Gary Johnson, Syria, and the apocalypse

The best we can do right now with re­spect to Syr­ia and vari­ous oth­er world-his­tor­ic­al phe­nom­ena is pre­dict likely out­comes, since we have no abil­ity to mean­ing­fully al­ter the course of events. Ex­cept, of course, if we’re pre­pared to fig­ure out what it would take to as­sert and ex­er­cise real agency in his­tory, something which is much harder than just shout­ing an­ti­war or hu­man­it­ari­an in­ter­ven­tion­ist plat­it­udes. It in­volves identi­fy­ing the forces with­in so­ci­ety that could bend the blind hap­pen­stance of the mar­ket and the clumsy in­trigues of state powers to its will. Po­s­i­tion-tak­ing and slo­gan­eer­ing are mean­ing­less and vain in the ab­sence of ef­fect­ive re­volu­tion­ary prac­tice.

For the time be­ing, however, it has very been en­ter­tain­ing to see Richard Spen­cer and his “Alt-Right” al­lies lose their col­lect­ive shit over Trump’s sud­den 180° with re­spect to Syr­ia. Al­most on cue and all at once, 4chan’s /pol/ seemed to suf­fer an an­eurysm. Some of its mem­bers com­plained that this would mean more Muslim im­mig­rants the West. Oth­ers called upon the an­onym­ous hordes to form a bloc with Putin and wage holy war against the Jews. Mean­while, Steve Ban­non has fallen out of fa­vor in the White House, cucked by the “glob­al­ist” New Jer­sey Demo­crat Jared Kush­ner. With this de­vel­op­ment, lib­er­als might have fi­nally got­ten their wish. Be­cause if Ivanka is now the one really pulling the strings, to stick with the pup­pet-mas­ter meta­phor, then it’s as if Hil­lary Clin­ton got elec­ted after all.

Lib­er­als’ main ob­jec­tion to Trump has al­ways been aes­thet­ic, rather than prin­cipled or sub­stant­ive. They miss the smooth, well-spoken, at times in­spir­a­tion­al rhet­or­ic of someone like Obama to the bizarre toi­let bowl of free as­so­ci­ation that comes out of Trump’s mouth. At the level of policy the two could be com­pletely identic­al, but no one would care so long as everything was de­livered with the right pres­id­en­tial pack­aging. Com­rade Em­met Pen­ney con­veys this grim truth rather well:

So after run­ning a can­did­ate down­loaded from the un­canny val­ley — who didn’t be­lieve in or stand for any­thing, really — and money­balling their way to de­feat against a gold-plated, syph­il­it­ic so­ciopath, I’m see­ing all these mem­bers of the Demo­crat­ic “#Res­ist­ance” come out in full sup­port of the Syr­ia strikes like the bat­talion of over­paid cow­ards they’ve al­ways been.

It’ll be tite af when they re­in­sti­tute con­scrip­tion and make you use an app struc­tured like Obama­care where you pick from com­pet­ing pro­viders to get body ar­mor and bul­lets be­fore ship­ping out to go die alone scream­ing for your fam­ily while their lob­by­ist mil­it­ary con­tract­or bud­dies stuff their pock­ets by the fist­ful. The fu­ture the Demo­crats want is just a gami­fied ver­sion of with the Re­pub­lic­ans want, with maybe Beyoncé play­ing in the back­ground and a sub­scrip­tion to The New York­er.

Nev­er­the­less, it could well be that Trump’s sheer un­pre­dict­ab­il­ity ac­tu­ally re­duces the chances of WW3. Putin was will­ing to play chick­en over Syr­ia with Obama, be­cause he knew Obama is a ra­tion­al guy who knows when to hit the brakes. He’s not go­ing to play that game with someone who would just as soon set him­self on fire or drive the car off a bridge for rat­ings.

All the same, with mo­bil­iz­a­tion against US mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in­to Syr­ia ramp­ing up, it’s more im­port­ant than ever that com­mun­ists be able to stake out a po­s­i­tion that op­poses in­ter­ven­tion­ist wars while also re­fus­ing any sup­port for bour­geois na­tion­al­ists and tin-pot dic­tat­ors like As­sad. Over the past fifty years, anti-im­per­i­al­ists have op­por­tun­ist­ic­ally made com­mon cause with any­one and every­one who de­clare them­selves to be “anti-Amer­ic­an.” This has dis­cred­ited le­git­im­ate ef­forts to op­pose for­eign wars. Marx­ists should re­ject such co­ali­tions and or­gan­ize on an in­de­pend­ent and in­ter­na­tion­al­ist basis, ex­clud­ing na­tion­al­ists of all stripes. But I’m not hold­ing my breath.

It is in this dis­pir­it­ing mood that I’m shar­ing a re­flec­tion sub­mit­ted by Com­rade Hegel Damascene, re­mem­ber­ing the quiet dig­nity of liber­tari­an can­did­ate Gary John­son. John­son remains a beacon of bygone normie-dom in a bat­shit age.

