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There are things you have to understand before you can believe them; and yet there are also things that you have to believe before you can understand. In between these two there’s a leap of faith.

Nouns and modifiers

Am I a Christian socialist or a socialist Christian? What’s the difference? Wittgenstein comes to mind. Speech acts can only be interpreted through the intent of the speaker; but in my case Christian is the noun and socialist is the modifier, a very contingent one. Contingent, because socialism, however defined, is an artifact of modernity. That’s why saying things like “Jesus was a socialist” is kinda ridiculous, given that socialism was a modern reaction against capitalism, which didn’t begin to congeal as a hegemonic structure until the early sixteenth century. The economy of first century Palestine was tributary, not capitalist. Socialism wasn’t even thought of, though Luke and Paul did preach an egalitarian communalism. That’s the source of these confusions. I call it anachronistic retrojection — imposing present-day categories on the past and its peoples and their ideas that didn’t yet exist. Socialism wasn’t even a word until around 1835. Getting one’s bearings in late modernity, between the Gospels and the present . . . finding ways to prolong the incarnation, to be a disciple . . . …


… policies, not programs

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Reflecting on the utter failure of the Green Party, but also on the whole US political ecology. We just had a close call. But there’s much to be done and little time to do it. We can’t afford to waste time on anachronistic strategies that are obviously failing.

I’ll be direct.

Third party politics is delusional in the US. It’s like trying to plant blueberries in alkaline soil. They just can’t thrive. Meanwhile, Justice Democrats just doubled their Congressional representation. That’s an approach that’s working.

Now there’s the Democratic Party, but if you ask anyone what the Democratic Party is, nine times out of ten you’ll get some reified nonsense . The Democratic Party is not a thing, per se. In ecological terms, it is a political terrain. It’s ground that is held, and has to be fought for, but it’s no more possible at this point to leave that ground than it is for a foot soldier to float. That’s what we’re standing on, and that is what we’ll have to traverse. …


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Maybe not from Covid-19, but the jury of the virus is still out. He’s going to die because he is, like you and me, a human being, and this abyss is one into which we all are cast in the end.

I think I saw him realize it a few days ago when he was headed to Walter Reed, a flash of that realization as an imminent possibility . . . like a combat troop riding a helicopter that’s taking heavy fire. Helpless. It was like that nanosecond of grace described in a Flannery O’Connor story; I saw the vulnerable boy before he was mutilated into the grotesque monstrosity he now is by an abusive father and by great wealth — the biggest corrupter of all. …


some graphic language and imagery in this 76-minute ramble

The pandemic has increased my TV time. I’m going to crack on TV here, a lot; but I’m not saying you or I are somehow bad people for watching TV.

I’m coming to realize that when I (or anyone else) feels compelled to publicly shame anyone except members of the ruling class that I (or we) would be better served, along with serving the common good, not by shaming, but by explaining as best we can.

The trick for watching television or movies, or reading novels, or whatever is to do so critically. That is to say, be — for a while — a cultural critic, that hoe that disturbs the ground. Anyone can be a cultural critic, because we’re all immersed in the same culture (at least on TV). In this case, I’m going to explain, as best I know how, what gives with white fellas of my generation. I want to explain to non-Boomers, but also to members of my own generation so we can try to make sense of what has happened for the last 70 years, of ourselves, and of how we got this way, for better and worse. …


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Once again, your Commander-in-Chief is simultaneously violating the law (abuse of power, emoluments, election-rigging) and promising to violate it again by violating posse comitatus. He is a liar and a con-man, and I know you swore an oath to obey him . . . but I’m here — as a former career soldier — to remind you that your oath says you will defend the Constitution, not a man. You are not only under no legal requirement to follow illegal orders. You are positively enjoined against it. You have a duty to disobey illegal orders. …


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When I was eighteen going on nineteen, I joined the Army. Which was a complete mystery to me. When I was eighteen going on nineteen, I let the recruiter talk me into volunteering for the parachute infantry. I asked what “infantry” was, and he told me is was someone who learned a lot about light weapons. My impression was that I was going to learn how to gunsmith.

I was eighteen going on nineteen, and I knew little of the world. In fact, I was part of the first generation to grow up with television almost from birth, sheltered in many respects, so what I thought I knew of the world was mostly wrong. When I had graduated High School the year prior, we lived in an all-white, working class barracks (er, suburban subdivision) that was filled with families whose adults were employed making war planes for what was then McDonnell. Were we naive? Oh yeah, really really naive. I was, like my peers, an easy mark . . . first for recruiters, then for a time — until I wised up — for the card sharps and petty con-men in the ranks, many who’d been given a choice by some judge to go to prison or spend three years in the Army. …


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I want to apologize for calling out ‘privilege.’ The other day I used this as a hit-and-run critique of people ‘withholding’ votes because they find the Democratic ticket unpalatable, or because they think ‘there’s no difference between the two parties.’

‘Privilege’ is a gauzy, personalized notion that maps easily onto white-liberal guilt and white-liberal (or leftist) virtue-signalling. I used it as shorthand, something social media has us doing so often we can confuse these little squirts of pseudo-thought with actual critical thinking. It devolves into meme-warfare, the laziest form of political struggle. I fed into that so I could make a hit and get back upstairs to cook. …


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The first use of the term “hayseed” I found was to depict farmers — yes, this class hatred was originally directed at farmers. It was in the 1890s when farmers were organizing against bankers and big business in the original Populist movement . . . a movement that was at times also interracial. It was anti-capitalist, and it scared the shit out of the ruling class of the day. The complaint by the upper class press was that these activists showed up in Washington DC with the hay seeds still in their hair.

Likewise, the term “redneck” was first used as a reference to striking West Virginia miners during the coal wars of the 1930s. The wore red bandanas around their necks as a kind of uniform. Many were openly socialist. Attacks on them by the press denounced them for being uneducated and uncouth, just as they had with the Populists. …


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“We are capital’s livestock.”

People are whistling past the graveyard.

We think that someday soon the vaccine will come and life will return to normal. And our imaginary future will return with it. That imagination, those former imaginations of the future — for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren — have been constructed and refined over a lifetime, and for each of us, some social imaginary or another has been the foundation of our psychosocial stability.

I have very bad news.

Our imagination of the future, even the near-term future, is now as dead as the 234 odd species that went extinct yesterday. The suppressed perceptions of this new and unpredictably protean reality are a major contributor to the kind of bewildered, angry, even psychotic behavior that we see proliferating with each passing day. Fear generates anger. …


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Fascism in the twentieth century emerged in a direct conflict between reactionaries and an increasingly powerful left. We forget that sometimes. The capitalist class and fascism aren’t the same, but capital will rely on violent reactionaries when they sense they are in trouble. By the same token, many on the intellectual left are quick to dismiss those who call today’s reactionaries ‘fascists’ because there is no powerful, organized left . . . though the left is growing stronger, more organized, and more militant in recent years. …

About

Stan Goff

Author of the books “Hideous Dream,” “Full Spectrum Disorder,” “Borderline,” “Mammon’s Ecology,” “Tough Gynes,” and “Smitten Gate.”

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