September 11, 2011

Two Futures (And the Decade of 9/11)


As you might imagine, this blog doesn’t have much to say about the anniversary of 9/11. This wasn’t the start of Western imperial aggression, nor the start of its neoliberal stage, nor of terrorism in response to it, nor of the cynical use of terrorism as a pretext for the premeditated actions of corporatists and totalitarians. So 9/11 didn’t generate anything new. What it did was dramatically accelerate things. But the basic game plan was already set and would’ve been played out regardless. In its absence, today we’d be in pretty much the same spot, although the police state might not yet be as overt and the degradation of civil liberties not yet as advanced. The state of kleptocracy, the Bailout, and the captivity of the economy, I think, wouldn’t be significantly different. The movement imperative toward relocalization and true democracy wouldn’t be different.
In a comment yesterday Strieb mentioned seeing a new cult of death. I’m not sure what he meant, but the cultural fetish of 9/11 certainly bears comparison to the old fascist cults of death. Nazi rallies always celebrated death, Hitler had his cult of the Blood Banner from November 1923 and his yearly anniversary ritual speech and invocation of the blood of the martyrs (about whom he was utterly cynical in private; one was “irreplaceable” only because of his social connections to rich donors, that’s all; the rest were infinitely more useful dead than alive – sound familiar today?), Rumania’s Iron Guard, Spain’s Falange with its favorite marching song, “Long Live Death!”
This sense of a cult of death is rendered more uncanny vs. a backdrop of heightened terror warnings and ubiquitous militarized police. The aftermath of the hurricane and a second big dumping of rain and flooding a week later adds to the sense of destruction and doom.
Meanwhile, we’re all about life. As negative as we often must be, our emphasis is affirmative toward positive democracy, community, a new way of life built around a new agriculture, positive freedom in the broadest as well as most specific sense. We aspire to take full responsibility for ourselves, and as much as possible we take responsibility today. We look to the future, we believe in the future.
By contrast, everything about this system and its culture reeks of decrepitude, decadence, rot, the dying. Its flight from responsibility and freedom, its short-run greed and short-run fear, its total surrender to “fear itself”, betray how it has no confidence in the future, because deep down it recognizes it has no future.
So however obnoxious things are today in their overt death cult aspects as well as their more sublimated circus/sports fan manifestations; more importantly, however much more crime and violence this system commits in its death throes, we can remain confident in our aspirations, for tomorrow belongs to us. Negatively, every element of the physical, economic, and political unsustainability of today shall hand tomorrow to us. Affirmatively, we shall seize tomorrow with the democratic hand because our cause is just and is blessed by history, whose democratic arc is long but curves toward its own consummation. All the vaster trend lines, far more vast than the temporary data noise of the fossil fuel binge, are vectors toward it.
We may be small at the moment and have to scramble to avoid the teeth and feet of the huge, lumbering reptiles. But 9/11 was a pebble toss compared to the asteroid that has already hit them, though as Nietzsche said lightning takes time to arrive, and it takes time to hear the thunder. Today we already begin to thrive in our own way, and we shall survive, and eventually stand tall as the new humanity we already constitute in embryo.


  1. Great essay Russ! This helps get my day off to a good start. Thanks for the inspiration and motivation to resist this culture of death.

    Comment by William — September 11, 2011 @ 8:16 am

    • Thanks, William, and you’re welcome.

      Comment by Russ — September 11, 2011 @ 9:37 am

  2. Hello,

    I see a morality of death being played out in many different ways. And it is something that makes me cringe when I find it in people that I care about.

