Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Left Philobarbarism

The sanctimonious ego of the philobarbarist knows no bounds in its quest for self-justification for loss. Man is a competitive animal, and Modernism is as hard as any life before this, a life so hard that not to be eaten is some great achievement in itself in daily living to this day, even in a modern office setting, even if only metaphorically. The competition to survive, let alone to excel, is intense and maddening, and it is increasing as Modernity accelerates into a pace we can barely comprehend even as we live in the vortex of change within our own societies. Just to survive a day at work is an awesome trial for many of us, and to win is nearly impossible to realistically hope for. Life is tough, and for those who can't handle the competition the only chance of even an illusion of success is work in a protected enviornment, such as low-level government bureaucracy or a socialy restricted workplace where the rules of competiton are rewritten to favor those who cannot compete equally in the natural world of competitive endeavour, i.e. within non-profit institutions and organizations. Uncompetitive institutions and organizations are made for the losers who can't cope in the competitive world but who are still active and bright and motivated to excel regardless, those who, however, lack the skills and talents to actually achieve in their own right. Modernity is brutal in a way that life itself has never before experienced until a mere 150 years ago with the wide-spread rise of the Industrial Revolution. Nothing analogous to Modernity has ever risen before, nothing even close, no matter how brutal times have been prior to ours. Ours is a time of complete change, a revolution of Man's life, and it is swamping the majority in its wake as the ship of the modern industrial state moves on. Many are stranded in the leaving, and some, standing left behind are wondering why they didn't find room for themselves for this grand voyage into the new world of Modernity; and left behind they are angry and bitter, egotistical, vain, belligerent, and self-hating, envious and enraged at those who have gone on--for no obvious reason other than that of imagined and assigned privilege: caste, class, sheer good luck--anything but the truth that some survive and others do not because life is brutal and uncaring of individuals or masses. The deserving sink while the leaden float away. And it is those who see the others leaving them behind who, if they have some ability, some skill, some talent, those who could have if only only, those are the ones who, having been left behind, live in violent resentment of those others they see, others they must see, as inferiour to themselves, those "almost weres" who find that if only things were less competitive than they actually are they could then rule the world as kings and queens, as Golden People themselves. And finding that the world of life is not as they think it should be, they turn away from what is to what is phantasy, to a world of their own making, a world of artifice and reaction, a world created for themselves where within the confines of their own walls they can block out reality and make believe till they, are in their own minds, the kings and queens they think they really should have been in a better world, one that if only they can create it truly, therein they will find the recognition they think they deserve. If only they can make a perfect world from that which is now, there they will be known for what they are in their own minds rather than as that which they are in the world as it is, the world they hate for leaving them behind, the world that just doesn't see them as so special as they see themselves.

The problems of the mediocre arise from their expectations,personal expectations brought on by prosperity.Those who are educated, competent, bright enough, and all that anyone in the past could ever hope to be find themselves not quite good enough to fully make it in a competitve world of Modernity. Ths solution? Stop Modernity, stop the competition, lower the bar so the mediocre can climb over it into success and so they can proclaim their success and show it to all who now see them as the mediocrities they are.

But the ego of the mediocrity is collosal. Rather than accept his or her station and status as a might have been, they create with their limited abilities phantasy worlds and reified systems wherein they do become the images of themselves they wish to see. Within the protected and non-competitive confines of artificial systems the mediocrities promote themselves within their own circles of self-indulgence and self- congratulations. Inside the bureaucracies and controlled enviornemnts of soicialistically engineered group psychologies they get to play "grown-ups" all by themsleves. And who gets to be the "children" in these little psycho-dramas of pretend employment? In the West proper it is the disenfranchised, the down-trodden, the workers, the poor, the exploited, those who are victims of society who are marginalised due to uncontrollable and determined aspects of person and identity such as race, gender (sex,) and sexual preference, or drug abuse, insanity, criminality, stupidity, and ad nauseum. Anyone who cannot take care of him/herself is grist for the mill that makes quasi-real the phantasy of the 'adult play-world.' Those without the wherewithal to escape the clutches of the poverty pimps are turned-out by the 'grown-ups' who protect the lumpen proletariat from the evil system that doesn't recognize the worth of these mediocrities who really have little to offer beyond what anyone else provides in the course of daily living in a competitive world. It is difficult for many of these people to accept that they aren't really interesting or special after-all. We know it, and they know it. So what can they do? Well, they can be morally superior, and they can be so by saving the world, the evil world, the world of Modernity that hurts those they've appointed themselves to infantalize. And, thanks to a prosperous economy, the state indulges these mediocre losers in their phantasies. We can afford it. And then we actually start believing the bullshit, believing that we have done something wrong to have som amny people in our cities who are dispossessed and criminal, dysfunctional, and in need of such endless protection from us and the world we've worked so hard to create, maintain, and expand, not simply for ourselves but for our children and posterity, for universal humankind. We who make the world as it is, we take on the idiot conceits of the mediocre who inflate their status by inventing titles and honors for themselves like Roumanian aristocrats, mediocrites who demand more and more from the lives of the living to expand their little phantasy empires of despair. There wouldn't be all those dispossessed if not for us, and the price we pay for our success is guilt, assuaged by yet more hush-money to the dhimmis who cannot survive otherwise but by accepting their state as mediocrities in mediocre places.

