Paradise of Storm

Category: Economics

How the G20 Summit Summarized the Death of Politics

TOPSHOT-GERMANY-G20-SUMMIT-PROTEST
by Guy Walker

Now that the G20 summit has come and gone, everyone returns to their chronic tedium back home, either proud and spritely of their own performance, or disheartened that international politics are in a state of seemingly permanent gridlock. Donald Trump shuffles away with his head slouched, his fingers impulsively clasping at the squalid air, anxious to tweet brazen threats again behind the comfort of locked doors. Angela Merkel simply sighs as she stares into empty space; to her, the whole world looks like a huge school project that’s barely held together with Elmer’s glue and Scotch tape. Protestors return to their chic flats and coffee shops; they untie their black hankies, throw their anti-capitalist banners away, and begin sipping green tea lattes from oversized mugs. Everyone feels the same faint confusion: what actually happened? and what was it all for?

The summit and accompanying protests were both nonevents not just because they lacked any substantive content or messaging, but also because of the way they were covered by the press—by the way we demand they be covered. All people want is something to gossip about. We want our leaders to either steal the show through charisma and desirability, or to trip and roll down the stairs. Justin Trudeau can just stand there, and do nothing but smile his gorgeous glistening smile, and his approval ratings climb ever upward. In the United States, however, people only pay attention to Trump now because they want to see him actually bodyslam a reporter. There’s no middle ground. Nobody cares about diplomacy anymore—we just need a tabloid headline to blather over.

Political commentators and body language experts spent endless collective hours analyzing the position and angle of the Putin-Trump handshake. It was like the wild-eyed frenzy of sports analysts drawing arrows and X’s all over the still frames of a last second, game-winning shot. Did Angela Merkel just roll her eyes at Putin’s mansplaining? Why did Trump just walk up to Narendra Modi for an impromptu chat? When Putin and Trump sat down for the press, Putin had his hand partially covering his chest, while Trump’s hand was partially covering his pelvis—or was it the other way around—who’s dominant?

It’s true: the world’s great leaders are actually this weary and dull. The sheer pedantry of such summits must be gut-wrenching to actually attend: regarding climate change and the Paris Accords for example, other nations agreed they wouldn’t go so far as endorsing Trump’s language of including fossil fuels, but they would recognize it. These types of semantic compromises are the cornerstone of political atrophy—they degrade men into shuttering relics of themselves, as journalists scribble furiously, and anarchists’ scrawny pale arms chuck rocks at anything that moves.

If you search online for news about this year’s G20 summit, you’re offered a banquet of tepid reports that have nothing to do with international affairs or trade policy. Sure, most of what is discussed amongst the nations’ leaders is done so without the press present, and so we’re left to gawk at their orgiastic meet-and-greets; but nevertheless, what the press does cover and emphasize inspires little more than a fart-drenched cynicism. It’s lo-fi drama, cheapened with the dull bromidic fuckery of men and women shuffling around like penguins, trying to position themselves in the best place for a photograph.

It’s why Donald Trump got elected in the first place—everyone was either resentful against establishment politics, or they were so wretchedly bored by politics-as-usual. And as much of a mad despotic clown that Trump is, he has enlivened politics for everybody. He gave our feverishly short attention spans something to latch onto, like staring at some grotesque baggy mass that consumes everything around it and swells and morphs like cold beef gelatin—we can’t stop watching the thing amass weight and disease. Trump might have record low ratings, but he’s the most popular man in the world—he’s the excuse kids use when they just want to throw a chair through a window.

The lack of spectacle and excitement at a G20 summit used to be acceptable. That’s what politics was—old, tired men (and a woman or two) sitting in rooms, discussing the fate of the world. Donald Trump changed that for everybody, and there’s no going back to the way things used to be. I don’t know if it was the Republican National Convention in July of last year that permanently shifted everything for the worse, but it stands out as a pivotal moment of masturbatory ennui, as the cowboy’s triumphant scream into the void of human dignity. It was a pageant from hell, full of ornate hats and body glitter, grown men twerking because it seemed patriotic in the moment. It ignited a newfound appreciation for whorish theater, a huge party at which to say, “You seem reasonable. Here, take the codes that can blow up the world!”

There’s no recovering from that. We want the next thousand years to be a Jerry Springer episode—it’ll be good for ratings, fuck diplomacy.

The protests were equally prosaic. By now, we expect our leaders to be as predictable as motorized bobbleheads, nodding and shaking hands in a performance of masked propriety; but even the angriest of the demonstrations around this year’s summit were as banal as a kid from Brentwood’s temper tantrum. Yes, in their wake, protestors left burned vehicles and looted stores; they took selfies in front of burning heaps on the street; they chanted anti-globalist idioms, and consequently got hosed down with pepper spray and water cannons. But in the end, it amounted to very little—perhaps a glorified, cathartic version of giving your Facebook profile pic a positively-themed filter. But this sort of feel-good activism that lets you feel like you made your voice heard and that you are part of something larger than yourself is tenuous at best.

