Fuck everyone who whitewashes MLK

The good readers of FtB probably are aware of this, but MLK was skeptical of capitalism, against US imperialism, and probably would’ve disliked the pieces of shit who whitewash him every January 20th. Concurrently (and very obviously), those same pieces of shit would’ve hated him when he was alive.
————
“[T]here is a definite move away from capitalism, whether we conceive of it as conscious or unconscious. Capitalism finds herself like a losing football team in the last quarter trying all types of tactics to survive.” [reminds me of a certain football team]
————
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic”
————
“[C]apitalism is always in danger of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity.”
————
“So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens […] as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.”
————
“During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.”
[…]
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.”
[…]
“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low [Audience:] (Yes); the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.””
[…]
Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘Too late.’
[…]
“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/…/notes-american-capital…
https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/…/documen…/beyond-vietnam
https://theintercept.com/…/martin-luther-king-jr-celebrati…/
https://www.jacobinmag.com/…/martin-luther-king-vietnam-war…
https://wagingnonviolence.org/…/martin-luther-king-capital…/

Only trickster gods exist

And they must be propitiated. They are ubiquitous in human cultures across time and space because they actually exist. As a rootless, and heretofore godless, mixture of various European ethnicities living on occupied Potawatomi land, I can’t rightfully say what particular trickster god(s) decided to fuck with me. But fuck with me they did.

I will be 39 years old next month and have spent 99.9999% of my time on earth not doing drugs. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I actually only started drinking a few years back. On a recent visit to in-laws, I took half a weed gummy. I recall being unable to focus on anything, laughing uncontrollably, telling an embarrassing story in sentence-like fragments, eating a bunch of bad food, and slowly shuffling off to bed. All in all I didn’t really like it, and certainly didn’t plan on it becoming something I regular indulge in.

In the back of my mind I knew there might be a problem: my organization mandates random drug tests. Over 13 years I’ve been summoned a mere 3 times. While I knew I was taking a risk, I didn’t think it was very likely. I’ve halfheartedly declined trying THC using this as a reason, but I really just had little interest. However, over winter break, I decided fuck it, what the hell. The trickster gods, monitoring the situation, decided to have some fun.

9 days after the gummy I was called to do a random drug test. I quite literally was on the precipice of losing my job. The trickster gods, already dying with laughter, then thought it’d be funny for the lab to be on lunch, forcing me to sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes. How nice to have so much time to sit, sweat, hold my urine, and think about what the fuck I would do if it came back positive.

It was one of those tests that came back right away. The 2 minutes it took may as well have been another 45 minutes. Everything was negative.

Now, Western Science would have you believe the THC just happened to leave my system and there’s nothing mystical about it – that my metabolism, diet, liquid intake and weed-free past helped get rid of any trace of it. To that I say bullshit. Some years back, part of my job responsibilities included giving drug tests for people seeking food assistance. Cool system, right? More than a few times I passed people who came up positive for THC. I just couldn’t justify telling them they couldn’t get food because they smoked some weed. If you have a problem with this – I don’t care what you think and go fuck yourself. I believe what happened to me shows the trickster gods approved.

Anyways, weed should be legal everywhere already. And be wary and respectful of trickster gods. They are not to be fucked with.

(Also, fuck the American Gods showrunners for firing Orlando Jones, who was easily the best part of the show as Anansi. I was on the fence over watching Season 3 since Season 2 was dreadful – now it’s easy to just be done with it.)

The people in the U.S. Border Patrol are scum

Much Like ICE, the people in the U.S. Border Patrol are scum. From the child jailers, to logistics-preoccupied administrators, fuck you:

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant, was seriously ill when immigration agents put him in a small South Texas holding cell with another sick boy on the afternoon of May 19.

A few hours earlier, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol’s dangerously overcrowded processing center in McAllen had diagnosed him with the flu and measured his fever at 103 degrees. She said that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened.

None of that happened. Worried that Carlos might infect other migrants in the teeming McAllen facility, officials moved him to a cell for quarantine at a Border Patrol station in nearby Weslaco.

By the next morning, he was dead.

[…]

Carlos was the sixth migrant child to die after being detained while entering the U.S. in less than a year. Some died of preexisting illnesses, but at least two others died of the flu diagnosed while in Border Patrol custody. Carlos was the only one to die at a Border Patrol station; the others were taken to medical facilities after falling ill. In the previous decade, not a single migrant child had died in custody.

Unlike ICE, a recent creation, the Border Patrol has a much longer, bloodier, and irredeemably racist history. The most important book I read this year was Greg Grandin’s The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (a summary by Jedediah Britton-Purdy can be found here). It is crucial for an understanding of the current crisis along the US’s southern borders, as well as serving to demolish the ignorant, self-aggrandizing narratives Americans tell themselves. It really should be required reading.

Among many other topics, Grandin elucidates how various strains of racist cowboys, the KKK, and violent goons coalesced into what became the U.S. Border Patrol. From its creation, it attracted the worst fucking people. In Grandin’s words, “fearing they were losing the larger struggle in defense of Anglo-Saxonism, white supremacists took control of the newly established U.S. Border Patrol and turned it into a vanguard of race vigilantism.”

I like to think I’m pretty well-informed about the historical violence perpetuated by the US, so much that I sometimes feel desensitized. But the wanton bloodshed and cruelty Grandon describes was astonishing and painful to read (though not surprising). Grandin references the Refusing to Forget project which documents racial violence along the US-Mexico border from 1910-1920:

The dead included women and men, the aged and the young, long-time residents and recent arrivals. They were killed by strangers, by neighbors, by vigilantes and at the hands of local law enforcement officers and the Texas Rangers. Some were summarily executed after being taken captive, or shot under the flimsy pretext of trying to escape. Some were left in the open to rot, others desecrated by being burnt, decapitated, or tortured by means such as having beer bottles rammed into their mouths. Extralegal executions became so common that a San Antonio reporter observed that “finding of dead bodies of Mexicans, suspected for various reasons of being connected with the troubles, has reached a point where it creates little or no interest. It is only when a raid is reported or an American is killed that the ire of the people is aroused.”

[…]

Far from being surreptitious, the violence was welcomed, celebrated, and even instigated at the highest levels of society and government. As thousands fled to Mexico and decapitated bodies floated down the Rio Grande, one Texas paper spoke of “a serious surplus population that needs eliminating.” Prominent politicians proposed putting all those of Mexican descent into “concentration camps” – and killing any who refused. For a decade, people would come across skeletons in the south Texas brush, marked with execution-style bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.

There’s a fucking baseball team named after the Texas Rangers! I had no idea that that was what the name referred to. Suitably, they were created to fight Native Americans, and later officially incorporated into law enforcement in 1902. They literally carried out mass executions, the numbers of which will never be known. And still, they’re mindlessly romanticized and celebrated, though it’s hard to expect anything less from such an historically illiterate populace.

Their legacy continues in the modern-day Border Patrol, in that the latter still attracts the worst people. I titled this blog post to remind myself that there are actual humans that choose to do this. Maybe they’re nice people outside of work. They’re fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins. And they are all complicit to varying degrees in the death of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. From the ProPublica report, Carlos was

captain of the soccer team and excelled in playing instruments the school had bought by selling raffle tickets. “He played percussion and the bombo and the lyre and the trumpet,” said Jose Morales Pereira, who was Carlos’ teacher. “He always said, ‘Professor, let’s teach everyone else.’ He was my leader.”

I, too, am guilty. Not because I’m a functioning part of the entities that presided over Carlos’s death, but because I’m a beneficiary of neoliberal capitalism and its military caretakers. I’m one of millions who disproportionately consume the world’s resources. I play a role in human misery and ecological destruction, though this is mostly abstracted, obscured and exported to places like Guatemala. It was from there that Carlos left and ultimately returned. At his funeral,

[t]housands of mourners poured in from around the country to follow behind his casket, which was borne by soccer teammates down a long dirt road to the cemetery.

Pallbearers taped his royal blue No. 9 soccer jersey to the top of his casket as they laid it to rest. “Maybe in all of his life, the 16 years that he was in this life, maybe he didn’t do many things, but he did move us,” said a speaker at his funeral. “He touched hearts.”

I hope his death wasn’t in vain. But I’m too skeptical not to think otherwise.

Deadspin is dead. Long live Deadspin

I’ve been faithful to Deadspin for well over a decade with a religious devotion unbecoming of a blogger for an atheist network. Perhaps it’s best known around these parts for roasting the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Though nominally a sports blog, they covered many, many other things, something which their vulture capitalist overlords apparently didn’t like – not because of profits (by all accounts it was profitable), but because they disliked their politics.

Last week, the staff were told to “stick to sports,” which eventually led to most, if not all of the staff quitting. The saga largely began when Gawker, of whose blog network Deadspin was a part of, was destroyed by Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel. The remaining websites were purchased by Univison, who had no idea what to do with them, and promptly sold to private equity ghouls, Great Hill Media (which rebranded as G/O Media), who are in the process of actively ruining them. This fits into a larger pattern in which terrible people purchase media entities, terrorize and fire staff, make changes everyone hates, and, I guess, make a shit ton of money selling it off – basically catabolic capitalism applied to media

The bloodletting began a few weeks ago when G/O abruptly shuttered Splinter, which was the political descendant of Gawker proper. Splinter, while perhaps less entertaining, took the remnants of Gawker much further to the left – much to the consternation, hilariously, of a large portion of its centrist readers. It was one of the few mainstream-ish websites I trusted for national news. The final post on the website, ironically a non-sports blog from Deadspin, is titled Meatball President Criticizes NBA Coaches For Weak Statements On China, Instead Of Answering Direct Question About China (this amuses me).

For Deadspin, stormclouds have been gathering for some time, but the forcing out of editor Megan Greenwell truly signaled the beginning of the end. On her way out she righteously crucified those that made her tenure suck:

The richest men in digital media sometimes show they are not the adults in the room in the pettiest ways. The beginning of the end of my time here came when [Jim] Spanfeller, my boss’s boss, threw a tantrum in an email to the entire company over a story our staff was reporting on his hiring practices, management style, and threats to editorial independence. He accused us of biased journalism based on the fact that we had sent an early draft to our media lawyer, which is standard journalistic practice. He accused me and a 26-year-old reporter who works for me—a wildly talented reporter who has as much integrity as anyone I’ve ever worked with—of trying to “shame and discredit others in our community” by reporting a story. When another colleague suggested in an all-staff meeting that his email was itself an attempt to publicly shame and discredit his employees, he doubled down, saying he is a transparent guy who says what he thinks. The story—which was damning only in that it was a true recitation of facts—was published anyway, not because our bosses “allowed” it to be, but because Gawker Media journalists are not and will never be intimidated by bullying.

Lauren Wagner, an utterly fearless badass, provided the insight into the inner workings of G/O, which precipitated Greenwell’s departure:

In conversations with Deadspin, more than 20 employees from across the business, tech, and editorial departments of G/O Media expressed frustration with [Jim] Spanfeller’s approach to hiring and his new executives’ lack of knowledge about the company combined with their seeming unwillingness or inability to get up to speed. The employees, nearly all of whom requested anonymity because of fears of retaliation from company management, are angered by a lack of communication regarding company goals, seeming disregard for promoting diversity within the top ranks of the company, and by repeated and egregious interference with editorial procedures.

These conversations reveal that Spanfeller’s biggest effect on the company since taking over has been a deflation of morale. Several high-ranking employees have left the company over the past three months, departments have been stretched thin, and those who remain say that Spanfeller’s micromanaging and inappropriate interference has hamstrung their ability to effectively do their jobs.

This is an example of the sort of journalism they did so well. Unlike other sport media entities, they constantly delved deep into the intersections of economics, sports, and politics. And, as you can see from the quotes above, they never hesitated to place superiors in their cross-hairs. They remained inveterate shit-talkers to the very end.

Deadspin existed as a leftist counterweight to trash like Barstool, a sports-related haven for MAGA dipshits. They never “stuck to sports,” rightly realizing that sports are inextricably intertwined within the socioeconomic conditions in which they exist. They did their jobs with humor, courage, joy, irreverence, tenacity and humility (though, as they readily admit, they were certainly not without their faults over 14 years). They almost always pissed off the right people, and you will find the very worst of them gloating over their still-warm corpse.

Anyways, it’s dead now. Well, not technically dead; Deadspin will still exist in a weird, zombie-like form. The owners of the website are already crowing about how awesome their rebooted product will be. Given what they’ve done with a beloved, profitable, unique internet space, there is no reason to think it will be anything but putrid. What is possibly in store is summed up by Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate:

Trustworthy brand-name publications are being hollowed out and refilled with unpaid “community” contributors or low-paid, less experienced professionals who don’t have the stature to challenge editorial imperatives or productivity quotas that generate useless, often-inaccurate content. This kind of zombification is happening right now to Sports Illustrated and has already happened to Newsweek; it’s even happened to parts of BuzzFeed, which didn’t even exist until this century.

I’m sad.

Long live Deadspin.

Escorting and other things

How are you? I hope you’re good. I’ve been kinda okay. I say kinda because almost a year ago I had a panic attack. I didn’t know what was happening to me. It took a few days to settle down, but then the stomach aches started. To this day they haven’t really stopped. It is generally believed I have IBS. I’ve seen specialists; therapists; had various tests, including an ultrasound; changed diets; taken various over the counter meds, two different prescriptions, countless supplements and teas; meditated consistently and so far, nothing has led to, well, getting back to normal.

The last-ditch effort, which is still ongoing, is Zoloft, which I was terrified to start taking. I can’t tell if it’s helping or not. At first it seemed like it wasn’t. Then it got a little better. The last 2 weeks have been worse. Per my doctor, I’m continuing with it for 6 months to a year. Though if, by the 6-month mark, it hasn’t demonstrably helped, I’ll likely stop. And then it’s just sucking it up and dealing with it, which isn’t too different then what I’ve dealt with the past year.

It almost seems as if the panic attack led to something breaking inside of me that hasn’t been and may never be fixed. It’s just such a weird thing to have a stomach ache all day every day for a week straight. It sucks but it’s not the worst. It has made my life less good, but it’s not the worst that could happen to me. So many deal with so much worse.

***

As I am wont to do, I started this post weeks ago and left it unfinished – one of dozens of blogs in various states of disrepair. Over the past few months, I’ve primarily been scratching the itch to write on social media: pithy, caustic, poignant and hilarious posts that likely induce eye-rolling by friends and family. Behold:

Antifa: Fascism is bad and needs to be confronted, lest its genocidal philosophies again take root.

Pudding-brained conservative politicians: ANTIFA ARE LITERAL TERRORISTS!

Right wing extremists: [responsible for an overwhelming amount of domestic extremist-related murder, including the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting]

Pudding-brained conservative politicians: Something something thoughts and prayers and mental health and senseless tragedy and [trails off; resumes racist dog whistling, demonizes immigrants/refugees/Muslims, likely renews calls for labeling Antifa a terrorist organization]

(This was posted after the Garlic Fest shooting and before the El Paso shooting)

Anyways, the desire to write again in this blog occurred while listening to an episode of Science Friday, which made me want to put my fist through a wall. The relevant section was about deforestation in the Amazon. Very often I’ve noticed the host, Ira Flatow, seamlessly segueing from horrifying environmental news into something tech-related. And this is probably just me, but I always get annoyed with his tone, which alters between vaguely sad & subdued, and cloyingly optimistic. During the Amazon segment I noticed something that I hadn’t ever heard before: genuine dread in his voice as if he had actually confronted – conceivably for the first time – the ongoing horror of the destruction of the Amazon. Of course, perhaps I’m just projecting.

But that wasn’t what made me so irate. During an interview with Brazilian scientist Carlos Nobre, Flatow asked if he had hope. And this brilliant, intelligent, shrewd man of science said yes. Why? Because “the people” don’t want the Amazon cut down. The “people” need to and will get out and vote because Brazil remains a democracy (never mind the fact that “the people” voted for a borderline fascist).

Readers of my blog, given my past output, may justifiably regard me as something of a nihilist, but I can’t help but perceive this as absurdly hopeful in a way that is not at all warranted.  My rage has lessened, but hasn’t entirely subsided weeks later

This was the point I stopped writing. I just didn’t and still don’t have the will to deconstruct why I feel his optimism is both unjustified and dangerous. I’m tired. Sad. I feel hopeless – for the indigenous peoples, nonhuman animals, trees, rivers.

***

Switching gears – I’m going to talk a little further about what’s going on with me. For a few years I volunteered at a restorative justice program for youth that was recently discontinued. My city apparently decided that actually things are fine for our delinquent youth and the status quo is sufficient.

I felt I should be doing something else and decided on abortion clinic escorting. If you aren’t already aware, escorts guide patients into clinics and act as a shield against pro-life protesters. The clinic I’m at provides half of the state’s abortion services and has only one doctor on staff. Of course I was cognizant of the existence of the protesters, though it was mostly in the abstract sense, because I don’t see them in my day-to-day life. But when one escorts they’re just there, with their signs, loudspeakers, and punchable faces. And it’s their constitutional right to do so, apparently!

One of the horrifying things I learned was that kitty corner from the clinic is another clinic, which is basically a front for a Christian group that tries to dissuade women from abortions. So when women come to their appointments, the pro-lifers converge and, amongst other horseshit they yell, try to convince them to go to the other “free clinic” across the street. Devious fucks.

Another somewhat interesting thing I learned, that should have been intuitive had I considered it, was the segregation of the various Christian groups: evangelicals out in front, in-your-face and holding gory placards; quieter Catholics somewhat respectfully across the street; Children of the Corn-like Quiverfull adolescents; and unaffiliated damaged people with nothing better to do with their lives. And scattered throughout are the children, forced by their parents to waste their youth on religious zealotry.

The protesters especially scorn male escorts such as myself, who are emasculated degenerates who gleefully aid in fetus genocide. I experienced this firsthand upon leaving one day. I had taken off my rainbow-colored vest (a thus far fool-proof way to dissuade infiltration) and began walking to my car. I was wearing an Iron Maiden shirt and, aside from comments about the shirt, I was called a “Mary.” To my back, of course. I’m still smarting from it.

Overall, I theorized I would be good for this because I couldn’t care less what people for whom I have no respect said to me. And that’s proven to be the case so far. I’ve literally never said a word to any of them. Sure, I’ve laughed and smirked and talked about them as they stood feet away. But I have no desire to engage in discussion. We are instructed not to do so, but most of the escorts at one time or another will, whether out of anger, amusement or exasperation, talk to them.

A lot of the regulars are damaged, and have experienced trauma: a man who was supposedly able to pray the gay away thanks to conversion therapy; someone who was abused as a child, did every “drug there is” and was a “whoremonger;” the Quiverfull kids indoctrinated into their grossly misogynist cult since birth. So I am able to maintain a tiny amount of empathy (or sympathy? I can’t decide which), though it evaporates the second they start screaming at women about how they’re murdering their child and don’t have to do it.

In the past, escorts at this location have experienced doxing, being followed to their cars, having car tire lug nuts loosened, and protesters showing up at their houses. They’ve had to get restraining orders. They’ve witnessed cars wedged into the clinic entryway. I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing any of this, although I’m apparently on a protester’s livestream somewhere on the internet. Originally conceived as a 6 month program, escorting still exists at this location 25 years later because it needs to – these people are tenacious and need to be confronted.

***

Finally, I want to mention LINGUA IGNOTA putting out the album of the year. The first time I heard it I was reading and decided to put on some background music. But this is not background music. For the next 10 minutes I sat with my mouth agape. So so fucking good, raw and brutal. If just one of you listens to this I will be satisfied.

Not sure if this will lead to more blogs. Maybe, maybe not.

I, satanist

[Scene: Waiting area situated between two restaurants in Gatlinburg, TN (a tourist hellscape that is a necessary evil whilst visiting the Great Smoky Mountains). My wife went to the bathroom and I’m alone. A guy sitting across from me notices my hoodie.]

Guy: What’s that shirt you’re wearing?

Me: It’s a band called Choking Victim.

Guy: What kind of music is that?

Me: Kind of like a punk band.

Guy: I don’t like stuff like that with the [makes a weird muffled scream-like sound]

Me: Ok

Guy: [Pauses long enough that I think the conversation is over] So you’re a satanist

Me: What? No

Guy: Your shirt says otherwise

[To be fair, the shirt contains a pentagram and upside down cross]

Me: Ah. If you look at the rest of the shirt you can see it says “no gods no managers

Guy: [Pauses again, but I’m fairly certain he’s thinking of something to say] Satan’s not a god

Me: [not wanting to get into the nuances of Christian theology as it relates to atheism] Well, fine – anything biblical I don’t really believe in

Guy: [walks towards one of the restaurants; then he walks back to the waiting area and continues toward the other restaurant] So I guess Trump ain’t your president

Me: I mean, he is the president

Guy: [doesn’t respond; continues walking]

My wife liked my response but I thought of a few alternates to his devastating parting shot which heinously accused me of not liking America’s special big boy president:

#1: Actually, Malcolm Brogdon is the only president I recognize

#2: I don’t really get the question, if it was even a question rather than a statement. Using the word “my” has the connotation that he belongs to me or that I have some kind of claim on him. It’s kind of silly. So he’s not “my” president, same as Obama wasn’t “my” president. But I hope we can both agree that he’s a real pile of shit.

#3: You know, I’d like to say no but Trump is the perfect encapsulation of all that is revolting in American society congealed into one grotesque person. Just an utterly vile amalgamation of greed, sexism, racism, xenophobia, cruelty, hypersensitivity, unearned arrogance, short-sightedness, and an almost pathological amount of ignorance injected into a screaming, hate-filled, creamsicle-colored blob. Perhaps worst of all is his childlike understanding of science in a moment where it might be a good idea for the scientifically literate to take the wheel (did you hear about this utter clown talking about wind farms causing cancer?). And a bunch of people listened to the things he said, and read the things he attempted to write and, rather than thinking this person is deeply, deeply puerile, they thought “yes, he should be one of the most powerful people in the world – one who should definitely have control over nuclear weapons.” And whether I like it or not, I’m complicit, as most of us in America are to varying degrees; we participate and benefit by virtue of residing in the world’s most powerful nation-state that is hopelessly unwilling and unable to meaningfully confront its foundational mythologies and deep structural problems which continue to immiserate large portions of its own populace (not to mention the peoples it exploits and kills throughout the globe); all of this while situated as the Leviathanic head of an unholy beast driving all living beings toward ecological disaster. Let’s be real – our society’s vast problems both transcend and predate this oafish goon’s ascent. Anyways, I guess from that perspective he is very much my president as he is surely yours. But I hope we can both agree that he’s a real pile of shit.

.
.

.

Pretty sure if I said any of that it wouldn’t have ended well for me.

The death throes of Leviathan

***This is probably my last post here. Thanks to those who have read any of my bullshit.***

He might think of it as a worm, a giant worm, not a living worm but a carcass of a worm, a monstrous cadaver, its body consisting of numerous segments, its skin pimpled with spears and wheels and other technological implements. He knows from his own experience that the entire carcass is brought to artificial life by the motions of the human beings trapped inside, the zeks who operate the springs and wheels, just as he knows that the cadaverous head is operated by a mere zek, the head zek.

[…]

Everything is artifice, and whatever is not will soon be artifice. There is nothing outside but raw materials ready and waiting to be processed and transformed into Leviathanic excrement, the substance of the universe. Some raw materials resist the transformation more than others, but none can withstand the inexorable March of Progress.

I’ve long considered Fredy Perlman’s Leviathan to be a useful metanarrative for the totality of modern-day society (or culture, civilization, “the way things are,” etc.). In Against His-story Against Leviathan! he reimagines and recontextualizes the forms and functions of Hobbes’s Leviathan as it rampages across the globe. There have been numerous Leviathans throughout human history, continually configuring and reconfiguring, dissolving and recombining, but we have long since reached the point where it is One, containing most of humanity within its entrails.

With imagination, from the outside, one can perceive it in different lights, shimmering, obscuring – here it looks like a hellbeast despoiling the wild, there it looks like comfort and longer life spans granted to the fortunate. With imagination we can behold it as a collective whole – what it has done and what it is currently doing. Even then, we can only tenuously grasp the size and scale of its monstrosity.

There are many divisions within Leviathan, constantly warring against each other. Scraps are fought for by large conglomerations of entities – nation-states, corporations, revolutionary groups (both reactionary and otherwise). On a smaller scale, individuals and families fight for access to plush areas of Leviathan’s decaying interior in the hopes of remaining relatively free from the unsightliness of its worst excesses. Members of the fortunate classes do everything in their power to ensure that they and their progeny gain access to what they rightfully deserve. The unprivileged hordes, existing in the less desirable margins of Leviathan while being exploited for the benefit of their social betters, must know and accept their place for Leviathan to function properly.

Regardless of the manners in which classes of people are divided, within Leviathan we stagger ever ahead. The diffusion of control is such that there is no one person (no “head zek”), or collection of persons that can be said to have control over it. Sure, some may have more of a say in lurching this way or that, or conjuring different ways to execute its modus operandi, but it is accurate to say that it is largely autonomous. Its agenda consists of two primary components: depositing the raw materials of the earth into its gaping maw and, in its gut, cohering these raw materials into products which diffuse into every nook and cranny within the great creature. The primary concerns are related to how to go about doing this in the most profitable and efficient manner possible. These products – with their congealed and abstracted environmental destruction and human misery – find their way via labyrinthine pathways into every facet of human life. Surrounded by the fruits of mass production almost every second of every day, it is as impossible to conceive of the human/environmental costs of each and every product as it is to conceive of life without them.

In Leviathan’s wake, vibrant mountains are converted into poisonous slag heaps, bountiful estuaries into anoxic dead zones, biologically diverse forests into denuded greenhouse gas producing pasturelands. In short, converting the living into the dead. Capitalism and industrialization are the steroids that catalyzed pre-existing processes and kicked it into overdrive [1]. But it would miss the point to apportion blame solely to these hyperobjects – the origins of what we have wrought transcends both of these human creations, as elaborated by Perlman and many, many others.

Outside, there is no life, no existence – only materials waiting be consumed. Though that is not entirely accurate: there does happen to be some form of existence, however it is – as Hobbes contends – nasty, brutish and short. It is barely worthy of legibility to Leviathan, unless, at some point, it is determined that it stands in the way of Progress. Otherwise, there is little to no utility in its quasi-existence.

***

A few weeks back, the IPCC released yet another damning report about industrialized capitalism and its conduciveness to the continued existence of human and non-human life. Like this essay, its contents are broadly similar to what has been written, researched, and reported on 2, 5, and 10 years ago. More will be written – albeit with updated scientific data – 2, 5, or 10 years in the future. When confronted with this, many will shake their heads sadly and get on with their day. Because what else can you do? We are so habituated to “the way things are,” that we cannot conceive of how to live outside of the suffocating confines of Leviathan. This is unfortunate because there is the possibility that we will, out of necessity, be forced to do so.

To live with the prospect of impending, though vaguely defined doom is new to those of us that have never labored under the delusion of a religion-inspired apocalypse. It is also new to those too young to have lived with the threat of nuclear annihilation. What we are collectively facing is frustratingly vague – if it weren’t, if it were easy to comprehend its enormity, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the situation we find ourselves. Perhaps more of us would actually perform meaningful actions to stop it.

I do not know what it’s like to believe that Jesus, with a flaming sword protruding from his mouth, will descend from heaven heralding the apocalypse. I do not know what it was like to live in fear of nuclear annihilation. The Bible’s vision of the endtimes is fantastical, but comprehensible. Nuclear annihilation is all too easy to understand. Both are less complicated and easier to grasp than what the depredations of the Anthropocene (the crystallization of Leviathan’s aforementioned modus operandi) and catabolic capitalism have in store [2].

***

Some see Leviathan for what it is and wish to extinguish its death-drive by any means short of violence against others. Thus far, despite scattered and localized success via direct action, their efforts have done little to so much as slow its gait. Their small numbers have left them largely unable to conjure tumors, or abscesses. When they do, they are easily ignored or scarred over. Moreover, Leviathan’s antibodies have proven to be very adept at infiltrating, entrapping, and mitigating infections.

Excepting illegal resistance – denied by most as desirable – leaves only the usual, unsuccessful means that have also utterly failed thus far: encouragement of responsible personal lifestyle choices and, especially in the heart of Leviathan, voting for the party that is partially less beholden to the same world-destroying interests as the grotesque party of rank bigotry, ignorance and gleeful earth annihilation. To think or believe this is sufficient is sheer wishful thinking – you may as well decide which god you find most likely to exist and get praying.

The balance of power in Washington has subtly shifted with the Democrats winning the house. Leaving aside what the political ramifications of this will be for the next two years, what if the Republicans maintain power in the next presidential election? Then what? Marches? Protests? Devastatingly witty and hilarious infotainment from celebrities and comedians? More liberal vote-shaming? More exhortations for mindful, “ecologically sound” consumerism? Not using plastic bags or straws? Will it be the same old shit that has proven unable to halt or slow our culture’s death march? Probably. And yet, much of the same things would happen under a more liberal administration but, insidiously, also containing the false sense of security that many will have with “the right people” regaining power. After all, 8 years of Obama did little to halt climate change, environmental destruction, and mass production/mass consumption (the same goes for income inequality, US imperialism, institutionalized racism, the Flint water crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, etc.).

On the heels of the latest damning report from the IPCC, millions are, as they have been for years, exposed to insipid bullshit like this:

See how easy it is? You can even feel a smug sense of superiority for your enlightened consumerism. After all, you’re doing YOUR part, and the only discomfort you need feel is in your pocketbook, as environmentally conscious products tend to be more expensive. (I kind of feel ripped off because I actually do many things considered to be “green” – and have for many years – but weirdly enough it hasn’t appeared to have made a difference (this should go without saying, but none of this should be taken as an argument against doing “green” things))

It should be obvious, but the vast majority of carbon emissions are the result of multinational corporations. So you reading this – assuming you are not a captain of industry – are not responsible for the existence of Leviathan and what it is doing to both its inhabitants and its host. What you do and don’t do within the context of living your day-to-day life probably doesn’t matter. You were born into a socio-politico-economic system you played no part in creating. However, you (and me) are responsible for attempting to stop those who maintain and perpetuate this destructive, fundamentally unequal/unjust socio-politico-economic system (that is, if you grant my premise, which I’m sure many of you don’t). Especially if you are a beneficiary of it. I won’t speak for anyone else but I know I’m failing.

***

If I’m correct that we are neither close to nor will ever be close to voluntarily reigning in Leviathan’s worst excesses, what is most likely to occur is a series of Hail Marys on a global scale. Geoengineering is inevitable – leave it to the First World to put our hopes in fixes that will allow us to maintain our lifestyle. In doing so we will, as we approach nearly every systemic problem, address only the symptoms while leaving the root causes undisturbed. It’s the easy way out (not that the specific geoengineering projects will be easy). We won’t abandon our hyper-consumptive lifestyles without being forced to do so. Perhaps these projects will enable “the way things are” to continue for the foreseeable future, and thus prolonging the inevitable need to confront the contradiction implicit in capitalism’s “infinite economic growth on a finite planet” ethos. Maybe this new Scientific Revolution could enable the oppressed classes to lead better lives – though if neoliberal capitalism continues as the global economic system this is almost impossible to believe.

In addition to the widespread implementation of geoengineering and its promises for a better tomorrow, there are two other broad paradigms that could be in store: the proliferation of dictatorships as resources dwindle and the consequences of climate change become impossible to ignore [3]; or collapse, as efforts to prop up Leviathan fail, leaving large amounts of people, land and resources outside of centralized state control.

If a series of collapses were to occur, the resulting communities would be kaleidoscopic in how they develop over time and depend on an uncountable number of variables: population density, environmental conditions, access to land and water, culture, religion, food acquisition techniques, self-defense abilities, base of knowledge of the natural world, and, perhaps most importantly, the extent to which any specific community is able to deal with breakdowns in the product distribution networks that are the hallmark of modern-day civilized life. Some will be violent and tyrannical. Some less so. Some friendly, others insular. Some will flourish, others will suffer and die. Some will defy conventional means of description. Most will be mixtures of every trait imaginable. And none will be static, as human communities are fluid and continuously changing.

Looking to the past, human societies have existed in countless forms throughout our history as a species [4]. To continue with the thematic narrative of the previous paragraph, some have been more egalitarian, some less so. Some relatively peaceful, some warlike. Some completely vegetarian and others almost entirely carnivorous. There have been socially stratified hunter-gatherers, and egalitarian agricultural villages. There have even been many societies that walked away from collapsed central power and thrived. Most of them haven’t rendered wide swathes of the planet uninhabitable for their human and non-human neighbors (the WWF recently determined that we have “wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970.”). And, perhaps, a number of post-collapse communities will tap into that legacy.

