Radical Second Things

"Stand at the brink of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea." +Elder Sophrony of Essex

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stars of Courage: Seraphim Rose and the "Abnormal Life"

Art by Jordan Denato

In my spiritual journey, I have openly looked at many different incarnations. I grew up in a non-demonational Christian household, with most of our time in a place of worship spent at the Catholic Church blocks from my mom's old house. I had a small exposure to Judaism growing up which I kept up as I put together my Jewish heritage and also worked at a Jewish magazine, Tikkun (where, oddly enough, I spent most of my time writing about Catholicism), when I was most open to religious ideas.

Nothing ever exposed me to the Russian Orthodox Church, however. The narrative about Russia in the 1990s and 2000s was pretty black and white - communism was godless and atheist and hostile to all religion. I had heard of the Greek Orthodox Church but never the Russian Orthodox. Honestly, it's only been in very recent years that it seems to have formed a place in the mainstream American consciousness.

The Orthodox Church has a rich and long history that extends through the Soviet Union. Whatever Vladimir Lenin may have said about religion, Josef Stalin found it beneficial to keep the church going, especially during the dark days of World War II. It has been a massive part of the ideology surrounding the rise of Vladimir Putin as Russian president - with Putin often taking press shots during mass or having Russian patriarchs accompanying him during press conferences and speeches.

Putin has said of the orthodox church that it is "closer to Islam than Catholicism is."  Indeed, one of the interesting ways that the Orthodox Church is so different is that much of its aesthetics are so exotic. They likely are mundane to anyone who grows up in it but their unique cross logo and the use of a headscarf to instill modesty in young women, much like within Islam, show a synergy of East and West. Much of the church's artwork is also simply gorgeous:

It did have a reach in to Western though as well. Just as the Catholic church had Thomas Merton as its American intellectual, so too did the Orthodox Church have Seraphim Rose. Born Eugene Dennis Rose in 1934, he died during middle age in 1982. In that time he made a series of talks that synthesized many of the beliefs of individuals like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who, despite his time in the gulag, was very hostile to "the misuse of liberty" that he reported from his experience with Western society. Seraphim Rose expressed this same sentiment in my favorite work of his - "The Abnormal Life:"

 At first, Seraphim's sentiments sound cliched. "The new generation has it easier than we did," that sort of thing. His talk of "children today" being treated "little Gods or goddesses" whose every need is taken care of certainly sounds that way.

However, when you juxtapose the world he grew up in, southern California, with the world in which he attracted to of Eurasia, his comments seem less trifling. Poverty and life on the edge of the earth breeds people who are much more likely to value and foster tradition, as opposed to rejecting or mocking it. Marriage occurs and lasts more often and family is much more heavily valued.

Rose gets at his most weighty in "The Abnormal Life" when he juxtaposes the faith he discovered with the "plastic" religion of countries like the United States, he is speaking in the context of the early 1980s. That period was when Ronald Reagan had just recently been elected to the presidency of the United States, riding on the wings of an invigorated Religious Right. It was a time when Billy Graham drew enormous crowds throughout the world and venues like Christian Broadcasting Network were first starting up. Rose, in an opinion that had to be extremely unpopular to most audiences back then, said that the atheist regimes of China and the Soviet Union were closer to the reality of life than the plastic theology practiced within much of the West.

Unfortunately, despite his influence, Rose didn't make a whole lot of other speeches like that one - not that I am aware of anyways. (If anyone more read about him than I knows of, please let me know.) We do seem to be entering an age that illustrates a return to orthodoxy in religion - Donald Trump's daughter is an orthodox Jew, while the Pope and Russian Patriarchs get more press and adulation than any contemporary evangelical leader. Perhaps another like Seraphim Rose will arise - this stuff, with the venue of social media and a much larger audience before him.

An Interview With Mohamed Zeeshan

It looks like I am doing a lot more posts for Radical Second Things than I usually do. Following is an interview with Mohamed Zeeshan. Mohamed has been my friend for a few years now, via Facebook, and I have seen him grow from a young intellectually curious kid from India in to a graduate student in International Affairs at Columbia University! Mohamed contributed with the Hampton Institute alongside me and I am very proud of his success. He has also contributed to the Huffington Post. His views are a bit more centrist than you usually see on this website but I think that people will learn from them. 

