Thursday, September 07, 2017

Still, by Adam Thorpe (an excerpt)

The point is, guv, Mr and Mrs Trevelyan APPROVED of what Mr Trevelyan’s second cousin once removed did to his boy, who was called Ashley. Agatha remembers them approving. When the subject pops up now and again, as it does, not even a hairline crack has appeared in the huge windowless wall of their APPROVAL. Actually, this wall is a dam. It’s keeping out what’d sweep everything away in a tide of moral filth and squalor. This APPROVAL appals Agatha. She’s eighteen, just. There’s a big gap between her and her parents. She’s not Victorian but Edwardian OK Georgian. Her cognisant life has been spent out of the shadow of that miserable old tent. It’s made a difference. Her heroine is Sylvia Pankhurst. She’s hung around at the back of two demonstrations for Women’s Suffrage in Hyde Park. She’s seen a woman dig her elbow in a policeman’s stomach. Her friend Amy tells her that there are secret classes in hand-to-hand combat and How To Disable A Policeman. Zelda wouldn’t believe me when I told her this. I said these suffrage women make Germaine Greer look like a kitchen sink. Zelda has this idea that everyone before 1968 were parents, they just spent all their time yelling up the stairs about the noise and collecting Tupperware and getting their hair done. I said 1968 was a wash-out, it was a fake, it was a student vacation in the woods where the camp-fire and the brown acid does weird things for an evening or two. She thinks I’m hung up about ’68 because I was too old for it. You were too young for it, I tell her, you were too young for it. Anyway, 1968 is completely outrun by what’s happening around Agatha. These people are inventing things like Cubism and Old Age Pensions and Militant Feminism and National Insurance and the Modernist Novel. It’s really incredible what’s going on behind these gigs and omnibuses and Model T Fords and mahogany doors with brass knockers and ridiculous clothes that swish and hats that fall off in a wind, they’re so tall, so broad. It’s really incredible. Blimey, think where it could have got to. But the contraption is on the move. Sir Philistine Fascist is shaking his Spectator in the Criterion. He’s plotting how to quell the natives. Break their spirit. Give them baubles. Kill ’em in large numbers. Ho yes, Sir Philistine won’t be that easily taken. Wha’dya think of it, Trevelyan? Ha? Arthur Trevelyan peeps out briefly from behind his Times. His knee is being attacked by the Spectator. Trevelyan is having a hard time just at this moment. I won’t go into details but it’s to do with Izal cornering the market in anti-typhoid measures in India. Trevelyan Disinfectants has sat back on its buckets and is paying the price. Izal have made huge inroads in London hospitals. Izal Disinfectants & Antiseptics are cheaper. Trevelyan had pinned his recovery on the enormous requirements of the sub-continent, the teeming filth and flies, the mass swab that the Empire demanded and which he was absolutely primed to provide. But Izal is 2d cheaper per bucket. He doesn’t like Sir Philistine Fascist banging his knee with the Spectator. It’s vulgar, apart from anything else. But Sir Philistine is a knight, he has connections, he has the ear of Bonar Law. Quite so, quite so, says Mr Trevelyan. My wife is a nervous case, for instance. They are all nervous cases. Society is rapidly becoming a nervous case. I suggest the medieval instrument whereby the scold was silenced. It fitted around the mouth and was locked with a key. I shall take out a patent and go into immediate production if you provide the investment, Sir Philistine. Sir Philistine roars his approval, turning heads. It’s good for these heads, they need the exercise, most of them have been asleep under their newspapers and illustrated periodicals for about forty years. I’ll tell ya what, Trevelyan, growls Sir Philistine, I’ll back ya to the hilt as long as it’s not the other damn opening you’re plugging up, what? He roars again. Trevelyan nods politely and disappears back into the obituaries. Terrible to say, but Sir Philistine’s vulgar quip has stirred Mr Trevelyan into a mild sexual need. An antique orgy is briefly squeaked down in front of the day’s dead, hiding the bishops and judges and generals and stuff. He closes his eyes and lets it play itself out. One of the participants is Ruthie. Ruthie does not fit in with the general picture, which is kind of eighteenth-century classical-pastoral. She giggles too much and says gerrofwivyer and her unlaced flopping corset is out of place amongst the gossamery Psyches with their fat thighs and tumbling hair under the ilex. He must see Ruthie. He must fit her in before dinner. He stirs and studies his fob with a frown. Apart from the fact that the guy has a wing collar and mutton-chop whiskers and an antique suit it might be now, it might be one of those City pinstripes with veined cheeks checking his Rolex in