Saturday, November 27, 2004

Incredibly right wing?

On a more pleasant note: the film, The Incredibles.

I cam out with one thought - "Randian wetdream" - seems I'm not alone.

For those who haven't come across Ayn Rand (now there's an unpleasant fantasy image) she was the founder of Objectivism, a particularly individualist/elitist strand of thought yankland side during the cold war. Against moral relativism and collectivism, it has had the likes of Alan Greenspan (chair of the US federal reserve for its acolytes).

Her most famous novel, Atlas shrugged featured the intellegentsia going on strike, and thus crashing the world into darkness.

How does this relate to The Incredibles? Well, the film repeats the mantra: "If everyone is special, then no-one is special" Now, a dictionary says:
spe·cial ( P ) Pronunciation Key (spshl)
adj. Surpassing what is common or usual; exceptional: a special occasion; a special treat.
Distinct among others of a kind: a special type of paint; a special medication for arthritis. Primary: His special satisfaction comes from volunteer work.
Peculiar to a specific person or thing; particular: my own special chair; the special features of a computer.
Having a limited or specific function, application, or scope: a special role in the mission.
Arranged for a particular occasion or purpose: a special visit from her daughter.
Regarded with particular affection and admiration: a special friend.
Additional; extra: a special holiday flight.
Something arranged, issued, or appropriated to a particular service or occasion: rode to work on the commuter special.
A featured attraction, such as a reduced price: a special on salmon.
A single television production that features a specific work, a given topic, or a particular performer.
[Middle English, from Old French especial, from Latin specilis, from specis, kind. See species.]

Now, the film clearly means the first above - but even that is negated by the fact that each of the Superheros had their own, er, special powers. The implication of the film was that the herd wants to hold back the elite, rather than let them express themselves.

The villain of the peice, Syndrome notably did not have powers, and was trying to become a Superhero despite the lack of them, i.e. he didn't know his place and was thus teh cause of much misery and destruction. Shades of international politics here, certain countries are powerful, and imitation of that power leads to war and mayhem.

The herd wants to hold the Special back, but the specials must keep the herd in their place.

Finally, in this potted review, the stock 'Anti-coporate' attitude was exploited in teh form of the villainous corporation - an insurance firm, that makes it's profits by cheating, and trying not to pay out to it's customers. See, capitalism would work if we had more dashing entrepreneurs and fewer grey coporations cheating us, dontcha think?

We can all be special.

Art of War

Serendipitous post.
On my way to the library, I read this paragraph on the bus:
Napoleon himself was represented ad nauseum, the hero leading the charge across the bridge at Lodi, presenting eagles to his legions, riding his chariot in a Roman triumph or apothosized as a classical deity, sparing the coqnuered on the battle field or subjecting the proud, visiting the victims of plague, rousing by his very presence the spirit of devotion in the wounded and dying. It is quite clear that the French painters of the period and Goya - of course, a painter on a different scale and magnitude - were not illustrating the same war. But it would be a mistake to to judge the political success of Napoleon's artists by their artistic merits. Their influence in the formation of the Napoleonic legend and in creating and perpetuating a romantic attitude to war is not to be underestimated...
From A history of modern france : volume 2 : 1799-1871 / Alfred Cobban.

He must mean some of the pictures here. Which - tangentally - reminds me of this story.

Of course, this is the time before photos, before the capturing of moving images the conveyance of reality in 2.5 gigapixels photos that can be beamed around the Earth in seconds.

That's not to say, though, that images aren't still created, shaped and built, if only through choice of photos. The owner of Fallujah Pictures blog seems to dig that, and is attempting to chose different image of war - be warned, you can find plenty grizzly there. The response to this is interesting, the invocation of worse and more horrific images by the Other side - their atrocity is bigger than ours.

Just as, though, the napoeonic pictures are now a useful resource, so too would I suggest that the pictures there are worth considering when coming to any judgement, historical or otherwise, about the Iraq war.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Boys and their toys

My much promised discussion on Thomas' history of the Spanish civil war will have to wait.

I spent my Sunday - I had a proper Sunday for one doing bugger all - re-reading:
Slaughterhouse 5 / Kurt Vonnegut
It was a rollercoaster ride of emotion - being in the hands of Vonnegut's writing is like being pleasured by a world-class courtesan - or a professional torturer (it did occur to me that at some bizarre point the two professionsconverge - expertise in stimulating and sustaining sensation, but to diametrical effect).

