Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Word On "Ideological Purity" and Hillary Clinton

Would you like this deranged homicidal maniac to violently stab you to death, or would you like Hannibal Lector to do it with finesse over a period of a couple of days? Or, are you one of those extremists who would prefer neither?

A healthy individual would say "neither."

A healthy, intelligent society, when faced with a similar choice would say "neither" as well. If that healthy, intelligent society found itself, through a long series of circumstances, in a state where it discovered that "neither" wasn't an official option and that it was down to the savagely violent maniac and Hannibal Lector, the healthy, intelligent thing to do would be to work tirelessly to change things so that it would not have such a poisonous set of choices ever again.

Alas! We do not live in a healthy, intelligent society. When faced with something like Donald Trump (the violent maniac) and Hillary Clinton (the Hannibal Lector choice), many, MANY people wisely selected neither of them, but enough people, in enough strategic areas, ignorantly and/or stupidly and/or racistly and/or selfishly, voted for Trump.

In response, Clinton's supporters wailed and screamed and blurted out absurd conspiracy theories about Russia and basically did everything but take responsibility for how their candidate failed to completely demolish a babbling, ignorant, corrupt, perverted, buffoonish, openly racist shit-for-brains. Furthermore (but not surprisingly) they condemn their moral and intellectual betters (Green Party voters and disgruntled progressives who didn't vote at all) as being to blame for Trump and for practicing a deranged ideological purity.

Once again, I say to those stupid asshole Democratic dead-enders: Just as you (rightly) condemn a Trump voter who put their concern for the return of decent jobs over Trump's blatant racism and its likely consequences, I CONDEMN YOU for putting your fear of Trump and for putting your partisan self-interests ahead of the MILLIONS of innocent people both in the USA and abroad whose lives Hillary Clinton has destroyed. As "First Lady" she sabotaged the chances of single-payer health insurance, she championed the "Three Strikes" prison policy, and she endorsed "welfare reform" ... all three decisions having caused enormous suffering to ordinary US-Americans.

As Senator, she stupidly voted for an illegal war of choice against Iraq, based on a case built on what anyone who wasn't a moron could see was a pack of lies. That vote alone should serve to disqualify her as a champion for "progressives" anywhere. That vote produced an orgy of violence, over a million untimely deaths; millions more made refugees, millions upon millions of traumatized (mentally and physically) individuals.

In my view, a blunder of such gigantic proportions is not erased with an embarrassed "Oops!"

As well, during that time, she coddled Wall Street criminals and signed-onto the pro-bankster "Bankruptcy Bill." (To be fair, Clinton was pretty "hands-off" when it came to Wall Street. Being a person of limited brainpower she focused mainly on her insanely stupid delusions about foreign policy.)

As Secretary of State, Clinton presided over the creation and rise of ISIS, the creation of the Syrian Civil War, the imposition of a government of fascist idiots in the Ukraine, the complete destruction of Libya (utilizing the Jihaadist nutbars she seems to love so well), the continued abuse and murder of Venezuelans, and the overthrow of the elected president of Honduras and the imposition of an anti-democratic, brutal, torturing thug regime. In both the Ukraine and Syria, Hillary Clinton, being both a psychopath and a dim-wit, engaged in numerous provocations against nuclear-armed Russia. There was very little on Hillary Clinton's side that prevented us from all being vaporized.

This record of violence, of lies, of stupidity, of callousness, of whoring herself out to the financial sector and the military-industrial complex, ... No. If you're going to stand there as some proponent of "lesser-evilism" and try to condemn me for "excessive ideological purity" for rejecting Hillary Clinton, I will tell you to your face to go eat shit and die.

Monday, January 29, 2018

John Ibbitson; Fluffer

I first came across the word "fluffer" while reading a Dan Savage sex advice column. Apparently some hot girl had a hot boyfriend and some twink asked her if he could join them in a threesome wherein said twink would consign himself to sucking her boyfriend's cock between her boyfriends shtupping her.

Savage said (I think) to go for it and to send him some pictures afterwards. But he also talked about the career choice of "fluffer" within the porn industry.
A fluffer is a person employed to keep a male adult film star erect on the set.[1] These duties, which do not necessarily involve touching the actors, are considered part of the makeup department. After setting up the desired angle, the director asks the actors to hold position and calls for the fluffer to "fluff" the actors for the shot.
I will submit to you that Canadian political pundit John Ibbitson is so debased that he has decided (all on his own and for no extra pay other than what his senile employers would have given him regardless) to act as stephen harper's fluffer.