between meetings that keep the free market free and the world in jail. Sir Philistine Fascist is snoring. He always does this, it’s embarrassing, he dribbles some sort of coppery stuff. Trevelyan’s mouth goes up at one corner, shoving his whiskers around. He’s anticipating, he’s anticipating. Saliva gathers in his throat. He swallows it down along with some sweet smoke and a taste of antique sherry. He hasn’t been smoking, he hasn’t been drinking, it’s just the air, the air is expensive in here, it’s exclusive to the club and it’s been built up over about a century to this very collectable miasma. He settles back and closes his eyes. He has pouches under his eyes. He’s only forty-five but he has pouches. He likes to close his eyes sometimes and listen to the baize doors thumping away off and the brash and vulgar world tiptoeing past on its muffled hooves like a memory but Sir Philistine’s snore is really bad today and Trevelyan clears his throat loudly which always helps. Sir Philistine grunts and twitches his nose like a fly’s landed on it and then he lets off. It’s foul, it really is, there’s something very rotten inside Sir Philistine’s guts, my great-great-grandfather closes down the hatches of his nose and breathes through his mouth. The fellow knows Bonar Law. Bonar Law might form the next government. Members are always pooping. You can’t bar a fellow for letting orf. You can only bar a fellow for not wearing a tie. That’s the worst thing, that’s criminal. The second worst thing is to expire under a newspaper so no one notices. Sometimes no one notices until decomposition sets in. When it is eventually noticed there’s a lot of whispering and flunkeys bobbing about and then suddenly the chair is empty. Then this guy comes in and swabs it discreetly because there’s often some sort of evacuation and even if there isn’t it’s a symbolic gesture, it’s a reassurance, it means you can sit in it as soon as the smell of disinfectant has evaporated and the leather’s dry but no one does for about a week, just in case. Mr Trevelyan likes members to expire on site because he can smell his product. It’s always Trevelyan’s. The reason it’s always Trevelyan’s is because he’s done a cut-price deal with the club. The day they use Izal he’ll resign and probably go shoot himself. So he keeps this deal up, even though it hurts. Especially when times are lean. And they are increasingly lean. His eyelid tic is due to this leanness. It tics away uncontrollably in meetings and just before he goes to sleep. I’m leaving him in the chair because Agatha and William are having an interesting conversation in the attic about ten streets away and I don’t want to miss it. Notice how I’m really concentrating and not thinking about Zelda and HIG too much. This is because I’ve had a break. I’ve been off set for about a month. The Mussolinis, anyway, were wondering why I was spending so much time in the library. They don’t like the idea of their employees spending too much time in the library. It means they might he spending HCDVA time on research, instead of their own personal time, like after midnight or just before dawn. So they gave me three extra classes and five hundred essays to mark. It was really about fifty essays but the students can rewrite, it’s a divine right, it’s liberal and progressive and so they take all your comments and the notes they took down when they wasted an hour of your life asking you why you gave their work of incisive genius a lousy grade and they hang ’em together and come back and you give them a slightly less lousy grade and encourage the use of the comma and the full stop and even the semicolon from time to time and the whole process repeats itself. Meanwhile Zelda was seeing Hair In the Gate. I got very depressed. I took my phone off the hook because these dumbo students kept shouting down it. Now they’ve all got straight As because I’m a great essay-writer, I know my stuff, there’s nothing I do not know about stuff like the impact of the moving image on social discourses and the impact of social discourses on the moving image – it’s all in here, tap tap, and I can’t blow the Hair Out of the Gate. So I’m concentrating. Zelda says hey, it’s platonic. I say I never believed that stuff about Plato. So I’m concentrating and not in the HCDVA library. I’m in my study, I’m busking a bit part in The Life and Times of St Jerome. We go out once in a while, my sweetheart and I. To the zoo, last week. It has great colobus, they like doughnuts, they keep looking around like neurotics who’ve just realised why they’ve lost. I could watch them for hours. Zelda prefers the cheetah. I can’t stand the cheetah. I can’t stand watching the fastest animal in the world searching for somewhere to get the acceleration up and not finding it, not ever finding it. I’m patient. One day I will tell him to lay his hands off. Not yet, not yet.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Wicker men

