The decadence of democracy

Currently reading Kenneth Minogue’s The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life. It’s a familiar story by now. Increasing the number of people eligible to vote devalues any single individual vote. Western societies have shifted from a morality centered around duties and responsibilities to an obsession with imagined rights. Duty imposes a strict standard of conduct, demands self sacrifice, and encourages humility and gratitude. Rights tend to make people petulant, entitled, and aggrieved.

Morality is a peculiar Western invention that concerns how individuals behave in accordance with a metric that isn’t derived wholly from custom or religion. All societies have moral codes, but these codes are typically grounded in traditional practices and religious dictates. Naturally, Western morality takes much of its material and direction from tradition and religion, but it veers from this course by granting a much wider range of possibilities to individuals in drafting their own rules for how they should act and treat others. Individuals come to be seen in the Western tradition as players in a game, and laws establish the rules of this game. The purpose of a governing body is to insure that the rules of the game are respected by all the players, and to protect those that abide from those that would circumvent and subvert.

Freedom is not an automatic guarantee of certain services or products, it is a space cleared for unimpeded movement, it is the open possibility of creative action and expression in the game of life. Part of what gives freedom its ethereal substance is its purposeful lack of a definite, concrete goal. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness can be defined in a million different ways by different people depending on what they value. To be free is to be protected from oppressive power as you delineate the trajectory of your own life. If happiness for you is the accumulation of material wealth, you may pursue it. If happiness is Epicurean retirement to your garden, conversation with friends and reflection on the ineffable, the way is open to you.

This conception of freedom is gradually transformed into a set of expectations and grievances. People are no longer seen as capable players of a game that they, to some extent, make up as they go along, and instead are defined in relation to their vulnerabilities and defects. Humanity is viewed through the lens of what its most deprived members lack, and social systems are judged by the resources they put towards changing the conditions of their marginal and suppressed constituents. The very social system, Western liberal democracy, that liberated the greatest number of people from destitution and despotism comes under the most exacting scrutiny for its crimes and failures.

The concern with how individuals ought to behave is dismissed as ideology and replaced by theatrical, flatulent theorizing about social conditions. It is thought that people will be good in a good system, and if they act poorly it’s because the current system is corrupt, rigged, unfair, etc. If people are happy with their lives, it’s because they have been conditioned to accept the unacceptable. If they are miserable, it’s because society has unjustly burdened them. Only those in possession of the true science of revolution can transform the will of the people. The democratic model struggles to contain the contradiction between the will of the people and the grandiose, unrealistic aspirations of its governing classes.

Formulated as a paradox, democratic life takes the following shape: The People are considered wise and responsible enough to put certain people in power who will protect and advance their interests, while at the same time people are thought to be so incompetent and ill educated that increasingly restrictive and paternalistic laws must be drafted to corral their behavior and instill in them correct thoughts and beliefs. Elected officials have the power to legislate the lives of people thought to be incapable of responsible behavior and careful reasoning.

The people are contemptuous of their government, and the government is contemptuous of its people. The people expect the government to make life easier and more comfortable with more redistributive services and programs even as they insist on feeling independent and capable. Rights mutate into ease of access and  distribution of availability. Now there are thought to be rights to higher education and healthcare. Education and healthcare are not in fact rights, but rather rewards or incentives for certain forms of behavior. Playing the social game with skill and tenacity, and ideally, with some measure of justice, grants you access to these services. To conceive of such things as a right is to cede your own responsibility for achieving, maintaining, and furthering them. It is to put into the hands of the government the power to determine the entire scope and extent of your life.

More to come…

This is the best I can do

Currently uninspired, slug-brained, sloth-limbed. An inert mass, idling, leaking gas. Thoughts fail to form and flow; must be blockage at the source. Need draino for my mind pipes. I force myself to write. Who is exerting the force and who is resisting? Who finally complies? How many different selves are at work within me?

My sovereign self makes decisions and commits to plans that stretch out over long periods of time. It coheres through the unity of its projects. Smaller selves then carry out the daily tasks that bring the sovereign  closer to its stated goals. Still other selves resist these goals, wielding the weapons of doubt, indolence and nihilism. Defectors and agitators stalk in the shadowy corridors of the soul, stoking dissent, fomenting a revolution without purpose.

Why bother with your character, with becoming something in advance of what you are now? You are alive for no reason, why toil for scraps of meaning? Seek the pleasures of the body, stuff the gullet with rich food and drink, stroke your rigid rod until waves of muscular contraction ripple up and down your body. Feel your tightly coiled identity come undone as you spray sperm all over the bathroom floor. The mind is free of itself. A blank slate soul and a pile of soggy tissues. When the tension of life builds up again, release it through your dick again.