    While I can’t go into detail as that requires a full explanation that I will be exploring in the future, I was speaking to my colleague, with whom I discuss this issue frequently, and he was able to sufficiently sum up what we both had been experiencing and talking about, along with some sculptures that represent the ideas at play here:

    Of course the artists are presenting two different ideas, and, for that reason, comparing them may seem improper. But what is the essential difference between two artists that seek to uphold different ideas in their art? What is the difference between an artist who shows a woman emerging clean, elegant and complete out from formless abyss, and an artist who shows bodiless heads drowning in that same abyss? Which of the depicted women is the one most desiring to live? Which is the one most resigned to death? Which has more right to be called beautiful? There is a choice involved in the question of which vision of woman is seen as more beautiful by those who would contrast the two women, but the choice is not an immediate one. It is something prior and more primary; namely, the choice to uphold life as good, or death as good. Life as the the goal, or death as the goal. Life as the true “state of being”, or death as the true “state of being”. Life as beautiful, or death as beautiful”

    Comment by Strieb Roman — September 11, 2011 @ 11:57 am

    • I choose life.

      Comment by Russ — September 11, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

  3. Russ, you seem to be trivializing the ‘police/security state’ here: “In its absence, today we’d be in pretty much the same spot, although the police state might not yet be as overt and the degradation of civil liberties not yet as advanced.”

    The purpose of the police state is to imprison people physically and mentally, and its working. I noticed as did others who were more social than I how personalities had changed as far back as the 1980s; people generally without a sense of humor; very little laughter. And that has gotten worse.

    The feeling that your government is your enemy and working on increasing humiliation is maddening. The issues aren’t simply criminality and corruption. ‘Cult of Death’ puts perpetrators and victims in some kind of game that flattens the field as if they deserve each other.

    Comment by LeeAnne — September 11, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    • I can’t imagine how I’ve ever trivialized it.

      Comment by Russ — September 12, 2011 @ 12:55 am

  4. Short & Inspirational….a fresh breeze blowing out the crap we are force-fed on 9/11.
    Hope you & your readers are still following Naked Capitalism, the P2P dialogue & ZeroHedge

    Comment by natalie golovin — September 11, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

    • Thanks, Natalie. Sure, I still read some of that stuff.

      Comment by Russ — September 12, 2011 @ 12:54 am

  5. It is hard to stay positive in times like these. Markets are driving a manic-depressive attitude that is thrashing people in resigned complacency. I feel it in my own attitude. But, the action of the last few months seems to be prepping my own psyche for a withdrawal from speculation; at least temporarily.

    Thanks for keeping the light on. Cucumbers keep coming in. I grew Lemon Cucumbers this year. Beautiful round fruits with no bitterness. Crisp, delicious. I think I may grow them for trade next year. The tomatoes stubbornly refuse to ripen and the beans I planted in late July are bearing fruit this week! Squash… I can’t eat them fast enough. On a low note, I may end up with one solitary corn cob. Those didn’t get going until early July. Way too late this year.

    How’s your garden, Russ?

    Comment by Ross — September 12, 2011 @ 10:14 am

    • I have some similar results, some different. My cucumbers all died in early August after a productive period. That happened to some other people I know. The most common diagnosis was too much rain. But before that happened I did get 7 jars of pickles out them. (All long since eaten.)

      Some of my tomatoes have been good producers, others produced fruit that has since stayed unripe, and some others never produced at all. (I saved seeds from two of the good ones.)

      Zucchinis were very prolific for awhile, but have been tapering off. I harvested one two days ago, and another a few days before that. But a few weeks ago I could hardly eat all I had. I put aside two humongous ones for seed saving. I need to do that within the next week. Hopefully they’re not too difficult to cut open, or too disgusting inside.

      Just like with yours (and with when I grew them two years ago), my pole beans only started producing recently, but they’re prolific now. I’ll have to harvest more today.

      On the whole this garden season was OK. Not as good as two years ago, but much better than last year.

      Comment by Russ — September 12, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  6. Great post Russ, nice counterpoint to the culture shaping divisive fear mongering propaganda that presently rains down on all of our spirits!

    Deception IS the strongest political force on the planet.

    By CHOICE we will rise above it, reclaim our past hijacked good morality and build an even better morality!

    Life’s great! Stay busy! Have fun!