As always, if you like interviews like this, please consider a donation to Radical Second Things. Donations allow for the freedom to not only conduct works like this but also to make the website more interactive and attract collaborators.
Donald Trump as president! Once this actually happened, I actually began to see the benefits. In my view, Trump is what America actually is like unfiltered and he isn't the worst the world has produced. You said you liked things he has said about China. What is your view of him?

I think it's difficult to form a coherent opinion of Donald Trump as yet. He's a complete outsider and has often walked back statements, so we don't quite know what his administration might or might not do.

About his comments on China, well, again, it's hard to quite know for certain what his administration's policy towards Beijing is going to be. Having said that, China has had a recent history of diplomatic impropriety, especially in the neighbourhood. It refuses to honour commitments made under international law in resolving the South China Sea dispute. It poked holes in India's claims over Kashmir by signing a deal with Pakistan to build a highway through that region - effectively offending India's sentiments of territorial integrity. It does similar things to threaten other neighbours, from Mongolia to Japan and the Philippines. So China is no great standard of diplomatic propriety, in my view. Along that line, I think it's important, for the cause of maintaining the balance of power in Asia Pacific, that the US takes steps to push back - militarily and politically - against Beijing's newfound belligerence.

The Syrian army took Aleppo. I remember you opposing the Syrian war when Obama wanted to intervene. What do you think Syria will look like a couple of years on?

I opposed Obama's policy of arming rebels in Syria years ago. I said at the time that it was potentially very dangerous to arm common civilians in fighting against a government, especially in a volatile region infested with radical elements. The proliferation of weaponry, coupled with the complete breakdown in law and order, has helped the rise of militancy and terrorism in the region, including ISIS. So I think that was always going to be a fatal strategic error on the part of the US - to arm common civilians who were not trained in military battle. What the US should have done instead was to politically organise the rebel groups, so that political dialogue could have taken place early on.

I think that the failure to politically organise the Syrian rebels and create an atmosphere for political dialogue has now effectively made Assad the only way to stability in Syria. Despite years of US intervention in Syria, we still don't have a political alternative to Assad. There's no one there who can keep the country together, save for Islamist radicals. If Assad leaves, the radicals will fill the vacuum and that will open a whole new can of worms. I think the US has to therefore rethink its strategy - and I don't see too many options at the moment besides some sort of a compromise arrangement that keeps Assad in power and works out a practical framework for his eventual removal.

The image of Russians liberating Aleppo reminded me way too much of Auschwitz, which the Soviets liberated. If we really are in an end of WW2 climate, what suggestions do you have for structures we should build after conflict has subsided?

Well, that's a hard question, because there's really no one-size-fits-all solution for this. The structure for Syria will have to come from within. That's why it was so important to politically organise the rebels. There's really no coherent or cohesive political alternative to Assad, and unless you create something of that sort which will really reflect Syrian society, you'll just end up back at square one.

The other issue is one of national identity. Germany had a national identity which kept its people together after WWII and allowed reunification to take place after the Cold War. But I'm not sure if Syria has a coherent national identity today. We're seeing sectarian sentiments that were long suppressed come out into the open and it's going to take a long time and much dialogue to bring all those identities back together. You have to start by stopping the violence and turning militias into political organisations capable of engaging in dialogue. Militias are not much good for state building.

How are you liking New York? What do you like about it and what do you not like?

There's not much to dislike about New York! I think it's a really charming city - it's got something for everybody. It's diverse, cosmopolitan and sometimes feels like an international city with an identity of its own.

How do you like Columbia?

Columbia is really enriching! I've enjoyed every moment of my time and there's so much that I've got lined up in terms of research over the coming months. It's really very exciting.