How sad is that? To live and write in order to make some intellectual non-entity like stephen harper appear to be a vigorous, important political figure.

A few (many?) months ago, I saw the cover of Ibbitson's book about harper on the "new and recommended" shelf of the Hamilton, Ontario Central Library. I read the back cover (I can't remember what it said) and thought to myself how odd it was that Ibbitson had written a book about this political has-been/anti-democratic corporate whore. Of course, perhaps its the case that harper was still in power when Ibbitson wrote the stupid thing. I don't really know and I don't really care. I have zero interest in reading it. After all, Ibbitson is the racist dullard whose big pronouncement that there has been a permanent tectonic shift in Canada towards a more "conservative" (whatever that term is supposed to mean) Canadian polity turned out to be hugely, laughingly, thankfully wrong.

I will never read this, or any other book by John Ibbitson. For the same reason that I don't tune-in to Alex Jones on "InfoWars." Some opinions are garbage and a self-evident waste of time. To put it even more bluntly; John Ibbitson is a stupid asshole who was busy eating worms when Gawd was handing out brains.

I will, though, comment on this fine review of Ibbitson's drivel from Quill & Quire: "
A series of curious adjectives pepper the first half of John Ibbitson’s biography of Stephen Harper. “Calm.” “Measured.” “Reasonable.” These are not, safe to say, words that are commonly applied to Canada’s 22nd prime minister, a man more frequently identified with descriptors such as “remorseless,” “autocratic,” and “cruel” (all of which, to be fair, also crop up in Ibbitson’s book).
Now then; let's also just stop to point out that "calm, measured, reasonable" are also not applicable to the shambling, self-loathing, psychopathic coward that was stephen harper. He could pretend to be calm in public situations when he wasn't forced to honestly account for himself. It's not remarkable that a bully who holds (stole) all the cards can be calm while their victims become emotional. But the fact of the matter is that insiders said that harper was a raging asshole in private. He controlled through fear by being a petty and vindictive madman. He was not "measured." He was an extremist. He was not "reasonable," he was insane. I will grant that he had another quality that helped him to appear placid. He is dead to normal human feelings. Other people are meaningless to him. So it causes him no existential pain to injure his enemies and betray his supporters.
But it becomes clear quickly that, unlike many writers and commentators, Ibbitson is not out to demonize Harper, but rather to examine where he comes from, how his ideology was formed, and why he governs the way he does.
This would actually be a valid exercise. In the hands of a writer other than Ibbitson. For you see ...
And though he addresses the mistakes, missteps, and scandals – he could hardly avoid them – Ibbitson’s approach to Harper is generally approving: “I believe that he sought office hoping to leave things in better shape than he found them,” the author writes in his afterword, “and that he has, in the main, succeeded. I believe he has governed well.”
Wrong Johnny boy! Do you think Afghanistan was a success? Does being implicated in torture and other war crimes give you a tingle Johnny? Does the epidemic of Aboriginal suicides turn you on? Does a government that refuses to give Parliament cost-estimates but which does provide fraudulent verbal assurances of these costs strike you as "good governance"? Does sabotaging parliamentary committees constitute governing well? Is election fraud your idea of democratic behaviour? I could go on, but you all get the idea.

