A new model for the left?


(Marco V Morelli) #1

New thoughts from Slavoj Žižek.

He says state communism is dead; social democracies are obsolete; and local democracy movements remain incapable of addressing large-scale imbalances.

So, even if a progressive movement were to overthrow an existing neoliberal order, what would it put in its place? What large-scale models for structural transformation are available?

Do we have something other than planetary dystopia to look forward to?


Being Honest About Venezuela (via Jacobin Magazine)
Cosmos Café: A Radical Conversation with Terry Patten, author of A New Republic of the Heart [5/15]
How Do We Decide? The Ontology of Self-Governance [CCafe 7/24]
(Ed Mahood) #2

When Zizek speaks, we should at least take the time to listen, even if we don’t always agree. He’s a provocative thinker, to be sure, and we need to take his thinking seriously, even if he’s caught himself up in his own acknowledged entanglements. What is most endearing about him is he knows he’s butting his head against a wall that he’d be thankful for having a hand help him get over.

A model? Even a new model of the left? I hear what he’s saying, but is this really what he means? And, more importantly, is this really what we need? Models are, in Gebserian terms, clearly mental-rational structures: in fact, you can’t get much more rational than that. Left-right? A purely spatial distinction, and certainly not integral. Do we really believe that spatial notionality is going to resolve the pressing problems we’re being overwhelmed with. I don’t think so either, so let’s take another tack.

Recently, I read an essay that I could have – and should have – read 40 years ago: Dwight Macdonald’s The Root is Man. Though written three year prior to Gebser’s The Ever-present Origin, this is the most clearly articulated statement of political integrality that I have seen thus far.

In Part 1 of his essay, Macdonald shows how the terms “left” and “right” have been superseded. He points out that the “Left” was made up of those “who favored a change in social institutions which would make the distribution of income more equal” [p20]. As Macdonald phrases it, “Society was therefore conceived as a means to an end: the happiness of the individual” [p20]. The “Right” were those “who those who were either satisfied with the status quo (conservatives) or wanted it to become even more inegalitarian (reactionaries)” [p20], for which they argued in the name of both Authority and Tradition. Hearking back to Marx, of course, he makes clear that “The whole idea of historical progress, which a century ago, had been the badge of the Left, has become the most persuasive appeal of the apologists for the status quo [p20].”

In other words, both the Left and the Right had co-opted the Enlightenment’s notion of “progress” (everything is teleologically moving toward a “better”) , and in this regard were no different from one another. The goal was clear, only the means were in dispute. In this regard, not a lot has changed in the past 150 years. There are those who would argue that the populists of left and right are at odds, but I see them as arguing the same points: the ends are clear; only the means differ. And this, to my mind, is the real revelation of the last US presidential election, and it explains why, at bottom, there isn’t (and hasn’t been for a long time) a dime’s bit of difference between Republicans and Democrats (but that’s a different discussion altogether).

What we find is that Progressives are those “who see the Present as an episode on the road to a better Future” [p21]. They think more in terms of historical process than anything else. Zizek recognizes this, but, in my estimation, doesn’t quite know how to interpret it. He is searching for a way to describe a political difference which, quite honestly, doesn’t really exist. The distinction is not between left and right, it is between “progressives” (which almost everyone is today) and “radicals” (which for, I believe, obvious reasons, Zizek doesn’t want to express). In Macdonald’s terms, a “radical” is one who “reject[s] the concept of Progress, who judges things by their present meaning and effect”; that is, those who emphasize the “ethical aspect of politics” [p21], which is where I see Zizek coming from. Stated otherwise, “The Progressive makes History the center of his ideology. The Radical puts Man there.” [p21]

Zizek is right in pointing out that the “model of Capitalism has reached its limits”. Unfortunately, his advocating a “reinvention of large-scale organizations” is not going to achieve his desired effects. His plea for a “healthy mistrust of [the] will of the majority” is well-placed (though I hasten to add that this “majority” is a vocal one, not the silent one), but he’s still missing an important point, namely just because some express their opinion in assumed socially accepted ways, this by no means implies that the majority has spoken.

The Brexit vote turned out as it did because of how we count, not because it was any “majority’s” will. What we saw was a reaction to a situation which was manipulated by various publicly stated opinions, and more people did not vote for leaving than did (add together those who didn’t vote with those who voted “no”). The recent US election, similarly, was an expression of a reaction to various publicly stated opinions, but it was not a statement of the will of anyone, really, let alone the “majority”. Almost more people didn’t vote for either candidate than those who did, but their votes were not counted because we tacitly assume that silence is consent. Taking Zizek literally, we have to ask ourselves who is really expressing their will at all. Of those who voted (or were allowed to vote) less than half chose Clinton (Progressive D) rather than Trump (Progressive R), and the system, which was designed to preclude the “majority” to decide, allowed Trump to win.

But Zizek’s criticism doesn’t apply in this case because he’s talking about counted majorities, not (as in the US is the case) real ones. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly clear that the opposite is the case: more people don’t want something than do, but we only have models that allow us to count those who actively express themselves (in some politically acceptable way). We simply ignore the rest, and this calls the notion of “majorities”, as Zizek uses the term, starkly into question.

We have, for all intents and purposes, left the realm of quantitative majorities and have entered the realm of qualitative ones. What both Zizek, I believe, and Macdonald want is a qualitative assessment of “will”. Values matter, not just the number of ballots or responses to a poll or what-have-you. At the moment, all we do is count. What Macdonald expresses demands, and what I hear Zizek calling for, is “counting what matters”, and it is here that we, the literati, the poets, the “creatives” are called upon. The “solutions”, the “best responses”, the “calls to action” are not to be found in political discourse, for as Zizek himself exemplifies, the notion of values cannot be discussed, debated and determined in a mere political context. It is here – especially when we are speaking in written terms – that literature, in its truest sense, is called upon to respond. It doesn’t matter what is politically “left” or “right”, what matters is what is “good”, “proper”, and “wise”. He notes:

The crisis of our times is a crisis of values, but not that none exist, but rather that there is no way to determine which are ours.

