Thursday 30 August 2018

The Warning Bells Of Absurdity.

Noises Off: This is the nightmare quality of current events. That, beyond the wafer-thin screens of normality, vast beasts go prowling in the dark. We can hear them barking and roaring: sometimes far away; sometimes frighteningly close. There’s a skittering of claws on marble floors. Eyes glowing green in the shadows. And, try as we may, we cannot wake up. Painting by Otto Dix.

HOW CAN YOU TELL when a system is falling apart? That the load-bearing walls of everyday reality are beginning to weaken? The simple answer is absurdity. Words spoken and positions taken that simply make no sense. Behaviour that raises suspicion of complete madness. Sums that stubbornly refuse to add up.

Think about the extraordinary display put on by Australia’s governing party, the Liberal Party. What was that all about? For some time the party has been declining in the polls. So, what does it do? It convulses itself in a bloody and ultimately pointless bout of political fratricide. Hurling aside an urbane, accomplished and highly intelligent politician, Malcolm Turnbull, and replacing him with an intellectually stunted and morally vacuous religious zealot whose primary political accomplishments have been the persecution of refugees and the punishment of the poor. Entirely unsurprisingly, the Liberal’s primary vote has sunk to record lows.

Then there is the ongoing campaign by the United Kingdom’s liberal establishment to destroy Jeremy Corbyn. Unable to counter the Labour leader’s policies: for fear of exposing their unshakeable allegiance to the “loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires” (thank you Paul Simon) that constitutes the actual government of the world; these ostensibly “progressive” politicians and journalists have embarked upon a barking-mad effort to paint Corbyn and his allies in the Labour Party as “antisemites”. By which they mean opponents of the State of Israel.

Now anyone who knows anything about Jeremy Corbyn (which includes the people who are levelling the charge of antisemitism against him) cannot possibly believe that he is prejudiced against Jews simply because they are Jews. Corbyn’s quarrel is with the ideology of Zionism, and with the unjust and often downright murderous actions of the Israeli state: a stance he has maintained with admirable consistency for more than thirty years.

Clearly, the prospect of such a man being just one general election away from No. 10 Downing Street is of profound concern to right-wing Israeli politicians and supporters of Zionism all around the world. That such people are attempting to undermine Corbyn is perfectly understandable. But, the campaign being waged against him on the pages of The Guardian isn’t about Israel – or Jewish people. It’s about something else; something all the more unnerving for being unspoken. It’s about who is entitled to govern the UK and who is not.

Corbyn constitutes an existential threat to the UK’s governing elites, whose formerly vice-like grip on the nation’s political and cultural institutions has been seriously weakened by a bottom-up political insurgency from the left of UK politics for which the veteran left-wing MP has acted as a lightning-rod. They are calling Corbyn an antisemite because they can’t plausibly call him a paedophile and because they are not yet desperate enough to call for his assassination.

That’s why it all sounds so mad. Like the accusations which Stalin levelled against the old Bolsheviks in the Moscow show-trials of the 1930s. They are lies – obvious and terrible lies – but with the power of the apparatus behind them they risk acquiring the character of Truth. So we go on reading the articles in The Guardian: noting the rising pitch of hysteria between every line; and the world lurches sideways under our feet.

And then we look at Donald Trump’s America, and Corbyn’s woes fade – overwhelmed by the dazzling image of the planet’s most powerful nation spontaneously combusting.

It’s all about race, of course. The whole history of the United States has been about race. About being white, or, more accurately about not being red, black, yellow or brown. The history of the United States of America is a series of evermore urgent reiterations of a consistent ruling-class strategy of making sure that the consciousness of class oppression is forever being displaced by the awareness of racial privilege.

The election of Barack Obama was the trigger. A black man in the White House was the ultimate symbol of white decline. From that moment on, a majority of white Americans were seized by a racial distemper that rotted their brains and inflamed their spleens. Though Trump has yet to speak or tweet the words explicitly, “Making America Great Again” has the ring of a genocidal call-to-arms. What else could it be? When demographic trends threaten to submerge white Americans in a diverse, multicultural morass?

When Trump talks about “draining the swamp” the assumption has always been that he is talking about cleaning up Washington DC. But what if he means draining away or diverting the waters that are lapping at the feet of white Americans? What if he intends to leave white America high and dry by simply getting rid of all those forces that are threatening to swamp it?

This is the nightmare quality of current events. That, beyond the wafer-thin screens of normality, vast beasts go prowling in the dark. We can hear them barking and roaring: sometimes far away; sometimes frighteningly close. There’s a skittering of claws on marble floors. Eyes glowing green in the shadows. And, try as we may, we cannot wake up.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 30 August 2018.


Polly. said...

Stop the World.
I want to get off.
Has the World really been anything different?.

greywarbler said...

Can't argue with that summation Chris. It sounds close. I can use an amazing piece of mental architecture and read it and not run away screaming. I think it is a mixture of hope and Freudian stuff. I can concentrate on trying to identify the right term for my condition and that means that I do not have time to worry about the greater reality beyond my quest with self.

Ego (Ich): the "I," a rational, organized agency that distills gradually out of a passionate id that rubs up against reality. Emerging from an undifferentiated mass of sensations (chiefly those emanating from the surface of the body), formed by identifications and abandoned id cathexes, and strengthened by speech, which links auditory and visual memory traces with the conscious life, the ego strives to harmonize inner and outer, drives (which it keeps at bay mainly via repression, sublimation and anticathexes), inhibition, and reality. Unlike Jung's conception of ego, it is not entirely conscious, though it is the bearer of consciousness. Topographically, it extends down into the id.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's funny, if you listen to Trump's speech about draining the swamp, he distinctly says "the Goldman Sachs swamp". But funnily enough from conversations I've had online, many Trumpsters claim that he meant the "libbrul swamp." And of course he appointed a number of ex-Goldman Sachs people to his administration. Not sure if they're all still there, because I really can't be arsed keeping track of who gets fired or resigns or whatever but ....... anyway it just reinforces my position that conservative populists in particular, tend to get by on low information voters.

peteswriteplace said...

The system is under fire around the west - but NZ has made its change and how National will influence will be interesting. Corbyn's future is also very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Lorne Malvo: Because some roads you shouldn't go down. Because maps used to say, "There be dragons here." Now they don't. But that don't mean the dragons aren't there. (Cargo)

thesorrowandthepity said...

The "election of Barack Obama was the trigger"
You clearly don't understand the electoral college system. The "white Americans seized by a racial distemper" in the rust belt states who voted in Trump in 2016.... are the exact same "distempered" white Americans who voted Barack Hussein Obama into office in 2008...... & again in 2012.
Did these white Americans only notice his skin colour as he was leaving office 8 years later?!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Did these white Americans only notice his skin colour as he was leaving office 8 years later?!"
And yet.......... there is a distinct correlation between racism and voting for Trump. And yet .......Obama faced an incredible barrage of racism, particularly in his 2nd term, where he was found guilty of presidenting while black. And yet........ there was only a small proportion of Obama voters actually changed their minds and voted for Trump. Most of them stayed home.

Nick J said...

I love the idea that U.S. American history is all about being white, not so sure when you consider until the middle of last century most states in the north and west were pretty much white, plenty of class warfare was going on among those white people. Maybe it was always true of the old slave states that white privilege was primary.

It's all changed with today's demographics, so too it has in NZ. In Christchurch in the 60s we never saw anybody who wasn't pakeha, Maori we understood lived in the backblocks of the North island and were rare. The Chinese owned the green grocer, and Indians lived in India. Samoa didn't even exist in our world view, home was England and it was white.

So to the vast beasts crawling in the dark...yes there are large things afoot, all caused by the acceleration of human impact on resources. Oil and energy slaves it gives us literally feed us, and enable our mass transit and mass consumption. That in turn gives rise to monsters, global warming, species extinction, mass migration, pressure, pressure, pressure. And out of economic uncertainty and the desire to hold on to what we have more monsters appear. Sure Trump represents what some see as white privilege, seems to me more about an underclass turning to somebody who promised to reverse their downward spiral and protect them from beasts like job losses to China. It should be obvious to the Left that those who they should represent as core constituents prefer Trump to them; no wonder they hate him, he's taken their people. Of course they had reason.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It can't be an underclass responding to Trump's promises. Their average income is higher than those who voted for Hilary. What it is is older white people (earning more than young people) who see that their position of privilege is being slowly but steadily eroded. By people who they see as being unworthy, and hooked on "free stuff". Which is interesting considering how they hang onto their Medicare. But I guess that's what unworthy means to them. Unworthy of free stuff.

Phil Saxby said...

Not sure the world really has gone mad, and not even convinced by your arguments that madness reigns in the Australian Liberal Party nor in the USA.

Yes it was odd having Trump as the candidate, but at least it was not Ted Cruz. Even if Trump was clearly unfit to be President (and the Electoral College should have used its powers, for the first time in history, to stop that happening), Americans in general can hardly be accused of racism in falling for Trump: in fact, they voted by a huge majority for Hilary! Again, we can see that the Electoral College was the problem here.

All I will concede is that a peculiar madness does seem to have gained hold in Britain, where Jeremy Corbyn is deep in undeserved trouble. No racist himself, he has been made to appear tolerant of those whose virulent anti-Zionism verges on antisemitism. Corbyn's problem is that many of these anti-Zionists are his most fervent supporters within the UK Labour Party! He can hardly disavow them.

sumsuch said...

Brilliant picture at top -- I thought you were talking about climate change and the end of resources. This being 1939 extended over 15 years. Even Chamberlain knew he was preparing for war then. With Helen Clark saying there is only a 5% chance of us avoiding the climate tipping point. After which rapido end to everything. At the time I thought Thatcher was just playing with numbers, and pretty soon after the climate change argument convinced me, but nothing. Boil slowly.

A positive programme that avoids fighting the vile symptoms of (real or not) problems still has the ability to carry all before it. It's the way. FDR, Sanders, Corbyn. Sanders with a pulpit in 2016? The poor whites would have voted him in. But the plutocrats preferred Trump and authoritarianism. Never known to know anything but gadgets and widgits.

sumsuch said...

To contradict my last sentence about the US plutocrats, paying off the Whites to protect them would be logical if, as they surely do, they know apocalypse is upon them. They have the best brains working for them. It does seem from a distance they are as deluded as anyone else eg the Kochs. But one would hope it's not all nonsense in favour of their self-interest? A little straight rational self-interest would be perversely satisfying. However the strong have been wrong the last 40 years? Perhaps 'trust the Rich' is neither about our best interest nor their intelligence. But you would really hope they'd have the nous to look after their own scalps, and do the rest of us over, or try. Oh, now I get it, capitalism is short-termism -- 'pay later'. It's all just been a moment of undeferred gratification, for once. And I'll take it, being the descendant of English borderers for whom that was the only sort.

In that light, a more commanding demo-cratic government than we have ever known is needed. Bryan Gould must be available. But above all, a great talker for people and planet, when all the first Labour Govt could talk up a riot if necessary. '84 must be actively burnt to a cinder (realise Adern's comments about capitalism's failure). I suppose all those furies of intelligence and force have been bought off in this plump age before the fall (precipitous). Realise the force of this govt's charm offensive, but it's not enough by a long shot as you and Bradley have pointed out.