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 May 30th, 2019

More Perfect Order

leave a comment »

Originally published in an earlier draft in 2010. Revised since and last re-issued in September of 2016. In the nine months since, some minor revisions have been made, culminating in this current re-look.

We the people of the United States, in order–in order to what? What is in store for us, in order to . . . to order, to command, to demand . . . demander in French is simply to ask, but in English, I am just asking when demanding? Inflection colors connotation, the latter invested in the former, variations in meaning cross over into other languages, the history of meaning is residual in every present word. This is not a reanimation of the etymological fallacy. To put in order, what? What must we put in order other than opur houses, this greater house, the nation become another kind of Prison House, the one of State, the way States always stand opposed to what is best in every simple separate person. We do put our houses in order, our closets, our affairs . . . what is it about order that aligns itself with the guiding metaphysics of a culture, all governments are made to represent the State, to manage the affairs of the State, to guard and protect the State, only sometimes without this being a direct detriment to the people.

What is it about order that is in itself only about order, big ‘O’ order: of order, for order by order? Is it merely a succession, one after another after another, numerically, yes, an ordinal numeration is an order of a kind, first, second, third, sounds a lot like a ball field, the summer’s of my youth were a glorious disorder, impetuous, youth following inclinations without rule; playtime away from adult supervision, unlike today when children are rarely ever away from adult supervision, no time alone to police themselves, set their own policy of rule, order, what is order for children today, having nothing but adult, adult adulteration of childhood?

There are successions that are not instilled with ordinal rules. A row of anything can be numeralized, but just as often can have no attachment to first, second, third and so on. That ordinalization just might be situational. Commanding officers give orders and make demands on their subordinates. Every situation has its demands which we say are the necessities, yes, there are things that are by necessity. Everyone has his or her own must do(s), no? There are shoulds even if we do not like to admit them in America, often trying to avoid them because there is a collective unconscious fear that they might be impediments or obstacles to the free unhindered expression and development of our individualities.

Governments do have their shoulds, but they differ depending on the angle of perception? Governments are the institutions of administering the State and every State is in itself the institution of power . . . that should read Power, yes, uppercase ‘P’ is imperative. We are not yet going to discuss the intricate web of interconnections between State and government; between government and its administration; nor are we yet going to discuss the interconnective nexus of Power, Influence and Authority in any society and the relationship between State and the People and/or the Public. These will in course be discussed and articulated. But the time to address ‘order’ again is now:

“Order” is the only imperative for any State–how did we get to the existence of State, yes, you might remember Louis’s L’etats c’est moi; simply enough expressed, but when any discussion of the modern State arises, recalling Louis and Richelieu is imperative, as it might be to remember something of the nascent political science of the century preceding . . . yet, if we want to discuss the politics of humans, of understanding something of political unity–Aristotle had said that the family is the primary political unit–yes, man, meaning humans, and yes, including women, no matter how much or how often some would love to separate themselves from the politics of men, the politicking forced upon women by men, by patriarchy, we would have said in the 70s . . . where were we going?

Humans are the political animal, as much as we are the story-telling animal . . . every story another history of a kind . . . history an attempt to bring order to time, past time? What has been lost?

This state America is no different than any other, federalist republican-democratic, parliamentarian, totalitarian, fascist, communist, tribal, feudal . . .  To what end, though, we might ask do states organize?  For what purpose, we might wonder?  Always a more perfect union? Yes, complete–order is completion and completion here is perfection . . . a more perfect union today is one where the People have abdicated their role as counter-balance of the State. What’s that? Yes, the People are the only institution in society with enough weight to counter balance that of the State, which always imposes its weight on persons.

What is more perfect in the mind of any agent of the State, someone who has come to believe, or has been made to believe through his training, that to serve the state and only the state is the highest social ideal he can uphold? Any bureaucrat is of one mentality, and that is a mind that thinks of the state for the state, and all thoughts by the state, so help him God, or many instances, the State. L’Etat, c’est l’etat. Truth is once again in tautology.