Macdonald has no qualms about determining where these values may be found: they are to be found in literature, they are the purview of the poet. Whereas Zizek is still captured in his own mental-rational snare, Macdonald has found allies elsewhere:

What then, in all seriousness, does one learn about wisdom and virtue from the poet? The answer is simple. One learns that they exist. […] Nothing can be made to seem good or bad merely by doing it, only by contemplating it. And literature is concerned, not with doing things, but with contemplating things that have been done. […]
[He then adds:] In any event, the world of humanities is simply that vision of the world in which the question of values is assumed to be the most important question of all. Anyone who has ever read much literature has almost inevitably formed the habit of making that fundamental assumption. And if he has not ‘got anywhere’, he has at least stayed somewhere that is very important that man should stay. In fact, it is the only place he can stay and remain Man." (Joseph wood Krutch: “Thinking Makes It So”, The Nation, Aug. 3, 1949)

There is obviously much to do, but we must also be careful that we don’t look for shortcuts that aren’t. Zizek has a good number of meaningful impulses that we need to contemplate, to be sure, but in my mind he hasn’t yet made the next necessary step: we don’t need new models, we need to revive values and when we do, the actions to be taken will become clear. A Gebserian take on Zizek’s commentary can go a long way in helping us find a way toward an integral future.


(John Dockus) #3

Quite a character Zizek is. I never really listened to him before, but I watched this clip of him. He has a curiously compelling jerky, emphatic manner, earthy robust, reminiscent of a lumberjack, having about him something slightly comic because of the kind of container his obvious intelligence dwells in. It’s like listening to an opera by Wagner, or a piece by Mozart or Bach, on a radio blasting, reverberating in the body and coming out through the bunghole of large vintage beer barrel. I think that disjunction works to his advantage, and is actually what has propelled him into popular culture, gathering him a following. He undermines how one usually envisions a philosopher. One lets one’s guard down and is surprised he knows his stuff. I wonder what other philosophers, more professional or academic, whisper behind his back. Probably some nasty things, laced with jealousy and envy because of his fame. Up close and personal while Zizek speaks, one might need to pull a visor over one’s face to protect oneself from the flecks of spit. The sight of him also makes my neck itch. I tried to grow a beard once, and I couldn’t stand it. I’ve sort of tuned Zizek out or not listened closely to him before because postmodern intellectual jargoneering can be so scattershot, the good impulses and valid points buried in a heap of conceptual nonsense, such a mixed bag. I’m not always up to the task of sorting out.

The Left now is a phantom limb in the body politic. One could close one’s eyes and dream, speaking beautifully of what might be done with it, but once one goes to grab something, one comes up empty.

Ed Mahood, sir, I really enjoyed reading your lucid analysis here. The silence around such writing is not to be taken as indifference but is thought itself cooled in a fresh fallen snow of contemplation.


(Ed Mahood) #4

There is no doubt that Žižek is onto something, even if I don’t happen to think that he’s thought through the problem enough. He’s kick-started thought processes … sometimes that’s the best that any of us can hope for. It is also not necessary that everyone has thought everything through; it is more important, I believe, that people who are thinking are also interacting and discussing and thinking some more, and, if things go really well, that they’ll also start acting on those thoughts.

And, we’ve got more than enough to think about, that’s for sure. Even here, so far, we’ve only given Žižek some thought, and I’ve tried to bring in a few additional ideas, but what hasn’t let me alone the past couple of days is the fact that none of what has been said really even begins to answer the three much more intense questions that Marco (@madrush) posed:

So, even if a progressive movement were to overthrow an existing neoliberal order, what would it put in its place? What large-scale models for structural transformation are available?

Do we have something other than planetary dystopia to look forward to?

and which I would spontaneously answer with “Nothing. None. Yes.” though I do feel a bit of explanation may be necessary. But, since I don’t have one ready to hand, allow me to simply do some thinking out loud in the direction of that explanation instead …

Nothing

I like to think that most of you would agree that a large number, if not the majority, of our well-established and, at times even, cherished institutions are dysfunctional. The “planetary dystopia” has to start somewhere, and most of the institution we’re all thinking about just don’t work well, if at all, anymore. But, why do we think that they have to be replaced? If I were to take a narrow view of what is being asked, it seems to assume that replacement is possible. Those institutions that form the core of our current conception of how we (need to) live were instituted and developed and matured within a regimen of thinking that also doesn’t work anymore. We can call it Enlightenment Thinking, or we can go with one of the more intensive consciousness thinkers – like Gebser (with whom I’m most familiar, so I’ll simply stick with him for my own simplicity’s sake) – and say, perhaps, the Mental/Rational structure of consciousness. This mode of consciousness is all about models, and it was at this point that my own critique of Žižek took hold. I do believe that the efficient forms of each structure must provide us with something of value to take along when we transition to follow-on consciousness modes, but I don’t believe for a moment that having traversed the not-yet-completed, and hazardous, perhaps annihilative, rational structure that we can somehow “regress” or return to more halcyon days. If we’re going to go integral … and there’s been a lot of thinking and talking about that on these pages over the past year, to be sure … we need to start superseding models, even if we haven’t the slightest idea (yet) what the world beyond them looks like or what the development of such a world might entail. Though it was long thought to be so, our social-economic-political reality is not a machine in which defective components can simply be swapped out. I have the strong intuition that the time has come to let this thinking go. The big institutions were developed when needed, but they have served their purpose. They have played their part, but they are not suited for what needs come. We need to let go. What we know as the neoliberal order has turned out to be a fiction, and we can’t “replace” it with anything other than another fiction. If I were an alchemist, I would say that, if anything, what we need to do is transmute them, if such is even possible.

None

Along the same lines, I see the second question as a corollary to the first. If we don’t think that models are all that appropriate (which is what I’m thinking at the moment – and it could be that I’m the only one, but that’s OK for the purposes of thinking out loud), then while were not looking for models for new institutions I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time and energy looking for models of transformation either, especially structural ones. What I intuit here is the notion that structure can be designed, yet we all know, from pure experience , that natural structures are the most effective because they are the most adaptable. We’ve been neglecting nature at our own peril for the past few hundred years and it might be time to start taking more cues from Ma Nature. We’re not limited as we once were merely to those few individuals in our own immediate environment when we start thinking in terms of organization. I certainly don’t believe that the internet changes everything, but it has effects in places that we didn’t even know were places before. Consequently, we all belong to real-life, local communities and much farther-reaching virtual communities simultaneously, and those virtual communities are every bit as “local” as our physical ones. We no longer live an either-or reality, rather it is now more a this-as-well-as-that one. And taking this notionality a step further, it has not escaped my attention that in our maddening rush toward total and complete globalization, the forces of locality have not been sleeping. On a purely physical level, we’ve seen more countries “appear” on the world stage in the last 50 years than in just about any period of history (except for the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire and the shattering of Central Europe into a seeming infinite number of graviates and duchies). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that “the (or a) nation” is any kind of model to be following. I’m one of those strange types who believe that nation-states as we know them have most likely outlived their usefulness (like all other large institutions). It’s not that we should (or can) undo them, or that we can just simply let them go (like perhaps institutions), rather, perhaps it might be that the time has come to stop taking them as seriously as we do.

