Now Politics: the Political Opinions of Thomas Sarebbononnato

A Friend of the People Opposing Elites; Social and Political Commentary of Thomas Sarebbononnato; Publishing and Contributing Editor, Jay V. Ruvolo [Copyright (c) Jay Ruvolo 2018]

Archive for December 2018

PASSING THROUGH THE HEART

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Memory is as much fiction as it is non-fiction. The boundaries separating one from the other are difficult for anyone to trace. Remembering to see and say I know fact from fiction, I just remembered that “The Earth is flat” was once a fact. How do I recollect what I remember, separate what I remember from what I recall? How are they each different from the others. Documentary is another genre still. Is memory a genre? How many of us watch documentaries on PBS and suspend our disbelief–we do not take what we are given cum grano. All remembering is recording of a kind, but all recording is filtering.

To record comes from the Latin recordare, as in the Spanish recordar. Recordar, Galeano reminds us, is to pass through the heart again. In all matters of recall, of recollection or of remembering–herein we assume greater synonymy than is in actuality true–there is an element of again and again, but what gain is there from memory in itself functioning as memory is another mystery to me.

Imagination, I’m sure, needs heart for it to function as imagination should, and I have not dispensed with should’s in order to raise in esteem my personal whims and fancies. This would be deluding myself there are no hierarchies of Truth or of Beauty or of ethics or of epistemology.

If we look at the history of the earth, if we take a paleontological account of its life from the beginning to the present, we will certainly see more extinct species than all the living species here on earth at present.  Death is the rule, extinction the one unwavering maxim of Life.  If the center cannot hold, if the second law of thermodynamics is the rule of maximum entropy, then why are we always so certain of remembering? Of being able to recollect faithfully . . . persistently  and at will.  When will we ever? What I remember, what I recollect; how and why do I recall anything at all anywhere, any when? I’m not certain of their synonymy. I’m sure they possess connotations that leave them distinct, separate, incompatible as interchangeable lexical items in all contexts of usage.

Synonymy or the lack thereof not in itself antonymy, I have always imagined that it was appropriate to throw confetti at the turn of the New Year.  I imagine there are numerous minor New Years of the mind. How do we record anything mentally? What brings something to bear on my present from my past? We don’t lie to ourselves as much as we unavoidably create a past out of the confetti with which our minds are left.  Imagine pasting the confetti of your life together, piece by piece.  What abstract design would be revealed, what surreal revelation of our unconscious would come to the forefront of our thoughts. 

Memory is as much fiction as it is documentary, and it so much other than the latter.  We must never forget that documentaries have a unique camera eye, a lens that frames as well as occludes, that both points at something and acts as a filter of this something.  There is always a mise en scene, is there not?  There is always a context created.

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Written by jvr

December 31, 2018 at 11:58 am

IN ITSELF AMERICAN

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[To be American or not to be American should be the principal question of democratic living for the world in the world but has become the rallying cry of corporate oligarchy around the world, the monied elite garnering more power, the powerful becoming richer and richer by the day, at an impossible to fathom exponential factoring. Yes, the generation of Post Structuralists and Post-post Modernists imagined, as did the New-new Left, that they were freeing us when in fact their arguments and conclusions have been the greatest impediments to democracy and the greatest support for elitism in the history of western civilization, more so than Royal Absolutism, for Absolutism did not hide the boundaries of elite control as effectively as does Power today after we have helped them by undermining entirely our conception of Truth, the existence of Truth, all the while we have foreshortened the limits of knowledge, but more so, what is knowable. Doubt is the highest wisdom, an all pervasive ending with doubting, doubting, doubting. Doubting what? Doubting the veracity of Truth as well as all the minor ‘t’ truths in our lives. The possibilities are infiniteis an avalanche waiting to bury us.]

I

We the people of the United States, in order . . .  yes, order. Order is the single rule of operation for any State, whether French, American, or Iranian; fascist, communist, Islamist; it does not matter. Third world dictatorships or totalitarian regimes are not the only kinds of governments concerned for regulating its citizens and residents. Our United States government no less than China’s.

The preferred result of any state’s practice is always a more perfect union, and the finishing point for any State would be for all who live within it, all the people governed by its administrators, to serve the state and only the state, as any or all bureaucrats understand, themselves standing firmly as managerial pillars supporting the fundamental tenet that the State must for certain and for always come before the people, that in all matters governmental, the State is Alpha and Omega. These are dogmas heeded no less fervently than the dogmas of any organized religion are by the pious. States have their demands and bureaucrats their devotions.

These clerics of State, and every clerk is a cleric—they come together in one temper that expresses their function in the following way: everything we think, everything we do and all that we react to should be of, by and for the bureaucracy and the bureaucracy alone, in as much as they are the guardians of the State, the limit of life and reality for all who exist in the state, but bestly, for the state. Of course, Lincoln meant to say, of the State, by the State and for the State–no–I cannot believe that of Lincoln, probably more so because my father, who did not trust the state or many of the contemporary presidents he had lived through, could not believe that of Lincoln. My father had parsed the sentences of, and examined the poetic devices used in, Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address, all in his efforts to teach me what I would not get in P{ublic Grammar School. He read Lincoln’s speeches to me as well as Milton and Shakespeare, and before I was ten.

In as much as we in America systematically under educate at every turn in our standard public education, we are not likely to enlist bureaucrats with anything more than the typical less-than education we want; that is, the scarcely literate, and only the functionally so if that, is all anyone in the state will sponsor or to which anyone from within the State bureaucracies will aspire. Our current sense of literacy is the only kind the State considers fit for the Democratic averages, the great social en-masse, more liable to answer the Pavlovan bell of advertising than likely to discern critically; these are the masses accustomed to deciding political issues firstly and lastly only when filtered through the sieve of mass media.

Now, as it seems in perpetuity, the State maintains as part of its internal policy of control a scheme of education whereby large numbers of students moving through its curriculum will in the last read no better than the eighth grade, which is the grade level considered by the federal government literate enough. This functional literacy, as the government of the United States calls it could not carry you through the most significant editorials of even the New York Times. It will allow you to handle most of the general reporting in almost any of America’s tabloid newspapers, and even a significant portion of the general reporting of the Washington Post or New York Times. Now whether or not what is contemporarily required to read at the eighth grade today is equal to or less than what was considered eighth grade reading twenty five or fifty years ago or seventy-five is not going to be determined within these pages; however, we do know that there are all of the years of high school beyond the eighth grade, so what have we established when we say that an eighth grade reading level is quite sufficient to perform functionally in society—or is it the functionary tasks of state we seek to replicate in our mass produced high school graduates? How has graduating from High School become an achievement when in New York City still more than half of its public high school graduates read below the 12th grade. Students are tested only up to the eigth grade; the state and the schools need not be accountable beyond there.

For us to utter with such pride, as we do in New York City about the numbers of high school graduates we have promoted in the last several years, when still nearly half graduate reading below grade, is example of one of our greatest delusions. But then an eighth grade reading level will allow you to handle bureaucratic literacy, the kind needed to manage the many forms and applications you will have to fill out through the course of your life, sometimes in triplicate, or simply a number not repeated but certainly insuring the appropriate redundancy, as if the mother of all bureaucracies in America was the military. A variation on this functional literacy has crept into our colleges, particularly at the community college level, but also in our baccalaureate programs.

I noted this kind of programmatic educating from the allegedly kinder and gentler teachers at a Community College in Brooklyn, where there was an enforced mediocrity from the governing administration, to the point that if any adjunct lecturer had ever gotten his students to pass the CUNY ACT exam at a percentage rate nearly double that of the CUNY average, then he or she came under fire from above, firstly, and most likely, for being too teacher centered, whatever that is supposed to mean. But those who use this cliche–another of our received ideas about pedagogy that has only allowed us to systematize failure and ensure a pervasive mediocrity in our students ability to read and write critically–are only too quick to oppose anything that will not keep 2 out of every 3 students in remediation failing the exam they need to take the composition courses they most certainly need to graduate, but finish their course of study more effectively. Through this system of failure we achieve a kind of intellectual mendacity that is difficult for any individual teacher to stand up against when the consensus–when the overarching majority of teachers in the Community Colleges all agree to the contrary. My students were paying at a percentage rate of around 70%. The CUNY average was around 34%. There had to be something wrong with the pedagogy, if I could do this in my classes; so, the only response from administration was not reward but vilification. But at the time of my inquest, the Chairperson of the department was someone with a surname made famous or infamous by Sinclair Lewis.

II

We have a professional military in America of a nearly incomparable size, that is, greater than almost all nations with the exceptions perhaps of China and India. This professional military, even when many are career soldiers and might presumably retire from active service without entering the job market, is a feeder trainer of many bureaucrats and other government functionaries. How anything taught by the military in its training, how any manner or behavior learned in military service could keep itself out of civilian acculturation is not possible from this imagination. Thus, we have a system of administering control, under the euphemism of supervision, that aligns itself with a program (or programmatic) of service that does not serve the people, cannot serve the people, no longer understands serving the people as an integral component of our democracy. We have all enlisted.

Any branch of the military, even in the United States, is not present to serve its individual members, but be served by them as it serves itself in all protocols and norms. How then could we expect any other way of thinking to creep into the functional mode of our government bureaus?. It has become more than impractical for bureaucracy to serve anything but itself—and the state has become more overt in this since around the time of John Kennedy’s administration.