On Facebook, John Steppling shared Hiroyuki Hamada's post: August 31 at 7:09am [UTC] · A nice summation of all that is wrong with Hedges reactionary and historically distorted piece.

Hiroyuki Hamada: August 29 at 6:37pm · As a general rule we should all remember that the empire always wins when people chant "all violence must stop". That is how the scope and depth of imperialism, firmly guided by the wealth and power accumulation, manifests itself. And when there is a call for unity among the oppressed from such a perspective, we should regard it as a call to accept the wasting hierarchy of money and violence. That's basically what people like Chris Hedges do.

Here is a rather comprehensive analysis of Hedges' latest problematic essay.

What's Wrong with Chris Hedges view that ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right’

John Steppling: September 2 at 2:37pm · amazing that historical revisionism of the worst sort is seen as weak critique. But i give up. And as authoritiarinism....uh....anti fa may be half informants at this point, and agent provocateurs...but authoritarian? Ok...im out. This is tedious beyond endurance. Hedges is a tool of Imperialism. Margaretk Kimberley was right, Bruce Dixon was right, phil and I are right, and Hiroyuki. Id think with that, just for openers, as a list of voices against hedges that people like Jonathan here would pause. Think a bit. And as the thought experiement goes. Of course there is a difference. Look...conflating fascism and anti fascism is the ploy of the state. Its working apparently. But im done with this topic. I swear. Out.

Olaf Errwigge: The problem is not "conflating" – the problem is who is actually fascist and who anti-fascist. The Weekend Wehrmacht wallows in the symbols of historical fascism but stand against the corporatist imperialist state. The Pink Putsch adopt the symbols of historical civil rights struggles but shut down demonstrations, suppress speech.

Lex Steppling: No hahah, that's not the problem in this case. In this case the fascist and the anti fascist are pretty clearly articulated. The other conflation happening, oddly, is that of antifa with liberalism.

Jonathan Berhow: Hiroyuki I respect and causes me to pause, which is why I read this and commented. I was hoping for a hard but fair, incisive critique of Hedges. This article wasn't it. It was more concerned with confirmation bias than analysis.

The authoritarianism to which I was referring was of the ideological, tribalist variety, not the kind that simply defers to a hetman.

Of course there is a difference, and I recognized it. But there are also significant similarities. To suggest a total, black and white difference is simplistic--at least in that it does not recognize the point on the political spectrum where left-right converge over issues of control over their group (and here is one aspect of authoritarianism) and over The Other. But insisting on a total difference does serve a purpose in regard to identity.

Is "conflating fascism and anti fascism" more or less "the ploy of the state" than instigating those with similar socioeconomic status to fight against one another instead of against those above them with serious power and money?

But here is the point of clarity: I'm not interested in being right, but in understanding this issue. Being right is a horse of a different color. And if that is what is most valuable to you, then we are not communicating and any analysis is irrelevant except to signify rightness and identity.

Olaf Errwigge: Lex Steppling — The conflation of antifa and liberalism would certainly be fair as all who don't daily express a hatred of Trump are conflated with white supremacists. (Hedges' main error is the latter conflation.)

Lex Steppling: Olaf, all you ever do is offer strawmen. You are creating composites of the people you don't like, and basing your arguments on them. As for being a Trump apologist, if you are, then yeah, fuck you, but then don't assume I have other political position...See More

Olaf Errwigge: You have just illustrated exactly what I described.

Lex Steppling: I have yet to see you actually say something. You want a safe space to be wrong, or turn the other cheek at state terror, then yeah, you wont find it with me. I'm engaged in this conversation because it's important, but you have literally not said anything of any substance.

Olaf Errwigge: State terror is real. Shutting down undesired political speech is part of it. Only one side is doing that, and it's not the "Trump apologists".

Lex Steppling: Are you more bothered by white nationalist murdering people in the street, or campus activists shutting down speeches by alt right figures? I'm genuinely asking. And yes, the right could give a fuck about free speech, they are concerned with one, and that's the their own race based ideology.

Olaf Errwigge: See, you're using one death in Charlottesville to condemn the entire "right". And you accuse me of straw man argument.

[Regarding Hedges’ column, Olaf Errwigge: August 28 at 5:06pm · If Hedges wants to slander the alt-right as having a lust for violence behind it, then he should similarly not limit his mirror to antifa but extend it to all of pseudoleftist enablers of the Democratic party. There are hateful thugs on both sides, driven by their respective sense of righteousness. But driving today's violence is the "liberal" side, that has dismissed half the country as irredeemable deplorables and thus "rationalizes" a purge, not just from public discourse and commerce but even physically. Like the Ukrainian coup and the Egyptian counter-revolution coup, it's violence in the name of making one lifestyle the only lifestyle, one way of thinking the only way. Populism is the enemy of liberalism, and so the latter has diverted the issue into this meaningless – though highly destructive – culture war. The mirror of Antifa is not the populist alt-right, but the reactionary Daesh.]

[John Steppling: August 31 at 6:11pm · Wow. Just wow.]

[[[[ | ]]]]

They kept going on … John Steppling: September 1 at 4:51am · when I criticized hedges I ended up having to block several people. I was stunned. It is political immaturity. But its more. I had someone on my thread yesterday refer to the rise of national socialism and the "communist inquisition". So the propaganda and revisionism runs very deep. As does indoctrination.

Chris Hedges is a Public Menace
Olaf Errwigge: It was in 1978 that the Supreme Court agreed with the ACLU that however much one felt "attacked" by seeing a swastika, it is a symbolic form of free speech entitled to First Amendment protections and itself did not constitute "fighting words." But of course, now Trump is President, and the steady march of neoliberal corporatism and neoconservative imperialism since 1980 is suddenly a concern. Or is it the alt-right's opposition to it that people really can't deal with? Throwing the racist baby out with the populist bathwater.

Lex Steppling: It would be a lot easier for you if you were actually arguing with this imaginary person who believes we should do away with the first amendment and attack anyone with a differing viewpoint with sticks and shovels. You are debating points that nobody here has made. If you don't like people showing up in the streets and fighting each other, then go ahead and deem it distasteful, but enough with the red hearings and composite opposition.

Olaf ErrwiggeL From the posted article: ‘The self deputizing, vigilante, already quasi-death squads must be confronted. They must be forced to crawl back to their basements and hotel rooms. The threat is real, so must the resistance be. If we are to transform society more work than this need be done. If we are to prevent self deputizing death squads from roaming the street they must fear public gathering.’

In other words, public gatherings of people imagined to be "self-deputizing death squads" must be prevented, ie, the first amendment does not apply and violence is justified.

Lex Steppling: The last time they assembled, they murdered people.

Olaf Errwigge: One person murdered one person. Destroy the village, right?

Lex Steppling: You officially disgust me, and I'm happy I don't know you. Your a disgusting piece of shit. And the law doesn't protect murder, let alone assault, so you aren't even making sense other than to seem really committed to the notion that punching a Nazi is worse than letting one kill you or your loved ones. I'm pretty astounded. Your the type of person who would hide under a table while someone got the shit kicked out of them or worse by a group of people. Cowardly scummy old fuck.

Lex Steppling: John Steppling — this is the element youve apparently attracted. Fuck me im repulsed.

Paula Densnow: Collective punishment is illegal under international law. Why does that repulse you?

Olaf Errwigge: Stand your ground, now. Don't you see how much you sound just like what you purport to be against?

Olaf Errwigge: No, the law doesn't protect murder or assault – so why are you advocating it against an scourge that is only imagined?

Lex Steppling: You are both clearly armchair cowards. You don't know shit about international law obviously, and even if that was the case no one is calling for purges, this is literally about people showing up for brawls. But it obviously doesn't matter, your more concerned about a nazis face than you are the lives of the people they keep attaching and will co tongue to atrack, and have attacked and killed for years.

Olaf Errwigge: See, you're still at it: First, you call them all nazis, and second, you imagine they "keep attacking and will continue to attack and have attacked and killed for years". That is exactly the language of "self-deputizing vigilante quasi–death squads".

Lex Steppling: I'm not advocating it. But you don't like to actually read what people or saying or pay attention to the argument. And they are violent and are intent on making that clear by doing things like killing people. So I'm not sure what your committed to believing at this point

Olaf Errwigge: You charged me with being "committed to the notion that punching a Nazi is worse than letting one kill you or your loved ones", which is based on nothing I've written. Therefore, one must assume that you imagine Nazis as an active threat and advocate punching them to prevent it. To not see them as an active threat and therefore to not advocate shutting them down violently or otherwise is to be "cowardly", one gathers.

Lex Steppling: I did charge you with the former, cause that's what you said. As for the latter, that's more the imagined debate you keep participating in. Nazis are a threat to people's safety as they keep proving, whether a threat to the state or not, is a whole other question. But they have been shooting into crowds and bombing buildings and lynching people and moving people down with cars for years. So yeah, when they are around to see them as a threat is rational. And yes, on believe you to be a coward.

Olaf Errwigge: Please show me where I said it.

Lex Steppling: Every time to try to diminish their violence or pretend it's just a free speech issue while simultaneously condemning those who brawl with them in the streets you are doing just that

Olaf Errwigge: Lex Steppling — That is your view, not mine, because you are doing the opposite: exaggerating their violence and threat and relishing violently shutting them down.

John Steppling: ok...Olaf you are only trying to create red herrings in order to keep arguing. I have found you a fatuous troll in the past and now Im seeing it again. What exactly is it you believe? That somehow nazis are not a threat to anyone? They are and people, communities have the right to defend themselves. A bit like palestinians do, or any black american does. Or native american. The panthers obviously realized that. I never *avocate* violence. But creeps like Hedges, a guy who still parrots the new york times on all matters of foreign policy, are equating fascists and klansmen with black box and antifa. That is because hedges is anti leftist. If your political immaturity is such that you cant grasp that, then just go away. You are a fucking waste of everyone's time and Ive indulged many of you people for several days. You are trolls. I dont know you and know nobody who knows you. So explain who you are and what you believe or just go the fuck away.

Olaf Errwigge: John Steppling — I have myself criticized Hedges, about whom I generally agree with you. But in this case, I have criticized him because he makes the same error you do: exaggerating the violence and threat of public demonstrations by Trump supporters because of the symbolism of one very small faction. He does it to equate antifa with them. You do it to justify violence against them. That is all I have been saying, and it is you and Lex, unable to grasp that simple argument, who have been trolling me.

John Steppling: olaf....how do you know someone's psychology? Relishing? How do you know that? That sort of assumption is idiotic. If you think their violence is exaggerated. Fine. I dont think it is all that huge either, in comparison with the police in america. But ideologically they are identical. Prison guards, cops, KKK, the promise keepers...that sort of religious right...all of them are fascistic. Hyper nationalist, racist, and xenophobic. Also militaristic. It is my experience that when the police are NOT on your side, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain a pacifist.

Olaf Errwigge: John Steppling — Exactly. But all we've seen are massive actions to shut down tiny political rallies.

John Steppling: no, but you miss the point that the police are acting on behalf of the white klansmen etc. It may or may not be, often, political theatre. But there are obviously deeply entrenched racist structures of state and bureaucracy in the US, The prison system is one. These guys do initiate violence. I dont fear them directly, but im not there. Ask cornell west. So....if you are poor and black in the US, then those numbers are relative because you live in a system that reflects THOSE guys beliefs and not your own.

John Steppling: or vice versa. Those white racists are part of a structural system of of white supremacism. And it is deeply entrenched in the US. Im not sure europeans can fully grasp that. It is a daily reality for black people in the US. And cops are one with those white racists. Absolutely aligned with them. And so...talk of non violence is fine until you realize that it is non stop violence against black people and communities in the US. 24 hours a day.

Olaf Errwigge: It is nonstop violence against /all/ people and communities in the US. Racism thrives in that environment. But the issue at hand is the exaggerated (and misplaced) response to tiny political rallies in support of Trump.

Lex Steppling: ^"all lives matter lol

Olaf you are a troll whether you realize it or not. White nationalists showed up to blm rallies and ok one occasion shy 5 people there. They showed up to standing rock and pulled guns on people. They show up to immigrants rights rallies and once plowed a car into it. They did the same at a transgender march. Every progressive change ever made in this country has come from direct action, and in every case they have shown up and killed and named. I've made this point countless time and you choose to ignore it. They are a threat to the personally safety of people like me and many I know, and have. Even proving it for generations, and at the moment they feel particularly empowered. So if you choose to stubbornly continue to claim that they aren't a threat, or to call the violence exaggerated, then do it somewhere else. Cause right now you sound like and old racist piece of shit, and my guess is that you've never been out in the streets for anyone. My assumption is now that you have no idea what any of this looks like. its ok not to know, but it's not ok to keep talking when you don't.

Olaf Errwigge: Again, I agree, but the actual villains are not the ones being attacked. That only adds to the problem.
Perusing Hr. Errwigge’s Facebook page, one finds this (among much else of interest):
August 25 at 6:30pm · Fact check: "There are no nice Nazis." The fallacy in that statement lies in the unproven assumption that the people referred to are in fact "Nazis". They may in fact be "nice" people (at least no less so than others) who are being slandered as such.

It's a lazy trope. You can't say "There are no nice Democrats" or "no nice Sanders or Stein voters" or "no nice Republicans" or even "no nice Trump voters" (although the latter are very common memes in some circles (whose members no doubt consider themselves to be "nice")), so call them Nazis and you can.
And a comment he added:
This actually began during the election campaign, when people tried to block Trump's events. At the Democratic nominating convention, the crowds on cue shut down dissenting messages from Sanders supporters. It continued to the inauguration, when people tried to block access there, too. Yesterday a "Patriot Prayer" event in San Francisco was cancelled in the face of thousands of people ready to block it as "Hate". Today a "No to Marxism in America" event in Berkeley was cancelled for similar reasons, but some Trump supporters gathered and were met by more people calling them racist, white supremacist, KKK, and Nazi.
A later post: “As always, battles between the haves are fought by the have-nots.”

Update:  Hr. Errwigge has informed your editor that John Steppling "unfriended" him at some point after the above discussion.