Gary Johnson, Syria, and the apocalypse

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

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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. Continue reading

The Paradox of the Honest Liberal (reblogged)

A Young Dan Carlin

An excellent reflection by C. Derick Varn, reblogged from his equally excellent blog, The Loyal Opposition to Modernity.  A blog well worth following.

The Left and the Right both square off with liberals–often for deeply divided reasons–for two major reasons: 1) this epoch is largely a liberal epoch shifting ever more towards the “right” side of liberalism, and 2) Liberalism is the current traditionalism of both the US and the EU, it has been the current traditionalism of the US for longer as both Republicans and Democrats in power until the middle 1970s functioned with liberal values. Indeed, classical liberal values spawn both the American Left and Right, and while Keynesianism, anarchism, Marxism has added to the thick veins of the American left-liberal tradition making it resemble its Marxist-Saint Simonian-LaSallean-Left Keynesian cousin, Social Democracy, and libertarianism has increasingly became close to reactionary elements in the “conservative” tradition obscuring the character of what is going on, both are heirs to a liberal tradition.

Furthermore, all the reactions against the Enlightenment are largely rooted in it: counter-enlightenment thinkers such as De Maistre or Herder or the fundamentalists or the Romantics are still locked in categories set by the Enlightenment. Also, “Left” critiques of the Enlightenment that material in origin are developments out of contradictions within liberal modernity itself–one can see this as analytic developments, or dialectical developments, and it would still stand. So in that sense, the background to the hostility non-liberals feel towards liberalism is partly cultural (Haidt’s research can be useful here) and partly pathological–we all see parts of our tradition reflected in what is currently deemed “liberal.”

In fact, I don’t think the failures of the Left are liberal failures, and leftists would do well to quit blaming our failures on outside parties or on competing but related traditions. No, but the failures of liberalism now is encapsulated by two things: a willingness to engage in almost tribal support for leaders whose compromises even disappoint liberals themselves, and often a failure to even conceive of the reactionary position liberalism has put itself in as a “current traditionalism.” In other words, the dominant thought form will be by-and-large concerned with maintaining its past gains, and given the inability of liberalism to deliver on Enlightenment promises, this will only get worse as the economic situation makes the contradictions obvious.

Look at Dan Carlin: Carlin is an independent, but crucially he is a liberal in the old sense of the term. Yet he sees the fundamental incoherence that both sides of a partisan debate have to can be illustrated in both healthcare and war policy. Carlin, being an honest man, no longer sees an answer, but his question as to the problem is corruption. His paradox is that his self-effacing honesty still has one hampering: he can not easily admit that the past he so valorizing contained all the contradictions of the current, and yet he does almost admit when he openly calls most of American self-conceptions “myths.”

The paradox of the liberal is that contradictions of the declining effacement are so great that they are left like the Soviets in the late 1980s, doing too little far too late, and letting resentment build so that the other side wins. Carlin sees the ad hoc nature of what the constitutional regime and the piecemeal developments of the 20th century have left so many elements of daily life, and he is furious at the disconnect with the leadership. Yet he can not square the circle either, and how can one expect it him to? He is in a defensive position. The questions for left-liberals and the paradox of the liberalism is thus though: if Carlin does square the circle, will what he produces look liberal anymore? Will it avoid the bloodshed? Further imperialism? Resource depletion? Or would maintaining the liberty he wants to maintain cost much in blood and treasure? Would he accept that cognitive dissonance? Or will he act like some Trotskyist or Maoist sectarians stubbornly refusal to acknowledge the contradictions of their own history and trying to pretend that so much of the past didn’t happen? Will anything that resolves these splintering and contradictions even be liberal anymore? I don’t know.

I doubt it. In the meantime, the Left has one major responsibility: to hold itself to account for its failures and to offer an alternative to the current–either through liberalism or against it. At the current, it does neither element of that responsibility well, and thus also cannot be said to have answers to the questions at hand.