The degrading dialectic of liberal toleration and conservative barbarity

“(Competitive) Games hold a special valence for Scalia; they are the space where inequality rules…(After modernism) the watermarks of privilege and privation are no longer visible to the naked eye; they must be identified, again and again, through struggle and contest. Hence the appeal of the game (which) offers the perfect marriage of the feudal and the fallible, the unequal and the unsettled” (Robin 2011: 140-141).

“‘To say that something is ‘essential,’ he writes, ‘is ordinarily to say that it is necessary to the achievement of a certain object.’ But games ‘have no object except amusement.’ Lacking an object, they have no essence. It’s thus impossible to say whether a rule is essential ‘All are arbitrary,’ he writes of the rules, ‘none is essential.’ What makes a rule a rule is either tradition or ‘in more modern times,’ the edict of an authoritative body like the PGA …”the twin poles of Scalia’s faith: a belief in rules as arbitrary impositions of power–reflecting nothing (not even the will or standing of their makers) but the flat surface of their locutionary meaning–to which we must nevertheless submit; and a belief in rules, zealously enforced, as the divining rod of our ineradicable inequality. Those who make it past these blank and barren gods are winners; everyone else is a loser” (Robin 2011: 142-143).

This is not just Scalia’s theory of rules, but the general conservative idealist theory of truth.

The sources of Scalia’s outsized influence:

1) Scalia’s self-confidence when professionally tolerated by liberal peers.

2) “he tells the power elite exactly what they want to hear: that they are superior and that they have a seat at the table because they are superior.”

3) Scalia reflects the spirit of the age.

4) “Scalia’s outsized presence in our Constitutional firmament” is enabled by “the patience and forbearance, the general decency and good manners, his liberal colleagues show him. While he rants and raves, smashing guitars and dive-bombing his enemies, they tend to respond with an indulgent shrug, a ‘that’s just Nino,’ as O’Connor was wont to say…Scalia preys on and profits from the very culture of liberalism he claims to abhor: the toleration of opposing views, the generous allowances for other people’s failings, the ‘benevolent compassion’ he derides in his golf course dissent…The conservatism of duresse oblige  depends upon the liberalism of noblesse oblige” (Robin 2011: 146-147).

From “Affirmative Action Baby,” in Robin, Corey. The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.

Another very recent example of conservative manipulation of liberal toleration for conservatism:

The British right cops to the conservative marketing ploy: “I’ve argued at the top levels of government, ‘Scrap the minimum wage.’ But then there’s a sharp intake of breath. Anything that looks like a return to the Dickensian workhouse raises hackles. But I don’t want people working in sweatshops at 5p an hour. You should sell abolishing the minimum wage in positive terms, as providing young people with a first step on the jobs ladder, as a ‘jobs for all’ scheme.”

The uneven, degrading dialectic of liberal nicety and conservative barbarity both supports and over time erodes liberalism, which cannot say no to conservatism and its authoritarianism.

For contrast, see discriminating and refusing egalitarianism, illustrated in Jantelagen and Bartleby the Scrivener.

It is also not to be overlooked that the liberal consensus has rarely bestowed socialism with the same indulgent tolerance it shines on conservatism. 2 cases in point: 1) In the Nordic social democracies, liberalism and socialism were in coalition, from the end of the 19th century to the early 1970s. Even there, the social democrats persecuted communists. 2) As well, the post-1956 Latin American socialist Left struggled to build a liberal-socialist alliance (see Greg Grandin’s history of Guatemala and Latin America).

Both cases are rare examples of lib-left coalition, largely shepherded by a conciliatory and pragmatic Left, and both coalitions were assailed by liberals (internationally, or in the case of Sweden, eventually domestically) who preferred to retreat into conservative barbarity–eg. the US consensus, which was wholly vicious against the 20th-21st century Latin American Enlightenment, pressing the coach drivers’ whip into conservative hands. Where Sweden, in the early 1970s, reached the endpoint of the liberal-socialist partnership–what to do with the excess profits: let capitalists keep them or socialize them?–again liberals forsook socialism and, in embracing capitalist rule, beat back a less-than-measured retreat into the arms of conservatism, recently resulting in the contradictory reification–via vilification/victimology– of immigrants, and the ensuing state-sponsored gagging and shackling of labour.

Maybe liberals are not so much the avatars of toleration, as people who are, except in the rarest cases, capable of recognizing shared genealogy with the Right only. Considering that, perhaps Leftists ought to contain our celebrations of abstract toleration, and more closely attend to the contours and trajectories, the specification of our tolerations. Since liberalism, both liberals and parts of the Left have been so proud to claim that fresh tolerations can change the course of human interests and history, if not transcend discrimination outright. Yet even “fresh” forms of toleration must always be (certainly) partial, rather rigid if shared, and so subject to instrumental, (collective) political manipulation.

The (Leftist) point would then be to choose and to fight for a specified range of toleration that facilitates widespread freedoms, rather than confers freedom upon a ‘chosen’ elite. We would foremost recognize the necessity of Left collectives within which we may sense and think together to choose key battles and strategies. All props to Gramsci and to radical unions.

No War on Venezuela

I don’t want the fucking US to go to war on Venezuela, just because it’s a social democracy with oil. Fuck.

Or Iran, for no reason other than it’d reduce the threat of competition for Israel. (And OK, maybe we could take their oil. And box in China. But at a crazy, escalating price.)

Here’s what Americans think of going to war against Iran on behalf of Israel.

Just…fuck.

Whatever. Just go to fucking war on everyfuckinghaplessbody. Then implode because it’s just not fucking fiscally sane. Or sane in any conceivable sense of the word. “Constrained rationality” (AKA irrationality), maybe; sane? Fuck no. Fucking unrestrained fucking headless war machine. I hate Anglo-American elites so fucking much. I just wish they would all choke on their cocktail olives and die off en masse.

 I’ve been reading Sweezy & Magdoff (Sweezy, Paul M. and Harry Magdoff. 2009 (1972). “Economic history as it happened, V. I: The dynamics of US capitalism: Corporate structure, inflation, credit, gold, and the dollar.” New York: Monthly Review Press).

  • The US starts out toward militarization because military expenditures smooth out capital goods business cycle downturns.
  • The US becomes utterly militaristic because semi-stagnant capitalism, such as in the modern US, increases population, productivity, and unemployment, while decreasing productive investment. Militarization serves as the crutch to advanced capitalism’s endemic economic stagnancy.
  • So to maintain capitalism (accumulated power), the US has to wage war. Obviously, anticapitalists made a rational enemy in the past. But without them, the delicate questions are On Whom? and On How Many States and Stateless Peoples Simultaneously?

Old Cold Warriors Don’t Die, They Just Become Pro-Tyranny Communications Professionals

And you thought, hoped, dreamed the Cold War was over. Well, not on the New York Times’ watch, baby.

The New Pravda (New York Times) published on November 24 a creepy Simon Romero “article” positively crowing over Chavez’s recent electoral losses to Venezuelan elites. Can the NYTimes not once tone down the overbearing propaganda on the subject of Chavez? Holy fucking shit. Pretend you’re not the Wall Street Journal. I know this junk is fed to you by your sanctimonious, over-entitled, Harvard-classmate Venezuelan elite buddies, but the professional communications on this matter is just really, really ugly. It is completely untrustworthy from any perspective other than that of a Shell shareholder or a 5,000 acre ranch-owning Venezuelan media tycoon. Think of your poor, educated middle class American audience, won’t you? Just a little, tiny bit of respect. Publishing such heavy-handed right-wing dogma makes your liberal postures on other issues look alarmingly superficial. Scratch under the surface of a liberal, and all of a sudden it’s Pinochet, Franco, and the Contras…and we’re waterboarding away!

Providing a bit of relief, constitutional lawyer-turned-journalist Glenn Greenwald dresses the NYTimes down a bit for some of this propaganda overkill in “Mumbai, the NYT’s revisionism, and lessons not learned” (Salon.com, November 28), as well as the NYT’s anti-law/pro-torture slant, in “How the media talks about torture and the rule of law.”

Economists Robert Chernomas and Ian Hudson (who co-authored “Social Murder,” a very readable analysis and critique of conservative economics, published out of Winnipeg by Arbeiter Ring Press) are soon publishing a contemporary-historical examination of the New York Times’ politics, featuring a look at the history of the NYT’s hoary verbal savaging of social democratic countries.

Raping Bolivia

You can read, from an imperialist perspective, a little bit about how the US has not given up on pillaging Latin America. The US has been sponsoring elite Bolivians in the eastern natural gas-producing regions to fight to prevent Bolivia from using its natural gas to develop economically and socially. They claim that they want to hoard the wealth for themselves. But, in this way, the US can maintain control over the natural gas and dribble some payola down to its corrupt Bolivian proxies, while Bolivia itself rots. Same old, same depressing old.

Even the best possible outcome here entails the US getting more fascist refugees, to add to our happy multicultural family of antisocial right-wing nut bars. More awesomeness.

So currently diplomatic relations between Morales’ Bolivia (and in solidarity Venezuela) and the old, over-reaching US of A are not so good. 

Colombia 2008

From Public Citizen:

“(April 23), the lies of the Bush administration and the Colombian government were laid bare as Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s cousin and closest political advisor, Mario Uribe, was arrested for his connections with murderous right-wing paramilitaries responsible for assassinations of union activists and forced displacements of Afro-Colombians and other citizens from their lands.

…Colombia has the world’s highest rate of assassinations of union leaders and activists and it is now increasing relative to last year. More than 400 unionists have been killed by right-wing paramilitaries – and in some cases in collusion with the Colombian army – since President Alvaro Uribe took office. The Uribe government has signaled this horrific conduct is acceptable by prosecuting less than 3 percent of these cases.

The right-wing paramilitaries – often with the Colombian army’s cooperation – have also waged a systematic campaign to violently displace Afro-Colombians from their lands so that national and international companies can exploit these rich territories. Gruesome massacres, killings of community leaders, threats and intimidation have resulted in approximately 79 percent of the Afro-Colombian population who lived on collective lands being forcibly displaced.

It’s time we stop President Bush’s agreement with a government leading a morally repellent campaign of murder and violence against thousands of Colombians seeking to exercise their most basic human rights.”