Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Twilight of the Gods

There's a sight as common on the NYC subway as amateur dance crews and that's middle-aged Nigerian immigrants babbling about Jesus. Unlike the dance crews, this is greeted with a rigorous indifference as everyone looks away and tries to find something, anything else to focus on until they or the proselytizer gets off the train.

Now you probably want to shrug this off as mere New Yorker godlessness but there's two problems with that. First, New York City is much more Republican than the boring states are willing to acknowledge. You can't throw a rock in Sheepshead Bay without hitting some Ayn Rand quoting blowhard - who also identifies as Christian because Randroids are too stupid to even get their own philosophy right. Second, and most importantly, this very indifference - if not outright hostility - to wild-eyed Belief was demonstrated by much more middle Americans a little over ten years ago:

[T]he pilot of an American Airlines flight started talking crazy Jesus shit shortly after takeoff. He asked the passengers, over the intercom, to raise their hands if they were Christians... The great thing is that the pilot didn't stop there. He asked each of the passengers who didn't raise their Jesus-spiked hands to seek help from the nearest Christian lunatic in the plane. 
"The passengers feared for their safety." That's a direct quote from the reports.

This reveals one of those never acknowledged but undeniable truths about modern America: religion just ain't that important. Oh sure, you're shit out of luck in South Carolina or Kansas if your boss finds out you attend the wrong church - or even worse, no church - but that's just the everyday petty tyranny of the workplace. The weirdos are always purged so as to maintain the same bland normality, whether they're atheists or into group sex. Culturally normative behavior, especially the image of such, is strictly enforced in America by the middle management commissars.

But not one of those All-American Bible-clutchers really believes any of it. Not the same way as these Nigerians evangelizing the morning commuters. For them, religion is Religion. It's a beginning and an end, an injunction encompassing the whole of life. It is, quite simply, "To the death!"

Not even the most red-faced Jesus-Freak Republican is "To the death!" Not a single gringo has treated religion with that certainty, that intensity since the Thirty Years War. Everything from the Eucharist to the Pentecostal Potluck is just so much hollow ritual, people going through the motions just to find some sense of community and consistency.

A typical internet atheist would rub his hands with glee at this revelation. Because internet atheists are just as entrenched in Western myopia as the dullest Baptist in Charleston. Yeah, religion in America and Europe may be just a zombie puppet show but goddamn does the rest of the world still mean it! Those Nigerian Christians actually die in their homeland for it and they were doing so long before Boko Haram came on the scene. Sunni Jihadis from the Sahel to Chechnya have killed and died - often both at once - over the sanctity of some long dead goat-fucker's likeness in newspapers.

And before you get a head up of good ol' Islamophobia, remember that those same Nigerian Christians are just as able and willing to massacre the jihadis right back. Liberian preacher Joshua Blahyi spent the 1990s as General Butt Naked, leading his Butt Naked Brigade on a rampage of drugged up Kalashnikov fire and severed head soccer. Honor killings and even human sacrifice still go on in the northern backwaters of India and the Buddhists in neighboring Nepal and Indochina were the guerrilla warfare capitols of the world all through the latter half of the 20th Century.

Besides, it's not like the lukewarm Christianity of America has made it any nicer either. An entire political movement was born in 2009 because people were opposed to getting better healthcare. The recent torture docs revealed all the bizarre butt stuff that went on as "enhanced interrogation" which anyone willing to pay attention had known for years anyway. And the nominal peace movement spends more time dithering over the legality of flying killbots, having internalized the priorities of amoral global empire.

Point is, people don't need some medieval spook in the sky as justification to be assholes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On Satire and Obscenity

Sometimes you need to take a step back and appreciate the absurdity of the world.

Like how twelve French journalists were murdered over cartoons. In all the commentary and nombrilisme over the Charlie Hebdo attack, you often see that point left out. These people were murdered over cartoons, that is the exact reason the attackers who were posthumously claimed by Al Qaeda Yemen gave for their bloodbath. They were pretty ambiguous, as reactionaries often are since nuance is one of those things for wishy-washy liberals.