We do, though, once again, have a bureaucracy only a little more than “functionally literate;” bees in the beehive we are becoming—fast. The funny thing here is that we used to call the Soviet Union the bee hive state; there is no place on earth more rapidly resembling a bee hive than our United States. We are consequently unlikely to turn out the kind of literacy in our system of education that we once sponsored as standard—and again we do graduate more students from high school than we did in the 30s or the 50s or the 60s, let’s say, and even at a higher percentage too. But I ask at what price? At what capacity do any of our contemporary graduates read, at least here in the City of New York with which I am familiar. I did teach all forms of freshman nad remedial freshman composition classes in several of CUNY’s colleges. At what capacity do CUNY’s in-coming freshman read? At what ability do we, those of us who are the alleged educated elite? How many of the mass of our graduates are reading below grade is easy to discern when teaching freshman composition, how many of the students in CUNY’s remedial classes are graduates of NYC’s public schools.

Questions begetting questions—of course, I am not establishing the quantification of reading as our pedagogic normative center. Literacy is not actually something that can be quantified in the way chemical reactions can be quantified. It was not too long ago, however, that the percentage of students in New York City who graduated High School reading below grade was at fifty per cent or higher, and that was from a normative standard that required students to understand more and be able to achieve more than we require today in order to be at grade. I’ve noted the descent of CUNY’s admissions standards and composition placement standards for in-coming freshman, how from the WAT test in the early to mid nineties and the passing standards that are current for the ACT tes. I’ve seen the shift in norming from how one test was graded fifteen years ago and how the other is graded today.

We could lower standards of reading even further to ensure everyone can read on grade. What we would then expect from our students would be achieved by everybody, including all the students who would never have achieved more than reading too far below grade to graduate. Yes, we graduate more; but then we graduate students who would never have finished school twenty-five, thirty-five, fifty years ago. Nonetheless, schools are in business—yes, business, the business of empowering boys and girls, of lifting confidence, of supporting self-esteem; however, it seems as if the lessons learned for this have been taught by Madison Avenue. Moreover, the child who never fails is a model of happiness, no?.

I do understand how State tests are packaged and delivered; mostly pedantically, the plodding and sophistic built-in as elements for success—there are many students who do very well later in college who do not get 4s on the current exam. But then, they are not the ones who get 1s or 2s, either. But there is not the alarm for the student who gets a 2 as there would have been, and perhaps this student never gets above a 3 later on mostly because a 3 has become a significant feat to be applauded, met with at least moderate fanfare. But then, everyone is special in our America, even Johnny who cannot read is special, and even though he will fill the welfare rolls or the workfare roles of minimum wage jobs at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s, America’s two largest employers, he remains special. Perhaps I am not opposed to this in the manner or the matter of further humanizing our relationships among ourselves—humnan really does not exist without the humane and it is humane to treat every person as if he were special, as of he or she were endowed by the creator with rights that are unalienable. But special in the pretexts of one’s huamnity is not the same as being special in achievement, special in skills, special in graded levels of accomplishment academically. These standards we have lowered to give every one of our students a false sense of being special, a mistaken sense of accomplishment.

Any appraisal of the reading and writing remediation that has been done in CUNY colleges over the last twenty-five to thirty years can attest to just how well or poorly we educate in the Department of Education in New York City, and just what I mean by under educating. I am not advocating against open enrollment or the presence of remediation on college campuses, but am simply moderately vilifying a pedagogy that fails by design or in effect. I’m not suggesting that we do what we have started to do in response to the sudden awareness that we might not be educating as well as we had thought, that we might need to do better, which is attempt to quantify literacy, reducing standards in education along arithmetically drawn equations for success—never mind any algorithm.

Again, quantifying literacy is a nearly impossible thing to do, but not impractical, especially in the eyes of state bureaucrats sitting at their bureaus, mostly all never present in any classroom. I recognize that measuring reading levels is a kind of quantification that many detractors from what I am saying abhor, nonetheless some measure must be maintained as a guide, yet, I hesitate even as I take these steps because I shudder when I think of how we could reduce all literacy appraisals to a base numericalism, an arithmetic of achievement, the same kind in currency today where teachers teach the state tests half the year, and where principals receive pay bonuses for the number of students getting at least a 3 on the state exam, which means we are paying principals bonuses for students doing what we were once expected to do without fanfare, as a matter of course in the methods teachers employed. We were expected to read at least on grade; today, reading on grade has become something to applaud. We are crippling our studetns—worse, we are crippling future citizens. The responsibilities of citizenship are crumbling.

Nevertheless what can we use to determine grade level standards when functional literacy in America is, once more, an eighth grade reading level. How much serious and important literature is beyond most of our in-coming freshman, most of our community college graduates, a good deal of our current B.A.s, certainly a goodly number of ESL directors I have worked for? Rhetorical questions born of subjectivity notwithstanding.

I witnessed a severe decline in the respect for literacy in the Community Colleges where I taught, and not just from the students who wanted quick fixes for their schooling maladies, but from the adjuncts and even some of the full–time professors who questioned what traditional literacy meant, what its sociological and socio-pedagogical ramifications were in the futures of our students, our country. We have questioned in the academy how traditional literacy might just have been part of all our societal woes, particularly racism, sexism, and homophobia. Traditional western literacy in its highest attainment has been identified as adjunct to and parallel with colonialism and imperialism.

The notion I present that reading is integral in developing the kind of individual capable of managing his democratic affairs with intelligence and good judgment, if not expertise has all but vanished. Save for now in our lesser ability we have succumbed to one or another cult of the expert, most of whom many of us could not afford to consult if we were smart enough to know we needed to consult them. But one of the results of lower literacy in general is a deflation of our common wisdom, for we do not have the luxury of establishing a non-literate culture within the larger culture; we do not have any connection to a folk—and this could be illustrated quite vividly by examining the ramification of the “black” Diaspora to the industrial north and what the effects were when blacks en-masse moved from their folk origins (yes, origins; yes, folk) in the agrarian south to the inhospitable concrete, brick and asphalt of the industrial and mercantile north here in the United States.

In this culture within the larger Western Civilization, if you are not folk or literate you are illiterate, and that is as criminalized as illegal, illicit, illegitimate (except for bastards—no one is stigmatized anymore by his parents not having been married when he was born or still at present).

III

The political and the literary are each distinct ways of seeing the world. Each is a unique means of understanding the limits of Truth (yes, upper case necessary). Both are ways of adjusting the focus on the lenses we use to recognize and to identify people, places and things in the world, ordering that world as such according to different metaphysical paradigms. They are as well ways in which we project our vision onto this world. Moreover, these forms of epistemology—and they are ways of understanding knowledge, of considering and accepting what knowledge is and what the limits of it are, as well as the limits of what is knowable—the latter epistemology in extremis.

The political and the literary, you could say, have for always been mutual antagonists in any society since the advent of writing. And it is mostly since writing that this conflict has arisen. It is with the advent of writing, oparticularly alphbetic writing that we see an extraordinary shift in the framework of mind and how it apprehends the world, orders that world, projects visions onto that world. The political is a framework for any kind of power to manifest. The framworks for power are older than writing; with literacy came the push for democacy and thus the antagonism that writing, literature and literacy have had with all forms of power and elitism. The irony, here, though, is that achievement in the literary must be maintained along a vertical axis of hierarchically arranged levels. Only then can the literary democratoically challenge old and traditional power wich always aligns itself with elites or coalesces within elite groups, that’s elites that are monied or invested with authority or power itself.

The political and the literary are thus equally exclusive theories of knowledge competing for acceptance, at least metaphysically they are exclusive. But in our lives this competition is real enough, true enough, actually felt as a force in the freedom of every individual in our society. How it affects what we think, how we think, why we think what we think when we do . . . and in this argument, I establish as self-evident the existence of metaphysical energies without embarking on a definition of metaphysics or how metaphysics is a force or an amalgamation of energies found in the unseen paradigmatic shape of thoughts, ideas, theories, institutions, strategies, hypotheses, laws, norms, behaviors; political, literary, rhetorical, et cetera. These metaphysical energies parallel those in the physical world, they often correspond to those physically manifest along parallel lines, if you will. The metaphysical is likewise tangible with the psychical—tangibility is not tactility, so do not confuse the two.
Metaphysics has an effect on the forces of the physical universe; again, for every force, let’s say, of the physical universe, there is an equally powerful metaphysical force. The metaphysical is not just an articulation of the real, or the actual, but it is reality itself. Reality is never complete without all of its metaphysical components; the senses alone are poor judges of the real or the actual. I need not point to the fact that we walk on flat ground, topography not withstanding, yet we know the surface of the earth is curved; we note the rising and the setting of the sun in the sky, yet we know that the sun neither rises nor sets; we order and arrange time into past present and future, yet we know that all time is one and that past present and future are illusions we persist in maintaining out of vanity and hope. Clocks and calendars are time in experientia for most of us, yet how we experience time in the mind is other than how it passes on a clock, and how it passes on the clock is no less a fiction than the play you just saw on stage—there is though a fictional truth to time, and there are advantages to suspending our disbelief in the reality of clock time.
Nonetheless, time, space and the indissoluble unity of the two not withstanding, I return to the driving force of my current argument, the metaphysics of politics will for always stay in opposition to the metaphysical character of literature, and that’s in any theater of being, anywhere, any when.

For some of us who do aspire to higher literary expression than we seem capable of fostering in our state sponsored education systems, or the few of us who do respect the literary enough to love her too much, it should be no surprise that writers and governments have always had a tenuous relationship at best, certainly precarious and mortal in the worst of times.