And Johnny, lil' Johnny. Lil' stupid, racist Johnny; NO. harper did NOT hope to leave things better than when he found them. harper was a whore for the Calgary oil industry and for Bay Street. Furthermore, harper serviced these criminal scum-bags as a means to his own personal power. To gratify his ludicrously gigantic personal vanity.
It helps that Harper embodies Ibbitson’s own theory about the direction Canada is taking in the 21st century. In his 2013 book, The Big Shift (co-written with pollster Darrell Bricker), Ibbitson argues that the Laurentian elites –
Blah, blah, blah. The next little bit is just a summary of Ibbitson's failed thesis that Canada had transformed from a basically liberal polity (public healthcare/pro-choice/peace-keeping/social programs) to that of the gutter rats who populate the comments section of whatever media scam Ezra Levant is operating. I shan't deal with it here because it's already been proven wrong. On with the book in question ....
It is foolish in the extreme, Ibbitson argues, to blame a conservative government for acting like conservatives. And the current government is, at least in Ibbitson’s view, the first truly conservative government in Canada’s history. (The author makes it clear that one of Harper’s biggest hesitations in contemplating the merger of the Canadian Alliance with the Progressive Conservatives was his antipathy to the red Tory tradition that persisted in the latter party.)
Right. Because having been slapped around by reality in the 1930s and 1940s, Canadian conservatives realized that they'd have to abandon their previous delusions and accept the reality of the need for social welfare supports if a consumerist-mass production-industrialized society was going to function. But not so the "new conservatives" who have built a mighty edifice of academic hackery and popular culture shit-headery within which they can hide from reality as the taxpayers bail them out of their increasingly gigantic failures, over and over and fucking over again.
Harper’s ideology was forged by his roots in Toronto’s suburban Leaside neighbourhood in the 1960s, combined with western disaffection stoked by his involvement with the Calgary School of academics and a sympathy for the economic theories of Friedrich von Hayek (whom Ibbitson calls “any good conservative’s answer to John Maynard Keynes”).  
That's kind of funny: Using a powerful word like "forged" to describe the way airhead harper simply agreed with the last person he spoke with during his formative years. He was a comfortable white suburbanite in Toronto and he supported the Liberals. Then he went out to the University of Calgary and became a "conservative" (read: "paid agent of foreign oil firms"). After his early twenties were over and his personality ossified, he refused to allow new information into his worldview and became the moronic coward we all came to loathe and despise. Friedrich von Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom which argued that allowing the state to provide public services inevitably leads to slavery. As opposed to unregulated capitalism which is The Road to Pauperism; to whit ... allowing the rich to get richer and screw over the poor will be fucking terrible in the long-run. I'm pretty sure that (as with most things) Ibbitson didn't have a clue what he was writing about in his comment about von Hayek.
Harper believes in a smaller, less intrusive state, a strict separation of powers between the federal and provincial levels of government, lower taxes, and more emphasis on the free market economy. He has provided all of these things.
No Johnny. Wrong again Johnny. (Ibbitson's got a pretty sweet fucking gig. He says any stupid thing he wants to. Gets his main thesis totally wrong. And just keeps collecting a paycheque. What a scum-bag. Ibbitson's career is yet another indictment of what passes for "political culture" in this country. Toss him on the pile with Ezra Levant, Margaret Wente and all the other hideous, racist, shit-heads.

No Johnny. harper most certainly did NOT believe in a less intrusive state. He used the Canada Revenue Agency as a weapon against groups he did not like. He passed Orwellian surveillance legislation. He "intruded" on Canadians' Charter rights big-time at the G20 in Toronto. No Johnny, ... what harper was opposed to was a state that provided public services to the people. He sabotaged the Census out of privacy concerns but then he passed C-51. Knowing about this stuff is supposed to be your fucking job Ibbitson. Except for the fact that your real job is that of partisan Conservative hack/fluffer.
Unfortunately, in so doing, he has also embarked upon a scorched-earth policy of cuts to services and agencies such as  Library and Archives Canada and the CBC. His government is responsible for the so-called Fair Elections Act, which benefits the Conservatives by making it harder for likely opponents to vote in federal elections; Bill C-51, the astoundingly overbroad government surveillance legislation that even many Conservative supporters have expressed concerns about; and tough-on-crime legislation that increases penalties and restricts rehabilitative measures while ignoring the fact that crime has steadily decreased since the 1990s. If Ibbitson mentions these things at all, he generally glosses over them, or spins them in such a way that they sound much more palatable than they actually are.
Right. Because Ibbitson is a shameless hack.
He expends little time or effort examining some of the other less-than-savoury things Harper has done in office: muzzling his government’s own scientists when they dare to disagree with their pro-oil bosses on climate change; pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol; claiming that the epidemic of missing and murdered aboriginal women “isn’t really high on our radar”; and presiding over the first government in Canadian history to be found in contempt of Parliament (over its refusal to disclose the true cost of purchasing a fleet of F-35 fighter planes). And this is by no means a comprehensive list.
I told you this was a good review!
“Legislatively, the Conservatives have hardly been cruel,” Ibbitson writes, before engaging in one of the most egregious acts of fence-sitting in recent memory: “If you decided that, despite its accomplishments, the Harper government has left the public service so cowed, the flow of knowledge so impaired, and Parliament so weakened that it doesn’t deserve your vote, that would be a reasonable call. If you decided that democratic institutions remain robust and the government should be judged on other aspects of its record, that too would be a reasonable call.”
How true. Ibbitson is such an idiot that he writes the equivalent of "If you think the patient is still alive that's a fair call. If you think the patient has died that's equally valid." I shudder to imagine how much my thinking ability would have to deteriorate to write something as stupid as that!
Ibbitson’s sleight of hand is in employing his own steady, measured tone to convince the reader, despite all evidence to the contrary, of the reasonableness of this latter position.
Right. Because Ibbitson is comfortably employed and he knew he had a publisher for this piece of shit book. And he knows that being a failed pundit ["The Big Shift"] and a liar will have zero impact on his career. 
This deference results in some discordant moments. The Conservatives’ signature Federal Accountability Act, Ibbitson writes, “ensured that Ottawa would never have its own K Street, the thoroughfare in Washington where powerful lobbying firms practically dictate the legislative agenda of Congress.” Perhaps, but if the author doesn’t at least suspect that Big Oil is instrumental in setting policy (see, for example, the Keystone XL pipeline farrago), he is either hopelessly naive (which he clearly is not) or wilfully blind.
First of all, harper's "Federal Accountability Act" was a complete failure at its purported goal. Second of all; Yes, harper was the oil industry's servant and Ibbitson is wilfully blind.
Then there is the author’s lack of inquisitiveness regarding how much Harper knew about the $90,000 cheque his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, gave to Mike Duffy to repay certain dubious expenses the senator had claimed. “[T]here was much to be said for what critics derided as Harper’s control-freakish handling of his office,” Ibbitson writes at one point. “He knew, for one thing, exactly what was going on in it.” And later, “Nothing of importance is decided until the PM signs off on it.” How, then, can Harper claim not to have known about Wright’s interference with Duffy? For Ibbitson, the question remains unanswered.
Right. Because, at the end of the day, John Ibbitson was like a fluffer on a porno-set. Keeping the "stud" stimulated so as to appear virile and potent for when the camera starts rolling. Except Ibbitson is fluffing up the limp, stupid dick of a flaccid, moronic, cowardly tool of corporate Canada. What a disgrace!