    And good comments @ NC this AM. I always appreciate your great energy and spirit exposing the shit talking system reforming Kool aid sales force.

    Comment by i on the ball patriot — September 12, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    • Thanks i ball. I hope somebody else is saying this stuff at NC too. (I’m probably going to be taking a break from there. I need some relaxation.)

      Comment by Russ — September 12, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

      • Philip Pilkington is a fool incapable of critical thinking and unworthy of being dressed down. He will never accept any criticism you offer, no matter how constructive it is.

        That’s because he takes no responsibility for his role in being criticized. He is, essentially, a death cultist.

        The real question is why Yves suffers that fool to post his drivel on her site. Seriously.

        Yves’ decision to trade DownSouth in exchange for PP has substantially degraded the level of discourse over at NC. But, hey, she’s in this to make a buck, right?

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — September 13, 2011 @ 1:43 am

      • Yes, I don’t know what’s up with that. I reckon in the end most of them will crawl back to Obama and the Dems (or some to the Reps) in 2012, and they’re already gearing up for that.

        After seeming to have been in play for awhile there, the place seems to have settled into a reformist bin of proposals for kinder, gentler globalization and austerity. (Meaning in practice, of course, the continuation of the kleptocratic vector. No one but an idiot could possibly think the likes of “Mosler bonds” are going to turn the tide or ever exist at all.)

        Comment by Russ — September 13, 2011 @ 4:50 am

      • I got “fired” from NC sometime around labor day for discussing adblocking! Seriously – got an email from Yves saying I was selfish and stealing from her. She wanted to know whether I would sneak into a nightclub without paying. (I don’t think I have ever really been to a nightclub!) I was pretty surprised and kind of upset for a day or two.

        I guess I didn’t understand the economics of blogging and didn’t know how much that site depends on ads. I assumed that Yves was paid for book gigs or advice or speaking engagements. I was just complaining that I had limited bandwidth and all of the new video ads were using it up. Someone on the site suggested a firefox ad-on called adblocker and gave really explicit instructions. I replied that sounded great. So did some other people. Actually, I am not really sure what I said. I went back to see and she had removed my post. Then I did take a look at the ads for the first time and they are pretty dreadful. I hadn’t noticed before. Now they really annoy me and I find it ironic that someone can get so eloquent about the horrors of payday loans while right above there is a banner advertising them.

        Anyway, you asked somewhere on this blog whether those NC comments are moderated and I can assure you that they are! All in all, the articles are interesting and original and the discussion is interesting, especially yours. I never added much to it anyway.

        Comment by Ellen Anderson — September 14, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

      • I remember some thread exchanges along those lines, and Yves’ basic capitalist attitude. Evidently the amount of ads she “needs” to run is always exactly the same as the amount she can get paid for. For some reason she doesn’t seem to have needed this many a few years ago. In other words, classic capitalism. Whatever one can do to extract rents, that’s exactly how much one should do, and indeed how much one needs to do, even though you didn’t need to do that much yesterday.

        I wonder if she morally objects to blocking ads in general. (The nightclub analogy would be more suited to a bankster or IP lawyer, wouldn’t it?) Not to mention a reader like me who mentally blocks out ads 90% of the time, and consciously resolves to boycott the ones I do see, in the very rare cases it’s anything I might ever want.

        As for comment moderation, she used to say there was none, and that when comments sometimes got eaten it was a glitch. As I said, I tried but failed to recognize a pattern in which of my (and other people’s) comments sometimes got delayed or eaten completely. (Although in the past I’ve had comments delayed but then appear later, the last several times it happened they never appeared at all.) But now Yves says there are moderation criteria, but she keeps them secret.

        (Can anyone explain this secrecy to me, which so far as I can see is idiotic and impractical? At Baseline they do the same thing. I only know (some of) the criteria because Kwak explained them to me in an e-mail. If I moderated for content, I’d post what the criteria are. Isn’t the alleged point of that kind of moderation to improve the comments, not to play gotcha with them?)

