Thursday, November 10, 2016

re-opening time

[special global political crisis retro-xeno post]

"Donald Trump won on a coalition of people who felt mocked by the future" - Anand Giridharadas, MSNBC.

"The trouble is that this new, American version of the disinherited has squandered their voice on a dyspeptic scream, a retro turn to racism and sexism, without anything resembling a plan, or a new vision for America." - Kevin Baker, The New York Times

"Reactionaries such as Trump, writes the American academic Mark Lilla in his new book, The Shipwrecked Mind, 'dream of stepping back in history to recover what they imagine was lost'. But what exactly has been lost and by which measure does Trump define greatness? Lilla has written that 'Make X Great Again' is the demagogic slogan of our time, and many march under that banner, from Trumpians to political Islamists. Here in Britain, a longing for a lost though indefinable greatness energises the Hard Brexiteers, with their fantasies of a lost sovereignty (Trump said that his anti-system revolt was 'Brexit-plus-plus-plus'). Professor Lilla draws a distinction between the conservative and the reactionary mind. Reactionaries are, in their way, 'just as radical as revolutionaries and just as destructive'." -  Jason Cowley, The New Statesman

"Trump is emblematic of what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” A society in terminal decline often retreats into magical thinking. Reality is too much to bear. It places its faith in the fantastic and impossible promises of a demagogue or charlatan who promises the return of a lost golden age. The good jobs will come back. The nation will again be prosperous. The decrepit cities will be rebuilt. America will be great again. These promises, impossible to achieve, are no different from those peddled to Native Americans in the 1880s by the self-styled religious prophet Wovoka. He called on followers to carry out five-day dance ceremonies called the Ghost Dance. Native Americans donned shirts they were told protected them from bullets. They were assured that the buffalo herds would return, the dead warriors and chiefs would rise from the earth and the white men would disappear. None of his promises was realized. Many of his followers were gunned down like sheep by the U.S. army." - Chris Hedges, Truthdig

"Theorist Svetlana Boym distinguishes between the personal and political manifestations of nostalgia with her dichotomy: reflective nostalgia versus restorative nostalgia. The latter ranges from curmudgeonly intransigence towards all things newfangled and progressive, to full-bore militant efforts to turn back the clock and restore an older order (ranging from recent American eruptions like the Tea Party movement and Glenn Beck's 2010 'Restoring Honor' rally to various flavours of theocratic fundamentalism, royalism, nativism, neo-fascist campaigns for an ethnically cleansed homeland, and so forth).  Restorative nostalgia tends to be big on pageantry (think of the Orange parades in Ulster), folklore, and Romantic nationalism. These bolster the collective ego with tales of past glory, but also nurse ancient injuries and insults (think of the centuries-old grievances festering in the nations of the former Yugoslavia). 

"Reflective nostalgia, in contrast, is personal, eschewing the political arena altogether in favor of reverie, or sublimating itself through art, literature, and music.   Far from wanting to resurrect a lost golden age, reflective nostalgia takes pleasure in the misty remoteness of the past and cultivates the bittersweet pangs of poignancy.  The danger of restorative nostalgia lies in its belief that the mutilated "wholeness" of the body politic can be repaired. But the reflective nostalgic understands deep down that loss is irrecoverable: Time wounds all wholes.  To exist in Time is to suffer through an endless exile, a successive severing from those precious few moments of feeling at home in the world" - me, from Retromania  


here's Richard Rorty, philosopher, agreeing with Phil K (in comments) and prophesying Trump almost 20 years ago in Achieving Our Country.


  1. "Theorist Svetlana Boym"

    You see, this is the point I've been making for the last 6+ months.

    The left theorises. The right DOES.

    The populist revolution was always irresistible because Neoliberalism (which is a distractive term for LIBERALISM) failed with the great financial crash in 2008. Therefore the left had a choice of either (i)adapting to the rise of populism and subverting/directing it towards its own interests or (ii) attempting to shore up the current regime in order to blunt the most racist/xenophobic elements of the new populism.

    I advocated (i), which meant e.g. making a popular left-wing case for Brexit, nominating Bernie Sanders, but the left generally went for (ii) which meant backing Remain, nominating Clinton, fucking a corpse.

    Oh, and lots of utterly pointless, well-past-its-sell-by-date "theorising." Has it not sunk in to anybody that while the left spend 10-15 years wanking off about "Affective Capitalism", "Agnotological Capitalism", "Capitalist Realism" etc., the nativist right killed off Neoliberalism almost overnight? Has nobody really grasped what that means?

    Anyway, I'll fire off this final warning. Trump is only a stepping stone. The big event will be the election of Le Pen. When that happens, that really will be the end of the (actually quite wonderful) world we all grew up with. Never mind Brexit - it will be Marine who kills the EU.

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  3. Well, you're talking about different Lefts, aren't you, or jumbling them up. The academic Left, which yes is ivory-tower and has very little effect in terms of real-world repercussions (the word 'neo-liberalism' itself is a barrier to most people understanding what it's on about, and that's the least layperson-unfriendly of its armory of terms). Then the activist Left (Occupy, student demonstrations, issue-based protests of many kinds, etc). And then the Parliamentary Left (e.g. the various factions within the Labour Party) which don't go in much for theory at all and would "do" if they got ever got their hands on power. Which they haven't for a while and look unlikely to be doing any time soon.

    I am been wondering what your take on Corbynism is. Sounds like you think they missed a trick there by not having the courage of their semi-secret anti-EU convictions and attempting to ride the Leave wave.

    Oh, and why did you take down your blog Phil? Lot of good stuff on there. Will you make it available again, or is it gone for good?

  4. But I know what you mean by left theorises/right does.

    Been feeling for a while now a kind of "eloquence fatigue" caused by the surfeit of excellent thinkpieces, columns and acerbic facebook mini-essays. Started feeling it quite a while before the shock-aweful result, and now of course there's a tsunamiof beautifully written, high-minded condemnations, of elegant analyses of the reactionary / proto-fascist mind, of artful historical analogies.... Seen charitably, it could be viewed as a therapeutic attempt to feel less overwhelmed and out-of-control, through trying to understand the phenomenon... less charitably it could be diagnosed as a form of displacement....

  5. Sorry about the rant-ish tone of that - I wrote it after 10 pints.

    I do think that Corbyn and co. missed a trick with the EU referendum, although I can understand why the problems he would have had with the PLP prompted him to reluctantly go for Remain. I think it's becoming more and more obvious that the current global system cannot survive, and if the left become associated with its defence, then they will be associated with that failure, even if their defending is very reluctant. But Corbyn would definitely have increased the size of the Leave vote, and that would have given him real authority in the aftermath. So he could have emphasized austerity as a contributor to the outcome rather than immigration. This would have had real practical benefit for a lot of people.

    I always had Farage down essentially as a trickster, but I now realise that his disruptiveness contained a real insight - that he saw before everyone else just how weak the Neoliberal system was. So he basically got a march on everyone. We're much nearer to the end game than people realise. If Le Pen wins next April, that really is the end of the EU. It's mind-blowing to think that by this time next year the EU may no longer exist. It's not (yet) a probability, but it is certainly a possibility.

    Also think that the cultural dominance of the left in academia, the media etc. has had a negative effect - it is like the right are the performers and the left are the critics, rather than both being performers as they should be. Weird how the right reviles "Cultural Marxism", when actually the success of the left in the cultural sphere has perversely tended to restrict it.

    As for the blog - I just got bored with it to be honest, and I didn't think I was posting anything particularly good towards the end - just brain farts, really. Think the 90 days deletion period has lapsed, so it may not be recoverable - I'll have a check.