Yes

If I were a homeopathic medical practitioner, I’d say that it is certain that things are going to get worse before they get better. This doesn’t mean, when scaled up to our current reality, that only a planetary dystopia awaits us. The most recent planetary events – from the incessant murderous, terrorist, unjust wars through the blatant destruction of the climate and nature’s ecosystems through the unraveling of large-scale institutions (such as the EU), to the inescapably obvious subversion of political order (such as the most recent US elections) – have been anything but encouraging, but it’s not like we haven’t seen them coming. I’m fully aware that it is the most suspect thinkers among us who are constantly poised for the Final Total Collapse, so instead, the vast majority of us have simply been doing what we generally do best: we’ve all done a lot of looking-the-other-way. Nevertheless, it has been relatively clear to anyone with a modicum of intelligence and commonsense that a Day of Reckoning has been fast approaching.

Be that as it may, one thing we all know is that the past is the worst predictor of the future that we can possibly imagine. We can’t know what’s coming. If we did, it wouldn’t be the future. To even begin to intuit what the future might be, we need to look to the “now”, and by that I think of (a) what’s going on, being said, being spoken and thought concurrent with our accessing of such, and (b) what’s been said, thought, and done that is not time-bound, but remember now, I’m just thinking out loud.

Others in a similar predicament

What else is being said that might be worth listening to? Obviously, it’s not mainstream media, and it certainly isn’t the utterings and musings of the kakistocracy. But there are a few bright minds out there who are shedding light, not just spewing hot air. Two who immediately come to mind, of completely different generations, are Noam Chomsky and David Graeber. The former is very well known; the latter had a good day a few years ago when his Debt: the first 5,000 years came out (which, if you haven’t already read it, is well worth the time and effort it takes to wade through over 400 pages of well-researched, well-thought-out, and well-articulated analysis that is in several ways even enlightening).

So, what do these two fellows have in common? First of all, they have made it patently clear to anyone who is willing to listen/read that we’re being duped by the powers-that-be, regardless of how or who you conceive those power to be. There is no need for secret cabals, nebulous conspiracies, nor some new world order. Things aren’t, nor have they ever been, what they appear to be, but both of these gentlemen have gone to great lengths to inform us, each in his own sphere of knowledge and reflection, that we never get the whole picture, but what we do get is more than enough to admonish us to caution and serious reflection. It is not necessarily the best and the brightest who are leading the charge into the future, rather, we may be languishing under the same, old same-old. In other words, both of them spend most of their time merely challenging and trying to get behind the most fundamental issues that we take for granted, the assumptions and presuppositions that we take as givens (something that Žižek in his own way is prone to do). This is a great help, for it is something that most of us who could just don’t take the time to do. Engaging their thinking, however, does start reconditioning one to be more ready to confront our medially mediated presentations of reality that too often too blatantly try to convince us that things are better than they are. Truth be told (or felt), they aren’t. And, if things aren’t really getting better, the question regarding a future planetary dystopia is right on target.

What fascinates me more about both of them, though, has little to do with what almost all of us recognize as their line of argumentation in their addressing of current issues. No, what always gets me reflecting is the casual, almost muttered-under-the-breath description of both of them as “self-avowed anarchists”. I’m more than aware of how trigger-like such a characterization can be. Too many of us have been (Pavlovianly) conditioned to conjure up images of dark-bearded men throwing fuse-lit ball-bombs. But these guys aren’t disturbed by such images in the least, in fact they come across so benignly content in the face of such raucous imagery. They openly admit they are anarchists, and they do so in such a way that I think it is worth our while to at least reconsider the term.

While growing up in the USA, it was customary in most circles that if you couldn’t handle the argumentation being levied in a debate, you simply called your adversary a “communist” and you could walk away knowing that you had so discredited your opponent that it would take them a long time, if ever, to rehabilitate themselves. Lots of worthy adversaries fell for the ploy and spent more time attempting rehabilitation than delivering further arguments. (Though I’ll come back to him later, Macdonald, however, was of the same ilk as Chomsky and Graeber: if he wasn’t accused of being something, he’d willingly claim that he was and stay to discuss matters anyway; he stood his ground against McCarthy, for example.) When the communists-who-never-were ( and anyone thinking the Soviet Union was any kind of communism, especially in a Marxian sense has never read Marx, nor have they spent much time engaging modern history and economics, but that’s another matter for another day) became passé, the mantel of the derogatory fell quite naturally to “socialism” and “socialists”, which is how “they” (whoever the hell they are) tried to unhinge Bernie Sanders last year, but there were so many younger people listening to him – for better or worse, right or wrong, knowingly or out of ignorance – who had missed that whole damnation-by-verbal-association nonsense perpetrated by the anti-communists-now-anti-socialists and who didn’t give a hoot about things they were not in the slightest aware of. Maybe the time was ripe for thinkers like Chomsky and Graeber to simply state where they were coming from. Maybe they just didn’t give a care and decided once and for all to give the ol’ guilt-by-association trick a swift kick in the pants. I certainly like to think so. But I digress.

So, to get back to the current issue at hand, maybe we need to ask ourselves just what is an anarchist is, and what is anarchy anyway? In simplest terms, and it is certainly a starting point based on my reading of the two gentlemen, it is a state of society without government or law. I know the mere thought of such makes some folks go apoplectic, but if you stop to actually reflect upon it, at that level of generalization, you quickly come to realize that we’re living in anarchic times as it is. As the discrepancy between the “elite” and the rest of us and the gap of social inequality widens, as it becomes ever clearer that what “the people” want and what they can expect to get are very different things, as wars most of us are against are nevertheless waged in our names, as we witness almost daily that fake news and corporate propaganda replace much needed information and education, as we watch as social safety nets are shredded and we see how the poor, downtrodden and suffering are demonized while their corporate counterparts are heralded as heroes and have benefits beyond benefits heaped upon them, and how the long-touted slogans of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” ring increasingly hollow, just what “government” are we really talking about? Do we even have a government in the traditional sense of the word anymore? When we watch how our rights are co-opted in the name of alleged security, how our fellow citizens of color are increasingly oppressed, how hard-fought-for legal guarantees are ignored and dismantled, how brute, vicious, inhumane force is unleashed on fellow citizens who are trying to hold fast to and make good on the few rights we have left, how some of us are given draconian sentences for minor offenses while others can destroy lives and property with impunity but are shielded by an established system of courts and “deals”, we have to ask ourselves just what law are we abiding by, or if there really is any law worth the name anymore? More than once each day I find myself stepping back and wondering if I’m not already living in an anarchic state. The reality that I experience every day is certainly very different from the one that I get served up medially.