Writers for all time become enemies of the state where they are not tolerated as antagonists in a political theater that serves the performance of the State as it presumably does here in America and abroad in Western or western style democracies. The illusion of freedom is the best we can offer ourselves and our countrymen in America . . . no less than those people in the Matrix were served by their illusions. And I do not ascent to having used hyperbole here.
The relationship between literacy and freedom, literacy and democracy, where and when and how our liberty does and should have limits, however, is just what must be determined if anything resembling democracy in its highest ideals can be sustained.

What does toleration mean, for instance; what does it signal here in our current America, one that preaches diversity and multiculturalism from on high, whereby they have become dogmas of state, of every institution of government, but with how much organic and intelligent expression, or with how much meaningful capacity other than that found in slogans and clichés .

We need—yes, it is necessary to ascertain how much States and their governments create space for subversion in order to control subversion; or, how much they subdivide the people in a Machiavellian ploy to conquer and control, while maximizing proceeds, which is capitalism 101—sub-divide the market to increase profit. Of course the state sponsors multiculturalism in society—it increases the wealth of the moneyed and power elites. In a society that no longer produces anything , black America, for instance, is no longer needed as a producer class, so they go from proletarian under class to pseudo bourgeois consumerist class.

We needed to subdivide the market place in order for them to buy more and go deeper into debt in order to continue to live their pseudo bourgeois existence. But how many really care or can read deeply enough to understand they should care.

Everyone in America seems entitled to his own opinion, a nod to our origins as society based on the principle that without Freedom of Speech, among other pillars of freedom, there could be no liberty at all. No one today though will call anyone on the quality of another’s opinion, but toleration for all opinions goes only in so far as someone opinionating is willing to reach consensus in the end.

Writers have often found themselves hanging by a precipice, if not by a rope, whenever they have been too closely scrutinized by political leaders, or those agents of government who maintain loyalty to their state in counterbalance to any fidelity to art, or to the people. Book burning and banning is not something reserved for Nazis alone. Censorship does not need a Politburo or Commitern to succeed. We can burn literacy without actual flames; denying books that require greater literacy is equal to burning books. How is the manner in which we educate in our State sponsored education not like the burning of the library at Alexandria; how is the recent assault on the Canon not equal to that.

Bureaucrats everywhere are usually those whose only link with intelligence is a base and state serving pragmatism, a kind of cleverness found in abundance in both businessmen and criminals. Their aesthetic is the sense of beauty one has for mass production, bureaucrats like clean neatly written applications and forms—yet, there is something to the intelligence of someone who when filling out an application cannot stay within the lines. But why has this become the limit of state sponsored literacy is beyond my comprehension, except as a program for control, a way for moneyed and power elites to better control the people, creating out of them Pavlovian conditioned salivating dogs, the bell is rung. Ask not for whom this bell rings because it rings for every one of us, dogs to be fed. An antagonism to higher literacy must be maintained by all those committed to enhancing the power of the power elite or the profits of the monied elite, the great influential capitalist class.

IV

What shall not perish?

A government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.

We have seen the results of an economic elite making billions of dollars in a three-card-monty-economy. You don’t imagine that economics is not a shell game, do you? Perhaps we will actually start producing things at home to help secure a stronger economy for all, but I doubt it. That does not serve the elite; banks give you less than one per cent interest on your CD and yet charge you 20 to 30 per cent on your credit card; and we do not balk, do not write our senators, do not shout to the heavens or to the press–the press is as corrupt as Wall Street or Washington. There are too many profits from child-slave labor around the world–remember Michael Jordan making more money for one NIKE commercial than all the workers making those sneakers did in a year? Michael Jordan is part of the problem, as are all puppets of power and moneyed elites. The same Banks that nearly plunged us into economic chaos supported Obama; his Treasury Secretary Geithner initially employed as his four chief advisors former members of the three banks most responsible for the economic problems we face today; Geithner did not get it; the mentality of greed and irresponsibility cannot mend itself anymore than the sociopath tends to cure himself, anymore than the aristocracy of France could in 1789. But when will our Reign of Terror begin . . . ? I do fear it is coming, but we are stupider than the peasants and the poor of 18th century France.

The further the French get from the memory of the Jacobin, the less free they are; the further we get from the Bill of Rights . . . well? Power will never relinquish power without threat to its safety. Economic power will not give back if it remains safe and secure in its pursuit of wealth. Forty years ago, banks gave you six times the interest it offers you today, and at a time when your money was worth three or four times as much, as high as eight times as much when it concerns rental values, at least rental values in New York. The same rental values that have been inflated by the practice of warehousing apartments, a landlord loophole whereby an artificial shortage in apartment availability raises the value of rent. One of the chief architects of this warehousing technique for raising landlord revenue was Ed Koch, one of the chief supporters of Mayor Bloomberg, and we allowed him to bully and strong-arm his way to an outlawed third term. Who were Bloomberg’s biggest supporters; who are these men on Wall Street that suck the life out of our nation, sucking its wealth as vampires do blood. What are their names, who are they, where do they live, swim, relax, play, all on the life blood of vibrant Americans working away their lives to produce profits for the few. What are the names of the supporters of Bloomberg? Look at how Hollywood came out for Obama and how Obama has come out for the banks . . . what has Hollywood’s relationship with New York money been? Who are the big players in Hollywood; what are their names? How are they aligned with New York money on Wall Street and in what way are the interests of Hollywood Producers and Wall Street Investment firms the interests of Middle America, the South, the South West or any working-class man or woman from any of our cities or inner cities.

How can political authority and power help economic power get richer? Let’s look at the Bloomberg administration, which is what the Department of Justice should do, but won’t. Why does Washington protect Wall Street? Why don’t we ever see a list of the names of the twenty worst landlords by violation, by city law suits, by fines . . . why? Do the landlords in New York City own the papers? Who owns the newspapers in New York that keeps this information out of the papers? What do the twenty-five worst landlords in NYC have in common with the publishers of the newspapers in New York City that you never get an expose about them? What are the names of the publishers and the money behind the papers and who are they protecting in New York Real Estate? Have we so degraded our literacy to think the Bill of Rights is not a mutually inter-unified document; do we think it is a list to pick and choose from as we do in a cafeteria?

But let us return to New York City landlords who are allowed to keep a certain per cent of apartments warehoused as a tax break and to artificially inflate rental values. With the artificial shortage of apartments, rental values increased back in the 80s. Through the Koch years, rents increased nearly six to seven hundred percent. What do Bloomberg and Koch have in common apart from their alliance with landlords and moneyed power in New York? Nothing? Something? Anything? What? Why can’t we say anything? What do we fear? Why are some people “hands off” by and in the media? Does it not seem as if some people get protection or immunity from the media?

Bringing even a bit of industry back to America and stop making billions on the backs of wage-slaves around the world is not likely. The next time you travel internationally, wearing NIKE sneakers and other apparel made in the third world, pause and wonder why Americans are hated. Yes, worry about your safety, asking yourself, why, why, why do they hate us? If I were a man in the third world, knowing what I know, I would like to think that I would have another response than any of the many that others have had toward Americans around the world. But that would be mostly out of fear of reprisals from a state sworn to become The New Order of the Ages . . . Novus Ordo Saeclorum.

If I grew up anywhere in the third world, as poor and helpless as many there are, with a life as hopeless for my children as many of theirs are, knowing what I know, understanding what I understand, how could I not want to murder the power and moneyed elites of the West? Only a horribly corrupted person can look on the actions of a terrorist bomber as something more heinous than a civilization such as ours set diametrically opposed to this bomber’s world, while in every action seems intent on subjugating it for the economic benefit of America’s moneyed elites, all the while they continue to reap profit from the death and maiming of America’s young men and women in wars alleged to maintain our safety, a safety put in jeopardy by both Bush and Obama, one each from an opposite end. Neither is what any of us really need in the way of protecting us from harm while maintaining credibility for the American Imperium, and yes, America is an Empire. To think otherwise or to act as if it were not a fact would be naive at best, monstrously irresponsible at worst.

And I am not one that thinks naively that withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan is possible or should be brought about as swiftly as possible–I know one necessity as I see an equally potent futility coexisting in two very unpopular wars . . . most of us have no clue when it comes to our interests abroad, or what exactly our interests are in all their complexities, or where or when we should protect them, defend them, yes, even with the lives of young men and women . . .

A horror of existence–and yes, there are many horrors in our existence in addition to the many we experience within, the many selves of the Self that wander inside each of us–a horror of existence is that we will always need to defend democracy–no rest for the weary, if you do not mind the cliché. Civil liberties need guarding, watching ever so carefully, attentively, persistently, and yes sometimes with guns, and I’m not one of the gun nuts. What do you imagine the Second Amendment is for; that is exactly what Jefferson’s legacy to the people is all about: a Bill of Rights that is mutual and contingent in all of its parts. The Bill of Rights is not a cafeteria steam table. You must also read the Declaration of Independence carefully and reexamine exactly what Jefferson’s rationale for our break with Britain was, how it was delineated, how it was articulated, just what the diction was and how it remains the correct action even today. Neither Wall Street nor Washington get it; and I fear for us all in the future, allowing ourselves to have been and to be systematically undereducated so as to permit power to usurp our rights, allowing monied elites to become more monied and power elites to become more powerful. We just might only have the extreme at our disposal. The media is aligned with power and money; Hollywood at best is the small space for subversion created by power to allow subversion to emerge in manageable and control-able forms. Everywhere I look, the media has persisted in one or another overly sentimentalized Yellow press campaigns against the Second Amendment. The gun nuts aside, the Second Amendment is the only thing standing in the way of even more state control and restrictions on personal liberty. We cannot allow ourselves to continue playing a rhetorical ping-pong that disallows us a correct management of the received ideas that masquerade as the truth.