Sleep more, awaken only to contemplate the joys of unconsciousness. Atop your calibrated foam mattress you will forget onerous ideals and exacting crafts. You will eat deep fried dough covered with thick chocolate and caramel syrups, hollowed out and filled with glimmering fructose. Dream of success, of power, wealth, and influence, but do not pursue any of it. Work only as much as you must to provide yourself with cheap sensory delights. It is time to masturbate again. You want to reach of the bottom of total depletion, rocked by convulsions, ejaculating dust, your testicles dehydrated.

Don’t read, don’t write, don’t think.

If you read, you’ll forget it. If you write, you’ll be embarrassed by it. If you think, you will feel unease. Better to abstain from effort. No one knows who you are anyway; no matter how honestly you describe yourself and your life, no matter how much passion you pour into your works, you will never convey yourself to someone else. You will not be preserved in a book or a legacy. Find bliss in renouncing all aspirations, let entropy overtake you, feel your flesh and mind dissolve with each passing moment.

It’s not my fault

I can’t remember the last time I heard someone admit that they made bad choices. Or that they had a spoiled character, or lacked discipline. Or that they had no impulse control, no moral compass, and a low IQ. No imagination, no drive, no ambition. Pathologically lazy, self absorbed, cruel, envious, and invidious. Dull witted, salacious, rapacious, and gluttonous. Brimming with sin in a fallen world, in need of salvation that will never come. Deserted by God and he’s not coming back.

I’ve heard people accuse others of all the above. Well, not with the same diction, but you know. Millennials come in for a particularly brutal thrashing. It’s this younger generation of people who were apparently raised by no one and who formed their values out of pure caprice that will be the downfall of man. They have no attention spans, they worship technology, fuck each other indiscriminately without deep commitments that they’ll grow to resent anyway, and expect to be rewarded with treasure and praise for doing absolutely nothing.

And it’s their own fault, as long as I’m not in the same class of person and can’t be identified with them. People in my day, we didn’t treat others like fuck meat; we courted our sweet, chaste ladies for years with tender entreaties and delicate sonnets before we fucked the shit out of them, meaningfully and rhapsodically, of course. Back in our day we worked hard to drop out of high school and get a factory job that required the mental capacity of a 5 year old, where we were paid 30 dollars an hour and given generous benefits and retirement packages to perform one repetitive motion all day, as long as we didn’t get our extremities caught in the machines, which would have ground our flesh into cornmeal and our bones into dust. But we were well compensated if that happened.

Everything is someone else’s fault. Much of the time it’s not even another person or group of people. It’s an abstraction. It’s the system, the structure, the institution. Capitalism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, christianity, punitive justice, authority, hierarchy. It’s also the left, social justice warriors, cultural marxism, Keynesian economics, universities and journalists. Modernism, postmodernism. Sometimes it’s Kant, or Hegel, or Heidegger; we can go all the way back and blame Plato too. Someone thought something and wrote it down 2000 years ago, and that’s why people act the way they do now. It’s not because they are, currently, in their vibrantly fleshly form, complete blithering idiots with no sense of justice or capacity to reason, it’s because a book was written eons ago.

The tendency to blame other people and nebulous forces for human behavior is certainly not my fault. I’m a voice for individual human freedom. Sometimes horrible things happen to people and they have absolutely no control over it, and these horrible things occur with a frequency and severity that does depend on who they are and where they live. Nevertheless, we all make choices to be better or worse people regardless of the circumstances in which we live. If you want people to be better, you can’t just reform a broken social system, you have to remake their corrupt souls. And you can’t really do that from the outside, it has to come from within. All you can do is remind people of the power they have to change themselves, and hope that they have courage and intelligence to do it. If they can’t or don’t want to, it’s on them.

Economically, we have it harder than the last few generations in some ways, but even that statement has to be qualified. It’s very difficult to judge who really has it easier at any given time when you factor in all the wildly differing variables, and the fact that contentment with life is ultimately subjective. Quality of life as an objective measure will only take you so far. And yes, you can surmise that it’s better to have clean drinking water than to be forced to drink diarrhea smoothies for sustenance, but the happiness that a person feels, their gratitude for life and they way they treat other people is a product of the control they exercise over themselves. That has always been true and always will be.

The obsession with how supposedly easy it is for some people, with privilege and relative advantage, is personal weakness masquerading as social justice. People are succumbing to the vice of envy and dressing it up as activism. They heap shame on what they see as the oppressor because they can’t bear the shame within. Rather than combat their rage and resentment with spiritual discipline, they band together and inflame their vicious grudges.