Monday, January 22, 2018

The US-American Thought and Behaviour Control Project

Back in the day when Obama was running for president I thought that it was the genius of the US-American political system to convince jaded US-American voters that their political system wasn't a complete waste of time. After 8 years of Bill Clinton "triangulating" policy to capture right-wing "independent" voters, betraying the Democrats' progressive base over and over; and after 8 years of the bush II regime (two stolen elections) and the uselessness of Democratic opposition, ... along comes public relations construct Barack Obama; to take what is good and noble about so-called "identity politics" and use it to show the core emptiness of "identity politics."

"Look! A Black man is going to be President in a country founded on white supremacy and the enslavement of Blacks! How inspiring!"

And so he was elected twice. (It didn't hurt that his opponents were the aged, detestable John McCain and his loony-toons bimbo running-mate Sarah Palin the first time around; and then the hapless Mitt Romney and the loathsome Paul Ryan the second time.)

And upon election, Barack Obama launched into filling his cabinet with Wall Street criminals/carrying-out the bush II bailout of said criminals/protecting and coddling these criminals and enabling further criminal behaviour [foreclosing on homes they didn't own for one thing]/illegally using federal forces to work with local police forces to destroy the Occupy movement that sprang up to protest Wall Street criminality/doubling-down on the failed, murderous occupation of Afghanistan/pursuing the same old corporate rights "free trade" deals/escalating "death-from-the-sky" drone campaigns that have made innocents (including millions of children) from Yemen to Pakistan afraid of clear skies/continued the murderous occupation of Afghanistan/imposed a coup and a murderous brutal regime on the people of Honduras/supported racist fascist rebels in Venezuela/destroyed Libya (without Congressional authorization)/destroyed Syria/told Black people to get their collective act together ....

(You know, the sick thing about all of this is that Obama was probably about the best that the vile, insane, US-American system could barf-up. Hillary Clinton would have been worse as president as would ANY candidate from the Repugnicans. At least Obama cut a deal with Iran and forced health insurance companies to provide coverage to people with "pre-existing conditions.")

So Black people voted in large numbers to make sure Obama wasn't a one-term President (re: a "failure"). As did many working-class whites.  And they got almost nothing for it. Whereas the corrupt, brutal oligarchy got serviced every single fucking day.

Nobody really wanted to vote for the vile Hillary Clinton. (Sure, people voted for her. More people than voted for Trump. But turnout for the 2016 election was close to 50%. Half the electorate doesn't see the point in voting. Why should they? They live in a goddamned oligarchy. That means it ISN'T a "democracy." Which means that the act of voting is a goddamned WASTE OF TIME.