        And then there was the case that came to light a few days ago, where comments appeared with no problem, were there for several days, and then at some subsequent point disappeared.

        Comment by Russ — September 15, 2011 @ 4:54 am

  7. I don’t know, Russ. During my lunch hour today, I got to hear a real treat: Thomas Friedman on MPR, giving a speech here in Minnesota. He said that we can re-invent ourselves! We can reclaim our lead in the world that we (Americans) created in the first place.

    My main take-away message was that in order to have a chance to feed myself and my family, I will have to constantly re-invent myself, and be more creative and hardworking than immigrants and workers in China, and will have to be constantly on-guard and hypervigilant. And that’s if “we Americans” succeed in retaking our place at the forefront of the great age of globaloney.

    What, exactly, does that guy smoke that clouds his sense of reality so much? I guess he’s got a good gig going: he’s following his own advice.

    Our neighbors brother and partner and son are visiting from Sweden. The contrast in their attitude, compared to most Americans, is profound and telling. They are relaxed. Don’t seem very worried. Are thoughtful, polite, interested, able to sit still. I hope that I am not totally a goner yet – we’re all suffering from PTSD of severe to mild type, from a few decades of class warfare.

    Comment by Publius — September 12, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    • Yes, they want us dead. First in mind and soul, and then in body as well. (The Nazi actuaries and slave system designers who set up a system designed to work a slave to death in 3 months was just an extreme example.)

      Tom Friedman’s one of many types and tones of propagandist for it. (Not much different from that swine at NC.)

      Comment by Russ — September 12, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  8. I believe friedman’s wife is worth 2 bil. You just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps (assuming they’re not worn out by now) and marry rich like Tom.

    Comment by tawal — September 12, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

  9. I think the simplest answer may be the best is this case. That blog is very personal for Yves and she takes criticism very personally (and herself very seriously.) That is often true of driven, effective successful people no matter their political bent. I am going to let it go. I truly enjoy her choice of links and articles. But what I have enjoyed most is your critique of them and the dialogue that ensues. That is very rare. I really don’t need to comment myself.
    BTW I am pretty sure that she had a problem with adblocker in general. I pointed out that avoiding commercials was an all-American pass time and that, were it illegal, firefox probably wouldn’t do it. I never got a response to that.

    Now, if the capitalist system works properly, come smart person will figure out adds that firefox can’t block and on and on…. Seems like a waste to me!

    Comment by Ellen Anderson — September 15, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    • Seems like a waste to me!

      That’s the point!

      I think on the whole Yves takes criticism better than some others. We’ll see how she takes my criticisms in that Warren thread. I wasn’t going to comment more, but some of the moonies I saw there today set me off.

      Here’s my favorite, a permanent keeper:

      I’m a huge Warren fan, but I can’t see who she is.

      (I saw in your other comment that you like her too, though. Hopefully not the way of those people.)

      Comment by Russ — September 15, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  10. Thanks for the heads up – I will go back and look at that exchange. Last time I looked they were comparing her to Ms. Clinton – mistake, I think.

    Comment by Ellen Anderson — September 15, 2011 @ 10:32 am

  11. Re Ms. Warren. If there is a Green Party candidate that is where I will be. I am committed to voting for Green whenever they are in the race. I don’t know yet whether there will be Green candidate for senator. However, I REALLY don’t like Scott Brown (or his pick-up truck.) It would be great to send him packing.

    Also, I find Elizabeth Warren to be quite charming. As we both know, reformism won’t work for one very important reason – the corporations will always win in the end for they are immortal beings and we are not. I don’t know how long it will take to get that across to enough people or whether Warren will ever come to that conclusion. Maybe, maybe not, but I would feel comfortable talking to her about it. I would expect that she might support the right of small farmers to sell their products. I don’t know that for sure, of course, maybe I am projecting as well. (A lot of the people who came out to oppose our Department of Health’s crackdown on raw milk were Harvard milk drinking lawyers, I think.)