V

When talking about Politicians and the People in America, we have to re-examine the relationship along the lines of the pimp/prostitute social dynamic. Congress has never been more starkly and evidently the Money-doling Pimps of our political system–but every pimp has his gangster overlords, as do our politicians in the Oil or Wall Street gangsters of our bourgeois totalitarian capitalist fiefdom.

Bourgeois cultures have collectively created an overarching, overbearing civilization that has been the enemy of art, the adversary of the spiritual life of art, while pretending, only sometimes, to be the friend of the corporeal life of artists. This has been unwavering, this has remained steadfast, this has achieved ascendancy in the hearts, minds and souls, if it could be said that the latter survives, of those who could be artists, who should be, who were, that is, until their art had been bought and sold and sold again so many times as to leave on it the stink of prostitution, as in all variations of bourgeois marriage. This is contradictory of the idea that we in America marry for love and only for love; so be it. The notion that we love for anything but materialism is surely a laugh; however, the fact we believe materialism is only contingent with things of the senses, articles we can buy and sell, is yet another confusion the bourgeoisie suffer in their minds, an entity they ironically have more faith in than soul.

Hollywood has also remained one of the foremost enemies of art; the likes of any grossly overpaid grossly overrated Hollywood actor becoming one of the foremost advocates for the integrity of Hollywood as a force for good in the world, speaks volumes. Hollywood producers have remained steadfast enemies of Truth, as has publishing become steadfast in its attention to profit before people; maintaining attention to a public that buys. These, of course, are practices in a world of diminished literacy so much so that even publishing can only pander to taste, as degraded as ours has become. Does Hollywood or conglomerate owned publishing believe other than their self-perpetuated delusions of who or what the people are, no different than the political state who works toward confusing the people for a public that serves, or at least a public that buys and buys and buys. We sit by and marvel at free enterprise as fashion and cosmetic industries allow musical entertainers make upwards of eighty million dollars a year, thus seriously diminishing the salaries and benefits packages of the very employees that make the products the entertainer represents, allowing the public to become enamored by her image or enthused by her spirit enough to waste more money than they can afford; all of this while my health insurance goes up, salaries freeze, hours to work shrivel and Congress stall on health care reform.

I dare anyone to name any of the top three to five publishers in America, especially, but anywhere in the world, and see if they are not committed to a contemptibly narrow programatic of what should be published, all in the attempt to right former wrongs, political, social, ethical–how has the new hegemony not become a reanimation of the old? I’ll never forget Oprah saying that you must believe in your own goodness and that your reward will take the form of money if you believe it will . . . High Priestess in the Cult of Mammon.

All of the attempts to right former wrongs by multiculturalism have been perpetuated in an attempt to garner the resonance of truer voices, voices more real because they are more diverse. Brown-eyed writers and blue-eyed ones we used to joke were next, but with the culture of ignorance besetting all contemporary attempts at multicultural reevaluation, I wonder what kind of multicultural world has been envisioned. I met an educated man, college educated, somewhere in his early fifties, who could not understand why an American poet made allusions to Greek poetry or mythology in his poems, finding it pretentious. The contemporary American politically correct version of multiculturalism is horribly narrow, terribly proscribed. We tell ourselves our moves toward corrections are necessary instead of what seems to me to be the prime motive in all diversity, increasing profits by sub-dividing the market.

Publishing has never been more enamored with any marketing ploy as much as they are with multiculturalism, diversity, diversity, diversity, all and only in the name of dollars. Its macroeconomics. And with enough resenters from formerly beleaguered camps, dollars are right enough. Did we expect a bourgeois capitalist populist society to envision literary truth any other way? Is it different because the authors are women or persons of color or post-colonial, all of these the new status quo?The bourgeoisie must kill its artists for two reasons: it increases the market value of the art, and in selling the art it does not have to pay the artist; someone else gets rich.

VI

Politeness and the new politique: We do moo and baa together in one or another social or public forum and call it our Ode to Freedom. Can we, though, articulate any sense of freedom other than entries by figures and calculations in the ledger books of state? Have we so relativized meaning that we can no longer say anything about anything anywhere anytime other than Who’s to say? when questions we have been systematically dis-educated to ignore arise. Yes, who’s to say is what everyone says when he wants his invalid assertions accepted without question. This, of course, is rooted in an idiosyncrasy of thinking, or what he confuses for thinking, usually a random passing of images or phrases in the mind. It’s a great advertising ploy, this who’s to sat, to get everyone to accept anything at any time anywhere; all opinions have become equal in weight, in value–mostly because it’s been the ability to evaluate opinions that has come under the greatest assault in our acceptance of semi-literacy as being good enough; everyone is a genius for fifteen seconds, just as everyone through twelve years of school was special.

If all things were relative, though, there would be nothing for anything to be relative to; so all opinions being of equal weight is absurd. Reductio ad absurdum, more literally a reduction to deafness, which is what the absurd is–a lack of sense or a sense, the sense of hearing, which is what we need to hear an argument–rhetoric being the Greek root word for the Latin oratory, all argument in classical antiquity arising in its forms in orality. Yes, of course rocks must have weight otherwise we would see them floating in the air. But what about feathers? They too must have weight, but what kind of weight in as much as we see them floating about. The steps in the process of inferring gravity can be examined–but we do not want to stay put for any revelation that what we have blurted in opinion is absurd. This is very much where we have arrived, perpetual relativity ad nauseum, ad absurdum. With this, we have reached true nihilism, a nihilism at its purest. Infinite possibility does bury as I have said before. In our mass media culture, saying anything makes it so, even if only, again, for fifteen seconds, but that quarter of a minute is enough to sustain us in our thinking for years, or ruin us for life.

There is no truth, only perpetual topicality. If we lived in Bradbury’s world of Farenheit 451, though, all knowledge would be lost, all literature gone, burn all the books–how far from the mob that burned down the library in Alexandria do we imagine we are–not very far. Our Public Schools are reinforcing this nowness and newness as the prime and the last measure of culture, of what we need in what we read. Our Brooklyn Public Library system, where I live, has set its survival, its very existence, its perpetuation, on circulation. All funding and distribution of money to the branches depends on circulation. Books are discarded irrespective of their intellectual worth, of their literary value or theur historical significance. But as I have said it’s the ability to evaluate that we have undermined. This move toward gleaning the shelves of the branches of books that do not circulate is contrary to a library’s chief purpose, ay least traditionally. It sets the library in parallel position with bookstores. Circulation alone is as close to profit that a not-for-profit institution like the Public Library can come. But libraries are not bookstores although they are supposed to store the treasure house of our civilization, of our culture and the many cultures of the world.

I should have seen the hand writing on the wall, as a friend of mine had said, when over the last two decades slowly, but inevitably, America shifted, en masse, to the right. Wherever you might have found yourself in the linear gradations, set horizontally in political spectrum, that American political spectrum has shifted to the right relative to a fixed and constant, albeit absolute evaluation of politically spectral analysis. Thereffore, as I have witnessed, black people have stopped telling it like it is–although I have noted that many still might think they do; and in addition to this reversal from the days of my childhood, Jewish people have become more conservative, shifting almost en-masse to the right from wherever they were situated on the political line in America. Even the radicals are less liberal and thus more conservative.

I don’t know what Joe Monte thinks or would think if he were alive. I have no words for Joe, just as I have no words for any of the victims I have been taught I am supposed to feel something for, although I often do not as I often forget they have ever existed–most of us do not recall or lose the ability to recollect most of the people in our lives. Most of us are fixed on the moment now and our problems eclipse the world’s problems. History is just out of this world. Try as I may to feel for the people close to me in my life, sometimes I fail to feel anything, or most of what I should, imagining some situation where I would be expected to feel something. This lack arises though, when I think about what I should be feeling, which is always a bit in abstentia in abstentia, a kind of absent-presence or present-absence superimposed over itself, an emptiness lingering over emptiness. This thinking about what kind of feeling I should feel is absurd.

I can see the grocery store where Joe Monte worked with his wife and his daughter and his rolled up sleeves revealing tattooed numerals on his arm. I initially did not know what the numerals meant. I subsequently found out and I wondered what I felt. What was I supposed to feel is a question that marks our problems in the world, in our lives; our lives are the world. Sometimes I can see Joe’s wife or his daughter, but principally, Joe, the grocery store owner, and the man with tattooed numbers on his arm, with the sleeves of his white shirt rolled halfway up his forearms, who sliced my ham on his non Kosher slicer to make my ham hero for school lunch when I was going to JHS 285 across the street from Tilden High School. What does being able to see him mean? What does remembering this mean . . . to me to you to anyone? I still can’t imagine what it was like to have been tattooed as he was, when he was, where he was, and not even another Jewish man born here in Brooklyn, New York, USA, as I was, knows why. The knowing we do, we have is other than Joe’s. Yet, still . . . he had to have been a teenager, the highest percentage of survivors who were not collaborators were teenagers. Children and the elderly were the groups with the highest percentage of deaths. To feel what another feels is called empathy; sympathy is something else–in fact, it is what in a Romance languages is used as a translation of the English ‘nice.’ Elle est sympathique in French for “She is nice” (of course you can also use gentile for her); or, as in Spanish, tu eres simpatico.

