Sunday, November 20, 2016

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek on the USA election

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has taken considerable thought, time, and energy to try to understand the craziness we called an election.  The following clip is truly remarkable.  I cannot recommend it more highly.  It runs about 20 minutes.

This is followed by St. Clair's trenchant observations on the incompetence and hubris it required for the Democrats to lose to a 70-year old reality-TV star with enough scandalous baggage to sink a container ship.  Of course, it can be argued that the Democrats have been losing their way since Jimmy Carter deregulated the airline industry or appointed Paul (21%-prime) Volcker to head the Federal Reserve in the 1970s. Hillary Clinton is just the logical conclusion of this crazed and twisted journey—a peak idiot, if you please.

I probably won't write much more about this election.  I have spent entirely too much of my life trying to help the Democratic Party make better and more informed choices.  Obviously, I have not influenced much as Hillary Clinton represents almost everything I believe foolish, absurd, and criminal. I hold the somewhat naive opinion that the purpose of government is to organize the necessary tasks that are too difficult, expensive, and complex for individuals to accomplish on their own.  Ms. Clinton and her posse apparently believe the purpose of government is to provide them with cushy ego-satisfying jobs and beautiful offices in Washington D.C. There seem to be quite a few of us who utterly despise that type.  But quite honestly, I didn't think there were enough of Hillary's victims to pull themselves off the mat in a final and probably futile gesture of keeping her out of the White House. Worse, the guy who will be heading for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is not exactly Mr. Deep either.

So back to refining strategies for building a sustainable future.  If I did not have that problem to think about, I would have most certainly lost the will to live by now.  Building is the only truly satisfying activity of my life and thinking about the world that could be created is enough to help me ignore the industrial-strength idiocy that we have just witnessed.

Roaming Charges: When the Pterodactyls Came Home to Roost

They have guilty consciences, they’re afraid – and fear and guilty consciences have a good savor in the nostrils of the gods. Yes, the gods take pleasure in such poor souls. Would you oust them from the favor of the gods? What, moreover, could you give them in exchange? Good digestions, the gray monotony of provincial life, and the boredom – ah, the soul-destroying boredom – of long days of mild content.
— from “The Flies,” by Jean-Paul Sartre
No one inside the Clinton machine saw it coming. They were whacked from behind, while sitting at the bar, casually ordering cocktails to celebrate their predestined triumph, as clueless of their fate as Luca Brasi in The Godfather.

A half-million computer simulations generated by Robby Mook assured them that their victory was foretold, a sure thing. They had the press. They had Wall Street and Silicon Valley. They had the Council on Foreign Relations, Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger. They had women. They had blacks, Hispanics and Asians. They owned the East Coast, the West Coast and the Great Lakes. Even those flinty Cuban exiles would help them take Florida this time.

You can almost hear the smug snickering oozing through the Podesta emails. Fuck every place else. We don’t need them. Those Jurassic States with their deplorable constituents–their Sunday schools and pick-ups, their deer hunts and bingo parlors–deserved what they were going to get (which, of course, wasn’t going to be much different than what they’d been getting since the rise of the neoliberals in the late 70s: nothing but condescension). This one was in the bag.

Alas, there was a bug in their program, call it the Hubris Virus, that blinded them to the sands eroding beneath the hulking edifice of their own conceit. Mook’s app couldn’t measure human emotion. Their software couldn’t calibrate the visceral mood of the electorate, which any amateur sociologist could detect in almost every bar in America.

One of the trademarks of neoliberalism is that the working poor are to be blamed for their own desperate condition, their failure to adapt to the shock therapy foisted upon them, their refusal to embrace the austere strictures of the new modernity.

This election was the chance for the America preterite, the left behind and demeaned, to strike back at one of their most vulnerable and pious oppressors. From Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, they did so with a vengeance.

The Clinton campaign, like Luca Brasi, now sleeps with the fishes, but that virus persists, gnawing away at the brainstem of the vanquished Clinton team and the leaders of the Democratic Party. The same self-righteous surrogates who assured nervous liberals of the mathematical inevitability of Hillary’s election have now been deployed to rationalize her inexplicable defeat.

Each day a new scapegoat emerges: James Comey, Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Anthony Weiner, rigged voting machines, Fox News, fake stories on Facebook, Bernie Bros, even Bernie Sanders himself, the man who debased himself by campaigning his ass off for a candidate who ridiculed him behind his back and then blamed him for her own predictable demise. Oh, and if it’s Friday, it must be Susan Sarandon’s fault for being one of the few “celebrities” with a conscience and the courage to articulate it. See the online ravings about her by Kurt Eichenwald, Paul Krugman and Joy Reid.

In Greek tragedy, hubris is a kind of all-consuming arrogance that blinds characters to the limits of their own power and the ruthlessness of their own deeds, as in the plays of Sophocles. Usually, the hero over-reaches, ignores oracular warnings, commits a grievous crime, falls from grace and then awakens, often near the point of death, to his or her own failures as a human being. Thus the hero and the audience experience a catharsis, a purification through understanding.

But Aristotle, who was obsessed with the notion of hubris, described another variety of this disorder of the power elites, a kind of sadistic pleasure derived from the suffering of others. Here’s Aristotle writing in his Treatise on Rhetoric: “Hubris consists in doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim simply for the pleasure of it. Retaliation is not hubris, but revenge. Young men and the rich are hubristic because they think they are better than other people.”

The Clintons and their acolytes are afflicted by both species of hubris. They are the power-hungry agents of their own downfall, yet shame the victims of their own inhumane policies, from the gutting of welfare to racist crime policies to the obliteration of Libya. They show no remorse, engage in no self-circumspection, admit no culpability for their own actions and deflect the blame for all failures on others. In this sense, they are beyond redemption or purification and richly deserve their fate. Live by the polls, die at the polls.

But the country at large is about to pay a heavy price for the Clintonian tragedy. The malign incompetence of this vain neoliberal coterie has unleashed a chilling and lethal force on the Republic: intolerant, self-righteous, bigoted and violent. There’s no way to diminish the threat that Trump poses to the most vulnerable among us. These aren’t chickens coming home to roost, but ravenous pterodactyls, emerging from a cthonic darkness, with maximum havoc on their minds.

We are, however, blessed that the Democratic Party, always little more than a vaporous sanctuary for the American underclass, no longer exists as an oppositional force. Their frail Maginot Line has been breached, routed and trampled. Like the French Resistance, we are now responsible for our own collective defense.

Let us unite in a new “refus absurd.” more

1 comment:

  1. Another big Wow! I agree with you wholeheartedly that “Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has [obviously] taken considerable thought, time, and energy to try to understand the craziness we called an election. [and that his “clip is truly remarkable.” Thank you.

    Jeffrey St. Clair likewise. But, Slavoj Zizek, where’s he been all my life? And how come I don’t know anything about Slovenia?

    I'm going to need the rest of the day to reflect on all of this. Thank you again for everything and for these 3 amazing postings in a row. I hope I'm recovered enough by tomorrow to handle a Monday posting.