The problem isn’t so much that the protestors were weak at protesting, but rather that it was the same predictable thing as before. These self-styled marches don’t work the same way that they used to. They worked in the 60’s. Even the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle quantified a historic level of popular mobilization against the colluding elites. But the WTO protests were historic for another reason: it was the first major modern example of the beginnings of a mass movement that went nowhere. It had all the right ingredients: unwarranted police brutality, the unification of blue-collar workers and indigenous peoples, the relatively focused messaging of something specific within their anti-globalist agenda. But it fizzled out to a few distant croaks of dissent.

Our present generation has adopted this legacy of expecting failure. The Occupy movement could have developed into something significant, but white dudes with dreads and girls with blue armpit hair just wanted to dance. The left always loses because they relish in their own failure. When Jon Ossoff lost the special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, the Democrat’s response essentially was, “we may have lost, but we barely lost,” as if that was worth celebrating.

From the press coverage, to the protests, to the summit itself, the G20 as a whole knows politics-as-we-once-knew-it is over. It was a last gasp of diplomacy, a relatively civil weigh-in before an epoch of Wrestlmania. After all, The Rock says he’s going to run for president.


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How Trump Rallies are America’s Last Circus

Donald Trump

by Guy Walker

Donald Trump is still campaigning to be president. He’d rather assure his last dreary-eyed supporters that his “Promises Made” are “Promises Kept”—as huge banners read at his rallies—than actually try to understand the complexities of tax code or health care reform.

Trump’s rallies have always had this same desperate tone, like a house party for high school dropouts who managed to beat the nerds in World of Warcraft. From the beginning, it was only about the rallies—a Trump-frenzied gala where he could stand over everybody and flail his arms and ramble on unintelligibly. If it wasn’t about him, then there was no point in going. In February of last year, Trump didn’t attend the Conservative Political Action Conference because it was rumored that around 300 attendees were going to walk out if he came to the stage. This time, he was the star.

And now he didn’t go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner because he didn’t want to sit as a Muslim comedian stood, because he knew he would be publicly caricatured as a human pumpkin, a lasso-twirling madman who doesn’t know what he’s doing. He didn’t want to face the press because they don’t howl his name with smeared American flags painted on their chests; they don’t shove their newborns in his face, demanding that he autograph their little bald heads. The Correspondents’ Dinner was a black tie event, not the usual pageantry of red hats. Besides, Trump was in need of another hurrah, one more orgiastic blowout of nationwide tailgate parties.

Celebrating his 100th day in office, naturally, he wanted a party.  And, per usual, his speech wasn’t about anything other than why his party was better than the one in Washington he refused to go to.

“A large group of Hollywood actors” he retorts, pausing for the expected boos and sneers from people who unanimously forgot their conservative hero Ronald Reagan starred in such movies as Tugboat Annie Sails Again and Bedtime for Bonzo, “and Washington media,” he continued, pausing again, “are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital.” A girl can be seen in the background, looking around, booing because others boo, waving her thumb down in unison with everyone else, like a crowd waving the same gesture at a Roman gladiator about to make the kill.

This is normal and expected. During his campaign rallies, he didn’t wait for hired security to drag protestors out—he instructed his fans to “knock the crap out” of them. “I promise you,” he said, “I will pay for the legal fees.”

And now he might have to. During a 2016 campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, 75-year-old Alvin Bamberger shoved a black female protestor repeatedly, pushing her through the crowd. He was still wearing his Korean War regalia, his barracks cap as crisp and white as a burger flipper’s hat at In-N-Out, his shirt as stiff as cardboard. The woman is now suing Bamberger for assault; and he, in return, is suing Trump for his “urging and inspiration” to shove the woman. In other words, Bamberger is claiming to be a victim of ideological kidnapping—he’s just a slobbering troglodyte anesthetized under Stockholm syndrome. It’s the same helplessness that Patty Hearst claimed when she was supposedly brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army, consequently robbing banks and later described as “a low-IQ, low-affect zombie” by clinical psychologist Dr. Margaret Singer.

How many more—and how soon—will admit under the open scabby firmament that they too are low-IQ zombies, barely literate, mesmerized by an orange mad clown with anemic circles around his eyes, blubbering upon his high stage about how rich he is? He currently has around a forty percent approval rating, which is notably high given how sloppy and thunderous his psychopathy is. More than anything, it illustrates the strength of Trump’s cult of personality—the more demonic and perverse he becomes, the more devout his followers are. In the preface to the psychoanalytic masterwork Anti-Oedipus, Michel Foucault refers to man’s innate lust for fascism—and not an external political fascism, but the inexorable fascism within us all that causes us to “desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” It’s why Trump’s comment during the campaign about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and not losing a single supporter is so true. Man loves a good despot, and he will do anything he can to touch even the fringes of his garments.