For the ambitious and conceited failure there is the political Left to huddle in and from there to expand and to control more, to make places of power to dominate their inferiors, those too weak to defend themselves from the psychopathic poverty pimps of the ersatz Left. And the more we indulge the phantasies of the pimps the more they dress up and strut their worthless hour upon the stage of their own making, peopled by props of povery made by poverty makers, the Left itself. but that's not nearly enough for those who have failed: they must be recognized as masters in their own Hegalian dialectic of dominance and submission, they must have that recognition to know that their own emptiness is seen to be something more than emptiness. They require that the world recognize their "moral superiority," and the world's guilt. And since it is an utter emptiness it must always be filled anew with more guilt, and it must create more insecurities in the lives of the mediocre to cover up the endless lie of their own importance. We keep paying for the saccharine feeding-frenzy of the morally, intellectually, psychologically starving Left.

Those mediocrities who cannot cope with themselves in the modern world turn on those who can't defend themselves at all; and in the world-at-large it is the infantalized barbarians who are the victims of the Left.

When the Industrial Revolution hit its high notes in the 1850s in England there was without any doubt massive social destruction and personal destruction that today, looking back, makes one sick to see. Looking at the works of Dickens, Zola, Mayhew, and Engels is enough to make the modern man angry and disgusted by the behaviour of capitalists and their inheritors. The cold savagery of early capitalism in industrial cities is a preview of the death camps of Nazi Europe. Those who did not resist the death culture of early captialism are little better than the capos of the concentration camps, and those who did resist, those who formed the Socialist resistence to capitalism are alike to the French Resistence to the Nazis. but this is not the age of early capitalism today, and Modernity is not an extention of Nazi Europe. Captialism has socialized and democratized, while the Left has remained in conflict with Modernity against the progress of socialization and democracy in captialism of our time, hearkening back to the resistence to capitalism of 150 years ago, now bereft of a constituency of labouring masses. Who are "the masses" exploited and in need of protection and rulership by the the higher political and moral consciousness today's Left Philosopher Kings? In the change from raw captialism to Modernity, the synthesis of the American and French Revolutions with the Industrial Revolution, who now is the progressive?

The left, having lost its raison d'etre, the exploited industrial working class, has turned to the pre-industrial, pre-modern peasantry to use as proxies in the fight for a Romantic ideology of utopian fascism.

On a world scale, who are those less likely to cope successfully in the modern world than the usual suspects, the Islamic peasants? The Left, rather than continue its legitimate course along Bernsteinian Revisionist lines has abandoned Progressivism and has launched itself full-bore into Romance fascism. The Left has taken on the substitute constituency of the peasantry of Islam. In looking for a stable to run, the Left has found Islam, a maleable group of pre-modern "Noble Savages" it can rule with near impunity in the same manner it rules the lumpen-proletariat in the West. By taking the scum of the Earth and idealizing them as something 'Other' and by hijacking the public discourse through sophistic "relativisms" the Left has reified a new class of "exploited workers" to use for their own ends, those ends being power for themselves, status, and wealth, none of which come from legitimate efforts but only fuel the emptiness of the agenda that has no goal but reaction and the reification of personal phantasy on the part of the failed Left intelligensia, i.e. those who do not and cannot survive in the world of Modernity themselves at the level of success they believe, wrongly, they are entitled to.

