Monday, March 3, 2014

"Enough" Can Get Bigger

  • Another motherfucking snow day. And I've discovered, at least the past few days, I've reengaged the motherfuckering. Have some motherfucking (and non-motherfucking) reads.
  • Thought of Cale's Mercenaries (Ready for War) last night and as a consequence today is a Cale Day. Is good thing.
  • The End of American Exceptionalism? As America and Europe have changed over time, so have the attributes that exceptionalists claim distinguish us from them. But for the contemporary Right, there are basically three: our belief in organized religion; our belief that America has a special mission to spread freedom in the world; and our belief that we are a classless society where, through limited government and free enterprise, anyone can get ahead. Unfortunately for conservatives, each of these beliefs is declining fast.
  • On the above: Beinart is right that in some ways the conservative tide has undermined elements of that exceptionalism. The politicization of churches by the Religious Right has created blow-back on organized religion. The rush to release the rich from social responsibilities and the reluctance to help average Americans cope with economic misfortune has disillusioned more Americans about the national premise that hard work will get you ahead. [9] But the conservative tide has also entailed a wave of messaging to reinforce the elements of American exceptionalism: the strong ideological campaign to insist on an “I’ve got mine, Jack” outlook; the rise of explicit libertarian philosophy and practical off-shoots like gun-carry laws; and the attack on government at all levels. There is, also, as others have noted, the way that conservative forces have created a self-fulfilling prophecy in Washington: making government dysfunctional.
  • I've yodeled for years that the US is ten years behind Britain which is ten years behind Greece. Here's the short version of a another old and related yodel and whine: My father is first generation American, my mother second, both born of Eastern European immigrants. My dad grew up in a company coal town in Appalachian Pennsylvania, my mom in a town up the hill from Donora's steel mills; she was 14 years old and two miles away from the Smog). My parents got me and my brother the FUCK out of ghost town Pennsylvania, I'm healthy, happy, middle-upper-middle middle class, comfortable, not worried about food, shelter, concerned about blog pings. My daughter will be my age, 54, in 2047. What world is my generation leaving her?

  • I find this utterly believable, so much so it was my first lurch: Western leaders are stunned because they haven’t realized Russia’s owners no longer respect Europeans the way they once did after the Cold War. Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance. Russia thinks the West is now all about the money. Putin’s henchmen know this personally. Russia’s rulers have been buying up Europe for years. They have mansions and luxury flats from London’s West End to France’s Cote d’Azure. Their children are safe at British boarding and Swiss finishing schools. And their money is squirrelled away in Austrian banks and British tax havens.
  • Oligarchs triumphant: So here we are. Chaos, strife, the threat of war -- and the heavy smoke of ignorance covering it all. Sleepwalking once more toward disaster. Deliberately setting tumultuous events in motion without the slightest concern for their ultimate consequences, or the suffering they will cause, now and perhaps for generations to come. (Think of Iraq, for example, or the spread of violence and chaos that has already flowed to many countries from the intervention in Libya's internal affairs.) But why are we here? Greed. Greed and the lust for dominance. Let's not say "power," for that word carries positive connotations, and can also include an element of responsibility.  But the oligarchs and ideologues, the militarists and ministers involved in this episode of Great Gamesmanship don't want power in any broader, deeper sense. What they want is dominance, to lord it over others -- physically, financially, psychologically. Among those at the top in this situation, on every side, there is not the slightest regard for the common good of their fellow human beings -- not even for those with whom they share some association by the accident of history or geography: language, nationality, ethnicity. The lust for loot and dominance outweighs all the rest, regardless of the heavy piety oozing from the rhetoric on all sides.
  • Crimea, Foucault, why sport is bullshit: In the end, this whole mess can be blamed on the Sochi Winter Olympics. It’s a well-known and boring fact that in ancient Greece, wars were put on hold for the duration of the Games. The idea of doing the same thing now isn’t just infeasible but nonsensical; war and the Olympics are one and the same thing. Host governments treat the Games in much the same way that they treat foreign wars: they provide a chance to issue some contracts and boost important industries, they let you redraw the maps (turning a beach town into a mountain resort, or a moulding industrial park into a germ for gentrification), they’re a matter of national pride and a propaganda vehicle that helps calm internal contradictions – but at the same time they never seem to deliver the profits they promise; the costs inevitably spiral, and afterwards they tend to leave cities full of half-ruined buildings. It’s not just a matter of resemblance. With their vast crowds and attending dignitaries they’re a deliberate target for terrorists, allowing the hosts to show off their various defence technologies to the world. London 2012 wasn’t much more than an enormous arms fair, with an aircraft carrier on the Thames and missile batteries on the roofs of homes. Russia in particular seems to like conducting its imperial adventures during the Games. While jets battered Stalin’s birthplace in Georgia, representatives from the two countries were playing beach volleyball in Beijing. The Ukrainian paralympic team is still in Sochi. All this isn’t a distraction from the sport; it’s another facet of the same phenomenon.
  • See, I don't seek to end the motherfucking because I hate the motherfuckering, I seek to end the motherfuckering because I love the motherfuckering to the obsesssion of excluding much non-motherfuckering. Hence the debut of a new tag.
  • Self-portrait in a convex mirror.
  • This week in water.
  • My country is the world.
  • Szymborska!
  • Prunella's latest playlist.


Emily Berry

Is this mountain all rock, or are there any villages on it?
These are some of the things I said to her.

We bake because it is a way of overcoming.
In the journey of zest, I see myself.

On the news every day people are standing up screaming
or lying down screaming while others remain calm.

She pointed out that I had not made eye contact
with her at all. Then I cried properly in a short burst.

This is the worst example of any circumstance ever,
noted a journalist in his notebook.

Let butter and chocolate be a wish not to die!
I implored the bain-marie. She likened me to a sieve.

I clutch all my poems to my chest and count them
again and again. I am kneeling like a small dog.

What’s going on with this modern world
and the right wife not even knowing

what the left wife is doing? Now all you have to do
is cut off the legs. After an absence, after a hard task,

after the way the hand turns, like this —
There was so much I couldn’t contain.

She asked me how I was feeling in my body
at this moment; I said tense in my whole trunk area.

A strong smell of white wine. She said it came from
an impulse that she often used to have when she first

started practicing. She said she believed feelings
are held in the body. She asked me what was going on

with my breath and I realized I was sort of holding it.
Like the boxes in the cupboard. “Enough” can get bigger.

How much bigger, though? When I say
I’ve had enough, how will you know when to stop?