The Man in the High Castle Second Season Review

For its first season, I reviewed The Man in the High Castle, which portrays the United States in the early 1960s, in the aftermath of a Japanese and German victory in World War II, for the leftist Hampton Institute. My review was written in early 2016, just as Donald Trump's campaign was heating up in the Republican primaries. That was Trump, seen as a "proto-fascist" by many, at his nastiest - doing his best Biff Tannen (a character that, ironically, was based on him) impression, bullying a conglomerate of Republican candidates that didn't know what to do in defense of him.

As much as people laughed off what I said, I did believe Trump could win. I live in the United States - I see every day how bitterness and despair has settled in on many people who genuinely thought that if they worked hard, things would work out for them. Many people have multiple jobs and can't afford to live. Homeless people are everywhere in urban centers. Our national leaders of both stripes are immature and narcissistic (see Obama's deplorable scapegoating of Russia) while the ones who weren't were derided and told off (see Bernie Sanders).

I ended that original review with "The United States now is in unchartered territory for its history, but one we’ve seen before in other countries. For these reasons, “The Man in the High Castle” doesn’t seem as much like fictional, alternative history; but rather a portrayal of our near and possible future."

Well, we are here in that future now. Donald Trump will be president no matter what his critics say - he won election through the system, the Electoral College, that the United States has and has agreed upon. The response of much of the Left in the United States at least seems a bit like flailing - the sort that Donald Trump mocked so infamously - not quite understanding what has occurred.

Whatever their motivation, the writers of The Man in the High Castle do have intuition. The show takes leaps of storytelling way beyond the Philip K. Dick novel, including turning the simple character of Joe Blake away from a former Italian fascist that Juliana Crain casually hooks up with and transforming in to a very different central character in the show, a Lebensborn bred estranged son of a figure who attempts a post-Hitler coup attempt.

The first season was filmed in 2014, at the height of Ferguson and American racial tensions. The second season, which is much more nuanced and daring, was filmed in 2015, just as the climate that launched Donald Trump was coming to a head. The second season dares to go in some places that only our contemporary political climate would allow writers to dare to go - humanizing the Nazis and Imperial Japanese.

In the second season, the Imperials are vastly more sympathetic than the "Resistance." Opergruppenfuhrer John Smith, played by Rufus Sewell, struggles with the Nazi policy of euthanizing the disabled as his son is stricken with muscular dystrophy. The sympathy is not even light weight - the scene where him and his wife speak frankly with their son about the condition is possibly the most sympathetic than any characters in either season ever appear.

On the other aside, the Resistance fighters seem nihilist, crass and vindictive. After Juliana Crain, played of course by Alexa Davalos, fails to apprehend one of the films the show centers around from Joe Blake, resistance fighters Lem Washington (played by Rick Worthy) and Gary Connell (played by Callum Keith Rennie) are seen chasing after her, screaming "Come here, bitch!" and shooting anyone in the way. A priest who speaks at a funeral that Frank Fink (played by Rupert Evans) attends tells him that "religion is a bunch of shit" after he complements his sermon. Sarah, a love interest of Frank's played by Cara Mitsuko, has a motivation for joining the resistance that doesn't really make much sense and George Dixon, played by Tate Donovan, threatens multiple times to use John Smith's sick son against him. The writers did this intentionally - I will leave it up to audiences to gather why they did so.

Despite all the material that is there, humanizing the Third Reich is something that most writers just couldn't do until recently. Biopics like The Rise of Evil made Adolf Hitler seem cartoonishly nefarious, as if all the dark energy in the world was only ever situated on this one man. The reality of the world seemed to settle in for the writers of The Man in the High Castle, however.

The few shots we see of Hitler show up shaking with a horrible tremer or having bouts of horrible anxiety (muted for cinematic effect), illustrating that some of his policies (such as euthanizing of the disabled) may have been riddled with self-hate. This is hardly empathetic toward him but it is a leap beyond how portrayal of the Reich has been in cinema.

Most interestingly, we see both the Reich and the Japanese evolve. Events in the second season are juxtaposed with the filtering in and out of reality of Trade Minister Nobosuke Tagomi, who, during meditation sessions, finds himself in our world. The parallels are succint - in one world, the Japanese and Germans are headed toward a potential nuclear showdown while in our world, the Soviets and Americans are headed toward such a showdown. Hippies and beatniks experiment with drugs in American cities like Berkeley in the 1960s, while they do so in Berlin in Man in the High Castle's 1960s.