This isn’t even a metaphor. Remember the viral Youtube video from September 2015 when Trump’s “spiritual counselor” Paula White, and some twenty other ministers all laid their hands on Trump, praying for his victory. At some point during the blessing, a messianic Jewish rabbi groped his face, like some hideous reenactment of Hook when the little black boy identifies the Robin Williams character as Peter Pan. There you are, Donny! There he is, the deep-fried Michelin Man who has now returned their prayers by allowing churches to meddle with future elections. But it’s more than Trump himself—it’s the true power of ideology we see at work, the stalwart allegiance that is especially emblematic of the GOP.

We can scoff at countries like North Korea for deifying Kim Il-Sung, when its citizens still hang pictures of the founding supreme leader in every room of their house, when his body is perfectly preserved and embalmed for public viewing, when a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl drowned trying to save a picture of him (and posthumously given an award for her efforts). But the apotheosis of Donald Trump is equally lurid and dangerous: because he seems to represent everything anti-Obama, many of his supporters will tumultuously follow him down into the fetid depths of depravity, like a Jim Jones or David Koresh character, the facts of his insanity perhaps not yet obvious or intelligible.

The eagerness for political cannibalization of the left, on the other hand, is the other extreme of how an ideology fetishizes in destroying itself. The recent wave of protests on university campuses that have succeeded in preventing speakers with different points of view isn’t driven by anything even mildly virtuous; it’s a wave of politically correct moral panic that suffers by its own impotence. When Stephen Colbert made a joke about Trump’s mouth only being good for Putin’s cock holster, the hashtag #FireColbert immediately began trending on Twitter—self-described American nationalist, Mike Cernovich, and his sickly band of puttering cretins began fuming behind their keyboards that the late night show host should lose his job for making a dick joke about King Pussy Grabber. They knew the hysterical left would take the bait—and they did. Colbert won’t actually get fired, but it’s emblematic of a key difference between the inordinately generalization of “left” and “right” ideologies, in how each treats their television hosts: Colbert simply made us imagine two rotting dictators blow each other, whereas Bill O’Reilly had to actually sexually assault many women to finally be let go. It’s a race for political suicide, but Trump and his marching cavalry of liver-spotted perverts are leading the way.

This image reminds us of General George Custer. An overt racist who had a knack for killing natives during the American Indian Wars, it was Custer’s cavalier nescience that finally did him in. He finished last in his class at West Point, and relished as a media personality; but it was his overconfident superiority complex that caused him to stroll into an Indian encampment in the Montana Territory, assuming he would easily round up or kill all two thousand natives. He was outnumbered and overpowered, and his unprepared invasion resulted in him and his entire 7th Cavalry Regiment being killed—the event now commonly known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”

We didn’t need a 100 days to know if Trump could competently govern a nation of 320 million people—we already grimly knew it would be this disastrous. But there’s more than a thousand days of this nightmarish acid trip left, and the only hope is how many more of his followers will pull back hard on his reins the way Alvin Bamberger is now doing. Whether or not there’s any habitable world left after Trump is gone, it will be determined by how many followed him into his own Last Stand, or if he was finally abandoned, left alone in the woods waving his jelly-soaked arms at the buzzing sky, yelling “Follow me this way! It’ll be so great. Believe me, believe me.”


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From Barcelona to Mars: Gentrification of the Universe

“The hierarchy of the world of created things, which has its apex in the righteous man, reaches down into the abyss of the inanimate by many gradations. In this connection one particular has to be noted. This whole created world speaks not so much with the human voice as with what could be called ‘the voice of Nature.’” -Walter Benjamin (Illuminations)

cruiseship

by Guy Walker

Up along the bright cloistered avenues, where the dull pleadings of shopkeepers echo down the piss-drenched alleyways, where packs of British men dressed in uniformed khaki shorts roam like lost fat dogs, where the steaming farts of thousands of tourists choke the sparrows and limping pigeons, there is yet another enormous stained-glass church, another bar of florescent yellow blaring a song by The Offspring, and another hundred festering scabby boutiques selling jewelry and pink skirts, Hello Kitty lunch boxes, floor cleaner, toy trucks, and bottles of rum. I shove my way between a German family arguing over a dropped ice-cream cone—the dad figure wearing a paper crown from Burger King, the mother figure sobbing into a lace hankie, and the toddler squatting low and slapping the amorphous glob of vanilla with his open palm over and over again. Past the fruit vendors crammed in their narrow stores, dozens of crates of petrified fruits glaring up at me, the onions and glossy aubergines wriggling in their plastic cubbies—choose me, choose me! Past the Irish-themed pub, the right-o proper bloaks tripping over themselves. Past Tapas & Tikki. Past Subway. Starbucks. Rainbow Munchies. Porcupine Kebab. Corpse Cuisine. Soon the endless road of deli-striped canopies and air misters leave me soaked and anesthetized. I’ve walked for days, then months, and my legs are stiffening into leather-stitched tree trunks, my whole sense-experience melting into the flat eternal monotony of a cosmopolitan conveyor belt. For a moment I don’t know if I have to it takes to continue, but then I remember there still are so many more shops to see, so I lean forward and push on.

