Thursday, December 30, 2010

Universal Love vs. True Love

The universal proposition “I love you all” acquires the level of actual existence only if “There is at least one whom I hate” – a thesis abundantly confirmed by the fact that universal love for humanity has always led to brutal hatred of the (actually existing) exception, of the enemies of humanity. This hatred of the exception is the “truth” of universal love, in contrast to true love which can only emerge against the background not of universal hatred, but of universal indifference: I am indifferent towards All, the totality of the universe, and as such, I actually love you, the unique individual who stands out against this indifferent background. Love and hatred are thus not symmetrical: love emerges out of universal indifference, while hatred emerges out of universal love. In short, we are dealing here again with the formulae of sexuation: “I do not love you all” is the only foundation of “There is nobody that I do not love,” while “I love you all” necessarily relies on “I really hate some of you.”

– Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Immorality of Charity

[People] find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this … Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease. They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor. But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try to reconstruct society on such basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim … The worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it … Charity degrades and demoralizes … It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair.

– Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Open Letter to the Left Establishment

This letter is a call for active support of protest to Michael Moore, Norman Solomon, Katrina van den Heuvel, Michael Eric Dyson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank, Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Jesse Jackson Jr., and other high profile progressive supporters of the Obama electoral campaign.

With the Obama administration beginning its third year, it is by now painfully obvious that the predictions of even the most sober Obama supporters were overly optimistic. Rather than an ally, the administration has shown itself to be an implacable enemy of reform.

It has advanced repeated assaults on the New Deal safety net (including the previously sacrosanct Social Security trust fund), jettisoned any hope for substantive health care reform, attacked civil rights and environmental protections, and expanded a massive bailout further enriching an already bloated financial services and insurance industry. It has continued the occupation of Iraq and expanded the war in Afghanistan as well as our government’s covert and overt wars in South Asia and around the globe.

Along the way, the Obama administration, which referred to its left detractors as “f***ing retarded” individuals that required “drug testing,” stepped up the prosecution of federal war crime whistleblowers, and unleashed the FBI on those protesting the escalation of an insane war.

Obama’s recent announcement of a federal worker pay freeze is cynical, mean-spirited “deficit-reduction theater”. Slashing Bush’s plutocratic tax cuts would have made a much more significant contribution to deficit reduction but all signs are that the “progressive” president will cave to Republican demands for the preservation of George W. Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy Few. Instead Obama’s tax cut plan would raise taxes for the poorest people in our country.

The election of Obama has not galvanized protest movements. To the contrary, it has depressed and undermined them, with the White House playing an active role in the discouragement and suppression of dissent – with disastrous consequences. The almost complete absence of protest from the left has emboldened the most right-wing elements inside and outside of the Obama administration to pursue and act on an ever more extreme agenda.

We are writing to you because you are well-known writers, bloggers and filmmakers with access to a range of old and new media, and you have in your power the capacity to help reignite the movement which brought millions onto the streets in February of 2003 but which has withered ever since. There are many thousands of progressives who follow your work closely and are waiting for a cue from you and others to act. We are asking you to commit yourself to actively supporting the protests of Obama administration policies which are now beginning to materialize.

In this connection we would like to mention a specific protest: the civil disobedience action being planned by Veterans for Peace involving Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Joel Kovel, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, several armed service veterans and others to take place in front of the White House on Dec. 16th.

Should you commit yourselves to backing this action and others sure to materialize in weeks and months ahead, what would otherwise be regarded as an emotional outburst of the “fringe left” will have a better chance of being seen as expressing the will of a substantial majority not only of the left, but of the American public at large. We believe that your support will help create the climate for larger and increasingly disruptive expressions of dissent – a development that is sorely needed and long overdue.

We hope that we can count on you to exercise the leadership that is required of all of us in these desperate times.

Best Regards,

Sen. James Abourezk
Tariq Ali
Rocky Anderson
Jared Ball
Russel Banks
Thomas Bias
Jean Bricmont
Noam Chomsky
Bruce Dixon
Frank Dorrel
Gidon Eshel
Jamilla El-Shafei
Okla Elliott
Norman Finkelstein
Glen Ford
Joshua Frank
Margaret Flowers M.D.
John Gerassi
Henry Giroux
Matt Gonzalez
Kevin Alexander Gray
Judd Greenstein
DeeDee Halleck
John Halle
Chris Hedges
Doug Henwood
Edward S. Herman
Jack Hirschman
Dahr Jamail
Derrick Jensen
Louis Kampf
Allison Kilkenny
Jamie Kilstein
Joel Kovel
Mark Kurlansky
Peter Linebaugh
Scott McLarty
Cynthia McKinney
Dede Miller
Russell Mokhiber
George Monbiot
Roger Morris
Bobby Muller
Christian Parenti
Michael Perelman
Peter Phillips
Louis Proyect
Ted Rall
Cindy Sheehan
Chris Spannos
Paul Street
Sunil Sharma
Stephen Pearcy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Len Weinglass
Cornel West
Sherry Wolf
Michael Yates
Mickey Z
Kevin Zeese

Please sign the Open Letter to the Left Establishment.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On Israel's Legitimacy

On April 29, 1956, a group of Palestinians from Gaza crossed the border to plunder the harvest in the Nahal Oz kibbutz's fields; Roi, a young Jewish member of the kibbutz who patrolled the fields galloped towards them on his horse brandishing a stick to chase them away; he was seized by the Palestinians and carried back to the Gaza Strip. When the UN returned his body to the Israelis, his eyes had been gouged out. Moshe Dayan, the then Israeli Chief of Staff, delivered the eulogy at his funeral the following day:

Let us not cast blame on the murderers today. What claim do we have against their mortal hatred of us? They have lived in the refugee camp of Gaza for the past eight years, while right before their eyes we have transformed the land and the villages where they and their ancestors once lived into our own inheritance.

It is not among the Arabs of Gaza but in our own midst that we must seek Roi's blood. How have we shut our eyes and refused to look squarely at our fate and see the destiny of our generation in all its brutality? Have we forgotten that this group of young people living in Nahal Oz bears the burden of Gaza's gates on its shoulders?

Apart from the parallel between Roi and the blinded Samson (which plays a key role in the later mythology of the Israeli Defense Force), what cannot but strike one is the apparent non sequitur, the gap, between the first and the second paragraph: in the first paragraph, Dayan openly admits that the Palestinians have every right to hate the Israeli Jews, since they had taken their land; his conclusion, however, is not the obvious admission of guilt, but rather the need for a full acceptance of "the destiny of our generation in all its brutality," or, in other words, the assumption of the burden - not of guilt, but of the war in which might is right, in which the stronger force wins. The war was not about principles or justice, it was an exercise in "mythic violence" - an insight totally obliterated by recent Israeli self-legitimization.

Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Audacity of a Wimp

And so McClatchy reports:

President Barack Obama's approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency [42 percent], so low that he'd lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.


Obama's standing among Democrats dropped from a month ago, with his approval rating falling to 74 percent from 83 percent, and his disapproval rating almost doubling, from 11 percent to 21 percent.

Among liberals, his approval rating dropped from 78 percent to 69 percent and his disapproval rating jumped from 14 percent to 22 percent.

Friday, December 3, 2010