Although, going by the reaction in Anglo-American media, those same wishy-washy liberals can lock it down like the best neocons. First you had all the cable news companies "refraining" from showing the cartoons because they're pussies so as not to offend, then you had dozens of online lefties - even the excellent Jacobin! - offering the argument of "Yes murder is bad but Charlie Hebdo is racist."

Now that's pretty damn absurd too. And it's a rare case of a commie agreeing with a Catholic:

Religious freedom and freedom of expression, [Pope Francis] said, are fundamental human rights. But they are also not a total liberties... "If [a close friend] says a swear word against my mother, he’s going to get a punch in the nose," he explained. "One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith."

Yep, Pope Franky is totes for free speech but wants you to understand that it'll get you ganked. Like how you should expect sexual assault if you go out dressed like a whore.

John Dolan, in a bit of a rant, makes the point that Anglo-American culture just doesn't get French satire. That's certainly true, the gleeful irreverence of French comedy being alien even to liberal Americans. That's also what makes it so goddamn brilliant, the utter lack of sanctimony. That's why Republicans are so unfunny and also why AlterNet publishes the occasional complaint about The Daily Show - sanctimony is as American as Apple Pie or crediting upper middle class protesters with ending the Vietnam War, as opposed to the bravery and ingenuity of the Viet Cong.

That deeply normative sanctimony is why so many Americans are dithering over Charlie Hebdo. They know the proper response should be "free speech," but there's just something too salty about those anarcho-atheist Frenchies. The charge of "racism" even uses the very broad American definition, which is obsessed with skin color, rather than the French concept which has much more to do with national identity. In France, if you drink wine and sneer at religion you're In, whereas in America even Darius Rucker still gets shit from country fans just because of his melanin.

The only sensible thing out there is this article by sci-fi fantasy author Saladin Ahmed. He examines the "punching down" of Charlie Hebdo's vendetta against Islam without condemning them. And thank Allah for that because it moves past the shaky - and blitheringly ignorant - debate about racism and brings us to the much more real problem of the rising right-wing hysteria in Europe over what's a meager single digit percentage of Muslims in the  population:

"In an unequal world, satire that mocks everyone equally ends up serving the powerful."

There are real issues of power here that the attack on Charlie Hebdo has brought up for discussion. French Muslims are as powerless as Shias in Saudi Arabia while being just as demonized - though they likely don't get whipped and beheaded as much as said Shia. Truly bold satire denigrates wealthy Sunnis like the House of Saud and the Catholic Church that continues to retard sexual health in the developing world while molesting children. Speaking truth to power is a vital necessity of any free and progressive society.

So in that spirit, here's a caricature of Sarah Palin getting hammered in the ass by Joel Osteen a closet-case pastor:

"So, did you see the upstairs?" Madame President's hand was roughly kneading inside his back pocket. "They've got this new... thing."

Damn woman! Couldn't She leave him be for just one evening? "Love to."

She dragged him up the wide staircase. He could feel eyes flitting to them from the now drunk crowd. "There they go again," they would all be thinking. Bad enough Feely had to pleasure the goddamn whore but now everywhere he went, everyone he met just saw him as one more of her playthings - and oh how many She'd already had!

That was one of the many elephants in the room he'd learned of in this town, how She'd been fucking everyone but Her husband since the moment She took office. He'd seen all the anonymous blogs, claiming firsthand accounts of the affair - even the paid journalists couldn't keep a straight face anymore in denying it. His congregation had a field day once getting righteously pissed over executive infidelities which left him wondering if now they didn't care or they were really too dumb to notice.

The second floor was empty, save for the two of them and - as always - Klein. He gave the usual nod, a silent "I've cleared out anyone who might hear her moose noises." Feely had to admit that, despite the work he did, he genuinely liked Klein. He was quiet, professional, and never judged. And that chiseled jaw line -

"Let's do a quick one in the bathroom," She said, Her tongue slithering over his ear.

It didn't bother Feely as much anymore. He'd gradually learned how to tune everything out while still "performing." Alcohol usually helped, as did Her seemingly endless supply of cocaine. Really - he frantically told himself - he actually enjoyed this blanked out mental state. It gave him time to relax, to remember happier times of sneaking past Anita to go cruising Denver for a tight-assed boy and some meth -

The brief reminiscence died - as always - to Her slobbering grunts of, "Fuck my pooper! Fuck my pooper!"