The sweating cretinous herds of tourists and vendors are multiplying by the minute, like the horrifying images of binary fission of bacterial growth, the asexual reproduction of human bodies, everyone packing in tighter and tighter, everyone shoving each other to buy paintings of sailboats, traditional döners wrapped in foil, fake Ray Bans—really, anything they can get their hands on. I’m in Barcelona. Or is it Madrid? Rome. Athens. Copenhagen. Chicago. I can’t remember. And the frank reality is that it doesn’t matter. There are no pungent visible signs that suggest where I actually am. Just one swelling body of humans, everyone white, everyone shopping, everyone so desperately content. This is Life. This is the apex of modernity, the post-Utopian shift of the culture industry. The entire world, wrapped all the way around from pole to pole is one tremendous glittering outdoor shopping mall, people extending their selfie-sticks in front of the swirling pillars of Gaudi, or the glass pyramid of the Louvre, or with Spiderman on Sunset Boulevard. Groups of young women jump up in the air, kicking their legs back as their friend takes the photo. And then they giggle. We dropped the A-bomb for endless rows of boutiques and Apple stores, to drink our foamy café crèmes under patio umbrellas. We are finally alive, finally happy, finally well-fed.

It didn’t used to be this way. Barcelona used to be very much Catalonian. Just ten years ago you could play football in every town square, drink from wine bottles in the parks, play guitar and skateboard and pick-pocket the handful of tourists with your longtime childhood friends with nose rings and black mullets. Today it’s a collection of gift shops where you can buy key chains with your name on it. Because tourism is essentially the same thing as gentrification. New York: prior to the 90’s, Manhattan was hookers, thieves, drug addicts, poverty-encrusted artists and poets, and the hunched flâneur with crooked fingers. You could pull back a door curtain while standing on the sidewalk and pay a dollar to touch a woman’s baby-gnawed tit. But Mayor Giuliani pushed everyone interesting out, and the wealthy and super wealthy decided it was cool to live where the poor people used to live and now there’s just rows of stammering neon signs and storefronts for mega-corporations, and now a 600 square foot flat is $4,000 a month. Venice Beach is self-explanatory. But everyone who grumbles about gentrification, day-dreaming and eulogizing about the glory days when you could get robbed by a heroin addict and it was somehow romantic, are your standard young upper-middle-class types. It’s why Venice Beach is so awfully boring these days—the kids who live there are good looking, but just extremely flat and uncomplicated. It’s why the art produced there consists of faces of Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin painted green—there’s an empty acheronian nostalgia for the glory days, a celibate-lust for the wandering eidolons of yesterday. I too am just another smug millennial leftist who will find an excuse to reference Kubrick films, The Brothers Karamazov, or discuss Kant’s transcendental normativity as I sip my Pinot Noir at an art opening of some linen canvases splattered in ink. We all know we’re part of the weeping cyst of our own banality. My poverty is not a real poverty, not the kind that creates anything wondrous and burning and necessary. It’s comfortable and amusing, and still somehow lets me fly to various centers of the world and get drunk over and over again, like some stammering lost version of Groundhog Day. The ever-expanding fog of global capitalism now blankets everything, and the systematized copulation of the bourgeois has conquered everything that was once naked, tragic, and beautiful.

The phenomenon of self-herding tourists is of course the result of warenfetischismus, which, as everyone knows, is German for ‘commodity fetishism,’ the theory Karl Marx proposed in Capital: Critique of Political Economy, describing the relationships of production not between people—between worker and capitalist and consumer—but rather between the money and the commodities exchanged in the market transaction. “[T]he commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this.” Marx was, in part, responding to Karl Heinrich Hermes’ religious justification of the Prussian state. Hermes (as with Hegel) argued that religion raises man “above sensuous appetites.” Wearing chainmail mittens will make you not want to masturbate, for example. Chastity belts will purify your crotch. But Marx contested that it was in fact fetishism itself—economic, political, industrial—that was “the religion of sensuous appetites.” In the same way that we stare at a screen all glazey-eyed, fantasizing that the humping naked woman is actually moaning for us, we view the inanimate object of commodity that is endlessly churning out from the capitalist machinery will somehow come to life, will somehow bring us life. It’s why shopping malls are so horrifying and manic—everyone is caught in the coma of commodity fetishism, their screamings on mute, trying to break free.

In A Companion to Marx’s Capital, David Harvey details the concept of fetishism entirely dictating the norm of our desires, fantasies, wit, emotions, and so on: “we foreclose on revolutionary possibilities if we blindly follow that norm and replicate commodity fetishism.” To withdraw from all ‘revolutionary possibilities’ is to submit from independence entirely, especially that of thinking. It’s why there is always soma available in Brave New World, for every occasion, every holiday and weekend and momentary lull of sobriety, soma allows us to quickly return to the gorgeous bloom of glee.

Of course there are many who are taking opiates and soma-like substances to numb the state of all this incredible madness, but it’s the culture industry itself that allows the entire world to quiet the naked roaring animality of real-life.