In a certain regard, then, it makes sense that Chomsky and Graeber, if nothing else, would rather be identified with something “horrid” than with what the rest of us still think we should identify ourselves with. When you listen more closely – and this is more true of Graeber than Chomsky – there is much they say about topics such as “direct democracy”. This is anything but a model, it’s more of a feeling, a tentative probing into possibilities, like those we saw earlier, and Graeber at least experienced first-hand in the original Occupy days. That attempt was thwarted, no doubt about it, but whatever movement began then has not yet died completely and whatever processes that were set in motion then are still moving, even if not as apparently as some of us would like them to be. Thoughts have been put out there, experiences have been had, content for analysis and reflection has been produced. Something is being sought, and it’s just not yet clear exactly what, which brings me back to Macdonald.

Values

At the same time that Gebser was formulating his magnum opus, Macdonald was struggling to find something enduring in the chaos induced by World War II and the first taking-root of the notion of Empire. There were two forces vying for supremacy (the ol’ Capitalism-Communism/Democracy-Dictatorship models) and the failure of one made the other believe it had been right all along, whereas it had never been right at all (not even in the sense of “correct”, but that’s a different discussion for another day), if we understand “right” as a moral category. This is where I believe Macdonald actually “got it”, and it is what makes him all the more worth listening to today.

What Macdonald made clear, and what is as relevant now as it was when we he was writing, is that the most fundamental struggle of our times is one of values. Not the ones so often so maliciously bantered about and rammed down our throats, like God and Country (or The People and The State), like freedom (always with a small “f”), like wealth and privilege and democracy (the illusion of choice where there is none) or all the rest of the delusion we are expected to fight, and on command die, for. No, the values of which Macdonald spoke, and the only values we need consider at the moment are those which make us human. It doesn’t matter whether you think we humans are the pinnacle of creation or “just” another species of animal, and it doesn’t matter whether you believe some all-knowing, all-powerful God is behind the scenes urging us on or whether you believe we’re just some epiphenomenal freak of nature. What matters in the end is what we do about what we believe, and at the moment, I see a whole lot of believing going on in the world and damn little doing. Oh, there’s doing out there, no doubt about it, but not enough of it, and there are far too few of us out here who actually believe in what we’re doing.

The only values that matter right now, it would seem, are those that have to do with how we interact with one another. That is pure and simple, the human dimension of things. It has become starkly clear that all that Enlightenment dribble about “progress” and the “individual” was a shot past the mark. We humans showed up on this planet as social creatures, and that hasn’t changed a bit over the past 100,000 or 200,000 years of our presence on the planet. How we treat each other, what we do to each other, how we get along with each other, how we resolve our differences, how we synergize, how we solve problems, how we find ways to demonstrate just who we are in the grander scheme of things and in terms of everyone and everything around us, is what matters in the end. We know that we are embedded in a delicate eco-system or network of systems that interact with every other biological, climatic, geological, marine system in existence. And, at heart, we know that everything we do impacts everything that touches us experientially, yet we most often act as if we were isolated from everything else in the universe. That is, at least in my mind, just a bit schizophrenic, whereby I’m hesitant to say that for not wanting to insult true schizophrenics. We should know better, and I’m sure there are lots and lots of human beings on this planet who do know better as well, but what I’m missing are those overt actions that let me and everyone else know we know better. In my meager mind, this is the heart of the real values discussion/debate.

Right now, there’s a lot of talk and too little action. We could discuss, debate, and argue for millennia on how we can best express those values that Macdonald and all the rest of us know are right. In fact, that’s what we’ve been doing for as long as we’ve been able to talk to one another, but has it ever occurred to you that maybe we don’t need to formulate them once and for all at all? What we say is never as important, as poignant, as revealing or as convincing as what we do. In other words, we need to act as-if: we need to act as if these values were clear, we need to act as if we had a say in our common lives, we need to act as if organizations, institutions and everything else that is getting in our way weren’t in our way at all. The values we know to be right are not time-bound, that’s for sure, for they are what defines us as our particular species. Oh yes, we’re capable of the worst conceivable horrors and atrocities, but why should we think that this is our defining characteristic? We need to stop acting as if it were. We need to convince other by our actions, not by our words. We have to start small, direct … where we are, when we are … sort of like Luther’s alleged maxim: Here I stand, I can do no other. And, we need to act this way here, and now, and always.

We need to learn to do what’s right. We need to have the courage of our convictions, and we need to learn to say “no”. We have a long road ahead of us, to be sure, but we need to acknowledge that there is not a one of us who will be able to travel this road alone. We need to find what binds us and act upon that. We need to expect less of others and more of ourselves. We need to stop complaining about what’s wrong and start doing what is right. We need to remember and to remind ourselves and to keep in mind the very simple idea that if it’s good for everyone else, then it’s most likely good for us as individuals – not the other way around – or as I like to think of it, if I were an alchemist, we need to transmute the current paradigm: all the same factors and players are involved, but the outcome has to change.

Macdonald pointed to the humanist, the non-scientist, if you will, to the writer, the painter, the sculptor, the essayist, the artist as navigator in the apparent sea of chaos. It is those who still think and believe and hope and pray and do what is within their power to help others to do the same who are needed most these days. Yet, it is not enough that we simply “express” ourselves, we must also act and I think we all agree that the true artists of all ages have been those who have not only “said” (in whatever medium they felt most comfortable) but who have done; that is, who have gone on to live according the maxims that they believed were most suited to be raised to the level of universal truth (to poorly paraphrase Prof. Kant).

Each of us is called up to be and to act. What Gebser, Chomsky, Graeber, Žižek, and all the others are telling us is now is not the time to be silent and now is not the time to just sit back. There is much to be done and the we’re the only ones who can do it. Each of us has a sphere of influence – regardless of its size or perceived impact – and each of us needs to start acting within that sphere AS IF it made a difference …

he said, thinking out loud.


(Brad Sayers) #5

This is all good stuff, and worth digesting and developing.

I do very very much lean on the DOING side of things right now in this time. We are at the limits of the very ‘best’ that the thinking rational ego side offers (facebook, iphones, Google maps, Moves, Skype, CLOUD, etc). We are living at the limits of that paradigm (I hope to say more about a specific case in our Canada regarding a true true 21st century professor, Dr Jordan B. Peterson, who is fighting a major fight for all of us; he is a true and living descendant of Jung!).

