17 September 2004


I have to wonder if all the Baby Boom is like this: Celebrate the good, deny the bad, and ignore the damage the resultant Manichaean viewpoint does to reality. Here I am, still pondering the loss of a good friend and housemate (who didn't seem to like old age himself, preferring to write footnotes around the activism of younger people), about my own old age, headed toward further losses amidst a world-situation of disastrous pile-ups. No, this isn't a prophesy of Armageddon, you are denied even that satisfaction. Capitalism will just gnaw away at us all like arthritis gnaws at the joints of the old, and we will sit there and ache and dream of the '60s when a mythic generation had fun.

Maybe the world will shun me for my "negativity" -- when all I'm trying to do is reflect upon the general state of delusion that brought us to where we are today. I wrote an article where I described the state of political delusion that today brings the Left to a complete and total capitulation to capitalism. There are three species of rationale for capitulation: 1) symbolic politics, where the "will to be Left" expresses itself in an empty gesture of defiance at the oppressors, 2) duplicity, where we pretend to be fashionably progressive when in fact selling out, and 3) "strategic voting," or "fair trade," or "green capitalism," or whatever it is, where our selling-out behavior is something we quietly celebrate for the knowing cleverness of its strategy. So now I've got an anthropology of capitulation.

The petit-bourgeois Left contemplates its mortgage payments; the proletarian Left wonders why it is still, in Gil Scott-Heron's words, "winter in America." No, you may not have your populist Keynesian economics back. First of all, populist Keynesianism was a compromise with the bosses, and the bosses you once compromised with in that arrangement have long been dead and replaced by neoliberal bosses. Go back to your tribe and tell them your rituals are of no use anymore because you've been colonized again.

The public has all been spooked to death by a dozen disaster movies, yet disasters pile up anyway as people intensify their fear of the sort of radical social change implied by the "socialism" that might save some of them. Is there really anything worse to fear than the real fear experienced by the residents of Iraq, Colombia, and other war zones while the Americans, Israelis, and other settler societies fear the bogeyman that is portrayed in cardboard cut-up on their television sets? Have we anything to fear but fear itself? Meanwhile socialism bails its way out of the ocean of lies that have been sent to drown it. Perhaps it is just best to sit and watch while America drives off its cliff at full throttle.

In this era even the best of our community wants some sort of impossible comfort. The Baby Boom will be granted its youth again; the progressives will take back the Democratic Party; John Kerry is really a liberal; and so on. The Left fantasizes that it will be able to support Kerry to the point of imposing an iron will upon its members to cease all complaining about Kerry and quieting the antiwar effort, and then turn around to oppose him the day after the election. If the pressure is on now, only escapism gives the Left a reason to believe that it won't be on for the next four years. The Republican bogeyman is always just a Democrat collaborationist vote away.

Maybe I will be like Adorno in his debate with Ernst Bloch: when Bloch wanted to talk of utopia, Adorno reminded him of the fact of death. The Indians had it more knowingly -- a lifetime is just another turn of the cycle. We impose an iron structure upon the soft fabric of nature, in our dominative lifestyles, in our transportation networks, corporate organizations, urban metropoli, factories, energy usage -- yet we come back at the end of life to discover ourselves as mere pieces of flesh, to be reclaimed by the biosphere one way or another.


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