Get my filthy and disrespectful novel One Nation Under God on Kindle or the ereader of your choice!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


You’re staring down at a meal. Could be a turkey dinner, a pizza from Domino’s, mint chocolate-chip ice cream, whatever you like. Because this is your last meal. The last thing you taste before the elected Powers That Be take your life in the name of Lady Justice.

Because you fucked up. Maybe you caught your significant other getting some on the side and lost control. It happens. Or maybe you were a dirty crook to begin with and shot some rich prick who wouldn’t give up his Rolex. Hell, maybe you’re a methodical serial killer. Ted Bundy: The Next Generation.

It doesn’t matter.

Whoever you are and whatever you’re eating, you have a unique opportunity. Unlike many, you can contemplate your death as an immediate reality rather than a philosophical abstract. The greatest thinkers themselves were never in your position, the old being too incoherent and the young never seeing it coming. Well, there was Socrates, but we won’t get into that.

The myriad of possibilities rushes through your mind. Heaven, Hell, Reincarnation, or just plain Oblivion. The greatest question ever asked by humanity: “What comes after death?” and you are about to learn the answer and, possibly, the ultimate Truth of the universe.

You may be excited or intrigued at the thought of gaining such knowledge. You might be shitting your pants; terrified of losing the only existence you have ever known. You may have found Religion while on death row and go to your fate with a sense of peace. You may be an unrepentant monster who happily recounts every horrendous act, especially the ones the cops never found out about.

Doesn’t matter. There’s a schedule to follow and your feelings don’t factor into it.

You can be thinking of this while you eat, or while the nice guards lead you down the hall. It’s okay, no one will deny you the right to daydream.

And when you’re being strapped into the Chair, or the Gas Chamber, or whatever form of egress is currently in vogue, it hits you: the banality of the whole thing. The systematic tightening of restraints (can’t disturb anyone with you’re flailing limbs), the droning voice of whatever religious authority you have requested (if any), it’s all so mechanical. Executions, the State ordered ending of a life, are carried out with all the seriousness and emotion of a routine board meeting. You’re Executioner looks like he’d rather be at the bar with his buddies. This is when you realize there is no grand finale, no climax, no drum roll leading up to a clash of symbols. It just ends.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year in Hate

2014 sure was a banner year for hate. With so much racism and police state apologism exploding in just the fall, you likely forgot some of the highlights earlier in the year.

Like Cliven Bundy, the "tax protestor" who turned out to be a vile racist since those things are usually so separate. No less a national blowhard than Sean Hannity hitched his wagon to this cracker and his half-assed anti-government rhetoric until it all culminated in the murder of two police officers. The NYPD has yet to blame Bill de Blasio.

"Blah Blah racist bullshit."

In other shooting news, poisonous skitstovel Elliot Rodger tried to go on a shooting spree in retaliation for never getting his dick wet. That he didn't rack up much of a body count, including some dudes, convinced professional internet misogynists that he wasn't influenced by them at all. Nope, he just managed to regurgitate all of their talking points in his ridiculous manifesto by coincidence.

"Feminism is why I can't get any, not my repulsive personality!"

Besides, gun crimes only count when police think a black guy might have a gun. That's why they didn't even bother with the theatrics of asking a grand jury following the killing of John Crawford. They heard he might be carrying a rifle and you just can't do that in public.

Running around a toy store with assault rifles is a job for the police.

Or stolen cigars. That there's a capital offense. Especially if they were stolen by a colossal Terminator-Demon-Gorilla and you're a nebishy police officer with nothing but your sidearm, baton, pepper spray, a militarized police force, and the support of a frightening number of the population to protect you.

"That black kid is scaring us!"

And God help you if you're selling untaxed cigarettes, because freedom-loving Americans and their justice system sure won't. Sure, Jaime Dimon can obliterate the savings of millions and still walk around unmolested but he's rich and white. If you're engaging in shady economic activity just to put food on the table, you're worse than Hitler.