We, living right now, are post Geber. We, are actually living and suffering what he prophesied in the wake of his terrible WWII experience which gave him powerful platform: viz, that b(B)eing is a fucking Killer.

Life eats Life (Joseph Campbell). I say Urobous and that life means going through the Ringer on a daily basis, and add to that, you don’t know what’s coming next. Phew, I can hardly keep from sinking. All this current experience is guaranteed to provide you and me with the stuff of Myth. Being simultaneously threatened (scared) and invited to go forward with optimism!

Being/Life/life is a killer. I think this is another way of saying that we’re alive and we’re using our words to talk about it! Will we step right up??? Do the very hard work of getting along with the other? I mean my spouse / mate / child / friend. The ones I love that are so easy to hate.

We are self-conscious creatures talking, TALKING, (and hopefully listening) about what we are FEELING (basically, what it’s like to make meaning, making it up as we go, co-creating, being a joint-heir with Christ according to Paul!)

Gebser gave us an articulated (modern mythic) description of that real limit. We, post gebser, are LIVING it. We know it as a nightmare dream…just as he knew it (50 M killed in WW, and Heroism in the Midst, see Fury with Brad Pitt, and when Emma dies from a Bomb after being truly loved by the other/Other).

We got the Korean war (and MASH), then Vietnam (and the 60’s, psychedelic implementations but not consolidations). Really, what we got was hitting the wall of modern real time screen dopamined upward movement fraught with monsters to contend with. And what this did, was deeply instill in us a bias against technology. I like Kevin Kelly, he is cheery on this, but not silly, and culturally immature (Kurzweil?). Yes, I get K, but he is showing himself to be limited by his lopsided technology preference.

I like shortcuts. And one shortcut I am enamoured with / by right now is technology in its positive potential.

Technology gives us the bad and the good.

For the bad (and good), spend 24 minutes and watch this.

For more good, stay tuned, and embrace technology as a means to creating that end.

I am thankful for this platform, Discourse, and WordPress, and the Genesis Framework, and the iPhone, and indoor toilets and heating…now let us connect the dots in a better, more empowering way…


(Ed Mahood) #6

Kudos for the Pink Floyd refs, and for the broader contexualizing.

While I think that Kelly is close to getting it, he is still to Kuzweil-like, who, as far as I’m concerned simply drank the kool-aid and reasons no more.

Now, I, for my own part, remain technoskeptic simply because as a human creation, technology is, as you so aptly point out, so, well, human … it is in and of itself neither good nor bad but can certainly be employed either way, and too often, as history has shown, more thumbs-down than up. If we can get our mentation sorted, we have a chance with all the technology. Günther Anders admonishes, however, we may have already in many – but hopefully not too many – minds deified it beyond our control.


(Ed Mahood) #7

Just stumbled across this article on municipalism.

Like most true Gebserians, “isms” make my hair stand on end, but I still think there is much to be inspired with in the article, while dealing mutatis muntandis with all the rest of the progressive, left-right, and other “istic” thinking therein.

Of course, based on what else I’ve let loose here, I’d favor using “transmuting” when it comes to all those structures and institutions that need to be changed.


(Marco V Morelli) #8

It was a pleasure getting to know “Flighty Dwighty” Macdonald’s mind a little. What a lucid, sensitive, and dare I say humane thinker. I love that he got under Trotsky’s skin the way he did: “Everyone has a right to be stupid on occasion, but comrade Macdonald abuses it.” He was also someone who it sounds like participated in lots of discussions among self-important mostly men with a kind of influence, but little actual power, which he ultimately saw to be pointless, and he got tired of them and decided to go in a richer direction.

There are so many choice passages in The Root Is Man; it’s not hard at all to see the vibrant relevance of the text, even cutting away the dated references to Marxian intramural arguments—all deconstructed by now, anyway.

For me, Macdonald’s opposing the ‘progressive’ and the ‘radical’ attitudes made me realize that I’ve been applying the label “progressive” to myself rather uncritically all this time. I was identifying ‘progressiveness’ with certain values, not seeing how the reliance on ‘progress’ as the ideal (or rather the method) for realizing those values—what you and Gebser call the ‘spatial notionality,’ Ed)—automatically abstracts away from immediate experience and defers from the present moment.

So to those values: it’s hard to say what they are, isn’t it, without merely conceptualizing and not really saying the thing itself? On the other hand, the good news, which I think you’re clarifying, is that we do have ways of enacting them all the time. It doesn’t require complicated stratagems and political machinations. (It doesn’t, strictly, require time.) But there is some ‘turning’ that’s called for, away from one thing, toward something else…

"The only values that matter right now, it would seem, are those that have to do with how we interact with one another.

I like your thought of ‘counting what matters,’ which brought me to the ambivalence of what it means to ‘account.’ How this relates to ‘story’ as part of what makes us human: the depth of our narratives, the interior richness—which is so completely lacking in our political discourse, almost by definition, that when we get even a sampler of thoughtfulness, taste, and eloquence, as with Obama, we swoon—it’s a hundred-year event, world historical.

I wouldn’t completely throw the models out with the bathwater, though. A model is just a metaphor via spatial representation, right? But there are alternative metaphors that could serve as new models. I’m thinking, for example, of the network. Of nodes and rhizomes. Of organisms and genetic code; etc. When we imagine ‘what’s next’—especially living lives that weave local and non-local, analog and digital—such metaphors seem useful. They evoke realities that can propagate without directly having to compete with or replace existing institutions or structures, but can even live off their refuse and throwaway parts; can grow underneath and around the ‘powers that be,’ experimentally, on small but distributed scales.

Another way of saying this is that we should be wary of the ‘tyranny of structurelessness,’ which invites the animistic passions to completely take over the show. [h/t @care_save] What are values worth if they can’t act on, transmute, and redesign the structures through which we interface with each other and the world? What if an appropriate value for our moment is precisely the freedom to play with these structures on accessible scales? (The municipalism idea speaks to this human-size doing—a focus on spheres where we can have influence; the thought is friendly with anarchism and cooperativism, as well.)

I do wonder about Macdonald’s foreboding near-certainty that a World War 3 was coming—the Day of Reckoning, always imminent on the receding horizon. The pattern echoes of the 1920s and '30s in our own time…

There is a lot to think about, for sure, in this topic. I don’t feel I can respond adequately to what you’ve laid out, @achronon.

But I like how @JDockus put it, after he made me LOL more than once with his (spot on) sketch of Zizek.