Those who don the filthy cloaks of false sanctity and who parade themselves around the islands of reaction in the world aren't just fooling themselves by playing on the false vanities of the stupified peasant world to conjure the peasants' support for this idiot personal phantasy but they are also conning the West itself into believing that the West is evil in its pursuit of progress.

The dominant ideology of the democratic West is now Left fascism, not the ideology inherent in the mode of production, i.e. captialism. Our social relations are not based on the mode of production but on the mode of communication, dominated almost entirely by Left media, meaning that the discourse is Left, and the false consciousness of the masses co-opted into unconscious identification with Left fascism is destructive of progressivism. If we read in the papers and see on television often enough that the West is stealing oil and destroying the rain forests, and that we are doing so because of the inherent evil of the capitalist system, then in time, and that time is now, we will believe such rubbish to be true. If we do not feel guilt we might at least be pursuaded to pay jazya of a sort. We pay for them to play.Those who are certifiable losers in the competition for the scarce resoure of recognition in the master-slave relationship of life are doomed to play a different and inauthentic game reified for the sake of their own recogntion in the relationship. The thrpw-away pieces the Left losers use in this board game of self-delusion are the barbarians; and to promote the cause of the barbarians, the noble savages, is to increase the power and prestige of those who sanctimoniously 'protect' them. Below we will see some of the result of such protection.

June 21, 2005, 8:21 a.m.
Baffled in Basra
Self-defeating behavior persists.

By Steven Vincent

Basra, Iraq — It comes on the government-run TV station every night at nine. Opening with a percussive anthem, the eight-minute segment features a montage of stirring images: soldiers rushing down streets; policemen roaring around in pick-up trucks; infantrymen peering through rifle scopes; a SWAT-like team bursting into a house and rousting its inhabitants; soldiers deploying across rubble-strewn fields; more cops; music; the Iraqi flag; smiling children; soldiers; cops…

In most countries, such rousing depictions of constabulary and martial vigor would smack of police-state propaganda. But this is Iraq, where heroic images of security forces are meant to bolster public confidence that the new national government can stand against psychopathic Saddamites and blood-thirsty jihadists. Civil libertarians may squirm, but many Iraqis view respect for the police and army as fundamental to nurturing a democratic spirit. (Once upon a time, most Americans did too, before the era of "pigs" and "baby-killers.")

Still, this is Iraq — or more specifically, the city of Basra, where image and reality often clash, especially when it comes to the police. A few weeks ago, cops at the Al-Jemayat station house broke into a gun battle over accusations that some were former Baathists. A businessman told me that his partner was recently kidnapped and held for ransom by four men, who used their own police cars to commit the crime. Last May, the city's police chief admitted to the press that 75 percent of his force was "unreliable," and 50 percent was affiliated with religious organizations. And who is behind many of the assassinations (100 during one week in May) of former Baathists around town? Ask your local policeman — or, on second thought, don't.

Basra's police force isn't the only example of the social and psychological dysfunctionalities that plague this city of 1.5 million residents. Even as brave and dedicated people here begin to reconstruct their lives in the face of daunting problems — terrorism, a lack of investment funds, corruption, and a political process dominated by incompetent religious parties — others seem just as determined to, well, totally screw things up.

Take "Emergency 115." Recently, the city, with British assistance, instituted a "911"-style system for residents to dial in case of need. Humanely enough, the Brits designed 115 with a provision that allows Basrans to contact help even if they lack SIM cards in their mobile phones. (Land-lines are few and unreliable, so people live by their cells, which require the constant purchase of expensive "scratch" cards to replenish their minutes.) "We created 115 so the call is free," a British officer who supervises the program told me.

Gang atfa gley, Robert Burns might say. For a certain segment of Basra's population discovered the hilarity of making bogus emergency calls. To add to the fun, they remove their SIM cards and remain on the line for hours, tying up the system and preventing people with real crises from getting assistance. According to the British officer, "Only about 5 percent of people contacting 115 call actually need help."

And probably even fewer call with medical emergencies. This is because public hospitals in Basra are medical emergencies, short on medicine, equipment, manpower — everything, it seems, except germs. Private centers are another matter, as evidenced by the Al-Moosawi Hospital, a sleek, clean, expensive establishment that looks American right down to the anodyne artwork on the walls. According to director Zaineldin Moosawi, the hospital contains 36 beds and serves up to 250 outpatients a day. "We even have a dental clinic," he enthused.