Theodor Adorno’s and Max Horkheimer’s theory of the culture industry is the present culmination of commodity fetishism, the ever-present zombie of stimulation that counterfeits our desires and fantasies to adapt to its own. Samo Tomšič says the same thing in The Capitalist Unconscious: Marx and Lacan, in that Lacan’s unconscious is not the realm of the private and the irrational, but rather a place where our political and social systems are most perfectly mirrored and reproduced. The capitalist construct is not a response to our inner private desires for more stuff; instead, our relentless libidinal appetites are a result of capitalism. We never wanted the shitty sailboat painting in the first place. We never wanted the Hello Kitty lunchbox. You may enjoy that açai berry smoothie, but you’re the same ugly thing as before. The culture industry is Life now. It is the first light after winter, the forever-flowing tit of humanity. It is the sun itself, the dreamy constellations we stare up at with gaping mouths. It is the first gurgling of microbes, the spark of cell growth, the whirlwind of neutrons creating matter from virtually completely empty space.

The first U.S. cruise ship has just docked into Cuba for the first time in fifty years. Buck-toothed children with runny noses ask their mothers with heaving muffin-tops what these strange brown people are doing on the island, or why everyone only drives old cars. There is no public advertising allowed in Cuba, but ships and planes full of white people are essentially the same waddling billboard for the fetishistic ideologies. I’m interested in what Cuba will look like in 5, 10, 30 years from now. Historically, when a ship full of white people arrives to a new virginal enigmatic landmass populated by exotic brown-skinned islanders, the events that follow are less than handsome. I don’t know what’s worse: the Santa Maria landing on your shores with conquistadors who want gold and slaves and wants to convert everybody to Christianity, or a cruise ship full of Americans in plaid polo shirts sucking on lollipops wanting to experience the so-called ‘preserved authenticity’ of your culture. I once hiked to Mount Everest Base Camp, and there is an inauthentic Starbucks on the way, in a quaint little village tucked away in the Himalayas. Neon clad mountain fanatics checking their wifi connections, ordering cappuccinos with extra foam.

But today is the age of space exploration, and now, finally, space colonization. Elon Musk has continued to repeat SpaceX’s plans to colonize Mars. Mars One, an organization based in the Netherlands, plans to begin colonizing Mars by 2027. We’re torpedoing our tepid flailing bodies into the empty cold blackness, the excrescent metal tube of humanity hurling to cover the universe. And don’t get me wrong, I am enthusiastically in support of colonizing other planets, and the indelible wealth of innovation that comes with it. Our curiosity for brighter horizons and frontiers is unrelenting. But this isn’t the same as before. Our prior horizons were drearily shoved along with priests and Puritanism and their death cults of banality, forcing tribes to swear off their practices that had worked for so long before. The United States government has long supported dictators all across the world, but at the same time attempted to force its neoliberal principles everywhere. But on Mars, there is no one to conquer, no one to convert. As far as we know, we are the only ones out here, the lonely dying match in the infinity of darkness. There is no one to overcome but ourselves. Where do we go from here?

The Cult of Neoliberalism

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by Guy Walker

On the television, a blonde, big-titted newscaster with brightly lacquered teeth, smiles. She adjusts herself in her seat, then looks into the camera—no, she looks directly at you—and says with imperious eruditic poise, “James Franco reveals his new tattoo, paying homage, respect, what have you, to Emma Watson.” She dawdles on, her various grunts and farts of the English language make sure that now you know things. You roll your eyes. You’re better than this: you read Camus and roll your own cigarettes. You can say ‘grandiose’ and ‘ubiquitous’ in the same conversation. You gave your Facebook profile a rainbow filter for a week. You don’t like the Koch brothers. You are a liberal and you care about the issues.

A girl you’ve been seeing texts you, and you respond “omg, I was JUST thinking about you,” in a novel unparagoned display of dank haecceity, that your synchronicity is not just fun as others have it, but it’s most likely fate or love. You’re going to see her tonight, and you have a pretty good theory about pheromones, so you only shower today with water, confident your b.o. will work its cavorting physiognomic magic, corralling her into your gallant arms, your libidinal steam rising off of you under the neon lights. You piss, shit, and jerk off all in the same toilet, the pool of scummy toilet paper and turds swirling away into the distant netherworld of sewers, nightmares, and overweight rats. You change the channel to CNN, then CNBC, then Fox, then MSNBC. It is all the same. The same white-fanged automatons hunched over their papers discussing the most recent GOP debate. Anderson Cooper turns to his colleague and asks, “Now Mason Lovebottom, on a scale of one to a hundred, how shitty did Jeb Bush perform last night?” Mason puts on his glasses, mutters a prayer under his breath, then looks up to Anderson and replies, “Well Anderson, what we have here is a queer dialectic of brothers and personalities. It’s a love story. No, maybe a coming of age story, in which two brothers clamor for beauty. George Bush has already won—he is painting dogs in his apron. Jeb will have to suffer under his shadow, wrestling with Pan in abandoned meadows. Trump on the other hand …” Their talking fades away into the sky of billions of others’ exclamations, the whole world digressing and chewing up the evening sky, as a night bird flies by, catching a mosquito in her mouth.