This is what a police state murder looks like.

Much like trying to shoot all the filthy whores, you'll find a surprisingly vocal segment of America who are all in favor of police brutality when it's against poor brown folks. This is what John Dolan calls the Sullen Majority, that bedrock rottenness of every civilization where there is no joy, just petty malice and resentment. This is how you can get the same people who have cried for years about Obama the Islamo-Commie stealing their freedoms turning a blind eye to actual abuses of the citizenry. This is how you get so many red-blooded American patriots defending anal rape by their government. The American concept of "freedom" is a narrowly narcissistic thing, championing one's every action as sanctioned by Providence while demanding the whole weight of the law smack down any of those uppity Others.

But no catalog of 2014 hate would be complete without a look at the internet! Continuing to demonstrate how SOPA might have been a good thing, lots of the same assholes who celebrated Elliot Rodger spent the past few months flipping their shit over video games. What began as a hate movement against any women who dare to get near their toys - including a threatened school shooting in October - soon devolved into pedophilia apologism and straight up white nationalism. Also, Eron Gjoni rapes goats.

Here, this is a nice distraction from all the awful.

In far more important internet news, beloved hacktivist doodad TOR was revealed to be funded by the US State Department. People who'd invested their time and trust in the TOR network engaged in serious debate about the ramifications for privacy and Nah, they flipped their shit too. Not because they're all secretly on the NSA payroll but because programmers are the modern manifestation of Jonathan Swift's Laputa. This is still ongoing and you can see all the histrionic scumbags on Twitter proving why hacktivism is a waste of time.

Each layer is more denial. And Neo-Nazis.

So there you have it: 2014 was the year of hating anyone and everyone who dared to not be a wealthy white dude. Honorable mention to Hobby Lobby, for setting a legal precedent that your employer can now control your sex life. Because freedom.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Brief History of Race War

With folks expressing their displeasure at the police having a license to kill, it seems all the closet racists are in a race to out themselves:
If I were a white guy living near Ferguson, you had better bet I am buying ammo to protect my property and family. These "protesters" seem to be the most racist aspect of this story.
These people are burning the city down.
The same old, same old its not our fault. Poor us. Fuck the white man because he is the only reason I don't have an education.
YOU types down in Ferguson are what gives all blacks a bad name.
That's really the most common complaint: "Well, you darkies are violent thugs!" And while it's easy to dismiss such a statement for the pigheaded racism it obviously is, I thought it would be instructive to rub everyone's face in the heinous shit white people have done to non-whites all through the 20th Century, especially the post-war period when all the "civilized" powers agreed genocide was a no-no.

Rather than start with the obvious like the Torture Report, I thought we'd kick things off with that oft-cited modern genocide Rwanda. Because it's popularly accepted as a pretty terrible thing and not many people know about the role played by one white Belgian, Georges Ruggiu. A nebbishy loser who befriended a Hutu at university, he travelled to Rwanda in 1990 to take a job at Radio Mille Collines where he spewed racist, pro-genocide rhetoric on behalf of the soon to be genocidaires:

Clean out your houses!
Get rid of the cockroaches!

Before you go and defend Ruggiu's tirades against "cockroaches" as free speech or coincidental to the ensuing killings, he not only confessed to conspiracy to commit genocide but rolled on the entire station as the propoganda wing of "Hutu extremists." Quite some time ago in fact: Boy Georges was thrown in a Tanzanian prison back in 1997, where he was rightly beaten silly, before sleazing his way into an Italian prison and finally back home to Belgium. Across the same period, he grew a beard and changed his name to "Omar" to get shelter from gullible African Islamists who go gaga over palefaces joining the Ummah for some reason.