The silence around such writing is not to be taken as indifference but is thought itself cooled in a fresh fallen snow of contemplation.

And along w/ @bradsayers, methinks it’s good that we’re talking.


PS. Speaking of ‘counting what matters’ via art and literature (with a nod to bureaucratic collectivism) here is one of my favorites:


(Ed Mahood) #9

@madrush, I couldn’t agree with you more.

“Flighty” came recommended to me from Chris Hedges’ Death of the Liberal Class which had also got me into Cowley’s Exile’s Return, and I’m glad I took on Cowley first because he put me into a much better frame of mind to grok Macdonald’s distillation of “values” as a potential elixir for what’s to come. Crowley helps us see how, as Hedges put it, “the transformation of the artist as rebel to the artist as propagandist.” Macdonald, as I read him and I intuit that you have as well, that this too is in need of transmutation as well.

Values centering on our individual and collective interaction appear so relevant in my mind for they are the most immediate to our everyday experience, which is what imbues them with such potential for enactment. You summed it up perfectly:

It doesn’t require complicated stratagems and political machinations. (It doesn’t, strictly, require time.) But there is some ‘turning’ that’s called for, away from one thing, toward something else…

Or, to phrase it in terms of a different cultural dimension, a metanoia. A turning, not away, but toward, or, if you will, taking what is of value with. This is essential as you note:

I wouldn’t completely throw the models out with the bathwater, though. A model is just a metaphor via spatial representation, right? But there are alternative metaphors that could serve as new models. I’m thinking, for example, of the network. Of nodes and rhizomes. Of organisms and genetic code; etc. When we imagine ‘what’s next’—especially living lives that weave local and non-local, analog and digital—such metaphors seem useful. They evoke realities that can propagate without directly having to compete with or replace existing institutions or structures, but can even live off their refuse and throwaway parts; can grow underneath and around the ‘powers that be,’ experimentally, on small but distributed scales.

This is, in so many words, a fairly accurate description of what, at least in part, is rattling around in my head when I’m cognizing about “transmutation”. I would hate to think we’d just discard the models, but we are obviously struggling a bit with how we can verbalize what is happening inside our heads/hearts. To me, this is also a challenge for artists of all persuasions because I still can’t help but think that the artist’s challenge is not to merely give expression to their own mentation and feelings but, as Macdonald hammered home, what all of us need to be mentating and feeling about. This is what I hear you saying when you tell us that

Another way of saying this is that we should be wary of the ‘tyranny of structurelessness,’ which invites the animistic passions to completely take over the show. [h/t @care_save] What are values worth if they can’t act on, transmute, and redesign the structures through which we interface with each other and the world? What if an appropriate value for our moment is precisely the freedom to play with these structures on accessible scales? (The municipalism idea speaks to this human-size doing—a focus on spheres where we can have influence; the thought is friendly with anarchism and cooperativism, as well.)

This is perhaps a way of making the universal manageable. By acting when and where we can have some influence, we increase the odds that those around us will also be encouraged to respond in kind and in ways that can coax out the momentum necessary to sustain the changes that are needed. And there are others “out there” providing stimulating input, like Gar Aperovitz (What Then Must We Do?), Starhawk (Webs of Power) or Micah White (The End of Protest), all coming from particular spheres, to be sure, who immediately spring to mind, but we should never underestimate our little gathering here which resonates especially well with Macdonald’s focus on the artist.

Now, as for your concern that

There is a lot to think about, for sure, in this topic. I don’t feel I can respond adequately to what you’ve laid out, @achronon.

… well, I actually think you have. In fact, I sense this in each of the contributions to this thread, be it @JDockus’ cogent call for contemplation or @bradsayers’ emboldening encouragement to simply keep talking (… which is how I view this whole platform … I sense we’re all working this values issue all the time).

PS. Thanks for the clip … brilliant.


(John Dockus) #10

Wrote Francis Bacon in his essay Of Truth: “What is Truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness; and count it a bondage to fix a belief; affecting free-will in thinking, as well as in acting. And though the sects of philosophers of that be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing wits which are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood in them as was in those of the ancients.”

I should correct and elaborate: Listening to Zizek is like a selection of classical western music fed through a sausage-maker, blood drained out of it, the meat ground down, then stuffed into intestine casings, and tied off at the ends, each link plopped into a pot; - stewed in juice dripping down from a gynecological exam table on which lies Mother Earth, her legs fixed apart like a wishbone or an architect’s compass reaching into the clouds, collecting down below like rain in gutters, or gravy in a colostomy bag; the broth boiling down below where the bedpan is kept, mixed with other things too, pollutants not made by Zizek but taken from the environment as it really is. One can’t blame him for rummaging around and improvising with whatever he can find. He acts out the homelessness of us all in the shifting and collapsing of paradigms, roaming around the rubble, wandering through the junkyards of ideas, digging around in trash containers and doing a little dumpster diving, looking for trinkets worth keeping and tasty morsels to snack on. Of this he is a kind of connoisseur and food critic. Zizek could have his own Reality TV show. But what he concocts for a meal or the main course is so odd a collage for the palate, a hodgepodge, with something in its flavor vaguely recognizable, one isn’t sure one should gobble it down, or push it away in disgust. It could be only garbage or waste disguised as food. Some wearing blindfolds and breathing in the strange odors, not specifically identifiable, receive such postmodern - or one might say postmortem - goulash ladled into their bowls by chef Zizek with mouths hanging open, their heads tilted back and their tongues flopping and slapping around in their mouths as if they were fish which had just leapt out of the ocean and landed in a bucket on the ship’s deck, gasping for dear life, while trying to imagine how manna from heaven might have tasted long ago.

When Zizek speaks, stand back: bacon spits in the pan, some sizzling drops of fat flying. I look at him and think: “Kielbasa”. His philosophizing: gumbo. Ma Earth’s pop (not pap) smear on the side for spreading onto toasted slices of baguette. Good with beer. Sounding-out the metaphysical depths (I envision Ed Keinholz coming back from the dead and making a sculpture of him), Zizek’s beard turns into a feisty and crafty beaver building dams in the unlikeliest places, both frustrating and amusing in the messing and redirecting of currents, and the music of his philosophizing, if one could even speak of it having a music, is like a transistor radio in a snow of static, blaring but heard muffled through the bunghole of an old beer barrel, continually changing in a search for a clear channel and establishing its own herky beef-jerky rhythm.