To be nice or not to be nice has always skirted the acts of foolishness in one evaluation or another. Perhaps there was a time to be nice as we mean nice when we say nice in earnest about someone was to be foolish. Fools are usually nice–business men love fools and their money–flattering customers with ‘nice’ has always been a form of marketing. But just how nice, thus perhaps polite, fits in our pursuit of the Truth or our revelations of truths is a puzzle to me. However, polite has become the new politique, a kind of muzzle put on the people who fear being publicly impolite more than they do the loss of their freedoms and the exercise of their rights that come along with a politique from the people less than straight forward, less than direct, less than honest, less than truthful. We live in a permanent social fog of half-truths and lies, propaganda and advertising.

VII

Intelligent people can come from anywhere. Stupid ones do come from everywhere. The Democratic ideal has been abdicated in favor of a pluralistic one, a hallmark of twentieth century politics everywhere, certainly; a current politique in favor among a broad spectrum of college educated administrators and fellow paper pushers (paper in the ether?) managing America’s affairs with a bureaucratic efficiency reminiscent of the best managerial traditions of our military. The military-social-complex is here. Intelligence in America is more in line with saying so than proving so. Democracy has thus been transformed in the image of the State, the newest form of God we worship, and worship we do.

Power in Democracy is numerical, we once believed. We deferred to the idea that the people were a powerful entity in any country, let alone a country like the United States with a unique tradition of liberty, we were certain of, I don’t believe we hope for any longer. We were once sure that the people were the only “institution” of governing that had the potential to counterbalance the weight of the state; We the people meant something to each of us. It was the people and only the people who were dense enough to counterbalance the weight and mass of the state, l’etat en soi-meme.

Now, all states serve themselves; a truth to be undenied today; a truth that had at least the potential to be countermanded. not something I’m sure of at present. They are, as fore-stated and after-stated . . . for themselves, by themselves, in themselves, of themselves . . . with themselves . . . self-contained for always, every state for always the mortal enemy of what is best in the soul of the individual simple separate person. This person must remain macrocosm, however, even to the people themselves in order for the people to maintain in counter-balance its power and density.

We who could be the people, though, are no longer the people as Jefferson had envisioned, as later ages have agreed needs expanding; there is no resemblance to Populus or to Demos, not in any way akin to how either maintained its distinction from what was public in antiquity, or what could have remained in the Jeffersonian We the people. And that remains an is true in spite of Jefferson’s contradictions or seemingly weak remedies for having taken the wolf by the ears; I don’t let slavery stand as a rebuttal for the truths of Jefferson’s maxims on Liberty; Jefferson spoke truth on Liberty in spite of how he contradicted himself by his actions. It was Jefferson’s self-evident truths on liberty that the anti-slavery movement used to help free the slaves.

Today we proudly parade ourselves as Publius, a great Public en masse, not Populus, conformity the first and last choice in our contemporary notion of being free. And with there being no truth, no allegiance to the traditions of Democracy in the world historically or in America culturally, any idea of the people as in We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union becomes either suspect for being traditional or modified for succumbing to a hyper subjectivity, a kind of evolving antidote or answer for former totalitarian hyper rationalism.

You must know that public and people are not synonyms; I cannot count how many times I have to defend this statement no matter how often I use it in discussions of politics with friends and colleagues–imagining that people listen in our sound-bite culture, in a culture devoted to maintaining Twitter accounts as a means of staying connected, of saying something intelligent on what is trending, is absurd.

The masses who are everywhere alike as masses are also those who gravitate toward one form of pluralism or another, whether Bolshevik then, communist after, fascist or Nazis before or since; one totalitarianism successive with another after another in a long parade of political sleepwalking; pluralism can and has also become Americanism redefined inside multiculturalism and the political correctness of the new diversity, supposedly a rebuttal if not an answer for what has ben imagined the old universalism. Politics, therefore, for the individual, and throughout the twentieth century, has marched as one kind of sonambulism after another, and this remains true whether it has been American, Russian, or French; Chinese, German, or Chilean, every kind et cetera . . . Toi! mon hypocrite lecteur, le semblable.

They are always the same everywhere as masses are masses regardless of language, culture, history, political or religious belief; each mass is essentially ready to serve the state or squander the self-hood of its numbers as well in turn their collected identity as a people, the people for whom each is macrocosmically We.

I am we, politically. This has been abdicated for a lumpen, numerical existence, one most honored and respected by bureaucrats, collectively in themselves bureaucracy. bureaucracy is not something apart from bureaucrats; that’s a sleight of hand bureaucrats perform more expertly than any dealer in a game of three-card-monty, any magician would pay to perform with the straight face of your local bureaucrat. The problem is no state can do without them; they can conform to any state. You don’t think the Nazis or the Fascists in Italy or Castro got rid of all bureaucrats, do you? The horror of existence is the bureaucrats for Batista were the bureaucrats for Castro. Talk to any administrator who is your boss in any state-run bureaucracy or the likes and you will see the same people who went from pushing papers for Weimar in the beginning of 1933 and the Nazis at Christmas time.

They are present everywhere, these lumpen masses, especially present every morning in our reflection. Who is not willing to be less than himself at every other turn? Mostly we consider freedom to be liberty from responsibility, yet it is our responses, our actions, our choices, thus all in a set of our obligations that define us; so in our quest to be free, how could we avoid abdicating our responsibility and think we could remain free.

American pluralism is where being American now means that the people have lithified, where they have become a monolith of the most massive proportions. Pluralism here is a brand of politics seriously devoted to praying before the icons of our media, in imitatio de stelle. And we do look to our media icons for guidance, as some used to look to saints. We do pray in devotion before them, their images pressed as icons through our various media. What then are our TV personalities other than pseudo-live-motion saints, chapels in a box with an aerial tuner.

There is a ritual life in our entertainment world aligned secularly, one we gratefully participate in. True enough, for sure; but then there is often nothing more difficult to see than the truth.

The media president has been one thing every four years–and President Obama is as much a media president as any other, if not more so than many others; he is a media darling and therefore receives gracious treatment by broadcasters. But what about the media man and the media woman, the media American; the media person complete with media personhood, a media sense of self, a media informed sense of duty of obligation of freedom of liberty of pedagogy of voting behavior of ethical conduct et cetera . . . Warhol, Warhol, prophet of our future.

TV evangelists have always bugged the American liberal establishment because the former are simply more overt forms of what the latter is politically, secularly.

VIII

Consensus, non-sensus . . . we can all disagree in this pseudo-democratic nation managed by power elites bent on keeping the masses semi-educated and semi-literate–but consensus in the end is the mandate. To disagree with mandated consensus is to become excommunicate and anathema, socially. If the President were Pope, I’d be excommunicate, I would have long ago become anathema. But the dogma of all Americans acting Americanly has itself reached a reinforcing consensus; after we disagree in any verbal exchange, itself only another ping ping match of monologues, we must come to some point where we all agree that everyone is partly right and partly wrong. There is no real democratic dialogue in America? Does this point to the,possibility that there is a fake democratic dialogue in America, one that masquerades as the truth of democracy in action? Of course it does.

If we had dialogue, real trenchant democratic dialogue, we would not need to scramble for consensus after extending our disagreements into tangentially drawn monologues, themselves more reminiscent of our collective psychosis in matters of reality, what is real–itself popularly drawn into consensus managed by the media themselves controlled by sponsors selling products we most likely do not need . . . yes, more so this than anything resembling a healthy expression of democracy at work. But then, democracy is rule or law by the people and all we have in America, as far as the media or the government are concerned is a public–the people are managed as a public and not as a people because the latter are independent of the State, the former are always in the service of the State, as I have said elsewhere within this Pages section.

What we have instead of democracy is a Public interest, a Public good, always managed in its images by the media, whether it is broadcast or print, Hollywood or Government PR. It’s absurd; it’s grotesque; this demand for consensus we hold as one of the foremost dogmas of our social interaction, our version of the democratic process. There isn’t even a thread of coalition drawn up in the paradigms of these consenses; that would at least have some residue of democracy working.

This idea has nothing to do with and mostly opposes democracy, again, rule by the People and not the State serving Public. Democratic action always benefits from more democracy; the only cure for the ills of democracy is not fascist policies or other brands of totalitarianism or dictatorship–no. The only cure for the ills of democracy are more democracy, but the democracy practiced must maintain a loyalty to the People, Jefferson’s We the People, not We the Public. The Romans, believe it or not understood this implicitly: the two words Populus (the people) and Publius (the public) were not synonyms in Roman Political Science.

The kind of consensus that societal norms demand is thus the kind of thinking and acting one finds in totalitarian societies. Do not imagine that it has not already happened here, this kind of totalizing that totalitarian governments enforce. We used to say that when fascism comes to America it will come as Americanism–the real horror is that it is not fascism or Nazism or Zionism or Bolshevism, but America’s brand of totalitarian rule, Americanism, a totalizing will to turn the People into a State serving, thus a Power serving and thus Money serving Public fed by crumbs from their tables. Without it being any of the former mentioned four isms, Americanism will be a new totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is totalitarianism–a truth revealed in tautology. I am not trying to be facetious, no more than a Buddhist is when he says good is good, bad is bad and both exist . . . because they do and there is no reductionism in this in the way we mean to make pejorative any attempt to streamline our focus on what is. America is the new Totalitarian Bourgeois Capitalist Super State.