Tagomi has direct access to the source for the films that make up the film's title. The films, and the filmmaker who we meet at the beginning and end of the film, has access to the same plane of reality - the films become a national security threat for clear reasons and, as you will see when you watch it (I can't spoil too much), are also used for career benefit by certain players.

The juxtaposing of our world and a world of Axis victory which is seen in this series makes for uneasy observations about our own world. It is ironic that populist authoritarianism is popping up in countries that fought hardest against fascism during the 1930s and 40s - America, Russia, the Phillipines. This could mean that there are not particular inherents to certain peoples that attract them to personality driven leaders but that certain events and conditions push people in that direction instead.

Indeed, it should make us not simply revise our knowledge of WW2 by simply being more empathetic of the other side but rather to finally look at that conflict as it was - as a brutal competition of various nationalist and economic ideologies, with Zionism, Americanism and Soviet  and Chinese communism winning out over Nazism, Fascism and Imperial Japanese ideology.

There are propaganda films made by Zionists during the 1930s, most notable being "The Land of Promise," that are loaded with anti-Arab racism - that film in particular made the claim multiple times that no one had grown anything in the Fertile Crescent since the Jewish exile. Many Nazi style science experiments and racialist brutality occured in the United States - it once was common practice to use electroshock therapy to "cure" homosexuality, for instance. Those sides won the war, however, and therefore were given a historical privilege that the losers were not. History really is written by the winners - it is acceptable for outgoing American president Barack Obama to avoid apologizing for the Hiroshima bombing, while it likely would not be for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to avoid an apology for the Nazi death camps.

However thought provoking it is, I still have serious qualms with The Man in the High Castle. We only see glimpses of the world beyond the United States - much of this series takes place in Berlin and there are appearances by people with British accents or, most interestingly, one Argentinian desperately fleeing Buenos Aires for the Reich. In the fictional map of the Man in the High Castle universe, Argentina (I imagine headed by Juan Peron) is part of a greater "Co-Prosperity Sphere" with Japan.

Italy, a much bigger ally of the Nazis than the Japanese, is not even mentioned in the whole series, which is really strange when specific elements of Nazism, like Lebensborn, which usually only political nerds know, are a big part of the storyline. We see absolutely nothing of Asia under the Japanese. We did see much more in this second season than the first. Perhaps this will be improved upon.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The New White Flight and its Reasons

Like most people who grow up in liberal enclaves like Seattle, especially when I did, racism seemed like a strange abomination that happened someplace less civilized with people predisposed in that direction for whatever reason. When I worked at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. back in 2010, just as Obamacare was being passed, I was struck when I heard racist comments I just genuinely had never heard before.

It's possible people thought those things in Seattle, where I came from, but out of political correctness I never heard them. As years went on after that experience, however, I found myself experiencing on a wider scale the experiences that led to those comments I found so upsetting. I heard those comments while a black relative in my family had recently passed away - getting upset was pretty natural.

Almost immediately afterwards, I was finishing college at a commuter school in the Bay Area. I worked on the newspaper and wanted to write about the Alt Right, which, well before everyone else, I predicted would be a force in politics. My professor, who was black, was hostile, grilling me on why I wanted to write about this. I never got to write that article though I did end up doing it for Talking Points Memo. I feel like warning about it in the Bay Area would have warned the people most likely to get caught up in a race war.

Most experiences outside of my own community of mostly white or Hispanic males has been paved with caution over the last few years. One doesn't want to be like this but you have to adapt. I am weary of being accused of some sort of misogyny or bigotry by people who are basically looking for these things. Being brown hasn't exempted me - I've had friends get infuriated at me for "Islamophobia" and "misogyny" plenty of times.

The fears that would lead to thoughts like that aren't really discussed amongst urban liberals. The fear that one could lose a loved one in an Islamic terror attack or that, thanks to a social climate in which women spend most their energy on a career, one may never have a lasting marriage or partnership aren't consider when liberals freely shout "Islamaphobe" or "misogynist." American liberals know what they don't like but apparently just never thought about why those things exist.

And so it is. I plan to escape the Bay Area back to my home state of Washington soon and I can't pretend that some white flight is going on. I may be ethnically Jewish, tan and grown up exposed to Islam and a myriad other cultures but in predominantly white communities in the US, I have to explain myself alot less and experience alot less social conflict. It does happen, of course, but in a small town, it's more likely the town drunk that you end up at odds with than someone who wants to check every casual thing you say or breath for a violation of what they think political correctness is.

I took several chances on that not being the case and was unfortunately, proved very wrong. Donald Trump won the presidency because much of America likely came to the same conclusion. They voted for an ugly retort to PC culture. Urban liberals would be wise to acknowledge that that is what occurred if they ever hope to connect with anyone outside their myopic communities.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Few Questions for Sonnenkind

Sonnenkind is a German neofolk artist who has put together some really incredible music. I listen to it regularly, along with artists such as Spiritual Front, Sol Invictus, Mantus, Infamis and others that I think fit in that genre like Smashing Pumpkins or Loreena McKennit. This was my first time interviewing anyone in the genre and some parts of the interview went well whereas some areas need improvement.

RST: I only found your music on Youtube and not Spotify or Tidido or any of the streaming services. Do you have plans for an official release?

SK: I really have no clue about streaming services and I‘m also not interested in it. I personally almost never download music. I highly prefer physical albums, and I actually released two physical albums, "Völkerfrühling“ in 2005 and "Eulenspiegels Wiederkehr“ in 2013. Both are available via Discogs. There are also contributions from me on a few compilations, and I collaborated with artists as Porta Vittoria, Uwe Nolte, Qvercvs and Thulesehnsucht in der Maschinenzeit (TSIDMZ). At the moment a new album is not possible due to financial reasons, but maybe I will release a compilation of home recordings next year.

RST: I really liked your song "Ulaanbaatariin Udesh." My roommates did too and we listened to a whole bunch of Asian musicians doing different renditions of it. It was very hard to find an English translation or any translation for that matter. How did you learn this song well enough to play it? What about the history of the song appealed to you?

SK: I listened to far eastern folk music for many years now, and I was also interested in Mongolian throat singing. A Mongolian friend taught me some Mongolian phrases just for fun, and by looking for Mongolian music on YouTube, I found a version of "Ulaanbaatariin Udesh“, which I loved a lot. I showed this to my friend and said I wanted to make a version of this, and she gave me a rough translation, and then I learned it and sung it to her a few times and when she eventually said that it was all clearly understandable, I recorded that version in spring or summer 2015. I tried to find Mongolian guest musicians and a female singer, but the results were not satisfying, so I finally asked a friend to release that version on YouTube. Unfortunately until now it has not become famous in Mongolia, but who knows, maybe one day they‘ll discover it over there, hehe…

Btw, I also did two cover version of a Vietnamese song by singer/songwriter Trinh Cong Son, but I wrote German lyrics for it. Now it‘s named „Die Brücke“. Both versions, of which one is a collaboration with the fantastic Italian Avantgarde Pop band Porta Vittoria, can be found on YouTube. I also have the idea of recording some songs in Vietnamese language, together with a Vietnamese friend, who is a quite talented singer. Let‘s see.

RST: I have noticed much of the political content of your music and postings. Do you consider yourself part of the Alt Right?

SK: No, as I consider the Alt Right is very much a genuinely US-American movement, naturally trying to give an answer on American questions. Germany‘s political situation is different, and we have very different political and philosophical traditions. Then we have the question, what Alt Right actually means. It seems to be a very broad term for many various groups and ideas.

Somehow, if we assume, it just means "alternative right“, I could somehow agree, as I am probably a person with right wing views, and alternative, if we say that this means an alternative to the cliché of the right wing person, as portrayed by the mass media (and, of course, as every decent right wing person will admit, unfortunately corroborated by those who are mislead enough to identify with that hilarious image).