Bureaucracy is in itself always, and remains, in its raison d’etre, the singular guardian of the State.  In America, though, we suffer a debilitating delusion that bureaucracy is here to serve the People–that is a mistake. Even here and now–especially here–the bureaucracy has been accustomed to serving the State first and last and always in between. Bureaucracy is of bureaucracy, by bureaucracy and for bureaucracy never perishing except by means for ends that serve the needs and interests of the bureaucracy. It has been the people themselves an institution of society that has been undermined, allowed to stand on faulty foundation. We, all of US, do remember JFK having said to US Ask not what your country can do for you  . . . yes, perfect–the State in this once democracy had announced that it was no longer going to do anything for anyone, the People (for I am We the People as you are We the People, as he is and she is and every single other someone else is, otherwise there is no People for anyone to take comfort in . . .).

We the People of these United States endure a gross and vulgar naiveté about our standing as a People, as we do about the irreducibility of personhood, and the meaning inferred by this shift in thinking. All civil service agents, all governmental administration and every organizational agency simply pumps out the propaganda of their serving the people while they in fact protect the bureaus from the People at every turn,in turn bearing weight on persons in their individual lives. There is only a State that mildly serves a Public in America, the latter itself a transformation of the People into State serving domestic animals. Bureaucrats are Public minded in this way alone sometimes, if at all.

In as much as we under educate at every turn in our standard Public Education, we do not have nor will we have soon a People savvy enough to understand their place or the role the State has them play. Controlled at every other turn and feeding the controllers at every one between, we have now a system of government in itself aligned with a program of service that does not serve—but the Public has been acculturated to expect this. This has been so since the New Left had departed ways with the old Left, leaving behind along with older establishment ideas about order and rule, the notion of service that at least was the heart of the New Deal. Ask not what your country can do for you is still the mantra of liberal American politics, right through the Obama Administration. John Kennedy was the father of Neo-Liberalism and its designs for a new global order. Rightly assassinated, Jean Paul Marat would have said; but is that where we want to go, is that where we thought we would wind up; is this the only thing left for Power to feel enough fear. And Power today fears nothing, and We the People have become so fully and completely the Public and not the People that the State has nothing to counterbalance its weight, and remains now set to crush each and every one of us. And Obama is as much a part of that as was Regan, JFK, Bill Clinton (especially so) as well as Bush I and Bush II.

The direction of government has never been more strongly set at serving the government itself, or Power and/or Monied elites, particularly the corporate capitalist and economic investment institutions of America and the borderless empire of international investment capital.

All thought and action is of the State, by the State and for the State. Nowhere do we find a feeling for the People, certianly not any person . . . individuality the lie woven into State propaganda, serving to sever each of us from oour role in the People, our proper role and understanding in a Democracy . . . not in a poltique that has learned its rhetorical strategies from marketing; Madison Avenue and Wall Street corporate executives the new founding fathers of American politics. As in all contemporary marketing, product is second to package, if that place at all. Where then do we think the People reside in this design—how many bubbles burst economically in the last ten years and especially over the last two  that Goldman Sachs has not only been involved in, but the perpetrators of? And yet we have sent none of their executives to jail–Goldman was also instrumental in the twenties for bringing on the Great Depression . . . but we are the least historically savvy People politically in the history of The People versus the State. Obama had four of his Treasury Secretary’s top aides from this company and others involved in bringing the economy of America to virtual collapse. But We the People also failed US.

When it is the Public, however, and never the People, that takes second place to the packaging of State, you and I are never missed, just lost . . . lost without justice. We are closer to the New Deal’s 100th anniversary than we are to its inception, and thus we have fallen victim to a particularly American, and no less virulent for being American, socio-political virus, the Cult of the New in the religion of Now. Anything we have politically today, including political nothing, is newer than the too old for us now New Deal. So whatever we have now is therefore better in the simian-minded average American—and this includes one or another lot of American college graduates, even those who call themselves liberal. I do not really want to be cruel, want to be vicious or vulgar, but We have become this . . . these, cruel, vicious and vulgar, especially in the ways and means we educate and allow literacy to fall and thus fail.