How exactly did the Republican Party contort itself into such a cryptofascist—and sometimes so overtly fascist—ideology? How did the so-called liberal class push so far right, especially when it comes to globalized free trade? There are landmark policy changes, such as the mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders, large-scale privatization of prisons, the passing of NAFTA and the WTO, the signing of Contract With America (the conservative agenda Newt Gingrich more or less copy-and-pasted from Ronald Reagan’s 1985 State of the Union Address, detailing what the Republicans would accomplish if they became the majority party in Congress) that all occurred under President Bill Clinton for example. Critics of President Obama’s push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership call it his Trojan Horse, his corporate preference over sweeping democratic opinion, putting 40% of the world’s economy into the hands of 800 corporations. But these are merely the symptoms of an overall shift towards feudal tyranny. The Republican Party deformed into a circus of idiocy partly because of the rightward feudal shift of the Democratic Party, but more so because of the ideological nature of the beast of politic. Free trade—or the marketplace, more generally—is the idol of worship in all of this. To turn every action into a market transaction. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are generally regarded as the initial leaders in the cult of neoliberalism, in which the marketplace is god, and no thing can obstruct its growth. As an ideology, the marketplace is incontestable. And like all ideologies, its truth and power is a facade.

Baudrillard postured it as, “what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say can be reduced to the signs that constitute faith? Then the whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer itself anything but a gigantic simulacrum.” A church or temple or mosque is the architecture not of faith itself, but of the signs that constitute faith. Women in their sundresses and their after-church banter are merely the tragic spectacle of faith, morality only a wad of swollen panties. In neoliberalism, the marketplace has replaced god, into flawless inevitability, into an incontestable declaration of truth. It’s another ideology of temper and balding reason. John Ralston Saul, author of Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, describes neoliberalism as an ideology where there is no memory. A refusal of history, in which fuck-ups are not questioned against the system of belief. When a child of a frantically religious family dies, after prayer and worship, the family doesn’t usually question their own faith. They move on, regretful only that they didn’t pray harder. When the United States has faced three financial collapses in the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century, our political and financial leaders do not question the despaired fuckery of their own ideology. Adam Smith has been jerking them off with his invisible hand for over three centuries. And even though every free market economist praises Adam Smith as their cult leader, no one ever actually reads him. Margaret Thatcher carried The Wealth of Nations around in her purse, but she only did in the way a twenty-five-year-old wearing a fedora brings Heidegger to the café, never actually reading it, but using it more as a prop to help create the facade of intellectualism and intrigue. The truth is Adam Smith was distrustful of businessmen, stating that “the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” It’s no surprise then that the average compensation of worker to CEO salaries increased from 30:1 in 1970 to 500:1 in 2000. It’s no surprise that Dick Fuld, then-CEO of Lehman Brothers, was paid $484 million from 2000 to 2008, when the company finally collapsed. It’s no surprise that while dealing with the 2008 collapse, constituents called their representatives one hundred to one against the bailout, and were obviously not represented.

Neoliberalism is radically different from classical liberalism. Classical liberalism (historically, political and economic liberalism were the same, as economics was distinguished as a separate discipline in the middle of the 19th century) is more anti-utopian, more about process than outcome, in response to the over-regulated Communist centrally-planned societies. A moderate distribution of wealth is justified, because of the nature of the market: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Neoliberalism on the other hand, ultimately wants every action of every human to be a market transaction—every fuck, every sunrise, every poem, every wave, dream, heartache, laugh, shit, must feed back to the market. Because the market is a drunken god, never to be questioned.

In response to the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted the New Deal—stimulating the economy through free trade, while the wealth was constrained and distributed through programs and regulations. From WWII on, the wealth of the top one percent stayed more or less stagnant, until the 1970’s, when growth collapsed and inflation skyrocketed, diminishing the wealth of the top one percent from 35% in 1965 to 20% in 1975. It was because of this dramatic plunge that the superwealthy attacked for the privatization of everything, to turn everything into a commodity—prisons, healthcare, education, war, dick.

The tendency towards ideology is inherent in American politics. There isn’t a single Congresswoman or Congressman today who is an admitted atheist or even agnostic. Belief in the illusory and wretched is a prerequisite for those who seek power. In Hobbes’ Leviathan, the beast is merely an artificial beast of power and strength, the representation of god. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is perhaps more a metaphor for the huge than its reality. Jacques Derrida, in The Beast and the Sovereign, describes the power of the facade, perhaps the abstract reality of the simulacrum: “In all cases it has to do with know how to cause fear, knowing how to terrorize by making known. And this terror, on both sides of the front, is undeniably effective, real, concrete, even if this concrete effectively overflows the presence of the present toward a past or future of the trauma, which is never saturated with presence.” The sovereign is able to transform itself into the form of the animal, while at the same time commanding over all the animals. Neoliberalism is god only insofar as it is believed to be god. The sun still bleeds at night. The animal is always singing. The cult of neoliberalism is powerful only by the death of men.