Thursday, November 24, 2016

American Ideology in 2016

The election of Donald Trump may be a blessing in disguise. Like most non-reactionaries, I was nervous, enraged and a host of other negative emotions about his rise. It seemed like a failure, after all the supposed progress that we were supposed to have made, that such a crass bigot would become the nominee of a major political party in America and ultimately president.

However, now that it's over, those feelings are gone. Friends of mine have echoed the same sentiment. Trump's campaign succeeded in airing out the dirty laundry of America and how its residents see themselves, nullifying many of the delusions that people abroad especially have but that many of its residents still hold on to.

It has also shifted the political spectrum. Liberals say that, with 2 million more popular votes, Hillary Clinton is the true winner. However, the electoral college is the system America has chosen. Most republics have a proportional representation system - Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom are parliamentary systems - I could be ignorant but I'm not aware of a democratic country that doesn't have that and goes straight by the audit of the people. Trump's election goes along with the rise of nationalists everywhere from France to the Phillipines - liberals can't blame the Electoral College for that.

Liberalism is more wounded than any time in recent memory, as are other traditional ideologies. Radicalism is now mainstream as the systems we mostly all assumed to be permanent now seem shaky. I thought it would be a good exercise to look at these ideologies as they stand now, to help us figure out a next step forward. Note - this is mostly in reference to U.S. ideology. It would be much longer if I incorporated the whole world.

Liberalism  - Conservatives long bemoaned Hillary Clinton as a herald of the "nanny state," a reference alluding to maternalism, in which the government is mother to all its citizens, doing things for them, treating them like children, with various dos and don'ts. They may have been right on that mark. The worldview of urban liberals in America seems very much like a nanny or mother, attempting to shelter from the big bad world by telling the child what's good or unreasonable (political correctness) or debilitating its progress by infering all sorts of disabilities or handicaps.

Political correctness has been its death knell. Trump's rejection of its norms alone may have been the reason for his ascent. Trump could talk about rebuilding infrastructure and universal health care all night long but be seen as a right wing hero thanks to his crass rejection of "PC culture," the most popular acronym.

PC culture is hell. As someone socialized largely in America's left coast, I can say that it makes friendships and relationships really, really hard. People in America's big left cities - Portland, Seattle, the Bay Area, etc. - have a habit of shutting out people whenever their tone gets difficult. What was intended as socially shaming crass racists and misogynists became an excuse to basically shut out anyone upset with you or who disagrees with you on even the most minute thing.

All sorts of prejudice exists in PC culture as well. The way urban liberals see the world is bizarre. Certain parties are designated victimhood status not by their history but by the image adopted of them in the United States. For example, noted liberal comedian Stephen Colbert showed little shame in showing an animation of Vladimir Putin ripping his shirt off while saying "Touch my sleek Slavic biceps" in an accent that sounded like Dracula. One can imagine his same audience would be very offended if that animation had been of Barack Obama in a Kenyan accent and had him saying "Touch my sleek African biceps." And before you say that's because blacks have been "historically disadvantaged," consider the history of Russia. Yeah, things aren't as clear cut as American liberals like to think.

The paternalism of liberals in America is married with a need to protect and flaunt their privilege. Hillary Clinton was the embodiment of this - she had no qualms about shutting out the popular candidacy of Bernie Sanders while her husband encouraged Donald Trump to run. Her sense of privilege was so great that she both thought that was her right and that her trap wouldn't blow up in her face.

Despite their own use of prejudice, American liberals are forever looking for a reason to be offended because that is the basis of their world view. There really is nothing else there. Without something to point at and be offended at, they would have no answers at all for the questions of poverty, loneliness, alienation and discord in the world.

They would tell widowers "women don't owe you anything" when they're lonely, tell young men from broken homes that they have ADHD or autism (as if those are the same thing), tell young women that they are bipolar and are only a success if they are professionally successful (and subsequently to look down upon women who pick a more traditional role for themselves) or tell the begging poor to apply at a start up. They shut out, ban and block anyone outside of their worldview when they don't really have one - all without registering that the best way to push someone to the extremes of the periphery is to push them away. Hillary Clinton tried to use Donald Trump to play on that element. It didn't work for her.