But just when it seemed like the US political system was gasping for its last breaths, and everyone was ready to admit that it was all a sick, twisted, evil sham, the genius of the US-American experiment reveals itself again!!!

The most disgusting, boorish, openly racist [for a long time at least], corrupt, stupid, (Did I say disgusting yet? Because Trump is really disgusting!) candidate becomes President. Donald Trump is so obnoxious that so many people have gotten excited about voting again. Voting for Democrats again. Furthermore, the more partisan, fanatical, insane, disgusting, hypocritical types are even saying that non-voters and third-party voters are as much to blame for Trump as actual Trump voters! I have zero respect for Matthew Dowd, but observe the loathsome Democratic Party hack "Driftglass" excoriating not only Dowd, but ANYONE AND EVERYONE who didn't vote for the blood-soaked criminal Hillary Clinton:
Here is Mr. Heroically Shining Out In The Dark With Love a year ago.  Y'know, back in the days when some action in the general directions of not being a leader of the Don't Vote For Hillary Because K'rupt Duopoly circle-jerk might have made a tangible difference ... So no, Mr. Dowd, you and your ilk are not heroes of our epic American poem.  See you're the bad guys.  Minor ones, to be sure.  Mere gutless punks and henchmen-for-hire in the grand scheme of things, but definitely not on the side of the angels.
In the end, the stupid rantings of a shameless idiot like Driftglass aren't going to rouse the entire non-voting portion of the electorate to rally enthusiastically around whatever corporate Democrats are put on offer. But enough people will be mobilized by Trump hatred to make it a contest that the Democrats will likely win. And then the disappointment and betrayal and squalid corruption will begin all over again.

The other day I saw a picture of Democratic Senator and pharmaceutical industry whore Cory Booker angrily yelling at some Trump Administration imbecile about his "shithole countries" remark. It was some Senate hearing or other where he got to grandstand for the cameras. That to me epitomized the hollowness of "the resistance" as led by the vile Democrats.

US-Americans have to collectively learn that they live in an oligarchy. And the way out of oligarchy does NOT involve voting for one of the two representatives of the oligarchs.

Monday, January 15, 2018

(Finished) Book Review: "Radical Transformation"

 Kevin MacKay is a friend of mine, so I was very happy when his book Radical Transformations: Oligarchy, Collapse, and the Crisis of Civilization was published by "Between the Lines" press. Also, as a favour to Kevin, I've decided to post a review of the book here at the blog for my [officially] eleven "followers" and the half-dozen or so casual readers who might pop-in every month or so if there's nothing else going on in the increasingly moribund Canadian blog-o-sphere.

The quick and dirty summary is that humanity (and, obviously, civilization) is well and truly fucked. And we're going to take a lot of life-forms down with us. Also, my own pessimistic take on MacKay's efforts to chart our way out of the crisis of collapse, is that it is far too little, and I don't know if "late" does justice to the total irrelevance and disarray of the forces he pins his slim hopes on.

The villain of MacKay's book is "Oligarchy." Which is to say; any excessive agglomeration of power by any one group of people. It is oligarchy that renders the strategy of enlightening society to the dangers and counseling change (a-la David Suzuki, Jared Diamond and Thomas Homer-Dixon) as insufficient. It doesn't matter if 80% of the population is aware of the problem and fired-up to do something about it. If the political system is dominated by an oligarchy that bases its power on the status-quo, then the status-quo will prevail. What is needed, if humanity is to survive, is "Radical Transformation."

Radical Transformation is divided into two parts with Part One having chapters on "Collapse," "Dissociation," "Complexity," "Stratification," "Overshoot," and "Oligarchy." Part Two has two chapters: "The Death System," and "Toward a System of Life." There is also an Introduction that nicely foreshadows everything you're going to read in the book.

"Collapse" looks at how to define what "civilization" means (so as to better grasp what is all going to go to shit). Basically, a "system of civilization" is an interconnected web of relationships (ecological/economic/political/socio-cultural).

"Dissociation" and "Complexity" talk about how we are so disconnected from the impacts of our actions as individuals, and as civilizations, to be able to easily make sense of the extent of the coming crises. We don't see the endless fields of drugged-up, sick animals being fed a straight diet of cheap corn, dragged to the killing-floors of the abattoirs (when they're too weak to stumble there on their own two feet [or four hooves really]) to be dispatched and dismembered by overworked, undocumented immigrants, and the chunks placed on styrofoam trays and shrink-wrapped in plastic. We don't see how the farmland used to fatten distressed animals takes food away from other humans. We don't see the clouds of methane produced by these factory farms. We're too distanced by space and time to empathize with either the suffering beasts or the hungry fellow humans. We don't understand the networks of power that formed and perpetuate this system or the other deadly systems that most of us accept as "just the way things are."