Gary Johnson
Normie prophet in an apocalyptic age

Hegel Damascene
Interstate 95
April 8, 2017


The tra­di­tion of all dead gen­er­a­tions weighs like a night­mare on the brains of the liv­ing.

Sit­ting on an over­pass over I-95, watch­ing cars come onto and off of the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge, I was over­come with the feel­ing of be­ing trapped in the belly of a hor­rible ma­chine. And the ma­chine is bleed­ing to death. I al­ways used to stare at the over­passes near the Garden State Mall, the ar­ti­fi­cial mar­ket­place where high­ways meet, and think about what a Great Civil­iz­a­tion (both words cap­it­al­ized) Amer­ica was. But I saw the cracks back then, too, I just didn’t think they would open up so quickly.

Sit­ting on that un­der­pass, I half ex­pec­ted the of­fices of Kim & Bae, PC to grow legs and start lob­bing mis­siles at Bashar As­sad’s palace. Maybe the Port Au­thor­ity Po­lice build­ing was a fact­ory pro­du­cing mech­an­ic­al cops, who would march out to re­store or­der in the new Salafist prin­cip­al­ity — and de­tain any big beau­ti­ful ba­bies who wanted to leave their young uto­pia for Amer­ica, where they could be a se­cur­ity risk.

Syr­ia is both a source and mi­cro­cosm of the slow col­lapse.

The in­ter­na­tion­al in­cid­ents and refugees it pro­duces are slowly gunk­ing up the gears, but also each fac­tion sym­bol­izes a lar­ger flaw in the world sys­tem. The un­rav­el­ing of the Syr­i­an state is a fast-for­wards ver­sion of the re­cent his­tory of the “West,” with its rur­al-urb­an polit­ic­al di­vide, and a liz­ard caste will­ing to kill its own host so­ci­ety in or­der to pre­serve its power over the rubble. The dif­fer­ence is that every myth is closer to the source. The re-or­gan­iz­a­tion of so­ci­ety along sec­tari­an lines is at least a re­treat in­to iden­tit­ies with real his­tor­ic­al and theo­lo­gic­al back­ing, not a car­bon-copy flag-and-an­them myth­o­logy that’s 100 years young.

Right now I’m in a lib­rary, where I came from a party to write this, be­cause it feels like my head is ex­plod­ing. Be­neath the lay­ers of sweat and un­der­grad misery — es­pe­cially pathet­ic on a Fri­day night — it’s a temple to the myths the WASP civil­iz­a­tion has built for it­self. Hid­den be­hind the piles of Chinese and In­di­an new money, there are mur­als of early mod­ern transat­lantic ex­plorers and Greek gods per­form­ing deeds out of the fever dreams of some in­bred ar­is­to­crat from the late 19th cen­tury. All the while, the ac­tu­al des­cend­ants of Greeks are sit­ting in de­part­ments for the sub­al­terns the WASPs feel guilty stamp­ing out.

Any­one who reads between the lines of an old Greek text, rather than us­ing it as a status sym­bol, sees much more Kanda­har than Columbia, more Has­sakah than Har­vard. After all, the former is named for Al­ex­an­der.

To be fair, every myth­o­logy and iden­tity is made-up when you go far back enough.

It doesn’t mat­ter how ar­ti­fi­cial myths are, though, with a ma­ter­i­al basis. After all, al-Ma’mun got away with see­ing Ar­is­totle in a dream. The sur­face level un­rav­el­ing is the con­sequence of sys­tem­ic shocks: cli­mate change, di­min­ish­ing rate of profit, en­ergy in­stabil­ity, mod­ern hordes of Sea People jump­ing from con­flict to con­flict be­cause Saudi Ar­a­bia couldn’t think of a bet­ter meth­od of get­ting rid of its hot­headed youth than send­ing them as for­eign fight­ers. Cap­it­al­ism and the mar­ket are geni­us sys­tems of or­gan­iz­a­tion, soften­ing the blows by turn­ing these in­to chron­ic rather than acute prob­lems, but some­times it leaks through in sud­den break­downs.

The con­front­a­tion between Rus­sia and the United States in Homs, a res­ult of long­stand­ing liz­ard caste policies mag­ni­fied by Trump’s man-baby ego, is one such break­down. It was a long time in the mak­ing, but it was sup­posed to be gradu­al and con­trolled.

An­oth­er break happened last sum­mer, when the Rus­si­an am­bas­sad­or to Tur­key was as­sas­sin­ated by a rogue spe­cial forces cop in a min­im­al­ist art gal­lery. Des­pite the com­par­is­ons to Sa­ra­jevo 1914, the in­ter­na­tion­al in­cid­ent was not al­lowed to fester, be­cause it didn’t serve the goals of any power. But it make for a good spec­tacle, be­cause of how cine­mat­ic the whole thing went down. (Mor­bidly, it was al­most in­stant turned in­to an In­ter­net meme.) And so the fas­cist who shot the liz­ard was suc­cess­ful in his stated goal: ”do not for­get Aleppo!”

