dominance of provincial politics.

The future of politics lies not with the left wing or the right wing. It lies with the moderates. It is us who shall be the mediators.

Welcome, Fuckers!!!

Welcome to the Nexus of Assholery, aka the blog of me, Patrick Ross, aka The Diamond Kid aka Kid Cash aka Thunderbolt Ross aka Tha Flamethrower aka The Mindbender aka...
...Ah, fuck it. You'll know who I am soon enough.
Just for those who are interested, I'm a resident of Edmonton, Alberta, where I attend university at the University of the Alberta. I'm a sociology student... or, as some people would put it, a left-wing, whiny communist bum. Except that I tend to dislike communists, and I'm pretty sure they don't like me either. People tend to get pissed off when you tell them how full of shit they are.
Which is a BIG part of what I do. This blog will now officially be the home of my endless, largely meaningless rants on the subjects of art, politics, philosophy, and life in general. Read no further than you wish, but if you're an oversensitive whiny fuck I GUARANTEE you will be offended. And like Eminem, I just don't give a fuck.
Descend into the Nexus, if you will...