“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, April 23, 2005

wring the necks of the dying swans

The Washington Post published an almost perfect parody of the upper class voice in Mexico today. Rossana Fuentes Berain writes about Lopez Obrador as she would about an errant maid who had misplaced her best undies. Truly, this is undying dying prose:

“Where a Lopez Obrador presidency could really be a problem is in the matter of unfinished structural reforms -- in energy, labor and fiscal affairs. His political shortsightedness could stall long-overdue action in these areas, with unfortunate effects on Mexico's competitiveness with China and other countries.

"In a perfect world, this and Lopez Obrador's disregard for the law, as shown in the current case against him, would be enough for the electorate to reject him. In the real world, where there is deep discontent in many parts of the population, he must be regarded as a serious candidate. These are difficult times. We need to weather them and to keep our eyes on the main prize: a long-term North American compact.”

The “current case against him” is a PAN meme that will be kept upfront for the American audience, which is uninterested in, say, the work of the Mexican congress last week in granting immunity to a member who was accused of siphoning millions from PEMEX for the PRI electoral campaign, or the never dealt with accusations that Vincente Fox benefited from massive illegal contributions to his presidential run in 2000.

However, it is the utter contempt for the betail – you know, the campesinos and their stupid little hovels – that rings through these two sentences: “In a perfect world, this and Lopez Obrador's disregard for the law, as shown in the current case against him, would be enough for the electorate to reject him. In the real world, where there is deep discontent in many parts of the population, he must be regarded as a serious candidate.”

There is a world in those sentences. It was in that world that every counter-insurgency in the twentieth century in Latin American proceeded by slaughtering peasants. It is in that world that the rich in Venezuela, in the 1980s and 1990s, succeeded in looting a perfectly fine economy and nearly sinking it. In that world, Pinochet’s use of stadiums, while unfortunate, reflect the less than perfect world we live in. In that world, the ‘reforms’ of Menem in Argentina (the massive looting of public infrastructure by private investors) are necessary to ‘emerge’ into the first world – an emergence signaled by trips to LA and NYC, to Las Vegas and Washington D.C., for clothing, apartments, cars, yachts and such. In that world, Salinas’ economic “reforms” were long overdue, and the consequence of them was an unlucky accident. In that world, spending billions of public dollars to support the malfeasance of Mexican billionaires who looted their own banks is just good business. In that world, no questions should be asked about the provenance of the money that is used to buy the telephone company, or the cement plant, or the ranch. It comes from… well, somewhere. In that world, no need to worry about the fact that Mexico’s top businesses are now firmly in the hands of non-Mexican businesses. No need to worrry about the dinosaur tread of the PRI, coming to a border town near you. No need to worry about what the Fox regime seems to have been -- a clumsy interlude sponsored, towards the end, by the right wing of the PRI.


anonder said...

This is much better, ideas rather than the man.

Otherwise we are each in our cubicles, producing paperwork for no one, loveless solipsists and onanists and papermongers. That's a hard philosophy, man. And it is also, by the way, a more radically undermining critique of the ideology held by the present pope than any I can think of.

By itself, all intellectual effort is just word spinning. Only when the intellect is grounded in appeal to the primal desires of the soul (survival, food, sex) does intellectual word spinning have a purpose.

The grounding is normally not to the intellectual's personal desires, however--only the basest of intellectuals stoop that low. Rather, the intellectual seeks prestige--a spiritual desire--by offering his services on behalf of the primal desires--for survival, food, sex--of the other members of society.

The church would argue that it deserves prestige because conservative morality has served society well, in that conservative morality has led to the near total satisfaction of the primal desires for survival and food in the industrialized countries. These desires will also be fully satisfied in the Third World, once the Third World becomes more like the United States and Europe. I think the argument that conservative morality works is a very strong one, and you are wasting your time attacking it, at least by reference to the primal desires for survival and food.

Far better is to concentrate on the third of the three important primal desires--the desire for sex. By replacing conservative morality with something else--in the industrialized countries now, and in the Third world later--might it be possible to increase satisfaction of the desire for sex, while not significantly lessening satisfaction of the desires for survival and food? This is the place to ground yourself, in my opinion, in order to avoid pointless wordspinning and the intellectual equivalent of loveless solipsism and onanism. (Why did you pick those terms, anyway? and why the concern with Ratzinger's sex life?)

roger said...

hey anonder--

I have to disagree with you on a few things.

Ideas, or wordspinning, are embedded in the full meat of life and lives. Words are, after all, material things. When the man who heads the firing squad says fire, that word doesn't kill the prisoner -- but without the word, the prisoner isn't killed. The point is, words aren't outside of objects, and objects are what we are.

As for Catholic morality serving us well -- I also disagree. Sometimes it has done good things -- think of Las Casas -- and sometimes it has done some of the most terrible things in this century -- think of the concentration camp blessed by Archbishop Stepanic, who was helped by the Catholic church, at the end of WWII, to escape for complicity in killing almost 750,000 Serbs. There's no forgiveness for that, at least on my part. I keep the Catholic popes of the modern era in the same part of my heart that I keep Mao, Stalin and Hitler -- the cupids of genocide, murdering for the love of humanity.

However, you are right that onanism shouldn't be spit on -- I like it, too. I was using it, rather, as an example of a solitary act.

Your analysis of this site, which takes into account that it is four years old, is precisely right in seizing on that dimension. I think you too see that words are embedded in lives. I think you were throwing up a lack of success at me, as a sort of measure of the success of my analysis. That's not a bad measure. If I were a more successful man, I'd see other things, perhaps. Whether the vision precedes the lack of success, or the lack of success precedes the vision, I don't know. But to tell you the truth, that's my value as a writer -- to measure things from the dregs and the gutter. Or my equivalents. It somehow fills a gap.

Although, even if it didn't ... I will be scribbling posts for this site when I'm in my coffin -- it is a puzzling mania. Who knows why I do it?

anonder said...

Of course the world is full of atrocities, always has been and always will be. So what?

The religious right seems to clearly understand that politics and economics is not that important anymore. The democratic capitalist welfare state has shown itself to be the most effective political/economic organization for making a state militarily powerful, and for allowing the rich to create long-lasting family dynasties, and for otherwise serving the interests of the powers that be. It is thus inevitable that the entire world will eventually embrace democracy and the capitalist welfare state, though the exact details remain to be worked out.

If politics and economics is no longer important, then that leaves sexual values as the great issue of today. Ratzinger and the Catholic Church, which is where this discussion between you and me began, understand this perfectly.

As I understand, the right wing view is that sexual liberation will rock the foundations of society and ultimately bring back the great evils of hunger and war. Therefore, traditional morality must be preserved. The left, meanwhile, seems to have no coherent philosophy on this subject.

I suppose wanting you to change the subject of your blog to values rather than poltics/economics is none of my business. But on the other hand, I think this change would serve us both, by giving me something more interesting to read and you something more interesting to write about. You obviously have a tremendous amount of ambition and energy, which is why I even bother commenting. It's seems sad to let this ambition and energy go to waste.

Sexual morality not a completely unexplored subject. Freud and Foucault, for example, both wrote about it. But I don't think they or anyone else has made much progress. They certainly haven't explained to my satisfaction why homosexuality, divorce, birth control, pornography are more tolerated today than a hundred years ago. One possibility is that modern techology has somehow changed things, such that the interests of the powers that be are better served by sexual liberation nowadays than by sexual repression. Allowing women into the workforce, for example, allows the workforce to be rapidly doubled. The desire to impress co-workers of the opposite sex may be a way to motivate workers, especially the brain-workers who are the true source of a modern society's wealth and military power. Perhaps the right-wing opposition to sexual liberation is merely a matter of lack of vision. Speaking of vision, I'm also very curious as to what the society of tomorrow will look like. I doubt the significant changes will be in political/economic organization. More likely, the major changes will be regarding sexual morality. You want to achieve vision? This is where to concentrate your efforts.