    In the interim, I am not one of those who thinks that the best way forward is to get the worst people into office. She is the best candidate so far.

    As to why she is running, maybe she thinks it would be fun – much more fun than going back to Harvard and teaching the children of the rich and successful. Politics is great fun for some people. I used to like it myself.

    Comment by Ellen Anderson — September 15, 2011 @ 11:42 am

    • I am not one of those who thinks that the best way forward is to get the worst people into office.

      I’ve never said that it’s best to get the worst as such. I’ve always said they’re all bad enough that it’s not worth expending effort, emotion, or money on any of them. I’ve also said that Better Elite cults like that of Warren are actively harmful because they prop up faith in Better Elitism. From that perspective, it’s better that they lose, preferably in a way that highlights their own lack of Betterness (like the way Coakley sold out the very things that made her attractive to people in the first place in order to run as an Obama factotum; heckuva job) and/or the system’s criminality. (It’s true that endless examples of those haven’t cured the electoral fundamentalists yet.)

      A lot of the people who came out to oppose our Department of Health’s crackdown on raw milk were Harvard milk drinking lawyers, I think.

      I’m glad to hear it. I seldom see such things.

      One look at marijuana decriminalization can tell one a lot about how much it matters (as a rule) that elites with money are using the criminalized item. It’s nothing more than a minor inconvenience to them (usually not even that), so they’re not likely to care about decriminalization.

      Comment by Russ — September 15, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

  12. Warren may lose but my guess is that she will win. It is a long way off, though. There are so many goblins out there that who knows what the discourse will be like in a year. The situation in Japan is terrifying. I try not to be a total nihilist but it does seem that we have booby-trapped and land mined the world. Politicians who tell the truth before people are ready to hear it tend to lose elections but things can change fast and people can change too. We are in revolutionary times on so many fronts even if we don’t have revolutionary political candidates. Remember that the media are controlled by big corporations. At this point they will not let an anti-corporate message go out. The only reason we can go on like this is that we are a)regarded as silly pipsqueaks or b)being tracked and put on some bad person list. But there are getting to be a lot of us. Sometimes quantity does get transformed into quality!

    But political activity for most people should be local now. So I should admit that my political activities in my little town have not been all that successful. People love the farmers market but they don’t want to hear about what they consider to be weird gloom/doom/relocalization stuff. Our local town meeting just supported the local police in re-criminalizing M.J! They can get $300 fines for the town if they can catch people with it on a public way. The consequence is that they follow scruffy looking people around hoping to catch them with a joint or two. I think that it was sponsored by the attorney general. I totally agree with your opinion that there will be (is) an attempt to use the last resources to keep a sort of police state alive. However, things are going to get bad enough that this is not really going to work.

    I believe that the discourse is going to change. I just don’t know when, but I think soon. I have been following these blogs since about 2005 starting with Stoneleigh at the Oil Drum. For years I had wondered where all of the radical thinkers I used to know had gone and now they are beginning to reappear. I love seeing how many people online are beginning to get it. (Of course, if it goes wrong enough there will be no one left to talk to! But they say that despair is not a moral choice.)

    Comment by Ellen Anderson — September 15, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    • But political activity for most people should be local now. So I should admit that my political activities in my little town have not been all that successful. People love the farmers market but they don’t want to hear about what they consider to be weird gloom/doom/relocalization stuff.

      That’s why as a general rule I recommend the affirmative message about it (which more and more people seem to embrace) while saving the negative reasons for audiences which are more motivated to focus on them.

      We’ll see how our current local politicking works out. The farmers’ market has a base constituency, with a small but increasing number of people identifiable as fervent supporters. Our new time bank is getting a good reception in principle, but the real test will be how much people participate in practice. It usually builds gradually. And then there’s the local elections in November.

      All this will certainly change eventually. I want it to start happening while I’m still around to take part.

      Comment by Russ — September 15, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

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