Given the states of both the world and my psyche, I thought I’d run through Homo Sacer again. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how it starts with a really abusive misunderstanding of Foucault. It’s like he read The History of Sexuality and D&P (worst translated name ever), and pretended that he hadn’t notice The Birth of the Clinic. At any rate, it was too much, and now I’m reading Borges short stories.
Or. . . trying to explain, to people who clearly don’t get it, the value of compact titles.
One of the advantages of my having stopped using this space is that you only have to skip one post to see the one where I said there wasn’t any reason to expect a Trump choke. In a shocking twist, however, it turned out that I wasn’t pessimistic enough by some distance. I can absolutely assure that this isn’t something that happens very often.
So. . . as you know, Republicans who pretend to disavow Trump as a racist demagogue are cowardly liars. They have, after all, been participating in the same racists demagoguery as Trump for decades, they’ve just kept a paper-thin division up. That’s all that Trump has changed, really. Now even the morons can tell that the Republican party has nothing to offer beyond racism. What’s only surprising to the ostensible intellectual wing of the party is it turned out to be a huge boon.
Whether that ignorance was naive or cynical is neither here now there. What’s more important is that the people who are fooling themselves into thinking that Trump is too much for them are going to come around. The only thing about this that isn’t completely obvious is that it will take a bit longer if our boy DT wins. In fact, Trump getting elected and glassing the entire globe is the only scenario in which the Republican party doesn’t drop way below his level.
If DT doesn’t make it to the presidency, Republicans are going to be unwilling to give up on the crowds he drew; in fact, those crowds have been desperate for more direct pandering for ages, so if they aren’t drawn further into the Republican mainstream, then they could easily be picked up by another party who they would support regardless of prospect.
(Remember when cops didn’t like Nazis? Good times.)
So, you know, the whole Donald Trump thing: hilarious, no? This headline alone is almost cathartic, not do mention the volume of digs a real pro like Roy Edroso gets in. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years being grumpy about how easily the GOP base falls in line once the party apparatus starts getting heavy-handed, and suddenly all that seems to be collapsing. Like all sensible people, I’m waiting for Trump to be sabotaged in the primaries, run as an independent, and ensure the biggest GOP failure in a presidential election since the party was formed.
The big problem with this, is that Trump’s current position is already so improbable, that I don’t really feel safe assuming that’s going to happen. While a lot of the “this is the beginning of the end for Trump” has been wishful thinking on the part of GOP pundits, it really is true that he’s had a lot of opportunities to fall down, and all of them have seemed to bolster him in the end. I guess I feel like given how strange this race has turned out I’m not willing to be totally confident that the GOP isn’t going to run trump, and while I think that would be a disaster, I don’t feel it’s guaranteed.
So I guess we can take bets on whether the post-apocalyptic wasteland will look like Ridley Walker or A Canticle for Leibowitz.
So there was an earlier version of this, but the fact of the matter is, it didn’t reflect my feelings for very long. I was pretty pleased the night of, and then I felt kind of grim and now. . . well, it’s hard to say. Things have been pretty strange, and it’s clear that nobody is taking either their victories or defeats in a way that’s going to change anybody’s overarching narrative. I know it probably seems to a lot of people as if that is a strange thing to be concerned with under the circumstances, but I’m pretty sure it’s actually the key issue.
One of the things this last week has been absolutely packed with is either hand-wringing or schadenfreude over the degree to which Romney was oversold to the news-consuming public, and to himself. All that disingenuous garbage he puked out as a concession had to be made up on the spot, as he hadn’t considered the risk of losing sufficient to think about it in advance. Of course, you’d expect a guy who says he likes to fire people to be more prepared for awkward situations, but I guess the problem is that he was suddenly on an even footing with the mass of his interlocutors, and that’s something spoiled sociopaths hate.
At any rate, yeah, people are saying that the celebratory tone of media coverage of Romney allowed people to ignore the obvious fact that plenty of people saw through him. In particular, it seems as if people are beginning to say that Fox News, and Figures like Limbaugh are bad for Republican politics. Their overcommitment on message and refusal to see when their attitudes alienate more of the public than it inspires will prevent Republicans from making gains in government unless there is more openness within the party, and less shouting and viciously-policed ideological consistency.
This is. . . kind of true, although how it’s going to play out in the immediate future is up in the air. If you pay attention to responses to the result, for example Paul Ryan’s, you can see pretty clearly that there will continue to be an effort to disenfranchise non-white voters. This has been a fast-paced issue this year, with a lot of back and forth, but if Democrats focus elsewhere, it’s easy to see how Republicans could gain ground by continuing to work at it. Racism is basically all they have left in terms of broad appeal.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. Republicans only need a skeleton crew of elected officials to keep things moving to a point where rich people no longer have to contribute to the society from which they derive the most benefit of any class of people. All they have to do is control key aspects of the tone of discourse. Even the most ardent pessimist (me) knew that the 2010 “Tea Party” congressional brat-pack weren’t going to do much in terms of their promises, but even as self-aggrandizing figureheads they were effective at keeping us talking in the terms their backers wanted. People still think that cutting costs and eliminating “burdens” on “job creators” is the way towards prosperity rather than, you know, people in general having jobs so they can buy things and avoid relying on external assistance in order to not starve to death.