But the grossest thing about Ruggiu is how he had to go looking for the sort violence that used to be SOP for white folks in the tropics as recently as his childhood years in the 1960s and 1970s. Like Algeria, a place so screwed up, one of the jihadi militias actually went "Fuck it, let's be satanists." Though you can't blame this screwed up state on general Africanness, as Tories and other subomegaloid swine are wont to do, as there's a pretty recent history of both French military and settlers getting up to their elbows in Algerian blood. This stretched from just after World War II - including Camus's passive-aggressive celebration of killing an Arab - all the way up through the final French withdrawal in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, the Brits were doing their best to send the Kikuyu of Kenya down the same path as German Jews. The lackluster Mau Mau uprising, which managed to kill 32 British occupiers in about as many years, provided the excuse to murder of 90,000 Kenyans while being low impact enough that Her Majesty's ministers could divert other resources to the insurrection in Malaysia. Called the Malayan Emergency, because Lloyd's wouldn't cover the losses of the rubber and tin companies if war were declared, it continued the great British tradition of brutalizing the Burmese. In a prelude to American military operations like Mai Lai and Haditha, British troops massacred unarmed villagers not three years after lecturing and wagging their fingers at Germans who dared to massacre other Europeans.

Not a decade after the Brits got down and dirty in Southeast Asia, the US took its turn. But we're not going to dwell on that despite a million dead Vietnamese in what US Army veteran Stan Goff explicitly and frequently calls a race war. Everyone but the odd old crank accepts Vietnam was a bad thing, even if only because lots of brave American boys died for poorly defined reasons and it wasn't even a win.

Instead, let's look at the Doolittle Raid in World War II. That's always trotted out as the Good War, the battle for freedom against tyranny and all that. The glorious patriot conflict in which hundreds of thousands of women and children were burned alive in Tokyo. Doolittle's inital run only scorched some 400 civvies, a low as massacre figures go, so the US Army Air Corps kept at it all the way up to 1945, including a carpet bombing of downtown Tokyo by three hundred B-29s. The Doolittle raid is often excused as revenge for Pearl Harbor but not even the amateur fascists doing military history in the US bother to explain the strategic point behind the March raid and its 125,000 dead Japanese civilians. Like the Brits with the Kikuyu, they just don't say anything.

Skipping over the rest of World War II, with all of its gas chambers and fire bombings directed at other white folks, we see a German crime that doesn't get nearly as much attention: the systematic extermination of the Herero people. Having had it up to here with the revolts against their rule by the native inhabitants of the land, German troops forced "rebel" Herero and their families out into the desert and kept them there until the vast majority died of dehydration. Those that tried to slip away from the main force and sneak back to their homes were stymied by Lothar von Trotha's extermination order: "Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot."

The Germans eventually got bored shooting women and children and switched to concentration camps. Which they learned from the British. In a rare instance of lax German accounting, the only casualty figure for Herero forced into camps is "Most of 'em."

This systematic extermination looks positively serene, however, in comparison to the British invasion of Tibet occurring at roughly the same time. Literally on a whim at the start of the 20th century, the British Raj decided to add Tibet to its empire of misery and dispatched a young Jesus-freak lieutenant to make it happen. Because no religion has spilled more blood on more continents than Anglicanism.
The War Nerd sums up what happened next better than I ever could:
Younghusband marched into Tibet in December 1903 with a force of Sikhs and Gurkhas—pretty scary mix, like rottweiler plus pit bull. And the Gurkhas were definitely the pit bulls in that pair. Sikhs are very tough but not blood-crazy. The Gurkhas were not only devoted lovers of knife-work, especially on POWs, but ancient enemies of the Tibetans. It didn’t take much to push them to a massacre. The Tibetans knew the British were dangerous and tried not to resist at all. But as the British force pushed farther and farther into Tibet, the local commanders decided to resist. That was a mistake. This wasn’t Tony Blair’s cool Britannia they were dealing with. On March 31, 1904, Younghusband encountered a Tibetan militia force of about 2000 guarding a pass near Gyantse. He must have had a hard time keeping a straight face or wiping the drool from his lips, thinking about the medals he’d get for this one, because the Tibetans were armed either with spears and swords or at best with matchlock muskets. That’s right: the kind of 17th-century firearm that won’t fire unless you apply the smouldering wick to the firing pan. Younghusband decided to play with the poor fuckers he was facing. He said, “My friends, my friends, what’s all this hostility? Why dees paranoia? Here, I’ll tell MY soldiers to take the bullets out of their rifles, and you tell YOUR soldiers to put out the flame of their matchlocks.” The Tibetans, who had no idea that Younghusband’s troops had modern repeating rifles, put out their matchlocks. Younghusband then ordered his troops to open fire. 1300 Tibetans were killed, with almost no British casualties.
And before that? Imagine a hundred Tibets in a hundred countries for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Always the white "civilized" tribe going to great and gruesome lengths in its attempts to exterminate all the darker "savage" tribes, when not enslaving and raping everyone who had the misfortune to be born outside Europe.