IX

People versus the State–what then must we do–what then can we?

Louis Quatorze said, L’etat, c’est moi, when asked his opinion about the Political State; the state, it is I, he said. Today, the modern state has no such illusions of absolute singularity, at least not since Mao or Stalin, maybe Pinochet or Pol Pot. That the state could live in one man in Louis’s time is only inconceivable to the grossly historically ignorant, except today, that includes college graduates, who are as tempocentric as any of their contemporaries infected by a pop-culture tapeworm. These facts not exactly aside; today, the credo of state is L’etat c’est l’etat, en-soi, pour-soi. In itself, for itself. Nothing more; no one else.

We are a long, long way from Louis Quatorze and his absolutist monarchy, or so we assume; but our State is no less absolute for the absence of king. Energy does not die, we know from physics. It merely changes form, and the State form that had developed in Louis’s sei-cento has gone from absolutist monarchy to an impersonal, mechanized, computerized oligarchy of bureaus, the latter no less absolute over the lives they manage rather than rule. Power is energy; authority is another kind; influence yet another form. There is always an aesthetics for each of them, an appropriate and suitable form to match, and that’s true even if the aesthetics are governed by the grotesque.

Whatever is best in me as a human being is countermanded by the force and power of the State, represented by any of its agents in authority. Everything that is best by my being individually human is disinvested by the State’s efforts to serve the public and only the public, never the people, distinct from the former in how they exist in relationship to the state. Jefferson said we the people, not we the public. I have before and will again make note of how in Roman Political Science, Publius and Populus were not synonyms.

The State is a non-human entity, many like myself consider it to be inhuman. It has always remained the mortal enemy of everything good in the individual human soul. The state is an institution that bears its weight of force, the power of its immense density, onto people and only people. All density has the power to displace in proportionate measure. The only people the state has a vested interest in are people transformed into a public, whereby they cease to be the people they were, and each becomes a mass man, a mass woman, one of the great over-arching public that will always attempt to displace the person within, the success of which is usually in direct proportion to the degree of resignation on the part of the individual.

However, the State barely trusts its servants in the guise of the Public, that en-masse that serves. It never trusts anyone apart from and not a part of it, this greater impersonal en-masse, at least in numbers, the people. I had a friend who tried to draw corporeal analogies for the State, and thus organic relationships for the Public. As a result, in the Body of the State, the Public had the same function that the bowels do in the human body; we are the intestines of the State when we are the Public, you could say. Waste passes through us.

Whatever the people understand to be best about their humanity the State remains cynical in face of, or only referential to in slogans or platitudes. Intelligence in platitudes alone remain for the State; listen to most people speak about government, listen to your average American, whether he’s Democrat or Republican, whether he considers himself conservative or liberal . . . and in America, I have nothing but the greatest contempt for the later, pity for the former.

The State, ce n’est pas nous, ce ne’est pas moi, jamais. Mais moi, je suis plus gros que l’etat, not because I am a king, the King, but because I am a man, a person as we mean person as one of the people, populus, again, who are never publius, unless transformed by the state into its servants. Yes, I am bigger than the state, as you are larger than it, must always remain larger than it. I am we the people, as you are we the people, and in this enlightened position on democracy, each of us is we the people, and only when this sense of ourselves as demos prevails will freedom actually ring as well as reign.

The People are always other, rarely ever another. They are potential enemies of the State, always. The President of the United States does take an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic: the People are domestic, better domesticated as the public in the mind of any agent of the state, but when not transformed into the Public, the People will always remain suspect.

X

Education, Madison believed, is the cornerstone of Civil Liberty. But Madison could not have been talking about the kind of education we have in our Public Schools anywhere in America. I do not have to believe in a Golden Age to know that ours just might be the worst of times for literacy and education. Who among our High School teachers, let alone our current graduates in New York City can read Madison with the acumen necessary for a deeper understanding? And yes, deeper from an acumen that can–that should–be taught, not divined as in so many classrooms where pedagogy is about teaching less to achieve only the end that parents must do more. Why send children to school with how ineffective most classroom teaching has become? And this is not an invitation for reflexive assertions to the contrary, amounting to a ping pong match of I said/you said.

I have met far too many college educated adults for whom re-reading is essential for even an appropriate first read, so why we sponsor the kind of pedagogy of reading that amounts to engaging a text in a way similar to how waiters clear a table of crumbs before bringing the coffee. I am one who asserts that all good reading is re-reading, so the necessity to re-read is not the issue above. But this necessary re-reading is more effective when a more attentive and less perfunctory first reading is achieved. I am referring to the kind of reading that penetrates the text, not just superficially skims the page. Sweeping has nothing in common with reading when reading is performed organically and seriously and not how it has been fostered in our schools. All great writing is multi-layered. Today, though, among who we call literate, reading amounts to superficially skimming the page as if words were crumbs on the dinner cloth. But then many of the texts chosen in my sons classrooms through Public School were two-dimensional as texts, the kind of writing that defers to the flatness of the page and the words being organized in lines. So then, am I to assume, probably, that the kind of reading that gets fostered by our pedagogy is in line with the kind of writing we find in the kinds of texts that get chosen, or is it that the kind of writing in the texts that get chosen demand a kind of superficial skimming because this skimming is suited to the writing. Good readers can tell bad writing and politically correct hyper-didactic texts are often poorly written.

How can I hope to understand what individuality can mean when true political and social individuality is so countermanded by one kind of pluralism after another, contradicted by one determinism or another in assault against any or all notions of free-will. This assault on free-will is backed up by these aforementioned pluralisms, but fostered by the kind of pedagogy of literacy we have in our schools. Don’t bother to look to education anywhere in America for saving graces in the rituals of freedom; it is in our public schools that the greatest reinforcement for a decrease in civil liberty and social freedom has been maintained. Current pedagogy has ensured that we will be neither aware enough historically nor literate enough to defend our freedoms.

As insipidly as we support cultural and linguistic awareness, we are not likely to hold onto our best ideals, all in the name of a diversity more diversion than diversification. Today, our diversity has too little respect for individuality. Individuality and a respect for it seems past reckoning; individualism has increased its ismistic referencing in our rhetorical strategies concerning the package of individuality over the product of individuality. Madison Avenue still rules the ritual actions of our mind, the ritualized thoughts behind our actions. It is one of our greatest horrors that we call it Madison Avenue.

Our diversity today is nothing other than a tracing of the veins in a great monolith of marble, or creating new ways of genuflecting before the altars of entertainment. Conformity is America’s greatest dogma; how is it that we have not returned to narrower times? There was more individuality in the old universality, it seemed to me, so long as the push was not universalism. Isms are always a reduction of individual will and idea. Baroque Europe I must remind us did have a greater sense of universality coextensive with its ethnic and national diversities than anything we have today. America today is not as organically diverse as was Europe just at a time they plummeted into the maelstrom of the Thirty Years War. But then we go crouching and crawling and creeping our way out of the 20th Century, best labelled by Camus, The Century of Murder, slouching, Mr. Yeats, yes, slouching, we are.

The old Church liturgy was almost invariably the call of the rock. By church here I also mean mosque and synagogue, much the way we understand that when Jesus says Be seen not praying in the synagogue, He means churches and mosques, public schools and offices of finance too. He also means how we tend to blow our own horn, especially in a society as ruled by media and advertising as is contemporary America. I had been reminded one night by a Hasidic student of mine that stoning is still part of Jewish law, but that they cannot stone anyone in America. Perhaps this is the progressiveness we should be most proud of; however, we have always preferred ropes to rocks. Yes, rocks and ropes will harm me, but what of our fear of names and others words? We do believe that words can harm us. Our current politically correct reflexes about speech show us this. It is a grotesque puppet literacy performed in a social Grand Guignol. I do not even want to begin a discussion of how horribly far from an understanding of democracy most of my Muslim women students are–completely baffled, they are, and to me baffling. Nonetheless, I persist in maintaining my commitment to freedom. Even I understand how hokey we have let this statement become–and we do wince when we hear someone say something like the former, “commitment to freedom.” But then who can say in measured articulate paragraphs just what freedom is–and it does need paragraphs, not tweets on our Twitter accounts–social media’s role in declining literacy should be examined, which is not to say that it cannot have a significant role in spreading democracy. One has nothing really to do with the other. Guarding against a decline in literacy, including tracing the lines of influence that social media draw in this decline, while maintaining a broader understanding of social media’s possible role in spreading democracy, are not mutually exclusive in our efforts.

The greatest assaults on the First Amendment in the last thirty years have come from the Left; and this has allowed the right to maintain validity in its ever increasing shift into reactionary lunacy. The shift to the right has been monolithically American, the entire political spectrum as moved to the right. Moreover, I do not see ideological differences between the Democrats or the Republicans, and political space like metaphysical space like physical space is curved, and the further you go in one opposite direction, the closer you come to the other opposite.

XI

The State in America only pays lip service to the exercise of freedom. Presidents in the State of the Union rarely ever serve more than their image. The State is incapable of respecting in the least the kind of freedom I had once believed was my birth right; I cannot believe anymore in a President of the people. Perhaps naively in my youth I believed that presidents were capable of what Obama’s most ardent supporters believe him capable of, but doubt of this has begun to supplant confidence. Perhaps my mistake was to have taken freedom for granted; I am beginning to feel like one of Barnum’s suckers. Washington does seem like the Big Tent; Capitol Hill, the White House, et cetera, other rings.