Hey Brad Sayers, I like the cracked nuttiness of your response, the bordering on unhinged. I say by whatever means: go further. Spray the smoldering chunks all over. Ed Mahood has an almost professorial tone, chewing on the stem of his pipe, pleasant puffs of smoke rising into the air, coming close to reeling the train of logic back onto the same old tracks, and in that chugga chugga rhythm putting to sleep. Chew-chew. There’s irony in it, save for the locomotive disappears down a tunnel. No readying for battle by calling someone a gentleman. One only hopes when the train emerges it’s metamorphosed into some incredible flying machine! Marco has mentioned poetry as code. But the code if it becomes too set in its ways, too predictable, is easier for bandits to head off at the pass, is easier to corner and bully, to kick and beat and pummel to death. There must be occasional scrambling of codes to keep us on our toes, in shape and battle-ready, to keep the spark alive, to get glimpses back into the unknown and unnameable, where the Ocean of Consciousness is, and the Sky. Only Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd is to my own taste. Shine on that crazy diamond.


Hey Morelli, here’s lookin’ at you


And lastly, Ed Mahood, this one’s for you:


(John Dockus) #11

Man, Morelli, I watched this reading you posted in your P.S., and this kind of dry and detached pedantry sarcastically represented, delivered deadpan and reaching an incredible level of absurdity, drives me nuts. Makes me want to scream actually. Kafka represented this sort of thing with more richness than represented here, in my opinion. Anyway, I imagine in this bureaucratic collectivism seeds falling onto hard ground, or onto concrete, not penetrating to the soil. The voice of the professor in such conditions turns pretend in its inflation and finally ridiculous in its pomposity. For some reason, thinking upon this, I think of Jonathan Swift’s Battle of the Books, where there’s an encounter of Dryden with Virgil, which displays Swift’s no doubt pessimistic and even savage turn of mind when thinking of the so-called modern man in relation to the ancient. It’s been a long time since I read this in full, but I recall the first time I read it I burst out laughing, not a freely and easily, but with some bitterness. (Maybe in hindsight this is not so fair to Dryden, seeing how much more Man has shrunken in stature and degenerated since his time, pulled outside of himself and hollowed out by the endless parade of distractions, and jerked this way and that by warring ideologies.)

“On the left wing of the horse, Virgil appeared, in shining armour, completely fitted to his body: he was mounted on a dapple-gray steed, the slowness of whose pace was an effect of the highest mettle and vigour. He cast his eye on the adverse wing, with a desire to find an object worthy of his valour, when, behold, upon a sorrel gelding of a monstrous size, appeared a foe, issuing from among the thickest of the enemy’s squadrons; but his speed was less than his noise; for his horse, old and lean, spent the dregs of his strength in a high trot, which, though it made slow advances, yet caused a loud clashing of his armour, terrible to hear. The two cavaliers had now approached within the throw of a lance, when the stranger desired a parley, and, lifting up the vizard of his helmet, a face hardly appeared from within, which, after a pause, was known for that of the renowned Dryden. The brave ancient suddenly started, as one possessed with surprise and disappointment together; for the helmet was nine times too large for the head, which appeared situated far in the hinder part, even like the lady in a lobster, or like a mouse under a canopy of state, or like a shrivelled beau, from within the penthouse of a modern periwig; and the voice was suited to the visage, sounding weak and remote. Dryden, in a long harangue, soothed up the good ancient; called him father, and, by a large deduction of genealogies, made it plainly appear that they were nearly related. Then he humbly proposed an exchange of armour, as a lasting mark of hospitality between them. Virgil consented, (for the goddess Diffidence came unseen, and cast a mist before his eyes,) though his was of gold, and cost a hundred beeves, the other’s but of rusty iron. However, this glittering armour became the modern yet worse than his own. Then they agreed to exchange horses; but, when it came to the trial, Dryden was afraid, and utterly unable to mount.”


(Marco V Morelli) #12

Owie, @JDockus. What a durery eye you cast upon our modern mucking about the spent vaginal juices of the goddess who long ago ran off with some other man’s root! Seeing as we became enamoured of our ever more complicated masurbatory contraptions and revolutionary 35-point plans, who could blame her? But can you blame us for at least trying to salvage a few ounces of toxic goo from wry wreckage of the wasteland, for our syringes? Is there something of a decomposition process for non-biodegradable content that must play itself out over the aeons?

David Foster Wallace was working on The Pale King when he committed suicide, you may know. (This is the story about the quiet heroism of paranormally gifted IRS tax accountants.)

Nietzsche had his break shortly after finishing Twilight of the Idols and Ecce Homo.

What is one to do? By all means, hack the code! Throw all the malware at it you can muster. Bug and beta test the shit out of this decadent philosophilandering! In the end, we must all eat our own dog food.

I think you might appreciate reading Gebser, though. He had a nobler disposition and took the long view. No retro-romantic of the “Make Western Civilization great again!” school, he found some evidence of new life growing even amidst the decay. For this, it would seem, the faulty structures need be broken down into their constitutive elements, molecularly reassembled. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether one is birthing a new monster or merely being digested by the process.


(John Dockus) #13

Ha ha! That’s the stuff, Marco! A tidal wave of energy which takes everything along with it, crashes down, and scatters into a new configuration. No foolin’, I really appreciate this response.

I do have Gebser’s the Ever Present Origin here with me, along with other books washed up ashore, gathered like driftwood in the corners of my apartment. I have read a bit and get the harder stuff he has in his thinking, the nobler disposition he had. As you can tell by now, I don’t have much patience with spiritual gobbledegook, with idealism which blindfolds and leads over a cliff. My bullshit detector has a hair-trigger and even tiptoeing with certain things I think might pass muster easily sets off alarms in my head, red lights flashing. To silence it, clear and reset, I must place a colander on my head, close my eyes, and chant three times, “I’d rather become a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster”, then push hard against the grain of the obnoxiously subliminal, hypnotizing guru-currents, to get back to the clear and empty space you mention near the end of your wonderfully written account “Integral and Me: A Brief (Partial, but True) History of My Years as a Meta-Revolutionary”. (Since your posting of the reading of an except of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, I’m actually hankering now to read some Swift again.)


(Marco V Morelli) #14

Fair warning: I am recovering guruholic. I was thinking about this earlier, realizing that it’s like a psychic form of AIDS. One loses one’s defenses; the body attacks its own cells. Eventually any anti-intellectual antigen can infect the system with impunity; one dies a painful death of weird diseases.

I am HIV-positive when it comes to spiritual luminaries, so you don’t want to have unprotected intercourse with me. I take my drug cocktails and immunotherapies, though, and I think my white blood cell count is pretty high these days.