So tell us again, aggrieved white folks - who are the violent thugs in this world?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Look At These Thugs

Walking around with them gats, thinking they all hard and shit...

"Straight up dude this bitch is all sad and crying like awwww they killed my baby but she obviously didn't care enough to raise him right..." ~ a concerned citizen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Woman Without a Country

Olivia Manning, in recounting her childhood split between England and Ireland, described it as having left her with "the usual Anglo-Irish sense of belonging nowhere." This sentiment animates the short fiction of another Anglo-Irish author, Elizabeth Bowen, who frequently presents characters unmoored from any sense of social identity at a tumultuous period of European history. In contrast to Modernism's liberating rejection of national identity, this state inspires angst and loathing in Bowen's characters.

Several of Bowen's characters exemplify this dislocation, in particular Justin of her short story "Summer Night." Though a man in his early forties, he has no close connections save for his deaf sister and the equally unmoored Robinson, whom he inflates in his own imagination. Justin moves listlessly between different cities in England and Ireland, and even different nations on the Continent, without ever setting down roots or moving outside his own closed, celibate, solitary way of life.

However Justin yearns for human connection, as demonstrated in his relationship with Robinson. He inflates the other man, declaring him a genius, thus concentrating the whole of social life from which he finds himself bereft in this single figure. Robinson, eager to be done with Justin so as to entertain his soon to arrive mistress, rebuffs such exultation and drives Justin deeper into himself. Both characters, in attempting to connect, merely find themselves turning further inward.

Even Emma, Robinson’s mistress, cannot shake escape this atomization. Indeed, she experiences it more as Robinson at least has genuine, if fickle, friends to occupy his time while she has a hollow family life and no joy except the limited freedom of her automobile. A rarity and sign of upper class wealth at the time, Bowen further uses Emma’s automobile to show her utter disconnect from surrounding society, stopping at a public house to use the telephone and have a drink but interacting with others no more than is necessary for this rudimentary market exchange. Other people are as phantoms in Emma’s life, as are the places they inhabit which she speeds through seeking some form of human connection in the shallow Robinson.

In “A Love Story,” Bowen presents similar characters but rather than yearning for connection, they actively drive each other away. Frank and Linda’s interactions ring hollow and sterile, Teresa and her mother all but despise each other, and their interactions together display a reluctance to engage with other human beings. Even Clifford and Frank all but say to each other that they do not care for one another and are both quite happy when they are done talking. This resistance to socialization reveals the deep psychic scaring of being a national orphan, of having never developed the skills for interacting with others and establishing a sense of belonging.

Bowen further generates a sense of dislocation through the structure of her narratives. Both "A Love Story" and "Summer Night" follow several separate characters whose individual plots do not come together until the very end, emphasizing their separation between each other. The reader is instead presented with these unmoored individuals, worrying over their own private dramas such as Justin with his awkward infatuation with Robinson. By switching between a third-person singular style for each of her characters, Bowen permits the reader only brief and limited glimpses on her broader narrative.

This dislocation of both characters and narrative reflects the Anglo-Irish experience following the Irish Revolution and into the outbreak of World War II. With British rule thrown off and a new society defined by both Irish tradition and the Catholic Church, the Protestant Anglo-Irish found themselves suddenly citizens of no nation, being too Irish for England and too associated with the old regime for Ireland. Though Modernism with its critiques of the nation-state pursued such a disconnect, Bowen and other Anglo-Irish had such an existence forced upon them and, despite the intellectual orthodoxies of the time, World War II demonstrated national identity remained very much relevant. Without such an identity, the Anglo-Irish found themselves not just disconnected from their nominal homelands but undefended against the territorial and martial ambitions of other nations.