The TPP is a World of Shit

by Guy Walker

GH-Mudbath

I sung of Chaos and Eternal Night,

Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down

The dark descent, and up to reascend…”

John Milton, Paradise Lost

On these typical days in late Spring, before the sun burns the geraniums, before the squirrels bark at me for their morning ration of peanuts, before the school children run off with their huge backpacks and their quivering knees, I rub my eyes awake and sigh deeply, wishing my kitten was still alive. It rained a long violent storm last night, soaking the brittle hills, knocking off a songbird’s eggs into the garden, making the midnight couples feel extra cozy and romantic. A SWAT team invaded an old lady’s house during the thunder. A raccoon had babies, and tried to keep them warm under a large rosemary bush. An overweight businessman drove to a motel to see his mistress. And the sky cracked, pouring over all of Los Angeles. But the morning was a flirtish scenery of gold coruscating air, every flower petal on ecstasy, my regret of alcohol fading away because at least I had a garden. I walk out onto the patio in my Christmas underwear, drinking a lukewarm Americano, and I play my turns on a few different online chess games I’m playing on my smartphone. I scroll through my Facebook feed. I scroll through my Instagram feed. I sigh again, eat three slices of bacon and lick the dust from a Rolls Royce mirror, and I read through the World News and Today I Learned and the Ask Historian’s section on Reddit. Mad Max: Fury Road is opening. I wish I had hair like Bernie Sanders. But one story has caught my attention: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is going to fuck everyone and everything  .  .  .  every cornflake-infested child will either become a beggar or a nihilist because of it.

I used to blame my alcoholism on my ex-girlfriend breaking up with me, then I blamed it on baby seals being mauled to a pulp in the Arctic, then I blamed it on hydraulic fracking poisoning our water supply, but now I blame it on the TPP. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the worst so-called free trade agreement in the history of mankind. It threatens every environmental, health, climate, and labor policy in the Pacific Rim, and therefore the world. This isn’t an opinion piece, it’s all fact.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed so-called free trade accord between the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim countries, encompassing 800 million people, about a third of world trade, and nearly forty percent of the global economy. It’s larger than NAFTA, larger than the WTO, and it wants to fuck everyone harder than all previous so-called trade agreements ever have. Most of the content of the agreement has been discussed behind closed doors, between more than 600 corporate adviser’s, from such decency as Boeing, Monsanto, Halliburton, and Lockheed Martin. Congress itself is more or less left in the dark on what exactly the TPP fully entails. For example, members of Congress are allowed to read one chapter at a time (there are twenty-nine chapters in total, only eight of which actually discuss trade, the others of which involve limitations regarding environmental and climate policy, food safety, financial regulation, or the ever-changing corporate power structure), of which they may not take notes, photos, or even talk afterwards about what they read. In contrast, in 2001 during one of several NAFTA expansions, the Bush administration published the full draft of the agreement on the government’s official websites. The Obama administration is pushing to “fast track” the measure, meaning very limited debate on the House floor.

The Nobel Prize winning economist, and former Chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, Joseph Stiglitz, is one of the most important opponents of the TPP. He was a champion of NAFTA, and has since denounced that it was ever a good idea in the first place. Regarding the TPP, he explains:

“Fundamental to America’s system of government is an impartial public judiciary, with legal standards built up over the decades, based on principles of transparency, precedent, and the opportunity to appeal unfavorable decisions. All of this is being set aside, as the new agreements call for private, non-transparent, and very expensive arbitration. Moreover, this arrangement is often rife with conflicts of interest; for example, arbitrators may be a “judge” in one case and an advocate in a related case.”

What Stiglitz is referring to is a section in the draft known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which allows corporations to directly sue governments—including the U.S. government—if a government’s regulatory laws limit a corporation’s profits. The example most often given is cigarette laws. If cigarette’s are labeled with a warning that they may kill you, Philip Morris or any other may take suit, with the claim that they lost future profits because of a country’s labeling laws. This “investor-state” system has already forced taxpayers to pay more than $440 million to corporations for various profit obstructions, including toxic bans, water and timber policies, and land-use laws. At the same time, more than $34 billion remains pending in corporate claims or suits in the U.S. alone. If this isn’t fucked up enough, in the secret tribunals where these lawsuits made by the corporations against the countries take place, typically three corporate attorneys act as judges and then may rotate in the next case as the prosecuting attorneys. Of all the praetorian fuckery that haunts this awful planet, a corporate-run justice system is the fetid leaking ulcer of fairness. The TPP is a more caliginous girning character than the Old Testament god  .  .  .  it doesn’t even have a face when it smites you for liking dolphins or wanting a glass of drinking water that won’t kill you.