"Stratification" deals with the creation of social inequality and its intensification under late-capitalism. These present levels of inequality already threaten the viability of our civilization. How can a vast population of paupers provide a real economy for the tens of trillions already being hoarded by the super-rich to "invest" in? One day, when the latest incarnation of the Ponzi-scheme that is the world's financial markets collapses, there won't be enough of the "little people's" tax dollars to bail them out. And there won't be a social system with any reserves to plunder via austerity policies to finance the deficit-spending needed to bail them out.

"Overshoot" is, I think, one of the more depressing sections of a depressing book. We're running out of the fossil fuels that power our road to nowhere. Which is sort of a good thing because on our journey we're destroying the ecological system via global warming, mass-extinctions and ever more pervasive toxification.

"Oligarchy" describes that term and, also, how the present system of oligarchy is committed to this destructive system. They can't imagine a different world. They see no need (inside their bubbles of super-privilege) to even see the need for a different world. And they have a vice-like grip on the decision-making process. (This includes their grip on the media system that serves to portray everything as reasonable and manageable.)

In Part Two's "The Death System" MacKay explains how much of the time, oligarchs arose from out of more egalitarian social systems due to psycopathology. To whit; people obsessed with getting power tend to get it. While people not obsessed with getting power (and thereby being able to rob and abuse others) tend not to even try and thereby end up living under the authority of those who do. It isn't just the capitalists in our present system. Capitalism is the name of the oligarchic system that we are presently suffering under, but the desire to dominate others can come in many forms and from many different sources. We have to be on our guard against the desires of psychopaths no matter what form of civilization we strive to create.

It is in "Toward a System of Life" that I intend to focus this review. MacKay is to be commended for spending about 15% of his book discussing the subject of solutions to the crises he identifies, rather than the typical 5% that most left-wing books such as this tend to give to the topic. As I prepare to write this section though, I recall that reading it at the time there was still an inordinate amount of negativity considering what the task at hand was. Regardless; here we go ...

The chapter starts off with the quote from Frederick Douglas "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." Then MacKay reminds us of the story that opened his book: That of the local activists and environmentalists who were defeated when they tried to preserve Hamilton Ontario's Red Hill Valley, a large green space in the city's east-end that had been set aside specifically as a park and wilderness preserve. Because of erosion caused by the Red Hill Creek, the valley provided a gradient slope that local real-estate developers and their political cat's-paws believed was designed by God Himself to build an expressway that could link new housing built on Hamilton's "Mountain" (324 meters) with the QEW highway. The activists had the facts and the law and (for a long time) public opinion, on their side, but the developers had the money, the media sided with the developers and the "forces of order" and corrupt politicians abused process for decades until finally, despite last-minute occupations of the construction site (met with massive police and private security force thuggery) the bad guys won.

Basically, says MacKay, this incident, and countless others, give the lie to the claims of oligarchs that they have been a force for progress in human societies. They are, instead, corrupt, selfish, and destructive. Left unchallenged, oligarchs will exploit and plunder everything before them, for their own selfish and insane levels of gratification.

Mackay says "For all of these reasons, I identify oligarchy as the final and ultimate cause of civilization's crisis."

Oligarchs are not the force of stability preserving us from a Hobbesian "War of All Against All." These psychopathic individuals are themselves the root-cause of crisis and devastation. Our problems are not technical in nature, they are caused by the distortion of human creativity and community by rapacious oligarchs.

... I meant to write this over the Christmas holiday, but I got sick. So I went to finish it on my two days off but I got even more sick. So I'm posting  it now and will finish it when I can.

Well, I'm back. On with the show ...

Two other things MacKay mentions are the dangers of "totalizing categories" such as "the people" or "the working class." Yes, there is such a thing as "the people" or "the ninety percent" or "the working class." But, obviously, the people AREN'T united. People are divided by gender, by "race" and by religion and by any number of factors.  Some of these other identities can make their memberships even more natural allies for those pursuing social justice, but not if we ignore them and the issues that affect them. Revolutionaries mustn't run roughshod over the lived experiences of others and attempt to force them into our own narratives.

The other issue is "Insurrection." MacKay says that revolutionaries who dream of a violent toppling of the system are dreaming in technicolour. In North America, Europe and Japan (and Australasia) there are too many people invested in the present system to imagine destroying it. This is true. Furthermore, it is my belief that while revolutions are possible in the "less developed countries" the sad reality is that our elites and our state-systems (of violence) can destroy whatever revolutionaries in those countries attempt to create. Therefore, however much contempt more thorough-going radicals have for the coddled, privileged, selfish nature of the masses in the core countries, we are nonetheless going to have to get them onside for the radical transformations that are needed. And this means abandoning insurrectionism.

On the way towards the topic of "non-reformist reform" that MacKay will posit as an alternative to insurrection, he wastes an inordinate amount of time debating with the positions of a group of intellectual non-entities called the "Deep Green Resistance." The DGR, building upon the plausible idea that humanity (let alone present-day modern civilization) is unsustainable, advocate destroying it. Obviously, the majority of people will not agree to this and will reject it. The DGR therefore advocate an underground movement of saboteurs who will, presumably, destroy energy, water, transportation and food networks. For some reason or other an above-ground movement of supporters will arise who will "support" this destruction. (Why this is at all worth mentioning isn't stated in MacKay's summary of their ideas.)

Here's the thing DGR: If that's what you want to do, go nuts. However, they're NOT doing that. Instead they're writing books saying that other people [presumably] should do this. (As well as splitting-up over disagreements about transgendered policies, as if that's important in the face of the destruction of the biosphere.) Which kind of undercuts their legitimacy. Because while they're waiting for the campaign of sabotage to start, in the meantime they're consuming resources and belching out greenhouse gases and just contributing to the problem.

If they really want to live up to their stirringly radical revolutionary writings, the best thing they could do would be to kill themselves, have their bodies encased in honey, or amber, or some other sealant, and then have them thrown down an abandoned mineshaft and covered up with gravel, in order to contain the further amounts of greenhouse gases and toxins that would ordinarily be emitted.

Another thinker along these lines is the Anarcho-Primitivist, John Zerzan who says that technological society was a mistake and that we should revert back to hunter-gatherer technology. If you look for a picture of Mr. Zerzan you will probably see a photo of him wearing spectacles. I guess he foraged those spectacles from a wild Spectacle Bush growing in the forest outside his cave or lean-to.  Either that or he's a hypocrite who makes use of the products of technological society to divert himself from what he (and the DGR) say is the primary necessity for moral human beings today.

MacKay doesn't agree with the DGR. Though he does make an important point while debating with them. The bizarre notion of above-ground supporters of the saboteurs (I can only see these supporters as being figures of universal hatred and government repression should they ever speak out as people's power and other basic necessities get cut-off) gets things backwards. Violent radicals don't appear and generate a mass of non-violent supporters. MacKay says that what tends to happen is that a critical mass of people find a situation intolerable, coalesce to for a peaceful resistance/protest/reform movement, and then, when the powers-that-be reveal themselves as unwilling to concede to the barest of concessions, this radicalizes many among the membership. When the forces of the state resort to violent suppression of the movement, even more people become radicalized and some eventually decide that only force can have any impact.

The last thing that should be said about the DGR is that while they might very well be right about our unavoidable collapse, this will come with or without the campaign of revolutionary sabotage that these writers say that somebody (not them) should undertake. So why even bother writing fantasies of a movement of left-green revolutionaries? Just let it happen and make your own carbon footprint as small as possible while you're waiting for that to happen.

What we should be pursuing, says MacKay, is "non-reformist reforms." Here's a quote he uses from Michael Albert's The Trajectory of Change:

How do we win new gains along the road? We raise the social cost of not granting the gains we seek until we reach the point where those who don't want to give in to our demands have no choice but to do so. Change is a combination of a sequence of reforms or limited victories that string together into a pattern in which we continually change the contours of the world we live in, making ourselves stronger and making those who oppose us weaker until, ultimately, we win basic alterations.

While insurrectionists say that reforms that can be given will just strengthen the system and fool people into putting off genuine change, MacKay argues that some reforms will do more to strengthen the majority and create space for the development of centers of resistance.

This is something that I wholeheartedly believe in. My only difficulty thus far is that at present I see no indication of any forces for radical transformation capable of raising the social cost for non-compliance for the elites.

In the long run, MacKay says, oligarchy has engaged in a see-saw exchange with the Life System. Sometimes they crush the movement. Sometimes they are forced to concede reforms. Over the centuries, the Life System has won many victories against slavery, gender oppression, caste systems, etc., and institutions such as public education, public health care and representative democracy, have been won.