They take the legitimate idea of influence and completely confuse it with irresistible cause. You may have been influenced by people to behave a certain way, but you are still responsible for actually behaving that way. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to over or under-eat. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to take out loans you couldn’t possibly repay. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to get a degree that would yield absolutely no returns on the investment of your education. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to have children you couldn’t care for. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to buy things you didn’t need.

If you can’t resist the stimuli of your external environment, then you will justly be crushed. If you need the world to mirror your frail ego, then you are destined to be shattered a thousand times over. You can perform all the mental gymnastics you want to absolve yourself of basic responsibility, dismissing the very notion as ideology, neo-liberal or bourgeois or whatever quasi marxist bullshit you can cook up, but it will still be there, haunting you until you make a change.

The Scapegoat: Updating Camus

The song was over, the stickered pawn shop amps fed back ear crushing fuzz into the air, the crowd of about 20 unwashed anarchists cheered. Clad in tattered Crass T-shirts, second hand hooded sweatshirts, jeans and boots lifted out of dumpsters and tin trash cans, they clapped their hands and slapped each other’s shoulders in a show of anti-establishment solidarity. It was a dank and sweaty atmosphere, a choking, eye stinging melange of rank armpit and belched vegan curry. Amerikkka, Inc. had nearly finished its blistering, uncompromising 9 minute set of anarchist anthems. Each song was a barbed wire rumble with the most destructive forces still dominating the modern world. Racism, sexism,ableism, transphobia, xenophobia, homophobia, capitalist greed, the prison industrial complex, meat eating, bigotry, fat shaming, skinny shaming, beauty standards, puritans, victorians, religions except for buddhism; each pillar of hate was demolished by the throat shredding vocals, the sharp, stabbing rhythms, and the bulldozer guitar riffs. A supercharged performance born of vital resistance, of pure love of marginalized life subverting the hegemonic hate machine, it was just another Tuesday night in a small, remote college town.

Addisonville was a haven for outcasts, fringe activists, weirdos, and 50,000 affluent business and sports medicine majors during the two semester school year. The small town combined radical culture and quaint midwestern comfort. There was nothing else like it in about a 500 mile radius. If you were gay, homeless, godless, anti hierarchical, or the scion of a banker or successful businessman, you found your way to Addisonville. Clayton was born there, he was what the matriculaters called, with some mixture of affection and disdain, a “townie”. His sympathies were always with the vibrant minority culture, the artistic subclass of students, the barista bass players and the lesbian photographers. He went to the Tuesday night crust punk show on a whim, driven by an unusual need for boisterous socializing. He usually preferred to spend his evenings in more quiet company, or alone with a good Chomsky and densely packed bowl. Daniel was right down the middle in character, not withdrawn or anxious, but also not uninhibited or garrulous. He could fit in without losing himself, and even when he stood out, he never caused a controversy.

“We’re Amerikkka Inc, and we’re not down with racists, sexists, and homophobes! If you have a problem with that, let us know!”

The lead singer, half illuminated by the dingy blue tinged lightbulb hanging from the decapitation level ceiling of the basement, roared in proud defiance of a nonexistent power. The crowd hooted in unanimous approval. And then an inexplicable impulse took hold of Clayton, and he felt his modest, pacific soul leaving his body, prime witness of a strange spectacle no one could have predicted even moments before.

“I’m a racist, and I hate gays.” He shouted.

“I’ll kick your fucking teeth in for thinking you can get away with that shit here in my town.”

Clayton had become the intersection between pure activity and passivity, an alien to himself, a puppet pulled by strings of his own making. The singer of the crust punk band stood millimeters away, glaring, staring, breathing hot wrath upon him. “Oh yeah, bigot?” And in the next instant, Clayton saw his own fist crashing into the singer’s rotting, chipped front teeth. Clayton felt the teeth shifting in extra space of the singer’s gangrenous gums, and he watched his target’s head bobbling backwards. The crowd closed in on him swiftly, tightly encircling him to be shoved and punched with justice. He felt the spittle misting his face, he looked into eyes gleaming with rage, he heard the barking condemnations.

It was a case of absurd martyrdom. Clayton had provided a service to these egalitarian warriors of the underground; he had given them an enemy on an occasion that would have been otherwise lacking. Convictions need to be tested to remain vital and firm, and these politically determined artists were in danger of losing their resolve. It had turned out that they were indeed capable of closing rank when met with opposition. Clayton became an effigy, a symbol of hate and privilege that the crusaders against bigotry could finally smash. As he fell to the ground under a barrage of fists and feet, Clayton felt the warm glaze of redemption spread over him. The progressive army marched on.