Conservatism - While ten years ago we may have seen a conservative like George W. Bush and then acendent liberal Barack Obama as worlds apart, (Their fans certainly did) the last few years have changed that perception. Conservatism in America was everything that liberalism was - the sense of paternalism married with privilege.

The Bush administration had all sorts of policies that carried this sense of paternalism. The efforts to curb AIDS in Africa were a great success but the act of giving free health care to poor Africans while standing in the way of such efforts in the US was galling. Doing the former made Bush supporters feel good, while the latter challenged their status. American Christian programming was loaded with this mentality and its popularity has not been revived at all by Donald Trump's Republican victory. Jerry Falwell Jr. and the like seemed more along for the ride with Trump than really a part of it.

The differences in every day culture, however, are real. If you grow up in a conservative town in the USA, you are much more likely to get married. The PC culture is not there at all and that was true before the rise of Trumpism. Culture still revolves around family and church, which are present mostly as alien artifacts in urban culture. There are pluses and benefits - I get exposure to alot more culture in the city - but once you pass the plateau of 30 years or so, it begins to seem a lot less attractive. In 2016, even the old reasons why you wouldn't live in the country seem a thing of the past - I hear as many ugly slurs as I ever did out in the sticks in the Bay Area.

White Nationalism -  I became aware of the Alt Right after working for the Heritage Foundation in 2010. I warned about it to great hostility and ambivalence. You now here the term everywhere. I recommend people read Alt Right and nationalist material. It seems like common sense but it has to be articulated that because you listen to something or read it, that doesn't mean you accept it 100 percent. White nationalist or the various European micro-nationalisms are not going to go away even if this is their 15 minutes. The human instinct in times of difficulty is to avoid or combat the source of difficulty. Given the absence of genuine socialist institutions, ethno-centrism is the easiest option. After all, people like you will relate more than people not like you.

All groups have nationalist groups and ugly ones too. Even groups that have been historically disadvantaged. Trevor Noah, the host of the Daily Show, compared Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric with Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, and the infamous Idi Amin, the brutal president of Uganda during the 1970s. There are clearly Russian nationalists and Jewish / Israeli nationalists, despite their shared experience with the Nazis in World War II.

White nationalists are a bit different in the United States than they are in Europe, which are different than white nationalists in Russia and Eastern Europe. Groups like Golden Dawn in Greece are genuine, as is Vladimir Putin, a Russian nationalist who has nonetheless been able to engage many different leaders from various cultures.

American nationalists, however, don't know who they are or what they are doing. Many don't know their ethnic or cultural identities or are only recently cultivating them. Their icon, Donald Trump, didn't talk like one of them for most of his entire career until he decided to run for president. He seems to have stopped talking like the Alt Right and "disavowed" and "condemned" them even before becoming president. That doesn't mean they'll go away but they may be very disappointed. No one likes getting led on or scammed.

Even if he disappoints a core cotengent like the Alt Right, Trump could cascade in to re-election simply on the formula he has maintained in contrast to the post-modern left. As the US declines as a world superpower, the average person will only more want the basic necessities of life - a family, a community and the means to feed them. If post-modern liberals are going to keep calling men who want a family as akin to rapists or belittling their economic fears by pushing away radical voices, they should expect to stay in the wilderness.

Marxism / socialism - The ascent of nationalism has come with an ascent in socialism. It would have been unthinkable ten years ago that Bernie Sanders would have gotten as far as he did. He was going up against an opponent who thought the presidency was in her hands, however, and blocked the path of Sanders while "elevating" Trump's candidacy, paving the way for the rise of her decades long friend in to the White House.

Despite the Cold War and historic American hostility to socialism, there are other stars in American society. Kshama Sawant, who is from my hometown Seattle, helped to start the rise of minimum wage initiatives in the US. Her opposition to Donald Trump raised a good deal of racist attacks, which has only accelerated her fight. There will be more like her. Tulsi Goddard, a supporter of Bernie Sanders, has also interestingly been in talks about joining the Trump administration. With her views on Syria, she would be an unreal improvement over the last few people in that office.