What they don't have is the one thing you'd expect in a well-equipped Iraqi hospital: an emergency room. "We had one," Dr. Zaineldin recalled. "But it got to be a security problem, with all the gunmen coming in." Seems that young tribal bucks would go a-feuding at night, get themselves shot up, then demand that the Mooswawi Hospital patch them up — and woe to the medic who proved unable to save a wounded brother or cousin's life. "The British encouraged us to shut down the center," said Dr. Zaineldin.

Then there's garbage: Basra is choking in it, from shredded plastic bags ensnared on coils of barbed wire to archipelagos of rotting offal floating in the city's canals. A few months back, the Brits — yes, them again — initiated a program that would pay trash collectors to cart waste material to a landfill in the desert. The plan seemed to work: Contractors brought truckloads of trash to the site, earning dinars in return. But the city seemed no cleaner. As the Brits soon discovered, contractors were loading up their vehicles with garbage from already-existing piles, located on the edge of town or smoldering in the city center. By the time the British rejiggered the program to compel contractors to direct their attention to city streets, the funding for the project disappeared, a victim of canceled plans, bureaucratic reorientation, or — more likely, locals say — theft.

I don't mean to paint a bleak picture of Basra or its residents. Well, maybe I do. It's painful to watch so many people persist in self-defeating behavior, especially considering that with its potential revenues from oil, agriculture, and tourism, Basra could become the next Bahrain, Dubai, or, for all we know, Orlando. No wonder a few Basrans have expressed the despondent wish, "If only we could empty people out the city and start over again with a new generation."

Many would start by ejecting the city's religious parties, which seized control of the political process after the January 30 elections. I don't have space to outline all the changes these groups have imposed on this once tolerant and carnal city; suffice to say, no booze, no discos, no music CDs, no un-hejabed women — and heaven help you if you're ex-Baathi. And that doesn't even consider the hundreds of small but significant problems created by various sheiks, sayyids, and imams.

Consider the brouhaha over Basra's work week. Last year, the Allawi government announced it was adding Saturday to what was then a Friday-only Iraqi weekend. Outraged, many religious leaders took to the streets in protest. Why? Because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath. With its political machine under the sway of the turbans, Basra caved, declaring itself a Thursday-Friday zone. No matter that the city's business week would have only three days' overlap with its Western counterpart. Muslim dignity was restored.

Except for one inconvenient fact: Many Basrans are employees of state ministries in Baghdad, which remains divided on the weekend controversy, with some ministries opting for Thursday, others for Saturday. "What passes for our social lives here is even more unsettled now," said a woman who works at an NGO that last June switched from Saturday to Thursday. "It's always the same here," she added with resignation. "Everyone is confused."

Everyone, it seems, except the religious parties themselves, which always seem to know what to think, do, and say, especially compared to the city's frightened intellectual class. Consider, for example, Professor M. and his run-in with renegade Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. An expert in radical Shiite movements, Professor M. wrote a well-researched, politically neutral history of the Sadrist phenomenon, which ran on the front page of a daily newspaper. Unfortunately, the periodical accompanied the piece with a photograph of a Basran crowd that included women who were not wearing hejab!

Reaction was swift. Sadrists claimed that M. and the newspaper had conspired to defame them — a charge, of course, both parties vehemently denied. No matter. M. began receiving increasingly disturbing death threats, which climaxed when someone fired a bullet through his front window. Despite his innocence, he published an open-letter apology to the Sadrists in the newspaper, which, to mollify the populist thugs, reprinted the article with a more acceptable photo of women bundled in their Islamic-sanctioned fabric prisons.

"Liberation brought us freedom of the press," an Iraqi journalist once told me. "And as long as you don't probe into matters like civic corruption, organized crime, or the religious parties, you're free not to be killed."

And that's the way it is. For every step responsible Basrans move forward — a gradually improving security situation, glimmers of economic development, some political leaders who are beginning to understand they must provide benefits for their constituents — irresponsible, ignorant, and frequently violent elements drag the city backwards. A race, or competition, exists between the forces of enlightened synergy and progress and traumatized entropy and decay. Basra teeters between the two, its future up in the air. And with Basra, so goes the rest of Iraq.

— Steven Vincent is a freelance investigative journalist and art critic living in New York City. He is blogging about Iraq at

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