MacKay uses the examples of stephen harper in Canada and Donald Trump in the USA as signs of the continued resilience of the Death System but points to the Occupy Movement, Idle No More, the Quebec Student Movement, and the energy behind the Bernie Sanders campaign as signs of the continued push-back of the Life System. Personally, being a pessimist, I only see Occupy as an ineffectual blip that brought a couple of new terms ("the 1%") but which most people have forgotten. Idle No More I have spoken of before. It had no impact on stephen harper's blatantly racist policies and, perhaps, it has compelled the Trudeau Liberals to make more nice noises than they would have, but they did not raise the social cost of internal colonialism enough to reverse things. (That is on us. Idle No More is peaceful and they ought to be. They're oppressed and brutalized by the police enough as it is. It is up to those of us in the settler society who claim to be their allies to put OUR bodies on the line to raise the social cost for the system. What did the Quebec Student Movement accomplish? The Bernie Sanders movement is (I hope) bigger than the sell-out Sanders. It's existence is evidence of something big, but it needs to be developed apart from the Pied Piper it's named after.

MacKay uses the term "movement of movements" (borrowed from elsewhere) to talk about the way forward for the Life System. He uses the example of the anti-pipeline indigenous Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Again, being a pessimist, I think the Left should refrain from using examples wherein an oppressed group of people, in return for getting attacked by dogs, pepper-sprayed, kettled, arrested, brutalized, abused, traumatized; etc., etc., manage to stop (often only temporarily) some new Death System assault on their basic living conditions. Nothing I say detracts from their courage or their nobility. But insofar as they are only fighting tooth and nail to stop some NEW outrage, they are, by definition (one would think) NOT fighting to win a VICTORY.

On pages 201-04 MacKay provides a wish-list of reforms that constitutes the basics for the world most social justice activists would like to see happen. He is to be commended for this. It is concise and comprehensive. The question remains: How to achieve this?

The Left has to define their terms. How do we "raise the social costs" of not conceding our demands? What do we mean by "pressure" when we say we'll "keep the pressure on" elites who are defying us? We have to stop labeling as "victories" something as simple as a mere movement against something. Just because we "organize" to defend against something, it doesn't mean that we've won. We have to learn that stirring rhetoric alone does not win a victory. Is Donald Trump conceding anything to the people against the Banksters? Or is the Republican Party not just doubling down on their service to the ultra-rich; their harassment of people of colour; their support for brutal, racist policing? Has the Democratic Party learned that it needs its base if it is to win victories? Or are they not focusing on imaginary Russian interference in the last election; maintaining their allegiance to the surveillance state and endless war; continued service to silicon valley robber barons?

One valuable thing that MacKay mentions is the power of the media system to co-opt the debate and divert discussion to safer (for them) topics. Is "Black Lives Matter" anti-cop? To be debating such a ridiculous question is testimony to the power of the corporate media to divert and diffuse. And I know from personal experience that when if comes to issues of importance to the Left, that you will generally find that 10% of any given population knows the issues and agrees with us. 20% have heard of the issue and have bought into the insane right-wing version of things. And 70% have no clue whatsoever.

One thing that I thought at the time I first read MacKay's book was that when we advocate for something it MUST be something that directly impacts the lives of the people we want onside. It does so positively. And it must be simple to understand. Rallying for a Tobin Tax or against Islamophobia is good. But the vast majority simply don't know and don't care. Find out how to directly help people. Including the majority in the industrialized world who leftist activists tend to dismiss as fat, coddled "sheeple." Because dismissing 60% of the population as overstuffed greed dumb-fucks is not going to help us in our battle against the Death System. So, instead, we should advocate for something like, oh, I don't know "WORKERS AS CITIZENS" which gives them human and political rights within their workplaces, to exercise HOWEVER THEY SEE FIT. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

That's my review basically. I'm a much more pessimistic person these days since watching so many "progressive" brains turn to shit as they sang the praises of Wall-Street War-Criminal Hillary Clinton and who are now "mobilizing" to bring on nuclear Armageddon over the ridiculous "Russia-gate." I read MacKay's book in such a state and he writes about the multiple crises our shit-head species is facing and I think that we are well and truly fucked. But maybe you're not as sick as I am. Maybe you'll see the last chapter and take hope. Regardless; it's an important work and I'm glad to do what I can to spread the word about it.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Black Holes

That is all.