Marxist collectives have also physically confronted the Alt Right several times, something I encourage but certainly would never participate in. (Gotta look after myself.) I imagine if socialist figures keep getting hate drawn their way like Sawant, there will be even more conflict. It's not the end of the world - although it is the end of the American empire. This is an ideological pattern that didn't just happen during World War II but has played out in most of the world. Americans just thought themselves immune from it due to their massive material privilege.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Assessing Donald Trump's Win


I was going to do a video blog but decided this was my more natural environmment. As a political and religious blog that I like to think is serious, I felt that I had to talk about the election of Donald Trump in all its facets and from my unique perspective. Feel free to comment!

I didn't vote in this election. After nearly two years of campaigning, I felt like I got to know both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump well enough to not like both of them equally for completely different reasons. Clinton flirted with World War - Russia baiting was rampant in the three debates, along with a good degree of hawkishness on the Middle East, with a particular obsession with getting rid of Bashar Assad, one of the only figures keeping Syria together.

The whole thing reeked of some level of scam too. I still think that, even though Donald Trump won. It still seems weird that people who knew one another for that long happened to run for president in the same year. It's anyone's guess what that scam was - many of Trump's proposed policies are actually very progressive and only clouded in conservative language. This went from his gun policy to health care, where the policies, when actually looked at, seemed more progressive than anything Obama ever proposed. It may be possible that they were covering all their bets.

I had just moved from Portland back to California and by the time I got here, the deadline for voting was approaching. I couldn't get myself motivated enough to do it in time, even if I found a polling place to vote for Bernie Sanders back during primary season. Apparently half the country's eligible voters felt the same way.

The social climate continued to deteriorate as Trump's brash campaign continued. I had a roommate who went insane in Portland, forcing me to leave. He talked about the world not getting any better and threatened to kill himself while talking both to me and to a friend of mine. I encountered someone just like him at the aforementioned friend's house. Friends seemed to snap and scream and shout at the smallest thing and I witnessed it with other people as well. Everyone sounded racist and weird. I have one person who blocked me as a consequence of Donald Trump's election as we speak (I won't go more in to that here).

One other friend of mine from Mexico recently said she'd like to visit me but that "the situation between my country and your country, I don't think so." I do lay the blame for that at Trump's feet, who took Mexico and its immigrants as a population to pigeonhole in order to gain power. There have been overt Ku Klux Klan rallies, a happy David Duke and riots as a result of this campaign. There have been even worse things in the world as a result of Hillary Clinton but these things can't be ignored.

Trump is a piece of shit, a con man and scumbag. Given that, such a man reminds people of reality. Whereas the charisma and perceived prestige of a man like Barack Obama belied many of the destructive policies that occurred during his reign, a scumbag like Trump might be so reviled that the absolute worst and least is expected. His agenda, absent the mass deportations, actually sounded good - his health care plan would benefit me much more than Obamacare did and his plan to rebuild infrastructure is something sorely needed in a country with creeking, collapsing bridges. Other scumbags like Richard Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt managed to bring us trade with China and the National Park System when they weren't breaking in to hotels and being a "Bully," respectively, both legacies I prefer to Obama's continuation of George W. Bush's interventionist foreign policy in to five new Muslim countries, spurring a wave of jihadism like nothing previously seen.

I could be wrong. Glenn Beck could be wrong.  Neville Chamberlain was infamously impressed with Adolf Hitler, while many of Germany's Jews belied any harm that would come to them at the hands of the Reich. A man like Donald Trump either could be the absolute worst in the history of the United States (and the current social climate certainly makes that seem like a possibility) or he could be one of America's many scumbags, who managed to actually help the people because they enjoyed the attention and gratification.

Likewise he could be neither and just be a goofier and more verbally offensive version of the last two presidents - jettisoning his friendship with Vladimir Putin (something that would not be without consequence) for a continuation of the Middle East interventions that are necessary to keep America's petroleum based lifestyle going. (Obama talked about closing Guantanamo and the country's many Middle East wars when he ran for office initially.) We really don't know. It will be interesting to say the least.