Everyone knows that corporations are obviously people now, but they’re faceless demonic people with heavy constipated breath. Just this week, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland, will pay more than $5 billion in a settlement for pleading guilty in a currency rigging scandal, but no actual person with a face and sociopathic tendencies will ever face a day in prison. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive, was given a 74 percent raise to $20 million after he fucked everything up back in 2008. Just this week, the GOP blocked legislation presented by Senator Elizabeth Warren that would require public disclosure of the trade agreements before they get “fast track” status. You might ask yourself why anyone would want to block transparency of a trade agreement that promises jobs and money and stuff. But then you laugh with a nearly empty champagne glass in your hand, and remember that everyone on Capital Hill is 69ing with the banks and the corporations. The Intercept reported on this a little more articulately, exposing one of many revolving doors between business and policy:

“— Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, the assistant U.S. trade representative for agricultural affairs, recently lobbied for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group for biotech companies. Lauritsen’s financial disclosure form shows she made $320,193 working to influence “state, federal and international governments” on biotech patent and intellectual property issues. She worked for BIO as an executive vice president through April of 2011, before joining the Trade Representative office.

— Christopher Wilson, the deputy chief of mission to the World Trade Organization, recently worked for C&M International, a trade consulting group, where he represented Chevron, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, British American Tobacco, General Electric, Apple and other corporate interests. Wilson’s financial disclosure shows he made $250,000 a year, in addition to an $80,000 bonus in 2013, before he joined the Obama administration. Wilson left C&M International in February of 2014 and later joined the Trade Representative’s office. C&M Internationalreportedly lobbied Malaysia, urging it to oppose tobacco regulations in Australia.

— Robert Holleyman, the deputy United States trade representative, previously worked as the president of the Business Software Alliance, a lobbying group that represents IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and other technology companies seeking to strengthen copyright law. Holleyman earned $1,141,228 at BSA before his appointment. Holleyman was nominated for his current position in February of last year.”

What the Trans-Pacific Partnership could do here for example—because Sharon Lauritsen and Christopher Wilson both worked for biotech companies—is actually restrict the government’s regulation of drug pricing, as well as create new rules that would inhibit generic lower-priced drugs from entering the market. Creating a monopoly essentially on an entire industry. Akin to when Texas banned the sale of Teslas. Here are some of the most fervent advocates of the free market actually killing the free market through a highjacking of the legal justice system. In his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, David Hume writes, “public utility is the sole origin of justice.” Government, Hume argues, is not an agreed upon social contract, and by no means is built from an instinctual moral obligation to act on what is best for the people, but rather through force and submission it achieves its order. Why do the extremely rich and corrupt want even more of it, why they aren’t yet satisfied in their cold hell. If all values are derived from the passions rather than from reason, as Hume argues, than the despondent fuckery of collecting immeasurable wealth is an unadulterated passion for the 600 corporate executives in charge of the text of the TPP, almost as much so as taking selfies is for James Franco. Any virtue, as Hume argues, must be “useful or agreeable to the person himself or to others.” A painful sense of guilt or disapproval evokes a vice, and therefore an injustice. But Wall Street clearly doesn’t have a utilitarian sense of economy. Their definition of virtue is a violent skullfucking of the planet. We are turning the clock back towards a more feudal desperate time, a time before Napoleon, before the social contract was declared for the common good.

As everyone knows, Napoleon legalized divorce, established legal equality (forbidding legal privileges based on one’s birth), allowed one’s freedom of religion, abolished feudalism, and established the now very popular Napoleonic Code, finally repealing all royal law. But none of those customs or laws are actually worth anything. You can’t sell freedom of religion quite in the same way that you can sell fraudulent loans.

The only thing left of Napoleon’s legacy is his penis. It’s true, Napoleon’s penis still taunts us, above ground, behind the dark fog, on this terraqueous masterpiece of human tragedy. Nearly two-hundred years after his doctor cut it off during his autopsy and gave it to a priest in Corsica, and after it has passed through the hands of several purposeless human beings as the temporary owners of the now shriveled scab, the chewed-up jerky that tried to hump its way to an already meaningless victory, Napoleon’s penis lies isolated from the man’s achievements, it’s present owner fielding offers as high as a hundred thousand dollars. Through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we are returning to the feudal state, erecting the corporate advisers as the royal family. The once bold achievements of our leaders from the past—who paved the way for a democratic and free society—are dying. All that will remain are global trade agreements, orphans, dead whales, and Napoleon’s severed penis. And the sun will finally set.

Sources:

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/4/a_corporate_trojan_horse_obama_pushes

http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-fast-track-introduced-april-2015.pdf

http://www.citizen.org/tradewatch

http://www.citizen.org/investorcases

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/16/tpp-revolving-door/

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30815-the-trojan-horse-president

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/why-wont-obama-go-after_b_4661086.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-01-24/dimon-gets-74-percent-raise-after-billions-in-fines

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30947-matt-taibbi-world-s-largest-banks-admit-to-massive-global-financial-crimes-but-escape-jail-again

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