***

Cycling back to our present-day quagmire, to channel comrade Lenin, what is to be done? Shall we seize power and transition to some kind of eco-socialist economy that equitably distributes goods and services in a way that doesn’t destroy the biosphere [5]? Vote actual leftists into power in the hopes of mitigating at least some of the detrimental effects of mass production (and institutionalized racism, economic inequality, etc.)? Is it sufficient to merely find concrete ways to dissuade those who profit the most off of earth’s destruction? Should we myopically enact doomsday prepper fantasies? Participate in decentralized mutual aid networks in preparation for inevitable discrete and ongoing disasters that states are unable/unwilling to adequately address? Should we destroy oil extraction infrastructure? Torch gas guzzling vehicles and aircraft? Dismantle power-plant apparatuses? Or do we sit back, cling to our lifestyles based on extraction and consumption, and hope that Science and Technology, in conjunction with the friendlier capitalist political party, will save us?

Such is the immensity of Leviathan that there is an infinite number of things one can do. Such is the immensity of Leviathan that it is unknown to what extent anything one can do will actually matter – both globally and, to a lesser extent, locally. What is to be done?

There is one possible endgame – some of Leviathan’s inhabitants may claw their way out of its corpse, behold the world in a new light, and build societies on top of its decomposing remains. They may use the putrefying entrails, but these communities can work to ensure that they are never able to recombine into another monstrous iteration of Leviathan, and thus begin the world-destroying process anew. Maybe they’ll dance on the rotting husk of what used to be a world-encompassing death machine.

One may write this off as utopian and naïve. And you are very justified in thinking this, at least for those of us firmly entrenched in Leviathan. But for the indigenous the world over – from the Sentinelese in the Andaman Islands, to the San in southern Africa, to the Sami in northern Scandinavia, to the Mohawk Nation in Akwesasne straddling the border of the U.S and Canada (to say nothing of exploited, terrorized and endangered nonhuman animals) – it’s not at all inconceivable. Their hope lies in the death throes of Leviathan not taking them down as it feeds upon itself.

Perhaps I’m just plain wrong – a wild-eyed, Nietzschean madman stumbling about, howling “industrial civilization is killing the planet!” instead of “God is dead!” Steven Pinker might just be right about the likes of me. As I write this in my office cubicle, I can’t fathom how anyone in my vicinity would seriously consider more than a few things I’ve written to have merit (the same goes, I think, for many readers who’ve made it this far). Like me, they want to finish their work, go home, and live their lives. They have other things to worry about. Broadly, tomorrow will be like today. Next week will look like last week. Next month will be similar to last month. But it seems as if we are inching closer to… something. After all, our culture’s doomsday prophesiers are not the charlatans of yore; instead, they are those to whom we in the West have entrusted the empirical study of the totality of existence to.

In closing, I’m reminded of Ishmael, by the late Daniel Quinn, which is sadly even more relevant today than it was in 1992. The novel features a series of conversations between Ishmael, a gorilla-sage, and the unidentified narrator, a surrogate for the privileged, civilized man who senses things maybe aren’t so great:

Ishmael frowned […] “As long as the people of your culture are convinced that the world belongs to them and that their divinely-appointed destiny is to conquer and rule it, then they are of course going to go on acting the way they’ve been acting for the past ten thousand years. They’re going to go on treating the world as if it were a piece of human property and they’re going to go on conquering it as if it were an adversary. You can’t change these things with laws. You must change people’s minds. And you can’t just root out a harmful complex of ideas and leave a void behind; you have to give people something that is as meaningful as what they’ve lost — something that makes better sense than the old horror of Man Supreme, wiping out everything on this planet that doesn’t serve his needs directly or indirectly.”

I shook my head. “What you’re saying is that someone has to stand up and become to the world of today what Saint Paul was to the Roman Empire.”

“Yes, basically. Is that so daunting?”

I laughed. “Daunting isn’t nearly strong enough. To call it daunting is like calling the Atlantic damp.”

“Is it really so impossible in an age when a stand-up comic on television reaches more people in ten minutes than Paul did in his entire lifetime?”

“I’m not a stand-up comic.”

“But you’re a writer, aren’t you?”

“Not that kind of writer.”

Ishmael shrugged. “Lucky you. You are absolved of any obligation. Self-absolved.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“What were you expecting to learn from me? An incantation? A magic word that would sweep all the nastiness away?”

“No.”

“Ultimately, it would seem you’re no different from those you profess to despise: You just wanted something for yourself. Something to make you feel better as you watch the end approach.”

[…]

“One thing I know people will say to me is ‘Are you suggesting we go back to being hunter-gatherers?’ ”

“That of course is an inane idea,” Ishmael said. “The Leaver life-style isn’t about hunting and gathering, it’s about letting the rest of the community live — and agriculturalists can do that as well as hunter-gatherers.” He paused and shook his head. “What I’ve been at pains to give you is a new paradigm of human history. The Leaver life is not an antiquated thing that is ‘back there’ somewhere. Your task is not to reach back but to reach forward.”

“But to what? We can’t just walk away from our civilization the way the Hohokam did.”

“That’s certainly true. The Hohokam had another way of life waiting for them, but you must be inventive — if it’s worthwhile to you. If you care to survive.” He gave me a dull stare. “You’re an inventive people, aren’t you? You pride yourselves on that, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Then invent.”

__________

[1] It is both tragic and somewhat fitting that the home city of the Venetian Octopus (Perlman’s term for pre-modern sea-based Leviathans), which played an integral role in the rise of globalized capitalism, will likely be rendered uninhabitable by it.

[2] Craig Collins describes catabolic capitalism as “a self-cannibalizing system whose insatiable hunger for profit can only be fed by devouring the society that sustains it. As it rampages down the road to ruin, this system gorges itself on one self-inflicted disaster after another.” This already exists in parts of the world – the question is to what extent the affluent West will experience it. The article is well worth reading in full and I can’t help but quote a bit more of it:

Catabolic capitalism flourishes because it can still generate substantial profits by dodging legalities and regulations; stockpiling scarce resources and peddling arms to those fighting over them; scavenging, breaking down and selling off the assets of the decaying productive and public sectors; and preying upon the sheer desperation of people who can no longer find gainful employment elsewhere.

Without enough energy to generate growth, catabolic capitalists stoke the profit engine by taking over troubled businesses, selling them off for parts, firing the workforce and pilfering their pensions. Scavengers, speculators and slumlords buy up distressed and abandoned properties – houses, schools, factories, office buildings and malls – strip them of valuable resources, sell them for scrap or rent them to people desperate for shelter. Illicit lending operations charge outrageous interest rates and hire thugs or private security firms to shake down desperate borrowers or force people into indentured servitude to repay loans. Instead of investing in struggling productive enterprises, catabolic financiers make windfall profits by betting against growth through hoarding and speculative short selling of securities, currencies and commodities.

[…]

Catabolic capitalism is not inevitable. However, in a growth-less economy, catabolic capitalism is the most profitable, short-term alternative for those in power. This makes it the path of least resistance from Wall Street to Washington. But Green capitalism is another story.

As both radical Greens and the corporate establishment realize, Green capitalism is essentially an oxymoron. Truly Green policies, programs and projects contradict capitalism’s primary directive – profit before all else! This doesn’t mean there aren’t profitable niche markets for some products and services that are both ecologically benign and economically beneficial. It means that capitalism’s overriding profit motive is fundamentally at odds with ecological balance and the general welfare of humanity.

While people and the planet can thrive in an ecologically balanced society, the self-centered drive for profit and power cannot. A healthy economy that encourages people to take care of each other and the planet is incompatible with exploiting labor and ransacking nature for profit. Thus, capitalists will resist, to the bitter end, any effort to replace their malignant economy with a healthy one. [emphasis added]

[3] Again I quote Collins:

As globalization runs down, this grim catabolic future is eager to replace it. Already, an ugly gang of demagogic politicians around the world hopes to ride this catabolic crisis into power. Their goal is to replace globalization with bombastic nationalist authoritarianism [the most recent example being the absolutely vile Bolsonaro in Brazil]. These xenophobic demagogues are becoming the political face of catabolic capitalism. They promise to restore their country to prosperity and greatness by expelling immigrants while carelessly ignoring the disastrous costs of fossil fuel addiction and military spending. Anger, insecurity and need to believe that a strong leader can restore “the good old days” will guarantee them a fervent following even though their false promises and fake solutions can only make matters worse.

[4] One can find sources just about anywhere. While writing this, I had in mind Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott and Worshiping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation by Peter Gelderloos. I don’t expect anyone to actually purchase them so, if interested, check out this rather long article by David Graeber and David Wengrow.

[5] Unlike the Soviet and Maoist Leviathans – both as adept at world destruction as the capitalist West – hopefully this new “dictatorship of the proletariat” would actually progress towards a state in which the very scaffolds propping up Leviathan wither away. Seems unlikely.

Evangelical haunted houses

The Cut has an article about the traumatizing and manipulative world of evangelical haunted houses, replete with scenes of mass shootings, abortion, suicide, and domestic violence. I’m writing about this because it’s both interesting and features my wife (under a pseudonymous first name):

I don’t exactly remember how it started, but I think at the beginning of the scene you were watching a guy talk to himself, or something. And after a couple minutes of this, it was like they broke the fourth wall — you could hear the cast and crew in the background talking louder and louder, and then people with headsets started to race through the crowd. And they’re going, “We’ve gotta get out of here! Somebody’s got a gun!”

[…]

And then the room went black, and a gun noise went off, with a flash. It sounded exactly like somebody had come in and started shooting in the room. People were crouching, and people were screaming. Because we all thought it was real. We all really thought we were going to die.

I grew up Catholic and had no idea of such things before we met. Some time ago we tried to find one to go to, but the closest was two states away. So it seems these aren’t very prevalent anymore. It’s probably for the best.

Good Guy With a Gun fails to stop Bad Guy With a Gun because “whites don’t shoot whites”

You’ve probably already heard the story:

Gregory Alan Bush, a 51-year-old white man, was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of felony wanton endangerment, according to Wave 3 News. He reportedly walked into the supermarket in Jeffersontown—a suburb of Louisville—and fired multiple shots at one man before walking outside and firing more shots at a woman in the parking lot. Jeffersontown Police Chief Sam Rogers confirmed that both victims died at the scene.

[…]

The victims of the shooting have been identified as 69-year-old Maurice Stallard and 67-year-old Vicki Lee Jones, both of whom are black.

[…]

Ed Harrell, who was waiting in the parking lot for his wife, Elaine, to come out of the store, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that when he saw Bush exit the store with a gun in his hand, he pulled his own revolver, crouched beside his car and asked Bush what was going on.

“Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites,” Bush told him.

Harrell “wasn’t sure what to do but said as the gunman moved a little, he dived behind a car and watched as the shooter got in a vehicle and drove off.

I just wonder what was in the mind of the gun fucker on the receiving end of the white brotherhood speech. These assholes fantasize about being in positions like this – after all, he felt the need to bring a gun to a grocery store. When presented with a chance to stop the bad guy with a gun, he chose not to even try. Hopefully it was cowardice. Better that than the alternative: perhaps he felt the gunman made a salient point.

Or maybe I’m being too judgmental. God knows I’d probably piss my pants and run for cover were I in that situation. And, well, I’m not too comfortable with guns. But I’d like to think if, gun in hand, I had the chance to kill a white supremacist on a shooting spree I’d pull the fucking trigger.