The number of times over the last two or more decades that I found myself on the opposite side of an argument with fellow classmates who numbered themselves among the perpetually contemporary educated liberal establishment, and not those of the eternal left, as we used to like to say about poets such as Shelley and Blake and political thinkers such as Locke, Madison and Jeffersons–and this oppositional stance was not because I was of the right or that I was right wing, as too many of the more insipidly inclined college student who was always going to confuse his knee for his brain would say of me, just as he would confuse the doctor’s rubber mallet of his immediate experiences, or what he called experience–no. I could not get one  of my closest friends to stand in defense of liberty with anything but received ideas from the propaganda of the left or the media packaged slogans used to elicit programmed responses. An essay defending Roe versus Wade was beyond too many of the college educated. But chanting monosyllabically in groups or alone at a bar was mustered; if the chants were seemingly enforced by a greater en masse assembly with hand written placards no more literate than their chants, all the better for them to feel as if they had done their part to be constant in their vigilance, constant in their defense for freedom. What was next as I had persistently warned was the Barbarians beating down the gates.

The chickens have come home to roost . . . and now we have a State bureaucracy only a little more than “functionally literate,” which is just what the average high school graduate is expected to achieve—and note well that graduation is in itself the achievement. It does not matter that half of New York City High School graduates cannot read on grade, or even attempt, in any credit bearing course, the work most college freshman used to be able to handle on arriving in university, let’s say twenty-five years ago, let alone fifty. And this is in spite of Mayor Bloomberg opposing social promotion when he did. We’ve just lessened the expectations. I saw this clearly over the decades I taught Freshman Composition in CUNY schools.

We are not likely to produce the kind of literacy we once sponsored, but then I am of the mind that thinks it is not possible to democratize literacy, which is to say, that higher levels of literacy as we had encountered as givens in university are not likely to be broadened at the base of society, but almost assuredly not even in the middle of society. But then that’s what we mean by levels, by grades, by stages, all of them hierarchically arranged in an ascension of achievement, not rule by political authority.

Toppling the hierarchy and allowing every one to move along a level field, easily moving from one stage to another as from one square on the sidewalk to another is far from achieving advanced literacy. Hop-scotch with the Truth, ping pong with ideas, randomly passing images in the mind are none of them what thinking  is, but what it has been allowed to become, however erroneously. By undermining literacy achievement, we have debased our politics, our political acumen, our ability ti function intelligently as the People, inarticulate in our defense of freedom and democracy.
Our solutions have consistently been, for the last forty years, to reduce the standards or requirements of what is expected. In one short decade I saw CUNY make its entrance writing exam a lot easier to write, and in addition, twice as trouble-free to pass. Norming sessions in grading the entrance writing exam became all about how not to fail too many of the students. From needing two passing grades, it went to needing one of two. From having to write a thesis driven essay on a topic that required thinking like a freshman university student had been expected to think, it went to writing a letter expressing agreement or disagreement on a proposal in itself delivered as a thesis, something on the lines of writing a letter to the editor of the daily news, itself written on the fourth grade level, or thereabouts.

Still, the passing average is only around thirty per cent. I had had a seventy per cent pass rate from students in my remedial classes on this very exam, the ACT, yet I ran into trouble with the Deputy Chair of an English Department at one of CUNY’s Community Colleges, simply for my class being too “teacher centered,” which many of the non-native students in my class and other classes did not mind when they passed more easily and more quickly than their friends in other student centered classes, and began to get higher grades on essays and exams in other classes. I have been left with a permanent distaste for Community College Academia since; but I understood that I was flying in the face of factory made failure, an assembly line of such that follows the dictates of our overbearing consumerism. In fact, what is the pedagogic equivalent of consummerism in a consumerist society?

Failure–yes, managed failure in the industry of remediation. In other words, in a consumerist society, what is the equivalent in education? Failure; managed failure.

Now, can a semi-literate person, one barely above functional literacy, graduate from any of our Community Colleges in New York City? The answer is most likely yes—nonetheless, he would have to make strides to achieve what he should have in High School, what most used to achieve upon graduation, otherwise graduating did not happen.

And where do we imagine that our patrolmen police officers are coming from except mostly from among the fifty per cent of New York City High Schoolers who do not read on grade–barely literate is what we want from police officers, of course. A man who struggles with the sports pages is who I want to carry a gun among citizens in public. Remember what Twain said; a man who does not read has no advantage over a man who cannot read. With a 9th grade reading level, how invested in literacy is any man so beset, especially when his under achievement had been lauded for years as special. Now this used to be the managing of class in America, and it still insures that most will remain the working poor, but with so many under-achieving through being systematically under-educated, the semi-literate began to rise to low and mid level management, whereby, persons of quality literacy, which can always be seen, felt, heard, understood by just talking to a person (no matter how much persons without this literacy want to believe it cannot . . .); and it is felt by those without it, and so only those without it less than the manager get chosen for positions.

There was a time you could not graduate without reading on grade, and that was with standards of achievement in literacy that were not reduced, that is, inflated, in order to raise the percentages of achievement.  We do applaud everyone, believing that even those who can’t must be told they can in order to boost self-esteem; and of course, once self-esteem is boosted, the one who couldn’t will become a future can. This mentality more than any other mind, any other rhetorical strategy, proves that no one is special, which is pretty much what we’ve been getting, yet we fail to make the appropriate correlations between how poorly we read and write with how we teach, how we teach with how we continue to mismanage our lives socially and politically.

Literacy is one of the cornerstones of civilization which is not a synonym for colonialism or imperialism, except in too many  post- structuralist in-formed grad students who have gone on to get their PhDs and never graduate past adolescence. And again I face supervisory interference in matters of teaching and methods of

 

II

The political and the literary have for always been mutual antagonists, at least metaphysically—and yes, there is metaphysics. I know, it is just another dirty word even among academicians, and one we recoil from as much as we do the word, nigger; the latter a word become rock, become method of execution, execution here the assault on person, personality, psychology; psychic warfare at its fundamental. The former was a misstep taking things correctly, intellectually.  We have become notorious for throwing puppies out with flea bath water.

Nonetheless, politics will for always remain an adversary to the leading role that literature could play in the advancement of democracy, the highest achievement of those democratic ideals we once stood for and think we continue to stand for (mistakenly). That is, in any theater of being, the literary stands at the vanguard of all civil liberties. You know that readers of literature, and now we have to say literary literature–another absurdity in our semantics born of our degraded ability to read . . . ; you understand that literary fiction readers are in general more sensitive and intelligent persons, able to connect empathetically to others in a way that those disconnected from either literacy or orality (an oral folk culture that is not lesser than what we expect and defend in the highest–yes, the vertical axis–ideals of literacy) can. Those who do not either read other than perfunctorily in an alphabetics that masquerades as literacy for the purposes of being better disposed to media packaging, or who have lost their connection to an oral folk tradition, complete with a firm foundation in ethical teaching as we have always gotten from de-politicized or a-politicized religion (so long as it remains free of, or finds a space of exclusion from, politicized religiosity as you can see in Muslim Theocracies or in our Puritan past), are lost in the received ideas disseminated by the media, media being the messages of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.

The empathy I speak of here is not the insipid way some solipsists selfishly (and yes egoistically) demand that you to connect to their pain, but actual empathy; right action, a Buddhist would say, and that’s not from the one’s who pander Buddhist ideas as a cloak to cover their own human impotency, but someone who is connected to the bare Truth of Buddhist right action. There is strength in the Dalai Lama, strength in Gandhi, strength in Jesus, if we want to understand these figures in ways our narrowed and increasingly narrowing hop-scotch around received ideas promotes.

Yet, no sane person could ever think of becoming proficient at a higher than perfunctory level in both reading and writing, collaterally; unlikely, if love is not at the heart of one’s expression in either.  For any of  us who do aspire to higher literary expression than most of what we read seems able to sustain—and I’m not talking about what we read that has no business even trying to achieve higher literary election, but that which we parade as literary—there is a way of making even the perfunctory writing we do more literate. I note at every turn a debilitating ineptness in literacy skills, even from among those required to read, even those whose guardianship is literacy.

Few of us who respect the literary enough to love her too much should be surprised that writers and governments have always had a tenuous relationship at best, certainly precarious and mortal in the worst of times. Writers have often found themselves hanging by a precipice 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. But then a bureaucrat’s only link with intelligence is a base and state serving pragmatism. Theirs is the cleverness of the businessman or the criminal, one and another of the three, all of piece.

[note well the absence of the Profession of Politician–businessmen and lawyers instead]

 

III

The soul of the people and the anti-soul of the governmental administrators—and soul is as self-evident to me as mind is to most educated Americans—are mutually exclusive; they share nothing in common; each one cannot tolerate the other’s existence long before the move is toward annihilation.  They are as close to matter and anti-matter in physics as any two things could be in this universe.

Fascist and communist, for instance, are more like salt and water than the literary and the political are when mixed; the public good is only ever a debasement of what is best in the people, yet the people in the worst of times will always trade their liberty, barter with their freedom for a few more crumbs. This has been evident from some of the most advanced and intelligent societies—presumably—but mostly societies basely literate, as in the case of Nazis Germany, a society that voted for the Nazis. This is the excuse most Russian Ashkenazim offer for having been members of the Communist Party: I had to be a member, they forced me if I wanted to make more money for my family. I was not there. I have never been subjected to this dilemma. I do not know what I would say, do, or choose. But facts have a way of standing as facts whether any person or people concerned agree or not.

A better standard of living for a lot less than is always significantly more than nothing—which is why we used to compare ourselves always to the most horrible places on earth; even our charities broadcast by fundamentalist Christian organizations here in America, often the most conservative politically, are always propagandizing the suffering around the world against a better life here. The fundamentalist right works on the imaginative interplay of America being the best of all possible worlds. We are fast going from the last best hope of humankind to the first best delusion of a future world order of elites, powerful and moneyed. Big Brother has nothing on the kind of Matrix-like control we will soon see and have been seeing in part from our mass media popular culture; the aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death for example.

Look at how lucky we are to be here in America seems to be all that any Trump supporter thinks of saying, expects everyone else to say; jingoism and Chauvinism (in its etymology) are the thumping cries of the Trump throngs. Greed and nastiness, a baser meanness than I have ever noted before this campaign . . . I think never before has it been clearer who to choose. Particularly interesting is how the other choice is herself less than desirable. Hilary is only viable because Trump is so heinous, which is why Bernie Sanders was as viable for as long as he was; Hilary is actually the lesser of the many grotesques, and this election is a carnival of lost souls.

This is not to say that there is no genuine charity in US, and that we shouldn’t feel grateful for our blessings—I believe that we should, that there is a kind of arrogance that takes for granted whatever we have that is beneficial for living rather than merely surviving. But don’t tell me there isn’t propaganda too in the messages delivered through the media any time you see an infomercial about famine somewhere in the world. And we shouldn’t take our need to be grateful for what we have as a signal not to advocate for change where change is necessary. Now of course I recognize that it is just this idea of what is and is not necessary that is at the heart of how much change happens in a society, and we must be aware that there are hundreds of thousands if not a few million people living in America for whom a far less gentle America than I remember, or a far less generous social serving America than we once knew, is still a lot better than where these millions come from, so however America might change for the worse, complaint is not only thin, but gratitude exponentially greater.

One of the great horrors we face every election and especially this election is that when we vote for any candidate, that vote is actually a vote for the status quo. Exercising your right to vote is exactly that, saying that what is is good enough,even if only for now. We have yet to radicalize voting, but then I am going to get into my Pro-test Vote cast for no candidate–protest non-vote does not say it. It is confusing and I realized that a long time ago. What I really miss from politics are career politicians, not lawyers or businessmen packaging themselves as the solution to politics. The problem with politics really is that it is not political enough; it is corporate, it is rooted in litigation, litigation, litigation which is not the essence of law making or jurisprudence.

Advertisements

Written by jvr

May 30, 2019 at 2:43 pm

%d bloggers like this: