Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Preacher Offering a Future World, the Historian Waxing Nostalgic, and the Dead Man Underwriting Them Is What It Takes

For a review of neo-conservatives' philosophy of power, read this:

The single greatest threat to America, according to many neocons, is not communism or radical Islam but nihilism, and they see nihilism as the inevitable outcome of Enlightenment liberalism and America’s founding principles. The real problem with liberal-capitalist society for Strauss, Kristol, and Brooks is that individuals do not sacrifice themselves to anything higher than themselves and their petty self-interest. What America needs, therefore, is a two-step antidote for its cultural malaise: the inculcation of public virtue and the promotion of nationalism. The neocons seek to restore a public philosophy that promotes sacrifice as the great moral ideal and patriotism as the great political ideal. 

The American people need something greater than themselves to live for. They need to learn the virtue of sacrifice, which means war. War–perpetual war–is the ultimate means by which the neocons can fight creeping nihilism and promote sacrifice and nationalistic patriotism. An aggressive, proactive foreign policy therefore serves a greater purpose–to raise ordinary Americans above their daily, selfish concerns. Nation building also provides neoconservative statesmen with a grand theatre on which to practice their statesmanlike virtues.

The guy's arguing against neo-con philosophy, but why the fuck would you group David Brooks in any category other than stooge-propagandist much less flatter his hack-ass by comparing him to Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol - no matter your issues with the one, other, or both?

O, there's this to read too.

It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a blinding sandstorm. Heavy loses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U "Spooky" gunships rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire.

Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf. This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this "America's Suez," a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.

That's another autoblogographical anchor-trope, cause Hamster's agent won't even return my calls anymore when I call and ask if Hamster's available for dinner. Also, I hereby trademark the word obamatopoeia.

As for the stanky apocalyptic hyperventilating, even if it is fart-yellow, it chills the heart of a father of a seventeen year old, yo. I'm small this way.


Marvin Bell

    Live as if you were already dead.
                     —Zen admonition

1. About the Dead Man and the Numbers
The dead man is outside the pale.
The dead man makes space for himself the way a soccer player moves to the place
    to be next.
The angles shift, the pace slows and picks up, it matters more, then less, then
    more, then less, and others run by in both directions.
One of them may slow to stoke the embers of a failing thought.
For example, the dead man restores the poet's ambition to plumb the nature
    of existence.
Sometimes he, sometimes she, asks the dead man what it is to live as if one were
    already dead.
It's the feel of an impression in the earth, a volume in space, an airy drift upward.
It's downwind and upwind at the same time.
It's a resonance to wrap one's mind around, like a bandage beneath which the
    healing may happen.
It's the idea of turf beyond the neighborhood.
It's a cold flame in a hot season.
It's what you do facing the guns.

2. More About the Dead Man and the Numbers

Here we go, with what it takes.
The dead man wakes in a dream, lungs aching as if the night were a stairway
    or a hill.
Is he indoors or out, an insider in public or an outsider at home?
He hears a splash of tissue in a knee and a click as his shoulder slips the edge
    of an obstruction.
You would think he thinks himself awake, but the dead man does not.
He has a way of making the ephemeral last, the rusting slow, the leaf hang,
    the bullet hold up in midair.
In the waking world, there are too many of us to tell, the ushers are overwhelmed
    by the numbers wanting a box seat.
The preacher offering a future world, the historian waxing nostalgic, and the dead
    man underwriting them is what it takes.
How is it to be the dead man among shifting loyalties?
It means living in the interstices, swimming in the wake of the big boats, crossing
    the borders on back roads.
It means taking the field with those whose lives are numbered.
It means finding space for when it will matter. 


  1. I had a dream last night that I was suddenly able to read poetry, and it was vivid enough to stay convincing while awake. But then I just tried to read this one, and, nope. Dammit.

  2. Heh, I feel you. I gave up on PKD's MITHC after 50 pages.

  3. Ethan, I had a lit teacher a long time ago who used to always say, "Start with Rilke."

    Probably doesn't help, but I dunno. I think the Neetch is the best writer of the last thousand years and science fiction is the only literature with any integrity, so whaddoiknow?

  4. Jack, you know plenty. And did you see the link here yesterday on Melville and the Neetch? And yes, Sonnets to Orpheus, mmwah.

    I have a teacher/reader/mentor/friend who claims SciFi is cheating. I have a friend here (today's obamapostasy) who says poetry is cheating. I'm a stupid romantic - what works for you works for you, what doesn't work for you isn't necessarily cheating. I take full blame for my inability to get SciFi.

  5. BDR,

    I enjoyed the Melville and Nietzsche article for the NYT, especially since it misreads the Neetch while still getting his import "right."

    I think SciFi is "cheating" insomuch as it disdains the limits of the canon, and the last hundred years worth of emphasis on mere irony (as opposed to Irony), in order to explore the limits and expanses of human possibility.

    But, in that way, it resembles best the original impulses of the first French, American and British novel forms. There's a lineage, if you will, from Stendahl to China Mieville which has all but died out in general literature (I can exempt Shantaram and Q).



  6. I would add "Spanish to Jack's list of first novel forms. Cervantes cheated with the best of them, to our delight, or at least to mine. As for SF, I try and there are some things I've liked, but usually I put them down and wonder why I wasn't reading Galsworthy.

    On a more local note, We gots some trouble with the intertubes here in beautiful PG today I laughed when I received this message after clicking on moteldemoka:i-know-that-she-is-made-of-smoke/” because your computer isn’t connected to the Internet.


  7. drip,

    An oversight for which I should not be forgiven. Call it narrative bias. I love the story, but I've always found Cervantes as hard to digest as Swift or Tolstoy.



  8. Jack-- no forgiveness needed. Most of us think we know Don Quixote based on what we didn't read when it was assigned way back when and references that are just in the air. We only have so much time, so why spend it with what we know, right? But it stretched the canon, a hard thing to do when you're a founding member, and 400 years later, it's still stretching, it's fast, funny, modern and filled with irony. Try Edith Grossman's recent translation.

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