So maybe Fox, Rush and the like are bad for the Republican Party qua people who want to maintain the illusion of governance as they steel us back to feudalism, but really we’re headed in the direction those people want without their having to sully their hands with the government whose benefits to them they are too selfish to see, let alone acknowledge.
Being sick was pretty brutal. Not last Friday night, but the Friday night previous I had fever dreams which, as far as I can recall, were all about things being set in stone. I was sick and would be unable, at the key moment, to do something to prevent whatever now indelible change my damaged psyche had created as a metaphor for my sufferings. I guess it’s pretty clear what I’m most afraid of these days.
Walking around after I was nominally recovered (which we’re going to put around last Wednesday, although I am still legitimately ill) I felt like there was some clear correspondence between my surroundings and what had been in my head. Everything was chaotic. It creates a fever-like anamorphosis in which you can interact with something about the space (i.e.: you can manipulate the objects which make up the chaos), but there is no way to influence the space itself.
The clever will no doubt suggest that I consider cleaning, and, in the end I shall. Slowly, painstakingly and, like a suicide from another epoch, reminding myself of all of this buttoning and unbuttoning. Because that’s what makes the objects of the chaos accrete into something opaque: the fact that they’ll be back. There is nothing in particular about the state of those shelves that is particularly insane. I imagine everything there could have a reasonable home in something like 15 minutes. But then I’d use something and wonder if where I put it after I cleaned might not be the ideal spot and before I know it I may as well have done nothing at all, because the effort will appear to have been completely wasted.
I’ve always hated this, and I have spent most of my life as a messy person. Because I have had productive and non-productive phases while still being messy it hasn’t ever been something that I’ve thought of as a determining factor, but pathology is insidious like that. I think that my solution has been, as noted in the previous paragraph, to get sick of things and then arrange them and wait for entropy to begin the process again.
Despite how it appears on the face of it, there is more to this than laziness. In particular, there is the fact that I’ve always wanted to be the sort of person who embraces chaos fully. I have, at many times in my life, made reasonable showing at this by not having any options, but the fact is that I’m really kind of delicate at heart, so those times have tended to be pretty telling. Now I’ve worn myself down to the point where I’m wondering what sorts of structures I can set in place to slow the return of entropy. I guess this is the positive side of inertia. It’s actually kind of peaceful.
So I really did my level best to read all of Homo Sacer, but I found myself getting hung up on the Arendt citations, and the abuse of Foucault. I did a fairly good job of getting through the broad coverage at the beginning, and that’s the best part anyways. When we get to particulars, Agamben seems to forget the way power obfuscates the interior/exterior dichotomy, and we end up discussing the differences (!) between how life is politicized under fascism and whatever we’re calling the corporate democracy of The West (as such) these days.
Probably the most intriguing insight in Homo Sacer is the categorization of state violence as a lifting of the law, rather than the law being brought into force, and that this suspension is, in fact, originary to law. Unlike the structure suggested by the so-called “social contract” the sacrifice of individual liberty is part of a bargain that is essentially one-sided. Further, the conditions of the contract are malleable from the perspective of the authority, but not from the perspective of the subject, meaning that abiding by the law is no protection against it. Instead, an individual is compelled to act in such a way that their status under the law is preserved. Security states produce subjects who are always involved in a manic avowal of the status quo, as this is the condition of maintaining your protections.
The next book I’m going to write about is Agamben’s Homo Sacer, and it’s taking a while because I’m reading the whole thing. It’s not particularly long, but I have lost the habit of plowing through works like this while retaining their high-points. Hopefully this will come a little easier as things go on. By the time I get to Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism I’ll get the reading done in a day and the only thing that will push the review back is me running out of synonyms for “fucking awesome.”
What has already been called clearly to mind, however, is that Homo Sacer is a real mixed bag. While it is full of interesting and original insights it tries to carve out additional territory for itself by basically claiming that Foucault didn’t observe or analyze things that any honest reading will show quite clearly that he did. I don’t know if it’s cojones or craziness that drives a man to suggest that he has one-upped Foucault in the realm of penality (I know, right?), but it doesn’t come off well. My margins are full of comments like “fuck you” and “shut up,” and there is even a paragraph I scratched out (although not so densely that I couldn’t refer to it in the future.) Definitely some first-rate disingenuous bullshit going on with ol’ George.
Nevertheless, the good part is serious grade-A, and with this out of the way the next entry will almost certainly be unadulterated praise.