Were you the one who brought up Deleuze, who said he would take Western philosophy in the ass and make it give birth to monsters? Let’s not do that (or say we did). “Kielbasa.”

Gebser’s the real deal, though. Chris Hedges, too (who @achronon mentions). He dispenses with philosophizing and spits truth to power with unsweetened disdain. The ‘literary’ in us needs a little of this too, no?

And sometimes I think, ‘oh, why not?’ and I go check out what my man Mooji’s up to. The gumbo (nothing wrong with creole, bro!) sometimes needs a pinch of satsang with some staight-up nondual realization. Not too much of that spice, though, which easily spoils the flavor.


(John Dockus) #15

I could see that temptation in you, Marco - the guruholic. You totally expose yourself in your flights, completely opening your heart and mind, trusting with absolute sincerity. It’s impressive to witness you at work and play, your enthusiasm is infectious, one desires to join in, but also with all the assholes in the world, the frauds and cons, it can be concerning, I imagine, to those who really grow to love you. Keep me close and I’ll ridicule you for your own good, for in you I see incredible ability as a creative writer. A good man too. It’s manifest in all the interactions and responses from you I’ve witnessed. Fuck the gurus.

I myself am an odd case. Probably spend too much time alone, but I’ve developed an immunity to peddlers and salesmen of crypto-spiritualist ideas which hypnotize and get one hooked. I think it’s their actual function to subvert and gain power over gullible others. I grow naturally sarcastic when I witness the phenomenon (satire is probably my calling if I pursued serious writing), or when I’m feeling low on energy or just don’t want to bother, I quietly withdraw. Something deep inside me resists the too-good-to-be-true, those who aim too high and promise so much, who make it seem that they or someone else has all the answers to the mysteries of life, ordaining themselves lords and masters. I’ve probably been helped to my immunity and have developed a bloodhound’s sense for the unflattering reality behind dazzling and enchanting illusions fabricated to dupe and take advantage of others, by growing up with a law enforcement father, who when he retired went into private investigation of fraud in the medical industry. He’d tell me stories of crazy shit pulled by so-called healers to take advantage of individuals in need. We’d laugh at the cockamamie things come up with, but with seething undertone and indeed disdain, because it’s not right to take advantage of individuals in need. Fuck the gurus.

I wasn’t the one who said Deleuze would take western philosophy up the ass and give birth to monsters, but good one! I like monsters, so perhaps I’m not as put off by the image as you are. Monsters appeal to my rather dark and often twisted imagination. A good antidote to the Sacred when it becomes too full of itself, preening and posing in front of the mirror. Metaphysically, perhaps some monsters enter the universe where stars collapse, conceived in the cataclysmic explosion sucked in, a comet achieving impregnation of an agglomeration of dark matter, only after it has penetrated the black hole.

I can see Deleuze taking his place up on the wall with those magisterial others in James Ensor’s Doctrinal Nourishment.

Agree with you about Chris Hedges. Hard clarity, cuts like a diamond, no messing around. I like the toughness of his voice, the firmness of it, without attitudinizing. An authoritative voice which appeals to the moral core, to conscience, and to our common humanity, needed in these confusing and disorienting times, where temptations to what’s bad for us and others flourish like weeds, not least among them the temptation to cynicism. That’s a monster I have an on-going battle with, and sometimes it gets to me, knocks me down, and turning into a noxious black vapor tries to force its way into my nose and mouth and that way pollute me all within and take me over. I’ve only recently discovered Hedges. Brian George introduced me to his writing by sending me a couple links right after Trump was elected.


(Marco V Morelli) #16

It’s interesting to hear about your law-enforcement father, @JDockus. I can see that in you now. The no-nonsense, take charge of the situation, not going to take lip service from any punk, but take 'em in for questioning approach. Tough, but fair. When I had Amazon Prime, a couple years ago, I watched a few episodes of the Amazon.com original series, Bosch, who is that kind of guy, ethical to a self-destructive fault, sort of an update on Colombo; not as shaggy and doofus-faced, though: a tough cop’s tough cop.

Yeah, I could see you walking the beat here, keeping the street peddlers honest and even the prostitutes safe from their pimps.

I’ve had my head a bit up my ass the last few days, interrogating my own demons. It turns out, as well, the sewer drain’s clogged all the way from our house to the city pipe. There’s a lot of shit in there! It’s probably going to cost north of $600 to flush it all out, by the time all is said an done.

Fortunately, as it happens, just last week I got my semi-annual royalty check for my work on the book, Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Manual for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening. It’s been nearly 10 years and the money’s still coming.

$627.96

Thank the gurus for that!

It’s a good book, actually. I still think the idea of “practice” (especially for an artist) is helpful and relatively sane.

Thanks for keeping an eye on things, and the monsters entertained.


(John Dockus) #17

Oh, Marco, I’m not the no-nonsense, tough guy type in person, believe me (I’m just having a little fun performing in my written voice). My Dad’s not really like those show cops in person either, not on the outside anyway. Funny that those images came to your mind. I do embrace the ethical, however. I probably am a bit hardboiled. It took a while for me to stop fighting it and come around to embracing the side of my Dad which doesn’t come off as nice all the time, but cuts to the chase, with an instinct for truth and justice, who often because lacking a honey-tongue and more overt aesthetic qualities is mistaken, ironically, for being a square or even the bad guy.

“A child’s hand” - that actor, Scott Wilson, with the beard who plays the doctor in the short clip from “Bosch” you posted has been in some great movies. With actor Robert Blake (in real life charged with murder of his wife and acquitted), Scott Wilson played the slick, quick-talkin’ conman of the duo who go on to become killers in the movie In Cold Blood (1967), based on the book by Truman Capote . With Trump in mind, and his conning, here’s an interesting scene from In Cold Blood showing a con in action. You can see the cojones and skill it takes. One could say that a good con man is something of an artist. There’s a utilization of magician’s tricks, misdirection, smoothness of talking and motion, and sleight of hand. The transference happens without the targeted sucker knowing it.

This all brings to mind too Robert Bresson’s great movie “Pickpocket” (1963). In that movie, how marvelously it is edited, the quiet grace of the rhythm of guys working together and pulling off a series of pickpockets is captured. It hypnotizes one. It’s criminal activity, but in an objective sense one does come away admiring the skill and art of it, and understands the adrenaline rush from the daring of it, which if those engaged in it are caught has real consequences. The rush is in the flirting with disaster, with getting caught and thrown in jail. This clip is fittingly called “ecstasy of theft”.

Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal” should be “The Art of the Con”. That’s what it would be if you looked at it with these special sunglasses on: