Comment on the American Election
Does Hillary Clinton face enormous amounts of misogynistic abuse? Without doubt.
Is this a major issue? You betcha.
The rhetoric that has been lobbed at Clinton in this election cycle, and back in 2008 as well, by both the left and the right is reprehensible in the extreme and needs to be countered in every instance. It is damaging to women everywhere, working to preclude eligibility to the highest office in America, and by extension, one of the most powerful positions in the world, purely on the basis of gender. Attacking Clinton on this level has rippling effects that reach far beyond this single presidential race.
This is not to say, though, that Hillary Clinton merits the Presidency. Her attackers may couch their positions in sexist rhetoric, and their aims are betrayed by this, but attacked she deserves to be.
What are the crimes of Donald Trump? Unscrupulous business practices, likely tax evasion, the whipping up of racial animus the likes of which haven’t been seen in a generation. These things have palpable, real consequences – hundreds of lives worsened or ruined, scores of individuals suffering physical assaults, businesses that people looked to for their livelihoods ripped apart. Donald Trump, while not a fascist in the ways we have known before, is a reckless, dangerous cretin, and to allow him access to the powers associated with the Presidency would be a grave mistake. What we have seen of him thus far, his blundering unpredictability, should give us pause.
How does Hillary Clinton stack up in comparison? The prospect of a Trump presidency is one that is all the more frightening for its mystery – we don’t know what he’d be able to achieve, how much damage he would be able to inflict. On the other hand, we know exactly what will come of an HRC presidency. She’s held enough high offices, been close enough to the power structure of the US now, for decades, to allay any questions one might still have.
Hillary Clinton is a murderous, corrupt, racist neo-con, and a presidency with her at the helm will be a continuation of the current murderous, corrupt, racist regime we’ve had for decades.
The damage that Donald Trump has been able to inflict upon the world pales to insignificance when compared with that of Hillary Clinton. When Secretary of State in 2009, Clinton supported the vicious military coup that toppled the democratically elected government of Honduras, legitimating the violence and internationally-maligned illegal conduct of the actors. In the wake of this, violence against LGBTQ people has spiked, the economy has tanked, and organised crime has seized control of ever more of the country. Hillary Clinton has been hawkish for her entire political career – her opposition to regime change in Haiti in ’94 came not because she was averse to needless death but because the effort was ‘too disorganised.’ She voted for the war in Iraq in 2002, quibbling over her motivations only after the whole thing came apart at the seams. At the time, she vocalised her support for that most-American of policies, gunboat diplomacy: “I believe in coercive diplomacy.” Despite paying lip-service to not involving America in Pakistani engagements , the drone-strikes that have killed thousands of civilians since 2008, all reservations evapourated upon being confirmed Secretary of State. She was a proponent of the surge of troops in Afghanistan under Obama and was for regime change in Libya. In Syria, she has been a supporter of dumping ever-more weapons into the ring, supposedly to aid the ‘moderate’ militias, in truth untraceable once they touch ground. It is plausible that a Clinton Presidency will raise tensions with Russia to the point of disaster.
Racism, particularly against blacks, has been woven into the cloth of America from its start. That said, it was the policy choices of the Clinton administration in the 90’s that set the scene for the current rash of institutionalised violence playing out now – with 102 unarmed black people murdered by police in 2015, and, at last count, 36 this year. Adding those that were armed with anything deemed a ‘weapon’ causes both numbers to multiply steeply. The heightening of the racist war on drugs, the implementation of the fundamentally flawed 1994 crime bill, the scapegoating of urban ghettos and those forced to live in them as source of all of society’s ills – these actions have brought America to where it is today. And Hillary Clinton, with her talk of young, black “super-predators” vocally supported it the whole time. While it was Trump that took ‘the Birther Movement’ to it’s farcical extremes through Obama’s two terms, but it was her campaign in 2008 that sowed the seeds of distrust, questioning Obama’s status as an America. We saw the same tactic used this primary season, with the Democratic National Committee – which we know to have been in cahoots with Clinton’s team due to leaked emails – actively triangulating to undercut Bernie Sanders on grounds of his Jewishness and his atheism. Clinton has shown again and again that she is shameless in her use of racist rhetoric to achieve her aims.
Trump, with his “small loan of a million to get on his feet,” his multiple bankruptcies, his dozens of failed businesses, exemplifies what it means to be part of the moneyed elite. His conduct, the fact that he is not held to account, is symptomatic of the state of American capitalism in the 21st century. It is Hilary Clinton, though, who is complicit in the creation of this situation. Clinton has been the tool of Wall-Street for decades, participating in the repealing of the Glass-Steagal Act in 1999 that lead directly to the financial crisis and world-wide economic recession of 2008. She has opposed efforts to reinstate it and has said that she will not do so if elected president.
In what has quickly become the take-away soundbite from Monday’s Presidential Debate, Clinton reeled off a list of her undoubtedly impressive accomplishments when questioned by Trump on her stamina. It is true, she is possessed of a strong fortitude, especially when we recognise that she has risen to her position in a system stacked against her as a woman from the start. But as we can see from the sample above, it is just these accomplishments that preclude her from deserving the Presidency. Or would do, if it were not the case that, in this day and age, the division of the American people, the grovelling abetment of the moneyed, the callous interventions into other nations’ governments is exactly what the President is meant to do.
Hillary Clinton, scion to war-criminal Henry Kissinger, canny fixer for Wall Street, inveterate racist, would, in any other pairing, be without doubt the villain. It is a sorry state of affairs that she looks the lesser of two evils.
What is Posterity without a Future?
Despite the rather interesting news re Antarctic Ice, it seems like, each passing day, we get closer and closer to an ecological collapse. The time to fix it, where we could have effectively retarded or reversed it, is long gone – some 40 years in the past, now. Worse still, we’ve not the political will, nor seemingly the systems. Literally, an entire country is on fire, and it barely even registers for us save for a few articles the more remarkable for their loneliness. The “land fires” of Indonesia have already produced more greenhouse gasses than the entire American economy does in a full year, and they show no signs of stopping. The logic of the situation makes a twisted sort of sense, as well. Overwhelming demand for palm oil in ‘the West’ incentivises a slash-and-burn approach to the Sumatran rainforest. Like an El Nino fuelled super-cell, the clouds rush in to the low-pressure zone, driving the pattern by their own weight. Singaporean money pours in to the coffers of multi-national companies, the people who don’t have to deal with the aftermath of their actions, the well-heeled ones. Those that have to stay? I wouldn’t pretend to know the mind of an impoverished Indonesian farmer – his experience is radically different to mine, maybe even unbridgeable. We, in a very real way, live in different worlds. However, I can understand some of the mutual concerns, the universal, human motivations. When you have a starving family, a group of men coming to collect on a usurious loan lent last season, fanatical militias prowling about the countryside, killing at will – do you stop and worry about long-term consequences? Or do you grasp at straws, placing your bets on that which seems most stable, most likely to keep the wolves from your door for another hour? The choice is obvious – you do what needs to be done.
At the risk of infantilising them, it should be noted that most people in that situation, agrarian workers in a developing country, don’t likely have the luxury of reading Guardian articles from the comfort of their climate-controlled multi-story office. Is Global Warming, Anthropogenic Climate Change, even a concept they would have heard about, let alone take into consideration? Seems doubtful. Short term solutions that lead on to and worsen long term problems. They’re hardly alone in that – it’s a universally human trait, whatever your background or socio-economic status.
So, amidst all this doom and gloom, what do we do? Well, it doesn’t seem like the greater part of our society – really the only thing we have even tangential control over – is ready to shift in any remarkable way. The future, then, seems set to look radically different to our anticipations. How do we react to this, as artists, as creators? One of the more tantalising aspects of creative work, to my mind, has been the chance of making something particularly worthy, something to put oneself amongst the pantheon of Greats and be remembered. It probably shouldn’t be the first thing in one’s mind, certainly not the main one, when setting out to create something. All the same, posterity looms (loomed?) large.
Will Self has spoken on the subject of posterity, or, rather, the impossibility thereof. He states that, for writers of his generation, there was a coming-to-terms with the fact that their legacies would be fundamentally different to that of their predecessors. He sees this as having played out over several years, a slow, tidal shift. It was required by the changing forces of media and consumption – as ever, the individual is moulded by concerns outside of their control. Self, ever the (acerbic) optimist, thinks the chopping off of the future, the unburdening of those long, unreachable years, should be emancipatory. It should allow writers to get on with their work, worrying not so much about what people will think of them, but rather what they do think of them. And even, what do they think of themselves?
If this is true of Self’s generation, what then does it say of ours? Depending on the reckoning, we are perhaps two generations apart, maybe only one. Surely the sloughing off of a future-oriented position, if true of them, is doubly so for us, who can see a sea-change on the horizon?
It’s something I’ve been struggling with for a while, as evidenced in past pieces. I threw myself into political work for a (short) time, but found that straining to hold back the tide with only my hands just left me angry, and depressed. I needed a different way to see myself, where I was headed, what I was doing. Beyond my own life, I don’t really see a connection with the future – I’ve no, and do not intend to acquire, any children. The world doesn’t deserve them. So, why get caught up in worries about what life will be like after I’m gone? Obviously, I’ll struggle to improve the world in ways that I can, for my own benefit if nothing else. But to make it the mainstay of my efforts? I just can’t go for that. Oh no.
So, too, then, for my literary efforts. If you can win an audience, it’s a very privileged position indeed. For me, for now at least, I will write for myself. Not for some far-flung generation hundreds of years down the road. Not for some unknown, unknowable posterity. Likely, that’s the most honest course in any case.
The Interregnum is over! The triumphal return of Canada’s tacit Ruling Party, personified directly in his Royal Tonsorialness, Justin Trudeau (first of his name). Sad that this day should come so late, but, lest the dykes of your tears should burst with sadness, reflect on the fact that he takes up the mantle passed to him from his (nigh) Universally-Beloved father. ‘Tis true! At long last, our Ruling Party has itself, and by extension our country, its Rightful Ruling Family!
Blessedly, the people of Canada have shaken off their torpor, have returned to their senses, bringing an end to the nine years of Stygian darkness – dispelled by that shining, toothsome smile of our Sovereign Trudeau. October 19th, a day which will ring out in the history of our proud nation, when we as an Electorate put flight those nasty, scummy, scurrilous Tories! United we stood, together! All the various citizens of the Country, save for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. And Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry. And Banff-Airdrie and North Okanagan-Shuswap and Portage-Lisgar and Lac-Saint-Jean and…
But let us not dwell on those pockets of pestilence – time enough yet to root out the pits of moral turpitude! We shall not rest till we are all one happy, if enclave-segregated, family! Today, though, let us give thanks, thanks that the age-old enemy, the Bloc of all Dissension, has only won but ten seats. The threat of Insurrection in the Land of Poutine is as clogged as a bonhomme’s arteries. Our Unspoiled Leader will not be forced to abrogate the Constitution in defence of it, as was his storied Father. Which is not to say that our Bonny Prince Trudeau is not up to the task – oh no! He is as doughty as he is honest!
Lo! If victories come not in triplicate, feed me to feral beavers! Look, ye, how those upstart Orangeists have been laid low! Never meant to rise above tertiary, the days of their hubris are over. Returned to their rightful depths, let this be lesson to them! There is only room for one political party in the Centre, only room for one clique in the pockets of our Corporate masters, and that party, that clique, is the Liberal Party of Canada! Liberal über alles!
Just as the march of Red that swept across the lawns and fences of our proud Northern Land these last weeks conquered the poll boxes, so too will it sweep away the past deviations, the alterations conjured through dark subterfuge and misdeeds. Return, we shall, to the good old days. The days of the quiet superiority that comes from knowing that, well, we’re just so much nicer than those guys south of the border. The days of picturesque, pristine natural beauty – the kind that makes it easier to hide the poverty and immiseration of those folks who formerly owned that land. The days of a kinder, gentler austerity politics.
Cast off your radical weeds then, Canada, for they suit not the day! Better to adorn oneself in something more placid, more fitting to sanctimoniousness and self-satisfaction – like a seasonally-themed cable-knit sweater! The ballots are cast, and the fourth-year ritual is run. Your work is done now. Sink back into your apolitical apathy, for your spirit must be near-spent! As you take your bed this evening, know that you have accomplished good work this week. We have returned to a more comfortable, a more Canadian, status quo.
I’ve given up on active communist work, at least for the time being. Not because I think it’s wrong, on the contrary, I still count myself a socialist, I still believe that Marx’s critique of Capitalism is on point, even if certain elements of it have yet to be borne out or have been actively disproven. No, I still believe that Communism is likely the only way we’re getting out of the situation we’ve backed ourselves into. What brought me to this point is recognition of situation on the ground.
I don’t want to make recourse to something so nebulous as “human nature;” our conduct is inextricably wrapped up in our material circumstances, and the behaviour of today’s society is merely the product of past victories and defeats. That said, communism is too good for people as they currently are. Perhaps there was time, once, to show people the lies they’re being sold, the necessity of working together to build something better. No longer, though. Our societies end-date is coming up, quickly. No time to “build consciousness” especially with the political Left in a state of division, and those few efforts at rapprochement anaemic at best.
People, the average person, individual instances of the working class or the petite bourgeoisie (never mind the lumpen) don’t want, and don’t have, the capacity to direct their world. I’m not setting myself apart from this, as if I’m in any way better – one brief look at my own life would undercut that immediately. So, how can we expect any sort of success foisting on people a message they don’t want to hear, that they, in their shambling and mediated lives, couldn’t do much with anyways? At the end of the day, people want comfort – the driving desire of the working classes today is to get back what their parents and grandparents had – security in being told what to do with a sense of safety and material surfeit. Struggles for the defence of the NHS (or socialised medicine, more broadly), the fight for a “living wage,” these are emblematic of that desire, not of any yearning for a thorough-going communism. It’s true, unfortunately, that the majority will find no real security under Capitalism, that the basis of their desires will be forever frustrated under this system, but this doesn’t mean that people would be interested in following through on that logic. Even if it is true that we’re all getting a raw deal here, and people dislike it, it doesn’t mean that they are in any way interested in jumping into even a properly-working communism. People have trouble enough completing their tax returns, and we expect them to take responsibility for their lives in totality? Foolishness.
Every previous political economy, including Capitalism, came about organically, the summation of thousands of small changes, individual choices. What audacity to think we could implement one based on rationality alone! I recognise that, as Marx posited, the internal contradictions woven into Capitalism will be its downfall, even if this planet doesn’t render it impossible first. But that doesn’t mean that the workers will seize the State for themselves. It would be the rational thing to do, certainly, but we are far from rational, responsible animals.
What’s left to do, then? Common theme round these parts. Shore up the dykes. We are on the precipice of catastrophic change. We need to confront that with eyes open, and save what we can, what is worth the saving. Strengthen our communities, a tall order indeed in this period of social dissolution. Strive for flexibility, and not fetishise that which we wish to preserve – there is much of the Enlightenment that should be consigned to history, even if it is one of the few good things to come out of European civilisation. Find working solutions for situations at hand, politically and extra-politically.
And all that other soft-Left feculence. We don’t have the affluence of time to otherwise anymore, if ever we did.
On the Recent Question Time
This was written (almost) immediately on the tail of watching a clip from the recent Question Time, the one that featured Russell Brand and Nigel Farage, inveighing in their particular way on the subject of immigration. Or, more to the form, “Is Britain really Overcrowded?”
There isn’t much to be said about Farage – he’s the leader of a petite bourgeois party, buoyed by populist rhetoric and the idiocy of that subclass. His nascent success has everything to do with Thatcherites realizing, post 2008, that the Tories don’t actually care about shop keepers.
No, what deserves discussion is Brand and his delivery. I’ll grant you, he’s got a solid platform – in the physical sense – on which to stand. He’s a charismatic fellow, with a penchant for prose. What he doesn’t have, seemingly, is the theoretical background on which to deliver. This has been the crux of it from the Paxman interview forward.
I’ll not disagree when it comes to his earnestness – he does seem to genuinely want to help. However, his methods won’t work. I’m not putting this forward as a mere nay-sayer, but rather based on historical proof. The unsystematic approach he endorses, it’s nearly the same thing we saw in the 1960’s – all righteous anger, all slogans and grandstanding, which got us nowhere fast. It’s the same utopianism we saw further back, in the 1800’s, with people like Owen or Saint-Simon. The vision is good, but the system to get us there, the nitty-gritty, the stuff that actually gets shit done, is absent.
It’s the reason why, when confronted as to why he doesn’t stand for government himself, all he could respond with was a gutless “I don’t want to become them.” As much as I might disagree with it, why not some critique of parliamentarism? Why not some description of ossification of standing power, of the way that our government quells lone voices?
Russell Brand is neither the leader, the speaker, we need, nor the one we deserve. I love that he feels motivated to speak out on these issues, more people should. However, to come at complex issues without the necessary facts, without the necessary systematic thinking, only leads to defeat. The position Russell Brand holds does a disservice to his program. Too many people will look to him, and become excited, and yet, their nervous energies, stirred, will dissipate when they realize he has no answers for them beyond the soft peddled aphorisms about collective governance and love.
Because he has no real position to speak from, Brand comes off as bad, as sly, as any careerist hack. You could see it in the discussion – he doesn’t address the actual question because it doesn’t fit with his nebulous talking points. He can’t pin-point these issues, because he doesn’t have the framework to do so. It’s no wonder that some in the audience felt preached at, felt patronized.
If this is all that people see on the scene, if this is the only leader they can point to, they will inevitably become saddened, and bereft of the will to fight. And the situation will worsen. The lack of any rigorous thought on Brand’s part is a liability. He cannot be our mouthpiece. We need someone better.
Look, this isn’t some prostration in front of the educated elite – I’m not coming after Brand because he was born working-class, or because he hasn’t been to some top university. He seems to have been able to sense some of the frustrations of the larger mass of society, without which, no amount of abstruse scholarship will get anywhere. However, having your finger on the pulse is just one part of it. You need to have a way of channeling that emotion, that anger, productively. And, from what I’ve seen, he has yet to find one.