Will our civil liberties always be present? I know the slogan of the ACLU is Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itself. Good cause, good slogan, the need for vigilence is constant. But that vigilance must come from the people, not a lazy public looking for men like President Obama to do it for us. We saw Bush II and did not like what we saw; we heard Obama and liked what we heard, but hearing is never listening. We might as well shake hands with the devil anytime we let leaders in Washington keep vigilance for us.

The sense of vigilance our degraded state sponsored education can imagine is only one that serves the interests of the state; it might be something else entirely now, in that we will not think serving the state against the people is such a bad idea. The Cave dwellers again rebel against the light of day. We do prefer our shadows to the realities outside our caves. Twitter, Facebook, TV, the mirror, all of them our caves; inside ourselves, solipsists ever.

We have grown too accustomed to a state more increasingly unfriendly, bartering our civil liberties for a false sense of security; states for all times have rewarded publicans and rarely the people. America had once almost become contrary to this. Advertisements rule our sense of the real; psychologists say that the internet has made us even more self-absorbed, more inside ourselves. Metaphysics by Madison Avenue.

I do believe we were freer at a time before Reagan and Bush and Iraq one and two, and certainly the post 9/11 world; which is not to say that Bush II was worse than Johnson or Nixon. We were smarter, more literate, better educated and more willing to commit to social change in a tactile not only tangible way. Today, drug dealers, criminals, pop stars all party with the President and we somehow miss what’s happening. We have come a long way from the old New Left, even further from the Old Left, but let’s not lament yet.

It was the old left that informed many of the men I had come to listen to when I was a boy, my first lessons in American Democracy, politics, freedom, the exercise of liberty, which was never license (a confusion I see popularly spreading). But then my fantasies of the old left might not be as accurately conceived as they should be; among the old left, I include the Teamsters of the thirties and I know too many bosses who deserve the Nietzschean lessons from the Geneology of Morals.

I remember the Revolutionary slogans from the time of our Founding Fathers, whereby one stood out: The Tree of Liberty is Watered with the Blood of Patriots, and if I might add, sometimes that of the moneyed and power elites . . . le sange impur. But who gets to say when the shooting stops, or how many is enough? What Reign of Terror is next?

What did Jefferson mean about our obligation to liberty when he wrote in “The Declaration of Independence” that a people desiring freedom are obligated to throw of their chains? What are the inferences to be made in today’s economy and from close examination of power politics? In this America who is there Democracy for? I know that the rich get richer; I know we have a degraded sense of the possibilities of each man’s future riches, mainly because we have confounded possibility and probability. We tolerate the rich because we believe they do something for their money; they are not an idle rich aristocracy, no. But outside of drilling for oil, raping lands, putting protected land at risk of ecological disaster, what then do the rich do? Goldman Sachs was at the head of the 1929 market collapse and was there again in 2008. And they are Obama’s biggest supporters. Obama is not likely to bite the hand that feeds him and his pompous forked-tongued wife?

Written by jvr

December 28, 2018 at 12:07 pm

LAST BEST HOPE?

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Is Islam in itself an impediment to democracy or is it the village-mind of hundreds of millions of muslims living in third world poverty around the world, barely literate enough to read even Holy Qu’ran, let alone anything that would foster democratic thinking. Of course, I see women in my neighborhood wearing burkas and I do sometimes wish I lived in Paris. But then I am not so certain that the French have always been the greater protectors of freedom and brotherhood in the world. We do a very good job of that, even though a good part of the time we also undermine our efforts, and that’s we the government, we the bureaucrats, we the financiers on Wall Street, we the media, we the Public as well as we the People . . .  Impediments to the spread of democracy may also be the United States acting less than genuinely in maters of treaty, policy, foreign affairs of several kinds, whether economic, military, geo-political, et cetera; although I do not oppose the United States violating Pakistan’s sovereignty to kill Bin Laden, I do understand how that affects international relations. We still look upon the world as if it were Dodge City. Wyatt Earp looms large in our legends.

Democrats are as much to blame for any of our geo-political problems as are our Republicans, neither one more diametrically opposed to the other than let’s say heads is diametrically opposed to tails on any coin you hold in your hand. For us to continue to believe that the Democrats are representatives of the little man was a big part of the reason Wall Street has gotten away with what it has gotten away with over these last 20 years. The Democrats are the party of Wall Street as the Republicans are the party of oil.

Do I still believe as Lincoln once thought that The United States is the last best hope for humankind? Yes, I do. But that is going to take greater literacy, and not just the alphabetics the corporate world sponsors through their control of education in America. The feds make no policy in education apart from corporate lobbies. These are the same corporate lobbies that could care less about the hundreds of millions of muslims living in third world poverty, again in illiteracy or semi-literacy, the latter two being soils within which many fanatics and terrorists grow. No. These are the corporate lobbies that throw millions at politicians in Washington, in the White House, in Congress, and care little to nothing for the American worker and his family or their economic plight.  Capitalism is responsible for the  worst slums in human history, some of the direst poverty, the greatest inequitable distribution of wealth, and yet, like most Alpha gorillas, we beat our chest in pride, but a pride based on a lie–we are freer than any people have ever been, or so the propaganda continues, and we have to be grateful for our lives in America because we could be living in China or Afghanistan.

We have to stop comparing ourselves to the third world and start comparing ourselves to what we should be and could be.

Written by jvr

December 24, 2018 at 12:19 pm

LICENSE TO GRATIFY

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Love in a country where more than 50% of all marriages end in divorce, where a philosophy of individualism persists in degrading a person’s self-awareness to the point where his only philosophical choice is solipsism, and where this remains our most fervent mysticism, love of anything, including freedom, but also humanity, could not help but become corrupted. Hedonism is the greatest narcotic dependency in almost all bourgeois capitalist societies; it’s the one commodity in the marketing of freedom that power elites love the most.   Respect cannot be far from waning with how we practice devotion.

The consumer industry demands lower intelligence; it gets it from the market place of our schools, a dime a dozen in our graduates, places where once median levels of achievement have become the newly inflated levels of the gifted.  The interesting thing about reduced standards of achievement in order to increase the percentages of those who have achieved is how inherently elitist it is. Reducing standards cannot be initiated without an understanding of what it means and how it plays into the systematic under-educating that takes place in schools across America, nor can it ignore how this plays well into the hands of power that manipulate politically and economically. Political candidates are only commodities to advertised and sold. Ideas are packaged for the commodity exchange, all adding to gratification. Gratify me. Satisfy me might even be too much to ask. One is not the other.

How are our lives not like the lives of those in the Matrix?  Always a new and improved world bolder and braver than the one before. There is no Neo on our horizon, though, and no matter how much anyone deludes themselves into believing that Obama is it, naiveté has ruled our political consciousness for a long time.  Racial equality in America is where a black man has the opportunity to be as politically full of shit as any white man has ever been; and articulate while being so. One of the most interesting things to note about bourgeois capitalist politics, is that in the absence of both Church and King, the Demos should be required to think more, be more to each other and for themselves, understand more, know more, learn more; and in America this has transferred to a simple formula for control . . . we the people are required to bear greater responsibility, which has not only increased over recent decades, but has shifted in the ratio of dependence between individual and government.  It has come to the point where our greatest freedoms lie just where the State has abdicated all responsibility to the people and maintains only the weakest link to the Public.

We are free to be burdened by laboring to be free. We are expected to be more intelligent than ever to negotiate this new form of freedom, yet we under educate at every turn to ensure we are unable to do so.  Being free to do what we can no longer do in practice is the principal selling point of our democracy; it also helps to push freedom further into the abstract.  Freedom remains closer to a one-sided anarchism where the public is expected to serve the State, but the State’s obligations to its citizenry are minimal.  Kennedy’s Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country has transformed into expect nothing from the state, the government really doesn’t want to do anything for you; however, Kennedy had said this as a prelude to this current abdication of the state’s responsibilities to the people by our government.  We will continue, though naively, to see distinctions between Democrats and Republicans. 

Written by jvr

December 21, 2018 at 12:20 pm

POLITENESS AND THE NEW POLITIQUE

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We do mooand baatogether in one or another social or public forum and call it our Ode to Freedom.  Can we, though, articulate any sense of freedom other than entries by figures and calculations in the ledger books of state? Have we so relativized meaning that we can no longer say anything about anything anywhere anytime other than  Who’s to say? when questions we have been systematically dis-educated to ignore arise. Yes, who’s to say is what everyone says when he wants his invalid assertions accepted without question. This, of course, is rooted in an idiosyncrasy of thinking, or what he confuses for thinking, usually a random passing of images or phrases in the mind.  It’s a great advertising ploy, this who’s to sat, to get everyone to accept anything at any time anywhere; all opinions have become equal in weight, in value–mostly because it’s been the ability to evaluate opinions that has come under the greatest assault in our acceptance of semi-literacy as being good enough; everyone is a genius for fifteen seconds, just as everyone through twelve years of school was special.

If all things were relative, though, there would be nothing for anything to be relative to; so all opinions being of equal weight is absurd. Reductio ad absurdum, more literally a reduction to deafness, which is what the absurd is–a lack of sense or a sense, the sense of hearing, which is what we need to hear an argument–rhetoric being the Greek root word for the Latin oratory, all argument in classical antiquity arising in its forms in orality. Yes, of course rocks must have weight otherwise we would see them floating in the air. But what about feathers? They too must have weight, but what kind of weight in as much as we see them floating about. The steps in the process of inferring gravity can be examined–but we do not want to stay put for any revelation that what we have blurted in opinion is absurd. This is very much where we have arrived, perpetual relativity ad nauseum, ad absurdum. With this, we have reached true nihilism, a nihilism at its purest.  Infinite possibility does bury as I have said before. In our mass media culture, saying anything makes it so, even if only, again, for fifteen seconds, but that quarter of a minute is enough to sustain us in our thinking for years, or ruin us for life.

There is no truth, only perpetual topicality.  If we lived in Bradbury’s world of Farenheit 451, though, all knowledge would be lost, all literature gone, burn all the books–how far from the mob that burned down the library in Alexandria do we imagine we are–not very far. Our Public Schools are reinforcing this nowness and newness as the prime and the last measure of culture, of what we need in what we read. Our Brooklyn Public Library system, where I live, has set its survival, its very existence, its perpetuation, on circulation. All funding and distribution of money to the branches depends on circulation. Books are discarded irrespective of their intellectual worth, of their literary value or theur historical significance.  But as I have said it’s the ability to evaluate that we have undermined.  This move toward gleaning the shelves of the branches of books that do not circulate is contrary to a library’s chief purpose, ay least traditionally. It sets the library in parallel position with bookstores. Circulation alone is as close to profit that a not-for-profit institution like the Public Library can come. But libraries are not bookstores although they are supposed to store the treasure house of our civilization, of our culture and the many cultures of the world.

I should have seen the hand writing on the wall, as a friend of mine had said, when over the last two decades slowly, but inevitably, America shifted, en masse, to the right. Wherever you might have found yourself in the linear gradations, set horizontally in  political spectrum, that American political spectrum has shifted to the right relative to a fixed and constant, albeit absolute evaluation of politically spectral analysis. Thereffore, as I have witnessed, black people have stopped telling it like it is–although I have noted that many still might think they do; and in addition to this reversal from the days of my childhood, Jewish people have become more conservative, shifting almost en-masse to the right from wherever they were situated on the political line in America. Even the radicals are less liberal and thus more conservative.

I don’t know what Joe Monte thinks or would think if he were alive.  I have no words for Joe, just as I have no words for any of the victims I have been taught I am supposed to feel something for, although I often do not as I often forget they have ever existed–most of us do not recall or lose the ability to recollect most of the people in our lives. Most of us are fixed on the moment now and our problems eclipse the world’s problems. History is just out of this world. Try as I may to feel for the people close to me in my life, sometimes I fail to feel anything, or most of what I should, imagining some situation where I would be expected to feel something.  This lack arises though, when I think about what I should be feeling, which is always a bit in abstentia in abstentia, a kind of absent-presence or present-absence superimposed over itself, an emptiness lingering over emptiness. This thinking about what kind of feeling I should feel is absurd.

I can see the grocery store where Joe Monte worked with his wife and his daughter and his rolled up sleeves revealing tattooed numerals on his arm. I initially did not know what the numerals meant. I subsequently found out and I wondered what I felt. What was I supposed to feel is a question that marks our problems in the world, in our lives; our lives are the world.  Sometimes I can see Joe’s wife or his daughter, but principally, Joe, the grocery store owner, and the man with tattooed numbers on his arm, with the sleeves of his white shirt rolled halfway up his forearms, who sliced my ham on his non Kosher slicer to make my ham hero for school lunch when I was going to JHS 285 across the street from Tilden High School. What does being able to see him mean? What does remembering this mean . . . to me to you to anyone? I still can’t imagine what it was like to have been tattooed as he was, when he was, where he was, and not even another Jewish man born here in Brooklyn, New York, USA, as I was, knows why. The knowing we do, we have is other than Joe’s. Yet, still . . . he had to have been a teenager, the highest percentage of survivors who were not collaborators were teenagers. Children and the elderly were the groups with the highest percentage of deaths. To feel what another feels is called empathy; sympathy is something else–in fact, it is what in a Romance languages is used as a translation of the English ‘nice.’

To be nice or not to be nice has always skirted the acts of foolishness in one evaluation or another. Perhaps there was a time to be nice as we mean nice when we say nice in earnest about someone was to be foolish. Fools are usually nice–business men love fools and their money–flattering customers with ‘nice’ has always been a form of marketing. But just how nice, thus perhaps polite, fits in our pursuit of the Truth or our revelations of truths is a puzzle to me. However, polite has become the new politique, a kind of muzzle put on the people who fear being publicly impolite more than they do the loss of their freedoms and the exercise of their rights that come along with a politique from the people less than straight forward, less than direct, less than honest, less than truthful. We live in a permanent social fog of half-truths and lies, propaganda and advertising.

Written by jvr

December 17, 2018 at 1:05 pm

ARCHIPELAGO AMERICANUS

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In the Roman mind, as in the Greek, beauty was always in form, only in form could beauty exist. Yes, form is beauty, beauty form; if this, then Truth is also in form. To inform becomes a kind of bearing truth. The aesthetics of Keats aside, there is too much exchange of information today, a thing a little less than beautiful, or so we could have assumed, we are subject to far too much permeation from institutions wanting information about us, on us–always on top of us. Smothered, are the People. I am not certain today we even know what exchanging information means, where the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion should be for both public and private space. Anything akin to a philosophy of beauty would be lost on us I could say we do not read well enough and that any highly articulate and intelligent aesthetic would require advanced literacy at a stage we have abandoned for being unnecessarily elitist; but I will not. Aesthetic philosophy has long lost its influence in the academies of learning in America; it resides somewhere now in an intellectual graveyard with philology.  We have given up on ever perfecting any special acumen in a philosophy of beauty–or should that be Keats’s uppercase Beauty? The exchange of our personal facts, though, is too free and too easy, and it remains offensive by aesthetic standards of appraisal and not just ethical or jurisprudential ones.  The kind of information exchanged today is the kind we used to keep close, or offered only to our kin.  Now we open the book to those who are not kin and a lot less than kind. And we wonder the fate of the individual in America.

To be bourgeois is to be capitalist, even if you are a worker, and this is one of the hallmarks of American Civilization, the making of bourgeois clones from the organic material of the proletariat or the former peasant classes, a class America had seemingly put under revision before the Civil War, but certainly had to do so afterwards, and had to face the ugliness of in the form of white agrarian southerners during the last gasps of Jim Crow. I do understand that every effort toward hegemony of by the bourgeoisie was not nefarious. To be bourgeois capitalist is to be western, even if you are Asian in Asia.  In fact, to be western is also to be American, in a way, the American transfiguration of Western Civilization has been ongoing, if not in onslaught, for a hundred years or more.  And yes, there is a Western Civilization, one that precedes 18th century Oxford Professors and British revisions in the name of their hegemony.  The material of our civilization is not a complete fabrication, a mirroring of the emperor’s new clothes,  but a wonderful and true fabric of many intricately woven threads.

The world is fast becoming one kind, even if we have yet to raise our ethical consciousness to the level where we can see clearly the oneness of our human kinship.   Yet, the scariest thing I noted in Paris the last time I was there was how much like everywhere else even Paris is becoming.  Every city in the world an island in the American Bourgeois Capitalist Archipelago, a chain of Post-post Modernist American Islands in a sea of everywhere else.

 

Written by jvr

December 14, 2018 at 12:22 pm

DOPPELGANGER, APOLLINAIRE AND ME [d’etre tout seul]

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Humanity is an entrance. Humanity is a portal that opens on two sides. On each side of the portal there is a human being. Now ‘to enter’ in French is ‘entrer.’ ‘Entre,’ in French, is a preposition related to the verb. This French preposition translates in English, ‘between.’ Yes, every way we enter is an entrance, every entrance thus a “between”; herein a noun, a thing, a state of being: the between. The act of entering is one of betweening; to be between is to be in an entrance of a kind visible or invisible, again, something that lies between one here and another there. Here and there perpetually pivot on one between or another. There is always a between, a very thin between that borders both here and there when they are right next to one another, the concentric circles of here and there, not the diametrically opposed positions where here is here close and ready and near and the other, the there is there, far and away there.

The between that exists for you and for me is this thing humanity; humanity only exists between you and me, only between two people is there any hope of humanity, of acting humanely. This is where our humanity resides, lives, inhabits–the habitat of humanity. Humanity is the between of being humane; you and me are the limits of this being between. To be tween, twain, two, one side the other side, sided by each, alongside one and the other, next to two times.

I once said in another essay that to enter is to between; yes, simple enough said. Whenever I go through an entrance I have betweened the space. Herein, to between is a verb: I between, you between, everyone betweens. APOLLLINAIRE said, Je me deux, or, I two myself, another kind of tearing asunder, of splitting the self and thus creating an internal between-ness inside. Apollinaire’s poetics were in this two-ness. Everybody does do this to himself; everyone’s in the between; I am between here and there, now and then; my humanity journeys from me to you. What then do we say about the journey that is life, this living. To two oneself or not to two oneself; oneself in two? I am many; I am we; the Self is many, we know.

The self has one as well, a between. We double ourselves in every meeting; every face we face another mirror. All journeys are between; your life as it is lived is between. To between or not to between, that could become the question. But to two oneself; what then is this and how to get into the between, to get between on self and the other, between the Self split at least in two, between any two selves of the Self, how then to accomplish this? Between me and you, between me and another; therein lies our humanity? How could it not be there between you and me? Where else would it be, could it stay, could it be found?

Written by jvr

December 10, 2018 at 1:08 pm

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