The story of a small town American taken prisoner of war, and being present to witness the firebombing of Dresden and it's aftermath is told in sparse - unsparing even - prose, using the device of science fiction and time travel to unfurl the plot.

The most effective scene is when the pruported narrator goes to visit his old comrade in arms to discuss their experiences of the war, and his wife explodes with anger and tears: "You were just children".

Just children.

So it goes.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

In memoriam...

In the style of William S. Burrough

Lee didn't believe it for one moment. The gossip, news, rumour, spread by the gossip whores in every corner of interzone. An operative was dead. One of the best.

It was inconceivable that an operative like that would die. Operatives don't die. The rules. They change mission. Persona are disgarded, the job remains. Rule number one.

Lee had first met Yessir! 'Arry Arrafat on a UFO making its way back from the White House to Interzone - they had both been getting new orders from the latest alien to be made - piece by piece in a factory on Venus - President. Yessir! (who obeyed orders impeccably) had sat throughout the trip looking nervous. As an agent, he had issues.

A lot of the other operatives, well, they were minted - sucking produce from the teet - never short of a fix. Yessir!, well, he had been trying to muscle in on the Olives and Concrete concession for years. Poor mad bug-eyed junky that he was, desperate enough for a fix to lube up with EU Jelly. No operative should let themself get into that sort of state, but Lee had heard Yessir had been mainlining - taking mugwump jism intraveinously - he couldn't stop himself.

Anyone who met him when he was jacked up would hear him talk of the biggest mugwump you'd ever seen hidden under Jerusalem - he'd go on to describe its craggy, towering sinister be-domed cock in love aching detail. Of course, he'd mutter, darkly in the corners of successive hotel rooms - the Powers-that-be had given that mugwump racket to other operatives - he was frozen out.

Occaisionally he'd have to be slapped, and reminded that the Jerusalem mugwump cock was extra planar - in another dimension, moving through the bodies without touching anyone. But then, he'd look crazy, get this idea in his eyes - bodies, we had to get past the bodies....

And that was when his plan for liquidating the flesh began, young boys set to erupt -he used to love watching them erupt - spraying their blood and flesh everywhere - visceral cumshots for powerwhores.

That was till he was lifted out - called back - for reconstruction and reassignment -a whole new personna for Yessir!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

"Fall-u-jah resist...

...Bush and Blair are terrorists"

So sang the six people and their pet cat, Morris, who turned up at the beck (but not call) of the Stop the War Coalition to the emergency demo outside Downing Street to protest the begining of the assualt on Fallujah. Mostly young, mostly enamoured with the fact that their chants rhymed. I left when they decided Queen's 'We will rock you' is in fact a political chant (Note to all, singing through Megaphones is bad, mmm'kay?).

Not a lot else to say. I feel horrified by what is going to happen. This will be the textbook case on urban warfare for years to come. Better, trained, better armed, and backed up by full air and artillery power. The Americans will take Fallujah, , the insurgents are doomed. It will be a grind though, and we'll need to weep for every boy - American or Iraqi - who gets ground in it.

This is not Stalingrad, this is not Mardrid. There are no supply lines, no re-enforcements, only death from above.

The BBC have been casually lying, embedded reporters in the weeks up to the attack told us that americans were launching artillery and air strikes at "fortified and mortar positions" - no caveat, 'They say they are', no mention of the notorious imprecision of precision bombing, etc.

The chant at the top, though, remains the equivilant of holding someone's coat, while asking them to go six rounds with the Cockney Monster while screaming, "'it 'im Frank, rip 'is fackin' 'ead orff"...


Saturday, November 06, 2004

A word from our sponsors...


Well, according to Electoral vote, it does appear that Bush won were people weren't - how's that for a vote distribution...

Friday, November 05, 2004

Election, an Angle.

Well, my systematic critique of the election was knocked for six by a resounding and genuine majority of the turnout voting for Bush. An angle, though, does present itself.