Gary John­son could not be reached for com­ment.

Really, though, John­son’s in­fam­ous “Aleppo mo­ment” was a dis­curs­ive slip. No one in Amer­ica out­side the liz­ard caste knew where Aleppo was, either. Hell, a large sec­tion of the liz­ards prob­ably didn’t know them­selves. But no politi­cian is al­lowed to ad­mit the lim­its of their know­ledge and power. The liz­ard caste is sup­posed to main­tain the fic­tion of om­ni­po­tence, even at the cost of self-de­struc­tion. John­son’s lam­bast­ing by the me­dia was a mo­ment for the liz­ards to dis­tract them­selves from the gan­gren­ous limb called Trump by furi­ously rub­bing dis­in­fect­ant on a pa­per-cut.

Let me save you some time by sum­mar­iz­ing liber­tari­an Aus­tri­an eco­nom­ics: none of the oth­er liz­ards know as much as they claim to — it’s ac­tu­ally im­possible — let’s take our chances with the mech­an­ist­ic sys­tems of the mar­ket rather than a ruler who might de­cide to gen­o­cide you be­cause she’s​ hav­ing a toothache, or a liz­ard who would do the same to pad his re­sume.

At his next cam­paign rally, which I was at, John­son demon­strated that he un­der­stood Syr­ia as a whole even if he got the de­tails wrong. The rally was a shit­show in many oth­er ways, but he was right about that. Many “nor­mal” people don’t know the spe­cif­ics, but they can see the gen­er­al trends. Prob­ably bet­ter then the liz­ard-caste ex­perts, in most cases. A vast ma­jor­ity are too blinkered by vari­ous parts of their daily lives, however. But they can still see the cracks widen­ing, the seams rip­ping, the em­pire eat­ing it­self alive.

And so people re­act to this im­pend­ing #doom in dif­fer­ent ways. Some join apo­ca­lyptic cults, like IS­IS or vi­ol­ent prim­it­iv­ist cells. Oth­ers put their faith in snake-oil sales­men, from Trump to Bob Avaki­an. The smarter ones try to #hustle enough to crawl to the highest point on the sink­ing ship, in hopes of jump­ing onto a life­boat. Of course, the ones in a po­s­i­tion to see the pat­terns most clearly are too damn busy try­ing to sur­vive to do any­thing else.

I’m a bit more for­tu­nate, be­cause my fam­ily ac­cu­mu­lated enough through hard work and luck that I don’t have to sup­port any­one else yet as a young adult. Of course, plenty of smart young people with the chance to get an edu­ca­tion end up climb­ing in­to the liz­ard caste. That’s where I’m really lucky; I in­her­ited enough of my my grand­par­ents’ im­mig­rant anxi­ety to see that the liz­ard caste is doomed. You need a skill that’ll keep you on the life­boat, not phys­ic­al cap­it­al you’ll have to jet­tis­on any­ways.

We need a fuck­ing ark.

3 thoughts on “Gary Johnson, Syria, and the apocalypse

  1. “Comrade Hegel Damascene”, as Comrade Wolfe calls him, should get off the bridge. His stream of consciousness analysis of the current Realpolitik, a cluster-fuck leading us to the apocalyptic flood to be, is unnerving.

    He makes Comrade Slavoj Žižek sound boring, although both claim a connection to the ideas of Hegel, either through patrimony or philosophical study.

    That said, I also believe that the last ark has left the building, as the “Elvis of Cultural Theory” has probably alluded to in calling ecology the opiate of the masses.

    Ross, you too should not aspire to so great an intellectual height that you may suffer a serious emotional fall, the injuries from such no less from the ivory tower as from an overpass over the George Washington Bridge or from the stern of a steamship in the Gulf of Mexico.

    “…. in his most ambitious work, The Bridge, [Hart] Crane sought nothing less than an expression of the American experience in its entirety. His failure in this attempt, as many critics noted, was rather to be expected. His effort, however, not only impressed many of those same critics but prompted a few of them to see Crane as a pivotal figure in American literature, and he has since come to be regarded as both the quintessential Romantic artist and the embodiment of those extreme characteristics—hope and despair, redemption and damnation—that seemed to preoccupy many writers in his time.”

    From here:

    Dear Ross, I am 73 and will be dead before the worst shit hits the fan, and your generation and the one that follows will have to live through it. “Good night, and good luck” if I may quote an old print and TV journalist whose spirit of integrity I believe lives and breathes in your own thoughts and feelings expressed in this blog.

  2. Im sorry but knowing Where Aleppo is is something more people who even pay cursory attention to the news would know after the last half decade of civil war in Syria, its not something exclusive to the “Lizard caste” he was rightly pilloried.

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