Shortly after Bush was elected the first time, I found myself reading Gore Vidal's novelisation of Abraham Lincoln's presidency, Lincoln - not long after I'd read a biography of the same fellow. I was struck then by the sort of similarities between 'the Original Ape' (as Old Abe Lincoln was known) and the the Original Chimp.

Lincoln, a Republican (true to the spirit of that partty's foundation on protectionism and state intervention in the economy, erm....) was derrided as incompetent, nearly politically castrated by his former rival for office and Secretary of State, Seward. A squeeky voiced gangly country lawyer, who'd cut his Washingtonian teeth with a furious attack in the House of Representatives on a President who had used his command of the army to provoke war with Mexico - he became known as 'Spot Lincoln' because he made reference to the blood spilt on that spot that started the war.

He came to office, and waged a war to defend the Union, that resulted in the liberation of the Slaves, a beneficial if (possibly - he was a canny bugger) unintended result. His war was opposed by the, erm, Democrats, who chose a war leader, General McLellan (who Lincoln had dismissed for his failure to prosecute the war against the South with sufficient vigour). He won a resounding victory at that Election, where before he had been a minority President (the first, unless I miss my guess).

Karl Marx drafted a letter to him for the International Working Mens Association (IWMA - the First International), addressing him as "Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, " - perhaps buying into the guy's log-cabin propaganda, when we was a wealthy state bureaucrat and lawyer, hanging on the coattails of railroad capital - that's by-the-by.

He praised Lioncoln for waging the war, in impeccibly class centred terms:
When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, "slavery" on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding "the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution", and maintained slavery to be "a beneficent institution", indeed, the old solution of the great problem of "the relation of capital to labor", and cynically proclaimed property in man "the cornerstone of the new edifice" — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.
Of course, Lincoln had to face draft riots and rampant corruption in his administration (he was also, as a legislator, one of those who wrecked the credit rating of Illinois with his imprudent economics and support for public works).

Luckilly, however, it's all over now, and I can get on to discussiong things that are more important than George W. Bush.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Communists for Bush

Following on from my last post (appologies to those who may have felt me intemperate, believe me, that was laid back Bill getting on his high horse, if I'd have been in a bad mood, you'd have known it - the words would have leapt from the screen and torn out your eyes).

Anyway,just to say, I received the chagrin of a tanky aquaintance of mine in t'pub t'other night, when I point out how I had urged an Ohionian in a swing seat not to vote. This raises a very real prospect, if I was successful in getting them to spoil their ballots for world socialism, that they may tip the balance in favour of Bush.

If that happens, I will have to buy a t-shirt with the legend 'Communists do it For Bush' or some other type of hiiiiilarity.

More seriously, the November issue of The People - journal of the Socialist Labor Party (Last survivors of the First International) is worth a read. I shamelessly reproduce here:

By Paul D. Lawrence

The Loser in the November election was the working class. Although the election had not occurred at "The People's" press time, the winners will have been the candidates of the capitalist class. Substantive differences between Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Libertarians, liberals and conservatives, are virtually nonexistent. Their differences are as meaningless as different sitting positions under the poisonous upas tree of capitalism.

Worse, the capitalist victory was by default. No working-class party backed by the economic might of the working class even contended.

Given the manifest problems of decadent capitalism, the absence of a working-class party is cause for grave concern. In politics, in the economy, in the media, in education--everywhere is the monopoly of the capitalist class.

It would be easy to despair, to write off the working class as hopeless, as class-comatose. But Socialists should never give in to such feelings. They are not justified. As Wendell Phillips, the great abolitionist and champion of the early labor movement, once said:

"No matter where you meet a dozen earnest men pledged to a new idea--wherever you have met them, you have met the beginning of a revolution. REVOLUTIONS ARE NOT MADE: THEY COME. A revolution is as natural a growth as an oak. It comes out of the past. Its foundations are laid far back." (Emphasis added.)

True also, however, is a famous misquotation attributed to the 18th-century Irish-born British politician and litterateur Edmund Burke: "It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph."

If workers do not become classconscious and do not organize themselves as a class politically and economically, then they will not defeat capitalism and will never establish socialism. If capitalism collapses, workers' intuitive measures of self-defense will not likely succeed. What would lie ahead is something like fascism, industrial feudalism or even a new Dark Ages. The progress of humankind could be arrested for centuries.